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Greenfield School

Leading Inspirational and Aspirational Schools

Mrs Botting shares her thoughts and intentions behind this year's IAPS Heads' Conference. 

One of my first roles as this year’s Vice Chairman of IAPS is to organise and host the Annual Heads’ Conference. This year it is being held at the International Conference Centre in the beautiful city of Edinburgh and one of the great privileges of organising the conference is that I can choose the theme! My theme for the 125th Anniversary Conference is ‘Leading Inspirational and Aspirational Schools’.

Titles of conferences tend to be very broad and mine is no exception, but I wanted to run a conference that would provide the delegates with food for thought as to how they could improve what is currently being taught in their schools and how it is being taught. Of course all of our schools should be inspirational and aspirational; the Heads that will attend are members of IAPS (the Independent Association of Prep Schools) which is a kite mark for excellent education; but what will they gain from attending this conference and what is the message that I am keen to convey?

In the 125 years that IAPS has been in existence, never has there been a time of greater and faster change in the world. The question that all Heads should be asking themselves is, ‘Does my school provide my pupils with the education that they will need in order to be fully prepared for the future?’ Our schools are Prep schools - preparatory schools preparing children – but the education that we provide needs to be relevant. I strongly believe that we could be better preparing our children for their uncertain future.

The inspiration for my conference came from several sources. I was fortunate to be informed about some research projects that had recently been carried out which looked at the employability of graduates. Despite a huge emphasis being placed on school for us to teach STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering) in order to fulfil the increased demand in the workplace, there are a surprisingly large number of unemployed graduates from these fields. This is because these graduates have the knowledge, but have not got the additional skills needed to make them positive contributors to the workplace – the ‘soft skills’ – problem solving, creative thinking, independent thinking and communication and negotiation skills. We have become too concerned in schools on teaching facts and knowledge and students have not been given opportunities to develop all of these other skills. Our concern with examination results and league tables has undoubtedly also had a detrimental effect on the education that we provide.

The speakers at my conference come from a wide field, but I hope that they will give the delegates food for thought as to what our pupils are going to need from us as leaders of IAPS schools in order for them to become effective employees of the future. We must retain our kite mark of excellence as IAPS moves into its 126th and beyond.