By David Goodwin
As an experienced school inspector, having worked for a number of school accreditation teams, I have learned that one of the issues I am most likely to end up commenting on in a school inspection report will be issues regarding transition and continuity of learning throughout the school period.
Parents tend to be concerned about transition between schools or post school graduation into higher education. However, one of the biggest limiting factors in a child’s academic progress is often the lack of continuity and progression in a school’s curriculum planning and in the standardization of expectations and procedures in place across the classrooms of a single school.
A school can be full of very good teachers, with very good individual policies in place for their classroom, all who are providing very good individual lesson plans, but unless this ties together as one coherent whole school curriculum and a common set of expectations, then a child may as well be moving schools every single year, or even every single lesson if it’s in the secondary phase, where students can often have up to ten different teachers involved in their education.
We often view children as adaptable beings, and in reality they are often far more adaptable than us adults. It’s often the mums and dads that will suffer the biggest culture shock moving city or country and not the children. But with that said, it still takes children time to adapt, especially when it involves new methods of learning, new expectations from others and new boundaries within which they can work. Continuity and progression within a school is therefore essential for effective learning.
When looking for a new school for your children, there are a few things to consider in order to make sure that the education system is consistent and reliable:
- If your family moves around a lot, try to pick schools of one specific curriculum, for example British, American or French etc. This makes past and future transitions easier as the academic standards and the curriculum are set by the government. What is being studied in a British school in Shanghai for example, is likely to be 95% the same as that being studied in a British school back in London UK.
- Consider a school of mixed ages. Having students from age 2 to age 18 on the same campus also means that the school naturally evolves as a whole organism with no obvious ‘graduation’ from primary to secondary etc. Teachers of mixed age school often work with different classes and levels, which makes the education more consistent and the transition between different years more seamless.
- Don’t go too big. In a small or medium sized school, communication between teachers in different areas of the school is sometimes stronger. It also ensures that all teachers know all the children really well, so children with specific challenges or specific talents are known school-wide and their needs therefore better catered to across the curriculum and as they move through the school.