Absolutely Education Summer 2019

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Top revision tips

Game OVER Is it time to


abolish GCSEs?


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Mayfield B OA R D I N G & DAY S CHO O L FO R GIR L S AGED 11 TO 18


Open Mornings




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We l c o m e

From the



wo very different books about the UK’s education system have been published recently. Last month, the great and the glitterati of the independent school’s sector gathered to celebrate the launch of The State of Independence by David James, Deputy Head at Bryanston and Jane Lunnon, Headmistress at Wimbledon High. Their book is ambitious in scope; it aims to identify and dissect the 10 key challenges facing independent education today. It has an illustrious role call of contributors from across the education and national commentariat to address issues such as the financial challenge, the diversity challenge, the political challenge etc. For an education geek

disturbing; Clanchy doesn’t hold back from the reality of some of her pupil’s lives. But its stories of the transformative effect of education on these children are hugely uplifting. Love is the book’s organising principle. “I have included,” Clanchy writes, “nobody, teacher or pupil, about whom I could not write with love.” For indeed, she says, “Schools run on love.” When closing her speech to the gathered throng at the book launch, Jane Lunnon said her book was about many aspects of education. “But ultimately,” she said, “education is about love.” And that, she added, to huge cheers, is all that matters. So, two very different books, with a very similar message. Love is all that matters. Something we could all remember more maybe, especially when we are on Twitter.

“HER STORIES ABOUT THE LIFE CHANGING EFFECT OF EDUCATION ON THESE CHILDREN ARE HUGELY UPLIFTING” like me, it is impossible to put down, but for anyone who has a child in an independent school, or who is indeed simply interested in the way we live now, I highly recommend it. Kate Clanchy’s, Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, is ostensibly a very different book, about a very different section of society. Clanchy’s honest and personal account of state education puts the children front and centre. First and foremost, the book is superbly written, but then Clanchy is a journalist, teacher and distinguished, awardwinning poet. It is also very moving and sometimes

We have a special focus on Special Educational Needs in this issue. It's been fascinating to learn more about the spectrum of issues that some children face and the army of devoted teachers and staff who teach children with SEN in school settings. My hat goes off to them. I hope you enjoy this issue.

A manda Constance EDITOR

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16 upfront

10 NEWS What's going on in the world of education

16 SCHOOL FOCUS Tonbridge School, Kent, by Amanda Constance

N u r s e ry & P R E P

22 THE FUTURE'S BRIGHT The rise of mentoring, by Flora Thomas

26 GET APPY New tech can benefit our lives, says Cypher CEO Elizabeth Tweedale


32 SHOULD WE ABOLISH GCSES? Two top heads debate

44 MASTER YOUR MIND Revision tips with some help from neuroscience

54 MAKING OF ME Explorer and presenter, Ben Fogle

38 ALL CHANGE The 11+ and 13+ are undergoing a quiet revolution, reports Dr Lisa Freedman


58 SCHOOL FOCUS Bredon School in Gloucestershire, by Amanda Constance

62 MAKING SENSE OF SEN What to do if you have concerns about your child, by Bernadette John

66 BLOCK BUSTER Could retrained reflexes be at the root of your child's dyslexia? By Pendle Harte



68 DRAMATIC CHANGES A pioneering theatre group is having dramatic results with autistic children, by Flora Thomas

72 WHAT'S WRONG? It can be hard as a parent to come to terms with SEN, says Elaine Halligan


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Flora Thomas 


Nicola Owens 


Donna McCafferty 


Leah Day 


Andy Mabbitt


Craig Davies 


Pawel Kuba 


Rebecca Noonan


Lucie Pearce 


Jerrie Koleci  DIR ECTOR S

Greg Hughes, Alexandra Hunter, James Fuschillo  PUBL ISHING DIR ECTOR

Sherif Shaltout



Your SEN questions answered

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78 SEN SCHOOLS Our round-up of some of the best

school's out

82 SUMMER BOOKS The best upcoming children's books

88 WILD THING Why not send your kids to camp this summer? By Pendle Harte

l a s t wo r d

98 60 SECONDS... Former Head, Frances King


F RO NT COV E R A pupil at Tonbridge School, a boys' school for 13-18 yr olds in Tonbridge, Kent. Tonbridge School, High Street, TN9 1JP 01732 365555, tonbridge-school.co.uk

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• A B S O L U T E LY E D U C AT I O N ’ S •

CON T R IBU TOR S Each day, discovery

Elizabeth Tweedale Founder, Cypher

Elizabeth Tweedale is founder of Cypher, the coding company for kids. A working mother of three, with a Computer Science degree and a Masters in Architecture, she has taught coding to children of all ages. She writes about the benefits of coding on page 28. If you had to add one compulsory subject to the curriculum what would it be? It would have to be computational thinking

Frances King

Former Head of Mill Hill, Rodean and Heathfield

Frances King is a highly experienced leader and educational thinker. She has recently taken a sabbatical to focus on innovation, enterprise and play in education. She writes about the Danish model on page 98. If you had to add one compulsory subject to the curriculum what would it be? I would include creative play

From September 2020 Eltham College will become a fully co-educational day school when we begin to welcome both girls and boys for entry in Years 3 and 7, as well as our existing co-educational Sixth Form. For more information and to find out about our upcoming open days visit www.elthamcollege.london

Magnus Bashaarat Head, Bedales School

Grove Park Road, London SE9 4QF

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Magnus Basharaat has taught at Sherborne School, Eton, Stowe School and was Head at Milton Abbey before he joined Bedales as Head in September 2018. He writes in favour of abolishing GCSEs on page 34. If you had to add one compulsory subject to the curriculum what would it be? Global Perspectives Pre-U, so that all school leavers understand the geopolitical challenges facing us

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Snap Happy Pupils at six Croydon primaries were given cameras to capture their area through a photographic lens. The workshops were funded by the Whitgift Foundation and led by Richard Chivers and Dr Paula Owens. The winner will be announced at the historic Old Palace of John Whitgift School on 5 July.

A MINDFUL MOMENT On 10 May, tens of thousands of children took part in the world’s biggest ever mindfulness and meditation class. The initiative- called ‘A Mindful Moment’ - saw children across the globe set aside 30 minutes of their day to learn to meditate and raise money for mental health charities. A Mindful Moment was timed well to occur just before 600,000 UK children take their Sats tests.

“A Mindful Moment was timed to occur just before UK kids took their SATS”



The Hay Festival in Wales is to be broadcast live, free-of-charge to schools countrywide on 23 and 24 May. The line-up includes appearances from children’s favourites: Michael Rosen, Kate DiCamillo, Cressida Cowell (pictured), Chris Bradford, Abi Elphinstone, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Candy Gourlay and Chitra Soundar.

Saiesha Gupta, a 16-year-old at Benenden School, has won a prestigious prize in a national photography competition. Her photo, Pashmina, depecicts a herds-woman tending to her livestock in Ladakh, India. Saeisha said: “With no food or shelter in close proximity the woman leads a tough lifestyle – however, she is happy.”

SIGNED Felsted School are celebrating their strength in rugby after a Saracens Contract was recently secured by their 1st XV Captain, Oliver Stone (pictured, right). Ollie was also recently selected for the England U18 Rugby Training Squad, giving him the opportunity to attend England training camps leading up to the U18s Six Nations.

“I have often thought it strange that the thing I am most grateful for, in all my 30 years, is the thing I am least proud of: that I went to private school.” D O L LY A L D E R T O N I N T H E S U N D A Y T I M E S

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Behind the Scenes Students at DLD College in London received an inspiring talk from environmentalist Jo Ruxton, who produced the documentary, A Plastic Ocean. Ruxton discussed the lessons that she learned during the of production of the award-winning film.

GIRLS IN TECH Women make up only 15% of people in STEM roles, and just 5% of those in STEM leadership roles. FireTech have introduced courses for girls only. The aim is to build an environment where girls can explore their interests while building valuable digital skills in an environment that is social, open, supportive and empowering specifically to girls.

OUTBOUND HOUND Children at Barrow Hills School proved their commitment to the local community via the Haslemere Hounds Community Arts project. They created the unique Barrow Hills Outbound Hound. It’s one of 100 hounds produced by local artists and schools: each piece will go on parade this month until September 2019 in the Haslemere Museum.

CHARITY RUN Pupils at Gresham’s Senior School in Holt raised over £3,500 for two charities: Farms for City Kids and the Lord’s Taverners in a crosscountry run. Teams of eight tested their metal, navigating their way around an obstacle course set against the school’s beautiful grounds.

Apple Awa rd Southbank International School’s Hampstead Campus has been named an Apple Distinguished School. The award recognises innovation, leadership and educational excellence in schools that use Apple products to inspire creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.

“Dyslexia doesn’t run in our family, it gallops” FA S H I O N D E S I G N E R , V I C TO R I A B EC K H A M


“The ongoing Brexit disaster—a battle lost on the playing fields of Eton — has pointed up the democratic deficit.” D AV I D K Y N A S T O N A R G U E S T H AT P R I VAT E S C H O O L S A R E A B L I G H T O N E N G L I S H S O C I E T Y

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Up, up a nd away


NEW HEAD Glendower Preparatory School has announced Nina Kingsmill Moore as their new Headmistress. Previously, Kingsmall Moore worked at Wetherby where she held the role of Deputy Headmistress. Of her new appointment she said: “I look forward to working with the staff and parents who make up the Glendower community, while leading the school in its next chapter.”

“I look forward to leading the school in its next chapter"

In this year’s Place2Be Wellbeing in Schools Awards, Forest School in Waltham Forest (pictured, below) was shortlisted in the category of 'School Community', for exhibiting an outstanding level of impact, passion and innovation in championing mental health support for students. Francis Holland School in Sloane Square was shortlisted in the Award’s 'Progress' category. The awards recognise the determination and hard work that goes into the delivery of mental health and wellbeing support in the charity’s partner schools across the country.

Queen’s College Preparatory School is to launch a teddy bear into space. The ‘Kona Bear’ will rise 100,000ft into space, tied to a helium balloon with a camera filming the entire ascent. The girls will follow its journey with an online tracker. The project hopes to inspire girls to study STEM subjects and encourage them to pursue STEM-based careers.

BRIGHT LIGHTS A King Edward’s Witley pupil is heading to the bright lights at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Jonathan Chan will read BA in Production Arts. Jonathan has supported his studies with practical work experience among top industry professionals at theatres across the West End. King Edward’s new Director of Drama, Lynsey Cleaves said: “Jonathan’s achievements are testament to the belief that, given the right environment and mentoring, dreams become reality.”

Top Story

INCOMING James Dahl is to be the 15th Master of Wellington College, succeeding Julian Thomas. Dahl, who formally take his post on 1 September, is currently Second Master Elect as well as Deputy Head Pastoral at Wellington, having served previously as Director of Admissions & Marketing. Thomas said: “I am absolutely delighted... Dahl is a committed educationalist and the future looks very bright indeed”.

S TAG E R I G H T University College School’s production of Fine, Thanks returned for a special charity performance in April, in partnership with the Lord Mayor of Westminster. The play, written by Connor Abbot (a former teacher at UCS), is a verbatim piece which addresses the topic of children's mental health. The production was in aid of two mental charities: Young Minds and Place2Be.

SOMETHING THEY SAID “The fact [soft skills] don’t get recognised in exam systems means that teachers often treat them as a ‘nice to have’ except, of course, in your private schools; if you look at the big differentiator here, what independent schools are largely about is those kinds of 21st century skills. It’s all about character development.” ANDREAS SCHLEICHER, HEAD OF PISA

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B O O K L AU N C H Freddie Ellison, an autistic 16-year-old north Londoner has had his first novel published. Freddie was excluded from school in March 2017, but soon established a routine visiting his local coffee shop to write his own book. The result, Oliver Storm and The Great Disappearance, is out now, and 25% of royalties will go do the National Autistic Society.

“I worked super hard on the book the most I've ever worked”



While the rest of the country were taking it easy in the Easter weekend sunshine, Roedean Moira House headmaster Andrew Wood cycled 600km from the Lake District to his school in Eastbourne. His journey along the highways and byways of England has so far raised in excess of £2000 for the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Trust, a mental health charity. “As a teacher, I am very keen to keep the conversation about mental health going at school,” said Wood of his expedition. To donate, go to Virgin Money Giving homepage and search Andrew Wood.

Brighton College has announced plans to open an international school in Singapore in September 2020. It's to be led by Paul Wilson, who has spent the last eight years leading academic, cocurricular and pastoral areas of the College. Commenting on his appointment, Wilson said: “My vision for Brighton College in Singapore is for a forward-looking school that prioritises emotional well-being and fosters a life-long love of learning." The school will be for children aged 1- 11 years.

CRU FTS SUCCES S A 17-year-old student from Oakham School, along with her Cocker Spaniel Tia, is celebrating winning a much-coveted place in the Crufts ‘Agility Dog of the Year’ Final. Impressively, Tia is the first dog Clare Maitland has trained and after just two years she has reached a final at Crufts. Inspired by watching Crufts on the television, Clare thought that Tia, a three-year-old Cocker Spaniel, would be a good dog to train because “she’s always had a cheeky personality but is also obedient and quick.”

Top Story

ALL ABOARD As part of a wider scheme to improve outcomes for young people, children in care could be sent to boarding schools. The Government's pilot plan would see youngsters from the ages of 11-18 in Warwickshire placed at schools rather than with foster families or in residential care facilities. A number of state and independent boarding schools across the county have signed up to the initiative, dubbed the Boarding School Partnership.


HORSE PLAY Westonbirt School’s equestrian team are celebrating after a successful run at the Bury Farm Country Championships, winning the 95cm jump category. After two rounds, Westonbirt finished with a total score of four, coming first. The team were awarded wonderful Equine America rug sashes and a bucketful of goodies.

Edgbaston High School for Girls has appointmented Clare Macro as Headmistress from September 2019. Marcho succeeds Dr Ruth Weeks to become the 11th head teacher at Birmingham’s oldest independent school for girls. With over eight years’ experience as Deputy Head at Tudor Hall, Macro joins EHS with a wealth of experience in an independent school setting.


“The problem with dyslexia for many young people – and I can identify with this – is that their confidence is so damaged by the negativity of their teachers and their peers that it takes a very strong character to come out of the educational system smiling.” A U T H O R A N D D Y S L E X I C , S A L LY G A R D N E R

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ABOVE A Tonbridge student in the science centre


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Out of this

WORLD Tonbridge School has plenty to shout about. A new science centre and a couple of visiting NASA astronauts for starters. Absolutely Education visits a very impressive school A M A N D A C O N S TA N C E


onbridge School has a bit of a dilemma. This esteemed and historic boys’ school in Kent is quietly confident, yet somehow very English in its reticence to proclaim its achievements too loudly. “We have never been a headline-chasing school,” says Headmaster James Priory. “But on the other hand, I’m really keen that people realise the excitement of what is actually going on here.” In other words, Tonbridge has something that it really wants to shout about. And shout it should, because not only does the school have an incredible new £19m Science Centre to show off, it has just become the first UK school to host Mission Discovery, an event that gives pupils the chance to work alongside renowned scientists and NASA astronauts. In mid-March the first British NASA astronaut and astrophysicist, Dr Michael Foale and International Space Station

commander, Dr Steve Swanson were two of the astronauts who visited Tonbridge for a week of inspiring talks and competition in an event organized by the International Space School Educational Trust (ISSET). Pupils from Tonbridge, plus six other local state and independent schools - Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School, The Marsh Academy, The Judd School, The Skinners’ School, Skinners’ Academy and Weald of Kent Grammar School - had a mission to create an experiment which, if chosen as the winner, would be built by King’s College London and NASA and launched to the International Space Station where it would be carried out by astronauts currently on the ISS. James Priory says it had been “an extraordinary privilege” for all at the school to work with the astronauts. “Hosting Mission Discovery means that we have had an ‘intellectual laboratory’ here at Tonbridge, and I’ve been incredibly impressed with the ideas, energy and innovation on display. It’s been a fantastic week and has, I hope, been both fun and inspiring for everyone who took part.” More than 30 experiments have gone to the ISS from Mission Discovery but this is

the first time English schools took part. Past winning entries include work on genetics, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimers. The grand final at Tonbridge saw the Argonauts’ team crowned winners. It consisted of five pupils from the Lower Sixth at Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School. The students designed an experiment to discover whether yeast is able to undergo sexual reproduction in the microgravity environment of the ISS. Mission Discovery week was also a perfect opportunity for the official launch of the school’s new Barton Science Centre, which opened for teaching in January 2019. Named after British organic chemist Sir Derek Barton, an Old Tonbridgian who won the Nobel Prize in 1969, the ubermodern three-storey cuboid glass and steel structure sits amidst the historical buildings of the school. Inside, its stateof-the art classrooms, brimming with 21st century technology, merge seamlessly with many original architectural features. For a school it is quite a statement of intent. “We are literally putting science and technology at the very heart of Tonbridge School,” says Head of Science, Bill Burnett. SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 17

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LEFT Tonbridge pupils at their microscopes BELOW Headmaster, James Priory

“We believe very strongly in two things. Firstly, that in an increasingly technological society facing all sorts of urgent global challenges, every young person needs to be equipped with a good understanding of science. Secondly, to meet those global challenges, we need new technologies based on a new generation of young scientific minds. Tonbridge, as an institution, wants to help inspire that new generation.” The building houses the departments of Chemistry, Biology and Physics which each

and enthuse students about science. For example, on each floor there is a library dedicated to that department. Not only are there well designed desks with lights and laptop plug ins, but there are carefully chosen books, and pictures of famous faces from these disciplines, complete with famous quotes. “If we can make an environment that boys want to be in,” says Deakin, “that’s half the battle won.” And it appears he’s winning. Deakin shows us a physics lab where he has installed a coffee machine as an enticement. He says he will often find a boys there early in the morning, having a coffee and tinkering with their own projects. Deakin is a hugely impressive teacher. It’s teachers like him who are having an impact at Tonbridge. 50% of boys are doing a science A-Level, 40 students in each year group are taking physics and 30 of the cohort leaving in the summer will be doing engineering or physics at university. That’s quite a rap sheet. Priory is ill at ease boasting about his school’s prowess. A mild-mannered and thoughtful man, he confesses to a strong interest in natural history and admits to being something of a twitcher. But he’s clearly proud of his new charge - “There is some amazingly innovative practice here,” he says. Tonbridge is where mindfulness

“I’VE WORKED ON AN OIL RIG BUT THIS IS THE MOST EXCITING ENVIRONMENT I’VE EVER BEEN IN” have their own floor with greatly expanded facilities, including new laboratories and classrooms. Other facilities include an interactive periodic table – which looks more like a YBA art installation - a giant TV wall, a beehive, a roof garden, a greenhouse and three departmental libraries. Mainly it is just very very beautiful. The classrooms and main atrium are bathed in natural light and the central staircase - colour coded with the essential elements - swirl around Briony Marshall’s extraordinary sculpture, Barton’s Chair, which hangs in the central atrium. It is a large-scale model of the chair isomer of the Cyclohexane molecule, the geometry of which was discovered by Sir Derek Barton. It is a stunning building, but Philip Deakin, the Head of Physics and our tour captain is quick to point out: “The building shouldn’t just look pretty it must work, too.” And work it does. What impresses most about the new science centre is how every tiny, practical detail has been carefully

thought through. Deakin helped design the physics labs, each of the rooms is totally different. In the one we visit, the set up is flexible with interlocking globular desks which can be moved to create any number of different formations. They are higher than average, too. Deakin explains it is much easier to create a pulley to demonstrate Newton’s laws of gravity with a desk that is 94cm high rather than 65cm. And strange tower-like structures are dotted around the room – which Deakin affectionately labels his ‘power daleks’ – they are upright, mobile power points that can be pushed anywhere for easy plug ins. Deakin says: “Having worked in a London office, a North Sea oil rig and two previous independent schools this is the most exciting environment I have worked in.” “It’s about enabling teachers to make it as easy as possible to teach,” he says. It’s also about creating an environment that uses every single opportunity to educate

developed, for example. Richard Burnett, one of the housemasters developed the Mindfulness in Schools Project and now teaches mindfulness in the Houses of Commons and Lords. Priory is settling into life at what is his first experience of a boarding school. “What I have found really interesting is that the perception of the school is that it’s about being very alpha male, very sporty and very academic. There are people who fit that description, of course, and sport is a big part of life here but the reality is it’s a lovely community, very supportive, very friendly. “It’s a school that genuinely accommodates a huge range of individuals, and encourages them to put their learning into action” says Priory. A few evenings before we meet, Priory says he attended a charity concert put on by a sixth-form pupil. “I knew he was leading a concert and I thought, ‘Oh well I’ll go along and be supportive.’ I had no idea… I’d not SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 19

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clocked he was doing Faure’s Requiem, he had created an orchestra and a choir with support from staff and friends from the school. It was an extraordinarily ambitious programme. The boy raised £4k for a charity and he’d literally had this idea in September and made it happen. ABOVE LEFT That’s the kind of ‘wow’ that I’m NASA's Dr Michael Foale with students experiencing here,” he says. ABOVE The school is soaring The central atrium academically. The number of A* opportunities and other achieved at A-Level is dizzying. chances to develop life skills Registrations are up, with increased so it doesn’t become a reductive interest from London. Currently a third programme.” This includes the of boarders come from the capital but this possibility of introducing the EPQ and other is surely going to spiral upwards with the non-examined subjects in the sixth form. new science facilities on offer. Co-curricular is strong at Tonbridge, as Priory says he’s keen to sustain you would expect. Beyond the sports fields the academic record but also “to take there is a “strong interest in conservation”, advantage of the time and space we have says Priory. Boys learn land management to really develop the intellectual life of the and rural skills such as coppicing, school even further.” woodcutting, livestock management and He is currently reviewing the school’s even beekeeping. They then put their skills sixth form curriculum in light of the move into practice on the school grounds and towards linearity with A-Levels. work on local estates. “If over time students reduce their Volunteering is also an integral part of programme to three A-Levels, we want the Tonbridge ethos; it isn’t compulsory, to be sure boys are taking up enrichment says Priory, but “it’s very popular". The school’s outreach programme, Tonbridge Community Action, every Wednesday afternoon, ranges from primary schools visiting Tonbridge for weekly science lessons to Tonbridge students working with young refugees in local detention centres. Priory says this focus on social issues extends to the school itself and one of his priorities is to widen access. “We’ve been lucky enough to go through a major programme of capital development in the last decade. We’ve got to realise that potential now,” he says. “We have to be aware of the privilege that we enjoy and the resources we have. To value that and to understand the responsibility that brings - that’s certainly the ethos I have found here and I’d like to maintain that,” he says. The school already runs a Junior Foundation Scholarship programme which identifies bright young people in Year 6 and LEFT supports them with their education through The science centre merges the to Year 9 (often by financing a move to old and the new a local prep school) and helping their integration into Tonbridge.

Priory says this scholarship programme must grow over the next few years and the school is looking at ways to fund this. Basking in the glory of a hugely successful Mission Discover week, Priory has a clear vision of where he wants to see the school go. “I want to develop the boys’ confidence, prepare them to take a leading role in life at university and beyond. We can’t be complacent about anything.”

At a Glance

Tonbridge School FOUNDED: 1553 by Sir Andrew Judde HEAD: James Priory since Sept 2018 GENDER: Boys only PUPIL NUMBER: 787 boys. 301 day, 486 boarding. AGES: 13-18 POINTS OF ENTRY: Main entry Y9, small cohort Y10 and Sixth-Form entry Y11 ADMISSIONS: ISEB pre-test and interview, CE or school’s own exam RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Church of England FEES: Boarding, £13,482 per term. Day, £10,114 per term. ALUMNI: EM Forster, writer; Dan Stevens, actor; Tom Chaplin, musician ADDRESS: Tonbridge School, High Street, Tonbridge, Kent, TN9 1JP tonbridge-school.co.uk

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M T H E F U T U R E 'S

BRIGHT Mentoring is on the rise, Absolutely Education talks to some of the agencies leading the way FLORA THOMAS

entoring as a practice is not new, but mentoring in education is a relatively new phenomenon which is fast gaining popularity with parents. It’s often hard to pin down exactly what a mentor is. Many of those running mentoring companies are often quick to say they are not tutors, who all too often are perceived as a cash-quick, tick-box option that fails to address the full needs of a child. Instead a mentor sits somewhere between a tutor and a counsellor. A truly brilliant mentor teaches skills which will outlive the course of their relationship with the mentee, such as resilience and self-knowledge. The result of the work may be improved exam results, but improved academic attainment is not the explicit aim. West London-based Oppidan Education is a pioneering education mentoring agency. Borne of a frustration with traditional tutoring, and perhaps in recognition of a gap in the market, ex-Etonians Walter Kerr and Henry Faber set up Oppidan in response to the prescriptive nature of the tutoring sector. The pair concentrate their focus on ‘soft’ skills, their programmes are based on seven key attributes which they say all high achievers excel in: desire, commitment, self-belief, gameplan, focus, teamwork and resilience. Kerr and Faber believe that children flourish without specific academic goals, that they need space to identify and explore their interests outside of the pressurised school and home environment. According to Kerr, when the onus is placed upon the child to achieve a goal, it is more likely to be successful. That’s why Oppidan mentors don’t work with children who don’t want to be there. Whereas tutoring is remedial, prescriptive and has an end date, mentoring doesn’t. Oppidan mentors explain to each child they work with that everyone would benefit from a mentor, including adults - something he says children like to hear. I ask him if, in that sense, it’s a little like therapy, “No. We work with a set of distinct characteristics, and although we are not doing past papers with the children, we don’t pretend to be uninvested in their academic success,”

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says Kerr. He explains that if children are actively involved in a game plan, they’re much more likely to enjoy the mentoring and be proud of it. So who are these magical mentors, where do they come from? Oppidan mentors aren’t exclusively Oxbridge graduates, although Kerr admits many are. “We live in a gig economy, people like having more than one job. Our turnover, however, is very low. One of the criteria for working is that they already have a job - otherwise they leave the minute they gain full-time employment. Oppidan mentors are old enough to be an authoritative figure but

ABOVE Mentoring in action

LEFT A mentor with a student at Oppidan Education

“When you have a child who looks forward to the session, and most do, then what you can achieve with them is limitless” young enough for the child to associate with.” Amazingly he tells me they accept just one in seven applicants. “The selection process is personality-driven, and the training is rigorous - mentors have at least two interviews and take part in two training days. And we are invested in their professional development, the skills mentors hone are easily transferable.” The biggest challenge for educational mentoring companies is, unsurprisingly, parents’ expectations. And according to Oppidan it’s the transformation of children’s self-expectation which is most rewarding, “When you have a child who looks forward to the session, and most do, then what you can achieve with them is limitless.” While girls in particular suffer from perfectionism, an emerging culture of near constant personal-improvement has led to an entire cohort of stressed-out children. Some are stretched between yoga on Mondays, after-school art on Tuesdays, a nutritionist on Wednesdays, and so on. Is it possible that adding yet another afterschool activity, even if it is mentoring, might

just add to the noise? Charis Elphinstone the founder of Ludowide, a mentoring agency, says otherwise: “Our mentors don’t turn up laden with past papers. They might meet the child in an art gallery, or go swimming or for a walk in the park.” Ludowide mentors seek to establish a ‘safe space’ in which they can encourage children to talk about how they feel. “We hone in on the opportunities afforded by the unique nature of mentor/mentee relationship.” Elphinstone started out as a private tutor herself and found parents’ expectations baffling, “They want you to achieve specific academic goals - usually getting their children through exams with good results, or into a specific school. But the children are coming home from school exhausted, and they’re not getting the downtime they need.” She says that falling behind at school is usually a symptom of a deeper problem. “Parents can often overlook the underlying cause of a child dragging their heels in an educational setting.” It can take time to shift parents’ expectations, so the company ‘coaches’ them too. “We

arrange a fortnightly session for the mentor and the parents. The mentor’s role in those conversations is to provide insight without simply relaying everything the child had said in their sessions. “Trust is key,” Charis says, “but it’s important for parents to be kept in the loop.” (Especially when they’re paying £60 an hour for the service). Ludowise is the second arm of Charis’ organisation. It’s the name of an impressive team of academics researching the world’s best practice in developmental psychology. They’re building an archive of in-depth case studies, showcasing how Ludowide has helped children and their families. The mentors work on the basis of these case studies, the mentors’ training is also focused on how to sense when it is and, importantly, when it is not the right time to push a child academically. “The Ludowise team are examining where the recent rise in anxiety has come from. Of course we recognise the need for professional help, but we look at prevention rather than intervention, and that’s where we’re different from other companies,” says Elphinstone. Whether anxiety is on the rise, or conversations surrounding it are becoming more commonplace, it seems every child would benefit from a mentor. If parents can be persuaded that supporting children holistically by instilling self-belief and confidence will ultimately lead to longerlasting success than traditional tutoring, then the educational mentoring arena is set to grow exponentially. SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 23


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BRING LEARNING TO LIFE Jill Walker, Headmistress of Prince's Gardens Prep School, asks how children can get the most out of museum visits


chools in London are fortunate in many respects – not least for their easy and free access to worldrenowned art galleries and museums. My school in Kensington, with half a dozen institutions on its doorstep, may be luckier than most – but every school in London and the Home Counties can, without too much difficulty, arrange to have their pupils stare at mummies, tremble before dinosaurs and wonder at any number of Picassos, Titians and Turners. I have spent many years observing hordes of young children excitedly descend on exhibits, pressing buttons and lighting up displays, and after a few minutes rushing on to the next one, instantly forgetting what had excited them only moments before. After an hour or two, it’s time for lunch then onto the bus to be back at school for 3.30. It’s an exhilarating and exhausting experience for children, and hardly less so for teachers and parent volunteers, who of course have spent hours planning the visit to ensure it proceeds as smoothly as any trip can with 20 or 30 over-excited children. But is it really educational? What longterm benefits can children derive from an experience that can be more overwhelming than stimulating? The fact is that as wonderous as museums are, they can also be too much to take in. Young children in particular tend to switch off after 30 minutes or so even if they

“As wonderous as museums are, they can also be too much to take in”

Henry Seagrove, a thrillseeker who had already set the land speed record in his car, Golden Arrow. But as diverting as Sir Henry was, he is not the object of the lesson. The purpose of the lesson is to get children to understand speed. How did Miss England achieve such speed? Her powerful aircraft engine helped, but what else? Look at her shape? What materials were used? The boat floats because ‘upthrust’ from the water balances the downward force from the A B OV E A Prince's weight of the boat. Let’s Gardens pupil show how this works by standing facing each other and pushing, hand to hand, find the exhibits initially captivating. Giving to see how a balance of force can stop you them more material to absorb risks quelling falling over… and so on. their enthusiasm with information overload. At Prince’s Gardens Prep, we have called So what should schools and parents do? this ‘our living curriculum’ and as the name The key is to make exhibits in museums and suggests it’s designed to bring learning alive art galleries extensions of the curriculum, by using the public treasures available on not adornments to it. Parents should find our doorstep in a clearly defined way for out what children are currently studying explicit educational outcomes. Every child, at school and choose a single object that from nursery through to Year 6, will have exemplifies that element of the curriculum. the chance to visit a museum or art gallery Get children to research it before they at least once a week to study an exhibit visit, then afterwards ask them to review and learn from it. I appreciate that such and evaluate what they have frequent visits aren’t an option learnt. Back in the classroom, for many schools – or every they can explore the idea in parent. But our approach is. more detail in collaborative Our captial's museums and projects. art galleries are awe-inspiring places – but for children, Let me give you an example. especially young children, to The Science Museum is home get the most out of them we to the Miss England speedboat, should focus a little less on which was once the fastest JILL WALKER the wonder and awe and a lot boat in Britain and reached a Headmistress more carefully on what precise top speed of 92mph when it Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School lessons their exhibits can raced in 1929. It was captained teach us. by a colourful character, Sir

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RIGHT A Cypher student with a drone BELOW Pupils at a Cypher camp


APPY The CEO of Cypher on how new technology can benefit our lives E L I Z A B E T H T W E E DA L E


creens, games, apps and the internet are often seen as the ‘baddies’ in our lives - but can computer science improve our lives and wellbeing? There are lots of rather scary headlines about Artificial Intelligence taking over our lives and our jobs. Autonomous cars becoming our faceless taxi drivers. Robots caring for our ageing relatives. Apps organising our finances. Disembodied voices choosing our playlists. And no-one can feel comfortable about teenagers spending too long alone in their rooms on the internet - which does have threats and dangers. In this era of instant gratification, it’s important to stop, take a deep breath, slow down and put things in perspective. It is useful to remind ourselves of what benefits the communications revolution has brought - and may deliver in the future. Many of the concepts that at first seem worrying or disempowering may well be the ideas that save us. For instance, autonomous cars with integrated safety features, controlled maximum speeds and zero emissions will dramatically reduce accidents and pollution on the roads.

Meanwhile here are a few things that are on the positive side of the story about the tech that affects our lives today - and may help us and our children.


Studies show that it’s not the length of screen time that endangers mental health and behaviour, but rather the content itself. It’s useful to identify the four different types of screen time - creative, communicative, active and passive. There are positive aspects to each, and using the mantra of ‘measured, monitored, meaningful’ can guide our children to a healthy relationship with their screens. Of course, it’s not just the kids that may be spending too long with their eyeballs fixed to the illuminated rectangle. Hold is a nice little app, good for both teenagers and adults, that rewards you for not using your phone. Great to help you instigate good habits like ‘no tech at the table’.


While having dinner together every evening is the best way to catch up and connect with the family, technology has brought us some ways of delivering a face-to-face experience when we can’t actually be there. Facetime and Skype are wonderfully easy ways of making us feel we’ve almost actually been in

someone’s presence. It can be a real comfort to university students away from home to have Mum in the kitchen with them for a chat - even if they are just on their iPad.

YOGA AND MEDITATION It’s widely accepted that taking time out to focus on yourself is well worthwhile. If you’re juggling children, work, a partner and life in general - it can be hard to find that quality ‘you’ time. Something like Yoga with Adriene on YouTube is a lovely

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“VR therapies can have better results than the best face-to-face interventions” ‘Build healthy habits’ for kids. At our camps children have created their own pedometers - which of course they can’t wait to try out.


way of focusing on your fitness and your mind, facilitated by our old friend the internet. This ummer our Fit for the Future coding camps will include a few minutes of meditation every day to help kids focus and reconnect with themselves. Meditation has been shown to improve concentration and behaviour in schools.


There’s research to show that time outside improves our levels of happiness. The Wild Network have a mission to grow what they call Wildtime. They’ve partnered with Persil to create the free Wild Explorers app, to help the whole family get outside. So, if you have 10 minutes with your four year old you could find a list of 14 things to do together ‘on your doorstep’. Immediately you and your child are reconnecting and really observing what’s going on in nature close at hand.


There is a concern about children’s diet and exercise. Simple tick charts you can make with your kids to track the fruit and veg they’ve eaten each day is a way to start 'codifying' data and reward improvements. Change 4 Life apps, from Public Health England, are easy to use and super kidfriendly. Put the Food Scanner app in the hands of a six year old - and you’ll have an expert on the sugar, fat and salt content of your favourite packaged foods. On an idle stroll into my kitchen just now I discovered that Nutella has 56.3 sugar cubes per jar, making it very high in sugar and saturated fat. But on a brighter note, it’s low in salt.

OxfordVR is working to develop a VR treatment for young people with social anxiety. When VR is done properly, the experience triggers the same psychological and physiological reactions as real-life situations. Their first live project to combat the fear of heights had results that are better than those expected with the best psychological intervention delivered face to face with a therapist. At Cypher, we believe that by giving our students the fundamentals of computational thinking we are reducing their fear of the future and giving them the tools to succeed in any field they choose. We want all children to be fluent with the technological languages that will facilitate their futures in a context that appeals to them - from fashion to engineering, art to mathematics, architecture to conservation. Cypher are running their Fit for the Future camps during the Summer holidays for children aged 5 - 12+. Including time for meditation, games and healthy snacks, the camps inspire children to learn the language of the future, coding, through learning the foundations of computational thinking and hands-on creative projects. Different themes each day will help our students get a positive approach to technology and develop their own ideas towards happiness and wellbeing.


‘Time to stand!’ Anyone with an Apple watch will recognise this command. Devices that measure movement and incentivise exercise generally do improve our fitness. Fitbit have a new tracker that promises to

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‘ Enjoying childhood and realising our imagination.’ “My favourite thing about Dallington School is that the teachers and students are very friendly and positive, there is a brilliant atmosphere in the classroom” - Johan “I think Dallington teaches you in a way no other school does and I really enjoy that” - Alex Dallington is a family-run co-educational independent school, with a nursery, in the heart of London.

Personal tours each day of the week, except Wednesday. Next Open Evening: Thursday 16th May 2019 from 6 to 8 pm

Headteacher: Maria Blake Proprietor and Founder: Mogg Hercules MBE Email: hercules@dallingtonschool.co.uk Phone: 020 7251 2284 www.dallingtonschool.co.uk

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Going Green Naomi Bartholomew, Headmistress of St Catherine’s Preparatory School, on raising 'Eco Warriors'


e already know of the strong environmental impact of providing green spaces in our prep and primary schools. Green spaces filter pollutants and dust, provide shade and reduce soil erosion and provide important habitats for wildlife. Little wonder so many schools, if they are fortunate to have them, take advantage of the outdoor learning opportunities green spaces provide. Encouraging young children to observe very closely and to learn first-hand about life cycles and the need to care for habitats enable powerful early eco-lessons. Many schools will have bug and bee hotels and projects and activities about mini-beasts, butterflies and birds. Children love foraging and exploring, building on their natural curiosity, enabling children to learn through doing, making and experiencing which is such a key element in a successful primary education. Recently, I spoke in school assembly about the need to protect bumblebees and before we knew it we were discussing climate change, palm oil and plastics in our oceans. We started with our own cottage garden but within minutes the girls were thinking globally. Building children’s awareness of all our actions and the impact they have on the world is more important than ever.

"We are raising the global citizens of the future; our children must value the natural world"

opportunities alongside our science laboratories because we really believe very strongly that learning should take place both in and outside of the classroom. Recent research from psychologist Professor Eirini Flouri, based at University College London, concludes that children tend to fare better academically if they have ample access ABOVE Educating future to green spaces. She global citizens finds that children with daily access to green spaces score We are educating and raising the higher in spatial working memory tests global citizens of the future and children’s and are able to retain visual information understanding of our inter-dependence long enough to process it and make use of with each other and with the natural it to solve problems. Green space proved world is essential. Whether that be via to be important regardless of wealth and schools participating in Green Flag status, had a particular impact on children’s hosting visiting farms, exploring the local mathematical performance. Children are environment or one of our outstanding living in a fast-paced world, both real and resources (the Natural History Museum, virtual, with increasing amounts of screenthe Eden Project or just connecting with time interrupting their interactions with local National Park rangers nature. Green spaces reduce or the National Trust) stress and sadness and lift there are an abundance of our mood, making us all feel valuable environmental tools better. Government research with which to teach young into the public health benefits children. Creating positions of of green spaces describe them responsibility in schools, for as ‘restorative, uplifting and example, as Eco Warriors and healing for both physical and or class recycling monitors can mental health.’ I can think of no NAOMI make an immediate impact. better reason to ensure that we BARTHOLOMEW At St Catherine’s we have protect and continue to include Headmistress St Catherine’s invested heavily in our green green space in every primary Preparatory School spaces and outdoor learning school in the country. SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 29


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Bright FUTURE The new Head of Dallington, Maria Blake, discusses the legacy of its founder and her vision for the future of the east London school


allington holds a unique place in the constellation of outstanding London schools – a vibrant oasis of creativity; proudly and fiercely independent. Established and led for over 40 years by Mogg Hercules MBE, it has been the school of choice for many parents seeking an exceptional education for their children. Taking over the headship presents a formidable challenge: how to celebrate and develop Mogg’s legacy while bringing to bear my own style and experience? Yet I am quietly confident that I have a huge amount to bring to the Dallington community, not least my 30 years of teaching and leadership. This has been gained in many diverse schools around the world, and always flying the flag for progressive, inclusive and outward-looking

“My work is fuelled by the belief that every child has the right to be valued”

bring the world and its myriad opportunities into those disadvantaged classrooms and then witnessed the impact on those young lives. Naturally, I am honoured to become part of the incredibly strong and established Dallington team that led the school to an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ award in January 2018. When I joined the team in September, as Director of Teaching and Learning, education. All my work and PICTURED I knew that I was among kindred innovation has been underpinned Dallington spirits, and there is so much by my belief in every child’s pupils excitement as we embrace the fundamental right to experience journey ahead. We bring to bear an education that nurtures a our collective experience and vision belief in themselves, and to be as we address the challenges of educating valued, empowered and informed. Children the children of the 21st century. We look should also be encouraged to expect the forward to developing new initiatives best of themselves, and to expect the best that recognise the importance of outdoor of the adults in their lives – in school, in the learning, of encouraging student voice and home and in their communities. critical thinking, of nurturing wellbeing, Many of the children I have taught and responsibility and global citizenship, as well worked alongside have been destined as building upon the timeless foundation of for positions of great influence in their an excellent curriculum. countries – nurturing these minds and The children we are teaching today at helping them to deeply understand the Dalllington will carry the torch of their world they will inherit has been the greatest learning into the future. Our job is to ensure responsibility. Yet some of the professional that they will illuminate, inspire and care for experiences that I most treasure took the world they will inherit. place in the forgotten corners of Islington and Hackney. I reflect with incredible MARIA BLAKE pride that I was able to work as part of Head committed teams who worked tirelessly to Dallington School

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Samantha Price HEADMISTRESS Benenden School


can understand why some commentators are advocating the abolition of GCSEs – but I feel their focus is misplaced. I support the ongoing reforms: the overriding effort to further raise standards is a laudable one. Inevitably, the transition has not been seamless and another disruption to the exam system at the moment is the last thing young people and teachers need. In our apparent rush to address a perceived weakness with the current system, we should be careful not to overlook its strengths. Most significantly, compulsory GCSEs at 16 ensure all children receive a broad curriculum that sets them up for life. Doing away with GCSEs could mean thousands of young people leaving school without qualifications, which would be a deeply retrograde step unless there was a viable alternative. A large number of students change school at 16, and to proceed without any qualifications would not be helpful for the next establishment they enter, whether this is a school, a Sixth Form college or a further education college. Don’t get me wrong: I thoroughly embrace the principle of making education more relevant to the modern workplace and I agree that the role of schools is to prepare young people for jobs that don’t exist yet. However, we don’t need another change to

the exam system in order to achieve this. We must recognise that it is possible to design a creative and challenging programme for young people around the current exams. This can be achieved by schools connecting content across subjects and linking it to overarching concepts, engaging questions and real life problems, as we are currently doing at Benenden. This needs to be supported by a rigorous enrichment programme which is explicitly delivered in a way that nurtures soft skills. We are currently looking at precisely these issues as we seek to expand our Benenden Diploma, our highly successful curriculum for pupils in Year 7 and 8. In most senior schools, pupils of this age will have many unrelated lessons across a week, where the content within each subject is not linked to other subjects. In contrast,

our Diploma has been designed to enable pupils to make exciting and innovative links between subjects through a series of enquiry projects and themes. This is a way of learning that better reflects life and the workplace: after all, in our adult days we do not have one hour of Maths followed by one hour of Languages and so on. We are now working hard to expand this connective approach to learning into the GCSE years. In addition, all our Sixth Formers complete a rigorous Professional Skills Programme, a course dedicated to teaching the general skills they need to thrive in the workplace. The course has been developed in collaboration with senior figures in business and was launched partly in response to comments from the industry that university graduates were not fully prepared for the workplace. As a country, the challenge is to ensure appropriate vocational routes have equal respect from employers and higher education providers so that the large percentage of 16-year-olds for whom the new GCSEs are still inappropriate or too difficult have something worthwhile to show for their time in school. Credible vocational routes are as important at GCSE as they are later. We all need to work towards this together. This should be the focus, rather than once again unsettling young people with talk of further tinkering with exams which have only recently been reformed.



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Magnus Bashaarat HEAD Bedales School


CSEs have passed their sell-by-date. They stifle creative teaching, and because everyone now has to stay in full-time education, or follow an apprenticeship or training until 18, there is little point to an exam which was introduced at a time when pupils could leave school at 16 ‘qualified’, and get a job. In 2016 former Education Secretary, Lord Baker decried the squeezing out of creative and technical subjects in our schools, and alongside the usual curricular suspects, argued that young people should study a technical subject such as design and technology or a BTEC, and a creative option such as a GCSE in art or drama. Only in this way, he argued, can young people be prepared for the 21st century labour market, and I could not agree more. The orthodoxy of deeming some educational subjects worthy (STEM, English etc) and others less so is suspect. The educationalist Bill Lucas has written that a focus on STEM subjects at school is not sufficient for would-be-engineers. Rather, the world-class civil engineering department at UCL has shown that undergraduates do not need maths or science at A-Level in order to excel. Lucas

suggests that other subjects matter too in helping to facilitate the necessary habits of mind. It is encouraging that many of the ‘new’ universities offer imaginative programmes in emerging creative and technological fields, and are similarly broadminded in their entry requirements. The problem is that secondary level education has failed to keep pace with the vision and ambition of universities such as these. For a reminder of what education might look like in our schools and colleges, we need look no further than the 2004 Tomlinson Report. It recommended replacing GCSEs and A-Levels with a diploma covering both academic and vocational pathways, allowing for their combination. Crucially, the authors favoured diverse assessment methodologies. I suspect that the authors might like what we

are doing at Bedales, first, through the introduction of BACs (Bedales Assessed Courses) as an alternative to GCSEs, and now with the introduction of the Enrichment Programme for Sixth Formers. We launched BACs in 2006 as an outward-looking alternative to some noncore GCSEs. BACs encourage collaboration, and the significant decision-making power they grant to students results in good learning. Bedales is the first school to be recognised by UCAS as offering its own GCSE-replacement qualification. The demise of the AS-Level freed up time that we have used to develop a programme of teacher-designed diploma courses. The Bedales Enrichment Programme is designed to both complement and offer contrast to traditional A-Level choices. The subjects are diverse – science students might want to act or draw; alternatively they may want to deepen their major disciplinary interest through an extended project. Whatever they choose to do, they work no less hard than on their A-Levels, are subjected to no less rigour and experience a much wider range of assessment methods. They leave Bedales well-positioned to meet the changing priorities and requirements of today’s higher education and work environments, and I would like to see the same for all of our young people.



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INDEPENDENT LEARNING What is the Personal Project and how does it differ from GCSE coursework? AVA N M A H M O O D


hen International Baccalaureate students reach Grade 10 of the Middle Years Programme (MYP), they are required to undertake a Personal Project (PP), an independent extended project carried out over several months under the guidance of an individual supervisor. The Personal Project builds on the Primary Years Programme (PYP) Exhibition, developed in Grade 5, and the Community Project, in Grade 8; thus, part of a continuum of learning for the IB student. It also provides students with the skills necessary to undertake the IB Diploma Extended Essay and ultimately any research skills for university. The PP is an important part of the IB curriculum, it consolidates learning throughout the programme. It also enables examiners to formally assess students’ approaches to learning skills for self-

“They’re not judged against the performance of the class” management, research, communications, critical and creative thinking. The PP therefore is descriptive of the students’ learning journeys, celebrating the successful completion of the final year of the MYP study in Grade 10. At Southbank International School, a PP Coordinator is appointed from among the MYP faculty to provide support for teachers and students, and to liaise with the school community. The Coordinator ensures that each Grade 10 student is provided with a supervisor whose interests reflect the student’s area or topic of their PP. The role

ABOVE A student exhibits their personal project

of supervisors is to give students formative feedback on their work, guide them in planning and research, encourage them to meet deadlines, encourage them to test and develop their ideas, and assess the final PP. Students can submit their individual PP report in written, oral, visual, or multimedia form. Midway through the process, students present their PP in an exhibition, presented to students, staff and parents; here, they receive feedback, enabling them to reflect on their product, as well as actively practice their communication and social skills. The PP stands out compared to GCSE coursework, because both the approach and procedure demonstrate research, thinking, communication, social and self- management skills. The PP report reflects the student’s knowledge, understanding, and development as an IB learner. It defines clear and challenging personal goals, within a relevant global context. The experience lets students recognise and appreciate their strengths, limitations and achievements as individuals

and they’re not judged against the performance of the class. Unlike GCSEs, PPs cover a wide range of topics, from those raising awareness about global issues, to those focused on specific personal goals and issues within the school community. The practice of reflection in PP is significant. As the philosopher John Dewey commented, learning cannot take place without reflection. The practice of reflection in the PP enables MYP students to apply the fundamentals of experiential learning: learning through reflection on their actions. This makes their learning more meaningful, personal and enduring. A Grade 10 Student commented, 'The Personal Project has been a fantastic experience for me as I was able to choose a topic I was really passionate about and create a product, transferring some processes that I knew and loved (such as writing) into a new format so that I could develop my skill-set. What's more, I have decided to pursue the topic as a career.”

AVA N M A H M O O D Personal Project Coordinator Southbank International School

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"A clear-eyed, energetic, forward-thinking school" - The Good Schools Guide

Open Mornings for Open Minds Autumn 2019 Open Mornings Lower School 10+ 11+ Sat 5 Oct Middle School 13+ Sat 28 Sept Upper School 16+ Thu 19 Sep OAKHAM.indd 1

Boarding and Flexi-boarding places available

To book your place, contact: 01572 758758 admissions@oakham.rutland.sch.uk oakham.rutland.sch.uk/Arrange-a-Visit 02/05/2019 09:44


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MEMORY GAM E The Assistant Head of Year at Latymer Upper School on why it still matters to teach factual knowledge ANDREW COPEMAN


he idea that we no longer need to be taught knowledge, because of the easy availability of information on the internet, is gaining traction. This fallacy displays a misunderstanding of neuroscience. Denigrating knowledge is not just antiintellectual, it leads to anti-egalitarian outcomes, widening the gulf between the highest and lowest achievers. Given a child’s vocabulary when they start school is the best predictor for their future success, the importance of instilling knowledge and building vocabulary must begin at an early age. Educational disadvantage starts early with some children coming from knowledgerich home environments and others from culturally impoverished backgrounds. By focusing on knowledge and building cultural capital, schools close this gap, which, if not addressed, continues as children progress through the education system. It is only with an extensive and diverse vocabulary that children progress, work independently and stay focused in class, without losing the thread of what they are being taught. Without this foundation, pupils struggle to build knowledge, leading to poor educational outcomes and feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness. What this reveals is that in order to gain knowledge, we need knowledge; to put that another way, the more we know, the easier it is to know more. This is where an awareness of neuroscience is particularly important. The brain has a limited working memory,

“The more we know, the easier it is to know more”

ABOVE Andrew Copeman in class

capable of holding around five new pieces of information simultaneously. Lack of space in our working memory acts as a barrier to human cognition. It means that we rely on our long-term memory in order to free up capacity in our working memory when solving complex problems. Every time we resort to the internet, we use space in our working memory, and the ability to process new information becomes increasingly impaired. In practice, it means when we have worked out the first part of a problem, we end up forgetting the second part because of our poor working memory. Suppose there are 24 articles in this magazine and it takes seven minutes to read each. How long would it take to read the magazine? If your times tables are not committed to long-term memory you would have had to work out your sums individually, giving rise to the likelihood of overloading your working memory. Pupils who perform well in working memory tests, score highly in reasoning tests, revealing those with greater working memory capacity are more able thinkers.

If we want to empower young people we need to make their working memory capacity more efficient, and this is best achieved through factual knowledge. Better still, if this information can be ingrained to long-term memory, mental processes become automatised, making room in working memory for other processes. Of course technology gives us information at our fingertips but it is only through the acquisition of accumulated knowledge that we are able to problem solve, research and assimilate new information effectively.

A N D R E W CO P E M A N Assistant Head of Year Latymer Upper School SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 37

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Making an

E N T R A NCE Senior schools are rethinking their admissions process for both the 11+ and 13+. Absolutely Education investigates



ast October, Patrick Derham, head of Westminster School, used his column in The Times to proclaim a change to the admissions policy, an alteration which would generally have warranted only a tweak to the website. His very public declaration of the school’s intention to abandon 13+ Common Entrance from 2021 was summed up in the phrase ‘no longer fit for purpose’. Derham’s perspective is one clearly shared by St Paul’s School and Wellington College, who are taking similar action.

For those unfamiliar with this demanding hurdle, Common Entrance (CE) is a set of exams, whose traditional purpose was to act as a selective entrance test to leading public schools. Based on a curriculum set by the Independent Schools Examination Board, it involves compulsory papers in English, Maths and Science, and most UK-based candidates also sit additional tests from a selection that includes: History, Geography, French, Classical Greek, Latin, Religious Studies, German and Spanish. Generally taken in the summer term of Year 8, CE was, until fairly recently, a

do-or-die affair, with those failing to make the grade losing out on a place at their preferred school and having to scrabble around at the last moment to find an alternative. It was largely to avoid this distressing outcome that an increasing number of schools decided to allocate Year 9 places on the basis of a ‘pre-test’ (in Maths, English and reasoning) in Year 6 or 7. The introduction of pre-testing has been taken alongside a more general re-think about what the secondary-school admissions process should involve, and Derham’s article comes less than a year after the London 11+ Consortium, an association of 12 independent girls’ day schools, announced they were replacing their 11+ entrance exams with ‘cognitive tests’, intended to provide an application process that is: ‘fair, clear, robust and accessible to children from all schools and backgrounds’. The move for assessment beyond the well-crammed has now become widespread, stemming both from concerns about the stress knowledgedense testing puts on young people, and from the belief that the skills required to ‘futureproof’ education are no longer primarily dependent on data acquisition. Wellington College, for example, now invites candidates to an assessment intended to gauge creativity, critical

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thinking and problem-solving; while leading co-educational boarding school Bradfield College has introduced a session of team problem-solving exercises along the lines of TV's The Crystal Maze. As far as St. Paul’s school is concerned, however, one of the key intentions behind the decision to abandon CE has been to give prep schools more latitude in what they teach. “Common Entrance provides a robust and quality curriculum," says High Master Professor Mark Bailey, “but if it’s not required as an entrance exam, schools will have the flexibility to create their own curricula in Years 7 and 8. In our case, the curriculum is based on a good deal of the content in the Common Entrance syllabus, but the freedom from sitting the exams means that individual subjects now have the flexibility to dwell for longer on a topic or ignore one of the CE topics and undertake some project work instead.” This is an approach already in place at The Hawthorns School, a Surrey prep school which largely sends its pupils on to secondary schools where CE is no longer required. “I’m a pragmatist,” says head Adrian Floyd. "When I arrived in 2015, many good senior schools were already relying on pre-tests rather than on essays on the Battle of Hastings as of old. There’s good stuff in Common Entrance, good skills and good knowledge, so we consulted 20 senior schools about what worked best for them and how we could develop our curriculum to meet their requirements.” In response, The Hawthorns has introduced the ‘Compass’ curriculum, distinguished by its regular ‘inquiry lesson’, addressing philosophy and current affairs, and an independent project – “rather like a ‘baby EPQ’” - where students research a theoretical question and are given a mentor to investigate their hypothesis. To ensure the freedom given to prep schools is not squandered, St Paul’s are

LEFT Pupils at The Hawthorns RIGHT St Paul's boys with Prof Mark Bailey BELOW St Paul's boys playing cricket

issuing syllabus advice for each subject, broadly in line with Common Entrance. “We trust our prep schools to follow our guidelines, and will gently monitor the progress of boys who hold Year 9 offers to St Paul’s,” says Professor Bailey. In London, the withdrawal from 13+ Common Entrance can also be seen as a reflection of the fact that some leading senior day schools – such as Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith and Highgate School in north London – now have their main secondary-school entrance point in Year 7, reflecting the fact they draw their intake from both state primary schools and all-girls’ prep schools, which end in Year 6. This shift in emphasis, however, is not envisaged at St Paul’s. “We believe in the five-year educational model,” says Professor Bailey. “We value the large influx of bright older boys we draw from across London in Year 9 and will work to maintain the size of this intake.” Here, scholarship exams will still be sat in Year 8. While many schools will welcome the new freedom, the abandonment of 13+ Common Entrance is not seen by all as an unalloyed joy. For these naysayers, their chief concern is for the ‘late developer’, i.e. the pupil who has yet to blossom at the age of 10 or 11. “Even though this move is intended to remove stress, ironically, I feel that sitting an interview which will determine the next eight years of your life aged 10 is tough,” says Simon Barber, headmaster of Ludgrove School, a family-owned prep school that sends a high percentage of its

“The move for assessment beyond the well-crammed has now become widespread ” pupils on to Eton, Harrow, Winchester and Radley. Senior schools, of course, are well aware of this issue, and in recognition of how much children can change between Years 6 and 8, this year Wellington College only offered 70 per cent of the places available through its pre-test, putting other applicants on a waiting list to be re-interviewed in the spring of Year 7. At this stage, their prep school will be required to send an updated report. Simon Barber, however, feels it’s not only the late developer who loses out in the abandonment of CE; he believes its loss will be experienced by most of his pupils. “There has to be an academic focus in Year 8, whatever you call it. The boys want to feel good about their academic achievement. They’ve worked hard and done well. That should be rewarded. They want a pat on the back.”

D R LI S A F R E E D M A N Founder and Director At The School Gates attheschoolgates.co.uk SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 39

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Smooth TRANSITION The Director of Wellbeing at Hurst College on managing pupil's mental health when they move schools MIKE LAMB


ost people agree that good mental health is the basis for a happy and successful life at school and beyond. At Hurst this is at the core of what we do and we consider it especially important around the key transition times. Moving schools can be a challenging experience so it is important for schools to work closely to ensure a successful transition. The process begins early at Hurst, when we invite key staff from our feeder prep schools to witness first-hand how we teach the key subjects and share ideas and best practice. We host a special two-day event in the March before Year 9 pupils join, and they take part in a variety of activities to acquire a real taste for life here. It is a fantastic experience which helps pupils to familiarise themselves with their new school, make new friends and meet their teachers. This is not - and should not be the end of supporting the transition. A busy, engaging ABOVE AND BELOW and rewarding weekly Hurst pupils timetable is vital in order

“A busy and engaging timetable is vital in order for a pupil to settle”

for a pupil to successfully settle. The school day is packed with activities, plus there is the opportunity to exercise during three games sessions each week. The recentlydeveloped Year 9 wellbeing programme was designed to provide pupils with a quieter moment in the middle of the week. On a carousel over the year, pupils are able to develop some mindfulness techniques, practice yoga and also spend time on the college farm, plus they learn how to make fires and shelters in the surrounding woods. Through our diverse and varied curriculum, we believe that pupils will develop the life skills they need to achieve their personal goals. Combined with a robust tutorial programme this helps them to develop effective study skills, an understanding of the world around them and how to maintain good relationships with others.


It is important that parents feel part of school life, and this is especially true during exams. Exam season can be a stressful time for students and teachers, but it can also be difficult for parents, who often feel that they have little control over the situation. Keeping parents informed in the run-up to exams will help reduce their anxiety, which in turn can prevent it from being passed on to their children. Parental engagement in pupils’ learning is an essential factor throughout their school careers. Head of Year emails, weekly revision bulletins and inviting parents in for information sessions can help those who feel under-qualified to support their children. Communicating realistic expectations can also help parents get the balance right between encouragement and putting too much pressure on to students. At exam time, as throughout the year, students will benefit most from schools and parents pulling together. A large amount of the revision process happens at home, and research has repeatedly shown that student outcomes are significantly affected by parental beliefs and expectations. With informed and loving input from home, helped by open communication with teachers and schools, we can best support our pupils in negotiating the perils of the exam season.

MIKE LAMB Director of Staff and Pupil Wellbeing Hurst College

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11/02/2019 13:47

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classes of 9 or less students and our exceptional university preparation: over 70% of our leavers each year progress to top tier universities. Our mission is to turn academic aspirations into reality. MPW is a friendly, flexible college that offers an outstanding learning environment.

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02/05/2019 10:07


SIX SHOOTER Top tips for GCSE revision from Letts Study Guides EVE HERBERT


tudying effectively can make a real difference to GCSE results. Good study habits are well worth cultivating. Here are some tips on how to crack revision.


Time is a key factor that can make or break a study plan. Your child needs to be booking in slots to study on their visible timetable, just as they would schedule in say, football practice. Without this, revision gets crammed into spare moments and misses the energy and focus it deserves. Sometimes students will have to say no to other things in order to stick to their study plan.


Your child needs to know exactly what is expected of them in their exams and assignments. This needs to be clearly defined and constantly referred to as a guide for their study plan. If they are unsure,

“Blocking social media during study times will really help” they need to go back to their teacher for guidance. There is no point in studying something that won’t be in the exam.


It is useful to have a defined and fit-forpurpose workspace. Working at the edge of a messy kitchen table five minutes

before dinner is not the best scenario. Ideally, your child should have a space of their own with their pens, paper and study books next to them. A bottle of water, good light and a comfortable chair are all beneficial. Somewhere to store study notes and exercise books is also really helpful. Some kids work well with background music, some like an open window, and others like the timer on. Help your child tailor their work environment to what works best for them.


Neat notes that summarise their learning into clear simple points will be really worthwhile. The sooner they learn to make these the better, as they will be invaluable for their revision and saves them hours. These need to be stored in a good system and completely legible in order to be most effective.


Minimise distractions; music with words, a mobile phone, a rumbling tummy and a head full of worries will all interfere with studying. Social media can also be a problem particularly if they are working on their laptop. Blocking social media during study times will really help. There are

apps you can install that block sites for a temporary period.


Most kids work best on their own but having a friend on speed dial who might be able to explain indecipherable notes or remind them how to do compound fractions will be a useful support to your child’s study. Why not help them identify a couple of hardworking friends who they can talk over their work with should they get stuck and have a little moan or mind map with every now and again. Letts publish a range of GCSE 9-1 revision books and practice papers, lettsrevision.co.uk SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 43

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YOUR MIND Queen Anne’s School have produced a a revision guide based on their Brain Can Do neuroscience programme EVE HERBERT


“Our working memory overloads easily. Revising little and often is most effective”



fter five years of research alongside leading universities, Queen Anne’s School in Caversham have produced a revision guide based on neuroscientific evidence relating to how teenage brains work best.

Nightowls don’t take well to revision, according to the school’s report. The best time to revise is during the day due to synchrony effects - in other words, pupils should revise during the time of day when they will sit their exams.


As with the advice on when to revise, it’s recommended to do so in the same place as where you’ll sit the exam. This won’t always be possible, but certainly means that staying up late at night to revise in the confines of a duvet won’t do you any favours. Students should at the very least visit the room in which they’ll be doing the exam to get a feel for it so that it’s not a distraction on the day.


Our brains aren’t able to store and recall masses of information in a short period of time; evidence suggests that the best way to revise is little and often. In fact, it’s best to allow yourself time to forget it and then come back to it. For best results, leave progressively longer intervals between revisiting information to make it stick. 2 RETRIEVAL PRACTICE

Regularly test yourself. Make learning a challenge for yourself by testing what you think you know by using flash cards, an app or completing past papers. 3 BE INQUISITIVE

Rather than accepting answers at face

value, students should be critical of the information they receive by trying to understand the steps that result in a particular answer. 4 INTERLEAVING

It can be tempting to spend an entire day revising one topic, but the report suggests this isn’t the best way to work. It says that by interleaving revision subjects, that is mixing them up, students are more likely to remember them. So it’s best to spend less time on a variety of subjects every day, rathwe than an entire section at a time. 5 COGNITIVE LOAD THEORY

Our ‘working memory’ is the limited part of memory which holds what we’re thinking about right now. Learning has occurred when that information is transferred from working memory into long-term memory. Our working memory can easily be overloaded, this is yet more evidence pointing toward the effectiveness of little and often. Regular breaks are always a good idea, as is ‘scaffolding’, whereby students start with the information they know the best, in order to build the less sturdy knowledge around it.

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Our working memory can only do one thing at once. Students shouldn’t dilute its ability by having a mobile phone nearby or music with lyrics.

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON Heightened nerves are very common during exam season. The Queen Anne's report suggests various ways for students to remain calm and in control throughout: 1 CONDITIONING

One of the most basic principles in psychology is that of conditioning. That is, students should find a way to associate an object or sensation with a positive mood. First select a trigger, like the smell of a lemon or the sensation of squeezing your ear. Then, spend five minutes a day thinking about or doing things which make you feel great, all the while triggering the physical sensation. On the day of the exam, use the

physical trigger to invoke a positive feeling. If that means bringing in a wedge of lemon, so be it.

ABOVE Queen Anne's students using the sensation of smelling a lemon to trigger positive feelings


It is critical for students to get enough sleep during exam periods. It’s when we sleep that our brain is very active, sorting and storing the day’s information, so it follows that this is especially important during revision. 3 UNDERSTAND STRESS

Nerves surrounding exams are completely natural. All sorts of unpleasant physical sensations occur - butterflies, feeling sick, needing to go to the toilet more than normal - they’re all ways the body reacts to the fight or flight response. Instead of despairing, students should remind themselves that these responses occur because they care about what they’re doing, it matters to them. Holding your head high can help make us feel more calm and confident.


Because our thoughts, emotions and behaviours are all interlinked, saying positive things to yourself can actually make you feel more positive. Students should avoid negative people before an exam, instead seeking those who encourage positivity. Although it feels natural to say “I feel stressed” when stressed, if instead a student says “I feel confident”, it can directly alter the emotional feeling. 5 HEALTHY BODY: HEALTHY MIND

Exercise is an excellent way to relax, there are strong links between being active and maintaining a positive psychological well-being. Rather than fret over potential mistakes in an exam just sat, students should get moving to release endorphins.

For a copy of The Brain Can Do Revision Guide, £5, contact info@braincando.com SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 45


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TONGUE TIED? The number of students learning a foreign language has dropped to its lowest level yet. The answer, says a private tutor, is to make it more fun LU C I N DA W I L L I A M S


ith recent news reporting that foreign language learning is at its lowest level yet, it is fundamental to explore why so many students are giving up modern foreign languages (MFL) and explore what can be done to make languages more attractive to students. One of the main reasons students aren’t choosing to study MFL at GCSE level and beyond is because languages are perceived as a difficult subject; many believe it is harder to get a high grade in these exams. I was lucky, I was good at languages at school and loved my French and Spanish lessons. I was also fortunate enough to have exceptional teachers who ignited my interest in languages. Languages are difficult, but I have found them invaluable in both my professional and private life. Now a private language tutor, I have taught international students at all ages and levels in the course of my career. From an international boarding school in Switzerland to engaging in several international residential placements in France, Italy, Spain and Greece, each experience presented me with new challenges but also left me with a wealth of linguistic skills and an in-depth knowledge of each culture. When tutoring students, it is important not only to improve their ability and confidence in the chosen language, but to make them aware of the benefits of learning a language. These include increased cultural awareness, improving cognitive ability, making travel easier, enhancing career

“Knowing another language encourages friendship, trust and understanding”

ABOVE "Many believe it's hard to get high grades"

opportunities and, according to some medical reports, even delaying the onset of dementia. Private tutoring is enormously beneficial and, if done properly, can stimulate a student’s enthusiasm for a subject. With languages, this can be achieved by tailoring individual sessions to each student’s interests. This may include watching a short clip of a Japanese animé in French, reading an article about astro-physics in Spanish or listening to an Italian TedTalk on feminism and then discussing it in the target language. After completing such tasks, not only do students tend to grasp crucial vocabulary and acquire key phrases, they start to have fun; thinking about what countries their language might take them to, what friendships they might make, what career paths they might take. What’s more, knowing another language encourages friendship, trust and understanding. When talking to foreigners, you meet new people and make friends. It is estimated that more than 437 million people

speak Spanish, which qualifies it as the second most spoken language in the world. Just by learning one language you have the ability to speak and communicate with over 5% of the world’s population. As a teacher, you see a student’s passion for a language change when the emphasis in their learning moves from examination to exploration. This is very rewarding and I am keen to continue this in order to make languages more attractive to students. We live in a multilingual world, let’s embrace foreign languages.

LU C I N DA W I L LI A M S Languages tutor SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 47

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16/01/2019 16:06




It Takes Two Pauline Prévot, Head of School at École Jeannine Manuel London, on the benefits of bilingualism


ilingualism: ability to speak two languages.” At a time when it is estimated that more than half the world’s population speaks two languages, this definition from Britannica, is somewhat fuzzy and offers a limited view of a phenomenon that comes with a wealth of benefits. Bilingualism stretches far beyond merely speaking two languages. It is about being open to the world that surrounds us, about learning to value our differences with others while recognising and appreciating all that we have in common. Our school was founded as a response to human conflict and the horrors of the Second World War. Since then, we have been educating generations of students who embrace our mission: to promote international understanding through the bilingual education of a multicultural community of students. For our founder Jeannine Manuel, “learning a foreign language is, by itself, important; it is also a means to better understand others, to be able to think like them—it provides access to the world.” With this in mind, we define bilingualism as the ability to express oneself in French or in English, orally and in writing, with

solving skills and heightens empathy (incidentally, most of these are ‘skills you will need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, according to the World Economic Forum). Ambitious bilingual aims entail ambitious ABOVE Bilingual: academic Ecole Jeannine objectives, Manuel students and a robust BELOW curriculum to The school exterior support them. In addition to the mastery of core academic skills and bilingualism, our curriculum is designed with a focus on collaborative learning, developing autonomy, and nurturing curiosity, creativity and an appetite for culture. Equally paramount to the success of our pupils is their personal wellbeing, which we promote through a specific, school-wide curriculum. native ease and compelling effectiveness. Our broad approach to a bilingual This means that when they graduate, our education means that our students leave students are able to stretch past cultural us able to live, study, work and excel codes to understand not merely what people anywhere in the world. Thousands of are saying, but what they truly mean. alumni across the world bear witness to While it was long-assumed the value of our bilingual that language acquisition is education. For our founder, a zero-sum game and that Jeannine Manuel, the goal of bilingualism is detrimental education was to help shape to the mastery of a primary ‘whole’ people, by which she language, we now know better. meant, ‘individuals aware of Incontrovertible research their presence in this world, shows that being bilingual engaged in its history, and comes with a plethora of ready to play a part in world PAULINE PREVOT benefits: it increases brain affairs.’ In today’s world, this Head of School l’École Jeannine Manuel plasticity and cognitive vision of education is more flexibility, improves problemimportant than ever.

“Our founder’s goal was to shape ‘whole’ people”

SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 49


02/05/2019 14:10

Benenden School invites you to an evening discovering how to help teenage girls achieve their best

STRETCH WITHOUT STRESS ~ How a creative curriculum enables girls to thrive ~ How Modern Boarding supports academic success and wellbeing

We look forward to presenting two key messages about how modern boarding can help girls to achieve their very best: How to challenge girls so that they not only achieve excellent academic results but leave school with a love of learning and a set of skills that fit her to meet the challenges of her personal and professional life in the years ahead. What boarding looks like in the 21st century, the benefits to pupils and to families and how boarding plays an integral part in a girl’s academic and cocurricular achievements as well as her health.

At Wotton House Hotel Guildford Road, Dorking RH5 6QQ Thursday 6 June 2019 at 6.30pm RSVP: www.benenden.school/wottonhouse or email Sarah Davies: registry@benenden.school Drinks and canapĂŠs


02/05/2019 09:33


Best of BOTH Considering a bilingual education? Lycée International Winston Churchill is an 'Outstanding' option


ow successful can a bilingual approach be in the UK? Well, since Lycée International Winston Churchill was inaugurated in 2015 by the then President of France, François Hollande, we have grown rapidly to cater to in excess of 900 students. We consistently deliver high standards for every student. Indeed, this year, 100% of students who applied to Russell Group universities received an offer, while 85% of students who applied to UCAS received an average of 3.5 offers out of a maximum of 5. Our continued drive for excellence means that we are the only French international school in the UK to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted for Sixth Form provision. Plus, we were the first French international school in the UK to be authorised by the International

“100% of Russell Group university applicants received an offer” Baccalaureate Organization to offer its prestigious Diploma Programme (IBDP). The IBDP is an excellent example of how students can learn more broadly and deeply than with the British curriculum. For example, if a child is being taught about revolution in History, they’re not restricted to learning simply about the English Civil War and Charles I, they could choose to learn about the French or Russian revolutions instead. There are many other advantages to sending your child to a bilingual school.

ABOVE Lycée International Winston Churchill students in the science lab

Most obviously, each child benefits from receiving the best of two curriculums. In Primary, we deliver 50% of the curriculum in English, and 50% in French, which can see students in as little as one or two years able to speak with a level of competency and fluency that far exceeds pupils in British schools. Indeed, by the age of 11, our students read Molière in French at the same time as Shakespeare in English. While in Secondary, students are able to choose between a twin-track approach: the Bac Français Bilingue, which leads to the French baccalaureate during Sixth Form; and the English International Programme, which leads to the IBDP. During their time in the Secondary section, students can also learn other languages like Spanish, German and Mandarin. Another advantage of sending your child to a bilingual school is the international environment. At Lycée International

Winston Churchill, we have 16 nationalities of teachers, 29 nationalities of staff and 45 nationalities of students. It means that pupils can flourish as the international citizens they will need to be to succeed in life beyond education. Our modern, progressive approach to teaching and learning is complemented by a holistic culture of wellbeing at the heart of our school. We have a dedicated team of counsellors to support students. So, the education landscape is changing. The IB is eclipsing A-Levels and forcing schools to reevaluate how they educate their students. In closing, we urge any parent who is considering which type of school is best for their child to choose a bilingual one. The feedback we receive from our British families on the well-rounded educational experience we provide says that we equip their children with a comprehensive education that will prepare them for life. SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 51


02/05/2019 16:03






Katherine Woodcock, Headmistress of Sydenham High School, on what it means to be a school with a social conscience


ecently I had the enormous pleasure of reconnecting with Kiko Matthews, a British adventurer who became the fastest female to row the Atlantic, solo and unsupported in March 2018. She raised over £100,000 for King's College hospital which saved her life and, inspired by her story, we were privileged to sponsor her in her endeavour. Not one to stand still, Kiko has now launched her latest challenge, KikPlastic, cycling the coast of the UK to raise awareness of single use plastic and encourage communities to do more to tackle the issue. An ever-increasing tide of plastic is threatening our coastlines and we must take steps to tackle it in the UK and further afield where the impact is greater. Our responsibility to educate future generations

“Apathy is not something our pupils suffer from” extends to ensuring that our pupils develop a social conscience beyond their school years. Communities are built on respect and at the heart of all we do here at Sydenham High School is a respect for those around us, including our physical environment. So what does it mean to be a school with a social conscience? We aim to ensure our pupils have a strong moral compass; that they are accepting and respectful of themselves and others. This extends to a sense of global responsibility. As a school we began the new calendar year pledging to do our bit to reduce plastic use. In addition to environmental ethics, we encourage a

A B OV E Sydenham High School pupils

greater understanding of social injustices individual. Apathy is not something our and inequalities. As the leaders of pupils suffer from and we are proud of the tomorrow, our pupils need to take the fact that they lean in and recognise the lead, whether this is through the LGBT+Q importance of responsibility beyond their society, the Eco Council or our African everyday lives. Caribbean Society. When I look back to my own teenage Teaching citizenship and social years in the Eighties, I think we have responsibility should be embedded within made great progress, but the world is the culture of a school. Looking back over an increasingly challenging place. How the past term, I am proud of our students' are young people to make sense of terror personal development as well as their atrocities, the rise in knife crime, climate academic successes. Our recent publication change, least Brexit and US politics, the of ‘The Feminist Issue’ provided our pupils online world and the pressures on young with a platform for writing people? And yet, I look at the about sexism, with the hope pupils here and feel so positive of changing misconceptions about their ability to cope about men and women, with the future and to actively particularly in the workplace. engage with the issues that Schools have a duty to ensure matter to them. Despite the that pupils not only have a landscape they face, our pupils voice, but also feel empowered are confident, possess a true to make a difference. sense of self, and recognise KATHERINE WOODCOCK Becoming socially conscious only too clearly what is right Headmistress involves understanding and wrong. Most importantly, Sydenham High School the community around an they genuinely care.

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10/01/2019 15:22


M A K ING of Me

Ben Fogle The broadcaster, writer and adventurer has mixed feelings about his boarding school days at Bryanston in Dorset

Where did you go to school and when? Bryanston for five years in the Nineties.

boarding school right now; I am definitely against sending them before they are 13, I want them at home with me.

Did you enjoy it? I was really homesick in the first year but then I loved it.

What was your favourite activity at school? I was obsessed with tennis and also loved going into the craft building as well, making stuff. I made an operating table for my dad who’s a vet - it had a pump and you could inflate it up and down. It was pretty terrible but I have strong memories of making it.

What did you like about it? I liked the fact that it was rural. I grew up in central London and I loved the access to the woods, forests and rivers. I liked the independence; being able to decide when to do my homework, when to play tennis. It was very liberal and I liked that fact that the school encouraged every pupil to be themselves, to be who they wanted to be.

Where was your favourite hangout? I have vivid summer memories of Dorset, lying on the grass under the big trees in the sun and I liked the grass tennis courts in front of the school. I was happy as long as I was outside.

What was your favourite subject? Art and CDT (Craft, Design and Technology). I’ve always been more creative than I am academic. My mother and sisters are all creative types and I loved making things as a child. Who was your favourite teacher? Mr Long, my housemaster. During that first year he was so good at taking me into his own house and trying to settle me. He and his late wife treated me as if I was their son. If it wasn’t for him I don’t think I would have stayed. Would you send your own children to boarding school? Not for the sake of boarding per se, but if the right school for one of my children is

too far away - and there aren't many great schools in central London if your children aren’t highly academic - then I might consider it. I’m not anti-boarding in any way - I think there is a great place for it still. My wife and her sisters have an interesting take on the issue of boarding; they think they had a much better teen relationship with their mother as they could take out their teen angst on their housemistress so relations were better at home. My children are seven and nine years old. I can’t bear the thought of them going to

What was your greatest achievement? When I did my first assembly in front of the whole school. It was a comedy performance which I performed when I was about 15. I had such a sense of achievement afterwards, it was a really big deal for me as I was so shy. How did Bryanston influence your life? It gave me confidence. I think if I hadn’t been away at school I wouldn’t have been forced to make my own decisions; it helped improve my self esteem. Private school instills a confidence in you that I don’t think people necessarily get in the state sector it instils the ability to be who you want to


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be. I think people commonly mistake it for arrogance. It’s not, it’s confidence. Do you have any negative feelings about your school days? I didn’t get any academic results from my schooldays (Fogle got C, D and N grades at A-Level) but that wasn’t the fault of the school. I developed confidence but that was in spite of the exam system. What we have now is a system that rewards your ability to revise and cram information. I couldn’t retain information and then I’d crumple under the pressure, I could barely remember my own name, let alone anything else. I know I am dyslexic - I still get my bs and ds muddled. I was never diagnosed but it’s perfectly obvious to me. But I didn’t want the label, I didn’t want it to define who I am. But whenever I write books I always forewarn my editors!

How do you feel about the school system now? I think the whole system is broken, both private and state. If I hadn’t been at Bryanston, with that level of support, I might have been dragged under. We need to reexamine our obsession with exams as a measure of whether you will succeed in life. Who did you want to be at school? I wanted to be someone who embraced life, who travelled, faced my fears- I think I’ve kind of done those things. It’s funny that I’m known as an explorer - at school I didn’t excel at sports at all. I left Bryanston wanting to be more brazen. Everything I have done since then, climbing Everest, rowing across the Atlantic, all of it has been my versions of exams - trying to rebuild my shattered confidence. Where did you get your love of nature from? My father is Canadian - we spent every summer as children in Canadian wilderness. And the Dorset countryside definitely helped. Now I am UN Patron of the Wilderness. I share my experiences, and talk to governments about the fragility of the wilderness. I am the voice for a fragile and voiceless environment.

What are you doing now? I'm writing a new series of children’s books called Mr Dog. I have written lots of adults titles but now I’m a father, children’s books obviously appeal. I love dogs. And the British countryside and its animals so often get overlooked, so I wanted to include them. It was also a chance to put down on paper some of the chance encounters with animals that I’ve had over the years - it’s the perfect opportunity to share them. How would you sum up your school days in five words? Happy, idyllic, difficult, nostalgic, wild game. Mr Dog and the Rabbit Habit, £5.99, HarperCollins, out now. SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 55

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Ranked No. 1 out of thousands of schools for value-added, Bredon School in Gloucestershire gives children with specific learning needs the space to be themselves. Absolutely Education pays a visit, page 58

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ABOVE Farm life: Bredon boys feeding the pigs

This child

CAN Bredon School in Gloucestershire is a good example of how pupils with SEN thrive in the right setting A M A N D A C O N S TA N C E

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ou might not have heard of Bredon school. I hadn’t until a couple of years ago when I interviewed Aatif Hassan, the chairman of Cavendish Education, the group which owns Bredon. He told me about this fabulous school in Gloucestershire for children with specific learning needs that has an award-winning shooting team. They give children with dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and highfunctioning autism guns. Yes, guns. We’re not talking Rambo here, rather clay-pigeon shooting. But still, it’s quite a thing isn’t it? I have never forgotten how Hassan’s eyes lit up as he told me about the discipline, focus and sense of self-worth Bredon students have gained from shooting. It was one of those anecdotes that lodges in one’s mind, the brilliant audacity of it… “That’s Bredon for you,” says Koen Claeys, Bredon’s Belgian headmaster, when I relay this story. “It doesn’t matter your

“We unpick what the child needs help with and then we give them that help. Not only do we ensure they get that support but we allow that child to explore who they are and what they can do. The result is that the child flourishes.” And flourishing they are indeed. Bredon is currently lousy with gold stars from those that matter. It received ‘Excellent’ across the board from the Independent Schools Inspectorate last October and according to Government figures, published in January this year, it ranked number one out of more than 4,000 schools and colleges in England for ‘value-added’ for students aged 16 to 18 years. Claeys is cock-a-hoop with this accolade. “This is a remarkable achievement and recognises the high quality of our specialist teaching and learning approach,” he says. “Because it’s not about how many A* you have, it’s about progress. It’s not difficult being a top selective school and then saying, ‘Look at our amazing A* rate.’ But to show progress, that’s what matters to me.” The school, near Tewkesbury in

them and also give them extra lessons to get those all important pass grades in the core subjects that they need,” he says. “But we want to be sure they leave school with something amazing.” A typical Bredon child - “if such a thing exists”, says Claeys - might do say 5 GCSEs, plus 3 BTECS or 1 or 2 A-Levels plus 1 or 2 BTECS. “We have staff here who can pick the right course for every student and support them during that process,” says Claeys. The staff at Bredon are a highly trained, highly qualified bunch. All teaching staff have a minimum of Level 3 SpLD qualifications from the British Dyslexic Association but SLS staff (Specialist Learning Support) have a Level 5. Four of the staff have Level 7 qualifications “which allows them to read EdPsych reports at a glance,” says Claeys. The children come from all over the country; approximately 80 students are boarders, with 50 coming from the UK and 25 are international. Most are privately funded places but there are also

WE ALLOW CHILDREN TO EXPLORE WHO THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY CAN DO. THE RESULT IS THAT THE CHILD FLOURISHES situation - we will find something for you,” he says. To illustrate this point he tells me about a new pupil, a 14-year-old who has recently arrived at the school. This child suffered paralysis down one side of his body following an operation to remove a brain tumour. He has since taken up shooting with one arm at Bredon and excelled in a school competition just before Claeys and I talk. “We are quite unique,” says Claeys. “A boarding school with 80 acres of grounds and a working farm. We give children the chance to work and explore the outdoors - a lot of them find it hard to sit still. There’s an awful lot they can get their hands on here.” Claeys believes Bredon is all about second chances. “We see children here who might have been told they are dumb or stupid in previous settings. They might have stopped going to school, their self-esteem is low, sometimes it has affected their mental health,” he says.

Gloucestershire, currently has 220 pupils from Year 3 to Year 13. There are just under 30 students in the Junior School, and 40-45 in the Sixth Form. Most of the students at the school will have one or two “disses” as Claeys calls them - and/or high-functioning autism and possibly ADHD. The school does not accept children with emotional and behavourial problems. But “we have a lot of children who have not been diagnosed with anything,” says Claeys, “we will often carry out our own diagnosis, we have very experienced staff”. Academically, the school isn’t “linear”, says Claeys. By this he means that a student might be sitting their Art A-Level while receiving extra tutoring in English and re-sitting their English GCSE exam for the fourth or fifth time to get the all important Grade 4 (old style C). “We won’t stop the students from picking subjects they excel in - we will support

30% of pupils who receive local authority funding from more than 20 different local authorities. But one of the bonuses of its fee-paying status is the school is resource rich. “We part fund teacher training,” says Claeys. “If a member of my staff approaches me and says they want to gain a new qualification or level, I say: ‘Great, let me find the money.’” What really sets the school apart though is the way it teaches children with SEN. Claeys explains: “When I arrived two and a half years ago I couldn’t get my head round why children were being taught in a class together - say in a geography lesson - and then some of the children would leave that lesson and be taught exactly the same thing again but in a specialist setting.” Now the whole class is taught in a SEN-friendly way. “We are moving the specialism away from the individual to the classroom,” says Claey. “The teacher should have the passion and SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 59


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All children can achieve

An award winning independent SpLD specialist school “It’s palpably cheerful inside. The potion, as a parent describes it, ‘is an acceptance of others; celebration of your talents (which they will find); joyful eccentricity and a low anxiety environment. Resulting in happy achieving children.” - Good schools guide 2018 VISIT OUR NEW WEBSITE www.moatschool.org.uk


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02/05/2019 09:56


RIGHT In the art studio BELOW Headmaster Koen Claeys

the training in the first place to engage the whole class.” Kelly Weston, a science teacher and Lead SENco says: “As teachers we play to their strengths.” So class sizes are small, typically 8-12 pupils. Teaching is dyslexia-friendly. Language is kept simple, instructions are clear and activities “will be chunked into set times - some of our young people have difficulty concentrating so each lesson is carefully divided up”, she says. In addition to this, “All our teachers work in a multi-sensory way rather than just in the SLS support (withdrawal lessons)”, says Weston. Lessons will typically include visual or kinesthetic activities. For example, during a science revision lesson “we might use numbered jenga blocks, so as the students play they are going over the numbers and topics,” explains Weston. A kinesthetic activity is a ‘doing’ lesson. If Weston was teaching evaporation and the conditions that affect evaporation - “you might make washing lines and hang scraps of damp materials on them in different environments - e.g hot and dry, damp and moist, cold etc - to actually see what’s happening rather than just reading about it in a text book.” Pupils who need extra support will still have extra SLS lessons. Here, too, the teachers follow a multi-sensory ethos. When learning times tables, for example, the teacher might touch the child’s finger with a pen - a different finger each time, so the child has that ping of sensory recognition as well as the mental act of thinking - thus helping them to retain the information.

The high level of support extends beyond the classroom, too, with a well developed pastoral-care system. Each student has a personal tutor who checks in with them twice a day - “after all, we are dealing with teenagers here,” says Weston. Each pupil at Bredon has a Pupil Passport, which isn’t unusual in a SEN setting, but at Bredon, this condensed, one-page profile is created in conjunction with the young person. Anyone with a child with SEN will know how much paperwork it involves. “The Pupil Passport is a quick and easy one-stop-shop for staff which the pupils help to write, setting out, for example, ‘This is what I struggle with, this is what I’m good at etc,’” explains Weston. Weston talks about a “lovely Bredon bubble”. “Every individual is nurtured and encouraged here,” she says. And accordingly, the pupils are very accepting of each other. “One of the nicest things that the ISI said was that differences are celebrated by our pupils. That’s really important,” she says. Claeys believes the school is in a good place. But like many ambitious heads, he wants to do more. “In next two and a half years I want to see us having more impact on student learning. I would love that journey to continue,” he says. So far Claeys has changed the lesson structures and introduced Google platform to the school

“The outdoors is a big part of life at Bredon, be it farming, climbing or canoeing” - “it really helps students with organisation, not having paperwork,” he says - now he wants “to make more of our outdoor education”. The outdoors is a big part of life at Bredon whether it’s farming or climbing, shooting or canoeing, a fact recognised by the ISI when it noted that this emphasis “contributes strongly to pupils’ physical and mental health”. Claeys’s aim is to see if pupils can gain proper qualifications in outdoor activities such as farming and recreational sports. For example, with climbing “rather than students just doing it here, could they get qualified, leave and become climbing instructors?” he says. To say that there is a ‘can-do’ attitude at Bredon is a little like noting the Pope is a good Catholic. What’s more, all the staff I speak to have bought into its philosophy wholesale and all press upon me how special the school is. The recent ISI report noted that the students said their confidence levels had shot up at Bredon. For Claeys it is very simple. “You need confidence to achieve, a child who thinks he can do something will do it,” he says. “We give them a chance again to shine.” SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 61


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SEN A Special Educational Needs expert on what to do if you are concerned about your child BERNADETTE JOHN


aybe you notice that your child seems to have a great number of tummy aches on school mornings. Or the class teacher seems to be frequently asking you for a word. Sometimes it’s a nagging doubt when your child, who has previously met milestones as expected, just doesn’t seem to be mastering reading and writing. However it arrives, the sense that ‘something isn’t quite right’ with your child is never welcome, and a typical reaction is to find reasons to dismiss it – it’s how boys are; it’s because she is summer born; it’s because he’s the youngest/eldest in the family. Parents often worry about seeking a formal assessment or drawing the school’s attention to their concerns, thinking this may in some way label the child or prejudice a future school against him. But quite the opposite is true. Around 40 per cent of children will have special educational needs (SEN) at some point

in their school career. The definition of SEN is merely something that makes it more difficult for them to learn than other children. Longer-term conditions account for around 15-20 per cent of cases; the others will have issues which could be mitigated with the right interventions – anything from dyslexia strategies to mental health support. Identifying any difficulties your child has will help to get the right provision in place; failing to do so can mean she will fall further behind, or may react through frustration in a way which school interprets as bad behaviour. If you are hearing alarm bells, the first thing you should do is ask for a meeting with the class teacher (primary) or the head of year/special needs co-ordinator (secondary). Don’t try to raise these issues

“Around 40% of childen will have SEN at some point in their school career”

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at parents’ evening when you only have a couple of minutes to talk; and a quick chat at the end of the school day will not be taken as seriously. It’s best to take to the meeting a log of incidents or issues which are causing you concern. Have there been several reports of bad behaviour or inattention in class, or missed homework? Is your child progressing at a snail’s pace through the reading scheme or getting unexpectedly low grades? Is your child frequently tearful or blowing up at the end of the school day, or trying everything to frustrate you getting out of the house in the morning? The school will have the big picture of all other children at that age, so they will be able to quickly dispel any unfounded concerns. But if they accept there may be an issue, ask what they can do to help. It can be worth getting an educational psychologist’s (EP) assessment. This

“Take a log of incidents or issues which are causing concern to your first meeting” will look into every aspect of your child’s learning and will be able to identify perhaps that he has a high IQ but has processing difficulties which are affecting his concentration and application, or perhaps he shows signs of dyslexia. You have no obligation to share any such report, so you needn’t fear that matters will run away with you – but it would be unwise not to discuss the findings with school. As well as identifying any difficulties, the report will also guide schools and parents on measures they should be taking, and any equipment which might help. The Good Schools Guide can give you details of private EPs in your area. Costs can vary widely – budget for around £500-£1,000. Many schools will be happy to put additional help in place (in some cases this will come at extra cost); but occasionally you might find school will either say that they do not have the right expertise or resources, or they think your child may be better off elsewhere. Suggestions to move on come particularly when there’s a change

in key stage looming – they may not wish to take your child forward into the prep, or from the prep to senior. There’s an important distinction in the independent sector in that schools are not compelled to make provision for children with SEN in the same way that state schools are. Painful and unfair as it might seem, if your school is being unhelpful and putting up barriers, your energies will be better spent on finding an alternative school. In these circumstances your EP report becomes a shopping list. You need to check with prospective schools whether they are willing and able to carry out its recommendations. A number of mainstream schools have well-staffed and well-qualified learning support departments which can provide this kind of help. And don’t be afraid to consider the specialist schools, which can provide well targeted interventions, enabling the child to return to mainstream a couple of years later. Children can blossom and take huge leaps in these schools – not only because they now have the right tools to learn with, but also because they are relieved from the battering to their self-confidence of struggling to keep up. It can take considerable sifting to work out which schools will be best for your child. Often schools which provide excellent help keep it under the radar, because they don’t want to attract too many children with additional needs which will overwhelm their support staff. Others can build a good reputation for this which then changes

overnight if a new head wants to up the academic ante instead. You need to grill them thoroughly, or employ an education consultancy with SEN expertise to help you winkle out the gems. But the important thing to remember when you feel that quake in the pit of your stomach is that conditions like dyslexia and ADHD also bring with them creativity, courage, lateral ways of thinking, vivid imagination and scores of other advantages. Victoria Beckham has dyslexia, as does This Morning’s Holly Willoughby. Playwright Jimmy McGovern, with his tremendous ear for dialogue which produced the likes of Cracker, didn’t talk until he was eight. Einstein is thought to have had Asperger’s Syndrome. Olympian Michael Phelps and singer Justin Timberlake both have ADHD. Your child may well turn out to be exceptional.

BERNADETTE JOHN A director at The Good Schools Guide, which reviews mainstream and special schools and offers an education consultancy goodschoolsguide.co.uk SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 65

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Could retrained reflexes be at the root of your child’s dyslexia? Psychologist Sarah Warley says that simple blockages can manifest as learning difficulties PENDLE HARTE


e’re in a stylishly converted barn in Buckinghamshire and my 10-yearold daughter is being instructed to stand on one leg. And to close her eyes. Next she’s asked to crawl across the floor on her stomach; then to walk backwards in a straight line. All of this is part of a neurodevelopmental assessment, but we’re not here with any physical concerns – we’re concerned with her poor spelling, reading and handwriting. The connection between standing on one leg and literacy isn’t immediately apparent, but we’re here because nothing so far has explained her inability to learn in the same way as her peers. My daughter has always been spirited. That’s a euphemism for difficult. I was used to her not wanting to wear certain socks, not liking any change of plan however minor, and permanently feeling hard done

“Interestingly, 95% of those diagnosed with dyslexia have a retained reflex”

by, thanks to an overdeveloped – even forensic – sense of justice. She’s vocal, outspoken, angry. She’s also funny, warm and insightful, but the council’s educational psychologist didn’t say anything about that. When she entered Year 5 with a reading age well behind her peers, no pen licence and an absolute inability to spell any of the High Frequency words, her confidence was at an all time low. “I’m a rubbish girl. There’s no use to me,” she told me one night, heartbreakingly. It was in Year 2 that we had been told about her Specific Learning Difficulties. Probably dyslexia, but they weren’t keen on labels. We’d known, of course. She’d always been different from her elder sister and there were lots ABOVE of dyslexics in our families: my Child psychologist partner, my brother, my cousins Sarah Warley and likely previous generations ABOVE RIGHT comes down to the nice of undiagnosed people. Now Simple realignment exercises plump woman who sits they’re just adults with illegible with you and in a kindly, handwriting and erratic spelling, prodding voice, suggests but the main force of dyslexia is that you try again… the utter it makes the process of learning things abysmal useless cruelty of this has difficult. Adults have learnt to make do, but never occurred to a teacher.” Why force it’s at school that the struggle happens. a child into more spelling when spelling I had resisted tutoring for the reasons just doesn’t work for her? Our attempts expressed by famous dyslexic AA Gill in at home to revise for spelling tests always his memoir Pour Me. He complains: “The ended in tears, even when her set words medicine given to dyslexic children is more got progressively easier – Year 2s routinely work, extra writing, remedial reading, come home with lists of ambitious spellings more numbers… the answer to all learning (champagne, indecent, occasionally) which difficulties is more teaching. It always

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are intended to build on core words already learnt (house, where, song etc), but none of this works for someone who simply fails to see how combinations of letters make words. Child psychologist Sarah Warley agrees. She’s interested in helping children with learning issues by getting to the root of the issues, rather than focusing on the symptoms. With a background in experimental psychology, her work in neuroplasticity focuses on the brain’s ability to heal itself, defying commonly held theories that learning becomes impossible as you age. Not true, she says – “the brain is plastic from cradle to grave.” Her research shows that certain reversible neurological blockages can lead to learning difficulties, and clearing these blockages will remove the difficulties. According to her, it’s extremely simple. Warley launched the Key Clinic in Buckinghamshire, which is rapidly gaining popularity locally and she is opening a London base in September. But ideally, she’d like to see children routinely treated in schools using her methods, which she believes SEN departments could implement quickly and easily. And this is why my daughter is standing on one leg. A variety of observations reveal her static balance to be poor, and overall the

assessment reveals neurodevelopmental delays, with the persistence of many primitive reflexes which should have integrated by six months of age. These are what are ‘blocking’ the regular functioning of many of her systems. It could have been her speedy birth that caused the retention – we’ll never know for sure, though the fact that she never crawled suggests that there was a missed developmental stage early on. In particular, the retained ​Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) is shown to be interfering with her horizontal eye tracking and her hand/eye coordination. These are needed for reading and writing – interestingly, 95% of those diagnosed with dyslexia have a retained ATNR. This means that much additional cognitive effort is required to read and write, which makes a lot of sense in the context of my daughter. Over the following few months, each retained primitive reflex is addressed individually with a series of simple, targeted exercises which take about 10 minutes at home each evening. Return visits to the clinic reveal distinct improvements in her hand/eye co-ordination, her static balance and her spatial awareness. Once our daughter stops having to work so hard simply to keep her balance, her

cognitive faculties will be free to focus on things like spelling. The Key Clinic has an impressive book of effusive testimonials from overjoyed families of children with a huge variety of diagnosed conditions spanning Asperger’s, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and others, while Sarah Warley continues her research into making these methods more widely available and understood.

The Key Clinic will open its new London clinic on 2nd September 2019 at 48 South Molton Street, W1K 5SA. The clinic will provide neuroplastic, auditory and nutritional treatment and cranial osteopathy in a central location that will satisfy the demand from London-based families. The West Berkshire clinic will continue to treat children who live in the Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire areas thekeyclinic.co.uk

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ABOVE Children with autism experiment with facial expressions



A pioneering theatre group is having remarkable results staging Shakespeare's plays with autisic children FLORA THOMAS

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RIGHT Taking part in the hearbeat circle BELOW A Flute actor BELOW RIGHT Flute production of The Tempest


lute Theatre is an ensemble of pioneering actors pushing the boundaries of Shakespeare performance for interactive audiences of children with autism. The company was founded and is led by British actor and director Kelly Hunter. Hunter has spent the last 15 years devising the ‘Hunter Heartbeat Method’, a series of distinctive, sensory games for children and young people with autism. The games are derived from what the actor refers to as Shakespeare’s ‘obsession’ with four words which appear more than any other in his 36 plays: eyes, mind, reason and love (for example: ‘Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind’ Helena, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Hamlet’s

coining of the phrase ‘The Mind’s Eye’). Autistic children struggle with expressing the feelings of their mind’s eye, they can’t easily inflect their voices or physically show how they feel. Austism doesn’t stop them from thinking, it hinders the emotional communication of real life. Hunter’s games use rhythmic language and physical gesture to release communicative blocks by embedding eye contact, speech and language, inflection, spatial awareness, facial expressions and imaginative play, the games help children experience the joy of being understood. Many children with autism live in nearconstant anxiety, not knowing what to expect from the next moment. For most of us, our heartbeat acts as a barometer of feelings of sorts, often changing before we’ve thought about how to react to something. The iambic pentameter of Shakespeare’s verse mimics the rhythm

of a heartbeat, so each session begins with a ‘heartbeat circle’. The children sit in a circle, alongside actors, and are taught to tap their chests rhythmically. Once a steady rhythm has been established, they learn to know what to expect from the next moment - another beat, whereby quelling their anxiety. Then, a word - hello - is introduced, so as each child taps their chest they say ‘hello’ to another, and then that child repeats it to another, and so on. Once this habit is formed, facial expressions of emotion are introduced to the circle. A key struggle for people with autism is making and understanding emotion, and Shakespeare’s characters are inextricably linked to emotion (King Leah is depressed, Juliet is in love and so on). In the Flute performance of The Tempest, for example, Caliban is introduced as an angry character, so ‘hello’ is thrown around the room angrily, with a scowl. The cognitive change in children who play this game is profound: the performances have seen non-verbal children speak for the first time. If you think of autism as an extended panic attack, then necessarily the heartbeat will struggle to plateau. “We’ve discovered that if we sit and make these steady heartbeats in a circle, and say hello, often the children are a steadier version of themselves. The calm which emerges in the children is palpable," says Hunter.

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ABOVE Kelly Hunter, director RIGHT Flute's performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Romania

She tells me the story of a child who participated in the games last year: “His mother said that he slept through the night for the first time. He was six years old. The families of children on the spectrum live in states of anxiety too, so to be able to offer some respite from that is amazing.” In each performance, up to 15 children or young people on the autism spectrum become participants, sitting with six actors on the stage while families and carers sit just behind. The actors invite the participants to help them unravel Shakespeare’s story through the games. While the games and narrative remain the same for each performance, the show is completely different each time depending on the nature of the young people who attend. Through this method, students encounter Shakespeare’s poetic exploration of how it feels to be alive, focusing on how people see, think and feel. As a theatre practice, the Hunter Heartbeat Method lives and breathes in a theatre setting, “It sits outside of education yet complements it at the same

time. It doesn’t tick boxes in terms of passing exams, and specialist schools have enormous pressure to get their pupils through exams. The work we do is based on awakening the spirit and letting the children experience what it feels like to be alive through Shakespeare. We use the plays to encourage children to have an immersive experience in their lives,” says Hunter. It’s clear the actor doesn’t want to ‘over-promote’ the method, in order to protect it and not risk it being diluted. That being said, it’s growing in its reach. When we speak, Hunter is in Sweden, making her third full-scale Shakespeare production - Pericles - for children with autism and their families (the first was The Tempest and the second was The Dream, both in the UK). “There is some dialogue, but you don’t have to have a huge amount of language to play the games. Mostly it’s a conversation between the body and the soul.”

Flute Theatre has been working with the Neuroscience Department at UCL, using the Hunter Heartbeat Method in the research of cognitive systems engaged in social interactions and imaginative play. The work investigates why the games are valuable as therapies for children with autism, and the initial findings of five year’s work will be presented to the public on 15 and 16 May at the Bloomsbury Theatre thebloomsbury.com • The next Flute Theatre production is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at the Bridge Theatre from 25 June until 12 July bridgetheatre.co.uk



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WHAT’S WRONG? Coming to terms with the fact that your child is wired differently can be hard, says a parenting expert ELAINE HALLIGAN


ociety favours children and adults who conform. We are quick to judge those who present differently. If our children behave inappropriately we often believe the behaviour is a reflection of our parenting. The notion that our children may be less acceptable for being different breaks our hearts and being judged by others can be one of a parent’s biggest fears. It is something I experience often, as I am the parent of a child who is different. His sensitive, intense and impulsive temperament meant that at home and at school his behaviour was problematic. So problematic that by the age of seven he had been excluded from his third school in so many years. His self-esteem was shattered and his educational prospects were effectively written off.

“He was diagnosed with so many three-letter abbreviations he became known as the alphabet kid”

I sensed that Sam was different from an early age, at playgroups when the other kids would be getting stuck into messy play with sand and mud and finger paints, Sam would be disengaged and wandering off to do something else. He hated having foods touching on his plate and would complain vociferously if the ketchup touched his chips. Hair washing elicited such screams that the neighbours would be forgiven for thinking we were sticking hot needles in his eyes. Instead of wearing a coat and trousers in Baltic winter conditions, he would leave the house electing to wear shorts, earning me many disapproving looks. We bought into the parenting myth that what he needed was good old-fashioned discipline, so we nagged, repeated instructions, cajoled, bribed, threatened and punished. I quickly became a shoutaholic. We had no idea how to get the best out of him as we didn’t understand his

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LEFT Children with 'orchid' temperaments need spcial care to nurture their growth

successful and that they enter adult life as resilienct people, able to cope with whatever life throws at them. We sensed our son was a good and capable boy with a strong moral compass. On many occasions he couldn't help what he did. When we asked him why he had thrown my prized Jo Malone candle on the floor, he said “I don’t know. I just could not help myself.” He was impulsive and lacked self-control but that did not make him a bad person. Sam was a child with an ‘orchid’ temperament, meaning that he needed special care to nurture his growth, whereas his sister was a ‘dandelion’: robust and resilient, who seemed to thrive anywhere. Our children are born with a temperament that provides their default position for interaction with the world, but biology is not destiny. Parents play a vital role in unlocking their child’s potential and, through positive parenting and understanding, there is hope. If you have a child who is wired differently what steps can you take to support him?


needs or his temperament and very quickly our sweet boy became labelled as ‘the naughty one.’ Our son’s needs were varied and complex and although we now know he is severely dyslexic, he was diagnosed with so many three letter abbreviations he became known as the Alphabet kid. First it was Autistic Spectrum disorder (ASD), then Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The professionals then threw in a bit of Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) for good measure and when finally we were told that our son had Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) I came home and cried. Parents’ observations of their children are usually astute and I often tell clients that they are the expert on their child. It may be that you don’t know what the problem is but you sense something is not right. You may have started to catastrophise as you know the stakes get higher as they get older. We all want to ensure our children are happy and

Children behave better, take more responsibility, try new things and are more resilient when they have good self-esteem. Approve and affirm them by commenting on what they are doing well, rather than focusing your attention on the more challenging behaviour. Criticism is demotivating and lowers self-esteem.


How your child feels influences how he behaves. We need to help our children recognise and manage their emotions. This means accepting all their feelings and letting them know we understand. It doesn’t mean you permit poor behaviour.


Punishment is often delivered in anger and with criticism, and it makes children feel badly about themselves. No learning can take place when a child is afraid or feels resentful and it often results in rebellion. Problem-solve with your child and teach consequences. When a child whines, instead of criticising and scolding them, try to say: “It’s hard for me to hear you like that. Please use your strong voice and that way I can listen.” Two key factors for us were getting our son into the right educational environment and doing positive parenting courses. We experienced such transformational results that I retrained as a parenting coach. Now I’m a director of The Parent Practice and have a new sense of purpose to my life, helping parents understand their children and guiding them to maximise their strengths and unlock their potential.


When we understand what is causing bad behaviour we can remain calm and help children learn. It can be very simple – they’re tired, bored, hungry or unwell or it could be more complex. They could expressing an emotion, their brains are immature, they have a different agenda from ours, we are inconsistent or perhaps we are modelling poor behaviours.

ELAINE HALLIGAN London director of The Parent Practice

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Question TIME

A Gabbitas Consultant and SEN Specialist has the answers to your questions

and work around their needs to access the curriculum. A confident child is an enthused, engaged and happy child – and a happy child will thrive.

ANASTASIA HATVANY SEN Specialist Gabbitas Education

Q: What should you do if you think your child has Special Educational Needs? A: We try not to, but we’re only human: we compare our brood at the school gate, over a cup of coffee, and on the touch line... ‘How is my child doing? What reading scheme are they on? Have they been invited to so and so’s party?' But sometimes a gnawing thought returns with regular monotony – your child isn’t doing as well as their friends, there’s rather a lot of ‘dragging of feet’ before school and they seem exhausted when you collect them. The child who was brimming over with confidence a couple of terms ago is a shadow of their former self and you know something is not right. For a lot of parents, coming to terms

A B OV E Confident pupils at Bredon School

“Many children with autism find the routine at boarding school comforting and familiar”

with the fact that their child has SEN is difficult and it takes a mental gearchange. The old adage ‘children are your hostage to happiness’ has never been truer. So begins the process of better understanding their needs, arranging the right support and helping them maximise their potential. The staff at the nursery or school will more than likely be having the same concerns as you. Your first port of call should be to speak to them. The teacher will be able to tell you how they can help your child in class and will arrange a meeting with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENco) at the school. They may suggest that an educational psychologist’s report would help generate suitable recommendations for teachers, parents and other professionals. Looking to the future and senior schools: speak to the Head or professionals who are familiar with the most suitable schools to help develop a child’s functional ability

Q: Is a boarding school the right place for a child with mild autism? A: The answer is entirely dependent on the child, the parents, the ethos and facilities of the school and the Head. When considering a mainstream boarding school, a parent needs to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the child and of the school. However much a parent would like a particular school to cater to their child’s needs, if the structure is not in place, disappointment is inevitable. Time needs to be set aside for parents to talk to the Head and ideally parents who have children at the school with a similar diagnosis. Does the Head feel, with all the good will in the world, that this school is a suitable environment for a child with mild autism? Can the school support the child? Is there good communication between the subject teachers and the SEN Department? Is the pastoral care second to none? Is the House Master/Mistress experienced? What is the accommodation like? Is there be privacy? What is the average size of the class? What is the school’s policy regarding screen-time? What foreseeable problems do the parents envisage? Many children with mild autism find the routine at a boarding school comforting and familiar – the timetable doesn’t change and there are clear expectations to adhere to – the bell rings and the child knows to settle down to complete homework, the bell rings and they know it will soon be time to go to sleep. SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 75

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Any school is a microcosm of society – there is a mix of kind people and mean people, thoughtful people and selfish people, amusing people and dull people. And people don’t suddenly change when they start to work in an office – an adult with mild autism who works in any environment will come across the same people and will have to deal with the same situations they have come across and dealt with at a school. The three main traits that all people with autism share are: difficulty with social communication, difficulty with social interaction and difficulty with social imagination. Autism Spectrum Disorder is such a wide brush stroke of a diagnosis that I have no doubt that some boarding school environments are the correct place for a child with mild autism to thrive – is it the right place for your child? That’s another question entirely. Q: What is Dyscalculia and what help can my child get? A: Dyscalculia isn’t just being ‘rubbish at maths’ and is not caused by a lack of educational opportunities. It is a recognised, specific learning disorder that can often occur alongside dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD. Dyscalculia presents itself as difficulties in mathematics below the norm for an individual’s age. There is no ‘typical’ dyscalculic but there are common themes that a learner with the condition will encounter: understanding simple number concepts, problems with number sense and memorising arithmetic facts and fluent calculations. This will inevitably lead to high levels of mathematical anxiety and it can be a downward spiral as the learner will be hesitant to answer questions in class and will become withdrawn. Help for dyscalculia comes from home and school. Working with the school in tandem is imperative to help any child with dyscalculia. Parents should liaise with the SENco regarding what level of informal support is available. On a practical level, a child with dyscalculia should try and learn how to ‘self-advocate’ and ask for help. The tendency will be for a child to ‘lie low’ and not draw attention to their condition but if they can feel empowered to ask for support, the progress will be immeasurable. There are also lots of fun ways to do

“Working in tandem with the school is imperative to help any child with dyscalculia” stress-free maths practice at home and during the weekends. Once the condition has been identified, parents should keep in contact with the school and determine whether the support and services are working. Being sensitive to any emotional impact is key and to look out for any signs of anxiety, withdrawal or frustration especially when exams are looming. Although the condition will not vanish or be cured, the support a child receives from home and school will make an enormous difference to their academic and emotional journey.

BELOW Children with ADHD are boisterous and creative

Q: How do I know if my child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? A: Every child gazes out of the window, forgets their books, mislays their school jumper and speaks without thinking. But what if a child finds it difficult to pay attention, is always fidgeting and is impulsive and is also forgetful, dreamy and loses too many items? The combination would be the warning signals that a child may have ADHD. Unfortunately, too often children with the above traits are labelled as

troublemakers, undisciplined and irritating. It can be very difficult to distinguish between a lively child aged seven and ADHD which has gone undiagnosed. But just to complicate matters, some children with ADHD are not bouncing off the walls and disrupting everyone but instead are sitting quietly with their attention miles away. Obviously, the main concern is that ADHD gets in the way of learning. Medication is often prescribed for but it is not the only option and might not be the best one. Effective treatment also includes education, behaviour therapy, support at home and school, exercise and nutrition. With the right support, there is no reason why a child can’t succeed. Indeed, there are many positives to ADHD, like the energy and drive that occurs when a child is focused on a task. The spontaneity and enthusiasm that come with ADHD and the lively, engaging personalities. Children with ADHD also have a flexible approach to problem solving as they are thinking about so many different options. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, children with ADHD are hugely creative and imaginative.

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Prices are per person based on two people sharing and include return flights. Available on various departures June 2019. Subject to availability. For full T&Cs visit letsgo2.com. Prices correct as of 18/04/2019

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SEN SCHOOLS Looking outside the mainstream? Here are some alternatives to consider LIBERTY BRETT

Abingdon House School

Location: Marylebone, NW1 Area of SEND expertise: Supporting SpLD: dyslexia and dyspraxia, as well as social communication difficulties and associated needs. Age range: 5 - 17 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Day USP: Offers a ‘Highly Commended’ integrated therapy approach abingdonhouseschool.co.uk

Bredon School

Location: Gloucestershire, GL20 Area of SEND expertise: Supporting SpLD: dyslexia and dyspraxia Age range: 7 - 18 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Day and boarding USP: Extensive outdoor education curriculum including on-site school farm bredonschool.org

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Bruern Abbey School

The Moat School

Frewen College

Gretton School

Trinity School & College

Limpsfield Grange

Location: Oxfordshire, OX26 Area of SEND expertise: Dyslexia and other learning difficulties Age range: 7 - 13 Single sex or co-ed: Boys Boarding or day: Flexible USP: Specific focus on preparing boys with learning difficulties for entrance to mainstream independent senior schools bruernabbey.org

Location: Cambridgeshire, CB3 Area of SEND expertise: High-functioning ASD and Asperger’s Syndrome Age range: 5 - 19 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Day and boarding USP: On-site Forest School grettonschool.com

The Holmewood School

Location: Fulham, SW6 Area of SEND expertise: Supporting SpLD: dyslexia and dyspraxia Age range: 9 - 16 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Day USP: Award-winning programme pairing older and younger pupils to help overcome reading challenges moatschool.org.uk

LEFT Appleford School pupils BELOW Swalcliffe Park family day

Location: Kent, ME1 Area of SEND expertise: Dyslexia, dyspraxia and ASD Age range: 6 - 25 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Day USP: New college building opening Sept 2019, featuring hair & beauty salon, restaurant, construction centre etc trinityschoolrochester.co.uk

Location: East Sussex, TN31 Area of SEND expertise: For children with specific learning difficulty or speech and language disorder Age range: 7 - 18 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Day and boarding USP: Recently awarded ‘Best Dyslexia Friendly School’ by the British Dyslexia Association frewencollege.co.uk

Location: Oxted, RH8 Area of SEND expertise: For those with communication and interaction needs Age range: 11 - 16 Single sex or co-ed: Girls Girls Boarding or day: Day and boarding USP: Rated Outstanding by Ofsted limpsfield-grange.surrey.sch.uk

Location: Finchley, N12 Area of SEND expertise: High-functioning ASD and Asperger’s Syndrome Age range: 7 - 19 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Day USP: On-site therapy centre, including award-winning Occupational Therapy cafe thsl.org.uk

Appleford School

Location: Wiltshire, SP3 Area of SEND expertise: Dyslexia and other learning specific difficulties such as dyspraxia and dyscalculia Age range: 7 - 18 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Boarding USP: Recently awarded the prestigious ISA award for Outstanding Sport appleford.wilts.sch.uk SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 79

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INDEPENDENT DAY SCHO OL FOR GIRL S AGED 4 TO 18 IN SOU TH KENSINGTON — Queen’s Gate School offers girls a warm, supportive environment where individuality is nurtured, academic standards are high and a broad-based curriculum ensures a well-rounded education.

Senior School Open Mornings · 9.30 am Wednesday 8 May · Friday 21 June 2019 To book, please visit www.queensgate.org.uk For a prospectus or to arrange a private visit, please contact the Registrar, Mrs Ceili Roberts-Beresford: — registrar@queensgate.org.uk · 020 7594 4982

Queen’s Gate School, 131–133 Queen’s Gate, London SW7 5LE

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Boys 13 - 18 • Boarding and Day

OPEN MORNINGS 2019 Saturday 18th May Saturday 5th October

Come and see our new Barton Science Centre


Scholarships & Bursaries available at 11+, 13+ and 16+ Admissions: 01732 304297 • Email: admissions@tonbridge-school.org /TonbridgeUK





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Boarding or day: Day USP: The school has separate junior and senior locations fairleyhouse.org.uk

Emerson House

Location: Hammersmith, W6 Area of SEND expertise: Supporting SpLD: dyslexia and dyspraxia. Also supports children who are struggling in their existing school. Age range: 6 - 11 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Day USP: The headteacher started her career in children’s book publishing emersonhouse.co.uk

Maple Ridge

More House School

Location: Farnham, GU10 Area of SEND expertise: SpLD Age range: 8 - 18 Single sex or co-ed: Boys Boarding or day: Day and boarding USP: Largest school of its kind in Britain morehouseschool.co.uk

Swalcliffe Park Location: Oxfordshire, OX15 Area of SEND expertise: ASD Age range: 11 - 19 Single sex or co-ed: Boys Boarding or day: Day and boarding USP: Special focus on working alongside children's families swalcliffepark.oxon.sch

Wilds lodge

Location: East Midlands, LE15 Area of SEND expertise: Social, emotional and mental health difficulties Age range: 5 - 19

ABOVE Learning phonics at Holmewood School

Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Day and boarding USP: The school has received nine consecutive Outstanding ratings by Oftsed since opening in 2007 wildslodgeschool.co.uk

Swiss Cottage

Location: Camden, NW8 Area of SEND expertise: Children with complex learning difficulties Age range: 2 - 19 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Day USP: As a designated Teaching School, Swiss Cottages works collaboratively with a network of schools and organisations to engage with research and innovation. swisscottage.camden.sch.uk

Fairley House

Location: Pimlico, SW1P Area of SEND expertise: Specific learning difficulties, mainly dyslexia and dyspraxia Age range: 5 - 16 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed

Location: Hampshire, RG21 Area of SEND expertise: Moderate learning difficulties and ASD Age range: 4 - 11 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Day USP: Supports all children and their families by ensuring a safe environment mapleridge.hants.sch.uk

Limespring School

Location: East Finchley, N2 Area of SEND expertise: Specialises in supporting children with dyslexia and dyspraxia Age range: 7 - 11 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Day USP: Maximum class size of eight pupils limespringschool.co.uk

Anderson School

Location: Essex, IG7 Area of SEND expertise: Autism specialist. Specificaly prepares young people for employment and training Age range: 11-19 Single sex or co-ed: Co-ed Boarding or day: Day USP: Works in partnership with the National Autistic Society autism.org.uk/services/nas-schools/ anderson.aspx SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 81

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TOP SUMMER M U ST READ There are some amazing books published for children this summer with wide selection of new fiction and nonfiction for pre-school tinies to teens. From a disturbing story about a girl who thinks she's a bird to a whip-smart comedy about being ordinary, to a story about a tiger who saves an Indian princess, to a perceptive story about sibling rivalry, there's something for everyone here




OUR CASTLE BY THE SEA b y Lucy Strange



rowing up in a lighthouse, 11-year-old Petra’s world has been one of storms, secret tunnels and stories about sea monsters. But now England is at war, the clifftops are a terrifying battleground, and her family is torn apart. This is the story of a girl who is small, afraid and unnoticed. A girl who freezes with fear at the enemy planes ripping through the skies overhead. A girl who is somehow destined to become part of the strange, ancient legend of the Daughters of Stone… Chosen as Children’s Book of the Week by The Times, comes an exciting wartime mystery entwined with magic and myth.



by Neil Gaiman illustrated by D iva Srinivasan BLOOMSBURY, £7.99

In a hot, hot country, lives a princess called Cinnamon. Her eyes are made of pearls, leaving her blind. And, for reasons her parents the Rajah and Rani cannot fathom, she will not talk. So they offer a reward to anyone who can teach Cinnamon to speak. People travel from far and wide to attempt it, to no avail. Until a mighty tiger prowls into their palace and announces that he is here to teach the girl-cub to talk … This boldly coloured picture book set in a mythic India is by the multi-award winning and bestselling author Neil Gaiman, and illustrated in bold colors by Divya Srinivasan. Now out in paperback.

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5+ 4+

The Phoenix of Persia

Editor's pick

b y Sally Pomme Clayton i l l u s t r a t e d b y Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif TINY OWL , £12 .99

This tale, gloriously illustrated by Iranian artist Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif, is based on a story from the Shahnameh, one of the great epics of world literature by the 10th century Iranian poet Ferdowsi. From global literature publishers Tiny Owl, it is the second in its One Story, Many Voices series and is an exciting collaboration between music, art and literature. Readers can access an accompanying original Iranian musical composition using the QR code in the introduction of the book by scanning the code using the camera on your smartphone (you don't need an app).





b y Christopher Edge

B y Kirsty Applebaum

NOSY CROW, £6.99


Available 6 June, 2019

NOSY CROW, £6.99

Eleven-year-old Maggie lives a dystopian world, enclosed and protected from the ‘outside’ by a boundary, beyond which the Quiet War rages. Her brother Jed is a revered eldest, her younger brother Trig is adored. But Maggie’s just a middler; invisible and left behind. Then she meets Una, a hungry wanderer in need of help, and everything Maggie has ever known gets turned on its head. This is a gripping story about forbidden friendship and the frustrations of being a middle child.


NOT MY FAULT B y Cath Howe NOSY CROW, £6.99

Maya and Rose won't talk to each other. Even though they are sisters. Not since the accident. Maya is running wild, and Rose doesn't know what to do. Now Maya and Rose have to go away together on a week-long school journey. But will the trip - and a life-threatening adventure - fix their relationship... or break it for good? We loved Cath Howe’s previous book, Ella on the Outside, and this is just as good. Howe, a primary school teacher, is so perceptive about girl friendships and here she understands the complications of being a sister, too. A heart-warming and necessary read.

hristopher Edge already has a dedicated fanbase for his breathtaking stories that mix science, time travel and thrilling adventure. This is no exception. When Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny go exploring in the woods they find themselves trapped in a nightmare. Lost in the woods, strange dangers and impossible puzzles lurk in the shadows. As time plays tricks, can Charlie solve this mystery and find a way out of the woods? But what if this night never ends…? Edge manages yet again to introduce daring, complex ideas but deliver them in a way that children not only understand but get to enjoy a thrilling ride, too. But watch out, this one is quite scary.

SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 83


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Rumblestar b y Abi Elphinstone



A MOON GIRL STOLE MY FRIEND b y Rebecca Patterson



t’s 2099. Lyla lives in a world of robocats, flying sweets and instant snow, but some things never change. Little brothers are still annoying, school teachers make you cringe, and, when your best friend deserts you for the super-cool new girl from the Moon Colony, it still really HURTS. With a sharp ear for dialogue and a keen understanding of playground dynamics, this is a humourous friendship story with a sci-fi twist, published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the moon landings. Full of quirky illustrations, it’s perfect for newly confident readers.

Abi Elphinstone writes strong female characters and fantastic adventures. Her 2018 book Sky Song was a snowswept tale of magic and friendship that was a Waterstones Book of the Month and nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Rumblestar is the first book in a new series, The Unmapped Chronicles. Its hero is 11-year-old Casper Tock, who hates risk and is allergic to adventures. When the kingdom of Rumblestar is threatened by the evil Morg, he must team up with Utterly Thankless a girl who hates rules and is allergic to behaving.


The Boy Who Flew by Fleur Hitchcock NOSY CROW, £6.99

Athan Wilde dreams of flying. When his friend, the inventor Mr Chen, is murdered, Athan must rescue the flying machine they were building together and stop it falling into the wrong hands. But keeping the machine safe puts his family in terrible danger. What will Athan choose – flight or family? A brilliant, atmospheric thriller set in an intricately imagined world with an air of Dickensian gothic, from the acclaimed author of Murder in Midwinter.

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Extraordinary Birds


Editor's pick

b y Sandy Stark-McGinnis BLOOMSBURY, £6.99

This is the story of a troubled 11-yearold, December, who thinks she’s a bird. Growing up in - and getting kicked out of - a succession of foster homes, she even believes the scars on her back must be where are wings have started to blossom. When she’s placed with a new foster mother who volunteers at a wildlife rescue centre, December begins to question her past and accept her present. At times overwhelming and sometimes confusing, this is a moving story about identity, belonging and our universal need for love by established poet Stark-McGinnis.




YOU'RE CRUSHING IT b y Lex Croucher

b y William Sutcliffe





A survival guide for teens from YouTuber Lex Croucher. Whilst somewhat millennial in tone and overuse of aphorisms, Croucher's book has practical advice on coping with issues such as family and friends, body confidence, technology and social media, relationships, mental health, success and more.


THE KING OF THE GOLDEN RIVER b y John Ruskin, i l l u s t r a t e d b y Quentin Blake THAME S & HUDSON, £14.95

First published 150 years ago, John Ruskin’s only children’s story is still relevant today, with its message about life, greed and the environment. Readers of any age will respond to young Gluck’s adventures, brought to life for the first time in colour in Quentin Blake’s witty and atmospheric illustrations.

ifteen-year-old Sam is ordinary and proud of it. None of which was a problem until Dad got rich and Mum made the whole family move to London. Now Sam's off to the North London Academy for the Gifted and Talented, where everyone's busy planning Hollywood domination or starting alt-metal psychedelica crossover bands. Sam knows he'll never belong, even if he wanted to. And that's before he ends up on stage wearing nothing but a fur onesie… This is a brilliant, laugh-outloud story about fitting in, falling out and staying true to yourself. An Adrian Mole for the 21st century, Sam is a fabulous comic creation, as is his on-a-voyage-of-discovery mum. Surprisingly moving, too. A really funny, clever story to give your teens.

SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 85


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GET ACTIVE The best family holidays happen when everyone does something together JASMINE ROBERTSON


amily holidays are the gift that keeps on giving. Think back to your most cherished childhood memories and consider the ones that were made on a family trip. The Family Holiday Association found that 49% of British people said they created their happiest memories while being on a holiday with their family. However, there is more to travel than those moments spent together and the memories you treasure. Holidays are profoundly beneficial to your child’s development as they offer the chance to have invaluable experiences outside of the classroom and the opportunity to develop into well-rounded individuals.


It can be difficult to tear the family away from their digital screens to spend some quality time together. Even on holiday, often families find themselves naturally

“Family activity holidays allow you to reconnect”

ABOVE AND BELOW Surfing in Portugal

separated into ‘kids’ clubs’ and ‘adult-only’ groups, leaving little time to experience a destination together. Our solution is a family activity holiday. Using activity holidays as a bonding mechanism isn’t a new phenomenon. During team building days in the workplace, unconventional activities are often the focus because they develop skills, require teamwork and help create stronger relationships. Family activity holidays are similar in the way they offer many activities you wouldn’t normally do at home; however, their benefits reach further. They give you the gift of time, plenty of opportunities to put the phones down and more chances to reconnect as a family unit by playing and learning together. The mutual glee when you navigate river rapids together, the children’s new-found confidence as they tackle a canyoning adventure alongside their loved ones, and everyone’s amazement at underwater

worlds filled with marine life are priceless experiences that every family member will talk about for years to come.


Travel is an education that you can’t compare to the lessons in your child’s classroom. It opens the door for new and exciting experiences, discovery of different cultures, and provides the opportunity for children to venture out of their comfort zones, helping to develop new skill sets, broaden their horizons, and understanding of the world. It’s not just for children. Travel is also an opportunity for parents to break from routine, enjoy time away from stresses of day-to-day life, focus on their children and open their eyes to the fun, adventurous side of Mum or Dad. AC T I V I T I E S A B R OA D activitiesabroad.com

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02/05/2019 15:48



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This summer, pick Activities Abroad for your family-approved adventure and spend your time creating unforgettable memories in the great outdoors. Hear the kids screech in delight as you navigate the rapids on a rafting adventure; watch as your family dive into the sea and explore a mystical underwater world; join an expert and wander through rainforests to encounter some of the world’s most fascinating animals; or simply, enjoy stopping for ice-cream and soaking up local sights on a bike ride! a&u




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WILD As the summer holidays draw near, Absolutely Education investigates Camp Wilderness’ summer camps PENDLE HARTE 88 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | SUMMER 2019


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“Returning from Camp Wilderness my daughters are exhausted, filthy and beside themselves with happiness”

Camp Wilderness kids enjoy lake swimming

BELOW The best thing? No rules and no clocks


rriving at the car park having not seen our children for a week, we don’t know what to expect. The camp is quite deep in the woods – a 15 minute trek – and they have been there for five days. Will they have been miserable and homesick? We’re fairly certain they won’t, but you never know. Sending children off to summer camp with no phones means they can’t spend their days staring at tiny screens, but it also means that they can’t phone home. Old school style. In the car park we hear them before we see them. There’s a chanting and stomping coming towards us. As they emerge, we catch some lyrics: a song about

baked beans. A rowdy bunch is striding towards us, their skin partially decorated with amateur tribal markings, large sticks in their hands, among them our children, entirely unrecognizable from the shy, uncertain ones we left here a few days ago and smelling of bonfire. What happened to them? Summer holidays should be about spending time outdoors. They should not be about homework or keeping to the bedtime routine. Our children’s lives are so scheduled, so full of improving activities and timetabling that the six-week break is the only time for them to experience the childhood freedom that, as adults, we fantasise about. Returning from Camp Wilderness, my daughters, aged 9 and 12, are exhausted, filthy and beside themselves with happiness. The best thing, they say, is having no rules and no clocks. “Whenever we asked the time, we’d be told ‘evening time’ or ‘morning time’. They said it was because time

was a social construct. Mummy, what’s a social construct?” The five day camp involves nonstop games, delicious meals (the favourite? dolphin, they insist, which on further questioning turns out to be a creamy potato dish. Everybody of course loves dauphinoise) and lots of freedom. There isn’t even a set bedtime, they report proudly. Children are split into small groups – tribes – and collective activities include shelter-building (those with the most successful shelters actually electing to sleep in their own structures) and lake swimming (freezing) as well as lots of campfire time and the joy of sleeping in a small forest village of teepees. There are also skills: the girls report learning first aid and knots. And the friendships? When we get home to the iPhone, the messages have already begun. Our elder daughter has a whatsapp group chat entitled ‘Wilderness friends’. They are going back this year. Three-day camps £175; fiveday camps £300. Discounts for siblings and groups campwilderness.co.uk SUMMER 2019 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 89


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Creativity in


Mr Nicholas Hewlett, Headmaster, St Dunstan’s College on the importance of creativity in learning


t St Dunstan’s College we have just concluded a superb showing of Chicago the musical. And no sooner has that event passed than we turn attention to our annual festival, held every summer across our sites for our young people to immerse themselves in the joy of creativity. I have always been a huge, unashamed champion of creativity in schools and it concerns me hugely that it is being so downgraded. Research into creativity has indicated that in the US since the mid-1990s, imagination has been in ‘steady and persistent decline’ (Creative Research Journal 2011, 24:3, pp. 285-295). Our young people across the globe are becoming less creative. How shameful! It was Plato who said ‘I would teach young people physics, philosophy and music, but above all else music, for the rubric and structures of music form the foundations of all good

“Pupils are encouraged in all areas of college life to take initiatives and run with them” learning.’ And the same could be said of so many of our more creative subjects. Five hundred years ago, Erasmus was advising educators to teach, amongst other things, mythology, poetry and ethics, as he saw this as the way to achieving the best possible understanding of the world. It seems to me that society has moved too far in the direction of keeping children focused on outcomes, and as a result, the importance of the journey has been

ABOVE Pupils of St Dunstan's perform in Chicago

degraded. By defining goals in life so narrowly we have relegated non-traditional ways of thinking. Innovation, unless it is used to enhance attainment, is to be discouraged. In the UK at the moment, the government is actively encouraging schools to focus on what it calls the academic ‘core’ subjects, and this is a list that mostly does not include the creative arts. The system seems increasingly determined to spoon-feed our children with knowledge set within a narrow spectrum of academic disciplines, such that they have no time to reflect upon the joy of creative thinking. We know that creativity is increasingly considered one of the most important skills in leadership. Why are we downplaying the importance of creativity

in schools? I think that it is because creativity is hard. Henri Mattisse said – ‘Creativity takes courage’ – and I entirely agree with that. Creativity doesn’t need an obvious end or finished product, and that challenges conventional views about learning – it makes it harder. There is good reason why China is investing huge amounts of money into new art and design colleges, and why some technologically advanced countries like Japan and Sweden retain art in the core curriculum of compulsory schooling. The UK must be careful not to be left behind. At St Dunstan’s we are absolute proponents of creativity in all its forms. Our community festival is a triumphant and overtly creative end to our academic year but it runs deeper than this. We are a school where so many elements of the curricular and co-curricular offering are underpinned by creative thinking. Pupils are encouraged in all areas of college life to take initiatives and run with them. Creativity in thinking is essential in schools and it must be supported. After all, Albert Einstein once admitted that ‘I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking’!

To find out more or to arrange a tour of the school, please visit www.stdunstans.org.uk

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Hawkesdown House School

For Boys & Girls aged 2 to 11 years

27 Edge Street, Kensington, London W8 7PN Telephone: 0207 727 9090 Email: admin@hawkesdown.co.uk www.hawkesdown.co.uk

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LEARN • CREATE • EXPLORE WHERE WILL YOUR FUTURE TAKE YOU? Top quality boarding provision from age 7, with superb pastoral care Pick-ups available from Bath Spa Train Station Rated ‘excellent’ in all areas of the latest Inspection Report Over 100 co-curricular activities available with a reputation for sport and links to professional clubs Inspirational music, drama and creative arts

JOIN US FOR OUR SENIOR SCHOOL OPEN MORNING Saturday 28 September 2019, 9am to 12pm Book a place at www.kingswood.bath.sch.uk An Independent Co-educational Boarding & Day School for pupils aged 9 months - 18 years



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NEED EXTRA PRACTICE? Letts gets you through Independent School Entrance Exams.

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Places available for 3+ Lower Foundation classes for September 2019 entry To register your child please visit: www.oakďŹ eld.dulwich.sch.uk/admissions/how-to-apply

Where every child is valued and nurtured, leading to exceptional outcomes 130 years of education for boys and girls aged 2-11



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See success in action To book a personal visit or for further details, please contact the Registrar: Tel: 01283 559222 Email: registrar@repton.org.uk


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Welcoming boys from September 2019 Day boys join the girls in Year 7 this year and Year 9 from 2020. Contact us to find out more. Next Open Day 10 May 9am-12noon admissions@westonbirt.org www.westonbirt.org WESTONBIRT.indd 1


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Wednesday 19th June 2019 • 10:00am - 11:30am

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Where the magic begins...

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A first-class education for girls aged 4-18, since 1887

Discover how we prepare your daughter to flourish and fly at an open event, taster session or Wednesday tour.

Open Morning date: Wednesday 22nd May (Doors open 9.30)


www.sydenhamhighschool.gdst.net 020 8557 7004 admissions@syd.gdst.net


Preparatory and Pre-Preparatory School 24 Lyndhurst Gardens, Hampstead, London NW3 5NW Telephone: 0207 435 4936 Email: office@lyndhursthouse.co.uk www.lyndhursthouse.co.uk

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seconds with

Frances King

The former head of Mill Hill, Roedean and Heathfield on changing education the Danish way


hope you are all doing great and spreading KAOS everywhere.” This was the greeting sent by course creator Simon Kavanagh to the alumni of the three-day workshop I attended this spring which advertised itself as aiming to disrupt the thinking of those attending. The workshop was run by KaosPilot, a business and design school located in Aarhus, Denmark. The school aims to support individuals who are seeking to be change makers, whether as entrepreneurs, social activists or educationalists. Reflection, discussion, experimentation and feedback are central to their teaching methods. Among my fellow students were university lecturers, teachers, entrepreneurs and architects, all recognising that change is required within their sectors if they are to navigate and influence future trends successfully. Change should not be sought simply for change’s sake, however. Instead the KaosPilot approach is to develop trust and collaboration to ensure that the solutions to problems tackled are supported by all stakeholders. Perhaps it is no surprise that the founder of KaosPilot, Uffe Elbaek, is now an MP for The Alternative, a political party within the Danish Parliament working for social change within the country. The approach of KaosPilot is not unusual in Denmark. Over many decades the Danes have been well known for their design skills, and are now world leaders in environmental sustainability. The global success of the

“Change should not be sought simply for change's sake”


Frances King

toy brand Lego indicates that they also know a bit about play; the Lego Foundation currently invests significantly into play, design and child development research and has recently funded a Lego Professor of Play in Education at the University of Cambridge. The workshop I attended was focused on curriculum design but used a set of innovative methods in its teaching. From unusual uses for yoyos through to trust building exercises using Lego, Kaos Pilot was certainly Danish in its recognition that creativity and innovation are more likely to flow if activities contain a playful element. The more I read about the Danish approach to innovation, the more I wondered where this readiness to think outside the box came from. It appears that much of it derives from a series of unfortunate events in the 19th century when the country lost territory, revenue and, inevitably, national pride and identity.

A way out of this national confusion was offered by Nicolaj Grundtvig (1783-1872), a scholar who presented a radical view for the time – that all Danes should be educated in order to engage meaningfully in the democratic process of nation building. Through his work all were encouraged to take responsibility for their own community, to debate the best way to run this, and to work together to shape the most efficient methods to aid communal life. Innovation, design and change were seen then as something that was to benefit everyone: this attitude continues today. This has led to the nation being at the forefront of developing sustainable responses to modern living with marked success; Copenhagen is expected to reach its target of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city in 2025. The Danish approach to problem solving presented by KaosPilot appears to have much to offer teachers preparing students for modern world. Their attitude to learning gives prominence to independence, creativity and innovation as well as strong interpersonal skills. And they are not afraid of change, being ready to look it directly in the eye and assess the most practical response to the challenges thrown up by life. As their name suggests, however, they don’t leave you on your own – they seek, as Kaos Pilots, to teach you the skills which will assist you as you navigate a way through the choppy waters ahead. As an experienced Head, I would recommend this to anyone in education looking for some professional development with a difference. K AO S P I LOT kaospilot.dk

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Educational Holiday Camps in South Kensington at Baden Powell House for children aged 4-11 and at Imperial College London for children aged 9-14

www.richereducation.co.uk/camps www.richereducation.co.uk/summer-camps

www.richereducation.co.uk | T: +44 (0) 207 769 6732 | T: +44 (0) 753 522 5432

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