The House is the home

This blog is in response to a Times article ‘Schools find bringing back houses is a wizard idea’. “Which house were you in?” It’s the first question exchanged by any two alumni of my school when they meet, and one which is no doubt asked by those who spent time at any boarding school in the country. The response of course is keenly awaited, and once the name is uttered, there will be much good-humoured reminiscing about particular characters in the House or of famous sporting victories in the inter-house competition. School houses are back in the news, with a … Continue reading The House is the home

The Rules of Engagement

In my previous post I wrote about the perennial debate between the traditionalist and progressive approaches to education. Much of this is carried out online and, given the lack of face-to-face contact and, in some cases, the anonymity some contributors adopt, a good deal of it is bad-tempered. This does lead to an entrenchment of position, and a polarising effect is easy to see and indeed sometimes to feel when one reads the various posts. The problem is that the warring sides degenerate then into caricatures of themselves or certainly become wont to be painted as such. Progressives are idealistic, happy-clappies … Continue reading The Rules of Engagement

Keep it simple, stupid.

Back in the old days advice for teachers starting out in the profession was actually quite difficult to find. Tutors at university and mentors on teaching practice were useful, but taking responsibility for your own classes at the beginning of a new academic year in a new school with only a handful of lessons’ experience was (and still is) a daunting experience. Every school is different; every group of pupils has its own mix of characters and its own unique dynamic. New teachers could often feel like they are navigating uncharted waters with a blurry map, rusty sextant and a … Continue reading Keep it simple, stupid.

In a league of its own

League tables for schools have been with us now for over twenty years. Brought in originally to aid parental choice, they provided a much needed source of information about schools which wasn’t available elsewhere. It’s hard to remember now but in the early nineties schools didn’t have websites or marketing departments, and finding out any facts and figures about pupil performance was surprisingly difficult. Parents had to rely on word of mouth, often exchanged anecdotally, with little other than school speech days to rely on for leavers’ destinations. In there original form the tables cut through the murk to deliver some statistics … Continue reading In a league of its own

What makes a good Sixth Form education?

What is more important in a Sixth Form education? A school that enables pupils to achieve the best grades they possibly can, or a school that prepares pupils better for university study when they get there. Clearly the answer is both, but there has been something of a false opposition set up in the media over the past few weeks or so with regard to statistics about class of degrees awarded to pupils from independent and state schools. The issue resurfaced recently with statistics on Oxbridge entry from state and independent schools. When HEFCE published its report in September its … Continue reading What makes a good Sixth Form education?

What’s it all about, Nicky?

Now the dust has settled after an unexpected (by most) result in the General Election, we should have a clear idea of the path of education policy in the UK over the next five years. There are no coalition partners to moderate or block what the Conservatives have promised in their manifesto and, though Mrs Morgan has not demonstrated a Govean zeal for reformation, the picture is one of continuing the revolution. At the heart of the promises is a desire for higher standards. This is commendable but, as ever, the devil is in the detail of how these higher standards are … Continue reading What’s it all about, Nicky?

A View from the Hill

This post is the first in an occasional series of thoughts on educational topics. I have titled the blog “A View from the Hill” for a simple reason – the view from the Chapel Hill of Durham School is one of the finest of any School in the land. On a clear day you can see if not quite forever, then over much of the county of Durham towards the coast and the North Sea. The view takes in of course the magnificent Cathedral, with which the School enjoys a long-established connection. Also in view are the departments and colleges of the … Continue reading A View from the Hill