Educational excellence – some food for thought

Julie Booth examines the different elements behind one vision of educational excellence

Fourteen million of us reportedly watched as Nadiya Hussain triumphed in this year’s Great British Bake Off and uttered those inspiring words to the nation.

I’m never going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never going to say I can’t do it. I’m never going to say “maybe”. I’m never going to say “I don’t think I can”. I can….and I will.

Popular shows like this often give teachers and parents a great opportunity to talk to children about how important both success and failure can be in shaping our journey towards achieving our goals in life. The question is, could schools be doing more to emphasise some of the non-academic traits children need to develop in order to reach their full potential?  

Should failure be an option?

One of the interesting things about the Bake Off for me was that Nadiya’s victory was by no means a foregone conclusion. For those of you who may not have followed the programme, she started out with a noticeable lack of belief in her ability to get through each stage of the competition.  

Despite a rollercoaster of ups and downs, she continued to invest her time and effort in gaining the knowledge she needed to keep on improving. She kept trying new recipes at home and her determination to find out what she had to do to get a better result continually drove her on.

This got me thinking about a blog I read recently, in which Jill Berry talked about the concept that character and thinking skills are just as important as knowledge and understanding when it comes to a good education. As the Bake Off underlines, there are many different strands of our characters that can contribute to our achievement of success – be it in the kitchen, classroom or corporate board room.

The traditional role of a teacher is to impart knowledge and encourage understanding in our children. But increasingly, schools need to be able to understand children’s strengths and weaknesses and put measures in place that will ensure each pupil gets the full benefit of a rounded education.

There is a lot going on in schools up and down the country to provide the right support that will help develop or enhance the character traits children need to succeed, as well as supporting them in moving on when they fail, whether this is in their academic studies, in the arts or on the sports field. Could they be communicating this more effectively across the school – and with parents?

The pursuit of educational excellence

It is clear to anyone who has read or listened to any interviews Nadiya has given in the days and weeks following the Bake Off final that the support of friends and family was the absolute bedrock of her achievement.  She has suggested that it was this that enabled her to succeed – and indeed, fail – throughout the competition and continue learning from her mistakes.  

Some might say that Nadiya displayed the qualities of a true winner that day. The journey she embarked on when she took on the challenge of the Bake Off has resulted in a shiny trophy she and her family can be proud of. But perhaps more importantly, she has come away with some crucial skills that will help her to tackle whatever challenges there might be ahead of her and continue achieving throughout her life.

Isn’t this the kind of experience children and families could benefit from having more of?

Julie Booth is head of SIMS Independent.    


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