Absolutely Education Spring/Summer 2020

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BACK TO THE FUTURE Should we teach more history? •

SCREEN TIME Family survival guide •


Childhood gambling & gaming •

GOOD READS Great summer books

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Come and visit our incredible senior school in the heart of Mayfair Boys and Girls 11 - 16 years old

Autumn Open Mornings - 17th September, 10th October, 18th November


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We l c o m e

From the



mong all the inspiring words from teachers and educators over the past few months, this one has stuck: "School is so much more than just a building." The comment, by Eaton Square Prep Headmistress Trish Watt in her article about the shift from physical to virtual class (page 15), seems to sum up a universal response from independent schools to this most challenging chapter in our collective history. This crisis has tested everyone – and will continue to have a profound impact on young people forced to defer university places, miss school milestones, and work in splendid isolation without the comfort and company of their peers. But schools, and the communities they serve, have risen to

the meantime, to celebrate the good, we have included a snapshot of just some of the many school good deeds during this time that inspired us (page 12). History is always being made, but right now there seems to be an awful lot in production, and so I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak to three historians about why teaching it in our schools matters (page 36). My takeaway is that a thorough grounding in history is probably one of the best ways to develop a spirit of critical enquiry that can help to bring some sense – and perspective – to the present, however confusing modern times become. Our summer issue theme of sport is also something to inspire deeper thought. Life may have stopped play, for now, but schools maintain it remotely (and brilliantly), to keep enthusiasm for physical activity burning. We take a closer look at what

“YOUNG PEOPLE'S SPIRIT OF RESILIENCE SHOULD GIVE US FAITH IN THE FUTURE” the challenge admirably. And what we have seen in young people – and in abundance – is a spirit of resilience that should give us all great faith. It signals the upcoming generation's ability to learn independently and absorb broader lessons for life. The story of this pandemic is not over and we will be returning to it in greater detail in our autumn issue and, I suspect, for issues to come as we digest some of the longer-term impacts – from use of technology to classroom design to highereducation and career-path choices. In

school sports are all about and what they do to imbue a sense of community and support character development (page 16). There can be no doubt that a return to the sports field, track or court is something schools – and the wider world – will celebrate like the return of an old friend, for the camaraderie and community spirit it can foster is one of life's greatest comforts.

Libby Norman EDITOR

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

12 GOOD DEEDS Stories from schools that are supporting their communities during the pandemic

16 SPORTS IN FOCUS We speak to six schools about the winning combination that makes sport in their school


26 KEEP ON MOVING Learning lessons from the Joe Wicks effect that can get, and keep, young people physically active

29 CHARACTER BUILDING The head of Oakfield on some positives of this period

43 senior

36 HISTORY TALK Three historians give their take on what learning about the past can do to help develop skills for now



With gambling and gaming accessible 24/7, we look at the addiction risks to young minds

The Head of Highgate discusses virtual school and the true value of community

46 SCREEN TIME KNOW HOW Expert guidance for families leading school and social lives in the virtual realm

49 AGONY AUNT Gabbitas experts answer your questions on exam cancellations and home tutoring



53 QUALITY QUEST Hurst discusses its programme for applicants to highly competitive medical courses

55 OPEN PLATFORM Matthew Shoults discusses why children need a forum for open debate in our schools


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

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16 school's out


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The explorer discusses his education journey

60 SUMMER BOOKS Our pick of top reads for the months to come

62 TAKE A LEAP Poet Patience Agabi talks about her new book that places autism centre stage

l a s t wo r d

64 A DAY IN THE LIFE... Meet the joint Head Girls of Queen's Gate School


F RO NT COV E R Repton School Repton, Derbyshire DE65 6FH 01283 559200 repton.org.uk

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Star struck South Hampstead High School A-level student Eliza has won a place on the National Youth Theatre programme. She joins the online summer course and will become a National Youth Theatre (NYT) member until the age of 26. Eliza shared the lead role in a recent school production of Emilia and performed at the Edinburgh Festival last summer.

M AT H S W H I Z Z Millfield sixth former Yuhka Machino was named one of the top young mathematical minds in Europe after coming second in the European Girls' Mathematical Olympiad. She is part of the squad from which the UK team for the International Mathematical Olympiad will be chosen. Yuhka also won a bronze and honourable mention at the 2020 Romanian Master of Mathematics Competition.

“Millfield's Yuhka Machino competed in the Maths Olympiad virtually from her home in Japan”


Smaller worlds

Eurovision didn't happen, but the first GDST Song Contest did. Judged by music directors from across the Trust, this was always going to be a fiercely contested sing off. Bromley High won most creative piece, Blackheath carried off 'people's choice', while Oxford earned a special prize from Trust CEO Cheryl Giovannoni for its acapella piece.

Young people are being denied the chance to learn from mistakes and their worlds are smaller and more "curated" because of an aversion to risk, said DofE CEO Ruth Marvel in a recent interview. She said while parents are bombarded with stats about physical risks, social media presents a "wild west" of risky situations.

M E , M Y S E L F, I Dulwich College has hosted its first Identity Awareness Month. The initiative, over three weeks in February, encouraged pupils to explore aspects of their own identity and that of the College community through books, music and talks. Working alongside costume designer Oona Brutton, pupils, parents and staff also designed their own badges.

“Never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small” F LO R E N C E N I G H T I N GA L E

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Female lead Jane Lunnon will become the Head of Alleyn's in January 2021 – the first female to hold the post. Currently Head of Wimbledon High School, Lunnon has previously held senior roles at Prior's Field and Wellington schools. She succeeds Dr Gary Savage at Alleyn's.

R O B OT TO A F R I CA Marty the Robot, featured in Ab Ed spring, is dancing into South Africa's townships as part of a 'tech for good' partnership to help students learn coding. He was created by Edinburgh firm Robotical and this initiative, with Nokia and Got Game, aims to build STEM skills in a country where only 4% go on to university.

NEW HEAD Eddy Newton has been appointed Headmaster of Marlborough House in Cranbrook, Kent. Previously Head of Felsted School, Chairman of IAPS and Chief Executive of The Cothill Trust, he is a Classics graduate of Jesus College, Cambridge. He takes up his role at the co-ed school – whose alumni include David Gower, Stephen Poliakoff and Rev. W. Awdry – this September.

M O N E Y M AT T E R S City Pay it Forward, aims to teach financial literacy to primary schools across the UK. The year 6 curriculum, developed with Rising Stars, was devised with assistance from teachers. City Pay it Forward is a charity established by parents with financial and business backgrounds that seeks to address issues around youth indebtedness.

Space science An experiment designed by a team from Tonbridge School and Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar earned a place on the NASA spacecraft Space X, CRS 20, now on the International Space Station. Their winning experiment, looks at whether yeast can sexually reproduce under the stress of microgravity.

“I will get my education, if it is in the home, school, or anyplace” M A L A L A YO U S A F Z A I


“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths” A R N O L D S C H WA R Z E N E G G E R

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New to Abbotsholme


Staffordshire co-ed day and boarding school Abbotsholme has appointed Simon Ruscoe-Price as Headmaster. With over 27 years in education, he has worked across the world, including as director leading Wellington’s academics for its six schools in China, as well as spells working with schools in India and the government of UAE.

Dorset schoolgirl Evie Swire, 12, has established a charity and campaign to have a statue of palaeontologist Mary Anning erected in the town of Lyme Regis. Her website (maryanningrocks.co.uk) has attracted support from, among others, Sir David Attenborough, Tracy Chevalier and Professor Alice Roberts. The campaign has also been written up in The Geological Society’s magazine Geoscientist.

“Evie Swire's campaign for a Mary Anning statue has support from Sir David Attenborough "

MAKING CHANGE More than 25,000 young women joined Norwich High School for Girls' Change Makers Summit 2020. The online conference reached across state and independent sectors and was supported by role models, including chef Prue Leith and engineer Yewande Akinola (left).

Farm watch Pupils everywhere been missing school friends, but spare a thought for children at Bredon, Gloucestershire, who are also missing a busy spring of new friends on their farm. School staff have kept their charges in the loop, updating them via social media on new arrivals, including chicks, lambs, piglets and, most recently, a beautiful bull calf.

V I R T UA L S H OW R O U N D Organising physical school visits for prospective parents has ceased for now, but necessity is the mother of invention. At Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill, showrounds even include joining a live virtual class for around 15 minutes to understand more about school life.

“There are better starters than me but I’m a strong finisher” U S A I N B O LT

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Guiding words

Helping hand Eaton Square School in central London has launched a Hardship Fund to help parents affected by coronavirus. Principal Sebastian Hepher says that this is an unprecedented time for communities. He adds: “Many businesses and jobs will be experiencing large cash flow difficulties and we want to provide the necessary support where we can”.

London GP Dr Hannah Smith, an alumna of Sutton High School, has collaborated with two old school friends and medical colleagues to produce a new children’s book, Coronawho?, to help explain Coronavirus to very young (pre-school children). The illustrated e-book has been written to help guide and reassure and follows the story of Elsie and her family through the pandemic. “We’ve had some really moving and profound messages about how it is helping the youngest of children to process these strange times,” says Dr Smith. Download a free copy at elsiestayshome.com

S chool role Mary Breen, former head of St Mary’s Ascot, is the latest senior appointment at Northwood Schools, joining as a non-executive director to help steer its expansion plans. Northwood Schools owns Broomwood Hall pre-prep and Northcote Lodge prep schools and is finalising plans to open NorthWood Senior at a site on Tooting Common. Susan Brooks is the school's head-designate.

Mintridge Foundation, which works to enhance young people’s life skills through sporting role models, has recently partnered with EasyFundraising to help support its mentees, past and present, with their sporting journeys. The charity, which was established by Alex Wallace, has a team of Olympians, Paralympians and other sports stars who lead assemblies, host coaching clinics and provide one-on-one mentoring.

P L AY O N Bristol Plays Music responded to the closure of schools with a virtual academy, providing existing and new music students with individual music lessons. The city’s award-winning music hub developed an online music lesson programme covering most instruments for young people of all levels aged 7-18. Students have been able to access music tutors vial video calls, and with bursaries available for children of key workers.

“We must believe that we are gifted for something” MARIE CURIE

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GO OD DEEDS Schools have been busy working to care for their communities and reach out to those in need during lockdown




family at Beaudesert Park created a mural for a care home entirely out of toilet roll tubes. Mati, Griffyd and, Betsan Evans (four, nine and six), spent weeks creating their entry as part of the school’s 'creative loo roll challenge'. The display used over 250 tubes – each cut into three pieces. Their father Jason said: "At the beginning it seemed like an impossible task to measure, cut, paint and glue them all!” The display was hung over the entrance to The Lakes Care Centre in Cirencester, where the children's great-grandmother Rita, 96, is a resident. The children chose the design because Rita has always loved flowers and used to be a regular at Chelsea Flower Show.

oronavirus has been tough for everyone – but especially for young people – depriving them of their routine and the opportunity to enjoy all the other elements that make up everyday school life. But if we had any doubts about schools' ability to rise to the challenge, these were soon quashed. Everyone got busy– be it by organising fundraising, creative endeavours, PPE production or supplies and moral support for care homes, surgeries and hospitals. Here are some of our favourite inspiring stories.



t Benedict's raised almost £3,000 for the Trussell Trust, which operates foodbanks across the UK, with pupils from nursery to sixth form doing sponsored runs while exercising in their neighbourhoods. Junior and senior school pupils were asked to run 1,195 miles collectively – the distance from Ealing to Montecassino, where St Benedict established an abbey. They smashed the target by running some 2,500 miles in one week. Head of Athletics Myles Stringer said: “We’ve been very impressed by the outstanding efforts of the children".

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harterhouse art director Peter Monkman created an oil portrait of Sharon Stone, a senior sister at Williton Community and Stroke Rehabilitation Unit, for the NHS Heroes series. He wanted the portrait to reflect positivity and hope for the future. The painting has been presented to Sharon Stone and is available to view at #portraitsfornhsheroes. A physical exhibition of all portraits in the series is planned later this year.



elsted School has responded to the isolation of elderly residents unable to meet friends and family by delivering goodies and cards of support to care homes and hospitals. Some cards have been written by pupils as young as three who are due to join the school in September. All packages contain bags of Ugandan Safi Coffee – an ongoing initiative championed by the school to support Uganda communities by raising funds for children's education.



lackheath High School pupil Emma Harris, 11, has raised funds for NHS Charities Together by creating her own clothing line of T-shirts and bags called 'BHS for NHS'. With four relatives who are frontline doctors, and a GP grandmother who retired in 2017, this is a cause close to the Emma's heart: "I wanted to show our respect and support, so I designed BHS for the NHS, which shows BHS girls inside a rainbow, to say thank you".



ead of Highgate Adam Pettitt ran a marathon around the school sports field in late May to raise funds for children affected by 'digital poverty' in its Chrysalis Partner Schools. The aim is to ensure pupils have access to a computer. "Perhaps they are sharing a smartphone with another sibling – but it’s hard to go to school on a phone," he said. Funds raised have already provided laptops for 50 year 12 pupils.



akham School harnessed facilities and ingenuity to deliver a mighty 25,000 masks. Its 3D printers and laser cutters were employed before the school joined forces with Rutland Plastics to increase production. The streamlined final design meant masks were easily constructed by volunteers, who then delivered them across Rutland and neighbouring counties. The school has also supported its local ‘For the love of Scrubs’ team, using its industrial washing machines to clean donated fabric.

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The Head of Eaton Square Prep Trish Watt discusses what school means and the value of making the very most of the options at our disposal when life has dealt us lemons


aton Square School has certainly been making lemonade! When we toasted in the new decade on the 1st January, this year seemed to promise so much. Little did we know then that we would be forced to close our school doors, take our learning online and, perhaps for many, also come to understand the real value of education. Inherent in any transition is change management, and this always brings with it exciting challenges. The transformation that has taken place in the way in which we have delivered our education has been remarkable. Teacher, parent and pupil training has required fast tracking, as we have made our move to delivering live lessons online. None of this would

“We have developed a profound appreciation of the fact that our school is so much more than just a building” have been possible without a pre-existing strong school community. Our teachers have embarked upon accelerated learning programmes; they have worked hand in hand with parents, adapting on a daily basis to the needs of the pupils in order to continue to deliver our curriculum. The relationships already established have enabled us to move mountains. We have experienced opportunities to truly come together, and it is in this togetherness that we have been able to continue to nurture

about an additional sense of togetherness. Weekly videos depicting the children’s endeavours have been excellent and parents have contributed a great deal to ensure our weekly newsletter, the Eaton Share, is as rich in content as ever. Fundraising events have continued to take place and our families have contributed as much as ever. Children have been provided with wonderful opportunities to learn about the key workers who are looking after everybody so well and assemblies have reinforced the importance of caring for those in need. We have also continued to support our School charity so they can continue with their excellent work during a our young people, ABOVE time which has been devastating for them. delivering on our School Pupils at Eaton Square Prep values. The magnitude Ironically, the sense of connection has never of learning that has been more prevalent. Undoubtedly, we have taken place over the all experienced tough moments, but knowing period of the lockdown is nothing short of that we are rooted in the wider Eaton Square extraordinary. It has led us all to reflect on family has provided a sense of belonging. While what truly makes us happy and with this we we have been able to continue to educate have developed a profound appreciation of hearts and minds from afar, the transition the fact that our School is so back to school will bring with much more than just a building. it the opportunity for pupils to re-establish those all-important Widely anticipated weekly face-to-face relationships. assemblies have been a key Personal and social wellbeing element of maintaining our is our number one priority as whole school community. We we mindfully approach the have maintained each class inevitable anxieties of our assembly by piecing together return. Our curriculum will be the children’s video clips; adapted to make certain any we have sung our school TRISH WATT mental ill health issues from the hymns and continued to come Headmistress crisis are overcome. There is a together in prayer for those in Eaton Square long journey ahead, but we will need. Our weekly ‘Challenge Prep School make it together. Tuesdays’ have brought SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 15

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Sport is integral to life, but how do schools balance the demands of the star players and the rest – including those who may not gravitate towards the usual team games? Absolutely Education asked schools to describe their winning combination

Clongowes Wood College SJ


t Clongowes Wood College in County Kildare, sport is woven into the school fabric. The College is set in 500 acres of grounds, and with superb on-site facilities, so there are plenty of opportunities for boys to develop their sporting prowess. Director of Sport John O’Donoghue says when it comes to highlevel sports, this matches the overall school ethos. “Sport fits in to our principles as a Jesuit school, in that we seek excellence in all that we do. As a boarding school, sports are also an important part of daily life.” There is a great rugby tradition here, with many Old Clongowians distinguishing themselves on the field. It is a fixture in the top six in Leinster Schools’ league, with

a good track record too on scholarships to universities. Rugby aside, it also offers options from football (Gaelic and soccer varieties) and basketball to kayaking, equestrian, golf and tennis. Cricket and swimming are notable school strengths. The 25m pool, plus weights room and gym, are well used, and especially valuable for elite athletes – often found training here. While the very best get plenty of opportunities to develop, John O’Donoghue believes that sport needs to be inclusive. “Our elite players get plenty of competition at a high level, but we offer sporting opportunities for all,” he says. “Some boys are playing more for fun, but they will still be competitive and enjoy the opportunity.” He believes encouragement and support are cornerstones of developing enthusiasm for and ability at sport, and the school operates a buddy system to help bring on pupils. “It’s important to get every boy

playing and we put a lot of emphasis on having fun, as well as developing skills and teamworking.” John O’Donoghue says it is important to recognise that not every child develops at the same pace. Of course, some pupils may prefer a turn round the golf course or running track – Clongowes has both – and the team are keen to help young people find activities they love. “For instance, we began offering fencing about two years ago and this has proved very popular with pupils who didn’t enjoy more traditional team sports,” says John O’Donoghue. “You will always find the student who is good at every sport, while others are not so sporty. The Jesuit principles we follow mean that we want boys to try their best – you can be gracious in victory and gracious in defeat. What matters most is unity and team spirit, and part of that team spirit is about caring for each individual.”

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ABOVE Rugby at Clongowes Wood College


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R I G HT, B E LOW RIGHT There's sporting variety at Heathfield BELOW Beaudesert Park games

Heathfield School

Beaudesert Park School


eaudesert Park prep, near Stroud, Gloucestershire, offers exceptional facilities and Director of Sport Johnny Griffiths says there is a very clear ‘sport for all’ philosophy. “We have high-fliers – with three boys’ sports scholarships awarded this year alone – but it’s about one team, one school. We have to challenge everyone – not just the best pupils.” He welcomes school sport’s general shift away from emphasising results only. “Here we don’t just report the wins but the successes in other ways. Our Team of the Week is not awarded just to winners but to teams showing good values.” In-school initiatives are designed to enable children to improve, with wholegroup sessions to enable everyone to develop. While core sports are important, so too is variety, with golf, table tennis, fencing, judo, cross-country and equestrian, as well

as PE and more hybrid activities, on offer. Johnny Griffiths says ensuring sport for all is about creating the right environment – be it soccer coaching with “champagne moments” to enthuse football crazy but less able pupils or orienteering to give tech wizards some exercise. “Children of prepschool age are so easily influenced, so giving them positive experiences that match their passions is what it’s all about.” Beaudesert Park sees sport as adding a vital extra element to pupil development. The school runs a year 8 leadership programme to enable older pupils to mentor the younger ones. But Johnny Griffiths also looks beyond the leadership qualities to the other key parts of character development. “There’s the element of failure in sport – talked about a lot now – and we want children to understand that if they don’t fail they won’t progress. Sport ticks a lot of boxes to help children develop character and resilience. Above all, we focus on the idea of opportunity. If we can say as a school that we provide equal opportunities in sport then we have achieved our goal.”


ith a stellar track record in sport, Heathfield School in Ascot also has exceptional former players on its staff. “Two of our lacrosse teachers played high-level lacrosse – one was on the England team for 13 years – and my background is in netball, where I played in the national league,” says Director of Sport Carys Willimott. Talented girls can draw on the staff’s expertise, not just in playing but in training, nutrition and recovery. “It’s easy for students to only see the glitz and glamour and so part of our role is to help them understand that there’s a lot more to it.” Carys Willimott is building the school’s existing strengths, as well as offering opportunities in other sports – basketball, hockey, tag rugby, water polo and volleyball, among them. “With our facilities we are able to bring in outside influences – Windsor Swimming Club train here, as do Eagles Netball Club. It’s good to have as it helps with motivating and inspiring our girls.” Teenage girls can be inclined to reject sport, but the school works hard to keep enthusiasm levels up. “The question we ask is: ‘if they don’t enjoy traditional sports, what do they enjoy?’” she says. “I’m a strong

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believer that there’s a physical activity to suit everybody.” A co-curricular activities programme assists with this, as do afterschool clubs. But they are always keen to try new things. Trampolining has proved a real hit – also attracting girls who don’t gravitate towards conventional team sports. In fact, it’s been such a hit that Heathfield won the regional round and an individual gold medal in its first year competing regionally. "Girls have to be comfortable playing sport. The post-16 drop-out rate among girls generally is huge, so it becomes critical to find something they enjoy enough to want to continue. If I can teach a student how to use the fitness equipment, I might have made her a gym goer for life,” says Carys Willimott. As to sport’s value, she believes it teaches a lot of life skills – independence and leadership among them. “We actively encourage girls to take on leadership roles and they don’t have to be ‘sporty’ to do this. For instance, we have encouraged girls to learn about netball umpiring and take the Lacrosse Level 1 umpire course, so that even if they don’t play they can still be involved.”

RIGHT Sport at Oakham, where there's an equal split of boys and girls

Oakham School


port is a huge part of Oakham life and the Rutland co-ed offers exceptional facilities and plenty of opportunities to shine. But Director of Sport Iain Simpson says the school likes to avoid using the word ‘elite’ about its students. “We work with students who are talented and our job is to provide provision and the opportunity to develop their expertise. We don’t like to label students – their talent goes alongside attitude and commitment, and those are the areas where we can assist.” While the gifted need to put in the hours, the school’s expertise can be useful for the other essentials – such as coping with pressure during competition and ensuring quality practice. “If we do it this way then they benefit even if they don’t make it at the highest level. While athletes might be focused on outcome, we’re more focused on process and the journey. This helps students to be better and stronger and can also assist if they ever choose to transition to another sport.” Oakham’s approach is sports for all, and lots of it. The school fields something like 45 teams on a typical Saturday, so that

means lots of opportunities to be included. “What we always have to be clear about is our objective – which is to develop a love of sport that carries on after school.” The proof is in the feedback – something Iain Simpson is very keen on garnering. A recent survey of Old Oakhamians, running all the way up to 65+, showed that this love of sport has stuck for many of them well into mid and later life. At the core of the Oakham approach is developing people, not just athletes, and the team put a lot of thought into why some students end up in lower ability groups. It may come down to being youngest in the class. Other factors, such as older siblings they can play with and learn from, may give children an extra advantage. “We also tend to find that if parents view sport as valuable their children will be at a higher standard.” However brilliantly or badly a child plays, the school’s most important premise after safety is ensuring they enjoy the sport they play. Iain Simpson says careful matching with others of similar ability reaps dividends in making children feel they are making progress. “If children feel they are going to fail at something they try to avoid it. So it’s about creating success at a different level and providing encouraging feedback.”


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We have boarding, flexi-boarding and day places available

We are a fully co-educational boarding and day school for 10 -18 year olds, located in the heart of rural England To find out more and to arrange a "A clear-eyed, energetic, forward-thinking School" visit call our friendly Admissions The Good Schools Guide team on 01572 758758 admissions@oakham.rutland.sch.uk www.oakham.rutland.sch.uk Untitled-2 1





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UPFRON T / FOCUS LEFT Cricket at Emanuel BELOW Hockey at Repton

Emanuel School


t Emanuel in Battersea, there is ample sporting provision. “Our aim is for every pupil to enjoy their recreational time, improve and grow and confidence,” says Deputy Head Ravi Kothakota. “We operate six core sports, with a number of minor sports running alongside them.” The school has exceptional talent within its fold, currently 20 sports scholars, and the track record in outside competition is impressive. In the past 12 months alone achievements have included representing Lambs RFC South East U18 teams, breaking British indoor rowing records and selection for Surrey CCC junior squads. While elite pupils are nurtured, access to coaching and challenges is designed to bring on every level of ability. Not everyone gravitates towards the traditional games, so extra options – including dance, yoga and climbing – ensure all pupils can experience both the exercise and camaraderie benefits of sport. Among the 60 different co-curricular clubs and activities running at the school, dance club has become a definite hit, says Ravi Kothakota. Pupils choose which sports they participate in from the start of Year 10 – the school finds that giving pupils ownership helps ensure they keep participating. “The key thing is that they are happy in their choices, making progress and getting the best from the opportunities on offer,” he adds. The team here see sport as an opportunity to experience both success and failure in a controlled environment. “We are mindful that school life and teenage life is full of challenge,” says Ravi Kothakota. “A young person’s sense of self and worth needs to be made up of a range of school experiences, each balancing the other. One day, all may be going well in the classroom, but they have struggled with a team fixture; the next week, their sport is thriving and that Physics test could have gone better. It’s all about feeling they are not just about one part of school life. For us, this makes healthy young people!”

Repton School


t Repton, there is a clear aim to support performance athletes through their school career and on to the next stage. The South Derbyshire co-ed can boast alumni at the three most recent Olympic Games and it also has a strong track record of pupils transitioning to a full-time sports career. Supporting the very best is important but, says Director of Sport Ian Pollock, provision needs to work across the board. “A range of opportunities, competitions and fixtures at a variety of levels means that every young person has the opportunity to reach their full potential during their school career.” Repton specialist staff help elite athletes in key performance areas, including mobility, power and speed. Strength and conditioning are introduced as they get older, alongside rehabilitation and physiotherapy. Top-level players may need other specialist help, such as tutoring, so that academic work doesn’t suffe, and this wraparound care means they have the opportunity to shine in the classroom and achieve their sporting potential. Of course, not every pupil has medals and glory ahead of them and Ian Pollock says Repton’s approach is about ensuring

opportunities for everyone to join in. “It is important to help every pupil find their niche, from international performer through to weekly gym attender. We aim to ingrain positive habits that will stay with young people for life.” He says the school’s barometer of success is finding the sporting and athletic potential in every pupil. This also means helping them to enjoy the camaraderie it brings. With over 25 sports on offer, and a plethora of teams representing Repton at all levels, there is a strong emphasis on choice. “Our inter-house sport is a thriving, naturally competitive activity beloved by all Reptonians,” he says. “Of course, every pupil is different and finds their own way. While some people choose to focus on specific sports, there is no reason why a performance athlete is not involved in team sports or vice-versa, when schedules allow it.” Core school sports remain the key focus of the school day in earlier years, but Ian Pollock said the “controlled choice” is relaxed as children get older. There are no doubts in his mind that sport is an intrinsic part of life at Repton. As well as building a healthy and active lifestyle, he believes that it offers something much more. “Sport also develops young people's resilience and mental stamina.” SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 21

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IBROADEN MY MIND Openness to the outside world. The readiness to see other points of view. These are qualities we help students develop to broaden their minds while excelling at their academic studies. Places for 2020 entry are understandably strictly limited. Apply today at southbank.org/applynow

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10/09/2019 12:04 11:39 05/09/2019


RIGHT Natasha Dangerfield says the 'hidden curriculum' is key to school life

The landscape of teaching and learning at Westonbirt At a time of virtual classes, the Headmistress of Westonbirt considers why teaching and learning only paints part of the picture of school life N ATA S H A D A N G E R F I E L D


reassuring hand on the shoulder, holding open a door, chastising a runner bombing down the corridor or knocking in to an unsuspecting Year 7; these moments are all part of the rich tapestry we weave daily within the magic of the school community. As the delivery of teaching and learning dominates headlines, it is the ‘hidden curriculum’ some may have forgotten – the personal contact and consistency provided by schools which fosters communication skills and establishes socialisation super powers. At Westonbirt, it is undoubtedly the interaction between staff and students that creates a layered picture, a 4D version perhaps of the 2D experience which for

some is the reality of an online classroom. While many schools have risen to the challenge of virtual learning, there is no doubt that we all crave the hive of activity which characterises a normal school day. Who would have thought that the maths classrooms would be missed or cross country feel so good? As educators, however, we know it is the culture fostered by the school community that develops individuals and empowers them to unleash their full potential. Testing and assessment are essential in painting a picture of what a student understands, but masterpieces are created with time and care. At Westonbirt, learning is about so much more than the academic curriculum; a holistic approach to developing each student allows us to nurture confidence, instil empathy and foster resilience. It has

“Learning at Westonbirt is about so much more than the academic curriculum”

been widely recognised that investing in emotional wellbeing will facilitate academic achievement, as well as preparing young people for success beyond school. The challenge at this time is not only ensuring we offer the highest level of online learning, but also in delivering the hidden curriculum. As we gather for virtual hymn practice and I feel the unstoppable force of our Music Director emanating across the air waves, or I settle in for a lively Zoom meet with my breakfast and politics club, I am confident that we can create a virtual landscape that will replicate the inspiring community we inhabit at Westonbirt. But there is no doubt we look forward to students returning to our corridors and running free in our parkland grounds so that we can, once again, open more than metaphorical doors for our vibrant community and observe teaching and learning in its fullest form.

W E S TO N B I R T is rated Excellent by the Independent Schools’ Inspectorate for academic achievement and pastoral care. westonbirt.org SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 23


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Co-educational 2-4 years, Boys aged 4-13 years

Built on Tradition – Embracing the Future

Open for Admissions

for September 2020 & Spring 2021

To book a bespoke, interactive virtual tour with the Deputy Head, visit www.parkside-school.co.uk , call 01932 862749, or email head.pa@parkside-school.co.uk Set in 45 acres of beautiful Surrey countryside with school bus routes including from SW London. www.parkside-school.co.uk

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ABOVE Children respond to online classes BELOW Playing to win at St Margaret's


What can the Joe Wicks PE phenomenon during lockdown teach us about getting (and keeping) children physically active? LIBBY NORMAN

ne of the surprise hits of lockdown has been Joe Wicks, dubbed 'the world's PE teacher' during the height of lockdown by CNN. That 9am morning workout was certainly not a first (remember The Green Goddess and Mr Motivator?) but the formula still works. It was greeted rapturously by the very same children who might not normally be keen to do much more than brush their teeth, grunt good morning and go. What was it that so grabbed a young audience, at least some of whom probably dislike school sport? It seems lockdown is giving us a few new ideas, and reviving a few old ones. School sports teachers have certainly been attuned to Joe Wicks and the many other exercise resources inspiring children who have, through necessity, been more deprived of physical activity than at any time in recent memory.

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Nic Cooper, Director of Sport at Royal Hospital School in Holbrook, Suffolk, is certainly attuned to the impact of Joe Wicks and the other lockdown hits – as a parent of young children himself it would be hard to avoid them. He and his team have seized the moment, creating a booklet to help RHS pupils access the huge variety of sports and workouts happening in the virtual world. "We have been actively encouraging our pupils to access the expert sites and resources such as Joe Wicks," he says. Going virtual with regular weekly school sports has not hampered the imagination of the team – far from it. "We have designed a programme offering different sessions each week, bearing in mind that some pupils have a whole field to exercise in while others have a small courtyard," says Nic Cooper. Monday's 'Beat the Batman' challenge, hosted by sports teacher Joe Batman, has proved wildly popular, as has the RHS Mini Olympics. To mark the London Marathon that couldn't happen, they asked pupils to each run 2.6 miles, getting them to group themselves in virtual teams of ten to give it the full marathon flavour. They worked out that RHS students and teachers clocked up the equivalent of 12 marathons between them in one day. Social tools have kept the motivation going, with Twitter helping ensure parents are in the loop and Instagram preferred by pupils. Interval training, sport skill of the week – it's all about engaging pupils of every sporting taste and keeping the enthusiasm for activity alive. Nic Cooper thinks that using trends, and the elements children gravitate towards on social media, adds fun to school sport. Pre-lockdown his team got a mixed ability netball team to use a popular TikTok dance routine as their pre-match warm-up. (And anyone who has tried one of those routines knows they are both fiendishly difficult and real exercise.) As to the team's response to this unconventional prep for the big game? "They loved it," says Nic Cooper. Mark Duncan, the

ABOVE Boxing clever at Royal Hospital School RIGHT In the fast lane at Windlesham House

“Using trends, and the elements children gravitate towards on social media, adds fun to school sport” Director of Sport at Windlesham House School in West Sussex, says the Joe Wicks phenomenon is not an unusual one among young audiences – noting that ages 9-11 tend to be the most engaged in sports and physical activity. He says it's teenagers who tend to elect to drop out, often due to body consciousness, but also because they find other things they prefer to do. He believes schools need to "keep the door open" with a sports curriculum that is broad and lively. "Sometimes it takes time for children to find out what ‘floats their boat’. Early specialisation – seen as a prerequisite for a number of sports – is designed to find and support elite talent and can work against young people in finding the one thing that might become their passion." Reducing fear of failure or being shown up – whether it be in front of peers, teachers or parents – is also key, as this is a major turn off from physical activity for lots of young people. "Sport should be about fun, with the importance of match results dialled right down," says Mark Duncan. "We are often too quick as schools, to impose an adult version of a game on young children." While being comfortable having a go at something without fear of failure is a major factor in ensuring young people keep

moving, TV and other media can inspire them to try new things. Mark Duncan notes that half of 11 to 15-year-olds tried a new sport after London 2012. He believes the onus is on us to use such opportunities. "It is the job of adults involved in sport to win over their young charges." Dulcie Pimlott, Head of Sports at St Margaret's School in Bushey, Hertfordshire, says lockdown has made everyone reflect on sports provision at school and changed the way children engage in physical activity – but she sees both of these as positives. "Individual exercise has become essential to many young people’s lives. Walking, running and participating in online classes across a huge variety of disciplines have been key for young people in maintaining mental and physical wellbeing." She believes maintaining engagement as children grow up requires agility, since their tastes and attitudes change – sometimes with lightening speed. "Physical activity in schools should, above all, be fun, physically and socially stimulating and adaptable." Broadening the conventional school approach by ensuring individual sport and fitness experiences are offered alongside the team sports is one way to keep children motivated. "All of these activities develop knowledge for a healthy lifestyle and can enable pupils to become what we call 'fitness independent' as they become young adults." If we're in it to win over young people, that means understanding more about what makes young them tick, be it TikTok dance routines, Joe Wicks or the next social media craze. Ultimately, says Dulcie Pimlott, teachers have to keep up with trends in sportswear, in music and in social media."Get this right and we enable our young people to develop lifelong exercise habits," she adds. SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 27

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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.

Take a virtual tour and see the Dallington Difference

Headteacher: Maria Blake Proprietor: Abigail Hercules Founders: Evan & Mogg Hercules MBE Email: hercules@dallingtonschool.co.uk Phone: 020 7251 2284 www.dallingtonschool.co.uk

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Character building The Head of Oakfield Moyra Thompson reflects on the ways in which lockdown has brought focus on both experiential learning and character building


uilding character in our pupils underpins all that we seek to offer at Oakfield Preparatory School, and it is certainly true to say that this focus has never been as important as during the weeks of lockdown. Six core values of Care, Collaboration, Creativity, Courage, Curiosity and Challenge lie at the heart of our school community, each with a set of associated characteristics which we endeavour to develop in the children. The transfer from daily classroom attendance in school to remote learning has provided exciting opportunities for character traits such as independence, originality, initiative, communication and honesty to come to the fore. Research shows that teaching children about self-control, resilience and other character qualities has a positive impact on academic achievement, health and happiness. Globally, educators and politicians are investing more time and money in character development and some countries are beginning to include it within educational assessment criteria. Olli-Pekka Heinonen, Director of the Finnish National Agency for Education, emphasises shaping an education system that can respond flexibly to changes: “It is a question of how we can cope with a changing and uncertain world and give the children the

“Remote learning has provided exciting opportunities for character traits such as independence, initiative and honesty to come to the fore”

abilities they need to something fundamental to the principles cope for the future ". of the Early Years Foundation Stage but At Oakfield, we have which also has enormous value to pupils been delighted to see of all ages. The chance to explore the the creative ways in outdoor and natural environment means which the children have showcased their that children are not only exposed to learning through video, audio, art and stimulating curricular content, but they music, displaying editing, presentation are also engaged in real-world projects and ICT skills with huge confidence and that build essential character qualities. panache. They have demonstrated their It will be vital for us as schools to take the ability to cope with a new, challenging and positives from our recent experiences and potentially unsettling way of life. It will be use them as a tool for reflection and creative exciting to look to the future planning as we move forwards. of the curriculum and how it My hope is that new ways of can be shaped and delivered working and learning will give to harness these transferable rise to further opportunities skills. A key question for to build essential skills in us as educators will be not: our children. Less emphasis ‘What shall I teach?’ but will be placed on schools as rather ‘What behaviours ‘exam factories’ and a change do I want to achieve?’ of mindset will bring about This period of lockdown has a deep understanding that MOYRA also provided the opportunity character education serves THOMPSON to reflect anew on the vital as a fundamental enhancer Head of Oakfield importance of learning of academic performance, Preparatory School outside the classroom, rather than merely acting as ABOVE Oakfield pupils

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YOUNG G A M B L E R S Children are increasingly exposed to the world of betting, via advertising and gaming, so are young minds more susceptible to gambling and what should parents and educators know? LIBBY NORMAN


n October 2019, the NHS opened its first clinic to treat young people addicted to gambling and gaming – it is working with children as young as 13. Its arrival, which made national news, may have come as a shock to adults whose own betting experience extends to the odd lottery ticket or work sweepstake. But for those who watch or research the increasingly accessible world of gambling, the need for a dedicated youth treatment centre came as no surprise The scale of gambling issues among young people is hard to gauge accurately, but a 2018 Gambling Commission report estimated that 55,000 11 to 16-year-olds were problem gamblers; this estimate was a quadrupling of the figures from two years earlier. Another large-scale study by Cardiff University (over 37,000 children aged 11) found that over 40 per cent had gambled in the past year. This is surprising if you consider that most forms of gambling are illegal for minors.

So what is the law? The National Lottery, including scratch cards and instant-win bets are legal aged 16+, but there are no age restrictions for games machines in what’s known as category D – the kind of arcade games and fruit machines found in clubs, pubs and amusement arcades. Private bets and card games for money are, of course, impossible to regulate although both show up in surveys of young people’s habits. It is the commercial betting landscape in plain sight – from ‘innocent’ scratch cards to adverts on TV to sponsorship of Premier League football – that is causing disquiet, even among industry insiders. “It’s normalising gambling for children, and that is dangerous,” said Paddy Power founder Stewart Kenny, speaking to journalist Becky Milligan last October in a report on teenage gambling for BBC Radio 4’s PM. Kenny, who has been publicly critical of the betting industry since his resignation from the company he founded, talked about the “barrage” of advertising young people have been exposed to, adding: “It became normal for children to think, well, soccer and gambling are the same thing”.

Professor Jim Orford, Emeritus Professor of Clinical & Community Psychology at University of Birmingham and also Visiting Professor of Gambling Studies at King’s College London, is a long-time watcher of the industry. He, too, is concerned about the way in which gambling has become “normalised” through mainstream avenues – notably football. As he points out, it is emblazoned on shirts, stadia, the backdrop at post-match interviews. “It is making a connection with sport, which young men are into," he says. While we are bombarded with adverts – on TV, on billboards and increasingly on YouTube and other digital platforms young people use – advertising wasn’t always part of the digital ‘wallpaper’. In fact, it’s thanks to 2005 legislation, says Orford. “Effectively, the legislation meant gambling became like any other entertainment product.” The industry was licensed to stimulate interest and grow its business. What no one foresaw was that this would coincide with the exponential rise of digital, enabling online betting avenues. The 2005 Act came

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BELOW Gambling problems may be hard to spot at first

“This is a guinea-pig generation – for a UK child born in 2007, gambling has always been just another form of entertainment”

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“It is the betting in plain sight – from scratch cards to sponsorship of Premier League football – that is causing disquiet” into force in 2007 and a decade on UK gambling firms had increased their takings from gamblers by 65%. Orford works with academic colleagues around the world, who look at the UK’s regime with interest – some with astonishment. “We are viewed as the wild west of gambling," he says. Orford set up the website Gambling Watch UK in 2012 as a means of keeping ‘critical watch’ on gambling policy and making proposals for stronger legislation. He is of the view that a new Gambling Act is needed that looks at it primarily as a public health issue. With specific concerns for young people, Gambling Watch UK argues for a minimum age of 18 for all gambling activities and clearer measures to stop children being introduced to it via social media.

among young people, and increasingly accessible through their devices. There is much discussion about how the competitive and risk/reward elements of some games mimic gambling and could potentially help to stimulate demand for the real thing among young people. We have seen an explosion of gaming ‘tools’ that look similar to gambling – loot boxes especially. These mimic gambling by offering rewards for a ‘stake’ of money or virtual money. The current loot box market is estimated to be worth £20 billion worldwide, £700 million in the UK alone. “You find a lot of gambling-like games,” says Orford, adding that with loot boxes there is a specific gambling format in that players “progress towards a material goal”. Adam Bradford, who co-founded Safer Online Gambling Group with his father David Bradford (his father is a former gambling addict), believes that gaming is already becoming a problem for schoolage children. “There is a whole new sector in loot box gaming. Kids can spend virtually unlimited amounts, from tens to hundreds of pounds, on games of chance.” Game design also provides, he believes, a gambling-like environment. Sound, fast pace and cartoon characters are among the elements used to draw young people in, with prompts ABOVE Football and such as ‘upgrade’, ‘advance’ and gambling are now ‘get better’. “It’s often not clear bedfellows that you have to pay to get a better weapon or football player,” he says. As to the gaming as gateway to gambling theory, Bradford believes that there are issues to address. He worries about the positioning of gambling adverts in places where young people are. “These are on social media all the time, with no watershed,” he says. He also worries about the volume of gambling advertising – which has seen a 60% increase since 2015.

The gaming connection?

Addiction issues

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of our current gambling climate is that it’s uncharted territory. We don’t know how great the impact of early exposure to gambling messaging will be so this is, effectively, a guinea-pig generation. Consider this, for a child born in 2007 and now aged 13 gambling has always been just another form of entertainment. If sport is now the national stage that places gambling in full view, some critics see gaming as the ‘gateway drug’ that is helping to stimulate interest in the real thing. Even parents who know their child doesn’t watch Premier League games can’t feel entirely at ease, since gaming is now so hugely popular

Problem gambling is a medical condition, similar to substance abuse in that it generates a dopamine high. Current research suggests males are somewhat more susceptible, possibly due to attitudes to risk taking. Of course, risk taking is nothing new – and nor is obsessional behaviour – and most young people move on unscathed. But the problem young gambler (or gamer) may be hard to spot. Matt Blanks is a former gambler who now supports people with a gambling addiction and acts as a spokesperson for, among others, the free gambling self-exclusion organisation GAMSTOP. He began his own gambling journey very young; it was a win

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“Gaming’s loot box market is estimated to be worth £20 billion worldwide, £700 million in the UK alone” on the horses at odds of 33:1 that RIGHT Gambling adverts sparked his addiction. “I was 11 and can be found on my first experience was a rewarding sites children use one.” Today he sees parallels between his story and those of people he helps. “I’d say 90 per cent of clients I work with had a big early win, so for most of them their first experience was a rewarding one.” He believes this can lead some young people to believe that money is just waiting to be made. In Blanks’ case, there was also early exposure to the social aspects – the camaraderie of a community. He believes seeking a sense of belonging can make some children more vulnerable, adding that gambling is “learned behaviour”. (See Matt’s story, right). Now a parent, Blanks is hyper aware of the exposure his son, aged 7, is already getting through gaming and says: “It frightens the life out of me”. For his son and his son’s peer group a passion for football makes the FIFA game irresistible, and then it’s natural to want to buy the extras on offer. “I can see that already gaming is Matt's parents split up when he was opening a pathway where children are being 11 and his father moved in with his encouraged to buy things without knowing grandfather. Each weekend when he the outcome,” he says. He also has concerns visited, Matt would watch his grandad that gambling is being promoted too close place horseracing bets. The first time to the gaming sphere. He says: “Recently, Matt was allowed to choose a bet my son asked me if he could access Football the horse came in at 33:1 – and he was given £20 of the winnings. Matt Index, which is a licensed gambling site. He


Matt's stor y

began accompanying his grandfather to the betting shop, where he was made welcome and asked for his opinion on form. He began to believe he had a talent for spotting a winner. At school break times, he would play cards for money while his friends were outside playing football. By 15, he was visiting betting shops alone (always unchallenged) to place bets; at 17, he spent an inheritance from his grandmother on backing a horse, and lost. Matt went on to work within the betting industry, holding significant responsible roles, and quit gambling in June 2018. In the years he was gambling, Matt estimates he lost some £700,000.

found it advertised when he was gaming and thought this was another game”. Blanks’ key advice to parents is to keep a watchful eye on any changes in mood and attitude. “It’s about being aware of your child’s behaviour, how they interact with people and how they behave around an iPad or an Xbox.” While lockdown means time spent gaming may have become an issue in many families, he believes this is an area for caution all the time. “Definitely monitor time in play and watch any money spent – and say no; it’s important to set limits.” As to the future, recent betting legislation includes a dramatic reduction in allowable stakes on fixed odds betting terminals a ban on credit cards being used to place bets. Reappraisal may also be due for gaming; loot boxes now face much harsher legislation (even outright bans) in some countries and more could follow suit. While our first NHS clinic for young gamblers and gamers is another sign the UK is waking up to a potential problem for this ‘guinea-pig generation’, 24/7 betting looks to be here to stay. Little wonder then that in some quarters there is growing conviction that legislation must be tougher – on both gambling and the gamblinglike elements in gaming – to ensure that the house doesn’t always win. SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 33

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LEARNING from HISTORY What can school history lessons teach young people about both their past and the way we consider today’s live issues? We asked three leading practitioners to tackle age-old debates and give their assessment of why history matters today

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ust over a decade ago, a House of Lords debate discussed whether history teaching was in crisis as a subject declining in our schools. Along the way, it highlighted some age-old battlegrounds, notably the narrative view of history versus the critical enquiry approach. The debate may have seemed arcane to casual observers, but it highlighted something historians have long known – this is a field that is constantly scrutinised, debated and revised. And history is controversial – it’s a subject where argument and counter argument are encouraged. So where does history fit in to our schools today? Some would argue that our National Curriculum has consigned history to the second tier of subjects, not as important to pupils as STEM or English, not as careeruseful as foreign languages. Yet you can’t help noticing how many leading barristers and civil servants – politicians even – studied history at university. So how useful is history for today’s society and what can young people gain from studying it in depth? We asked three historians for their take.

“History uses all the skills” JULIAN BARNET T Southbank International School


ith campuses in Hampstead, Kensington and Westminster, Southbank is an IB world school in the Cognita Group with a diverse UK and international cohort. History is a popular subject here, thanks in part to the inspired (and award winning) teaching of Julian Barnett. He says: “What history gives young people is breadth. History uses all the skills and all the subjects. It teaches skills in making an argument and knocking down an argument and in mastering and managing large amounts of information”. Julian Barnett believes the old battleground of narrative v critical enquiry in history misses the point. “It requires both sides – you have got to have knowledge, but this is nothing without

the analytical skills.” He adds that it is this combination in history that helps young people tackle really challenging questions – for instance, in a university interview – even if they are grilled on topics that they haven’t studied in coursework. Southbank’s syllabus is, believes Julian Barnett, particularly well-suited to preparing young people for the onward journey to higher education. “The IB History course we teach here at Southbank is very carefully structured in that 25 per cent of the grade is judged via the Internal Assessment, a piece of independently researched coursework. Students are encouraged to engage with their local or national history for the 2,200-word paper.” Another element is the Extended Essay, a 4,000-word research paper that every IB student undertakes in the subject of their choosing. “The work undertaken puts them on a par with first-year undergraduate students – we know this because universities tell us they can spot an IB student.” Not every student will take history to Diploma Level, but making it an engaging subject – especially for younger age groups – is key. “Fun and fascination are the key components and later they begin to grasp the hard skills,” says Julian Barnett. “One thing I do from early on is encourage students to out-argue me, outmanoeuvre me, by presenting substantive facts and logical arguments. It’s an important part of being a historian.” This, of course, teaches great skills for life – how to question and not just accept things at face value – but it also goes to the crux of history’s intrinsic value in teaching skills for public life, be it bar or hustings. “The skill is in teaching students that they need to employ facts to make their case, further their argument. They learn to use the right facts to stack the argument they want to make,” says Julian Barnett. Of course, there are some arguments that may be ancient history but still step on to sensitive ground today. Julian Barnett believes that, when taught properly, history teaches us to remove ourselves from preconceptions – our own cultural or social biases – but he also believes in open debate. “There is nothing in history that cannot be discussed in classes provided it is handled carefully. Schools should be a cauldron of ideas and part of my role as teacher is to ensure students have the confidence to challenge. In a good classroom debate the teacher hardly has to say anything.” As to history’s value for building young people’s ability to think bigger picture, Julian Barnett believes it is up there

in the gods with philosophy. “It may be unfashionable to say this, but history can be a hard, demanding and sometimes even at times an uncomfortable subject. But having the facts makes it enjoyable, and once students love a subject it is liberating for the mind. Taught in the right way, history is irresistible.”

“History gives us a questioning mind” KEELY ROGERS ACS International School Egham


CS International School Egham is the only UK school to offer all four International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes, from Primary Years to Diploma. It also has a star historian on its team in Keely Rogers, author of multiple history textbooks. She has no doubts about history’s relevance to today’s young people. “One of my favourite historians Margaret MacMillan commented that we study history because it helps us to understand the world now, understand ourselves and others. That is the hook into history.” What lies beyond for children is, she adds, far more complex. While history may give us a sense of identity – and understanding of culture, language, religion and identity – it also helps us to test where other people are coming from. “Experts and leaders are using history all the time to justify policy. A knowledge of history gives us a questioning mind and a foundation to test these assertions. It means not accepting what people say without thinking through origin and intent.” Keely Rogers believes that history is key in helping us engage with the world around us now, pointing out that at IB History Diploma level young people are asked to engage with parallel histories – those voices missing from our current narrations of the past – challenging stuff for historians of any age. The complexity of the final project can take young people into exciting and less well-charted territory; she cites one student undertaking individual research on black participation in the Boer War. But history can also be very challenging SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 37

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on a personal level, forcing young people to consider themselves in relation to past events. She says: “I like to use contemporary issues to draw students in. But it’s also important to engage them in a personal way. For instance, when I teach the course Wars (looking at causes, practices, effects), they come with no prior knowledge. In the opening lesson I will ask them: ‘What would you fight for?’ and ‘Would you be prepared to die for it?’. This instantly gives them an understanding of what it is they are studying”. As to the narrative v critical enquiry debate, Keely Rogers says both matter. “We need to have chronology, but then history is also about teaching the skills to challenge what we read.” Getting children to consider elements of causation, consequences and deciding what is or is not significant in sources is a valuable lesson in going deeper – making a critical analysis – but so too is using a variety of disparate sources to develop your own original narrative. When it comes to the heated debates – from no platforming to revising the position of past heroes – Keely Rogers believes historians have a duty to consider the arguments for and against. “Perspectives change and it is important to recognise that in the 21st century we are asking different questions.” She sees new priorities continually coming to the fore in history – more emphasis not only on areas such as black history and women’s history, but also on environmental history. This keeps history fresh, ensuring students see its relevance. She has no doubts of its value to students’ future lives and careers, as well as to their sense of identity. “I would like it to be compulsory all the way through school. The skills it teaches are fundamental.” Southbank's Julian Barnett says history teaches bigpicture thinking

“History develops highlevel analysis” JAMES ROBERTS Oakham School


akham has a long history of academic excellence and it treats history as a core subject – all pupils study it up to the end of GCSE. It remains popular post 16, and the school offers both A-level and IB qualifications. Head of History James Roberts says it is a subject that builds sophisticated literacy and communication skills from an early stage. “History requires precision in writing formally and using correct terminology.” More than that, he believes history develops high-level skills in analysis and evaluation that present testing academic challenges. “In history, there’s a big step up post 16, with a particularly big transformation by the time you get to final year. I’m a big fan of the new A-level syllabus and one element is asking young people to consider change over 100 years, which has to be one of the toughest conceptual challenges.” Skills of debate and analysis – and the ability to engage confidently with controversies – are valuable, with school history providing a safe environment to teach and test those skills. James Roberts says there is sensitive ground in history – the way certain areas and themes are introduced needs care and teachers

also have to take account of individual backgrounds. They must also recognise that our generation’s perspective has already altered for the next generation, as the events themselves become part of a more distant past. “As teachers, we must be careful in our assumptions of both previous knowledge and sensitivities. There is always a sense though that we need to do a proper job on teaching areas such as Civil Rights and the Holocaust.” First-hand and experiential history remain vital. The school’s trips to the First World War battlefields are, he says, “genuine fieldwork”, with children looking at maps, walking along what were the front lines and using the core elements of enquiry-based learning to further their understanding and sense of how this chapter in history unfolded. When it comes to engaging them in the classroom, James Roberts says subject knowledge from the teacher is key, but good teaching always needs a story to inspire. “I’m a great believer in narrative. That’s how history takes place and it’s essential that students have a strong grasp of narrative and chronology.” Beyond telling the story, James Roberts believes history can help young people make sense of the complexities and challenges of our world – and understand more about context. “History, almost uniquely, is in a very strong position to do this, and schools are equipped to manage these controversies sensitively,” he says. This is something particularly relevant at a time of debates over no platforming. He cites Churchill as an example of how nuanced history can be, saying that if we consider Churchill in the context of WWII we have one perspective, but through the prism of, say, Indian or Iraqi history that perspective alters. “Presenting an individual in this way – and you could do the same for many other world leaders – is a way to get children to see why it’s important not to rush to judgement based on a particular context as that limits our understanding.” . SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 39

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16/01/2019 16:06




Lockdown LEARNING The Headteacher of Highgate discusses some of the lessons learned during virtual school about students’ independent learning capacity and what makes a real community


t has become something of a standard joke between me and my sonorously-voiced (Welsh) Head of Junior School that I could probably hear his voice without the aid of Zoom or MS Teams or Skype, given that he lives two doors down the road to me. In fact, I have found it comforting that he isn’t ever actually very far away even if we haven’t been allowed to meet face-to-face during ‘lockdown’! When a colleague suggested that we should re-name our remote learning programme ‘Highgate@Home’, I jumped at the idea: enforced physical separation shouldn’t mean that we feel remote when, in fact, technology is making it so easy to stay in touch. What does Highgate@Home look like? Well, we use a learning platform which allows us to upload documents and user-friendly instructions, together with narrated PowerPoint presentations, quizzes and short videos, as the basis of the self-directed learning that makes up a proportion of each pupil’s daily diet. In a live lesson, pupils can switch from the learning platform to a virtual classroom environment. In the virtual classroom the teacher can speak to the entire class (muting the pupils’ microphones so that

“Highgate@ Home has been sharpening pupils’ understanding of what they can always do at home to optimise their time”

when necessary, rescue! Adaptive quizzes inject pace and palliative diversion and open children’s minds to the untapped potential of memory and brain power. In short, the lockdownled need to harness technology is opening adults’ eyes to what may accelerate children’s independence. Some may now ask whether coming to school will ever seem as important if so much can be A B OV E Pupils at achieved at home. Highgate What we quickly realised, however, was what would not everyone speaks at once) or to be missing if only lessons were on the individuals. The teacher can take menu. We have added a ‘daily dose’ of questions or invite them through a chat extra-curricular activities and tutor time, channel. Lessons are recorded, which including chapel services, assemblies, means that late-comers or absentees suggested ‘shelf-help’ recreational reading, can follow later on. fitness and relaxation routines. Tutors While Highgate@Home has been clock in once a week with each of their a temporary substitute for brickspupils to check how things are going – the and-mortar school, it has human touch still matters. also been sharpening pupils’ What is my take-away understanding of what they from the attractions and can always do at home to temptations of technology optimise the time they spend and home-based learning? with teacher. Homework Brilliant in an emergency; becomes not just work you do transformative in developing at home but work best done a child’s independence; at home, and work done in exciting in side-stepping class is collaborative. Class time-filling drudgery. But ADAM PETTITT Headteacher work enables risk-taking – it is a complement to, not Highgate School and teacher is there to guide, a substitute for, life in a direct, prompt, challenge and, community. SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 41

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Future Ready An active programme of mentorship, character building and soft skills development is being used to help pupils at Sydenham High School prepare for the jobs of tomorrow


n an increasingly conceptual and global job market it is time for businesses, parents and schools to work together to ensure that our young people are able to develop the character and skills necessary for the world of work. So says a recent report from the Confederation of British Industry (2019) entitled ‘Getting people work ready’. This follows the CBI 2018 Education and Skills annual report findings that 44% of the 28,000 employers represented felt that young people leaving secondary education were not work ready. Close to half (45%) ranked aptitude and readiness for work as the most important factors in recruitment, alongside broader skills such as resilience, communication and problem solving. A huge percentage of the jobs that our young people will be entering in the future do not yet exist. It is, therefore, imperative that they develop skills that will serve them well in a wide range of situations. So how can we as teachers and leaders address this gap and ensure we are equipping our students with what they need to access the jobs of the future? Carving out time in a busy curriculum to focus specifically on ‘work readiness’ is what some may consider a luxury. However, after reading this report and other similar documents, I would consider it a disservice to our students if we did not make time. The term ‘work ready’ has had many incarnations and has latterly been known as soft skills, transferable skills, 21st

“It is imperative that our young people develop skills that will serve them well in a wide range of job situations”


century skills, life skills, character education and, at Sydenham High School GDST, Professional Skills. The CBI has narrowed the concept down to three overarching terms that, combined, can provide young people with the necessary ingredients for being ‘work ready’: • Knowledge – gained from a broad and challenging school curriculum • Character – the development of resilience and the ability to be reflective • Skills – how a young person would put both of the other principles together to solve a problem, work within a team or lead a group. Professional Skills forms part of Sydenham High’s bespoke Active Citizen Programme and provides year 12 students with a valuable opportunity to develop their networking and business communication through seminars from high-level professionals. Matched with a mentor, they are tasked with organising and attending a meeting to discuss career ABOVE Building communication skills is key

options. Our mentors represent a huge diversity of careers and are often drawn from our extensive and valuable alumnae and parent networks. The workshops and seminars delivered in the first part of the course focus on areas such as corporate communications, writing appropriate and effective emails, networking, problem solving and using social media professionally and productively. Through this programme, students have the opportunity to be reflective about their own performance and many gain valuable insights into the worlds of work and work experience, with continued mentoring regularly offered. Our Active Citizen Programmes also includes Volunteering and Enrichment. Here, students can opt to learn new skills such as rock climbing or photography. Through this curriculum, and the many and varied leadership and mentoring opportunities they have as part of the Girls’ Day School Trust, our students develop character and impressive skills, putting them in an excellent position to face the challenging world of work in this new decade.

D R E LYS E WA I T E S Deputy Head (Pastoral) Sydenham High School GDST SPRING 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 43

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LEFT The school sits on a fiveacre site in north London RIGHT Pupils enjoy a bilingual learning environment


The bilingual Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill has woven technology into education and campus life

L “State-of-the-art technology tools facilitate different rates and styles of learning and enable both collaboration and selfdirected study”

ong before the first students arrived in 2015 at Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill, technology was woven deeply into the school’s guiding philosophy. The Lycée’s mission is to prepare young people for 21stcentury life, in which mastery of digital tools underpins emerging modes of working and social interaction. The co-ed independent bilingual school offers both the French baccalauréat and the English-language International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Stateof-the-art technology tools facilitate different rates and styles of learning and enable both collaboration and self-directed study. They are not just bolted onto traditional pedagogy, but specifically designed to empower new, more interactive ways of learning. All Secondary Section students are provided with iPads, which they use for secure, guided online research and shared projects (of course, they can also use paper and pens). A suite of cloud-based Google programmes handles jobs ranging from schedules and lesson plans to homework assignments and teacher feedback.

Students use Google Hangouts or Zoom for videoconferencing. Another software tool –Pronote– ensures parents have upto-date essentials such as grades, report cards, absences and other administrative information. And the students themselves are constantly dreaming up creative new ways to use the technology at their disposal. This strong technical foundation, with digital tools already deeply embedded into everyday academic life, proved an enormous asset when the Lycée was forced to close (in common with all other schools) during the COVID-19 outbreak. Pupils and their teachers were able to make an easy transition, building on skills and tools they already knew how to access and use. This meant continuity; they followed the same schedule as always, with lessons delivered by live video and plenty of opportunity for online interaction with their classmates. Even subjects that typically require physical presence, such as art, music and PE, carried on as usual, with creative and engaging modifications dreamed up by the teachers. In a landmark 1995 article on technology in classrooms, the computer magazine Byte advised that 'computers should be used to enhance, not replace, the teacher and supplement, not supplant, traditional teaching methods'. A quarter of a century later, digital tools have advanced by light years, which means that schools must embrace new ways of learning if they haven't already. Lycée Churchill has demonstrated that successful application of technology in education is more about commitment and culture than bits and bytes. Its approach enables young people to benefit from all that technology can do to enhance and support traditional education, while also fostering creative approaches to learning. SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 45

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Screen Time K N O W H O W

Parents were concerned about children's screen time before lockdown, so how do we manage this issue when everything from school to social has gone virtual?


here have been plenty of scare stories over the years about screen time, but lockdown has brought a whole new regime to test families. Of course, virtual school and social time have been saviours. They have helped to keep work and school life going and make families who are separated from loved ones feel closer. But the downside is that children are spending vastly more time online – and we don't always know what they are doing, let alone if they are being exposed to immediate risk or longer-term harm. In mid-April, UNICEF issued a technical note warning that with 1.5 billion children and young people affected worldwide by school closures there was a heightened risk of exploitation and grooming because: "not all children have the necessary knowledge, skills and resources to keep themselves safe online". In May, Australia warned of a 'manual' circulating specifically to assist criminals who wanted to target children during lockdown. Scary stuff indeed.


For families managing this necessary but sudden switch, cyber bullying and child exploitation are at the worst end of the threats scale. At the other end is that niggling concern about how our children's school and social lives have shrunk remorselessly to chair and screen. Should we attempt to moderate screen time right now and, more than that, how do we get them off the virtual and back to the real world when familiar routines return? Perhaps the good news is that benefits outweigh negatives when it comes to the lockdown virtual existence we are all living through. "Perspective is absolutely key when it comes to screen time. There is a lot of scaremongering around the Internet and screen time is the poster child," says Jonny Pelter, founder of Simple Cyber Life, a membership site for families looking to ensure their online life is as secure as their real one. He adds: "There are long-term risks such as obesity, but in the context of lockdown, we're looking at a short- to mediumterm effect." While schooling online is enabling children to carry on learning, he

believes that we also have to recognise the social use benefits – even when it's a Fortnite binge, they are likely to be doing it in company (virtually) with friends. Reassurances aside, Jonny Pelter sees firsthand the issues that worry parents and believes many of them are well grounded. His background is in the corporate cyber world (with clients such as HSBC and Aviva), but over time he found more and more friends turning to him for help with Internet issues – often as a last resort. It dawned on him that when safety breaks down for organisations it's serious; when it goes wrong for families there can be a profound real-world impact. Simple Cyber Life offers useful 'how to' advice, tutorials, self-help guides and expert one-to-one guidance if there's a problem you can't handle. It's also a place for members to share real-world concerns and get advice on pressing issues – from cyber bullying to hacked accounts. While it's a young company, it has already been selected for startup support under GCHQ's 'cyber accelerator' scheme. While the majority of security issues can be addressed by

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“At the better end of the 'online threats scale' is our concern that children's school and social lives have shrunk remorselessly to chair and screen”

ABOVE Virtual social time is a lifeline right now

installing the right protection, perennial family battlegrounds are not straightforward. Enforcing rules around the amount of screen time children can have – be it for schoolwork or pleasure – is necessary, but these aren't easy to enforce. "Kids will never understand it – it's like bedtime. And when you have children of different ages and have to set different rules, expect them to contest it. But you can go prepared with some of the scientific research that backs up your rules," says Jonny Pelter. Whether it's the impact on sleep quality or the importance of active time outdoors, there's sound information to draw on. "It's really hard for children at the moment, but we would say now, as always, that rest periods are important. Making sure they take a halfhour away from the screen after each oneor two-hour block of screen time is healthy

– and that's also an effective way of reducing overall screen time." As to life after lockdown, he is positive that children will cope with a return to real-world life, even if some need what he calls a "transition period" – just as some adults may need to wean themselves off Zoom, Twitter and the rest. "While it may sound counter-intuitive, given that I've founded Simple Cyber Life, I don't subscribe to Armageddon theories when it comes to children and screen time," adds Jonny Pelter. "There are some real positives about this period – kids have learned to code and done all sorts of other creative things because of the extra time spent recently at their screens."

Simple Cyber Life offers monthly subscriptions from £2.99. For a free trial, visit simplecyberlife.com


Have anti-virus software and keep it up to date • Ensure all devices with webcams also have anti-virus software • Use a password manager • Educate family and friends so you keep each other safe online

SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 47

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QUESTION TIME The experts at Gabbitas Education have the answers


With home schooling continuing is now the time to engage a tutor to give my child extra support?


Although some schools have started to re-open for specific year groups, there are still many who are having to continue with home schooling and most are unlikely to return to school until the autumn. Prolonged periods of remote study, especially when the weather is good, can become very challenging. Routines start to wane and boredom can take a hold. Children start to lose their focus and parents find it harder to keep them motivated. September is several months away, so the time available now is an opportunity to help improve and expand your child’s knowledge and help make learning fun again. To do this, it could be time to consider enlisting some extra support. Taking on a tutor has several benefits, aside from the specialist knowledge they can impart. It is an opportunity to create some structure, help get young people back on track with their studies and give some direction in preparing


ABOVE Home tutoring can re-energise children

for the next academic year. Helping them fill gaps in their knowledge can act as an opportunity to re-engage with learning. It is also a chance to provide tutoring in subjects away from the curriculum that they might never have considered but which could help expand their horizons. Pupils who are working towards Pre-Test, 11+ or Common Entrance need to be focused. Just one tutorial a week can help consolidate course work from school, energise and

stimulate whilst helping them delve deeper into a subject. It can give the week some structure and purpose. A good tutor can act as a positive role model during these difficult times. Gabbitas has a long history of providing tutors and we have been able to enlist the support of our excellent team to put together some Bespoke Remote Tutoring Packages to help parents during this challenging time, with information available on our website.

“For pupils who are working towards PreTest, 11+ or Common Entrance exam, just one session a week from a tutor can help to consolidate coursework” SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 49

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How will GCSE and A-level exam results be calculated now that the actual exams have been cancelled?

ABOVE Coursework will be used to determine final grades


This year’s GCSE, AS and A-level exams have been cancelled. As a result, grades are now going to be awarded based on a student’s performance in mock exams and other non-exam assessment data available to teachers. In practice, this will work using the following elements: •  Non-exam assessment/coursework (complete or incomplete) •  Homework •  Mock exams •  Any other records of student performance over the course of study •  Any records of performance in subjects such as PE, Music and Drama •  Recent and relevant public exam and external testing, such AS-level grades and BMAT/UCAT, which can be included in the evidence. Teachers will use their professional experience to make a fair and objective judgement of the grade they believe a student would have achieved had they sat their exams this year. The final grades awarded in each subject will be internally moderated by the relevant departmental staff at the school. Schools have been asked to rank students in order of performance in each grade and subject and will submit these to the relevant exam boards.


The exam boards will then standardise the results by comparing grades between schools and colleges to achieve fairness overall. How the schools have performed historically will also be considered, therefore the grade predicted from the school may be adjusted up or down by the exam board. Students will receive their grades by mid-August, if not earlier, and those who feel that the grades awarded do not reflect their ability will have the opportunity to take their exams in an autumn series of exams (yet to be finalised) or in summer 2021. There will be an ‘appeal’ procedure for students who do not agree with their final grades made using the assessment process, but how this will work is also to be finalised.

What changes have been made to the International Baccalaureate now formal exams have been cancelled?


Despite the Summer Exams being cancelled, the International Baccalaureate (IB) intends to release results as planned in July. To enable the IB Board to provide these grades, schools and colleges uploaded coursework and associated predicted grades in April.


“Teachers will use their professional experience to make a fair and objective judgement of the exam grade they believe a student would have achieved”

IB will be using vast amounts of historical assessment data to ensure that there is a rigorous process of due diligence in what is a truly unprecedented situation. They will be undertaking significant data analysis from previous exam sessions, individual school data, subject data as well as comparative data of schools that have already completed uploading requirements and those that have not. IB will require schools to submit the coursework for all candidates. IB will externally mark work that is usually marked by teachers, instead of taking samples and applying moderation. They will use a calculation that is based on the relationship between coursework marks, predicted grades and subject grades to estimate the subject grades candidates would have received if the exams had gone ahead. If the relationship between these elements shows that in previous sessions candidates globally tended to achieve higher outcomes on their exams than their coursework, the calculation used this session will reflect that. At a subject level, students will be awarded a grade on the normal IB 1-7 scale. Theory of Knowledge (TOK), the Extended Essay and the Career-Related Programme Reflective Project will be awarded a grade on the normal IB A-E scale. The DP core will be awarded on the normal IB 0-3 scale. A total points score will be awarded for the Diploma, out of 45 as normal. However, if students are unhappy with the process it has been agreed that they will be able to take their exams in November, although this will mean delaying university entrance for a year.

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09/06/2020 01:02:41


QUALITY QUEST Hurst College discusses its programme to support students' 'flight to quality' with applications to fiercely competitive medical, dentistry and veterinary courses BRIAN SCHOFIELD


aving chosen a less than cash-soaked career in teaching, the investment market remains an almost entirely closed book to me. But one concept from the world of stocks and shares has massive resonance in education right now – ‘flight to quality’. This describes what happens in financial markets in times of uncertainty or instability when smart money pours from speculative investments into gold or government bonds. Something rather similar is happening in higher education. The dramatic expansion in undergraduate places and the disruptions caused by tuition fees, degree apprenticeships and ‘conditionalunconditional offers’ has led to uncertainty about the true value of degrees. As a result, more young people are placing their faith in degrees that offer a secure pathway to professional life. Law, architecture, pharmacology and radiology have all seen increased applications, but by far the biggest flight to quality is towards medical, dental and veterinary schools. Applying to these courses has never been more competitive or complex. Medicine

at Bristol receives 14 applicants per place, Exeter 11 per place. Edinburgh's veterinary school receives a dozen applicants per place. Entrance requirements have crept up steadily from ABB in my day to as high as A*AA today. Some medical schools will not consider applicants who have retaken any part of their A levels. Others say that if you want to join after a prior degree,you should have been awarded a First. Desperate to allocate places as fairly as possible, universities apply an idiosyncratic range of criteria and tests. There are aptitude tests, interview tasks and – particularly for aspiring vets – a pretty brutal requirement to complete work experience. It can feel as if applying to the clinical professions is a full-time job in itself. This is why we devote so much time to our Medics, Dentistry and Vets Programme at Hurst. Our specialist advisors provide students with guidance about where to apply and give them preparation for personal statement writing, aptitude tests and interviews. It starts in Year 11. Sixth Formers then receive regular sessions on medical ethics, situational judgement, current affairs, imaging methods, international systems and practice business models. Students take part in a careers ‘speed dating’ session, have a discussion with a local GP and take an online course via The Medic Portal. A BELOW postgraduate medic also A clinical careers gives a presentation networking and advice event at on their application Hurst College experience. In addition to all this background work, students undertake mini interviews, Oxbridge-style interviews and a panel interview with experts. Careers advisors sesssions are designed to make applications stand out. We provide support for Highly Selective Universities (HSUs), as well as other routes into medicine.

“Our programme is hard work, but it pays off. Last year, 85% of our aspiring medics and vets successfully secured an offer from at least one university” The programme is hard work for our students, but it pays off. Last year, 85% of our aspiring medics and vets secured an offer from at least one university and all were called to interview. We celebrate every offer as the great achievement it is in a fiercely competitive environment. Watching these young people work so hard for their goal serves as a further reminder, if any were needed, that however gratifying it might be to moan about snowflakes and millennials, we probably had it a little easier in our youth.

BRIAN SCHOFIELD Acting Head of Higher Education Hurst College SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 53

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Book a personal virtual tour today! Visit: shrewsbury.org.uk/admissions

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09/06/2020 01:02:44


OPEN PLATFORM The Head of Notting Hill & Ealing High says schools should teach the value of open debate M AT T H E W S H O U LT S


he battlelines are drawn on freedom of speech on university campuses and 'no platforming'. In one camp, academics and others are concerned that students wish to cocoon themselves and their peers from views they abhor and from exposure to un-woke opinions. They believe that universities must insist that speakers of all hues are accommodated and political balance on campus is imposed. In the other corner of the ring, The Times' Alice Thomson (among others) writes that students have every right not to invite people on to campus to promote their causes. Alice Thomson insists that young people are perfectly aware of the range of opinions on controversial topics, but do not feel the need to indulge visitors who wish to push their own agendas. As Arron Banks, the self-proclaimed bad boy of Brexit was quizzed at the Oxford Union fairly recently, it would appear that some university platforms remain open. Yet there are many recent instances of invitations being rescinded or not issued to protect people from uncomfortable views or views unpopular with the audience. Politics has always been tribal, and people will often cleave to those who share their views

“Democracy only flourishes when the environment in which it takes place is structured so that people are forced to hear the different views on offer”

ABOVE Matthew Shoults believes schools must address the 'echo chamber'

and step away from those who disagree, sometimes to extremes: if the Guardian crossed the threshold of my brother-in-law’s house, I think he might ring the police. But democracy only flourishes when the environment in which it takes place is structured so that people are forced to hear the different views on offer. Fifteen years ago, in his excellent book Time to Start Thinking, Edward Luce analysed the demise of bipartisanship in US politics with one simple example of Democrats and Republicans deserting the Senate dining room, a space which had formerly forced them to rub shoulders and to find greater compromise. Social media has only increased this tendency. Far from giving people access to a wider range of views, it tends merely to entrench and isolate political strands; indeed, Facebook’s algorithms will serve us content designed to match our views. I have experienced myself the partisan

nature of Facebook, in which my feed consists of friends and acquaintances churning out a one-sided invective, with mutually admiring comments beneath. This is the adult world, so hardly a fine example to set those who follow in our footsteps. The point is that the sheer 'always on' nature of social media intensifies this echo chamber effect. Before the rot sets in, we need to give school students the tools to steer a healthier path. When my 11-year-old students learn public speaking with me, they practise debating, and they do not get to choose the argument they will be espousing. Challenged to promote the view that dogs are a menace to society (among a class of canine obsessives), my students were perfectly able to take on the proposition, and they also challenged their own assumptions doing so. But without self-consciously looking for ways to see the other side of the argument, we so easily sleepwalk into the sort of intolerance shown on some university campuses and in our 'Yah Boo' political environment. A friend and fellow head spent a number of years alternating newspapers across the week, to force himself to read views across the political spectrum. We owe it to our school students to create similarly broadening experiences, as this is the best way to challenge orthodoxies, be it on social media, our university campuses or in the wider world.

M AT H E W S H O U LT S Headmaster, Notting Hill & Ealing High School GDST SPRING 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 55

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for September 2021 www.lyndhursthouse.co.uk office@lyndhursthouse.co.uk Telephone: 0207 435 4936

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09/06/2020 01:02:42


Young adventurers will love heading into the stratosphere with Dr Maggie See page 60

SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 57


09/06/2020 10:40:37


M A K ING of Me

Aldo Kane The former Royal Marine, and now TV extreme adventurer and specialist in hostile environments, discusses his journey through school, his love of geography and the education he gained from travelling the world

Where did you go to school and when? Kilwinning Academy in Kilwinning, Ayrshire between 1990 and 1994.

What beliefs do you think your time at school instilled in you? I think my time at school highlighted to me the importance of self-learning, the importance of finding a passion and nourishing it. It taught me that if I wanted to learn something, I had to first be interested in it. It was also the start of my resilience training.

What was your school like? I grew up on the south-west coast of Scotland. Schooling to me seemed to be about what religion you were – Catholic or Protestant – and what football team you supported much more than education. I found I got more education from the Scouts and the Air Cadets.

What was your proudest school moment? I don’t really have a proudest moment from my time at school, but I am proud now that the Geography Department is using some of my films as part of the curriculum. : )

Did you love it or hate it? I didn’t really enjoy school when I was there. I seemed to spend all my time wishing I was outdoors, learning things about the world and the environment. I guess I would have to say I didn’t like it.

What was the most trouble you got into? I was suspended once for something which wasn’t my fault.

What were your favourite subjects at school? The only subject that I liked at school was geography. I couldn’t get enough of it. I knew one day that I would be travelling the world and seeing the things I was being taught about firsthand, so I paid attention.

Who was your favourite teacher and why? My Geography teacher Mr Blease. He taught me the basics of the world and how it works, with a bit of map reading thrown in.

And your least favourite? My least favourite class without doubt was maths. It was only a few years later while on my Sniper training course that I was taught the true value of mathematics!

Where was your favourite place at school and what did you do there? I found the gym fairly early on in my school life and spent most of my time there, training to join the Royal Marines.

What is your most vivid memory, looking back now? The walk to school and back from my house was the best. A group of about seven of us close mates would all walk the two miles each way. It was a time for laughing, catching up and having fun. Were you ever too cool for school? Far from it. I was bullied, as is


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education works and I am glad that I understood, even then, that the responsibility of real education started and stopped with me. I didn’t do very well at school; in fact, I left in the middle of my exams. I then spent the next 25 years travelling the world and learning from others. Travel and expeditions have truly been my educator. ALL IMAGES Aldo Kane

probably the norm for children who don’t quite fit in. I hated football – and where I grew up football was religion. I left school at 16 and joined the Royal Marines, where I became a Commando. So, by 17 I was travelling the world being very cool and I forgot all about the bullying children still hanging around the street corners back home. When and how did your interest in adventure and extreme activities take root? My love of the outdoors was instilled in me by my father and developed by Scouting. I was in the Scouts and the Air Cadets from a very young age. This to me was my schooling. I learned all the

basic field craft skills that I needed to survive on my own. I was flying planes and going away on camps nearly every weekend. Who encouraged and influenced you in this? I knew that I wanted to join the Royal Marines from the age of 12. Everything I did from then on was geared up to me passing one of the hardest infantry training regimens in the world. Scouts, Cadets and my father all helped with that. What do you feel about your school experience looking back? I know a lot more about how

What’s coming up next for you? As I write this, the UK remains in a period of lockdown and isolation. At this point, I was supposed to be in Namibia filming and then Gabon filming but both had to be cancelled. I am in the same boat as many others, where we now sit and wait and see what the fallout will be. I am using the time wisely though, writing a book. How would you sum up your school days in three words? Learning the ropes.

Aldo Kane has operated and filmed in over 100 countries, including fronting BBC Horizon’s Britain’s Next Air Disaster? Drones and Natural World’s Tigers: Hunting the Trackers, as well as Expedition on Dave. Read more about his work at @aldo kane and aldokane.com SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 59

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TOP SUMMER M U ST READ From books for adventurers (global and galactic) to inspiring poetry and thoughtprovoking stories about climate, our pick of great summer reads


P E N D L E H A RT E & ZO Ë D E L M E R - B E ST



uilding your dream team is the challenge with this footballthemed activity book that encourages younger fans of the game to think like a manager. You can pick from a catalogue of great players throughout the ages and design your own kit and boots for them, while pondering essential questions such as: “could you have Maradona and Messi on the same team?” There are also tough strategy decisions to make on formation and the best pre-match meal.


Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System by Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock BUSTER BOOKS, £12.99

Scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock (MBE) was bitten by the space bug as a kid and does an excellent job of passing on her passion in this inspiring book, Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System. She encourages us to copy Einstein in his ‘thought experiments’ and follow her on an imagined journey through space to

the very edge of the Solar System. The book features amazing NASA photographs alongside full-colour illustrations and is packed with up-to-date information presented in blocks of text or via charts and diagrams. It does exactly what good nonfiction should, answering lots of questions while inspiring young minds to embark on future journeys of discovery.

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This Book Will (Help) Cool the Climate

Editor's pick

by Isabel Thomas HACHET TE , £6.99

Encouraging children to think about their own actions in a wider context, this upbeat volume is full of fun ideas for reducing your carbon footprint. From rewilding your garden to eating less meat, planting trees and avoiding plastic, here are 50 ways in which young people can do their bit to cut pollution and protect the planet.




by Marcus Sedgwick, Z E PHYR , £12 .9 9

c o m p i l e d b y A.F. Harrold BLOOMSBURY, £10.90

Contrary to popular opinion, children relish poetry and this is a very tasty collection indeed, chosen by poet A. F. Harrold. He has gathered poems on nearly every kind of food, and these are paired beautifully with Katy Riddell’s illustrations. As a sample menu, we have Ian McMillan on soup followed by Christopher Reid on salad, and Caroline Bird ponders the humble turnip. A book to dip into, share and return to again and again. Delicious!





by Maggie Li PAVILION BOOKS , £8.99

With Penguin as your guide, take a tour of 28 cities around the world. This beautifully illustrated book features spreads highlighting landmarks, cultural information and quirky facts. For Moscow, we learn about the Bolshoi Ballet, Lenin’s Mausoleum, Laika the space dog and caviar, while Rome gives us the weirdest gelato flavours (lobster, blue cheese, etc) alongside the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican and the Colosseum. Hours of globetrotting fun for readers.


et in a community of people forced to live apart from the rest of society, and prompted in part by his own experience of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Marcus Sedgwick’s latest book Snowflake, AZ examines what it means to be well. From that starting point, the book tackles bigger themes such as the health of our planet and the unseen dangers that may be threatening us all. Told in flashback, it intrigues from its opening page and is chilling in its deadpan delivery. This is a typically thoughtful, intelligent and challenging novel from one of our finest YA writers, and it may have extra resonance for many readers right now.

SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 61

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TAKE A LEAP Performance Poet Patience Agbabi on The Infinite, her new book about time travel, Leaplings and autism I N T E R V I E W C A R LY G L E N D I N N I N G

Tell us about The Infinite. What’s it all about and what made you want to write it? It’s a time-travel adventure story featuring a 12-year old autistic heroine called Elle. She must overcome her difficulties to save the world, find her voice and make new friends. I set out to celebrate an autistic girl in love with language because we rarely find her in literature. As her name, Elle, is a palindrome – reading the same way backwards and forwards – this sowed the initial seed for a narrative that would move backwards and forwards in time.

“Many autistic people feel hyperempathy – I wanted to show the emotional triggers that can look on the outside like 'difficult behaviours'”

The concept of the book is so clever. What inspired you to write about autism, Leaplings and time travel? The book was character-led. My older son is autistic and I have autistic traits myself, though I don’t have a diagnosis. I understand the passion behind a specialist subject, an intensively pursued hobby. I love language and athletics and the Summer Olympics and so does Elle. As the Summer Olympics always happen in a leap year, I made Elle a Leapling, born the 29th of February 2008. Elle, like me, would enjoy the play on the word ‘leap’. The most iconic image from the Olympics is Bob Beamon’s world-record leap in 1968. Elle is

obsessed with Bob Beamon. I thought, what if Elle had the ability to leap through time? And what if a small percentage of Leaplings had The Gift of time travel? Time travel enabled me to explore what the near future might look like: the effects of factory farming, genetic engineering and global warming. What are the common assumptions about autism and disability that you’re hoping the book will challenge? People assume autistic people are good at maths and like trainspotting and, yes, some of them do. But I wanted to show a range of autistic people: Elle’s best friend

Big Ben is a maths genius but he likes supercars; Elle loves linguistic play and athletics; Kwesi is a brilliant graffiti artist who redefines his ‘nonverbal’ diagnosis as ‘Visual ASD’; Season is a supertaster cook. Another misconception is that autistic people can’t feel empathy. Many autistic people feel hyper-empathy, an overwhelming mix of emotions so challenging it might make them react physically (meltdown) or go into withdrawal (shutdown). I show Elle ‘tongue-tied’, unable to speak and ‘living under the table’ in shutdown and refer to Big Ben going into meltdown when he goes ‘from 0 to 10 on the anger scale’. I wanted to show the emotional triggers that can look on the outside like ‘difficult behaviours.’ I also wanted to show autistic people looking after each other. And it was important to have a character with ADHD: MC2 can disappear and reappear on the spot, split-second leaping! In short, I wanted to highlight the ability in disability. How did your own childhood and experience growing up in North Wales influence the book? Like Elle, I used to have severe sensitivities around the textures of foods

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LEFT Patience Agabi set out to describe an autistic girl in love with language . Photo: Lyndon Douglas

You’re most well known for your poetry. How did you fall in love with language and what do you love most about writing? I was read to as a young child; fairy stories, nursery rhymes. I fell in love with the SOUND of words. I learnt to read by memorising what I heard, having whole-word recognition seeing those same words on the page. As for writing, I most love when ideas come together and spark via wordplay, like the multiple meanings of the word ‘leap’.

and I found nylon and wool itchy on my skin. I was an avid reader and writer. The best homework I ever had was to create a time-travel diary. I remember my mum singing the pages for the Great Fire of London entry. It wasn’t just the writing, it was the combined visual element I enjoyed. Around that time, I used to doodle joined up number eights which, sideways, form the infinity symbol. All these things have influenced the book. When I was 12, I moved from Sussex to North Wales and it was excruciating settling into a new school in the equivalent of year 8, when everyone had set friendships. One of my autistic traits is difficulty making

transitions and I struggled with the new house; the damp Welsh weather; being the only black girl in the school. I became depressed but eventually overcame it by joining the local athletics club and getting into Northern Soul – rare 1960s African American dance music. I made friends and we dressed like it was 1963 in 1978 – it was time travel in action. Being black was a bonus because soul and ska originated in black culture. Suddenly, I belonged. When I was creating the character of Elle, I vividly remembered being 12 myself, being on the verge of something daunting but overcoming the challenge.

What would you say to parents who have a child who is struggling to fit in at school? What’s your child’s passion? Get to know other parents, find out their children’s passions, find a good match and organise a playdate. My two sons – one autistic, one neurotypical – needed several interventions to help them make friends. One did it through computer games, the other through supercars. Once your child develops friendships away from school pressures, it can become easier for them to bond with other children at school. And finally, if you had Elle’s powers of time travel, what would you do? I’d leap back to the 1968 Summer Olympics to watch Bob Beamon’s phenomenal leap!

The Infinite by Patience Agabi is published by Canongate, £6.99 SUMMER 2020 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 63


09/06/2020 10:50:59


Day in the life Luna and Maria, joint Head Girls of Queen's Gate School in South Kensington, talk us through a day in their lives

Luna 06:00 Wake up, get

dressed, pack my lunch (soup today) and walk to school.

07:00 Arrive at school for

Cross Country Club in Hyde Park. I’m definitely not among the fastest (about 10 minutes in to the session my younger sister is about to overtake me for the second time) but it’s a great excuse to run with the ‘littluns’ in the Junior School and count some time towards my Physical section for DofE.

8:35 Registration and

assembly. Fingers crossed we get to sing the ultimate bop, the Harvest Samba (which most definitely isn’t limited to Harvest time).

10:15 Break now. After a

quick snack it’s off to Mythology Club to guide the year 8s making papier mâché vases. Extremely messy but lots of fun.


Time for Ancient Greek, jumping down a loophole of Ancient Philosophy and gradually memorising the extensive lists of participles.

13:00 After finishing my

soup it’s time to chair Model United Nations Club. I’m sure we, a collection of overenthusiastic teenagers, will resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict one of these lunchtimes.

14:30 Afternoon rehearsals for the Remove (y7) showcase. I know all the words to their songs now and am trying hard to stop myself singing along.

16:15 Time to head home.

Quick snack, then I make a start on my homework before dinner and a little more homework.


Start winding down to get some sleep. Another big day in store tomorrow!

Maria 06:00 I’m not usually awake so early, but once I’m up I get ready as fast as I can and meet a friend to walk to school with.

07:00 I start off the day

with a relaxing session of early morning yoga where my absolute lack of flexibility becomes apparent to all my friends.

8:35 We all go up to the

dining room for breakfast and I head over to a Chamber Choir rehearsal.

10:15 First Break is usually

my only fully free moment at school, so I just spend it in our classroom chatting.


Now it’s time for Chemistry; we’re synthesising aspirin from salicylic acid today!


I quickly go out to South Ken with friends to grab

some lunch, and then rush back to school just in time to run year 7 STEM Club, where we’re making balloon cars and doing thermite decomposition demonstration.

14:30 Down to the Hall

for our weekly Wider World lectures, with a special guest revealing the secrets to their success. Then it’s off to RS for a debate about what makes us morally responsible and how this affects the law.

16:15 I head over to the

Junior School for a rehearsal of their musical, 'Aladdin'. Then I go home, finish my homework, practise the piano and have dinner.


I’ve hopefully finished everything I need to do, so I go to the living room and watch whatever police drama my mum is in to at the moment.

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