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GTP20: How the Schools of King Edward XI are preparing the talent of the future

Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2020 Growth Through People campaign.

Growth Through People is the Chamber’s annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. In 2020 this involves 8 free workshops taking place between 2nd March and 27th March, culminating in a full-day Growth Through People conference on 2nd April. In addition, throughout the campaign the Chambers will be publishing thought leadership podcasts, videos and blog content such as this.

Thanks to our Headline Sponsors – Prime Accountants Group, Aston University, Curium Solutions and CIPD - all workshops are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more and register to attend Growth Through People workshops here, and the Growth Through People conference here.

In September 2019, Balaam Wood Academy became the eleventh school in the King Edward VI Foundation in Birmingham. The school largely serves the community of Frankley, one of the most disadvantaged areas in the entire country. Many of the children who attend the school have never been to the centre of the city in which they live. However, when you visit the school (and you would be more than welcome to do so), what you find are some of the most enthusiastic, engaging young people that I have ever encountered. Our is to ensure that their enthusiasm is harnessed and  those young people go on to become the successful entrepreneurs and employees that Birmingham needs.

In recent weeks in education, there has been something of a battle raging between Ofsted and several prominent national Academy Trusts. In short, Ofsted are increasingly judging the quality of a school by the content of its curriculum; while the Trusts believe that the important measure should continue to be the outcomes achieved, as demonstrated by exam results.

In my view, they’re both mistaken.

Last month, the Heads of all the King Edward VI schools got together to consider our own educational vision and to ask a key question: what is it that connects the fee-paying schools of leafy Edgbaston, the inner-city grammars, and our comprehensives in Sheldon, Handsworth Wood and Frankley?

We all want to provide children with a challenging curriculum and good exam results. But, growing young people to be successful in today’s environment requires much more than that.

  • They need to be resilient, able to deal with the pressure of 21st century life and to understand and regulate their emotions
  • They need to be engaged, having had opportunities to participate in a wide range of activities such as music, drama, competitive sport and outdoor adventure that helps them to learn new skills and develop a strong sense of teamwork
  • They need to be connected, to feel part of a larger community and to value the growing and exciting diversity that their city has to offer

For too long, the school system has been obsessed with things that are easy to measure. League tables and high stakes accountability have forced schools to chase arbitrary targets and lose sight of what education is really about: the preparation of young people for a happy and fulfilled life as part of a cohesive and productive society.

As a result, too many school leavers have great qualifications on paper, but lack the character and drive to know what to do with them. And it is that character and drive that employers tell me that they truly value.

We certainly don’t have all the answers. We are often constrained by the same measures, and funding strictures as all other schools. But by bringing together such a diverse community of schools – and 10,000 incredible young people – in this remarkable city, we hope that we can achieve something unique.

The future of Birmingham will be built by the children of today, including (and especially?) those from Frankley. Let’s all make sure that they’re ready – and remember that it’s not where they’re coming from, but where they’re going to.

Heath Monk
Executive Director
Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham