Our vision is for Future Academies to become a beacon, a national leader of educational excellence and social mobility. Our Trust motto libertas per cultum encapsulates this vision.
We believe that a good education provides a child with the building blocks to lead a purposeful and fulfilling life:
- it brings choice
- it brings freedom
- it is empowering
- it levels the playing field
A good education ensures that birth and background will not constrain a child’s chances in life.
To become a national leader of educational excellence is an ambitious vision for our Trust and one that has been a long time in the making, but I do believe, particularly now you have all joined us, that it is eminently achievable.
So, what is a good education? What do we mean when we say that someone is well-educated? At Future Academies, we firmly believe that a good education is about acquiring knowledge. Knowledge is at the heart of everything we do. Our primary purpose as educators is, we believe, to increase the quality and quantity of what our students know, to give them a rich hinterland of cultural knowledge and conceptual understanding.
- We believe in recruiting teachers with deep subject knowledge.
- We believe in teaching an academically challenging, knowledge-rich curriculum, focussing on ‘the best that has been thought and said’.
- We believe in a teacher-led approach to classroom practice. We recognise that the teacher is the expert, the student is the novice, and novices need clear structure and strong guidance. We believe in teachers imparting knowledge to our students through direct instruction and detailed, step-by-step explanations of worked examples.
- We believe in teachers giving students multiple opportunities for purposeful practice so that students can build and internalise their own, individual schemas of knowledge.
We know that knowledge builds on knowledge. The more you know, the easier it is to acquire more knowledge. New knowledge sticks to existing knowledge, building an ever-increasing schema.
We also know that for knowledge to be retained, it needs to be stored in long-term memory. This is what learning is all about.
The cognitive scientist, Daniel Willingham, tells us that ‘memory is the residue of thought’, so, in order for our students to commit knowledge to their long-term memories, they need to think deeply about what they are learning.
Regular and repeated questioning, recapping of prior knowledge and low stakes quizzing are all very important, as is the careful sequencing of knowledge in the curriculum, with conceptual knowledge revisited and explored in ever-increasingly complex ways.
We must always consider what is it that we are asking our students to think about in a lesson, or a scheme of work, and ask ourselves whether these thoughts will help them retain and embed knowledge.
We want our schools to foster scholarship, for our teachers to open our students’ minds to the joy of knowing, for our students to develop an insatiable curiosity in life, for them to soak up as much knowledge as they can.
We want our students to work hard and be proud of doing so.
Part and parcel of our educational vision is the development of those character traits in our students that are so crucial in having a healthy attitude towards learning and life in general, character traits like:
- resilience (recognising that mistakes are an integral part of learning)
- good manners
Our students need to learn how to listen attentively, how to treat others with kindness and generosity, how to marshal an argument and deliver it persuasively, with confidence and aplomb.
They need to acquire the habit of deep thought.
Our vision is for our schools to be nurturing yet rigorous environments, where:
- effort and hard work are lauded and rewarded
- a healthy spirit of competition is encouraged
- student rankings for effort and achievement are publicly displayed
- horizons are widened, doors are opened and imaginations are fired
We believe that cultural knowledge is very important in life because it opens the door to a world beyond our own individual experiences; it gives us a wider worldview. Cultural knowledge develops our ability to understand, to reason and to critique; it sparks our imagination and hones our judgement.
Our cultural heritage is for us all to share and enjoy. We want our students to be able to decode with ease the literary quotations, the religious metaphors, the historical references and the scientific citations that are used so often, implicitly, in public discourse. In short, we want our students to have a seat at the table.
Why should any child be denied access to this heritage? Why should any child be denied the opportunity to understand and critique it?
Surely, imparting this knowledge to the next generation is what schools are for. This is, certainly, what we at Future Academies stand for: we believe in levelling the playing field through educational excellence, giving our students the best chance of engaging as full and active members of society and leading happy, fulfilling and purposeful lives.