The PTE Newsletter – Tuesday 23 March

For some of you it’s the last week before the Easter holidays, and for others there are still 2 weeks to go. Either way – we’re all that bit closer this week to a well-deserved break. May your week go smoothly!

Revisiting PTE’s philosophy

Here at PTE we have always been driven by a strong sense of purpose. As we move onto a new phase of our campaign, we want to share a summary of our overarching philosophy and set out our core beliefs.

At the heart of what we do is the hope to improve the educational experience, lives and life chances of all our young people.

We believe that children are capable of extraordinary things – they just need the right environment to flourish in. Schools have a major part to play in this, and parents and teachers must be key players in shaping our schools.

We want educational excellence for every child, and believe that this is achieved when all schools have a strong culture and a great curriculum, underpinned by four key mantras:

  • Warm/Strict
  • Knowledge Rich
  • High Ambition
  • Wide Curriculum

When schools are built on these foundations, every child should thrive, no matter their background or starting point. Here’s the detail of what that means and why it’s the right approach:

Warm/Strict: Love the children, while giving them clear structures to thrive within. Doing this enables pupils to be the best version of themselves all day, every day. They know how much people care about them, and how the school’s rules help them to succeed. Pupils know where they stand and how to do well – and the school supports them to achieve this, especially when they are finding it hard.

Knowledge Rich: This approach to learning ensures that every child is immersed in the best that has been thought, said, and done, building a foundation to understand the world they live in and deal with increasingly complex situations and ideas. It’s also how a child’s innate creativity is unleashed. Imparting rich knowledge is done through a carefully sequenced curriculum that allows interconnections to occur, providing every child with access to their birth-right: to be equipped with the life-long skills that enable them to engage and interact successfully with the world around them. Expert teachers plan subject-specific lessons, so that concepts are delivered in ways the children can understand and remember. In this way their knowledge and creativity grow over time.

High Ambition: Teachers recognise, and capitalise, on all the potential inherent in every child, preparing pupils for the best possible lives – expecting the best both from and for them, giving them the ambition to aim for the highest prizes, and supporting them to achieve their hopes and dreams. Everything about school should be designed to help young people do their best, whether it’s the lessons planned, the assemblies held, how pupils are encouraged to behave, or the exams they sit. Above all, it is instilling each child with high ambition, and avoiding what has been called ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations’.

Wide Curriculum: Literature, maths, science, humanities, languages, the arts, technology and more – these are the things that make us human, and which we want every child to understand and enjoy. A wide curriculum goes beyond even that, embracing all those other really important parts of education that enhance school life: sport, work experience, musical education, drama, chess, clubs and electives, guest speakers, competitions, assemblies, culture, concerts, trips. . . lashings and lashings of enriching experiences for everyone, not just privileged pupils.

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These four mantras are what PTE stands for and are what we seek to help parents and teachers develop in their schools. There are already many shining examples of schools practicing them across the country. The key, we believe, is to bring out how each school can, by using them, achieve great results in their own way.


Latest news & views

In Scotland, the “Diversity in the Teaching Profession Working Group”, convened to investigate the underrepresentation of minority ethnic teachers in Scotland’s schools, has published its final report.

Amongst other recommendations, it says “Educators and leaders at all levels must approach racism as a structural issue and not just at a personal level – there is a need to become actively anti-racist” and also “Being anti-racist means acknowledging that racism exists, even when we do not immediately see it or understand it in our individual contexts, and proactively uncovering and countering racism wherever it exists, not just addressing racist incidents when they occur.”

A new study out from the London School of Economics (LSE) says it has found that children placed in lower-ability groups at the age of 7 developed a negative “self-concept” that affected their future education. It argues that this impacts on children’s learning behaviours, subject choice and specialisms, attainment and adult careers, and claims that scrapping primary school maths groups that separate children based on their ability would improve overall achievement and encourage more girls to pursue the subject.

Dennis Sherwood defends the plans for teacher-assessed grades this summer, arguing that it could set a precedent for the future. He argues that teachers have  a role that potentially offers an important opportunity: an opportunity to exercise significant power wisely as teachers have more power than they realise.

In The Times, Melanie Phillips makes the case for reviving direct grant schools, saying that many more gifted but poor pupils could attend outstanding schools if it weren’t for ideology.

On the Covid-related front, a YouGov poll has found that more than three-quarters of teachers believe they should be a higher priority for vaccinations than the general public once the vaccination of the initial priority groups has been completed. These results are consistent across primary and secondary teachers, and the size of the school that teachers work at.

The Guardian has a piece about a Lancashire school putting catch-up on hold for wellbeing in wellies. Nether Kellet primary pupils will spend a week “gardening, building campfires and making memories”. The Headteacher Nicki Brough says “We just decided that although we do need to do catch up in academic stuff, the children need a bit of a break and the social side of things has been what they’ve missed the most because they’ve all been stuck at home.” 

And finally, Gavin Williamson has been accused of making “flimsy”, “strange”and “simplistic” assumptions after claiming in an interview that behaviour and discipline have “really improved” during the Covid-19 pandemic. Williamson said that Covid safety measures, such as separating year groups and making pupils face the front when sitting in class, had reduced bullying and exclusions. The TES points out that his comments do not tally with a survey they conducted, in which 70 per cent reported a behaviour slump under Covid.

Have a fantastic week.