Making the implicit explicit: recognising and rewarding the hidden gems

Making the implicit explicit: recognising and rewarding the hidden gems
Blog Whole School


It will be no surprise to those who know Monkton well that we put great store by all aspects of our pupils’ education not just that bit which happens in classrooms. 

We don’t have ‘after school’ clubs - yes, they do happen mostly later in the day, but they’re just as much part of school as the lessons which precede them. Pupils follow a ‘curriculum’ which is made up of two parts - the academic curriculum and the co-curriculum. We work to develop a set of attributes in our pupils which draw on their whole experience of school life.

There has been much debate reported in the press about whether GCSE is fit for purpose (general consensus: no, not really), particularly in the light of the Teacher Assessed Grading as a result of the pandemic cancellation of exams. The charge against GCSEs is that they don’t develop wider skills well - they’re about narrow, academic, discipline-specific assessment, and they look increasingly irrelevant as we move into the third decade of the 21st century.

We take a more nuanced view, especially in a school which lays such importance on the wider aspects of education.

In History, pupils will learn about the chain of events which seemed to lead inevitably to the outbreak of World War Two but as they do so, they also learn to communicate with their peers - to listen, to shape an argument, to present their point of view. 

In Music, pupils will learn how to make creative choices around the melodic and harmonic progression of their compositions but as they do that, they also become fluent in operating within the largely digital spaces in which those compositions are made.

In Maths, pupils learn how to manipulate functions algebraically but as they do so, they also learn the skills involved with complex problem solving and creative thinking.

In a hockey session, pupils learn how to keep their eyes up to make use of their teammates but as they do so, they embed the processes and learn the value of collaboration.

The problem is not that our pupils go out into the world without the wider aptitudes which allow them to flourish, it’s that they go out into the world without recognisable qualifications in which they have demonstrated them. They remain implicit within our current assessment framework.

Which is why we have started to have conversations with other schools (independent as well as state maintained), other organisations (like Pearson and HMC) and government (both inside and outside of the Department for Education) to see if others agree. And it turns out they do.

We share a desire to unearth these hidden gems, to make explicit the aptitudes which currently remain largely implicit within the curriculum. We don’t think we need to write new courses - that’s exactly the point of seeking to draw out of the shadows the aptitude development which is already going on.

Evidence gathering and assessment is going to be a cornerstone of this process because these bring a rigour and profile to the aptitudes. Not only is it a truism that ‘what gets measured gets managed’ but that what gets measured gets funded. The best of the maintained sector longs to broaden its offering as they do their best to protect space for these wider aptitudes to be developed but they have to do it in the face of funding which follows regulated qualifications.

As such, we want to work with organisations like Pearson to develop ‘Level 2’ qualifications (equivalent to GCSEs) in these aptitude assessments. A Year 11 pupil might then have, alongside their GCSE qualifications, perhaps one or two Level 2 Aptitude Assessments (maybe in ‘Communication and Collaboration’ and ‘Creative Problem Solving’ for instance) which would carry the same weight as their GCSEs - to universities, to future employers, to even themselves.

This is an exciting opportunity to bring out into the open many of the largely hidden gems which our pupils at Monkton develop. We also believe that, by bringing their development out of the shadows, we think we can probably do it even better than we currently are.

Our immediate plans included hosting a conference on 16th June (‘Making the Implicit Explicit’) when we welcomed teachers from 10 different schools, both independent and state, along with Pearson, PSB (the Pre-Senior Baccalaureate, the programme which Monkton Prep follows) and HMC. In addition, we will be piloting Aptitude Assessments in Year 9 next year as we continue to work with partners to develop and refine our ideas.

The value of hidden gems remains largely unrealised if they remain hidden. Making explicit what is currently implicit within our academic and co-curriculum is the route to further inspiring our ‘young people to become confident, kind and ambitious adults who live fulfilling lives’.

Joe Sidders

Deputy Head Learning

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