Educational tweets

15th January 14

The education network

Last week this BBC News article cropped up on our twitter feed (@Parkhillschool1). Michael Wilshaw, the chief of Ofsted had spoken at the annual HMC conference where he told head teachers of Independent schools that they should sponsor academies rather than their current offering of “crumbs off your tables.”

He raises an interesting point, one that Lord Adonis spoke of at the Education Festival (Wellington College, 2012). During Lord Adonis’ talk he implored everybody to think of a child’s entire educational journey rather than only focusing on our own sections of it. To this end not only should schools be helping each other with whatever means they can, equally as important is that universities get more involved. He mentioned universities (which can feel a million miles away from pre-prep schools and nurseries) as they often have fantastic resources which very often are underused; also that they can only expect to have the very best applicants for degree courses if they make their resources available for teaching younger children.

Here at Park Hill we are very lucky that we have Kingston and Roehampton Universities on our doorstep with whom we enjoy a great relationship. Every year we have student teachers from the universities fulfill their placements throughout the school. When we employ newly qualified teachers they are observed and advised by staff from the university. They have made their libraries available to staff who are studying to gain further qualifications. We are truly grateful to have such wonderful establishments in close proximity.

Recognising what schools are good at

A few days later this appeared. Dulwich College is stepping down from its sponsorship of a troubled Academy in Isle of Sheppey. They will continue to offer educational support but recognise they do not have the necessary experience to “move the academy at the speed and depth that needs to be achieved.”

In education it can be very tempting to want to be all things to all people, ultimately doing the best by the children and their families whilst also looking after all the staff and complying to OFSTED and government requirements. We certainly think that Dulwich College has been brave in their decision to hand the Academy over to the Oasis chain who have a lot more experience with this type of school. We hope that the Isle of Sheppey Academy starts to flourish soon.

Private tutoring for all

Finally, this article was drawn to our attention; ‘Revolutionary scheme aims to ensure private tutoring isn’t just for the privileged’. The Tutorfair Foundation’s aim is to make private tutoring available to all; Edd Stockwell, one of the founding members of Tutorfair Foundation said:

“We believe that tutoring should be for all, so the Tutorfair Foundation arranges free tuition for children who can’t afford it. For every student who pays, we provide free tuition for a student who can’t. Never again will tutoring just be the preserve of the privileged few.”

At Park Hill we prepare children for the 7+ and have an extensive Learning Support Department. We didn’t feel qualified to comment so asked our friends at keystone tutors and here is Will Orr-Ewing’s response.

Already tutoring is not just for the elite. 48% of state school children have tutoring each year. Of course, the poorest children would benefit from tutoring – and the work of Action Tutoring, The Access Project et al is fantastically welcome – but I think it is a overstatement to see tutoring as an exclusive luxury. The success of Explore Learning over the last decade has been because of its appeal to hard-working, often immigrant, families.

An optional 5% extra (usually approximately £2.50), on top of a client’s normal fee, is of course better than nothing – but I’d be interested in how much pro-bono work they have so far been able to provide. “For every student who pays, we provide free tutoring for a child who can’t” is, to my mind, stretching the truth just a bit too much and sounds more like CSR than it does a genuine and productive commitment to tackling educational inequality!

Keystone’s hope is that, by professionalising tutoring (we have tutors who work for us full-time as a career), we shall encourage more tutors to volunteer their time for pro-bono work in the same way that law firms encourage their lawyers to do pro-bono. Our model is Advantage Testing, who are the most ‘elite’ tutoring company in the US (going up to $1000 per hour!) but for whom 1 out of every 4 hours is done pro-bono.

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