Leading thinkers and researchers have outlined how schools could be transformed by the next government through initiatives that recognise the changing nature of children's lives, and the importance of nurturing connections between schools, their students, and wider society.
The essays in The Connected School - A design for well-being, published by the National Children's Bureau and Pearson, argue that there is increasing fragmentation in children's lives, and that schools have a pivotal role in putting this right. Fragmentation can be seen in many ways: not least in the disparity between a narrow academic curriculum and the broad social and moral expectations of young people as both learners and citizens.
The authors put forward a vision of 'connected' schools' where people matter and students' wellbeing is nurtured alongside academic achievement. They argue that relationships between the school and the local community, integrated working between professionals inside and outside of schools, and the ways staff and pupils interact with each other, all make a big difference.
The essays, edited by Colleen McLaughlin, Professor of Education at the University of Sussex, explore connections between:
- Assessment, exams, and wellbeing
- Educational attainment and poverty
- School processes and democracy
- School design and learning
- Mind and body in education
The Connected School concludes by outlining principles to underpin education reforms. It argues that education policy must be demonstrably in the best interests of children and young people and should support schools to use the curriculum boldly and ambitiously, listening to the views of pupils, families, and teachers, and giving an equal weighting towards pupil's intellectual, physical, social and emotional development. Policy makers should position schools as the primary location for early intervention in children's lives, where they are supported to flourish, thrive and achieve.
Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children's Bureau said:
'We all hope that well-rounded young adults will emerge from education: happy, healthy and able to play their part. But if this is to happen we need a broad concept of what schooling aims to achieve - in terms of both academic attainment and building social and emotional wellbeing. The notion of the connected school provides a new way of approaching these issues and provides a catalyst for policy makers looking for wiser and more sustainable solutions.'
The Connected School is also available from the University of Sussex at:http://www.sussex.ac.uk/education .