Fewer policy changes, less political interference and adoption of early age international education strategies are the ways in which UK schools can claw their way back up the international rankings, claims one of the North of England’s leading independent head teachers.
Elaine Purves, the new head of Lancashire’s prestigious Rossall School on the County’s Fylde Coast, claims that adoption of globally recognized study systems such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma and more importantly, its IB Primary Years Programme, are the quickest way to effect radical improvements in outcomes for the next generation of students as they attempt to compete in a global market against students from the Tiger Economies of the Far East, which all topped the new OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) international league tables.
Ms Purves, whose own co-educational boarding and day school attracts home-grown and international pupils, claims results on her coastal campus suggest that children fare better when inspired to develop enquiring minds. And statistics for her younger pupils in Rossall Junior School bear out her claims, with most pupils between the ages of 7 and 11 attending the school achieving a reading proficiency two years above their age group. The Primary Years Programme was introduced to Rossall in 2008 and the school is still one of only a handful in the UK (state or independent) to have embraced its principles. However, its pupils are now reaping the rewards, because the holistic approach to education is providing pupils moving up into senior school with not only advanced numeracy and literacy but also the skills of knowledge acquisition that will allow them to transition seamlessly into university study in later years. With a rich curriculum, the PYP is also providing younger children with a world perspective and the teaching of Mandarin in language classes, rather than the traditional European languages of French and German, is an example of how younger pupils are being provided with the tools to thrive as adults in the global marketplace.
Ms Purves said: “It isn’t just independent schools that can benefit from adoption of the IB’s PYP and Baccalaureate Diploma and if the state system had been less prescriptive in recent years, under both Labour and Tory governments, more schools would have been allowed to opt out of the National Curriculum and standards would most likely have improved across the board.
“Now of course, Michael Gove’s Free Schools programme allows greater flexibility but early signs show that these could be simply a vanity project for the Education Secretary and there are so few of them that their results would make little difference to the UK’s overall performance levels. The answer really is simple and it is in our hands if the Government is brave enough to invest in a different way of teaching children.”
Ms Purves also suggests that UK education still has respect around the world, a point illustrated by the number of students from the Far East studying at Independent schools in Britain. She added: “Britain has excellent teachers and given the right platform they could get significantly better outcomes for their pupils. That platform could be the IB/PYP and its introduction could be achieved easily across the country if only those in Whitehall have the vision to allow it to happen.”