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1st National Baccalaureate workshop

Yesterday, Rob Shadbolt, Head of Wood Green School, Witney, Oxfordshire, hosted the first ever National Baccalaureate workshop. Interested schools came together to discuss the practical implementation of the National Baccalaureate framework in their institutions. We learnt a lot.

After a general explanation from Rob about how the National Baccalaureate for England has grown up over recent years, there were three presentations from individual schools. Aimee Lyall, @dawsonsgeek, talked about the work that she has already done at Highbury Grove School since starting work there last September and being asked to deliver the Nat Bacc. A lot of this focussed on EPQ delivery and the innovative way the school has extended the list of supervisors by using non-teaching staff volunteers.

I then talked about how we are planning, as a phase 2 project, to develop the Priory Baccalaureate across a MAT of 4 academies in the east midlands. Devising something which is inclusive and accessible enough to suit our 4 quite different academies whilst also being rigorous and unifying has been our main concern so far.

Rob himself then talked about his school’s journey and the tension between wanting a framework that allows individuals freedom to follow their interests and a “nanny-state” desire to encourage all learners to include the best possible experiences in their Bacc. He also outlined their planned EPQ delivery model, making use of time gained by dropping to 3 A levels.

The discussion ranged over lots of issues that have also been touched on in individual schools. Should we have tiered levels of certification to reward those learners who really throw themselves in to the Baccalaureate concept? Or is it better to stick to one single award with the nature of the contents of the Baccalaureate distinguishing the value of one from another?

The agreement that we reached was that each school should do what suits its circumstances best. There is no need for complex criteria – we can trust the professionals running these projects to make sure that they are appropriately demanding. Certainly the case studies currently posted on the website indicate that a considerable level of consistency has already developed, whilst leaving schools that important freedom to adapt to meet their own needs. As a profession, we have spent so long being told what to do, it is really refreshing to realise that, as David Barrs, Headteacher of Anglo European School in Essex, reminded us, this is a bottom up movement and we can make the rules. And the principle rule should be that we have as few rules as possible.

With this in mind, our thinking became more flexible. We discussed alternatives to EPQ that will enable learners to experience doing a researched project, giving a presentation and reflecting on their learning without having to necessarily jump through the qualification hoops. I can envisage a Priory Project developing, with iterations at each key stage, which genuinely develops these key aspects of independent learning whilst remaining manageable for teachers and learners alike. It will meet the requirements of the Individual Project box in the National Baccalaureate schema without the time-consuming, staffing-heavy and costly requirements of the officially assessed EPQs. The latter will remain suitable for some or many but this is not the only route to Baccalaureate completion.

A wide-ranging discussion of the possible content of the Personal Development Programme followed, of which I hope my notes give a flavour.

Loads of ideas were exchanged, new contacts made and enthusiasm kindled. The potential for enriching children’s lives is clearly immense and the freedom is almost intoxicating. Well worth the 285 mile drive.

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