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Your thoughts on an outstanding school — wellbeing vs achievement

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Schools have returned, and despite the uncertainty surrounding the new academic year, there’s a sense of renewed optimism.

It’s a pivotal year for strategy setting, so it’s natural that overall goals and objectives have shifted. Yet the core strategic goals remain the same — attainment and results remain the top priority according to our State of Technology in Education report

But do all educators agree that pupils’ progress should be the top objective? 

Goals have widened, not changed

According to our report, attainment and pupils’ results always will be a school’s end goal — these objectives are the cornerstone of education. Much like following the national curriculum, they are omnipresent and largely cannot be changed. At the same time, educators increasingly recognise the high importance of pastoral care post-lockdown; ensuring pupils feel safe and secure after an unsettling year.

As part of our annual survey, we asked you what makes an outstanding school. The answers show that top priorities may not have changed but goals have widened to include a greater sense of wellbeing this year.

What makes an outstanding school?

While most educators agree that the top priorities of a school are results and attainment, the definition of an outstanding school ticks more boxes. Some point out that an ‘outstanding’ status is an Ofsted goal. Genuinely outstanding schools should cater to more than regulatory accreditations, perhaps. Here’s what you had to say:

“An outstanding school has a clear understanding of the wellbeing needs of the families they work with, offers learners the skills, support and challenge to thrive in their lives and encourages the delivery of learning through a deeper understanding of pedagogy and what actually makes the difference in learning.”
Assistant/Deputy Head, Local Authority Secondary, Scotland

“A school where the staff are a genuine team with shared values and where the welfare of the pupils is the highest priority.”
Teacher/Senior Teacher, Local Authority Primary, South West England

“One which doesn’t care about the results of their students, but their wellbeing and their personal development. Academic success should be the main focus of schooling, it is part of it, but often students succeed in different ways. For example some students getting a 3 is a big achievement, but because they don’t count in school 9-4 statistics it is often not celebrated to the same degree.”
Head of Department/Faculty, Academy Secondary, South East England

“One which has a community feel and supports every pupil in ways which are suitable and individual to them. A school where all staff, parents and children work together to achieve the best possible for the children. A school where the children’s learning AND wellbeing is at the heart of the school.”
Teacher/Senior Teacher, Local Authority Primary, South East England

“A school that ignores badges such as this, and focuses instead on developing a curriculum that prepares students for the world of work in the 21st century whilst providing a well-rounded education that results in academic and technical success.”
Assistant/Deputy Head, Academy Secondary, London

All school staff recognise the importance of making pupils feel safe, secure and nurtured. Some educators point out that, whilst essential, overall results shouldn’t be the only thing contributing to the definition of a leading institution.

Where does edtech fit in an outstanding school?

Since lockdown, educators have witnessed the importance of technology for delivering traditional learning, but also for streamlining internal communication and enhancing overall work/life balance, too. 

As Carl Hansen, a school IT manager explains, teachers now understand how technology can benefit them directly and help them achieve their goals. But, he says, it’s time to make reactions to a crisis become habits in the classroom.

But reliance on tech has wider implications on the learning environment when pupils are expected to use resources from home. Not all pupils have easy access to the tools or networks needed to keep up, which could widen the attainment gap beyond repair.

As such, it’s critical to keep the classroom central to the learning experience. Edtech in classrooms complements an outstanding school by motivating pupils, engaging learners and providing equal access to tools and resources. For more insights into the education system, read the full State of Technology in Education Report 2020/21.

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