Please enjoy reading Mr Marston's article from The Oxford Times on 4th October 2018Posted on: 04/10/2018
Writing in The Oxford Times on 4th October 2018, Mr Marston shares his thoughts on what to look for when choosing a school.
We are only a few weeks in to term but we are already thinking about next year. It is the season for school Open Evenings and Open Mornings – a time when newspapers and websites are full of colourful adverts with smiling students participating in a range of activities; schools open their doors and welcome visitors; and parents with children of a certain age start to focus on the next stage of their education.
As parents we wonder what we should be looking for from a school when we visit it. We naturally want to know what the results are like. In a changing landscape this can be tricky. Are we looking at attainment – the grades the students actually got – or achievement – the progress that they made? Do we understand the new 9-1 grading system or what Progress 8 is? This can be confusing and make it hard to compare one school with another.
Equally, we want to get a “feel” for what a school is like on a daily basis. Do we look for what blogs and websites “in the know” tell us to seek at a school? Is it the menus or the bus timetables or the toilets that we should prioritise? Is the Headteacher authoritative or funny, does he or she seem in charge and commanding?
Of course elements of all of these things are important. Young people need to make excellent progress, facilities are important and the effective leadership of the Headteacher is an integral part of a successful school.
But schools are about people – and, in particular, their greatest assets are their staff and their students.
Talk to teachers. Are they passionate? Are they inspiring? Do they really seem to care about the young people whose lives they are influencing? The best will infectiously communicate all of these things to you. They will inspire you and make you wish that you could go back to school and be a student in one of their lessons.
And talk to the students. They are a school’s greatest advocates and its harshest critics. They will tell you what they love about the school, who inspires them and how their teachers are helping them to make their hopes and aspirations for the future a reality. If there are aspects of the school which they feel need to improve they will tell it to you with honesty and candour – importantly, ask them whether they think the school is listening to their thoughts and acting upon them.
What about our school? Well, our students achieved brilliant results in the Summer placing them in the top 10% in terms of boys’ progress nationally and the top 20% of all schools – a great achievement for the only boys’ state school in Oxfordshire. Many of our boys achieved lots of grade 8s and 9s; many others achieved grade 4s, 5s and 6s and fulfilled their potential, nourished and supported by our fantastic staff. They are well-rounded modern young men enriched by our broad and deep curriculum and the wonderful extra-curricular experiences they have had. They are tolerant and understanding and we are very proud of them.
And what about the food, the buses and the toilets? The food is excellent – varied, nutritious and plenty of it (particularly important for teenage boys!); the buses are busy but run on time; and the toilets are being refurbished as I write. Why are we refurbishing the toilets? Because our students asked us to.