What’s the purpose of school?

For children preparing for senior school interviews, they have probably had this question thrown to them a multitude of times. In Year 6, it seems to be the belief help by children that school: is a place to learn; to get you onto the ladder of success; and to meet friends. This encapsulates the commonly held view of schooling since the days of learning whilst using a slate! Should the objective be wider? What really is the purpose of school?

This debate rages far and wide, however the basic check is: can a child read confidently and mentally calculate percentages? Not to say that reading and writing is not a fundamental skill and should form the foundation of learning. Often, sadly, that goal is not being met in our education system. Nonetheless, every year children are failing this, despite a huge amount of effort and money spent on improving the three Rs. 

Who’s in charge?

Flipping this around, rather than the model of teaching imparting knowledge, put the child at the centre. The reversed model is the child, as you can see from our Big Picture, taking control, leading discovery and making autonomous decisions. At the same time, for some parents, this might feel totally wild and risky. Handing out control and allowing your child to have some independence, what are we thinking? However, to motivate many children, give them more responsibilities and the freedom to make independent decisions (within your chosen parameters). 

Risk-taking at the heart of education

Listening to a podcast about self-directed education, Naomi Fisher (Clinical Psychologist) makes the key points that the more a child can do, the more compliant we expect them to be. As children move from KS1 to KS2, life becomes more regimented. The original autonomy and agency that you can observe in EYFS is removed. The centre of control is now shifted to the teacher. Similarly, pupils do not think that their ideas matter. Fisher would like us to put the teenage gift for risk-taking at the heart of their educational experience. We see it in limited forms with the rise of forest schools, walking to school, outdoor activities and science experiments. Correspondingly, encouraging a culture for children to have time to think about risks allows them to become their own safety-expert.

In the same fashion, the same is true with tasks in the classroom, allowing a child the space to think about which skills or tools they should apply increases motivation and ability. It follows that starting with the tools and developing explicit understanding of thinking skills is key. 

Skills ready for the world of work

In a recent Times article, Cormac Lucey was writing about the need for the education system to examine the skills most useful for the future world of work. Maybe Year 6 are totally correct and the purpose of school is preparing you to jump onto the ladder of success. Lucey highlights, “In a labour market that becomes ever more automated, digital and dynamic, McKinsey reckoned that all citizens will benefit from having a set of foundational skills so that they can operate in a digital environment…” That is music to my ears, introducing a set of foundational skills we call our Metacognitive Toolkit. Introducing these skills and strategies teaches children how to think reflectively, critically and creatively.

In other words, it is about becoming an independent thinker who uses their experiences and current knowledge to address new situations. Children, and adults, with a metacognitive toolkit are confident, and as John Flavell articulated in 1979, able to make wise and thoughtful life decisions

Thinking skills are key

Thinking Matters encourages schools to consider why thinking matters! If we are going to be turning out pupils ready for the 22nd Century, what are the skills and attitudes required? If they need to have listening, communication, social and team skills then these must be explicitly taught and modelled in the classroom. In February, we discussed in a previous blog, the notion that exams might be outdated and damaging. The HMC has published its own report following a survey of teachers and senior leaders about the narrow focus of current assessments. Their call to action is to encourage greater learner development and motivation in our young people. 

At Meta Prep, our Year 4 metacognitive course focuses on these key metacognitive skills which add to the learning experience. Children are introduced to and develop their understanding of Habits of Mind, neuroplasticity, Anderson’s Levels of Thinking, using visual aids such as thinking frames, and so much more to develop a solid foundation for learning and success. 

Interested in finding out more?