Two years ago we took the decision to phase out Common Entrance and introduce our own curriculum, the KED (Knowledge Enlightenment Discovery) Curriculum.
Two reasons drove the change: Firstly, The move to pre-testing pupils at the start of Year 7 created an opportunity to reimagine our curriculum across the final two years. Secondly, many teachers at the best senior schools and our own teachers find CE unduly restrictive: teaching facts not skills and too often failing to inspire children in this critical moment in their education.
Moving away from the somewhat rigid Common Entrance curriculum and testing regime will help us create a better balance between factual knowledge and the development of real, transferable skills. We believe this will lay still stronger foundations for successful future study, examination performance and later life. We continue to prepare pupils for academic and other scholarships with the same thoroughness as now. Indeed it is our belief that scholars will benefit from our increased focus on transferable skills and the development of critical thinking.
Philosophically, educationally and intellectually it feels the right thing to do.
But what does ‘not doing Common Entrance’ mean for us as a school aside from the benefits of having our own KED Curriculum and not having to teach to the CE exams?
Year 8 is no longer interrupted by endless exam weeks. There will be no ‘mock mocks’ in November; no mocks in February; and no CE week in June. ‘Exam weeks’ include focussed revision lessons and preps leading up to the exams; the exams themselves; and then the exam post mortem. All this means valuable time away from teaching.
Therefore, teaching time is increased by up to six weeks or more in Year 8. If we include a similar time given over to exams in Year 7; that equates to almost a whole term’s extra teaching in the final two years at prep school.
There won’t be any CE exam stress for the girls, for parents nor for staff. I can’t tell you how good this feels for everyone, most importantly for the girls.
Teachers of a subject which is examined in CE feel more relaxed when girls miss a lesson for music, or LAMDA, or sport because they don’t feel so pressurised that the pupil will be missing an important lesson building up to CE.
The summer term won’t feel like a game of two halves for the leavers: the first half being all work and no play preparing for CE; the second half being all play and no work post CE week. There will be a much better balance of work and play which benefits everyone.
Furthermore, our Year 8s will be able to work right up to the end of the summer term and not ‘down tools’ once CE is over when the last five weeks of the summer term is a series of endless activity days and trips away which exhaust everyone. Moving away from CE will allow us to be more flexible and balanced in making sure the girls still have an awesome last term at prep school.
Year 8 leavers can go away on their leavers’ trip any time which makes it less expensive and there is greater availability outside of the usual two weeks post CE when every other school wants to book their leavers’ week away. In fact, they can go any time in their final year, it doesn’t have to be in the summer term. We can re-shape the Summer term.
It feels absolutely the right thing to do.
— Written by Mr Robin Gainher, Headmaster —