Kew Green Prep Head Sasha Davies on why schools need to look beyond data-driven approaches in education to fully develop children’s talent, skills and self-esteem

Our pupils are growing up in a complex and nuanced world, steered by rapid change and continuing elements of the unknown. For schools, it’s good to be nimble; good to be adaptable. Every school is a microcosm of the society in which it sits, and schools therefore need to accept the changing landscape, and move forward – unafraid to take a new and innovative approach. It’s a time to avoid complacency and allow our aims and culture to evolve, taking risks where necessary to remain purposeful, responsive, and proactive. Keeping the interests of the child, and who they are becoming, must be at the heart of all our decisions.

While pupil data must still hold an important place in all schools, it’s now fundamental to look beyond the measurable outcomes within academic subjects, recognising the importance of the skills and aptitudes that we know our pupils will need to thrive in the wider world, with self-esteem at the core. As the great poet, Maya Angelou said, “my mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style”.

Our ethos at Kew Green Preparatory School reflects this view, underpinned by our expectations to empower, motivate, and inspire. We aim to provide our pupils with the knowledge, skills and values to shape a brighter future for themselves and society at large. We aim to equip them with a strong moral compass, educated so they embrace opportunities and make a positive contribution.

“It’s fundamental to look beyond the measurable outcomes, recognising the importance of the skills and aptitudes our pupils will need to thrive”

It is in non-academic experiences – the co-curricular subjects, such as Art & DT, Music and Sports, and the learning and experiences that happen outside of the classroom through extracurricular and a rich school calendar – where we see the most personal growth. This might be on the sports pitch, overcoming the nerves of a school swimming gala, performing on the stage in front of a large audience, debating an opinion or achieving in new experiences and challenges as part of a residential. It is in these non-academic situations where our pupils become leaders of and responsible for their own character development, growing and achieving beyond academic data.

The leadership culture in any school plays a vital role in this, as it is through the leadership culture that the talents of other people can come to the fore. The role of the teacher is to draw out the talent that exists in our pupils. With this approach, our pupils develop independence, an inner ‘grit’ and determination to achieve through hard work and perseverance.

As Headteacher in a London Prep school, I recognise that pupil data continues to drive the 11+ options for many pupils, but it does not (and must not) define a child as a success or a failure. They are so much more than their data. I urge us to look beyond the data and recognise our complex, nuanced and rapidly changing world. We should be educating our children to embrace opportunity, achieve through endeavour, and develop their self-esteem along the way.

Kew Green Prep School

Further reading: The King Alfred School on the importance of pupil agency