Following the Opening Keynote, as part of the start of the summer school, we were treated to a pupil panel discussion. Four students aged 16-17 from local comprehensive schools gave a brief summary of themselves, their GCSE or A-level choices, and why they chose them. They then responded to questions from the audience. These learners were impressively articulate, composed (in front of an audience of 150 teachers!) and passionate. They knew what they liked, what they need, and what they wanted. What came across over and over was how much they trust their teachers.
Since they presented so well themselves, I shall just put their direct comments down for you to consider.
Why do you like Geography?
– “If you think about it, the world is quite a big place and has a lot of people in it (!) – I want to know about how I fit into this, where my place is”
– “Geography helps me to learn about cultures, to break down ignorance, consider and compare different situations ; just makes me think ‘I’d like to make a difference to help others in the world'”
– “Geography helps empower me, makes me more creative and expressive. It challenges me.”
– “Geography doesn’t restrict our individuality or curiosity, there are no bars on what you are interested in or good at because it is not like one single subject.”
– “If you don’t know Geography you don’t know your own home [world]”
– “Geography is real and realistic to our lives, it is essential because it balances factual with opinion and interpretation, enquiry and independence.”
What are your views on teaching and learning?
– “We will choose subjects if our teachers inspired us and encouraged us, if they make us feel like we can actually succeed”
– “It’s not just about a teacher standing at the front and giving us the fact we ‘need’ to know, it’s down to the teacher to engage us to WANT to acquire that knowledge ourselves and to help us gain the SKILLS we need in order to do so…at the end of the day we as students need to do the work”
– “We want the skills and confidence we need for future work”
– “Knowledge alone isn’t power, but knowledge with the ability to interpret this and be practical with it is the power”
– “The abstract and different lessons are the ones you remember most”
– “I can be engaged and succeed more if I enjoy my lessons, and I trust my teachers to be professionals and know what is best for me for how to learn”
– “Technology can be hugely beneficial, if used the right way, but not if it is just a powerpoint display on a wall with words that we have to read through. Then it may as well be a book. And we can tell if a teacher has just copied from wikipedia or downloaded the lesson from somewhere else – it’s clear if it’s not their own or coming from their own enjoyment of the topic”
– “Avoid unnecessary repetition – it kills the interest”
– “Teachers should show they are confident with their knowledge and teaching style, whatever that style might be. That’s what gets us and we will respect this and engage more. It is clear if a teacher tries some new buzz thing after a training day that they’ve been told to do but aren’t confident or comfortable with. I’d rather be taught in black and white, in the dark, from no resources but by somebody who could engage me and show enthusiasm and confidence”
– “Sometimes taking a break from what we normally do is needed; we get used to seeing certain styles of lessons and sometimes just having space to just have discussions is needed for deeper learning”
What feedback do you find more effective?
– “I need to know what I did well, and be given praise to build my confidence
– “Knowing a specific target to aim for, not just a grade”
– “The grade is not so important, sometimes it is a distraction”
– “Setting own targets is so beneficial; we might not feel we need or want to work on the same target as someone else, or even the same as what the teacher says, so if we set our own targets they are personal and it forces us to look closely at what we need to do”
– “I prefer one-on-one conversations with my teacher face to face, with the teacher showing they know me personally and can explain to me what I did well and what I need to do next”
– “I feel disappointed if I have no feedback from staff, feels like I’m not important. But that feedback can just as happily be verbal in class and doesn’t have to always be written down. I just need to know where I am and where I’m aiming for”
What do students think about Ofsted?
– “We benefit from inspections as well because we can know how we can improve, how our school is perceived and how it can be improved”
– “We feel a sense of pride in our school knowing our teachers are being recognised for their hard work”
– “It’s a chance to showcase what we’re good at”
So there you have it, out of the mouths of babes and all that. The panel were fantastic and should be proud of themselves. No way I would have been able to do that and hold my own in front of 150 teachers when I was 16!
“The fact is, we have the most to gain from our education working right, and the most to lose if it doesn’t. So we should have a say. And teachers should have a say. And we trust teachers to know how best to help us.” (Pupil Panel)