Recently Jane Simister, author and a specialist in helping schools to embed active thinking addressed an audience of Junior School and Pre-Prep parents and certainly got them thinking.
Jane has been working with our Junior School staff to develop the way in which the Junior School curriculum is delivered to allow us to promote this core skill. In one part of Jane’s presentation, she observed that today’s students think it grossly unfair if they are ever asked to take a test on something about which they are not fully prepared. Schools can be
criticised for turning out pupils and students who are highly-skilled at passing exams and who ‘do well’ at school but failing to equip them with the skills they need to be able to tackle the unknowns that will face them as they grow up.
As a Foundation, we are committed to making sure that our students leave us as creative, critical thinkers who are prepared to take risks and who realise that, in much of life, there simply will not be a single right answer. A flexible mind was certainly required as we tried to tackle some of the questions posed during this memorable and challenging evening:
- What percentage of the world’s water supply is contained within a single cow?
- If you remove one grain of sand at a time from a mound of sand, when does it stop being a mound?
- Tell me about a banana
We are very excited about the changes in the way our Junior School curriculum is being delivered so that these skills become commonplace. Building on the Philosophy for Children programme that we piloted last year, thinking skills are becoming an overt part of every lesson in the Junior School as well as a dedicated thinking skills lessons on the timetable every week.
The changes in the Junior School are the next steps on a journey whose aim is to make sure every student develops the learning habits to take them beyond a narrow ability to pass exams. At every level, our teachers deliver creative lessons that inspire and encourage different ways of thinking. On top of this, our Theory of Knowledge course is already well embedded in the life of the Sixth Form College and the Critical Thinking course in Years 10 and 11 is being extended to Years 8 and 9 in the Senior School. I believe that this commitment to this critical aspect of education sets us apart. We want our pupils to be free to explore around ideas, to find out where a concept might lead, to come up with unusual answers to questions and to learn how to sift what is relevant from what is simply clutter.