A change will do you good

20th April 2007 at 01:00
Yes, pupils need to revise, but total immersion isn't their only option. Hannah Frankel talks to schools that are taking a different approach

Who dares ignore revision? Even those who despise the seemingly endless stream of tests and exams grudgingly admit results are important.

However, some schools still refuse to be driven by exam practice. "We only start our Sats revision at the end of March," says Dave Fann, head of Sherwood Primary in Preston. "It's an intensive six-week period, but we ensure that a broad and balanced curriculum runs alongside it."

Dave believes too much revision can be highly unappealing and stressful for pupils and teachers. Instead, the emphasis at Sherwood is on enjoyment. "It sounds cliched, but happy children who enjoy what they are doing make the best learners," he says. This is something that is borne out in the school's impressive key stage 2 results. Last year, more than 90 per cent achieved Level 4 or above in English, maths and science.

Kevin Bryant, head of St Laurence Church of England Primary in Ludlow, Shropshire, also achieves above average exam results. He also expects every pupil to attend school discos, enjoy horse riding, and take part in at least one sporting event during their time at St Laurence. "It would be naive not to prepare for the Sats," he says "but my job is to ensure revision and creativity are not mutually exclusive."

Parents consistently report that they would rather the school concentrated on extra-curricular activities rather than exams. "But I doubt they'd like it if we stopped performing academically," Kevin says.

Parents can be even more demanding in the private sector. That does not stop Michael Spinney, headmaster of The Beacon School, a prep school in Amersham, Bucks, taking a markedly different approach to revision. "We're incorporating thinking skills into all our lessons, so pupils learn how to manage ideas and work independently in the run up to exams," he says."Revision is traditionally a bit of a bolt-on. With thinking skills, the principles are embedded as you go along. It's part of our wider philosophy that pupils need life skills rather than just content and qualifications."

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