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A-level Progress Matters – Being independently non-selective shows the way

Sunday 28 January 2018

As the response to the Government’s consultation on ‘schools that work for everyone’, expected this spring, draws near, so the debate over the opening of new grammar schools and the issue of selective v non-selective education in state funded schools continues.

Selectivity in schools is not limited to the state-funded sector, though. The concerns surrounding pressure on students to reach and maintain perfection throughout their academic life are equally relevant in independent schools.

One of the core ambitions for any school – from Nursery through to Sixth Form – must be to nurture every single student to allow them to be their very best. At least, that’s what, as parents, we would all hope. At St Joseph’s College that is certainly the case and we take a broadly non-selective approach to our admissions to ensure that every child has the opportunity to shine.

The race to attain higher and higher positions in SATs, GCSE and A-level league tables can mean that, in some schools, admissions are managed to ensure good academic results. This also results in pupils who are under increasing pressure to perform and a very real ‘fear of failure’ is on the rise.

Hierarchy in the classroom is another growing concern and, while a competitive spirit within education is clearly beneficial, so too is a culture of collaboration, allowing students to recognise the unique talents each of their peers brings to a project.

As the number of children suffering from anxiety continues to rise – last year, UCL research suggested that the number of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 suffering with emotional problems had risen by 55% in just five years – ensuring that we help our students to live happily in the present, while also supporting them into their future, is key.

While, in some schools, counsellors and psychiatrists are being recruited to help restore students’ confidence, at St Joseph’s College we work to maintain students’ wellbeing throughout their education.

As well as the small class sizes, better adult to pupil ratios and enhanced opportunity offered by most independent schools, here we extend learning past the national curriculum to offer pupils of all abilities a real chance of finding their own potential.

Recognising that every child has unique talents and strengths extends throughout the College – from Nursery through to Sixth Form and from our staff through to the students themselves. Our ethos and family values supports children to be their best.

Looking around St Joseph’s College, our largely non-selective and highly supportive approach clearly delivers on happiness and wellbeing – a result that can’t be reported within league tables but which, for us, is equally important

However, this long-term pastoral approach also extends to help students to achieve academically. In fact, of the students taking their GCSEs in 2016, all those who had studied at St Joseph’s College from Year 3 through to Year 11 achieved five or more GCSEs with an A* to C grade, including English and Maths.  

Moving on to A-level results for 2017, the government tables published on 25 January 2018 clearly show that our unique ethos leads to student progress equal to and in advance of neighbouring selective schools.

 Dr M Hine

Vice Principal