Headteacher's Reflections on the Half Term
"The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.” William S. Burroughs
The writer William S, Burroughs once said, “the aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.” Watching the superb behaviour and efforts of our Year 11 students sitting their trial examinations this week and last, I am not sure they would right now place values above the knowledge they have worked so hard to remember and apply in that exam hall!
However, I have been reflecting both last half term and this on just those values that we hope to inculcate in our students. As Headteacher, for me, these values are of at least equal importance to the academic knowledge tested in the summer exams: these are the principles that will go on to help shape our young people to be the best citizens they can be long after they have left school.
"The school is unrecognisable compared to this time last year."
Last Tuesday, our Trust Directors of Secondary and Primary spoke with students about behaviour and attitudes in school. I was heartened by their responses that show the impact of the collective efforts of our staff and students. “We feel safe and happy. The school is unrecognisable compared to this time last year. There are still isolated incidents but school deals with these” were some of the comments that, like our recent Ofsted report, recognise the journey the school has been on since 2019. We will continue to work on behaviour and attitudes in the school.
Students' Personal Development
And it is the attitudes of our students that are key. In the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook, under the section describing the personal development of students in a school, it reads that a good school “promotes equality of opportunity and diversity effectively. As a result, pupils understand, appreciate and respect difference in the world and its people, celebrating the things we share in common across cultural, religious, ethnic and socio-economic communities.” It continues “Pupils engage with views, beliefs and opinions that are different from their own in considered ways. They show respect for the different protected characteristics as defined in law and no forms of discrimination are tolerated.”
This is a succinct summary of the attitudes every member of staff and every parent or carer would want our young people to have. I know that many of the students at Bradfield School already embody these values. Returning after half term, we introduced the first two of our gender-neutral toilets: toilets that students who identify with any gender or as non-binary can use. This came about through the intelligent persuasion and polite persistence of a group of our GCSE Citizenship students presenting their views to the Senior Leadership Team and members of Vinci, who run our site. In their argument they said, “After a schoolwide survey last year, results showed that a large proportion of people who identified as trans would feel more comfortable with the option of a gender-neutral toilet. It is important that we support every student within our school community, regardless of their gender. Although this may not feel like a huge change to some, this small modification will mean that our trans peers will hopefully feel more comfortable using our school facilities. By making this change, Bradfield school is being more inclusive to all students.”
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
It is a privilege to work with students who are already incredibly respectful to views, beliefs and backgrounds that may be different to their own. However, just as in wider society in our country and our city, we also know that this does not yet apply to all our students all the time.
This year, therefore, we have been discussing the values a Bradfield student should embody. Last half term, we reviewed the taught curriculum in our Personal Development and our RE lessons. This was the first step to look at what changes we can make to further strengthen provision in these two key subjects, where lesson time is given over to the key knowledge that helps students to understand and respect what those different to themselves may believe. In addition, last half term, I began our staff consultation about the values we want to develop in our students, and this half term we will do the same with the young people themselves, beginning with my assemblies next week. I look forward to inviting you as parents and carers to be part of this conversation too, towards the end of March. Schools can not work effectively without the input of our families here, as any values our school wants to develop in our young people must work with those reinforced daily at home.
As Albert Einstein once said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” With one eye on the summer exams, I am not sure I completely agree with him! However, I do agree that it is the values that remain in our young people, when school is a distant memory, that it is vital we nurture.