No Ceilings on Learning

Putting a ceiling on a child’s education is wrong. It is immoral and potentially very damaging to their development.

We are in danger of underestimating the potential of children. As teachers, we are trained to adhere to developmental models, and as parents we feel the pressure to check off a predefined list of specific milestones at each age and stage of development. Whilst these behaviours are natural for parents and teachers who are striving to do the very best for their children, they may at times, often unwittingly, impose limitations. This narrowly defined focus may cause us to miss out on other signs of growth, insight and possibly brilliance from our children.  As they grow older, the checklist could become even more standardised when they move into a one-size-fits-all educational paradigm.

What if children are capable both intellectually and emotionally of far more than we allow them to reach or express?

As a head in a Maintained school I felt constant pressure from the local authority and OFSTED to meet attainment expectations for children. There was an agreed percentage of children to reach Level 4 or Level 5 in English and Mathematics by the end of Year 6. Sadly many of my colleagues spoke of achieving their targets with certain children then leaving them in order to channel resources to those who were still falling short. I found this attitude very difficult to accept although I understood the root cause of their decisions.

There should be no ceilings on a child’s learning. “Reaching their full potential” is a phrase used by schools across the country to imply children will be challenged suitably. But who is to say when children have reached their potential? If they do, is there really nothing else left in the tank?

At Yateley Manor a child’s journey through their learning does not involve stops along the way simply because they have reached a certain goal. That is the beauty of an Independent school education – we are free of the constraints of the National Curriculum. Although our curriculum follows it to some extent, we have the freedom to take children further or develop a broader understanding of the topic. Some of the children in our classes will be studying material two years in advance of their National Curriculum years. Why should they be told to wait because the next steps occur on the next pages of the document?

In a similar way, it often saddens me to hear that some children who leave at the end of Year 6 and enter the senior school of their choice have ceilings imposed upon them. A child’s education should be continuous. Any pause along the journey has the potential to impact significantly on attitude and motivation. Sometimes I hear of children entering their senior school at Year 7 and “treading water” for up to two years while the other children catch up. I accept that senior schools have a range of children coming from various schools with different standards of attainment but to hold children back seems immoral. Worse still I have heard of children leaving Yateley Manor at Year 6 and being placed on the same book that they have been studying for two years here. This is unacceptable. It is interesting to note that this potential pause in learning happens far less if children leave at the end of Year 8 because the GCSE curriculum is often started in Year 9 now and there is no time to delay.

We have had communication from a senior school recently asking how we organise our curriculum on account of the children entering from here having such high standards. The answer…… look at where the children are and help them take their next steps. Apply no ceilings on their learning.

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.” (Plutarch)


Robert Upton