A busy afternoon and a plea to rethink assessment for 16 year olds!

This has been a really fabulous afternoon and the school is so full of life. Whilst some of our cadets enjoyed an introduction to archery, others were on the beach playing games in the late afternoon sun. Soaking wet uniforms but happy and smiling children demonstrate just how far we have come since those early dismal days of lockdown. Elsewhere, our musicians were auditioning for choral scholarships and our Junior School children were enthusiastically throwing themselves into a game on the freshly cut lawn.  A few of the older boys and girls were sitting out in the Square spending time together before tea and homework. Over on the fields behind the Chapel, our footballers were hard at work training.  A brief shower caused a rainbow to form over the School and as the Isle of Man ferry picked its way through the wind farm everything seemed just perfect  – the sort of moment you want to capture and bottle up!  For me, all this action constitutes a source of intense happiness. This is what our children deserve and this is what childhood should be all about. 

Rossall excels at afternoons like this and, ultimately, it is the aggregate of these opportunities for fun, friendship, laughter, adventure and creativity that our children will remember and it is why so many of them love this place. 

There has been much talk in the media about a rethink regarding public examinations. The current uncertainty is desperately unfair for Year 11 and Year 13 students but one senses that COVID-19 will have a profound impact upon the educational landscape in the UK. I have never been a fan of GCSEs and I do believe it is now time for us to rethink assessment. Our current system of public examinations (unlike the Rossall School Diploma) gives little credit to teamwork, communication, problem solving or creativity; all of which are essential skills for the workplace of the twenty first century. At a point in young people’s lives when they are at their most vulnerable, we compel them to sit a barrage of public examinations which assess their ability to consolidate and deploy knowledge effectively but often tells us little more about them as a people. Every year algorithms are employed to decide how many people should pass exams. The algorithms might not be as mutant as the one employed this summer, but it still seems a curiously arbitrary way to decide the future of our children. Civil servants at the Department of Education fret about ‘grade inflation’ whilst admissions tutors at universities make binary judgements which give little or no consideration to context, potential or holistic perspective. GCSE specifications are overflowing with content but it is often at the expense of opportunities for deep learning. As a history teacher, I felt that the GCSE syllabus was unwieldy and, from a skills perspective,  did not provide a particularly useful platform for A level study. There has to be a better way of assessing children and I do struggle to understand the need for GCSEs at all. After all, this summer, we made perfectly sound judgments without our children sitting a single public examination. Earlier this week, various educationalists wrote an open letter to The Times and amongst the signatories was Lord Kenneth Baker who was responsible for the introduction of GCSEs back in 1988. Even he concludes that our examination system has had its day. If we want our children to become well adjusted adults then let’s not submit them to a barrage of examinations that measures their worth in a context which is unforgivably narrow and ignores their uniqueness as individuals. We can and must do better.  

It was such a pleasure to attend our first lunchtime concert of the term. It was a triumphant return to live performance for our musicians. In terms of quality, it was by far and away the best concert that I have attended here at Rossall. There was some outstanding playing and what really impressed me was the maturity and confidence with which all of our musicians performed. It served as the best possible launch for our new team within the music department and, if this is a measure of things to come, then we are blessed indeed. 

We have our second virtual open day tomorrow morning at 11:00 am. We are tremendously proud to showcase our fabulous School in this way and we are incredibly grateful to Sven Knight and KRS. 

Have a lovely weekend!

All best wishes,

Jeremy Quartermain