31st May 2017
Too many independent schools scared of the word 'vocational'
Headmaster of Ryde School with Upper Chine, Isle of Wight, discusses the benefits of an academic and vocational curriculum
“I think too many independent schools are scared of the word ‘vocational’ and however highly rated qualifications like BTECs are by employers and universities, they remain widely misunderstood and are often discounted as inadequate by the parents who influence independent schools’ decisions about their curriculum. But the idea that a young person should leave school at the age of 18 with three A-levels and then go to university for three years so that they can then walk into a highly paid and rewarding career is now outdated, and independent schools need to wake up to the reality of what modern vocational qualifications can offer.
So, rather than simply shouting about our increasingly impressive A-level results, independent schools should be brave and engage in the conversation about what the education sector can do differently to address the skills shortage. We have an obligation to be pioneers for positive change and to use our initiative to start movements that can be adopted. We have to be brave with our independence, and part of that is not spending too much time worrying about traditional league tables and instead focusing on what will really matter in tomorrow’s world.
Teachers have expressed their fears over a ‘no frills’ private school proposed for Durham
The Independent Grammar School (IGS), currently seeking permission from the Department for Education to begin accepting pupils, is billed as a budget alternative to pricey private education.
With fees of just £52 a week – £2,700 a year – the Durham branch of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has accused founders of “experimenting with children’s futures” at the school which, if allowed, will be based in the refurbished Christchurch building, on Claypath, Durham.
On average, it costs the state £6,300 a year to educate a secondary school student, £4,900 per primary school student, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Joe Bann, secretary of Durham NUT, questioned whether the school would be able to offer a decent standard of education for so much less money.
He said: “It is totally unrealistic to think that a good standard of education could be provided for £52 per child per week and we believe this school would struggle to allow access for children to laboratories, workshops or even decent sports facilities. Privatisation in schools worldwide has led to the disregarding of legal and educational standards in those countries where it has happened. A privatised school is not wanted, nor is it beneficial for the children of Durham. It is one big social experiment with our children.”
But the school’s future Principal, Chris Gray, who founded Gridon Hall Christian School, in Sunderland, before resigning over fears that a new academy sponsor could alter its ‘Christian ethos’, argued the proof of the concept would be in the school’s success.
Mr Gray insisted the school would be able to employ sufficiently qualified teachers and offer the necessary resources, and highlighted the levels of experience among the founders.
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