When talking to parents who are considering an international school, the topic of academic rigour always comes up. After all, every parent wants to make sure that they’re putting their child in a school that will do the best possible job of helping their child succeed.
Academic Rigour – we all want it in our schools and classrooms. What “academic rigour” looks like, however, is not always so clear. Some schools define rigour as how much students learn, while others talk about how their students spend hours doing homework at night. Academic rigour is more than a number. With the best quality education we provide, all students are holistically nourished in mind, body and soul.
During last Friday’s Lower School Parent Workshop, Mr Andrew Marshall, Head of Lower School, Mr James Berry, Head of Pre-Prep, and Mr Kevin Neeson, Deputy Head of Pre-Prep had discussions about academic rigour and Harrow’s commitment in academic excellence and Leadership development with participating parents, both onsite and online.
The Pre-Prep Curriculum is underpinned by the Harrow values of Courage, Honour, Humility and Fellowship. The programme aims to equip students with the knowledge, skills and understanding to be successful learners with educational excellence for life and leadership.
We focus on developing student’s personal skills to be courageous, collaborative and to act with perseverance and determination; to demonstrate honour and integrity, to be a good global citizen; to develop good manners, to be polite and behave responsibly and safely.
We provide high quality teaching and feedback to develop students’ ability to reflect, refine and improve; and support students so that they feel challenged and supported to take risks in their learning to become independent learners.
We provide leadership opportunities which take on many forms to ensure that all students, not just the few, have opportunities to develop their leadership and service skills. This approach puts students in the driving seat, so that they are able to lead their own learning.
They understand the next steps in their learning journey, are equipped to problem solve and investigate to reach a conclusion, know where to seek help should they need it and what success looks like – this will be different for every child, as learning is personalised.
About Pre-Prep Curriculum
The Pre-Prep curriculum has a range of core subjects, which include English, Maths, Chinese and Project Based Learning which includes Science, Geography, History and Art and Design. With the exception of Chinese, these subjects are delivered by the homeroom teacher. These are complemented with a range of additional subjects led by specialist teachers. These include Physical Education, Music, Drama and Computing. In addition to this, a students’ personal, health, social and emotional development is supported through the school’s PHSE (personal, health, social and emotional education) curriculum. This is delivered by the homeroom teacher and complemented by whole school and year group activities as appropriate.
Recruit the Best
To achieve the best for our students we recruit the very best teachers. We follow the highest standards and 450 years of traditions from the Harrow School in the UK, and across all Harrow Schools, so as to select the best teachers for our students. We carry out a thorough process of safer recruitment and selection which considers:
1. Qualifications – all of our teachers are qualified with UK or equivalent qualifications. We do not and will not recruit unqualified teachers.
2. Skills and experience – we seek skills and experience in line with the needs of our students, to ensure that we shape a programme to support student learning.
3. References and checking – to ensure safer recruitment of all staff working with children.
The interview process is carried out by a panel of two senior leaders from the school, in addition some specialist teachers may include a further stage interview.
Continual professional development and the will to improve are at the heart of all we do.
Teachers jointly research and explore an area of pedagogy to impact positively on our students. Training opportunities throughout the year give the team access to high-quality support. The leadership team and teachers themselves observe practices across the school through observations, meetings planning, and homework monitoring throughout the academic year. This regular monitoring and dialogue allows the team to ensure that teaching practice is of the highest quality.
Teachers meet with the leadership team to discuss the progress of the class and create data profiles to track progress from meeting to meeting. The Harrow Group assesses the quality of the provision twice a year through their quality assurance processes. The performance of teachers is monitored through our appraisal and performance procedures with all teachers working towards development objectives each year to continually improve their practice.
To monitor the quality of the learning taking place we place emphasis on teachers working collaboratively to jointly plan, support and challenge each other to ensure that the objectives for all students are aligned. Moderation of planning, teaching, pupil work and data takes place throughout the year. This gives teachers an opportunity to reflect and review the impact of their approach and it gives leaders feedback on whole school policy and procedures. Following a moderation teachers will adjust or adapt the learning resources as necessary which allows for personalised delivery to meet the needs of a particular group or student.
The classroom environment and teaching strategies are carefully designed to support high levels of cooperative learning. Tables are structured into groups to allow for partner and group discussion. This supports the progression of language by allowing students to regularly practice with their peers, it also enables students to implement high level thinking skills by supporting peer to peer coaching. The classroom structure also allows teachers and teaching assistants to support and intervene during learning, not following learning, to scaffold and stretch students to make outstanding progress.
To support our curriculum our teachers and students we use a wide range of resources in the classroom. Each of these resources helps us to target learning to the needs of the pupils. Some of these resources are available for students to access independently in the classroom and at home. Others are used as teaching or assessment tools that help the teacher deliver high-quality instruction and review the progress the class are making. One example of this is Century Tech which is used in Year 4 and 5. This AI programme will direct students towards learning that they need based on their answers. Teachers also assign tasks during lessons that give live feedback to their understanding of the content.
The focus on developing reading and writing skills is at the heart of the majority of the resources we use. We are connected with the other Harrow schools and share our ideas and practices in regard to which resources we use and identifying improvements.
Students are regularly assessed during the teaching and learning activities planned, in addition, comprehensive summative assessments take place every term. This ensures that teachers have a wide range of evidence available to monitor and track student progress which informs future teaching to ensure that learning is personalised. Student progress is monitored against age related outcomes and stages of development. This is regularly communicated to parents during parent teacher conferences and reports, which are issued termly.
Assessments carried out by the teacher are moderated by Middle and Senior Leaders. In addition, external assessments help to qualify these assessment judgements to ensure that they are robust, reflecting the high quality we expect at Harrow. These final judgements inform PTCs and individual reports.
Our range of assessment tools enables teachers to identify and track groups and individual progress. Identifying areas of strength and areas of learning that require development. Following assessment, teachers may implement interventions for individual or small group support. These will be regularly monitored and tracked by the teacher and support team to ensure they are impactful. Adjustments may need to be made regularly to ensure that the students continue to make progress. The school will regularly communicate with parents should their child be receiving additional support with the aim of securing strong home parental support.