I distinctly remember my first parents’ evening as a teacher.
There is nothing quite like it, especially as a newly qualified teacher; it’s just one of many firsts that you experience when embarking upon a career in this brilliant profession. I remember worrying about whether the parents would be receptive to what I had to say about their children and whether their thoughts on their child’s first term in my care would be positive. I needn’t have worried as the evening was a success and I left feeling buoyant about a fine first term.
However, one interaction, though very positive in the main, really puzzled me. I had described one pupil as ‘having early indicators of the makings of a fine all-rounder’ and yet from the look on the faces of the parents you would have thought that I had delivered a scathing review of their child’s inadequacies. The parents were concerned that I was just trying to say (in a polite way) that their child had no real strengths or talents to speak of, that I was describing him as a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’. Yet this was far from what I had intended and found myself back-pedaling to justify that what I had meant was entirely complimentary. In my mind being an all-rounder is the epitome of what the formative years in education should provide; breadth and opportunities to grow in as well-rounded a way as possible.
At Ashford Prep, education has always been about more than simply a commitment to getting the basics right; a solid foundation really matters but we believe that we owe it to our children to offer an education that is about so much more. We believe that learning should be the ultimate adventure and a commitment to Adventurous Learning is one of our four core values – Academic Rigour, Optimising Potential and Celebrating Individuality being the three other core values – which feed into our overarching aim of ‘Inspiring Minds’.
As anyone who has ever read any good adventure story will tell you, a key part of an adventure is overcoming challenges and stretching yourself to achieve things that you never thought were possible. We believe in providing an education that develops the whole child with both breadth and depth of experience; challenging every pupil to become as well-rounded and skilled in their learning as possible.
The national picture within primary education often places too much emphasis on reaching age-related expectations in a narrow range of academic areas and through quasi-high stakes testing at end of key stage. Although it is important for the school (as it forms part of what they are inspected on) and it’s important for the children (it could shape the direction of the educational future within secondary schools and beyond – something that is questionable given the age and maturity of the children), it’s far from a true reflection of the relative strengths of a whole child and the potential that they have to succeed in the future.
Both academic rigour and academic assessment are incredibly important (and performance in these areas at Ashford has, is and always will be strong), but truly assessing a young child takes time, true understanding of them as an individual and the provision of opportunities where they can grow and ultimately shine.
We want to ensure that every child leaves the Prep School both proud of what they have achieved and confident in who they are. With this in mind, it gives us great pleasure to join the Pre-Senior Baccalaureate (PSB) from 2021, as we seek to provide our pupils with well-deserved recognition for their achievements both academically and in wider school life.
You can find out more about the PSB on their website: PSB — PSB (psbacc.org)
Written by Mr Nick Tiley-Nunn