It turns out that the UK isn’t so bad at education after all. After nearly two years of being beaten with a stick and being told by the media that the standard our of education is one of the worst in the world, a new piece of research put the UK in second place among European countries and sixth overall in a global education league table. I’ll take that.

Whilst this new ranking considers the ‘education system’ and not a specific cog in the mechanics of education this, to me, feels a more holistic way of judging. What use is having a great secondary system with poor higher education? That system would still be failing students. I’m very proud of our education system and I believe that a British education still resonates around the world as a quality education.

The education community must come together and innovate and explore ways of being better. Those in Government must learn to empower us and understand that our communities include young people. That seems a strange thing to say doesn’t it? I tire of seeing delegations of adults from the UK visiting schools overseas, the obligatory photo opportunity and a presentation at conference when they return. How about taking students with them? They’ll tell you if something works or not. They soon spot something that could revolutionise classroom activity. They are the key to education, involve them, empower them too.

We recently had a group of students from Thailand visit us at Forge for the day. They embraced our way of learning, sat in classes, shared experiences and absorbed our culture. Young people are so much better at that than adults. Their honesty was refreshing. They told us what they liked and what they didn’t like about the academy, thankfully the list for the latter wasn’t long. We both learnt. The teachers were facilitators. Student-power at its finest.

So what is a standard? Is it the value we should measure ourselves by? Should it be the level we aspire to? What happens when we reach that standard? I’m mindful of the playwright Alan Bennett:

Standards are always out of date. That’s what makes them standards.
Forty Years On (1969) act 2

Sixth today, twentieth tomorrow. League tables designed to strike political points. For me I’m concerned about the students who will receive exam results this Summer and the students coming through behind them. I want them all to do well and to achieve. It’s very much an individual approach, one size doesn’t fit all at The Forge and it certainly shouldn’t on a global scale. If we are going to learn from other people let the students be the touch-point and let the adults facilitate. If they aren’t keen on facilitating give them a league table to colour in.

Andrew Burns

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