In many schools, the preferred way of measuring a success at the end of the school year manifests itself as judgements written on a child’s report which detail their achievements against curriculum objectives to varying degrees in a range of subjects; quantifiable and ostensibly objective methods that do not seem to sit well alongside educational philosophies which place emphasis on the whole child. How, therefore, should we better measure school success to fully reflect the more intangible, yet so critical, skills that children acquire?
Some of the skills that we seek to instil in our children at Wandsworth Prep, are independence, a thirst for learning and social awareness; the most obvious point for data collection, in this case, is at the school gates. In September, few children in our Reception class would walk through the gates unaccompanied, many clinging to their carer for comfort. Ten months on, picture race horses at the start gates for the Grand National; gates open, they charge spurred on, however, by the learning that awaits, as opposed to a finish line.
The second point for data collection, are the weight of the shopping bags that are being used to take home work completed during the course of the year. One bag, in particular, boasts an array of writing that shows how, at the beginning of September, a child could not write a full sentence but, by February, was writing in small paragraphs. Maths assessments show increasing mastery of skills and concepts and, more importantly, the child in question can sort through the piles, recognise his own growth and talk about his process of learning. Aside from the progress made in terms of acquisition of knowledge, what this demonstrates, is the increasing independence with which the children in our care are able to apply the skills learned in the classroom.
The third point for data collection, at this time of year, are the numerous end of year events at which the whole school gets together
to celebrate children’s achievements across a range of subjects. Celebrating the success of others is a life skill, requires maturity and, for some children modelling and practice. At our Sports Day some weeks ago, children of all ages took part in competitive activities with, inevitable winners. Nowhere were there tears to be seen, as so often is the case with young children, from those who did not, despite their efforts, reach the finish line first. What our children displayed, without exception, was an awareness of others, somewhat beyond their years and, in this sense, they all came first.
At Wandsworth Prep, we want our children to leave us as happy and confident individuals, with the skills required to be independent learners, well-prepared for their next stage in learning with a natural readiness to embrace challenge. Whilst their achievements in English, maths and science will see them succeed to a certain extent and needs to be counted, the adult world requires more than just exam results and we would be doing our children a disservice if the soft skills we want them to acquire did not feature as part of our tally chart.
Bridget Saul - Headteacher