The Spectator

School report | 15 March 2018

A round-up of recent stories from the front line in education

School report | 15 March 2018
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Education secretary Damian Hinds gave his first big speech at the Education World Forum in January, about the vital importance of learning from other countries and ensuring young people are able to thrive in a global economy. He also spoke of the benefits that come from sharing Britain’s educational excellence and know-how with the rest of the world.

But he made it clear that he doesn’t believe education is all about exams and

A grades. ‘There is much outside the relevant qualifications which matters a great deal as well,’ he said. ‘That you believe that you can achieve, that you can stick with the task at hand and that you understand the length there is between the effort you make now and the reward that may come in future, and the resilience to bounce back from the knocks that inevitably life brings.’

Can you teach ‘grit’? It’s something discussed in previous issues of Spectator Schools, and some schools — such as St Edward’s in Oxford — are having a go. It runs an induction programme for new-entry 13-year-olds specifically to discuss ‘grit’ and to help the students work out their emotional response to ‘getting stuck’ so they can discover how best to get through it.

What do the students learn? One graduate of the course says: ‘That you can be who you want even if you are not the brightest child, as long as you have grit.’

University rankings

The QS world ranking of universities by subject, released last month, shows British higher education is still a global leader. In ten subjects, including anatomy and physiology, geography, archaeology and English, UK universities came top in the tables (including Cambridge, below), and in some of those subjects, they filled the top three slots. It’s good news for those who are worried that Brexit could damage the international standings of the country’s universities. Some have, however, raised concerns that Britain tends not to lead in science and engineering — subjects that might become more expensive to study if Theresa May’s funding reforms go ahead.

Away with grades

One London school has decided to do away with grades for pupils in years 7, 8 and 9. It will stick instead to ‘comment-based’ marking, in a bid to remove the stress that working towards that coveted top grade can bring. Putney High School has carried out a successful five-month trial of the plan in three classes, with students in them performing as well as the rest of their year group.

The idea came from the school’s head of English, Antony Barton, who was disappointed to see students focus solely on the mark at the top of their essays, rather than noting the comments that come with it. He hopes the marking scheme will allow students to stop obsessing about marks, and think more about the feedback from their teachers. ‘They’ve got enough years afterwards to be worrying about their grades,’ says headmistress Suzie Longstaff.

Brighton’s signing

Brighton College has announced the appointment of 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year Sheku Kanneh-Mason (below) as its artist-in-residence. The school has hired the 18-year-old along with his sister Isata and brother Braimha, who make up the Kanneh-Mason Piano Trio, to coach chamber ensembles and give masterclasses. It comes after the group gave a concert at the school last year which was such a hit it saw pupils queueing afterwards for autographs. ‘We can’t wait to come back and work with the students again,’ said Sheku.