It has been fascinating after many years leading schools in the UK to compare and contrast my experience with the British education system, having recently moved to Madrid. My first month here at Richmond Park School has been hugely enjoyable, getting to know students, parents and staff and has also allowed me some time to reflect upon the British educational experience and why it is such a major export to schools internationally.
During my time working in education in the UK, the 10 schools that I have led as Headteacher and then as CEO have developed many international links, a deliberate policy of mine to enhance the global perspective of the students. I am very proud of the way in which these extensive links, including twinning, exchanges, visits and secondments between schools, developed over the years while I worked as Headteacher. My previous school, Notre Dame High School (www.ndhs.org.uk), was awarded International School status and specialised in teaching foreign languages including French, German, Japanese, Chinese and of course Spanish. The school had particularly strong links to other international schools and I was privileged to be able to go and visit many of those schools in my time as Headteacher. It always impressed me that the British curriculum and the British style of education are one of the most significant exports from the UK.
I think it is interesting to compare and contrast the British school system as it currently exists in the UK, which I have just left, and the International British school system, such as here at Richmond Park School. It greatly interests me as to why the British education system, including its curriculum and approaches to teaching, has been such a successful export for the UK. There is clearly something about a British style of education that appeals internationally, is a huge strength and forms a foundation of many of the most renowned schools around the world. Now that I am part of the British International school system working here at Richmond Park I can reflect and compare where and how those strengths have developed.
At Notre Dame High School several of the teachers decided to move to British schools abroad during my time as Headteacher and we were always delighted that we were able to support them to take that opportunity. I maintained good contacts with many of them and I visited several abroad, most recently a colleague who teaches at an international British school in Singapore. I have also been privileged to visit schools in Norway, China, Thailand and Malaysia. During my time as Headteacher, we organised student exchanges and visits to schools in Japan, Germany, France, Spain, Norway, USA, China and Malawi. The impact of the British education system in all of the international schools we had links with is quite remarkable. So why is the UK education system so prevalent internationally, and why is it copied and replicated across the world?
I consider the curriculum offer to be a particular strength of the British UK education system. It is based on strong traditional subjects such as English, Science and Maths. It is powerful when taught in English, a language used in so many countries and a gateway to communication around the world. The British curriculum has been designed, developed and refined over many years, indeed I was involved with several British Government initiatives to update the curriculum, ensuring it is relevant and appropriate to our modern and fast developing world. It has been wonderful to see the same British curriculum being delivered here at Richmond Park School (in addition to the Spanish curriculum which is really interesting to me) and providing a wide breadth of experience to the students here.
Within the UK, there is a strong “golden tread” of continued professional development (CPD) for teachers using the most recent evidence informed techniques in classrooms, ensuring that teaching practise is always up to date and reflects the latest research. The support for teachers to develop their pedagogy (the theory of learning) has come along leaps and bounds over the past few years. It was a particular passion of mine in the UK, and one I am delighted to see is also a passion of teachers at Richmond Park. In the UK the group of schools which I led (St John the Baptist Catholic Multi Academy Trust www.stjohnthebaptist-cmat.org.uk) was responsible for training teachers, providing CPD and developing teaching and learning skills using the latest research techniques for a large part of the East of England. This involved using research evidence and high quality training so that teachers could develop their pedagogy to provide the best possible experience for students in each lesson. It has been heartening to meet many of the teachers at Richmond Park who are similarly using evidence based research in their classroom and know and use the best practise for teaching on a daily basis.
A traditional British education is also based on strong values and discipline. British schools are well known for having systems in place which ensure that students understand and behave well in lessons and represent their school as best they possibly can. Here at Richmond Park, I am very pleased to see the systems that we have put in place to support positive behaviour and reward excellent effort and attainment are being embraced by the students. In the last few weeks we have introduced new Merit systems, House Captains for Years 6 to 9 and Behaviour for Learning systems to ensure that our students meet and exceed the very high expectations of our parents and our wider school community. It is particularly encouraging to see the students embracing the new Merit based reward system, so that they can impress parents and the wider student body with their contribution and efforts towards school life and the House system here at Richmond Park.
The exam system is also an incredibly important export from the British education system. Here at Richmond Park, we are looking forward to our first series of IGCSEs this year and the International Baccalaureate in the future. These are highly regarded and transferrable qualifications that are a strong currency when applying to universities in Europe and further afield.
In conclusion, the first few weeks here at Richmond Park have reinvigorated my enjoyment and passion for teaching and reaffirmed my belief in the strengths of the British educational system. My understanding of why British education has been so successful in an international context has been deepened, and its ability to support children as they grow academically, creatively, morally and physically made all the clearer to me. It makes me look forward even more to the coming weeks and months here at Richmond Park School.
Mr Brian Conway – BEng (Hons) MA NPQH NLE