In recent years, the UK’s national curriculum has placed heavy emphasis on a knowledge-based approach to teaching and learning. This shift away from skills and towards knowledge has required the examination of pedagogy, assessment, tracking and qualifications in order to further our understanding of what makes a pupil knowledgeable.
The aim is not just to fill our pupils with facts, perhaps making them first choice for a quiz team or your ‘phone a friend’ buddy, but to deeply understand those facts and their implications. We encourage our pupils to apply reason and judgement to that which they know and, in so doing, we impart the confidence to discuss a wide range of topics with maturity and understanding. In this way, our pupils are more than a fount of knowledge and become those individuals who can give and receive wise counsel.
Wise choices are a recurrent theme in schools and probably in many parent-child conversations. Motivational books and speakers reinforce this message time and again. In his book ‘’You are a champion’, Marcus Rashford talks of a seminal moment when he decided to ‘Get used to being Marcus and work on being the best version of Marcus’. He talks of loving football because success comes from a combination of skill and the will to work hard rather than being defined by physical characteristics. He made conscious and wise choices to become the player and person he is today.
The idea of knowing yourself and using your talents to best advantage also appears time and again in storytelling. As we move into the Chinese New Year, the ancient tale of the Great Race, where the positioning of the Chinese animals of the zodiac was decided, provides an excellent way to explore this concept with children. As a non-swimmer and the smallest of the creatures in the race, Rat was at a disadvantage. However, with his wily powers of persuasion, he appealed to the kindness of Ox to offer him a ride across the water, jumping at the last minute to reach the bank in first position. Undeterred by the odds against him, Rat used his own talents and emerged victorious.
Similarly, in school, children will likely find themselves faced with challenge from faster runners, more able mathematicians or gifted musicians. Whatever their starting point, however much they have to learn, what is guaranteed is that knowing themselves and hard work will make them more successful. Equally, even those blessed with natural skill and talent can always improve and should never be satisfied with their achievements.
At Claremont, one of our key aims is to encourage our pupils to see themselves as limitless in potential – that is to always want more for themselves and their peers and to strive to be a little better, every day. Those who choose wisely will know that there is always more to learn and that they have the power to work hard and become even greater than they already are. Just like Rat, we encourage our pupils to be strong in their understanding of themselves, the knowledge and skills which they possess, and confident in their own ability to harness this to best effect.