Last week I attended the Catholic Independent Schools Conference in Thame, Oxfordshire, and had the opportunity to meet many of their Heads and listen to some of the presentations. Fr. Michael Holman SJ posed the question, ‘What are we educating our children for?’ It would seem in the current economic climate it’s all about getting an education so the government can create a large work force that earns lots of money, which in turn it is encouraged to spend, thereby boosting the economy. In addition they then pay taxes to improve the country and the national services they use within it. Not much joy for children in that? Where are the needs and desires of the individual in all of this? What about their spirituality and creative sides? Where are the opportunities to challenge what they take for granted and develop their own beliefs and perceptions? How can they grow in self confidence and compassion for others? All those soft skills that are just as vital in the world as subject knowledge?
In an environment of never ending accountability, how do you even measure these soft skills? It’s a challenge, but I have seen and felt the result of such a vision at a recent visit to Salesian School in Farnborough. When you enter this school there is ‘something in the air’ which pervades throughout. Walking around you see the mutual respect students have for the staff, but also each other. The commitments and principals that school is founded on are clear to everyone and makes this school stand out. Was it because it is Roman Catholic? Or was it because of its wonderful Head teacher and staff? I wondered whether all ‘faith schools’ create this atmosphere or whether it can it be ‘manufactured’ by having an agreed ethos that is implemented rigorously across a whole school, regardless of religion? Or is it just Catholic Schools are doing it better than any other type of school?
Tell me your thoughts or experiences. Are you a Roman Catholic Teacher? Or maybe a non Roman Catholic teaching in a Catholic School? Did you know http://www.eteach.com/
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Finally, whilst at the CISC Conference I had the opportunity to catch up with Mr Wilson, Head of Salesian College and ask him how his recent inspection went. He was thrilled with outcome as the inspectors had identified the same ‘X factor’ as I had when I visited, and commended the whole school on its achievement. I have been promised my own copy of the report and look forward to reading how ‘soft skills’ can be measured and how they can shape the children of today, and in turn, the world of tomorrow.
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