When it comes to education, I have a strong, value system. This is part of the reason why I have chosen to work at Bedales School, as the ethical principles on which the school is based correlate strongly with my own views about education.
One of the areas which here has been a move towards in the last few terms is mixed ability groupings of students, rather than attempting to select students by ability. This is for a number of reasons: firstly, there is very little evidence that selecting students by ability has any positive influence on results; secondly, intelligence develops over the course of education and not necessarily in a linear fashion, so being high 'ability' at age 11 is not a good indicator of ability at 14; thirdly, selecting by ability is really selecting students by experience, what have they covered at their previous school, which does not seem to be a good justification for putting students in different classes; and, fourthly, selecting students by ability and then teaching them differently reinforced fixed mindset thinking in staff, students and parents.
This is linked to my belief that every child should have equal access to opportunities during the course of their lifetime. They should no more be defined by the notion of 'innate ability' as their parents' wealth, their gender, sexuality or skin colour. Fixed mindset thinking allows these inherited circumstances to determine the pathway of children's lives which is something I vehemently disagree with from a moral perspective. However, in order to nurture growth mindsets in young people, the kind that will give them access to equal opportunities in their futures, we need to take care of their state of wellbeing. A stressed and anxious student is not a good learner, and this will hold them back from achieving their potential.
Below I answer some questions in short videos about my ideology organised into sections on:
Blogs about equality
As a woman in science, I self-identify as a feminist, although I wish the term was less gendered. I believe in equality of all stripes and my philosophical research focuses on issues surrounding equality between generations.
Blogs about mindset
Blogs about wellbeing
I try to place an emphasis on wellbeing in everything I do. This is one of the reasons why I am such a big fan of mixed attainment setting, as I believe that placing students in a lower division class damages their self-esteem and, consequently, has an unjustifiable cost to their wellbeing. It is well-evidenced that students cannot think effectively if they are suffering from anxiety as this takes up valuable space in their working memory and lowers their ability to solve complex problems by synthesising different ideas at the same time.
I try to ensure that I maintain by own wellbeing by exercising, running regularly, getting outdoors, reading, studying; but as a department leader, I also try to ensure that my staff are able to maintain high levels of wellbeing too. This means protecting them from the demands placed on them from above, encouraging them to balance their time, and modelling a realistic lifestyle.