Focus on Education June 2021 No. 4

Our students will be soon receiving (or have received) feedback from their summer examinations and assessments, and I hope they have treated this as a positive learning experience at the culmination of an extraordinary and challenging year. The exception to this are Year 10 and Year 12 who will sit their delayed Finals in September. Regardless of whether they are continuing with all their subjects next year, they should nevertheless have tried their best – and that is all we can ask.

Whilst the curriculum in the younger years in England is laudably broad, we become more specialised than in many countries in the Sixth Form. None of us is good at everything, and I know that some students are always pleased to leave certain subjects behind as they choose their options. For others that choice is much harder, as they have strengths and interests in many different areas.

There is often a tendency to consider what will be useful or even which subjects are better. Our aim at HGS is to keep the curriculum as broad as we can for as long as we can, for we believe that all our subjects are of intrinsic educational benefit. For example, the creative and aesthetic subjects are as important for a child’s development as any other is, and we remain committed to offering a full range of intellectually demanding ‘smaller’ subjects when some of these are disappearing elsewhere. There is no subject hierarchy at HGS, as all the courses we offer are equally valuable.

Recently, I read two articles, which lauded the benefits of different disciplines:

The first piece summarises the findings of recent research from Oxford University: ‘Studying maths beyond GCSEs helps brain development, say scientists’. And the second, from another neuroscientist at Oxford, highlights the positive effects of studying Classics for brain-development in the young:

“It is a very economic way of learning, because if you’re studying Cicero, that’s doing history and literature at the same time. Working away through a sentence that goes on for half a page and trying to understand it — again it’s very good for your prefrontal cortex. An 11-year-old can read Homer’s Odyssey and it teaches you about bigger things, like gods and goddesses, beyond yourself. And it’s much better than a video game.”

I realise that not all our youngsters would necessarily agree with that final sentiment, yet the logical analysis that comes with the apprenticeship of languages often engages the same area of the brain as the study of maths.

Mr Duck and Mrs Dhanda are always happy to offer guidance on the various (career) options on offer (and a few courses do have very specific requirements), but our overriding advice will always be: follow your passions and your strengths, for the rest will then work itself out. Also, remember that the discipline of studying should always be enjoyable and fun!

Stay well and safe.

Be kind to yourself and each other.

Best wishes,

Dr Bird