Our Oakfields Community

As I returned from the Cognita Global Conference this week I felt so immensely proud of all the staff, children and parents that contribute to our Oakfields Community. Furthermore, realising that Cognita recognises Oakfields is geared, in everything it does, not just to get its children over the Key Stage thresholds and to journey to mastery, but to nurture their natural inquisitiveness, develop their creativity and instil in them a life-long love of learning.

I’m a huge believer in the importance of exam success. Qualifications open doors – to life-changing opportunities, life-affirming experiences and life-enriching occupations– that often remain shut to the unqualified.

But there are lots of things exam success doesn’t always tell us about the qualification holder – whether the knowledge they’ve acquired is likely to be forgotten soon after the exam; whether that knowledge reflects deep understanding; whether they not only have the necessary facts at their fingertips, but are capable of interrogating, testing, exploring, explaining, analysing, connecting, debating, presenting, adapting and applying those ‘facts’.

What is more, exam success tells us little about the person’s ability to put their education to use – their ability to work with others, in real life situations, under time pressures, learning from, and not being disheartened by, mistakes, showing initiative, spark and leadership. It doesn’t tell us whether they enjoyed learning the examined facts, or learning in general, or whether, having passed the exam, they are determined to keep on learning, fuelled by a sense of curiosity and wonder. And it doesn’t tell us whether they are happy, kind, selfless or brave – whether they will go out into society determined to help others, to stand up to injustice, to make a positive difference.

Yet all of these things matter, and many of them matter as much as, if not more than, whether you can remember the names and fates of Henry VIII’s wives or solve a quadratic equation, interesting and occasionally useful as that knowledge can be.  All of which is why Oakfields promotes these wider outcomes and actively engages in trying to deliver these outcomes. Moreover, Oakfields believes in educating the whole child – head, heart and hand – to instil in them an appreciation not only of what is ‘true’, but of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘beautiful’.

How we turn our vision into a practice, is governed through academics, character and enrichment – and by establishing global connections. But as a rule of thumb, Oakfields is not only brilliant at teaching the core academic curriculum, but we have a strong pastoral curriculum, and here is why:

Inclusive – recognising that every Oakfields’ child has a unique talent or gift, and that it is the job of educators to identify and nurture it, and to demolish each and every barrier that stands in the way.

Creative – introducing children to the worlds of art and culture and design and making and cultivating the creative capacities (such as inquisitiveness, collaborativeness, discipline, persistence and imagination) people need if they are to come up with original ideas and make them happen.

Holistic – recognising that, alongside the transmission of cultural and academic knowledge, Oakfields actively promotes wellbeing and develops those character strengths and ‘soft’ skills that we know are crucial to later success.

Empowering – creating and curating an environment in which teachers can take responsibility for their own practice and development, and children can take responsibility for their own learning and growth, and in which the relationship between them is characterised not by coercion but by mutual respect.

We are immensely proud that Oakfields, sets out not only to prepare children for exams, but to equip them for life beyond the school gates – for the manifold challenges and opportunities of adulthood – by offering them both outstanding academic and pastoral care.

This love of learning transfers to all of our teaching staff too, whom we encourage to act as role-models for their class children, by developing their research and academic capabilities. The Leader-Learner model, familiar with our teaching staff, has further grown in the staffroom, with the addition of our operating model board of ‘The Cognita Way’. This board allows staff to share educational and pastoral literature, new ideas and examples of best practice with each other.

Finally, during my Open Day speech, I am always confident to advise and suggest to potential parents that they should visit, observe and consider other schools. Is this arrogance? No. For me, as Oakfields’ Headteacher, a visit to other schools merely emphasises and highlights all that is truly unique, holistic and special about our Oakfields’ community.

Happy Monday to you all!

Laura Ciftci