School accreditations aren’t a reliable guarantee of standards but they do tell you what the school thinks is important.
Go to any school’s website and more often than not you’ll see some school accreditations. You may see quite a few. Accreditations are those badges at the bottom of the home page, a gleaming roster of recognition for the school.
There are hundreds of organisations that offer membership and accreditation schemes for schools. Many badges belong to school owners/trusts, professional membership associations and suppliers. As worthy as they may be, they don’t tell us very much about the school.
The interesting ones are those that say something about the education the school provides. Because these tell us something about what the school is trying to do as part of its “broad curriculum”. I’ve counted just under 100 of these schemes. And they seem to fall into 9 general categories. These are; academic subjects, sport, arts, health, social inclusion, pupil involvement, community, environment and global/international. You may recognise these categories as being consistent with previous articles on the broad curriculum and broad academic curriculum.
These schemes are, in effect, syndicated education programmes. Modularised learning packages just like any curriculum. True to the spirit of a broad curriculum they offer new themes and project based learning. Popular ones include Eco Schools, Fairtrade Schools, School Games Mark, ArtsMark, and International School Award.
School accreditations aim to promote a certain activity. So, within Health, the Soil Association’s Food for Life accreditation promotes healthy eating and responsible provenance. Let’s Get Cooking promotes pupils preparing meals for themselves. Fit 4 Life is an eating and exercise scheme for children and their families. Others promote awareness, management and inclusivity of conditions such as asthma or diabetes.
School accreditations can help differentiate between schools
Most of these schemes award a “Mark” recognising a level of commitment. The basic school accreditation is often a “Bronze Mark”, awarded for doing something positive. Like the “Silver Mark” accreditation, it is often a self-certification, maybe with some external auditing. The higher awards, such as “Gold Mark” or “Platinum Mark” accreditations are externally judged. To attain these requires the school to embed the activity into the everyday life of the school.
To achieve the highest accreditation, a school has to demonstrate engagement from the whole school community; pupils, staff and governors. As such it’s time consuming to pursue more than one or two school accreditations to the highest level. And they can only tell us so much about the school. If a school has a School Games Gold Mark does it offer more competitive sport than one that doesn’t? Not necessarily. It simply demonstrates that that school has committed to raising its own standards of competitive sport.
But the commitment tells you something about a school’s priorities, and I think, helps differentiate it from others.