Academic success and testing
The understanding of academic success needn’t be about testing, says Bedales Prep, Dunhurst head Jane Grubb, in a recent article in Hampshire Life. Rather, she says, a creative curriculum, a focus on the joy of learning, and close teacher-pupil relationships can see far greater rewards.
Over the last two decades, there has been a massive increase in testing and pressure points along the school journey, even for younger pupils. Jane believes that this has had a very detrimental impact on the education of our children. Learning should be one of life’s greatest pleasures, she says, but many pupils are steered down a very narrow path of teach, revise and test – particularly in Years 6, 7 and 8.
With an exam and tests-focused education, the joy of learning tends to be replaced with practicing exam methods in lessons, revision for homework, and tests and exams themselves. This can take up precious lesson and learning time. By contrast, says Jane, the Dunhurst ethos is that learning should be deep and broad, meaning that lessons focus on acquiring the skills of learning. This, in turn, builds pupils’ confidence, inquisitiveness and independence – all great preparation for study at GCSE and A level, and beyond.
She says: “We praise effort and encourage pupils to challenge themselves, seeing a mistake or even failure as an opportunity to learn, evaluate and grow. In this environment, pupils know they will be praised for having a go and trying things that may seem beyond them.”
Despite the lack of testing, assessment at Dunhurst is very rigorous. Teachers know their pupils well, and can assess them in practical tasks and work produced in lessons, and also in the work pupils produce independently.
Jane concludes: “School is a huge part of childhood and it should be highly enjoyable, engaging, challenging, and even magical. Our approach to education means that our pupils want to learn more, are self-motivated, and with unusually high levels of autonomy for learners of their age.”