This is a short blog post on the purpose of education from the perspective of one small business in Wakefield.
It was inspired by a letter that was sent out by Barrowford School to their Year 6 pupils, with details of their Key Stage 2 test results and a message about why results aren't everything. The letter read like this:
Please find enclosed your end of KS2 test results. We are very proud of you as you demonstrated huge amounts of commitment and tried your very best during this tricky week.
However, we are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you... the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do.
They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture.
They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day.
They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister after school.
They do not know that you have travelled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with special family members and friends.
They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your very best... the scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.
So enjoy your results and be very proud of these but remember there are many ways of being smart.
So, what has this got to do with small businesses?
We hear our government focus intensively on numbers, on league tables, on performance. And of course grades are important and we should strive to educate our young people to a high standard. But education is about more than this.
The employers I speak to are less concerned about straight As. They want to employ well rounded, interesting and thoughtful young people. The candidates they choose may not have the highest grades, but a spark for life and an enthusiasm to get on.
And I think this message gets lost by successive governments, who seem to constantly shift the goalposts, re-structure and commoditise the education of our young people, whilst putting an intense level of stress and pressure on both students and teachers.
This is just my view, but I would much rather employ an interesting young person with C grades if they have a real view of the world and have developed people skills and informed opinions. These life skills can’t be prescribed through a rigid curriculum and tests - they develop from experiences.
So when I read the letter from the Headteacher of Barrowford School, I - like many others - empathised and questioned why we continue to go down the road we do.
As a new Education Secretary takes up her post, maybe this could prompt a pause and a genuine re-think as to what we want from our education system; as students, teachers, parents, employers and as a society? And it would be nice to think that this one letter, sent with no agenda and shared with so many via the power of social media, was the spark of something so significant.