Background: Stop putting children in boxes. Post-16 Choice of Subjects and Pathways is the real foundation of an Outstanding Education. Sarah O’ Regan, Principal of GEMS Wellington Academy DSO Explains Why.
“We want every single student to choose their own pathway.
We really do value the student voice.
In year 11 we listen to their requests – and then we tailor a bespoke pathway for each and every individual child.
If a student wants to study A Levels and BTEC, we make that possible.
If a students wants to study the IB Careers-relates Programme, we make that possible.
We do not ask students to fit into boxes. ”
Sarah O’ Regan. Principal and Chief Executive Officer. GEMS Wellington Academy – Dubai Silicon Oasis.
Too often, faced with a bewildering number of school options, parents judge and decide schools on their exam results.
It seems so obvious; surely the best school is the one with the highest place in exam league tables?
In fact, it may well be precisely the opposite.
First, academically selective schools will always have better results than academically inclusive schools.
Second, a school that offers students very limited qualification and subject pathways may well get better overall results. However there is a very big price to be paid for this. The majority of students, pushed into boxes of limited choices, will inevitably have to forego their own career ambitions and interests. Pushing a child to study history, when they want to be a Psychologist, is not meeting the needs of children. Limited subject pathways means too often that students received only half an education – whatever the eventual results. We all know young men and women who have gone to university to study a course because it is something they have to, or are supposed to, based on the subjects they have studied, only to crash out, or worse, be miserable and find themselves pursuing a career for which they have little appetite or joy.
To offer a genuinely individualised education, schools need to offer students real choice of subjects. The bigger the choice, the more likely it is that a student will be able to meet their own ambitions – and actually study something they will enjoy and be good at.
Some students are technical, others academic. Some want careers in research – others want to get swiftly into roles in business and industry. None of us want to push children into boxes or treat them like mass produced duplicates on a conveyor belt.
Even when choosing a school for very young children, it is vital to look at the eventual breadth of subject options, and breadth of pathway options, at later stages of their education. No parents wants to be withdrawing a child from their school and friendship groups later because the school cannot meet the needs and ambitions of their child. When children are young, we cannot possibly know whether they will want to pursue a career in medicine, engineering, nursing or dance or…
Taken together, choosing a school based only on exam league tables may well end up being nothing short of disastrous for a child. Subject and pathway breadth is arguably by far the better indicator.
In the following interview, we look at one of the most stellar schools in the UAE for providing students with just this sort of outstanding breadth of subjects and pathways options.
We visited Sarah O’ Regan. Principal and Chief Executive Officer. GEMS Wellington Academy – Dubai Silicon Oasis, and and asked some really tough questions to try and get to the bottom of how parents can best manage the risk of ending up in a school that boxes in their child options later, when subject and pathways breadth matters most. We lean that it is possible to, almost, provide every child with a near limitless choice of options, if the school is committed enough to individualised learning.
The following interview was conducted in July 2021 for SchoolsComparedTV as pat of our series of discussions with the very best principals and schools in the UAE.
The questions we asked…
- Why does giving students the maximum choice of Post-16 subjects matter?
- Why is subject breadth so important in measuring what makes an outstanding school?
- What does giving a child an individualised education really mean?
- When would it be best for a student to choose A Levels?
- When would it be best for a student to choose the International Baccalaureate Diploma?
- Which qualification is best for later study at University in the United States after graduation from school?
- Which qualification is best for later study at university in the UK after graduation from school?
- What is the Career-related Programme? What is BTEC? Is one better than the other?
- How many A’ Levels does GEMS WSO provide? Can these be combined with other qualifications?
- How does an outstanding school decide which A’ Levels or BTECs are provided each year?
The SchoolsCompared interview: Sarah O’ Regan. Principal and Chief Executive Officer. GEMS Wellington Academy – Dubai Silicon Oasis.
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