Helen Fraser, Chief Executive of the UK’s leading educational charity, the GDST (Girls’ Day School Trust), is calling for British educators to help girls strive to ‘have it all’ – a great career, an inquisitive mind and a happy family life.
Helen will tell delegates at the GDST’s annual conference on 13th June that educators should be helping to prepare girls for balancing multiple careers over their working lives with being happy and fulfilled in their personal lives.
Such a balance can only be achieved by schools making sure girls themselves understand the importance of prioritising their own learning.
“Developing in-depth knowledge of subjects is the key for girls today” says Helen. “To be successful at university and throughout your career, girls need to invest their time in learning.
“Young people need to learn to switch off the computer, the radio, the smartphone, the TV, and any other distractions, and read a whole book from start to finish – following an author’s train of thought, from first principles through to their conclusion. Without the ability to gain in-depth knowledge of a subject, they will struggle truly to influence the world.
“Schools have a role to play in helping their pupils have the time to do this. They need to focus on quality and not quantity when it comes to examinations and consider capping the number of GCSEs their pupils sit. The curriculum needs to make space for real and in-depth learning if young people are going to develop the levels of knowledge that will help them onto the best university courses and make the most of their careers.”
‘Making space for learning’ is the focus of the GDST’s annual conference, being held on 13th June in London. It will feature Tim Oates, Chair of the Expert Group advising the National Curriculum Review, arguing for the government to focus on school autonomy when seeking to improve educational performance:
“Questions of school autonomy are not a 'side show' – as some in the press have suggested – but central to improved educational performance. They have a direct impact on the shape and content of the National Curriculum specifications in key subjects”.
Kevin Stannard, Director of Innovation and Learning at the GDST, sees the conference as an opportunity for those involved in education to stretch the boundaries of conventional learning:
“The conference will explore a vision of education in which physical and symbolic boundaries are broken down. Places where classrooms don’t have a ‘front’; pupils spend less time in formal lessons; learning spills out into the corridor and the canteen; lessons only involve learning that can’t be done elsewhere; libraries encourage talking; mobile devices are used routinely; and school buildings and grounds are used as educational resources in themselves.”
Alex Peterken, Headmaster of Cheltenham College and Erica McWilliam from the Queensland University of Technology will complete the keynote speakers at the conference. Erica will examine two very different traditions of learning – in cafés and in schools – and their implications for school design and the practice of teaching and learning; and Alex will argue that schools are not factories, and their output cannot be reduced to academic performance measures.
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Notes for editors
The Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) is the leading group of independent girls’ schools in the UK, with nearly 4,000 staff, and 20,000 students between the ages of three and 18. As a charity that owns and runs a network of 24 schools and two academies in England and Wales, it reinvests all its income in its schools. Founded in 1872, the GDST has a long history of pioneering innovation in the education of girls and is this year celebrating its 140th anniversary.
GDST 2012 conference details:
Chair: Kim Catcheside, Former BBC Education Correspondent
Erica McWilliam, Professor, Queensland University of Technology
Schools as currently designed and realised resonate to the rhythms of the nineteenth and early twentieth century factory model of economic production and social reproduction. The design and layout of teaching spaces is intimately associated with prevailing models of teaching and learning. What would a school look like if it were calibrated to the expressed purposes of developing autonomous, critical, creative and collaborative young people?
Tim Oates, Director, Assessment Research Division, Cambridge Assessment, and Chair of Expert Group advising the National Curriculum Review
The 2010 White Paper, ‘The Importance of Teaching’, set out to restore to schools greater autonomy in curriculum design and in teaching and learning. How can this greater freedom for schools be reconciled with the need for accountability, and for generally understood performance measures?
Alex Peterken, Headmaster, Cheltenham College
Schools are not factories, and their output cannot be reduced to simple performance measures. Beyond exam results and progression to Higher Education (both of vital importance as performance measures and as propellers for pupils), what should schools set out to do, and how should their success be measured?