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Seeking Challenge in the Senior Years

Posted: 19th November 2020 | Category: Years 3 & 4, Years 5 to 8

Seeking Challenge in the Senior Years

At Skippers, we set ambitious targets for all of the children which is only possible because of the depth at which we get to know and understand the children. These targets set challenges but challenge can appear in a variety of forms; from the traditional 'examination' sense, to trying a new dish at lunchtime - every challenge is an important milestone for the children and adds to their character.

As teachers we face challenges which we must embrace daily, the same as all parents do in their work and home life, but it is the manner in which we embrace the challenges that determines the outcomes. So many of our community embrace challenges in a variety of ways outside of school; jumping an extra 10cm in an equestrian competition, finishing the book before watching the film, eating a brussel sprout or getting into a sports team. The hurdle for us all to overcome is how to transfer this positive and resilient approach into the classroom and learning how to help the children to understand themselves better as learners. 

As a school we have been discussing what challenge looks like for the children and how we can learn from our colleagues and the children. There are so many lessons that can be learnt from the fiercely independent nursery children who are encouraged to be inquisitive, curious problem solvers through the Characteristics of Effective Learning framework.

Traditionally, as children move through education, the focus leans heavily towards assessments and quantifying a child's ability by giving grades - The question we must ask ourselves as a community is, what sort of children do we want leaving Skippers? Is it one who can just recall information or is it one who can recall information, as well as mirror the Nursery characteristics, structure a cohesive argument, present their thoughts using a variety of media, research effectively, compare and contrast ideas and organise their work clearly. It is these ideas which were the basis for the development of the GSE curriculum - something which sets out to challenge the children far beyond the constraints set by Common Entrance.

The GSE Curriculum is based on a set of 21st Century Skills (in our case based on the P21 Framework) and has developed in discussion with senior schools, university lecturers, employers and through the reviewing literature: Tom Sherrington reviewed these 21st Century Skills and explained that they are ‘something old for a new age’; the OECD's values of a 21st Century Curriculum balance the development of soft skills alongside knowledge and Prep schools up and down the country have abandoned Common Entrance for a curriculum of their own design which allows the children to engage on relevant and challenging topics.

We are challenging children to think in a variety of ways (critically, literally and laterally) and to use English skills in History, take their Geographical knowledge and answer a question on Religion whilst presenting their knowledge using written, verbal and pictorial evidence. 

Over the next few weeks, we will begin to put together a schedule of discussion groups which are aimed at building the sense of community around Skippers, something which has been difficult in these COVID times, but also to increase understanding of the excellent work which is completed by the teachers at Skippers and encourage parental engagement to continue to raise the standards for all children.

The initial 'insight' sessions will be on ‘The GSE Curriculum' and we welcome parent volunteers from all parts of the school to create a working group. If you would like more information or wish to be involved, please can you contact: 

Matthew Minister


Director of Studies and SENCO

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