Reflecting on a term of hope

After a disrupted term, Attain has looked back at the issues discussed on Fresh Thinking – from home schooling and monotony to examinations and assessment reform. It's been a period of uncertainty and concern for pupil wellbeing but also one of hope.

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24th March 2021 — It is too early to know how future generations will view the Spring 2021 school term.

From a practical perspective, it began with uncertainty over the reopening of schools but concludes with a significant sense of hope for the future and pride in the achievements of pupils during such a difficult period.

Last week, Attain published its 21st episode of Fresh Thinking and 41st interview since the current affairs programme launched last September.

Throughout the term, episodes have reflected issues of concern to both parents and schools including home schooling and monotony through to examination grades and assessment reform.

Attain's Editor, Matthew Smith, said: "Each week, we have tried to focus on a particularly relevant issue for parents and schools.

"With an often fairly bleak news cycle, we have tried to focus on topics which are positive but still reflect the reality of the situation facing us all.

"We have been delighted with the feedback from the programme and are proud to have established something truly unique and innovative."

Highlights from this term include:

– Episode 13: Tim Smith of Hampton Pre-Prep & Prep and Andy Falconer of St Peter's 8-13 discussing how to make home schooling as positive an experience as possible for children – and how to be kind to yourself as a parent.

– Episode 14: Emma Taylor of Dean Close School and James Dahl of Wellington College debating examinations and how the pandemic is continuing to disrupt A Levels and GCSEs – what is the best way to ensure pupils get the grades they deserve?

– Episode 15: Fionnuala Kennedy and Claire Boyd of Wimbledon High School GDST talking about how the learning opportunities for STEAM – science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths – are being shaped by the pandemic.

– Episode 16: Emma Hattersley of Godolphin School and Gareth Jones of St Andrew's Prep Eastbourne highlighting the problem of monotony and how parents can try and avoid a growing sense of 'Groundhog Day' with home schooling.

– Episode 17: Mark English of University College School and Emma Goldsmith of Winchester House talking about how the lack of certainty in life can be a particular challenge for both parents and pupils, having a big effect on anxiety.

– Episode 18: Colin Baty of Bedales Prep School and Alastair Speers of Sandroyd School discussing how schools were preparing for the return of all pupils and what the priorities should be to ensure the wellbeing of everyone.

– Episode 19: Simon Larter-Evans of St Paul's Cathedral School and Suzie Longstaff of Putney High School for Girls exploring the admissions process for senior schools and asking if competition for places is putting too much pressure on children – and too much stress for parents.

– Episode 20: Sarah Fletcher of St Paul's Girls' School and Stephen Jones of St Edward's School highlighting the case for GCSE reform and whether the time has now come – after more than 30 years – for radical change to make the exam more relevant for today's world.

– Episode 21: Nick Pietrek of Thorpe House School and Bill Sawyer of Yarm Prep discussing how parents should encourage their children to use the Easter Holidays and whether they should be worried about 'lost learning'.

Launched last September, Fresh Thinking was the first current affairs programme for the independent sector.

It has established a unique role discussing key topics and issues affecting schools and parents today.

Fresh Thinking is available every Wednesday during term time via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts, as well as via the Attain website or by signing-up for the weekly email newsletter.

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