In his book What’s the point of school? Guy Claxton suggests that young people “need […] the temperament to cope confidently with difficulty and uncertainty”1. Schools are therefore exhorted to encourage pupils to take responsibility for their own learning and provide the opportunity, choice and and challenge to explore and learn “real, difficult and meaningful things”.
Claxton also urges parents to take responsibility for their children’s learning by talking to teachers more frequently about their child’s progress, exercising what he calls “parents’ pester power” and ensuring that their schools “are developing their children’s ability to cope well with real life challenges?”. He highlights 10 questions any parent ought to ask their child’s school:
- What have you noticed about my child as a learner outside lessons? How much do you know about my child’s interests?
- What are you trying to capture in the way you write reports about my child? How do you know if you are being successful? When will you ask for my feedback about the way reports on my child are written?
- Is there a good spirit of learning in the staffroom? Do teachers ask and offer help to get better at their jobs? Do staff mainly talk about learning, or about troublemakers, at coffee time?
- Do you value education as a preparation for lifelong learning? How have you demonstrated this value to the pupils today?
- How do you demonstrate to my child and me what you genuinely value more than exams and good behaviour?
- How do you encourage children’s curiosity outside the set curriculum?
- Is PE more about winning or learning? How much do pupils design their own coaching?
- How much real responsibility do my children have to choose what, when and how they are learning? How much part do pupils play in determining the core business of the school?
- How much opportunity does my child get to help teachers improve their teaching?
- How do you check whether your intention to help children become better learners is being realised? What do you know about the lives of your past students after they have left your school?
But it also strikes me, as I change roles from one school to another, that these are good questions to ask a potential employer in order to ascertain what kind of school you might end up working in. Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear how your new prospective headteacher tackles these questions?
So, next time you’re asked at interview if you have any questions for them, go ahead and ask away.
Photo credit: Ethan Lofton
- Claxton G (2008) What’s the point of school? Rediscovering the heart of education, Oxford : Oneworld ↩