The PTE Newsletter – Tuesday 25 May

It’s nearly the half term break, and most of the school news and comment pieces since last week are COVID-related. However, it’s notable that they now tend to be forward-looking – which suggests we are genuinely getting closer to the end of this stage of things. Here’s to a smooth rest-of-the-week…

The PTE Philosophy – High Ambition

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 can be key players in shaping our schools.

We want educational excellence for every child. We 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 can thrive, no matter their background or starting point.

What do we mean by. . . “High Ambition”?

At its simplest, the phrase means that any child will be prevent from achieving their best if they are not set challenging goals and are not convinced that they will be given every support to reach their goals, encouraged by teachers who firmly believe those high goals are indeed achievable. It doesn’t matter what circumstances pupils arrive at school with, everything around them must be organised to prepare them for and help them achieve a fulfilled life.

PTE, and the educational movement it supports, believes that the starting point to achieve this is a culture that demands the best both from and for children. The culture should give every child the ambition and motivation to aim for the highest prizes, supporting them to achieve their hopes and dreams.

High Ambition starts with high aspirations for, and great expectations of, the child.

To accomplish this, every aspect of school life has to be designed in a carefully considered and coherent way, helping young people to do and be their best: whether it’s the lessons planned, the assemblies held, how pupils are encouraged to behave, or the exams they sit. Above all, each child must be instilled with big ambitions for who they are and what they can become, thus avoiding what has often been called ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations’. The child must be able to see that there is a programme they can follow that will help them reach that high ambition.

Importantly, High Ambition need not be about encouraging every child to go to university, or to aim for specific careers or status, or earning lots of money, or to leave behind their families and hometowns. It is not one-size-fits-all.

It is about children growing up feeling that they have agency over what they do in their lives, and equipping them over time with the necessary knowledge, skills, connections, experiences, and attributes to act on this.

Children need to develop an intrinsic motivation. Research shows that motivation is a major predictor of achievement in academic situations, being almost as important as intelligence. Drive and ambition are inter-related non-cognitive factors which have also shown to be strongly correlated with success; students who scored highest on ambition and drive scored on average half a grade higher per GCSE than students with the same level of prior attainment but with lower determination to succeed. This effect on results had a greater effect than that of family background or the school attended. Read more

Latest news & views

We’re kicking off with a good news story today: a school in Bolton that volunteered to become a vaccination site as part of the town’s pushback against COVID has seen more than 10,000 people vaccinated on site!

Essa Academy volunteered to become a vaccination centre after a surge in cases in the town, with the BL3 and BL4 postcodes particularly hard-hit. On Sunday, 3,072 people received their jab at Essa, which the school believes is the highest total for a single vaccination site in one day.

Both the Education & Culture Secretaries have written to the Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel De Souza (formerly of this parish). They have asked how schools can be helped to tackle children’s access to online pornography, stating that “schools alone” cannot solve the problem of sexual misconduct and harassment by pupils.

The Times newspaper has now launched its education commission. With commissioners drawn from a variety of sectors and backgrounds, it intends to look at a range of big questions about the education system in this country.

From the first series of articles it is clear that there will be no cliche left behind: apparently we’ve a system built on exam-focused teaching that discourages children’s curiosity, leads to a “forgotten third” (three words: national reference tests), doesn’t prepare kids for the workplace of tomorrow, and after all the reforms since 2010 still finds itself in mediocre positions in international league tables.

The most interesting finding so far comes from some new polling that suggests that parents are against plans to increase the school day to help pupils bounce back from the pandemic – 60% opposed the idea, with only 30% supporting it.

The survey follows heavy briefing that a longer day will be at the heart of the government’s COVID education recovery plan.

In another survey, this time by TeachTapp for Teach First, just under half of teachers said that they’d like remote working to remain an option for at least some of the time. The idea was more popular among secondary teachers, where 53 per cent backed it compared with 39 per cent of those in primaries.

In the TES Steve Brace argues that Ofqual’s proposal to remove mandatory fieldwork days for the summer 2022 exams must be resisted – and that geography teachers need to fight for field trips. Measuring longshore drift never sounded so exciting!

And Mary Meredith makes the case that the no-excuses, retributive mindset is an unforgiving one – and pupils end up paying a high price.”

Over in Schools Week, Helen Roland and Andy Yarrow say that post-Covid recovery calls for collaboration over competition, claiming that their MAT-to-MAT peer review pilot shows what can be achieved.

Mary Bousted writes about the new DfE and Ofsted wellbeing charter for staff.She welcomes it but says that it can’t be used to paper over the cracks of a broken accountability system, and that as long as authorities refuse to acknowledge the link between poverty and attainment and continue to hold schools accountable for things they cannot control, no charter will convince her that they are serious about promoting teacher wellbeing.

Have a great day!