Phuket Education: What makes a good school?
Wednesday 23 July 2014, 01:07PM
By Richard Theze
PHUKET: I have worked for a number of different schools in a number of different countries during my career as a teacher and I very much enjoyed working with all the children in all of those schools even though some of them really were not very good places to work.
HeadStart International School, on the other hand, has been one of the best, if not the best school for which I have worked and it set me thinking about what really makes us a good school.
Academically, the vast majority of our students are achieving at least in line with what would be expected of the average child in a school in the UK. Some of our students are performing well above the average expected. This is remarkable given that very many of our students are learning through the medium of their second and sometimes third languages. It is all the more remarkable when you realise that many of our students come to us with little or no past experience of the English language.
Notwithstanding our academic achievements, I believe the hallmarks of a good school go much deeper. A good school is a consistently-competitive yet caring community that treats all members of that community fairly and equally. It offers a broad and challenging curriculum to stimulate intellectual and universal curiosity among its students.
Andrew Adonis, a reformer, writer and Labour peer who was Minister for Schools under the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown administration in the UK, would say that the three qualities essential to a good school are: an ethos of high expectation; teachers who are ambitious for their students and a vibrant extra-curricular programme.
HeadStart International School is a school in which your child is an individual and one in which the pastoral care of each individual student matters. We are a school that respectsThai as well as other important traditions and we consistently encourage our students to engage in thinking beyond their exam-based syllabuses. Moreover, we have schemes to encourage reading in both Thai and English, particularly among our teenage boys.
We also understand that learning goes on in and beyond the classroom and our extra-curricular programme – including elements such as the Duke of Edinburgh International Award – integrating all aspects of what a good school should offer its students.
Good schools are dedicated to academic excellence which requires a commitment to the ‘primacy of the classroom’. It is of fundamental importance that a good school inculcates in its students, both an ability to learn and a love of learning as lessons for life.
At HeadStart, we recognise that the extent to which all the students fulfill their potential owes everything to how good the teaching is, which is why we sought the recent inspection and accreditation of our school by the Centre for British Teachers (CfBT) and the Office for National Education Standards and Quality Assessment (ONESQA).
As an educational institution, we are interested in what we can do to turn children into young adults who will contribute usefully to the community. As our students grow older, we encourage them to begin to take responsibility for their decisions and actions and we support this through institutions such as prefects, the Head Boy and Head Girl positions as well as the student council.
We want to trust our students not to have to be treated as children. We have worked hard to develop our careers department, attuned to the changing demands of competitive universities and of the workplace.
Perhaps most importantly, we recognise the important and direct role that parents have to play and we strive to create an ease of communication not only between students and teachers, but between teachers and parents, and between the school and its wider community.
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