Half term looms
Monday, October 13, 2014 by Richard Biggs
Last week’s HMC conference already seems a distant memory. The trouble with being away for a few days is that…when you get back you realise the school has managed perfectly well without you. Having two massively capable and talented deputies does little for one’s ego.
The hot topic at HMC was the changes being made to the GCSE and A level curriculums. The latter, in particular, has us all scratching our heads. A phrase I heard several times while waiting for the Celtic Manor’s glacial lifts was “this is a dog’s breakfast”. The government is introducing new curriculums and new systems of examination – again – in a desperately haphazard and hurried fashion. Most of us wonder what the problem was that these changes are meant to fix. If it was felt that A levels should be harder, then that could have been achieved by making them harder, within the current structures. We have reached, it seems to me, a happy balance between rigour and breadth and the current system of AS and A2 levels works well, especially now that January exams have been abolished. But that is about to change and our staff are going to have to get their heads around yet another set of specifications and assessment methods. And schools are going to have to decide how they are going to structure their A levels.
We’re making decisions now based on incomplete information: not all of the new specifications (syllabuses to you and me) have yet been accredited. Yet we need to know what we’re doing pretty soon so that we can advise pupils and parents about what lies ahead. Some schools have an even tougher road ahead: I met the head of a sixth form college recently who said he had a whole department which does not know whether its subject will even exist in September 2015 – that information has not yet come out. A dog’s breakfast indeed. And there is the possibility of the perfect storm – if a Labour government decides to overturn all or some of Gove’s reforms. Oh joy.
At times like these you have to remember the basics, though: whatever the curriculum, the most important thing is good, inspiring teaching, and we will always have that. Also that universities want good students. Good grades in three A levels will get you into a good university.
We held our autumn Open Day on Saturday and were delighted to welcome 56 families to King’s – a new record for this event. As always, our pupil guides were the stars of the show, but it must also be said that the school scrubbed up well. There was a very positive buzz amongst the visitors in the Woodard Room after the tours – we hope to see them again soon!
The weather was not as friendly as it might have been for the CCF Field Day activities on Sunday and Monday. I heard some grizzly tales of tents blowing over and storms lashing down on bivouacked cadets. But all remained cheerful, which is a remarkable feature of this school and its pupils: they’re an extraordinarily resilient bunch.
Only a week to go to the new-look two-week half term break. Having taken our eye off the ball over the summer and allowed our cottage to get fully booked for the whole holidays before we had a chance to reserve a week for ourselves we have not been so slack this time – we’re going to Cornwall. And I hope it buckets with rain so that I can spend my time cooking, reading and sleeping. Perfect.