Yesterday I attended the annual conference of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) in Edinburgh, and as usual at such events, was given great food for thought. SCIS represents over 70 independent member schools in Scotland, and the debate ranged across various topics, including the publication on that same day of a report demonstrating the positive economic impact – to the tune of around £466m – of the Scottish independent schools’ sector on the national economy. Coming as it did on the same day as the annual census released by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) which noted that numbers of pupils in independent schools throughout the UK have grown again over the past year, this was a clear indication of the strength and success of the sector.
What was particularly interesting at the conference, however, was that the debate returned time and again to how, as educators, we can ensure that we are able to do the very best for ALL children. Schools have an aim and founding principle which transcend their requirement to educate the individuals in their care; schools – all schools, without exception – are part of the fabric of our society, and they exist in order to prepare the next generation, and generations to follow, to play a fulfilling and effective role in our world. The world needs our children to be incredibly well-educated – to be self-aware, to have a social conscience, to understand where we have come from, and to be able to think critically and creatively about where we go next. Our schools are crucial in this developmental process.
It is all too easy for schools to become enmired in politics and prejudices about other schools, different approaches, and for healthy competition between schools to descend into harmful point-scoring. If we are to move forward – and put each child firmly at the heart of our education system, for his/her sake and for the sake of all of us – then we need to move beyond petty politics. It is the child who matters – the child and his or her impact on the world, which we must nurture by spending time understanding his/her needs, and what the future will require of all of us.
I firmly believe that the willingness to achieve this is there in all of us – let us be bold and act upon it.