ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION PREP & PRE-PREP • AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
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P &EP E PR -PR E PR
Time for parents to switch off?
How secondary transfer works
Fit for a
PRINCE Perfect pre-preps around the capital
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SKI HAPPY Fun & friendly pistes
Smart CHOICE PICK THE BEST SCHOOL FOR YOUR CHILD
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An all-through education for your whole family A new era of education begins... Following the opening of Eaton Square Upper School, Mayfair we are now able to offer families in central London an all-through co-educational school experience. Join us at the age of two in any of our nursery schools and stay all the way through to A-Levels at 18 years old. To book a tour of our Nursery and Preparatory Schools visit:
www.eatonsquareschool.com To book a tour of our Upper school visit:
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AUTUMN / WINTER 2017
Our pick of the hottest family events
16 SCHOOL NEWS
What's going on in the world of education
22 PERFECT MATCH
Expert advice on how to pick the right school
24 LEVEL PLAYING FIELD?
Are all pupils treated equally when it comes to secondary transfer? Lisa Freedman investigates
28 FARM LIFE
City children head down to the farm thanks to Michael and Clare Morpurgo
32 SOCIAL ADDICT
Is it time for parents to switch off from social?
38 FIT FOR A PRINCE
56 WISH YOU WERE HERE?
Where else might Prince George have gone to school? Eleanor Doughty considers some top options
43 HAPPY TALK
Happiness lessons for eight year olds; you decide
53 BE KIND
The ethos of kindness at Thomas's London Schools
How far, how young when it comes to overseas trips, asks Absolutely Education
63 BOARDING BENEFITS
Younger-age boarding can be a good preparation for things to come, says the head of Bedales, Dunhurst
67 QUESTION TIME
Gabbitas Education experts answer your questions
70 TALKING SEN
Three experts with firsthand experience offer parents perspectives on special educational needs
S c h o o lâ€™ s O u t
78 HISTORY MAN
Author and Kids In Museums Patron Damian Dibben on a childhood in museums
Our top picks for young readers
85 CODE MAKER
Possibly the smartest toy you can buy 6
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Libby Norman EDUC ATION SPECI A L IST
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The magical world of books, by Jen Campbell
90 THE MAKING OF ME
ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION PREP & PRE-PREP • AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
86 MAGICAL THINKING
& EP P PR -PRE E PR
Time for parents to switch off?
PRINCE Perfect pre-preps around the capital
Parent-power strategies when it comes to school shoes
How secondary transfer works
SKI HAPPY Fun & friendly pistes
92 SNOW TIME
98 BATTLE LINES: SHOES
Fit for a
Philip Reeve on his schooldays in Brighton
Insider tips on how to hit the slopes as a family
AU T U M N • W I N T E R 2 01 7
PICK THE BEST SCHOOL FOR YOUR CHILD
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FRONT COVER A pupil at Eaton Square School eatonsquareschool.com
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70 years of teaching children to fly
CON T R IBU TOR S
Charlotte Phillips Director of The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants
Charlotte Phillips is a former teacher and a consultant and writer on children's education. She gives her advice on choosing the right school for your child (page 22).
Jen Campbell Award-winning writer and bookseller
Jen Campbell is author of The Things Customers Say in Bookshops and is a former bookseller. She talks about the magic that happens when children visit bookshops (page 86).
Founded in 1947, Bassett House in Notting Hill is a proudly non-selective, co-educational prep school for 3 – 11 year olds. We believe every child can learn to fly. Individual attention combined with our exciting curricular and extra-curricular activities encourage children to think fearlessly and creatively, producing excellent academic results. In the words of Mrs Philippa Cawthorne, the headmistress: ‘The spirit and enthusiasm of our pupils has to be seen to be believed.’ To arrange a visit, please call our registrar, Mrs Thalia Demetriades, on 020 8969 0313 or email email@example.com.
Bassett House School 60 Bassett Road London W10 6JP
Author and Patron of Kids in Museums
Screenwriter and author of The History Keepers series Damian Dibben talks about his passion for history and the value of museums in giving children access to past, present and future (page 78).
020 8969 0313 bassetths.org.uk
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READY FOR AN UNFORGETTABLE LAPLAND ADVENTURE?
OUR FAMILIES LOVE IT; YOURS WILL TOO! We know great experiences can create your most cherished family memories, and we’ve been pioneering them for over 15 years. From thrilling husky safaris, magical reindeer sleigh rides and electrifying snowmobile excursions, to Northern Lights hunts and meeting Father Christmas; every day will be a new adventure on a winter holiday with Activities Abroad. We’ve been with our families and created our own memories; now, it’s your turn. To find out more call 01670 333 091 or visit activitiesabroad.com
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North Bridge House Nursery, Pre-Prep and Prep Schools provide an excellent co-ed, mixed ability educational environment, setting up happy boys and girls for the top London Seniors, year after year.
North Bridge House Nursery, Pre-Prep & Prep Schools
Book an upcoming open event and find out more about 2018 entry.
2017 data from end of KS1 placed 40% of the Pre-Prep cohort in the top 5% of the country. Prep School pupils do exceptionally well in their London Consortium and Common Entrance assessments, with numerous scholarships for the top Senior Schools in London and the UK.
Challenged and high-achieving, never pressurised.
Nursery Tuesday 14 November Tuesday 5 December Spring dates coming soon
Pre-Prep Monday 27 November Tuesday 28 November Monday 11 December Spring dates coming soon
Prep Friday 10 November Friday 9 February Friday 4 May Thursday 14 June
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chool days, especially in the years of pre-prep and prep, should be a halcyon time. But, like all of us, those who are entrusted with the care and education of young minds don't think the garden is all rosy. From the minefield of performance targets and tests to balancing tech with oldschool approaches, we've gathered thoughts and opinions from the headteachers of leading independent schools throughout this issue. Their insights are fascinating and also suggest that our children's futures are in very safe hands. If you're still at the stage of 'shopping' for the right school, do read our Perfect Match article on page 22 to find out the questions that every parent should ask the teachers. It's not all homework. We pay a special visit to Michael Morpurgo's amazing farm project that takes city children to the heart of the countryside (page 28), and step inside the wonderful world of some of our most talented writers for young people, including Jen Campbell (page 86) and Philip Reeve (page 90). We even have insider tips for the perfect family ski holiday (page 92). I hope you enjoy this issue.
L I B BY N O R M A N Editor
AUTUMN â€˘ WINTER 2017
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We grow through what we go through
Rewarding children for: Confidence, Curiosity, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, Commitment and Craftsmanship For a private tour, please call our Registrar on 01444 483528 or visit www.greatwalstead.co.uk GW.indd 1
Up Front P E R F EC T M ATC H p . 2 2 • S O C I A L A D D I C T p . 32
MICHAEL MORPURGO’S FARM
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W H AT ’ S O N Festive treats and fabulous exhibitions to inspire the whole family in the season ahead
3 PL AC E S TO F I N D F E STIVE F U N Embrace the magic and wonder of the season
A Winter’s Walk 17 November - 1 January Winter Wonderland
See your children's faces light up with wonder as they visit the jolly man himself. Winter Wonderland promises to be a magical and very festive experience. hydeparkwinterwonderland.co.uk
Songs of the Season 6 December St Marylebone Parish Church
The Sick Children's Trust presents their seventh annual Christmas Carol Service. Joining in harmony, beautiful voices carry through the church. christmasinleicestersquare.com
HOGWARTS IN THE SNOW
18 November - 28 January • Warner Bros. Studios
Celebrate winter at Hogwarts where the fires are roaring and the tables of the Great Hall are groaning under a replica Harry Potter festive feast. For the first time this year, the top section of the hall is transformed for the Yule Ball with icicles and an orchestra of spellbinding instruments, while the rest of the studio is adorned with a blanket of snow. wbstudiotour.co.uk
A Very Merry Holiday 1 - 25 December Holkham Hall, Norfolk
With concerts, shopping, crafts and food, it will be as if you've transported to the North Pole rather than Norfolk. The hall is full of festive treats for the whole family. holkham.co.uk
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TAKE TO THE ICE 15 November - 14 January Somerset House
Signaling the start of the winter season, the holiday tradition continues. Somerset House is once again transformed with Fortnum & Mason to make for a great holiday outing. A large, sparkling Christmas tree overlooks the skating rink. The whole family will enjoy a lively 'go round', trying their best to stay upright on their skates. somersethouse.org.uk
MERRY AND BRIGHT
9 December - 8 April V& A
he UK’s largest ever exhibition on Winnie-thePooh, A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard is being hosted by the V&A. These original drawings of the beloved children’s tale will go on display for the ﬁ rst time in 40 years. Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic will be a multi-sensory, playful exhibition that will take you into the magical world of the Hundred Acre Wood that has been cherished for generations. vam.ac.uk
22 November - 1 January Kew Gardens
he world is illuminated by light and whimsy. Kew Gardens is overtaken by the holiday spirit as it is transformed into a magical experience. As the sun sets, a beautiful trail of lights display is brought to life. A spectacular show of laser beams and kaelodoscopic projections are sure to dazzle. Singing trees and larger-than-life ﬂora create a fairytale experience. kew.org
3 SHOWS FOR THE SEASON D I C K W H IT TI N GTO N
TH E S N OW M AN
London Palladium 9 December - 14 January
The Peacock 23 November - 31 December
It’s not Christmas without a panto. This vibrant rags-to-riches tale is full of music and laughter. The charming characters are sure to delight children and adults alike. dickwhittingtonpalladium.com
Accompany the Snowman on an enchanting adventure to visit Father Christmas, filled with thrills and chills. This magical and beloved tale celebrates its 20th year on stage. sadlerswells.com
NATIVIT Y ! TH E M U S I CAL
Eventim Apollo 13 December - 1 December
Mayhem ensues as school children prepare for their Christmas program, this time with the added pressure of possible Hollywood stardom. nativitythemusical.com
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SCH OO L N EWS ALL CALM
G R OW YO U R OW N
Faraday Prep School in East London has introduced yoga classes, giving all pupils the opportunity to enjoy a little mindfulness. The classes are being delivered by yoga teacher Emily Osmond, who has three children at the school temporarily while she and her family wait to return to their home on hurricane-affected Turks and Caicos Islands.
Pupils at UCS Pre-Prep, Hampstead get down to earth at the school's allotment. Alongside growing and harvesting vegetables, they can observe the school's beehive and try a spot of pond dipping. The school was recently commended for its outdoor learning at the Camden Greener Schools Awards.
“UCS allotment is a chance for pupils to get closer to nature in the heart of London”
Early Learning Village, Singapore is a brand new school that can host 2,100 children from nursery to kindergarten age, as well as 400 support staff. The groundbreaking educational setting is the latest innovation from schools operator Cognita and was designed by leading architectural studio Bogle Architects. Fabulous facilities make this a model for the future.
The Eaton House Schools group has opened a new prep school in Elvaston Place, South Kensington this term. New headmaster Huw May, who is moving across from Eaton House the Manor PrePreparatory School, has a special interest in music; he has already commissioned a childrens' choral cantata written by composer Martin Neill.
D UA L S C H O O L Kensington Wade has opened its doors, welcoming the first cohort of pupils to a dual language English-Chinese education in London. The school is the brainchild of its chairman Professor Hugo de Burgh, who was inspired by the success of similar formats in the US. The head is Jo Wallace, formerly of Putney High Junior School GDST. The school will offer 'immersive' education in English and Mandarin for children aged between three and 11.
B R A I N WAV E S Girls at Kensington Prep school have been using a high-tech 'explore floor', part of Kensington Prep’s recent £2.7m transformation, which has created imaginative spaces to complement classroom work. Older girls completed an entrepreneurial challenge to develop new product ideas. Digital entrepreneur Tanya Goodin, said: “They are such an impressive group of girls, I would love to employ them all."
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Robot wars Pupils at Maple Walk, a coeducational prep in north-west London, recently had the chance to make and race robots as part of a VEX Robotics workshop. Other fun projects to inspire their creativity have included a poetry slam with Lewis Buxton.
BESPOKE BUNKS New Forest prep school Walhampton is pioneering a new approach to dormitory design with bespoke bunk beds handcrafted by the school’s carpenter. “A standard bunk bed just gives the children a bed to sleep in, but our new design gives them a sense of comfort with nooks and crannies to put their belongings in. They feel as though they have their own cabin to snuggle away in."
SHAPING UP Mayfield School in East Sussex has announced that ceramicist Dan Stafford will be its new artist in residence from this September. Stafford will have the opportunity to develop his work at Mayfield in the pottery studio, as well as teaching girls and adults from the school, and surrounding community.
Wizard masterclass A new exhibition, Harry Potter: The History of Magic, has opened at the British Library. It showcases a display of wizarding books, manuscripts and magical objects, plus material from JK Rowling's personal archive. Below: A phoenix rising from the ashes in a 13th-century bestiary. Inset: A dragon in a 15th-century herbal © British Library
Taking the lead Pupils at James Allen’s Preparatory School have won the top prize in the London Special Leaders Award, organised by UCL. The competition asks pupils to submit inventions that will change the world. Congratulations to Elizabeth Sperotto who was overall winner with her robotic worm invention. AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 17
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Scandinavian inspired childrenâ€™s design
www.scandiborn.co.uk Find us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @Scandiborn
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FUN AND FUNDS
F LOW E R P OW E R Pupils at Bredon School have been flexing their green fingers at the Malvern Spring Festival, a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) flower show. Earlier this year, their outerspace themed garden earned an 'RHS Commended' award. Plans are already afoot for the 2018 masterpiece and the children work closely with the school's farm manager to plant seeds, nurture tender young plants and pot on.
“Bredon pupils earned an RHS commendation for their garden”
Beaudesert Park School in Gloucestershire has forged links with an Indian children’s charity called the OSCAR Foundation, which works to give communities and underprivileged children a better understanding of how education can provide them with alternatives to life on the street. This autumn, thanks in part to funds raised by Beaudesert, a boys’ football team from Mumbai travels to the UK to take part in a football tour of five different schools.
Oakfield Prep staff donned wild wigs and walked 31 miles to raise funds for the Oncology Department of King's College Hospital in a 'Hike for Hancock'. Teacher Adam Hancock, aged 31, has been successfully treated there and attended the after party, while pupils and parents joined in the last three miles of the hike.
B I R T H D AY C E L E B R AT I O N Abercorn School is celebrating its 30th birthday this year. Founded in 1987 by Andrea Greystoke in Abercorn Place, the school now has three premises across London and teaches boys and girls from nursery age to 13 plus. Headmaster Benedict Dunhill says: "Although Abercorn has grown over the years, it has always stayed true to its core, a family school where a love of learning pervades the teaching and learning."
CO-ED NEWS Sarah Lemmon, the new head at Redcliffe School, Kensington has made the prep fully coeducational from this autumn. This means that boys – like girls – will be able to attend from the age of three up to 11 years old. Lemmon says: "To be able to give our young boys the gift of time will ensure that they continue to mature intellectually and grow at their own pace". The school has also introduced new sporting and music facilities.
DANCE OFF Pupils at Hallfield School, Edgbaston have watched the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing with more excitement than most because their very own dance teacher Amy Dowden (pictured left) was chosen as one of the professional dancers on the show and partner to presenter and comedian Brian Conley. Amy has been teaching at the school since 2012, putting pupils through their paces in Zumba, ballroom and Latin dancing. AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 19
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OUR PAST ... YOUR FUTURE
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70 & UP
Bassett House School is celebrating its 70th birthday, a great time to reflect on the journey so far, says school governor and granddaughter of the founder Anna Rentoul
~ “C HILD R EN
NE E D TO EN J OY SCH O O L TO G ET T HE M OST O UT O F IT, SO WE SHAR E I DE AS A M O N G T HE T HRE E SC HO O LS”
In the 1940s, Anna Rentoul's father Alan (below: front row, third from left) loved climbing the chestnut tree that still stands in the garden of Bassett House School. Anna Rentoul is, in fact, the third generation involved in running this North Kensington prep school and its two sisters: Orchard House in Chiswick and Prospect House in Putney. “My grandmother, Sylvia Rentoul, set up the school for her children, and now we’ve got 800 children across our three schools,” she says. “It’s lovely to take a moment to reflect on everything the schools have achieved as we mark Bassett’s 70th birthday.” Inspection reports and 11+ results are one marker, but the kind of extracurricular activities that garner glowing accolades from parents (overnight bushcraft in the woods, anyone?) are another measure. Rentoul believes the group’s key ingredient is the focus on pastoral care. “Children need to enjoy school to get the most out of it, so we share ideas among the three schools to create the best environment.” For example, the pupil pastoral plan was the brainchild of Maria Edwards, head of Orchard House, but has been readily adopted by her colleagues. The pictorial questionnaire enables children to quickly communicate if something’s awry. Recently staff and parents joined forces to climb Mont Blanc in aid of House Schools Trust, the charity that provides bursaries to the three House Schools.
Philippa Cawthorne, head of Bassett House, was among the climbers, while children supported the fundraiser with a stepathon to match their journey. Rentoul says: “We’re all about inspiring children to take on challenges and learn to persevere”. Putting the right building blocks in place starts from age three. “Sylvia was a pioneer in bringing Montessori methods to London 70 years ago, and we continue to use elements of the Montessori approach in our early years today,” says Rentoul. Michael Hodge, head of Prospect House, adds: “What parents tell us they like best is the way our staff really know their child". As children spread their wings, clubs range from Lego coding to fencing. At the upper end joined-up thinking across the schools keeps opportunities broad – from sharing the best new educational apps (each child has an individual iPad and coding has been part of the curriculum for some years) to true-to-life interview practice. “We’re not interested in where in our schools an idea comes from. We want to know: does it work? And, if so, how quickly can the other schools adopt it?” says Rentoul. It may be 70, but there’s no sign that Bassett House is slowing down. Rentoul is helping to oversee its imminent expansion into an additional building. She says: “We’re focused on maintaining our wonderful environment and providing great facilities for this generation of Bassett children – and the next.” AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 21
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MATCH? The literature looks glossy and everyone raves about its superb facilities, but is this the right school to bring out the best in your child? We quizzed two education experts – also both parents – on the questions they would ask
avigating the gloss of prospectus, school website and mission statement – especially in London’s highly competitive pre-prep and prep schools market – can cloud the most decisive parent’s judgement. It is all too easy to get carried away by well-turned-out pupils, not to mention the stories of super-high achievers. Two education experts give their take on the questions every parent should ask when choosing a school.
says about the school and its pupils. This is the surest way to get an insight into the school’s educational approach. Charlotte Phillips, a former teacher, director at The Good Schools Guide and the mother of three children, would also want to grill the head to find out what the educational approach is. She says: “I would ask them how they recruit their teaching staff and what they are looking for in a teacher".
What’s the head’s philosophy?
one-to-one with the head would be a priority for Sebastian Hepher, headmaster of Eaton Square School and the father of four children. He says: “Every school reflects the head, so this is the best way to get a feel for it. You need to know the headteacher’s philosophy on education.” Once you’ve got the head in the hot seat, he adds, listen very carefully to what he or she
Is this a good fit for my child?
ebastian Hepher says that each parent needs to put the individual child right at the centre of the decision about a school and not the allure of reputation or facilities. Also take a cautious view when it comes to the feedback of others. “Parents, especially those new to the process, may be influenced by positive feedback from other parents. It is important to remember that the feedback is only relevant to those parents and their children.”
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Hothousing or nurturing?
oth our experts believe you should carefully scrutinise the pastoral side of the school and its ability to nurture your child to his or her full potential. Phillips urges caution if a school only wants to talk about its stars and their achievements. “A happy child will always learn, but not every child is destined for Oxbridge. As the mother of three children who were all academically fine but didn’t have secret talents just waiting to be tapped, I would not ask the school about the very highest achievers, but about how they work with all the rest of the children – the ‘average’ ones – and ensure they reach their full potential.” Hepher suggests you analyse school priorities. He says: “You need to assess whether the school’s priority is to ensure academic success or to look after the wellbeing of each individual child. At Eaton Square School, for instance, we place great store by the nursery school report because its staff really know that child. If a school has an incredibly rigorous assessment at pre-prep, what is that saying – does it mean that it’s only looking for children of above average ability at the age of three?”
Eaton Square School pupils
Even within a family group, dynamics change and what has worked for one may not be appropriate for siblings – although transport logistics, family discounts and passed-down uniforms may make it seem financially savvy. “Younger children may feel they are in the shadow of an older sibling,” says Hepher. “They may, even subconsciously, try to emulate them and then find they are not succeeding. Each of my four children was educated at a different school. On a practical level, it was challenging, but it was absolutely right for their individual characters.” Charlotte Phillips agrees that you have to think carefully about the setting in relation to the individual child. “It comes down to the very simple question: ‘can I see my child fitting in here?’.” She suggests that parents also take a broader view. “Think about whether you can see yourselves as part of this school community. At early years especially, this will have a huge impact on your child and your family life, and is a key consideration alongside the education the school offers.”
Would I want these teachers?
Y ~ “ I WOUL D NOT A S K
T H E SCH OOL A BOUT TH E V E RY H I GH E ST AC H I EV E RS , BUT A BOUT HOW TH EY WORK W I TH A L L TH E RE ST ”
our own eyes and ears will give you a sense of the school’s pulse – most importantly, whether staff are enthusiastic and the children enjoy being there. “Look at the way the children enter the school and at the interaction between children and staff,” says Hepher. “Ask the head if they know all the children in their school,” says Phillips. “You want to get a feel for the warmth of the school, and it’s the little stories about individual children and day-today events that illustrate how the head and team work with their children.” She also believes you need to assess the character of teachers your child would be entrusted to. “A headmaster told me that he only recruited teachers he’d like to have been taught by. That is a really good question for parents to ask themselves: would I have wanted these people as my teachers?” AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 2 3
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Level Playing Field?
Some say that being at the ‘right’ prep is essential for successful entry at top secondary schools. Absolutely Education investigates
ne of the more shaming moments of my parenting years – almost as bad as the time I got caught in the act of sending my oldest to school with the nits – was the decision to enter my younger son for the Eton admissions test, without ever intending he should go there. Call it a professional experiment if you’re being kind, certifiable behaviour if you’re not, but I wanted first-hand experience of the entry process to one of the world’s most renowned schools. Although I come out very badly from this tale, Eton definitely does not. My son, who attended our local primary school and arrived unprepared for assessment and unaccompanied by a school report, was, nonetheless, offered a place. Parents who send their children to prep and primary schools that lack a solid link to leading secondaries often worry that they’re making a big mistake. They fret that, when it comes to 11 or 13 plus, their offspring will be left behind, not only academically, but in terms of masonic, behind-the-scenes negotiations which give
carefully coached applicants from top-of-therange prep schools a head start. I can confirm, however, not only from my own adventure, but from long experience as an education consultant, that this is emphatically not the case. Schools that declare they are looking for potential, genuinely are. St Paul’s School in west London has been a magnet for the brightest for over 500 years, and remains committed to ensuring the boys it selects to deliver stellar results (41 to Oxbridge last year) are drawn from as wide a pool as possible. To ensure that no unpolished diamond gets overlooked, the school now offers a segregated entry point for state-school applicants in Year 5. "We recognise that state primaries offer a different education," says Maxine Shaw, head of St Paul’s Juniors (formerly Colet Court), "and are generally not gearing their pupils up for entrance exams." At this stage, St Paul’s sets written tests (in maths, English and reasoning) and interviews selected candidates before offering deferred places for entry in Year 7, with guaranteed progression to the senior school in Year 9. Maxine Shaw says: "State-school applicants are not restricted to Year 5 admissions.
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“ W E R ECO GNI S E THAT STAT E PR I MARI ES O FFER A DI FFEREN T EDU CATI O N ”
Passing the baton: a St Paul's Junior pupil
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They can also apply for 11 plus and 13 plus in the ordinary way, but testing at this point takes a lot of the pressure off Year 6 and gives us time to provide extra classes in subjects which boys may not have studied before, such as Classics." City of London School for Girls, another league-table-topping school, admits about 50 per cent from the state sector. The school does not provide alternative exams, but does design its 11-plus papers thoughtfully. "We try to make the English exam as general as possible," says registrar Rachel Kearney. "The written pieces, for example, are very open ended, and everyone will have had experience of comprehension and creative writing." The school uses the written papers as a first edit, at which point it meticulously scrutinises which candidates come from where. "We have about 75 places available, with about 750 applicants. Usually, we can’t differentiate at all in the top 50 – they come from a whole range of schools – but for the 400 or so in the middle, we look particularly carefully at state-school applicants, siblings and August birthdays before deciding who to interview. Here, we’ll pay close attention to girls who’ve got high marks in the hardest part of the papers, looking to see how well they’ve handled problem solving." For both St Paul’s and City, the written papers act only as a minimum benchmark, and both schools feel strongly that it’s at interview where they can really discriminate between the brightest sparks and the carefully coached. "What we’re looking for is the 'yearn to learn'," says Maxine Shaw of St Paul's. "We try to give the boys some new problem to see how their mind works, discover where logic takes them. The conversation tells us whether they’re going to love being here." In some instances, it may be more beneficial nowadays for children to go to a state primary than to an independent with little history of sending pupils on to leading schools. While major schools (with a careful eye on the Charity Commission) now do their utmost to ‘broaden access’, they, assume, perhaps unfairly, that all prep schools are created equal. Today, as always, secondary schools rely heavily on the applicant’s school report, and may, however unconsciously, give more weight to accounts from heads they know well.
Maxine Shaw, head of St Paul's Junior
"If I’m concerned a pupil has not done as well as we expected, I don’t hesitate to pick up the phone," said the head of a well-known London prep (who preferred to remain anonymous). "Because they trust me, they’re usually prepared to listen." Pre-testing – much maligned in some quarters for passing judgement too early – has helped to mitigate cries of cronyism. In 2000, for example, Eton introduced a computerised IQ test for ten-year-old applicants precisely because of its concerns about the traditional methods of pupil recruitment. Wellington College in Berkshire now also assesses for 13-plus entry in Year 6. Here, the ISEB Common Pre-test (in English, maths and reasoning) is used in combination with a day of ‘collaborative, problem-solving activities’ and interviews – think Magic Circle law firm or Civil Service fast track – which enables assessors to take ‘a wholechild approach’ to entrance (and admit 20-30 from the state sector). Where both those from state schools and minor prep schools can really lose out, however, is in the race for scholarship glory. The scholarship exam at leading schools such as Eton, Westminster and St Paul’s requires academic sophistication well beyond the norm. "Maths, for example, can be at the same level as GCSE," says Maxine Shaw. Schools that are used to winning these scholarships – often the junior departments of their related senior schools – are also accustomed to preparing boys to Olympic standards. Those without similar focus, or
PRE-TESTI NG HA S HEL PED TO MI TI GATE C RIES OF C RON YSIM
concentrations of the highly able, may not consider it part of their brief to train their pupils in a similar way. Of course, parents themselves can always intervene and, while leading senior schools claim they’re able to spot the tutored child, it would be naïve to assume at least some additional preparation will not help ease the process. Parents should be realistic about this. A child at a state primary school, for example, should – without coaching – be working comfortably near the top of the class. (The recently abolished level five was a useful indicator, now you may have to make do with ‘working beyond the expected level of attainment’.) Getting in is one thing, of course, being comfortable in a challenging new environment is another. But most parents report a highly positive outcome. "My daughter moved from our local primary to a leading girls’ independent in September, and she just loves it," says one. Experience suggests that the schools are usually pretty good at choosing the child who will fit in – whatever educational background they come from.
A St Paul's Junior pupil
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EATON HOUSE SCHOOLS
EATON HOUSE BELGRAVIA PRE-PREP SCHOOL
ACADEMIC RIGOUR AND PLENTY OF EXTRAS
Eaton House Belgravia Pre-Preparatory School (Good Schools Guide, 2017)
7+ LEAVERS 2017 We care about the schools our boys go to Congratulations to the 7+ class of 2017 who gained places at many top schools including Westminster Under, St Paul’s Junior School and Dulwich College Junior School.
If you would like to be part of our successful, caring and happy school, speak to the Head of Admissions, Jennifer McEnhill about joining the class of 2018 on 0207 924 6000.
NO. PLACES OFFERED
NO. PLACES ACCEPTED
Dulwich College Junior School
King’s College Junior School
Latymer Prep School
St. Paul’s Junior School
Westminster Cathedral Choir School
Westminster Under School
Wetherby Preparatory School
NURTURING EXCELLENCE EATON HOUSE SCHOOLS www.eatonhouseschools.com
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Farm life It's 40 years since Michael and Clare Morpurgo began offering city children the opportunity to experience life down on the farm A M A N D A C O N S TA N C E
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A CHILD WHO HAD NEVER SPOKEN AT SCHOOL WAS FOUND CHATTING TO A HORSE
ichael Morpurgo celebrated an important anniversary at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington earlier this year. Forty years ago, he and his wife Clare founded Farms for City Children, a charity that offers urban children the opportunity to live and work together for a week at a time on a real farm in the countryside. At the RGS, they both received a standing ovation for the work they have done and the huge impact it has had on the lives of thousands of children. Michael and Clare were both teachers in Sussex when the idea was born. They had become concerned that some of the pupils didn’t know where their food came from, or indeed what real animals looked like. When Clare’s renowned father Allen Lane, the founder of the Penguin paperback, died he left Clare a legacy that she used to buy Nethercott House in Devon. The Morpurgos teamed up with some local farmers, put an ad in The Times inviting schools to visit, and the rest, as they say, is history.
LIFE LESS ONS
Fast forward to today and the charity now owns three farms, which together welcome 3,200 primary school pupils and 400 teachers a year. The farms – Nethercott in Devon, Lower Tregennis in West Wales and Wick Court in Gloucestershire – are all mixed, working farms and are run in partnerships with farmers. Pupils from Years 4, 5 and 6 visit an FFCC farm for a week at a time with their teachers. From the moment they arrive on a Friday night, their time is highly structured and they are expected to work hard. At 7am on the Saturday, pupils are divided into three working groups. Each group gets a different set of responsibilities and they work in rotation, so one group will look after the chickens, another will feed the cattle, another will tend the pigs, and so on. They all sit down for a proper hearty breakfast together after morning jobs, then it’s back to work, then a sitdown lunch, followed by final jobs before supper. “Each group does each job three times, so for example the first time they might be terrified to even go near the pigs, but by the third time they are happy," says fundraising and marketing manager Margi Jervoise. She says the farm is: “a complete leveller – the brightest child might be terrified and the less able child might take the lead". AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
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OpenOpen Day: Saturday, Day: Saturday, 18 November 18 November 9:30–11:30am 9:30–11:30am
THE WOODENTOPS THE WOODENTOPS NURSERIES NURSERIESTHE WHITE THE WHITE HOUSE HOUSE PREPARATORY PREPARATORY SCHOOL SCHOOL BabiesBabies from from 6 months 6 months 2.5 – 2.5 11 years – 11 years Co-Educational Co-Educational | SW12 | SW12 SW4 SW4 SW12SW12
www.woodentopsnurseries.com www.woodentopsnurseries.com www.whitehouseschool.com www.whitehouseschool.com
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OpenOpen Day: Saturday, Day: Open Saturday, Day: 18 November Saturday, 18 November 18 9:30–11:30am November 9:30–11:30am 9:30–11:30am
T HT EH W H I TO ED HE ON UT SO EP & E WO S & T H E WO O D E N T O P SO L P R E PA R AT O RY S C H O P R ER PA RR AT O RY S C H O O L N U S E II E S N U R S E R E S & & T TH HE E WO WO O OD DE EN NT TO OP PS S N U R S E R I E S NURSERIES
Open Day Saturday 18th November 9.30am – 11.30am
THE WOODENTOPS THE WOODENTOPS THE WOODENTOPS NURSERIES NURSERIES NURSERIES THE WHITE THE WHITE THE HOUSE WHITE HOUSE PREPARATORY HOUSE PREPARATORY PREPARATORY SCHOOL SCHOOL SCHOOL BabiesBabies from 6from Babies months 6 months from 6 months 2.5 – 2.5 11 years – 112.5 years Co-Educational – 11Co-Educational years Co-Educational | SW12 SW4 |SW4 SW12 SW4 SW12 SW12SW12 SW12 THE| WOODENTOPS NURSERIES THE WHITE HOUSE PREPARATORY SCHOOL
Open from Day: Saturday, Babies 6 months18 November 9:30–11:30am 2.5 – 11 years Co-Educational
www.woodentopsnurseries.com www.woodentopsnurseries.com www.woodentopsnurseries.com www.whitehouseschool.com www.whitehouseschool.com www.whitehouseschool.com SW4 | SW12 SW12
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THE WOODENTOPS NURSERIES www.woodentopsnurseries.com THE WOODENTOPS Babies from 6 months NURSERIES Babies from 6 months SW4 | SW12 SW4 | SW12 THE WOODENTOPS NURSERIES www.woodentopsnurseries.com
THE WHITE HOUSE PREPARATORY SCHOOL www.whitehouseschool.com THE PREPARATORY SCHOOL 2.5 –WHITE 11 yearsHOUSE Co-Educational 26/09/2017 09:25 2.5 – 11 years Co-Educational SW12 04/07/2017 04/07/2017 14:00 04/07/2017 14:00 14:00 WHITEWHITE HOUSW SW12 THE WHITE HOUSE PREPARATORY SCHOOL 04/10/2017 15:09 www.whitehouseschool.com
LIFE LESS ONS
FFCC founders Michael and Clare Morpurgo
Cartoon illustrations by Quentin Blake for FFCC
The Duchess of Cambridge visited Wick Court earlier this year
THE CHILDREN LEARN TO LIVE AND WORK TOGETHER
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When Michael Morpurgo first set up the charity, he said: “Every week the children came we had one very clear aim in our heads – to make it as intense an experience as possible, to make it a week that would build their selfconfidence and self-worth as they worked out on the farm, a week full of fun too, the most memorable week of their young lives". This ‘learning through doing' experience can have a profound effect on the children. “The experience stretches them physically, emotionally and intellectually in ways not possible in the classroom, building their confidence and nurturing a real sense of achievement,” says Jervoise. Many children who visit the farms come from inner city areas. “Some of these children have never sat at a table or eaten with a knife and fork, let alone visited a real farm,” says Jervoise. To see their confidence blossom is, she adds, “completely life-affirming” for FFCC staff and teachers alike. The charity is currently amassing empirical data on the lasting impact of the farm experience on children, but Jervoise says they don’t lack for anecdotal data of the difference this week can make. “We know that children have said it is the best week of their whole primary-school lives.
We know that children who have won the Farmer for a Week prize at the end of their stay have put it on their UCAS forms. We know that a child who had never spoken at school was found chatting merrily to a horse one day. We know that a child who couldn’t read or write and was considered 'unteachable' was engaged and interested during his week with us.” It isn’t just about being on a farm. Asking one child what they would normally do on a Sunday, Jervoise was told, ‘I’m on a screen all day, I can’t go out because of the drug dealers on the stairs'. There are no screens at FFCC: “and nobody misses them,” says Jervoise. On the farms, the children are out all day, whatever the weather, being physically active. “They get out of breath walking up a hill – they think they are dying and we say, no, it’s normal to get out of breath walkng up a hill,” says Jervoise. The children learn to live together, sleeping in dorms and working alongside each other – whether on the farm or peeling carrots – for the shared meals. They even get to experience Forest School, handling tools, chopping wood with axes and learning how to use hammers. Michael and Clare Morpurgo ran the charity for 25 years. Now in their seventies, they have taken a back seat, but are still very involved in its work. Many of Michael’s public appearances are to fundraise for FFCC. The charity must raise in excess of a million pounds a year to operate. It subsidises at least half the cost of each child that visits its farms, more than £300 per child. But Jervoise believes this one week down on the farm has long-lasting value for each child who visits. “The children see a whole new way of life. It’s fantastic, every child should do it.” *To find out more about FFCC or support its charity work, visit farmsforcitychildren.org AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
#Social Social addict We worry about our children’s social media use, but is it time to take a long hard look at our own need to share? M O R AG T U R N E R
e’ve all seen it. At a party the birthday boy or girl is about to blow out their candles. Friends and parents are gathered round waiting to sing. But, before the special moment can even take place, the host just has to turn the cake to a better angle/adjust birthday child’s outfit/move the kid with chocolate smeared all over their face suitably far away from shot. Why? For the perfect social media image of course. Instead of living in the moment and just enjoying the scene (which is, in reality, probably pretty chaotic) that parent feels a need to halt proceedings, even if just for a minute, to make the moment that little bit more sanitised, more ‘Instagramable’. So what? you might ask. It’s not that big a deal to make everyone wait just a few moments. But once this is applied to everything from birthday parties to holiday snapshots to what you’ve cooked your child for breakfast, a lot of precious family time has been lost.
Indeed, experts are now warning that social media use could be far more detrimental to our wellbeing, and that of our children, than we realise. “When the ‘will to share’ supersedes being present in the moment you know you have an issue,” says Dr Aaron Balick, a clinical psychotherapist who specialises in social media. “It is so important to experience what is actually happening around you. If you spend an entire birthday party or school concert taking photos or videos to share, while you might have those to look back on forever, you will remember less of the actual event and how it felt to be there enjoying it. Sometimes it really is better to leave your phone in your pocket.” While documenting events helps us to preserve the memory, recording too much (or, indeed, all of our lives in some cases) may be robbing us of the enjoyment of being in the here and now. When it comes to parenthood, this can even result in missing out on the milestones in your child’s life that, you will never get back. Dr Balick, author of The Psychodynamics of Social Networking, believes that we shouldn’t underestimate the impact our own social media use has on our children.
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“Children, especially younger children, need recognition. They need their parents to respond to their distress and share in their happiness. It’s crucial for their development,” he says. “If when they are telling you about their day or reading their homework to you, you pick up your phone to check a notification, that disrupts that important interaction. By the time they are saying ‘mummy put your phone away’ you know they are really suffering the effects of their parent not responding. There is a time and place to use social media but it’s not when you should be focusing on your child.” Of course, it's not all bad. Social media has become the most powerful sharing tool on the planet, accessed by billions; a staggering 80 million photos are uploaded to Instagram every 24 hours. In the UK alone, 30 million people log on to Facebook daily. Sharing platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat allow us to connect with others, share news and information and form online relationships and communities in a way that has never been possible before. It enhances 'realtime' information and has become an invaluable networking tool. For parents, it is a convenient vehicle to find out news from nursery or school, and easy acccess means it has also enabled the forming of supportive and helpful online communities that spread knowledge, ease worries and reduce isolation. These regularly spill over into the real world, creating friendships between those who might otherwise never have met. Social media promotes business too – a recent study showed that 68 per cent of mothers use Instagram regularly, with more than half shopping directly from posts. All good, however, for all these positive connections, there are serious concerns that have arisen. A report earlier this year by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that its use is having a detrimental affect on the mental health of young people, with Instagram being named worst offender. The Status of Mind Report found clear links
between social media use and increased rates of depression, anxiety and poor sleep. Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the RSPH, believes that these damaging effects are not limited to under 25s, as 70 per cent of people aged 35 to 45 in the UK also use it. “Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about their mental health,” she says. “But it’s not just the young who are influenced by this. If we are talking about mothers using it then I can see how it could easily have a similar effect. We can now spend hours scrolling through carefully curated shots of other people’s worlds that appear to be perfect. Of course this can cause a mother to feel anxious and worry that her life isn’t as great as that of those she sees on Instagram. “It’s human nature to compare, but it used to be that we could only really do that with those around us. Now we can access thousands of people that we don’t know.”
“CAR EFU LLY CU RATED SH OTS CA N MAKE OTHE R PEOPLE ’S LI VE S SEEM PER FECT ”
Indeed, it has turned what used to be the relatively private world of parenting into a spectator sport – and a competitive one at that. From the positive pregnancy test and the gender reveal, to the oh-so-perfect baby shower and even the actual birth, every aspect of having children is being shared online. The important announcements that would have once been reserved for an inner circle are now being broadcast to unknown followers all over the world. Judith Donath, author of Social Machine: Designs for Living Online and professor of Media Arts at Harvard University, thinks one of the biggest issues, for women especially, is that people don’t always paint a realistic picture of the early days of parenthood. “Looking at another woman’s perfectly photoshopped image can make you feel really low and new mums can be especially vulnerable. Maybe their baby isn’t sleeping or they are struggling to get back into their jeans and seeing these edited images can make them feel isolated. “Social media can make people show off and encourage competitiveness, which isn’t good for anyone. It's hard to remember that you are often seeing the best bits of someone else’s life and comparing it to your worst. It
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used to be just celebrities that could manage such styled, idyllic images, but now anyone with a smartphone can do the same. “Often those trying to project this ideal are themselves very insecure and feel the need to share every detail to prove something to the world. It can be a harmful, vicious cycle.” Yet Donath also believes that social media can, if used in a more honest and supportive way, enhance parents' experiences and increase our sense of community. “People can use it to form friendships and connect to others who are going through the same experiences. It’s not all bad.” Whether social media use has a positive or negative impact on us as adults is a matter of personal choice. Of greater concern to many experts is the posting of images of children who have no control over their online identities. ‘Sharenting’ – the term coined to describe the current trend for sharing images of your offspring online – is causing concern in some quarters that the children are being put at risk. “We suggest parents carefully consider the impact of posting photos and videos of their children online before doing so,” says Amanda Azeez, Associate Head of Child Safety Online, Innovation & Impact, NSPCC. “Each time a photo or video is uploaded it creates a digital footprint of a child which follows them into adult life. It is always important to ask a child for their permission before posting. For very young children, think about whether they would be happy for you to post or if it will embarrass them later. If you aren’t sure, it’s best not to post.” The NSPCC also urges parents to think very carefully about safety risks. “Make sure that there isn’t anything in the photos or videos which could allow a child’s location or identity to be recognised, such as school logos or signs, road names, or names of clubs that your child attends,” says Azeez. “Turn your privacy settings on and turn off your geolocation settings." It’s not just experts who are worried sharenting has gone too far. Many parents themselves don’t agree with the trend. A recent report from Ofcom, the UK’s communication watchdog, found that 56 per cent of parents completely avoid sharing images of their children. Most wanted to protect their children’s privacy. However, one in five parents who responded said they posted such images at least once a month. And while some will only post the occasional
shot, others will blog extensively about every element of their child’s life along with images to illustrate it. “Parents are really divided about whether it’s sensible to share photos of their children online,” says Ofcom’s consumer group director Lindsey Fussell. “Of those who do share, over 80 per cent feel very confident about restricting who can see those photos,” she adds. Many of those who do sharent are members of the media savvy generation, who have grown up cataloguing their lives on the likes of Facebook and therefore see posting about life as parents as the natural next step. Research by AVG, an Internet security firm, claims that more than a third of British children have had images of themselves uploaded to social media by their parents – many infants have acquired a digital footprint well before their first tooth. “It’s difficult for an individual to control that information once it’s out there," says Tony Anscombe of AVG. "When it comes to our children, we’re making the decision to put things out on their behalf, and what seems appropriate now may not be appropriate in ten years time.” Perhaps the most underconsidered aspect is what your children will think of all this material being in the public domain years down the line. The Ofcom report found that only 15 per cent of respondents had concerns about what their children might think when they grew up. For some, posting on social media is a way to smugly show off their child’s latest achievement, while others – notably many parenting blogs – prefer to present a realistic, honest and often funny picture of life with children. One of the most important things any parent can do is set a good example when using social media. Even if your child is very young, they will begin to notice how much
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time you spend on your phone and it will become the norm to them. “Put the phone away at the dinner table, set limits on your own usage and be a role model for your kids,” says Cramer, who is taking part in an All Party Parliamentary group being set up to look at the effects of social media use on mental health. “Studies show that taking a break from social media makes people feel more relaxed and happy. Turn your phone off for a while and see what happens.” There can be no doubt that the likes of Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter offer a world of opportunity to make new friends and access useful information. But we need to be mindful when building these online connections that we don’t miss out on precious time with the people who matter the most: our children. Nor should we forget our children's right to our time, away from the camera.
“SET L I MI TS ON YOUR OWN USAG E AND BE A ROL E MODEL FOR YOUR CHI L DREN”
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PRINCE Prince George has started prep school at Thomas’s Battersea, but what other establishments might have made it on to the royal shortlist? ELEANOR DOUGHTY
Dixon is the daughter of Anita Griggs, headmistress of the girls’ school, so there’s plenty of integration and a real feeling of togetherness. The boys have a dizzying 19 subjects to study, including Mandarin in Year 6, and History of Art throughout, which is a subject too rarely offered. We approve.
n leafy Belsize Park stands The Hall, where parents must register before their son is one year old. The young chaps play rugby, football and cricket, and study Classics before whooshing off to all the best schools. It’s not just Eton, Westminster and St Paul’s for these boys, but academic schools all over town, and the rest of the country, too. Pupils at The Hall live ‘distinctive lives’, says headmaster Chris Godwin, which sounds right up a royal's street.
WHERE IS IT? Earl's Court, SW5 WHO IS IT FOR? Boys, day only, 4-11 WHO IS IN CHARGE?
Headmistress Eleanor Dixon WHAT IS THE COST? £6,480 per term fa l k n e rh o us e .c o.u k
WHERE IS IT? Hampstead, NW3 WHO IS IT FOR? Boys, day only, 4-13 WHO IS IN CHARGE?
Headmaster Chris Godwin WHAT IS THE COST? Reception and Year 1, £5,980 per term; Year 2 and above, £6,162 per term h a ll s c h o o l .c o.u k
~ MU CH-LOV ED FALKN ER HO U SE N OW HAS A NEW E A R L’S CO URT OU T POST FO R B OYS
alkner House gives you two for one: there’s a boys’ school and a girls’ school, a mile from each other. The girls' school is long established and much-loved, while the boys' opened in September in Earl's Court. This new school operates as a co-ed from two to four, and boys only from four to 11, and it’s a real family affair. Headmistress Eleanor
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GARDEN HOUSE SCHOOL
ou might think you don't know Garden House, but it's more than likely you do. Those tiny girls bouncing along the King's Road in their velvet-collared coats are the angelic female contingent. Boys and girls are taught separately once they get beyond kindergarten here, but share access to an enviable selection of clubs and facilities. The school gardens are within the grounds of Royal Hospital and are well used both in lesson time and via the after-school gardening club. Pupils skip off to smart London schools, or to boarding schools further afield.
WHERE IS IT? Turks Row, SW3 WHO IS IT FOR?
Boys and girls, day only, 3-11 WHO IS IN CHARGE?
Principal Jill Oddy WHAT IS THE COST?
Prep, £7,000 per term ga r d e n h o us es c h o o l .c o.u k
RAVENSCOURT PARK PREPARATORY SCHOOL
f you’re looking for a solid local school, Ravenscourt Park ticks a lot of boxes. The boys and girls toddle off to Latymer, Francis Holland and Goldolphin & Latymer after Ravenscourt has finished with them. And by finished, we mean “make wonderful beyond belief”, because there’s a huge amount to do here: judo, lacrosse, ski trips, rugby... in fact, you name it, Ravenscourt offers it. Plus, there’s an actual park nearby (the clue is in the name), which means plenty of room to run around and let off steam – rare in London and not to be sniffed at. WHERE IS IT? Chiswick, W6 WHO IS IT FOR?
EATON SQUARE SCHOOL
on’t turn up on Eaton Square looking for Eaton Square School, because the school isn’t located there – it’s round the corner, on Eccleston Square. Here is a school where it’s all go: the boys and girls study French, Latin and Mandarin, and go on ski trips in their spare time. A new senior school has opened this term at 106 Piccadilly, a fabulously chic central location for children aged 11 to 18. Its four nursery schools – located in Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Pimlico and Twickenham (close to Richmond Bridge) – offer 'seamless' education from the age of two.
WHERE IS IT? Eccleston Square, SW1 WHO IS IT FOR?
Boys and girls, day only, 4-11
Boys and girls, day only, 4-11
WHO IS IN CHARGE?
WHO IS IN CHARGE?
Headmaster Sebastian Hepher
Headmaster Carl Howes
WHAT IS THE COST?
WHAT IS THE COST?
Reception - Year 2, £6,875 per term; Year 3 to Year 8, £7,090 per term e a to n s q u a r es c h o o l .c o m
£5,625 per term r p p s .c o.u k
An Eaton Square pupil
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Rose Hill scHool
“EXCELLENT IN ALL AREAS” Rose Hill is a leading Kent Prep School located in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells and less than an hour’s commute from the city. Founded in 1832, it is one of the oldest prep schools in the country and is widely recognised to be one of the best schools in the area. It has fantastic links with independent secondary schools such as Tonbridge, Sevenoaks and Brighton College and also feeds excellent local Grammar schools. Last year the school was endorsed by Tatler in its prestigious Good Schools Guide and it scored a glowing ‘excellent in all areas’ following the latest four-day inspection by the Independent Schools Inspectorate. The Early Years Department was judged as ‘outstanding’ in 2010 and provides a safe, happy and interactive environment for 3 and 4 year olds. As the children move through the school, they benefit from superb modern facilities for teaching, the creative arts and sport. A new £2 million teaching block incorporating state-of-the-art Science and IT facilities opened in 2013. Children are encouraged to take an active role in school life and to develop interests outside the classroom. A wide range of extra-curricular activities, including cookery, orienteering, sports and thriving Cubs’ and Brownies’ packs, ensures that school life is both fun and educational.
To find out more or to arrange a visit, please call Rose Hill School on 01892 525591 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
www.rosehillschool.co.uk RH.indd 1 SCHOOL.indd ROSE HILL Rose Hill AUT14 NEW.indd 11
02/11/2017 11:27 13:58 07/09/2017 13:33 11/05/2015
h, Notting Hill: home to one heck of a carnival, a certain Richard Curtis film set, oh, and Wetherby pre-prep – among the smartest in the land and once attended by Princes William and Harry. This ultra-hip and brilliant original under the Wetherby marque sits in the middle of W2, and even the smallest boys get involved with big school events. They’ve got French teachers and music teachers even at nursery level – that’s how good it is – and the boys head on to Wetherby prep in Westminster, before they graduate to Wellington, Harrow and Westminster, if not to their own Wetherby senior school in Marylebone.
WHERE? Pembridge Square, W2 WHO IS IT FOR?
Boys, day only, 2-8 WHO IS IN CHARGE?
Headmaster Mark Snell WHAT IS THE COST? Little Wetherby,
£3,280 per term; rest of pre-prep, £6,865 per term we t h e rb ys c h o o l .c o.u k A Wetherby School pupil
EATON HOUSE BELGRAVIA
T Eaton House pupils
here are quite a few Eaton House schools across London, so bear with us. There’s Eaton House The Manor pre-prep, for boys; Eaton House The Manor prep, also for boys; Eaton House The Manor girls’ prep school, plus Eaton House The Manor Nursery, all on Clapham Common. Also, Eaton House The Vale School in Kensington. But our choice for HRH is Eaton House Belgravia preprep on Eaton Gate, a gem of a school
for boys aged four to eight. It’s nonselective and chess is on the curriculum, alongside reasoning, history, geography, library studies and music. Plus, the full complement of games, of course. A prep school opened in Belgravia this term, so no need to move away until it’s time for big school. WHERE? Eaton Gate, SW1 WHO IS IT FOR?
Boys, day only, 4-8 WHO IS IN CHARGE?
Headmistress Annabel Abbott WHAT IS THE COST? £5,130 per term e a to n h o us es c h o o l s .c o m AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 41
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Independent Preparatory School for girls and boys 2½- 13
Paint, Play, Party! Taster activities for Reception entry September 2018 Friday 2nd February 2018 1.30pm - 3.00pm Contact Admissions Dept. to register a place 01483 280340 • www.cranmoreprep.co.uk email@example.com • West Horsley, Surrey KT24 6AT
Maple Walk School North West London Prep
“Top 10 Best Value Prep Schools” Telegraph Newspaper - 2016
To ﬁnd out more or to register, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org T: 020 8965 7374
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www.maplewalkschool.co.uk 62A Crownhill Road, London NW10 4EB T: 020 8963 3890
and French. From Year 10 onwards students Call:Call: +44 +44 (0)20 (0)20 7637 7637 5351 5351 email email email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org may follow an international programme, or visit or visit us at usalso ecole-ifa.com at ecole-ifa.com to fi to ndfiout nd out more. more.
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03/11/2017 12:19 03/11/2017 17:28
TALK Are happiness lessons for eight-year-old children really the way to improve mental health, asks Sarah Ebery, headmistress of Meoncross School in Hampshire
~ “C H ILD R E N N OW
H AVE TO COP E W I TH P R E SSU R E S TH AT W E N EVE R FACE D”
ew parents will be unaware of the increasing concern about children’s mental health. Tragic, high-profile stories of children who have been driven to self-harm, or to take their own lives because of bullying and the daily pressures they face are all too common. In a poll of 1,000 11 to 16 year olds, 70 per cent said they had felt anxious, frightened or unsafe and 11 per cent described themselves as “unhappy” overall. Earlier this year the prime minister herself recognised that more must be done to support wellbeing and mental health initiatives in our schools. Now, the government has gone further and unveiled plans to trial “happiness lessons” for eight year olds in an attempt to combat anxiety. At which point some parents may be tempted to ask, “isn’t that a bit much?” And they would be right. There is always a danger that adults overreact and project their own concerns onto children. Fleeting anxiety that may trouble youngsters for a nanosecond can easily be misinterpreted by grown-ups and labelled as something that it is not. Yet it would also be a mistake to ignore the rising concerns about mental health and children’s wellbeing, still less to dismiss today’s youngsters as “generation snowflake”. Children are no less robust than we were as kids. But they do have to cope with pressures that we never faced. The exam treadmill is more unrelenting than it has ever been. And
as children, parents never had to handle the constant diversions, intrusions and addictions that smart phones and tablets afflict youngsters’ lives with today. Schools have to take those pressures into account and, where possible, ameliorate them by, for instance, severely restricting the use of mobile phones. But are happiness lessons for eight year olds the answer? Frankly, they are not. I don’t doubt the good intentions behind the initiative but no school can bolt on a ten-point wellbeing plan and expect their pupils to be happy and stress-free as a result. Encouraging children to think of disturbing thoughts as “buses that will move away” or giving them questionnaires about bullying and friendship is not enough. A supportive, healthy environment has to be intrinsic to the ethos of a school. There is a danger that, by isolating wellbeing as something to be taught in distinct lessons, we are tempted to view it as an add-on, a faddish notion that can be dismissed when the media’s attention flits to the next gimmick. And it isn’t. Wellbeing and good mental health have to be fundamental to the school. When I talk to our children, all of them appreciate a school community that is as comforting as it is stretching, one in which the older pupils look out for the younger ones, where they feel safe and where they can talk to their teachers if they have problems. One that feels like a family. If a school has all that, then frankly a 'wellbeing plan' becomes unnecessary. Mindfulness programmes can be excellent. But having one isn’t going to make children mindful if their attention is constantly distracted by mobile phones. Teaching them to 'live in the moment' is no substitute for a curriculum that harnesses their natural sense of wonder. Children learn to cope with stress and anxiety if they have proper pastoral support, teachers they can talk to and schools that don’t treat them as exam fodder. The best schools know this, and no government initiative, however well meaning, can deliver it.
S A R A H E B E RY Headmistress Meoncross School AUTUMN • WINER 2017
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linguists Giving children the opportunity to learn another language at nursery or primary stage helps them with a whole range of other key skills, says Kidslingo CEO Anna Neville
esearch on the benefits of learning a second language as a baby or young child is inspiring more parents to prioritise language classes at an early age. England’s 2014 curriculum modification saw the introduction of a second language in primary school, and Scotland has made a commitment to ensure that children begin to learn two foreign languages before the age of 10. Anna Neville is a language expert and CEO of Kidslingo, a national children’s language organisation that teaches French and Spanish. Here are her top four reasons why it’s good to start them young.
1. SPEAKING ANOTHER LANGUAGE IMPROVES YOUR CHILD’S ENGLISH
hen a child learns a second language, they indirectly absorb how it works. This can improve their understanding of English grammar, better their listening skills and makes them more effective communicators. In Kidslingo classes, the basics such as counting, greetings, emotions and colours are all practised in English before being learned in French and Spanish.
2. IT HELPS YOUR CHILD TO FOCUS AND DEVELOP PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS
ccording to Judith F. Kroll, a specialist in psycholinguistics, studies of children who grow up speaking two languages demonstrate that they are usually better at prioritising than monolingual children. These children are also more able to focus on a critical task, while ignoring irrelevant information. Other research has shown that babies raised in bilingual settings develop essential decision-making and problem-solving skills long before they can even speak.
3. BABIES AND YOUNG CHILDREN ARE ALREADY LIKE SPONGES
t is no secret that children who move to another country at a young age pick up their new language more readily and easily than their parents, who can sometimes struggle just putting a sentence together. This is because the brain plasticity of children at a younger age is far greater, which means that it can create new pathways, increasing the capability to learn new languages. As we grow older, this amazing ability diminishes, and learning something new takes more time and effort. It’s not just toddlers who benefit from being exposed to a second tongue. For a baby, even hearing another language can encourage the growth of positive pathways and help them recognise and understand different language systems. In turn, this helps them negotiate meaning in problem solving tasks, a skill that can be used throughout their lives.
4. CHILDREN DEVELOP APPRECIATION FOR OTHER CULTURES
anguages help children to learn about the world around them and make them understand that there are cultures other than their own. Whether it’s talking about other countries and the languages they speak or sampling foreign food, the cultural benefits of learning about other languages and cultures simply cannot be underestimated. * Kidslingo works with children from birth to age 11, inspiring them to learn French and Spanish through activities such as songs, games and drama. kidslingo.co.uk AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 4 5
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TESTING TIMES Mogg Hercules, head of Dallington School in London, asks if our focus on testing children is robbing them of a much richer curriculum
s teaching to the tests – in Mathematics and English, especially since the National Curriculum was established, then modified – fulfilling a truly rich curriculum for our children, or are they just part of the performance measures and league table publications? Focus on the performance of a school could well run the risk of short-changing our children’s learning opportunities, by overlooking a diversity of experiences, at a deeper and more challenging level.
At what age do parents decide to place their children on the conveyor belt, to what they perceive to be academic success? Where do they source the information about a good education? Is it from league table results, Ofsted reports, publicity, a friend’s recommendation, or school visits? How many parents decide to look for a school setting where they are happy to leave their child with the adults who will educate them in stimulating, diverse experiences, care for and about them, extend and support them, but which does not feature in the league tables?
“Focus on performance could be short-changing children”
Headteacher Dallington School
Education is about more than outcomes. It is also about safeguarding the wellbeing (including the mental health) of all our children. This is especially important when excessive preparation for tests and interviews – often when children are quite young – can result in anxiety because of the pressure to succeed in a highly competitive process of selection. The case for change is clear, but is a ‘wellbeing’ table, to tackle mental health issues in schools, the answer? Pressure to succeed at school continues to affect many children, especially when priority is given to academic outcomes. Self-harming has traditionally been seen as a teenage issue, but there are increasing numbers of incidents in primary schools. This, of course, can be caused by a number of different factors, but early intervention by parents and teachers must be a priority. Not only should schools have policies for Ofsted in place, but also have staff who recognise, understand and are educated about mental health so that they can effectively put those policies into practice. Surely, within a well thought out and wellplanned curriculum, there should be opportunities for discussions about self-esteem and the value of self-worth. Bearing in mind the escalation, in recent years, of children selfharming, we could, of course, look at the correlation between aptitude and expectation. Change is inevitable, for the wellbeing of all our children. So, shall we start by getting rid of performance measures and league tables? AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
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â€˜ Enjoying childhood and realising our imagination.â€™ Challenge your preconceptions about Education. Give your child time to develop a love of learning and enjoy the academic successes that it brings. Dallington is a family-run co-educational independent school, with a nursery, in the heart of London. Personal tours each day of the week, except Wednesday. Visit us at the Independent Schools Show Battersea November 11th & 12th at stand 610
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 020 7251 2284 www.dallingtonschool.co.uk DALLINGTON.indd 1
Inspiring children to understand the wider world and develop a social conscience is a vital part of education says Titus Mills, headmaster of Walhampton Prep School in Hampshire
hildren in independent schools often lead relatively privileged lives, so one of the more challenging responsibilities of a school is developing a social conscience in its pupils. The teaching of history, geography and religious studies can broaden a child’s understanding of the wider world, but an independent education needs to go much further.
Nothing is more important than inspiring children to be genuinely outward looking, with a passion to serve and support those less fortunate than themselves. This vision needs to sit at the heart of any school’s mission statement and it has to be implemented in meaningful and creative ways. At Walhampton, we believe that our job is not only to ensure our teaching is exemplary, but also to promote the importance of moral, spiritual and social values. That must be at the heart of all we are trying to achieve.
“It is heartening seeing social and cultural barriers broken down and happy ten year olds discovering common ground”
Headmaster Walhampton Prep School
Close to home, we regularly take children to visit the residents of Solent Mead Care Home in Lymington. The children play games with the residents and sing or perform for them. Many residents have dementia, so our children are having to develop important communication skills. Walhampton has also built strong links with World War II veterans, particularly those who fought at Arnhem, Holland, in 1944. Every year a school group visits the battlefield to meet the last remaining veterans. Through both these projects, children develop empathy and understanding of an older generation. Seeing a ten-year-old connect deeply with a 95-year-old is a powerful thing. Our Year 6 children are involved in a pupil exchange with St Mark’s Primary School in Lambeth, central London. The children visit each other’s schools in both the spring and summer terms. To observe an inner-city school environment can be an ‘eye opener’ for our rural children, just as it can be for the children of St Mark’s when they travel to the New Forest. The learning goes both ways, but what is heartening is seeing social and cultural barriers broken down, prejudices challenged and energetic and happy ten year olds discovering common ground. That’s what a proper education is all about. In addition, Walhampton has recently sponsored a school in Cambodia. Through the generosity of our school community, Walhampton raised the funds to build a school in Khe Nang in north-east Cambodia, which opened its doors to 130 children in September. The children at Walhampton are now committed to raising money every year to fund the school. Until now there has been no real education provision in Khe Nang, which is a very remote village near the border with Laos. We are very excited about building strong links between our two communities and we plan to take a school group to Cambodia next year. Alongside academic excellence, we passionately believe that schools have a responsibility to develop children who are compassionate, kind and keen to serve those in the community; this vision is integral to the ethos of Walhampton. AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
More than... Nursery
More than... Play
More than... Sport
More than... Art
More than... Science
More than... Music
More than a school, it’s an education For more than 30 years Abercorn School has proudly offered children from the age of 2 ½ to 13 the perfect balance of a rigorous academic curriculum, delivered in a warm and nurturing environment in central London. We invite you to join us and to see for yourself what makes Abercorn School so special. Visit the website to reserve your place at a Discover Morning, or contact us to arrange a personal tour and to meet the team who ensure that Abercorn School is more than a school, it’s an education.
Discover Mornings 19 January 23 February 16 March 2018 n
020 7286 4785 email@example.com www.abercornschool.com n
Head Space We need to put wellbeing at the very heart of the curriculum, says Cumnor House Sussex headmaster Christian Heinrich
he most pressing challenge of our time is surely promoting the mental health and wellbeing of the children in our charge. In the last decade, social media, pre-testing and ever more stressed parents have combined to produce an air of malaise that threatens to encircle each child – from their bedroom, to the classroom to the family kitchen. How few can
pass unscathed through the searching gaze of Instagram and Snapchat, and then rest secure – after applying to a myriad of schools at 11+ – knowing that whatever their best may be, it is considered good enough? Time to spare and an un-harried and unhurried childhood were far more achievable for previous generations of children. Social media offers constant social interaction and peer judgment. Time was that an unkind glance or word at school could be soothed by the balm of a quiet evening in the
“The new co-curriculum of choice has wellbeing at its very heart, not just as a Friday afternoon option”
CHRISTIAN HEINRICH Headmaster Cumnor House Sussex
security of home. Now, the Orwellian screens of differing sizes are in every refuge. Parents wanting to please their children, and ensure they aren’t left behind, provide personal devices – and pay for data to be downloaded that has the potential to destroy dreams. Not so long ago, there was only one chance to be tested and be found wanted or wanting; now a child can face failure a number of times, via the ISEB common pre-test, as school after school analyses scores gained. What about those parents who are both working flat out to pay fees – or playing big stakes with their own parents’ money by investing for their child’s future. For some, undoubtedly, money is not a problem and never has been. But in almost every case, expectations have risen of a measurable return for the investment in education – a future secured in a future workplace that is, essentially, unknowable. Mental health issues appear to be emerging at ever younger stages in our society, and there is much point in treating the visible outcomes; greater provision of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) personnel, educational and emotional psychologists are valuable. So, what of the children in our care at schools? There is so much more we can offer to bolster the young minds and bodies of our children and help them weather the storms before the external experts need to be called upon. At Cumnor House Sussex, we pay very careful attention indeed to our children’s state of mind. We do this through a supportive family community, through a well-balanced diet, through regular exercise and through the provision of iSpace Wellbeing, a curriculum programme delivered through the PSCHE curriculum that addresses children’s physical, social and mental health. We believe the new co-curriculum of choice in the best schools has wellbeing at its very heart, not just as a Friday afternoon option. Mindfulness, iSpace Wellbeing, yoga or tai chi anyone? So ask yourself, what is your child's school doing to help boost emotional intelligence, resilience and self-worth, and to provide strategies to cope when things get difficult? AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
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Be kind Ben Thomas, chairman of the board at Thomas’s London Day Schools – which welcomed Prince George this term – on what makes a good prep-school education
~ “ W E CHALL E N G E O UR TE ACHE RS TO FIN D SIX P OSITIVE CO M M E N TS FO R EVE RY ON E N EGATIVE ”
n narrow terms, a prep school’s remit is to prepare its pupils thoroughly for the academic entrance and scholarship examinations of their chosen senior school. At Thomas’s, though, we believe that the best prep schools have a much wider responsibility than this. We believe that we are preparing children not only for their senior schools, but also for the life that lies beyond them. During their time with us, we aim to give our pupils an education which is both rich and broad. To this end, we place a strong emphasis on the highest academic standards, set within a broad curriculum. From their first day in school at the age of four – while primary responsibility for their academic and pastoral progress falls to their form teacher – our pupils will also be taught by specialist teachers in art, ballet, computing, drama, modern foreign languages, music and PE. It makes for a busy and purposeful learning environment. We embrace in our teaching and learning the advances of technology, which will undoubtedly form such an important part of these children’s lives. At the same time, we have recently found the need to counteract some of the downsides of unregulated screen time by introducing a formal programme of outdoor learning. This begins with 'woodland adventures' in reception and leads up to a week’s residential trip in each of Years 5 and 6 at Thomas’s Daheim, our dedicated centre for outdoor learning in the mountains of Upper Austria. A further programme of clubs, speakers and extra-curricular activities serves to enrich the educational experience of our pupils. Our most important school rule, which applies to every member of the school community, is 'be kind'. When my parents started the first school,
in a tall, thin building in Cadogan Gardens, it was 'be kind and don’t run'. In each school we aim to engender an ethos of kindness, encouragement and understanding, in which pupils’ strengths are developed, and their weaknesses supported, so that each child is challenged without being inhibited. We believe in targeted praise as the greatest motivator – and set our teachers the challenge of '6:1', six positive comments for every negative. Try that one at home! As a result, we expect our pupils to make impressive progress. This is a consequence of their own hard work, the best efforts of their teachers, the judicious support of their parents, and the encouragement of their peers.
s we approach a time of growing automation, certainly within our pupils’ lifetimes, we believe that the things which make us uniquely human will become more important than ever. These include creativity, collaboration, communication and a core set of values, which are at the heart of our pupils’ education. Our school values lie at the centre of everything we do. They are on display all around each school and are referred to on a daily basis in lessons, assemblies and, often, by the children themselves in their free time. Our values include kindness and courtesy, honesty and respect, perseverance and independence, confidence and leadership, humility and being givers, not takers. Ultimately, we aim to send on into the world not just well-educated young people, but young people who intend to make a positive difference to the world that they will help to shape. It is our hope that Thomas’s pupils will leave their school with a strong sense of social responsibility, set on a path to become net contributors to society and to flourish as capable, conscientious and caring citizens of the world.
BEN THOMAS Chairman of the Board Thomas's London Day Schools AUTUMN • WINER 2017
Excellence in independent education for rising 3-13 year olds
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You are warmly invited to come and explore our fantastic school on the South Somerset/ Dorset border, including our new boarding facilities and our Music School on the edge of the woods. Rated â€˜EXCELLENTâ€™ in every category in our latest ISI inspection. To book your place, please contact our Admissions Secretary, Nola, on 01460 72051 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Perrott Hill Nor th Perrott Somerset TA18 7SL www.perrotthill.com @perrotthill
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Wish You Were Here? Year 6 journeys to Ghana and Nepal, skiing for eight year olds... we hear a lot about globe-trotting prep pupils here at Absolutely Education, but sometimes we do wonder if more ambitious school trips might be a case of ‘too much too young’. Here, four prep schools give their take on when pupils should embark on their first adventure and the benefits to young minds
FIONA WOMERSLEY Member of the Pastoral Team Beaudesert Park School
s with so many things, the age at which a child is ready to embark on a school trip abroad is very individual. A child whose family goes abroad a lot might be very relaxed about travelling, whereas one who has never been on a plane or a ferry might find the travel part alone quite overwhelming. Similarly, homesickness strikes some and not others, although younger children tend to suffer more. Here at Beaudesert we play it safe. While we organise all manner of school trips within the UK for children from nursery age upwards, trips abroad are available to children aged 11-12 in Years 7 and 8, before they move on to senior school. By that stage they’re more likely both to really, passionately enjoy a trip abroad and, crucially, benefit from it in terms of their education. There have been wonderful Classics trips to Italy and Greece, French department trips to France, and Easter holiday skiing trips, amongst others.
“B I G G ER I S N ’ T ALWAYS B ET T ER - T H ER E A R E A MA Z I N G S I G H TS A N D E X PER I EN C ES R I G H T H ER E I N T H E UK”
Ground rules need to be clear from the outset – especially when it comes to things like taking devices and money. The children generally don’t have much time for either anyway, as we like to keep them busy and make the most of the opportunity. A busy day also paves the way to a healthy appetite and a good night’s sleep for all concerned. One final point; bigger isn’t always better in our books. Why spend parents’ money and everyone’s time jetting off to far-flung parts of the globe when there are amazing sights to see and experiences to be had right here in the UK?”
A St Swithun's pupil gets active
56 | E D U C AT I O N P R E P & P R E - P R E P
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Beaudesert Park pupils scaling the heights in the UK
~ “COTHIL L
BOYS G O TO SAU VE TE R R E AT A N AG E W HE N LA NGUAG E S CAN ST I LL BE L E AR N E D W I TH CAR E FR E E A BAN D ON ”
DUNCAN BAILEY Headmaster of Cothill House
othill first grasped the opportunity to embark on its European adventure in 1989. A large rose-red château in the south of France, near Toulouse, was identified as an ideal place to introduce prep school children to the delights of rural France and was soon purchased by the far-sighted principal of the Trust. It is still the jewel in Cothill’s crown, and one of the best ‘value-added’ opportunities in prep-school education.
S CHOOL TRIPS
Boys spent an entire term immersed in the culture, learning to speak, live, eat, drink and breathe France. With senior school pre-testing now mostly taking place by the end of Year 6, Cothill boys spend either the autumn or spring term of Year 7 at Sauveterre – at an age when languages can still be learned with carefree abandon. This is no holiday, but an extension of Cothill where the children are taught in French and return with both a fluency in the language, and a passion for the entente cordiale – even if Brexit might make us think differently. The Gers is certainly a wonderful place to live and work; it not only gives the children an understanding of what it means to be French – playing for local football teams, buying lunch in the markets and spending time with neighbouring families – but it also instils a selfconfidence and a desire to explore beyond the boundaries of our own island. At the Château de Sauveterre, the Cothill boy discovers freedom, beauty and independence, and returns to England a more broad-minded and confident individual, better able to appreciate his place in the wider world. Talk to a Cothillian about their time in the Gers, and watch their eyes light up as they remember the best of times. AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 57
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Sandroyd pupils on a geography field trip in the UK
S CHOOL TRIPS
“ T H E SO U T H COA ST I S A S EXC I T I N G FO R T H E C H I L DR E N A S SO UT H A F R I CA , A N D A LOT L E S S ST R ES S FU L FO R A L L CO N C E R N E D”
REBECCA LYONS-SMITH Headmistress St Swithun's Junior School
Headmaster Sandroyd School
ducationally you have to ask what the real purpose of these trips is when everything they really need, at this age, is right here in the UK. Geography trips can go to our varied countryside, coastline and cities. We have an abundance of historical sites to visit, and pupils from around the world travel to experience London’s museums and galleries, which are on our doorstep! There really are only two reasons to take prep-aged pupils out of the UK. One is for language immersion, and this should ideally include staying with host families during the holidays to ensure pupils have enough time to actually practise speaking the language. From our experience at Sandroyd we’ve found that, maturity wise, children who are in Years 6 and above are best able to cope with, and therefore benefit from, an immersive French trip.
“A TA LLY O F IM PRESSIV E T RIPS M IGHT LO O K SUPER O N A SCHO O L PROSPECT US YET T ERRIFYING O N T HE SCHO O L BILL”
The second reason to take pupils overseas is to access something that isn’t readily (or perhaps reliably) available, such as skiing. We offer our annual skiing trip to the Alps for pupils in Years 5 to 8, as we know many families want their children to learn how to ski from a young age and sometimes the school trip is the most cost-effective way of doing this. Ultimately, rather than getting caught up in an impressive tally of excursions which look super on a school prospectus yet terrifying on the school bill, it’s important to consider the purpose and benefits of school trips for the children.
ark Twain noted that: ‘broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime'. Travel clearly broadens the mind, and broadening the mind is the raison d’être of all good prep schools. At St Swithun’s, our children from reception to Year 3 go on lots of trips to take advantage of all that our local area has to offer and to broaden their cultural horizons. By Year 4 we think our children are ready to experience the first tentative steps away from home on a residential trip. We believe this experience is just as exciting for the children if we take them to the south coast as it would be if we took them to South Africa – and a lot less stressful for all concerned! By Year 6 our children are at an exciting juncture in life; many will soon start boarding or catching a bus to school. We think this is a perfect time to support their developing sense of their global context by taking them on an overseas trip – in the knowledge that they are both socially and emotionally mature enough to get the most from the experience – because we have been gently widening their horizons since the day they came. AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 59
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THINK ON Brodie Bibby, headmaster of North Bridge House Prep School on why studying philosophy young makes perfect sense
hy are we here?” “Why is the sky blue?” Whatever the lesson, children naturally ask the big questions in life. And among teaching and learning objectives and exam preparation, it’s this very curiosity that schools should act upon. In today’s results-driven society, schools may question the time and place for philosophy on the curriculum. Some may argue that seven-year-olds
are too young to comprehend the answers to their rogue questions, but addressing them in meaningful group discussions teaches children how to think critically and analytically. In my experience, philosophy is best taught through conversation – particularly in prep school – because it requires a response. Given children’s levels of understanding at this age, they need a group to challenge them and bounce ideas around. As they grow up, they will develop the ability to flesh out ideas critically in their own minds.
“A year of philosophy can assist with progress in maths”
Headmistress North Bridge House Prep School
The academic benefits of teaching philosophy can be enormous. Group discussion helps children learn how to express and convey their thoughts and to respect the opinions of others. As they consider the alternative views of their classmates, they become more open-minded and learn to explore other trains of thought. Exploring more than one possible answer to a question encourages pupils to think in a different way, beyond things being accepted as simply ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Philosophy nurtures the art of listening, of assessing the validity of what has been said and developing an argument to support one’s standpoint. These abilities, if taught well, endure long after school and throughout life. Parents concerned with their children succeeding in life may be cynical of Kant in the classroom, thinking extra time could be given to other subjects. However, the Education Endowment Foundation has found that a year of philosophy results in pupils making two-month’s additional progress in maths and reading. At its core, philosophy is about developing rational thought - the ability to think through a problem following a logical series of steps, which underpins learning across all subjects, from maths to comprehension. What’s more, introducing philosophy at a young age creates a safe and structured environment in which children can question the sensitive issues – death, inequality, injustice – of which they are already aware. I believe that Philosophy taught at a young age helps to develop children's moral compass, promoting honesty and integrity and encouraging them to consider the effects of their actions. It acts, too, as a sound basis for democratic, civic values. Bertrand Russell once said: “Most people would rather die than think; many do.” Looking around my class of eager young philosophers, I know that fate will never befall them. AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
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BOARDING benef its
Boarding at prep level offers opportunities to make the most of activities outside the classroom, develop social skills and have fun, says Colin Baty, head of Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst
e are great advocates of the benefits of boarding – we find it helps young people to develop resilience, to learn how to get along with others, and to take full advantage of opportunities available to them at school outside the classroom. It can also be great fun. However, there is no denying that it can be a daunting prospect for those who have not experienced it before, which is where boarding for prep school children really comes into its own. Boarding at senior level brings with it routines and expectations. Boarders must be able to get along with others – both their peers and staff – and learn to use the freedoms that boarding grants them with responsibility. This requires them to try things, to make mistakes, and then learn from their experiences. This is one reason prep boarding can be such an excellent introduction to senior boarding. At Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst we favour an approach of ‘nurture plus guidance’, with staff seeking to help our charges to grow into their boarding lives. The ratio of staff to boarders is generous, and we have a mix of youth and experience in our team. There are a variety of boarding options; as well as full-time boarding, we also have flexi-boarding, which means pupils can opt
“I WO ULD ADVISE A LL PARENTS TO MA KE THE E THOS AND PE RSO NA LIT Y O F THE SC HO O L A MA JO R CO NSID E RATIO N WHE N IT CO MES TO C HO OSING B OARD ING”
to stay as many nights as they like. This might mean a night here or there, or electing to board during the week and then either stay on at school for weekend activities or return home. Our boarders’ weekdays are much like those of their day-school peers. For day pupils in Years 4, 5 and 6, the academic day ends at 4pm, although most of them take part in sport and other activities ending at 5.30pm. For Years 7 and 8, the academic day ends at 5.30pm with activities ending at 7.30pm.
The big difference comes once the formal school day is done. Boarders are encouraged to help design the activities we make available for them after hours. We draw heavily on the tutoring skills of house staff so, for instance, if you have a drama teacher as your housemaster or housemistress, you can expect a decent slice of theatrical activity. More generally, there are Friday night events, and trips and activities during weekends. Each school has its own ethos and personality, and I would advise all parents to make this a major consideration in any choice they make with regard to boarding. Bedales’ aim in the way we approach the pastoral care of our pupils is to try, as far as we can, to create a family. It is the relationships between staff and pupils, and between pupils themselves, that contributes to this family atmosphere. It is my experience that boarding pupils grow into very socially adept individuals, who look after each other. They also tend to thrive academically – our prep boarders who go on to board at Bedales Senior School do particularly well – and why wouldn’t they? AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
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The freedom of
KNOWLEDGE Tim Butcher, head of Perrott Hill School, discusses balancing a ‘proper childhood’ with advances in technology
~ THE R E ’S THE
O LD CHE STN U T O F K N OW L E D G E V E RSU S SK ILLS. TH I S IS A FALSE D ICHOTOM Y
ALTOGETHER NOW: PERROTT HILL PUPILS GET INVOLVED
or those of us contending with how best to educate the next generation, certain now-accepted truths crop up regularly. We are most firmly in a post-industrial – as some would have it, “posttruth” – era, and the shape of tomorrow’s world is essentially unknowable. Yet the majority of the traditional curriculum and subject specifications were devised for the industrial era. So-called More’s Law – that computational ability will double every 18 months or so – underlies a time of technological advance never seen before. The fact that the job market into which today’s children will graduate is going to be remarkably different to that of their parents is clear. Challenges and exciting opportunities therefore exist equally. I frequently speak to parents who seek a 'proper childhood' for their child, one that is not dominated by technology. It’s often a reason they moved, or are moving, to our beautiful region. They adore the idea of the rural idyll that we offer, with our forest school, and woods and yew hedges for making dens in. Yet, reluctantly, those same parents know that, in reality, their 13-year-old child will need to be ready for the world of senior schools, teenage-hood and social media when it comes. And this is the challenge facing those wanting to provide the very best preparatory education. Is it a conflict? No, more of a span that we must aim to bridge. The traditional and forward-looking should come together in an educational experience that feels natural and exciting. Our pupils are frequently absorbed in our remarkably beautiful setting – wellingtons and boiler suits to hand – whilst building self-confidence and expression through music, drama, art, a traditional
debating programme and understanding the value of manners and relations with others. From these come constants that will always have currency with employers. Simultaneously, Beebots and Spheros are used from pre-prep to build a sense of playful adventure with technology and an understanding of block programming. IT is judiciously used within the curriculum, a drone club has just sprung up and we have recently opened our 'tinker lab'. This is a space where the creative and technological come together, and sits as part of our science suite, taking inspiration from the art department. It is open and staffed during morning breaks, so pupils can drop in to get on with projects that come from them with minimal direction. Free engagement in this space builds a momentum of its own. At the simplest level, we aim to provide the time and the space for a full education. Then there’s the old chestnut of knowledge versus skills within the academic curriculum. This is a false dichotomy, but people still so easily assume that emphasis upon one means the exclusion of the other. Academic ambition must underpin any curriculum, and depth of knowledge retains its value by providing the framework in which all pupils’ growing understanding of the world is contextualised. We learn better and more effectively by new knowledge being related to existing knowledge. In this regard, “you can Google it,” is no argument at all. Yet it is clear from the responses of industry that skills such as collaboration and creativity are often paramount on their wish list. The best curriculum must draw the latter out as explicit threads. Whilst retaining an academic curriculum, the introduction of philosophy and religious studies allows the next generation to develop discursive skills and critical thinking in a way that will encourage confidence. The challenges of providing an education for the 21st century stimulate debate. Above all else, they prompt explorations in learning, and what could be more joyous than that?
T I M B U TC H E R Headmaster Perrott Hill School AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
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St Ives pupils are going places... Proudly Announcing...
St Ives pupils benefit from a truly 360 degree, practical, creative, sporting and, of course, academic education. It is our aim to make the most of every child, teaching them to love learning, to love challenging themselves and to love being the best they can be.
“Independent education in this country is world class. It’s one of Britain’s great success stories. And those shortlisted for the Tes Independent School Awards are the cream of the crop.
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TIME The experts at Gabbitas Education have the answers
LEAD TUTOR CONSULTANT
My daughter is about to start Year 6 and has an entrance exam next January for her senior school. We have been working on some practice papers over the summer and she is on track in most areas, but is finding her maths questions challenging and I am finding it difficult to support her as so many things have changed since I studied. Should I let her go at her natural pace or could introducing a maths tutor increase her confidence and have a positive impact? I want her to enjoy her evenings and weekends and don’t want them to become too work-focused. I would appreciate your advice on this.
Private tuition should never be viewed as an additional pressure; the tutor's primary role is support
Pupils at St Mary’s Shaftesbury
Almost every student will have different areas of the curriculum they thrive in and others they struggle with. Private tuition is certainly a good option to consider if your daughter is showing an area of weakness that may affect their performance at a critical stage in her education. The key is to find a tutor who can establish a strong rapport with your daughter and who can conduct the lessons in way that is not seen as an extension of school. A good tutor will be someone who can bring their subject
area to life and employ teaching techniques that will build your daughter’s confidence, as this is a critical part of every student’s progression. Private tuition should never be viewed as additional pressure; the tutor’s role is to primarily support your daughter and help her to believe that she can accomplish her goals. Do ensure that all the necessary checks are made by the tutoring agency on your behalf, and that you only choose an agency that is a registered member of The Tutor’s Association. AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
“EXCELLENT” in all areas. “EXCELLENT” in all areas. “EXCELLENT” in all areas. (ISI Report, February 2016) (ISI Report, February 2016) – Contact (ISI the Report, School February Office on2016) 0207 352 4040 –
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the school and arrange a visit for the whole family, which will involve formal interviews. Make sure your son is prepared to admit to his past poor behaviour and is able to demonstrate that he has learned his lesson from this experience. And please remember, exclusion doesn’t mean the end of your child’s journey but the start of a new opportunity.
CATHERINE KELSEY Q DIRECTOR OF ELITE CLIENTS
My youngest child has been in some trouble at school over the past year and, as a result, had a period of exclusion. We are working hard to support him but feel that the best thing for him would be a fresh start at a new school. He is quite bright and is expected to do well in his GCSEs, however we are worried that he will not be considered by another school due to his past record. Please could you advise on our options?
Our initial response is always to say that you mustn’t panic; there will be a school that will be right for your child, and be prepared to give them a chance. It just takes a bit of time, understanding and courage to find it. Using an experienced education consultant in this situation can be very helpful as they will have good relationships with schools and can remove some of the emotional pressure you may be feeling. They will also be able to support your child over the longer term to ensure their troubles are addressed. Should you choose to approach schools directly, however, you should clearly explain the reason for your enquiry and ask whether they will consider him right at the start. The school will also want to talk to your son’s old head of year or housemaster to find out some more background. Once you are past this first hurdle then you should focus on the pastoral aspects of
Both my husband and I travel a lot with our jobs so we are considering sending our daughter to a boarding school, but aren’t sure whether boarding is right for her. What would you suggest?
The great thing about almost all UK boarding schools nowadays is that, in addition to a good education, they also offer top-rate facilities, opportunities for meeting new people from different cultures and a chance to develop a sense of independence and confidence in a dynamic environment. Long gone are the days of boarding being seen as a punishment; it’s now a privilege. Most children who are new to boarding settle in really well after the first term of understandable homesickness, but it is inevitable that for some it just doesn’t work. One way that you can really test whether boarding is right for your child before they take the plunge is to send them on an Immersion Programme. A good education consultancy should be able to offer you a programme which gives you a choice of schools for your child to ‘immerse’ themselves in over a trial period during term time; ‘try before you buy’, as they say. At Gabbitas Education we work with ten very different boarding schools across the UK and are able to arrange a trial from as little as two weeks up to a term or more, depending on what's required. It is a wonderful chance for a child to see if it is something they (and their parents) would be suited to.
Long gone are the days of boarding being seen as a punishment; it’s now a privilege
DANIELLE FLOOD STUDENT SUPPORT SERVICES & GUARDIANSHIP MANAGER
We live in South America and are thinking of sending our children to a UK boarding school in the next year or so. We have heard that they will need a ‘guardian’ but do not understand what this means. Please can you explain the concept?
A guardian is a UK-based, English-speaking contact who is responsible for an international student’s welfare while they are at school in the UK. A guardian is expected to be responsible for arranging transport and accommodation for exeats (weekend leave) and half-term holidays, and also for the beginning and end of terms. Guardians are expected to take an interest in the children's school life and attend any meetings on behalf of parents as requested and report back. A Guardian Agency will appoint a local guardian family for your children to stay with. The Guardian Agency will perform all the appropriate checks and obtain the necessary references to ensure the family meets the required child safety and protection standards. Children who have a guardian arrangement in this way often flourish as they are well cared for and supported from every angle.
Guardians are expected to take an interest in the child’s school life
AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
70 | E D U C AT I O N P R E P & P R E - P R E P
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One in five children will have a special educational need at some point, yet a diagnosis may still feel like a bombshell. Here, three experts give their perspectives LIBBY NORMAN PHIL COUZENS
t’s the news no parent wants to even think about. Your child has a suspected or diagnosed learning problem. Maybe their teachers have suggested that something is awry. Or maybe, as so often happens, there is a niggling feeling – a parent’s gut instinct – that something is not right. However it happens, even the acronyms that can gather round one small and vulnerable child – SEN, SENCO, MLD, spLD, – seem designed to befuddle. At the very heart of this issue is the fear that your child will have a difficult time, will not reach their full potential, and will not enjoy the bright and happy future that (perfectly naturally) you dreamed of from the day they were born. Since it has been estimated that one in five children experience learning difficulties to some degree at some point
in their school careers, knowledge is the most valuable resource we have. We talked to three education experts – all with special understanding of SEN – to get their perspectives.
THE EDUCATION CONSULTANT
ernadette John is a director of The Good Schools Guide, with particular responsibility for SEN. She has 20 years’ experience, gained through work for charities, government and as the mother of a SEN child. There are two key points where schools typically pick up learning or developmental problems in children, says John. “Typically, it’s around the age of four when they start school, or at eight when things step up a gear with classwork and organisation.” AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 7 1
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Her experience is that parents often spot the signals before schools. “Sometimes it is uncharacteristic bad behaviour, which may signal that the child is feeling overwhelmed or is not coping with the school environment." Other signs that sometimes indicate there is a problem at school may include a child reporting tummy ache or other mysterious symptoms before school or, as John puts it, “doing everything they can to slow you down and frustrate your efforts to get them out of the door and on their way to school”. John believes parents should always trust their own instincts: “My experience is that parents are nearly always right”. The next step is invariably to speak to the school, but it’s important to get the approach right. “It’s normal to get a second opinion from your child’s teacher – they are the ones who see how your child is coping in the classroom. Don’t do that informally, at the end of a long teaching day, ring up and make an appointment to talk to the school.” John suggests you keep a log of specific behaviours in your child that concern you or your child’s school. This provides evidence in making a case for a further assessment and also helps to provide clues as to what the problem may be. While John says there is much greater knowledge and understanding of SEN, leading to much better specialist teaching and technology developments to assist children, the fact remains that resources are stretched and it can take time to even get an assessment – time you don’t want to lose if your child is clearly struggling. “At The Good Schools Guide, we always recommend that parents get a private assessment with an educational psychologist simply because the wait can be so long." Her final advice to parents is to use every resource around them to increase their knowledge. “Charities offer a wealth of advice. Parent forums are also very useful – there is no one like another parent for understanding what this feels like.”
THE SEND ACADEMIC
r Amelia Roberts is Deputy Director of UCL Centre for Inclusive Education, working internationally and with UK agencies to improve the attainment and participation of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities. “Parents might need to think in two ways about a diagnosis, separating out how they process their own emotions and how they will plan for their child. Emotions are unpredictable and parents may feel sadness, disappointment, guilt, shame, anxiety, and so on. None of these feelings mean that they are intrinsically biased against disabled people or will not have high expectations for their child. Processing emotions without judgement as they arise is really important. People grieve when the unexpected happens. “Secondly, parents need to start building their community around themselves and their child. As well as friends and family, professionals, charities and parents groups all have a tremendous amount to offer. Contact-a-family is a good charity to start with. Knowing your rights, available resources and who to talk to can make a huge difference.”
“AF TER A DIAGNOSI S, SEPARATE OUT YOU R OW N EMOTION S AN D HOW YOU W I L L PLAN FOR YOUR CHILD”
THE SPECIALIST TEACHER
arriet Jeffery is SENCo specialist for Bredon School, Gloucestershire, a day and boarding school for children aged from seven who have dyslexia, dyspraxia and other specific learning needs. “I work with children from Year 3, and many who come to us can’t read or write. This means they are disengaged from the process of learning and may also be frustrated." Although her pupils' difficulties are nothing to do with intelligence, Jeffery says they may still have a devastating effect on their own sense of worth. “Many have attended mainstream school and haven’t had the right support, so their self-esteem has plummeted." Small class sizes, with one-to-one time and different teaching styles tailored around the child, are used to build confidence. Alongside a focus on practical and visual teaching styles, there is access to technology – from Dragon Dictate to special reader pens. Jeffery says: “The huge transformation comes when children realise they can express themselves, that they can learn. Then their confidence goes up, and confidence is such a huge part of learning." She adds that there are minor adaptations that may make all the difference to a child’s learning. Understanding the problem is the vital step. “I would encourage parents to get an early diagnosis. Once that has happened, teaching can be tailored accordingly. Children become pretty expert at using assistive technology remarkably quickly.” AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 73
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Fun on the beach
An innovative north London education initiative for autistic children is winning awards
considering the conclusions from the study. All were taken into account when setting up the Footprints Life Camp.” The camp offers activities such as animal care, helping with lambing and forest school at P E A R L B OY D Sweet Tree Farm, a local care farm in Mill Hill. It organises trips to the beach, barbecues and swimming sessions. Footprints also partners with Islington Boat Club and students can learn arlier this year, Naj D’Silva, The summer holiday camps are run from how to kayak and paddle-board. a teacher at The Holmewood The Holmewood School, which opened in 2010 Not only is Footprints providing young School in Woodside Park, and caters for students aged seven to 19 years people with opportunities to get outdoors and north London, did something old with high-functioning autism, Asperger learn life skills, it is also aiming for a staff team great. She set up Footprints syndrome, and other language, communication comprising 50 per cent young people on the Life Camp, a not-for-profit and social difficulties. autistic spectrum. This is good news social enterprise which runs The project came about after indeed, since a recent survey by specialised camps combining a study that D’Silva carried the National Autistic Society outdoor education, farming and life skills for out in 2014 on the impact suggests that just 16 per cent young people on the autism spectrum. For this, of outdoor learning on of autistic people are in D’Silva has been awarded the National Autistic the social and emotional full-time paid work. Society’s professional award for most creative development of young The social impact is “STUDENTS community project. people on the autistic already significant for REPORTED FEELING spectrum. Her findings the young people who GREATER HAPPINESS were extraordinary, have experienced the WORK ING OUTSIDE ” with 87 per cent of camp. “Footprints Life students citing that Camp made my child’s they would like to do world a bigger and better more schoolwork outside place,” says Michelle, and 78 per cent of students a parent. Camp member reporting that they felt less Jasper, 13, says of his experience: angry while learning outdoors, “I loved being a shepherd, herding compared to in school. Further still, sheep at the farm". D’Silva is delighted all students reported that they felt “more with how the camp is working. She says: “Our happiness” doing their work outside or in a aim has been to give young autistic people farm environment, and they felt they could the opportunity to be the best they can be work better with others in an outdoor learning by reducing social exclusion and increasing environment. In 2016, it was reported that independence, leading to a bright and, most three quarters of UK children spend less time importantly, happy future.” Lisa Camilleri, outdoors than prisoners (less than an hour a head teacher of The Holmewood School says: day), and that a fifth of children do not play “I am exceptionally proud of Miss D’Silva. The outside at all on an average day. These statistics service is exciting, fun and highly praised by were shocking to D’Silva: “particularly students and families across London.”
Naj D'Silva with a happy pupil
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...and flights of imagination.
Weâ€™ve got your winter reading covered! If you love reading, tune in to
and listen out this DINOvember for these prehistoric favourites from WIde Eyed Editions! Find out more by visiting: www.funkidslive.com/podcasts @QuartoKids
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School’s Out H I STO RY M A N p .7 8 • BAT T LE LI N E S : S C H O O L S H O E S p . 9 8
HOW TO HEAD FOR THE SLOPES
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HISTORY MAN As author of the bestselling The History Keepers series and a patron of Kids In Museums, Damian Dibben has every reason to celebrate history as the great resource if you want to ﬁre your child’s imagination LIBBY NORMAN
“C HILD R EN ARE T HE B EST AU DI E NCE O F A LL ; THEY ARE A LWAYS SO INTER EST ED I N T HE P R O C ESS , HOW LO N G IT TAKE S TO WR IT E A BO O K , WHAT P U BL I S HERS D O” 78
amian Dibben is living proof of the power of museums to inspire children. The bestselling author of The History Keepers series spent much of his childhood treating them as his playground. “We lived in a small flat with no garden very close to Exhibition Road, and all the great London museums were on our doorstep – the Natural History, Geological, V&A and the Science Museum. That was my particular favourite when I was young because it was so interactive. “Later we moved about 100 yards from the Tate (now Tate Britain), which was a whole other experience. I would visit three or four times a week. Museums and galleries were my second home – they made our own home and my world feel bigger.” The journey from young museum explorer to author of time-travel adventure stories may seem a natural fit now, but Dibben never envisaged himself as an author when he was growing up. “I always considered myself to be more visual. At school, I was good at English Literature but struggled with English Language. I was held up by my grammar.” School (St Paul’s) fired Dibben’s imagination in other ways and film became his passion. After studying film and theatre design at
Wimbledon School of Art, he worked for a while as an actor – notable film credits include John Maybury’s Love is the Devil, the 1998 biopic of Francis Bacon – before turning his hand to screenwriting. “Screenwriting didn’t feel like formal writing,” says Dibben, “It was describing, and in the best films the story is told as a visual medium through images as well as characters.” A decade as a screenwriter, with much of it spent in Hollywood, meant he rubbed shoulders with the great and the good – from Danny Boyle, John Madden and Andrew Lloyd Webber, to Michael Caine and Al Pacino – but, as Dibben saw it, he could never be master of his own destiny. “The screenwriting world is well paid but frustrating because of the statistics; nine out of ten films don’t ever get made. In fact, when you consider how many elements have to align – from funding to star to director – it’s amazing any films ever get made.” The History Keepers connected the dots of Dibben’s museum-going childhood and his love of a rip-roaring adventure (his childhood favourites included Indiana Jones James Bond and Treasure Island) and the books came out of a moment of serendipity when he was happily reading an old Hamlyn history book to his nephew and then wondered what might happen if people could time travel their way through centuries. The series’ hero Jake Djones – like his parents before him – joins the secret order
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of History Keepers, tasked with stopping various forces of evil altering the course of history and ruining our world. Now translated into 26 languages and read in 40 countries, the three books in the series so far have taken our hero to 16th-century Italy, Ancient Rome and Ming Dynasty China. For the third in the series Nightship to China, Dibben travelled to Beijing, just as he spent time living in Rome and exploring Venice for earlier adventures; he is meticulous about thorough research. “Obviously China is hugely changed, although the Forbidden City is still intact. But visiting a place helps you set the scene – you see how people interact, the weather and vegetation, the length of days and the more timeless ways in which life is organised. History remains ingrained, all around you.” Just as he inhabits the places that are central to his young hero Jake Djones, Dibben keeps in touch with young readers. He has visited
countless schools around the country, as well as the Hay and Cirencester festivals. “I love it. Children are the best audience of all; they are always so interested in the process, how long it takes to write a book, what publishers do – they invariably ask intelligent questions.” Dibben admits he was a little daunted by a return to St Paul’s for a book reading. He says: “I needn’t have worried. It felt just as I remembered it – friendly and inclusive – designed to get the best out of every pupil. One or two of my old teachers were still there. And the practical ‘making’ side that I so loved in my time was still very much in evidence – still an amazing art department and the science facilities now are incredible.” His first adult novel, Tomorrow, will be published in March 2018, but Dibben is in no danger of losing touch with his younger fans. He is closely involved with Kids In Museums, a charity dedicated to making all museums accessible for younger audiences. He says: “I’m
a Patron of the charity and an Ambassador for Takeover Day, when kids take over museums, galleries and heritage sites around the country – showing people around, working on the door and volunteering in other ways that get them involved. “I feel very strongly about the importance of museums. They completely shaped my life. They were my playground and inspiration. They made me appreciate the bigger picture at a really young age. Museums have it all – they are our past, our present and our future and continue to be a great pleasure in my life. Where else can you go and find all the world’s great minds open to you?” * THE HISTORY KEEPERS SERIES is published by Penguin Random House; thehistorykeepers.com/damiandibben. For more about Kids In Museums and its annual Takeover Day, taking place this year on 17 November, visit kidsinmuseums.org.uk AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 79
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for Autumn Seasonal picks, including a who’s who of monsters, essential reading for transport buffs and an epic jungle adventure ANDREA REECE
EGYPTOMANIA by Emma Giuliani & Carole Saturno Laurence King, £18.99
This big, bold, beautiful lift-the-ﬂap book takes you straight into the heart of ancient Egypt. Learn what people wore, what’s inside a pyramid, how a mummy is made and much, much more. We love the fresh design, the colours and the tactile nature of this history book for young readers.
AN A TO Z OF MONSTERS AND MAGICAL BEINGS by Rob Hodgson & Aidan Onn Laurence King, £11.95
● What's the difference between a hobgoblin and an imp? How do you avoid the sharp claws of the ancient Eloko monster? This guide to the strange, scary and wonderful world of scary monsters and ancient mythical beings is wonderfully creative.
THE EXPLORER by Katherine Rundell Bloomsbury, £12.99
● Katherine Rundell writes stories about bold children who dare to believe in large, wild things, and this is her most satisfying read yet. Four children are stranded in the Amazon jungle when their plane crashes. It’s an epic survival story that really soars when they discover ‘the explorer’, a man who lives alone in the ruins of an ancient city. Perfect reading for would-be explorers. 80
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GRETA ZARGO AND THE DEATH ROBOTS FROM OUTER SPACE by A F Harrold Bloomsbury, £6.99
M U ST READ
● Greta Zargo is an orphan and a newspaper reporter who is determined to solve the mystery surrounding a series of cake thefts. Meanwhile, from a galaxy far away, a huge space-going robot is heading towards Earth to take over our planet. The two stories come together beautifully at the book’s climax in a thoroughly entertaining read.
ALL ABOARD THE DISCOVERY EXPRESS
Gill Lewis OUP, £6.99
Sky Dancer is a vivid, inspiring animal story. Joe has grown up on the moors but, following the death of his father, nothing seems certain anymore. His sense of insecurity is reﬂected in the wider community, divided over the fate of the hen harriers that nest nearby. Exploring ideas of trust and loss against a backdrop of the British countryside, this is a moving read about the natural world.
by Emily Hawkins and Tom Adams. Illustrated by Tom Clohosy-Cole Wide-Eyed Editions, £14.99
A POEM FOR EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR Edited by Allie Esiri Macmillan, £16.99
● Allie Esiri follows up the bestselling A Poem for Every Night of the Year with another lively read-out-loud collection. Each poem is linked to a particular day, some very closely, such as Mary Elizabeth Coleridge’s I Saw a Stable for Christmas Day and Wendy Cope's Valentine. Esiri describes these poems as ‘a boost of words for the day ahead’, and they are just that. This is a book that everyone in the family can enjoy.
he history of transportation is brought vividly to life in this handsome, original information book. Readers are invited to climb on board the Discovery Express, then it’s full steam ahead for a journey across continents and through time, to explore the development of the machines that have changed our world, including the steam engine and electric motor. Leonardo da Vinci’s workshop, the Panama Canal and the scene of the Wright Brothers’ ﬁrst ﬂight are just some of the locations visited. Flaps on every page open to reveal new information plus a fun mystery story for readers to solve. Tom Clohosy-Cole’s illustrations catch the excitement of the discoveries brilliantly. This is a book that will both thrill and educate. AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
AChapter A Chapter off Verse The author of a new Connell Guide– and English teacher at Winchester College–on the value of reading poetry MALCOLM HEBRON
ne afternoon, many years ago, I sat in a small group in an upstairs classroom at Cranleigh School. We were there to practise the close reading of poetry. Our teacher was the gentle, inspirational John Tolputt. He read – perfectly, mesmerisingly – Here by the Welsh poet-priest R S Thomas: I am a man now. Pass your hand over my brow. You can feel the place where the brains grow … We discussed what the poem might be suggesting: something about the Tree of Knowledge, perhaps? The collective experience of man? We started to see 82
how a simple phrase – I am like a tree – could stir thoughts and feelings, how a lot could come from a little. Out of many wonderful lessons I received at school, for some reason that one comes most often to my mind. It distilled the essence of an enriching encounter with a poem. Here was a mystery (it still is) – but that is the point. A poem takes us from the known to the unknown. Good reading is about following that journey. Given the space to let Here play on my imagination, I could feel that, in writing like this, language had a quite different value to its usual self: it was provocative, probing. It set up patterns of meaning, and laid depth charges of sound.
Not that I could have said that at the time. How do we put such experience into words? Some (but not much) special vocabulary is helpful for discussing literary texts. For example, what are we to say about that chime of now/brow and grow in Thomas’s lines? Technically, it’s a half rhyme. That rather dry term doesn’t start to explain the spellbinding effect, which hovers over the stanza like a suspended chord. But it gives us a foothold. We can get started. As a teacher myself, the kind of experience I had with Here is what I’ve hoped to pass on to young people. Appreciating a poem is an odd mixture of surrender and command: first
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A selection of illustrations by
and foremost, reading means surrendering to the magic of what Coleridge called ‘the right words in the right order’; but at the same time, discussing poetry means taking command over one’s thoughts so we can add something to the discussion. Is there a danger that we analyse too much, ‘murder to dissect’ as Coleridge’s fellow Romantic William Wordsworth put it? Certainly. We must beware of over-complicating literature. But in fact we dissect and analyse all the time: sport, food, music, fashion… We love to discuss the products of human skill. It’s a large part of what makes life interesting. And – since this is an educational magazine – we should remember, too, that our young people are not only in it for the magic: they have to discuss poems whether they want to or not. At some point they will open an exam paper, and there before them will be an unseen poem with the instruction to say something about its meaning, language and effects. Whether or not they feel any thrill in the occasion (not easy in an exam room), young people certainly need our help with that. So when Jon Connell approached me to help
with a book on studying poetry, I was delighted. I’d read some Connell Guides and been impressed – by their beautiful design, their succinct introduction to core themes of texts, and above all by their personal voice: a Connell Guide is invariably committed, entertaining, deeply involved in the topic. Most Connell Guides are aimed at the smart A-Level reader, but the brief for this one was to make it accessible to a readership of 13+. Clearly that meant getting down to the fundamentals of the subject, without fuss or frills. Some material had already been written by the brilliant young academic Andrew Hodgson. My job was to add to this and find a shape and direction for the whole thing, so that it would be unintimidating for a year 9 reader, and, with luck, useful to older pupils too. Well, how do you read a poem? By letting poets themselves teach you (and the best critics, too). Poems throw out hints on how we might read them, and we need to be constantly adjusting our angle of vision depending on what’s in front of us. Driving round a bendy country road is a different skill from lane-changing on the M25. Reading Edward Lear is different from reading Carol Ann Duffy. Yet in both cases some fundamentals apply: like the road ahead, we have to give a poem our full attention; we have to listen to its voice, and let the images project onto our internal magic lantern screen. Surrender, and take command. I have prejudices, of course: I think, with a bit of a nudge, a young reader can enjoy Spenser and Blake alongside contemporary writers. I think some attention to the craft – metre, rhyme – can be quite painlessly acquired and gives
Even when we ﬁnd it difficult, poetry leaves us better off than we were before
THE CONNELL GUIDE TO HOW TO READ A POEM by Malcolm Hebron, £6.99, available from connellguides.com Absolutely Education readers can get a 20% discount off all orders at Connell Guides. Simply enter ABSOLUTELY20 at checkout.
pupils enormous confidence. I think there are thousands of gems out there which don’t make it into most anthologies, so I used some lesswell-known examples alongside some classics. Above all, I think poetry is a miracle. I suppose that education is about realising how so many everyday things are, when you look at them, miraculous: breathing, photosynthesis, a medieval cathedral. All challenges for the mind, all sources of lifelong wonder. For me, the miracle of literature lies in how a mind can send its thoughts to us, across space and time, enlarging our field of vision and binding us as a human community. In a poem, we can share the thoughts of someone marvelling at the memory of a chance sighting of daffodils, centuries later. What could be more extraordinary than that? Poetry is mysterious, fun, moving, intriguing, and even when we find it difficult it always leaves us better off than we were before. It teaches us to stand still. It is a vital part of the human achievement, and reading and writing it should be central to the school curriculum. If How to Read a Poem helps to set up meaningful meetings between poems and readers – like mine with Here all those years ago – then it will have done its job. AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
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CODE MAKER A groundbreaking new toy that aims to teach pre-schoolers the basics of coding without a computer or screen could be the smartest toy you ever buy your child
H O L LY K I R K W O O D
C H I LDR EN AGED T H R E E Y EARS AN D UP CA N W RIT E T HEIR FI RST PROGRAMS US I NG A F RIEN D LY WO O DE N ROBOT
oding is the hot topic among education experts, and some predict it will be the universal language of the future. Launched last year on Kickstarter to enormous acclaim, Cubetto aims to address this need for future tech wizards by helping children aged between three and seven to learn to code while they play. It is designed as a cute little robot with coding language you can touch and feel. Using blocks makes the new language tangible and, most inspired of all, this is a tech toy that doesn’t require a computer or tablet. That is what makes it accessible – giving it a ‘real world’ and practical feel. It’s suitable for children who can’t yet read, or who have English as an acquired language.
The toy comes with instructions, cleverly designed within a storybook format and containing ideas and discussion points to encourage children to try out little sequences and then move on to more complex ones. To program Cubetto and tell the robot where to go, you simply place the blocks – colour coded to denote direction – into the accompanying interface board and then hit go. The robot responds to each block's instruction, while the interface board helps children to see what they are asking the robot to do – an excellent, tactile way of understanding the basic mechanics of coding. There are a whole host of add-ons with the deluxe version, including maps and additional storybooks covering themes such as space and history. You can buy additional blocks and adventure packs too. Cubetto became the most crowdfunded edu-tech toy in Kickstarter history last March, raising $1.6m from some 6,000 backers in 90 countries. Designer and maker Primo Toys is now being recognised all over the world for a breakout design in early education and programming. The toy has won numerous awards and has been featured in, among others, Wired and TIME Magazine. CEO and co-founder of Primo Toys, Filippo Yacob has said: “We are proud to be recognised as part of a group of educational resources, all of which encourage children to learn in a fun and different way. Our ultimate goal is to make computer programming an integral part of early years development around the world.”
* Cubetto costs from £195; primotoys.com
ubetto’s design looks deceptively simple: a little wooden box with a smiley face on one side and an arrow on the top indicating its direction. Powered by AA batteries, it has large chunky wheels, mostly stowed inside the body, plus small plastic bumps in front and behind that allow the robot to manoeuvre around. AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
THINKING The author and former bookseller on the power of books to fire children’s imaginations JEN CAMPBELL
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hildren are the best thing about being a bookseller. Working in the book trade for ten years, I never tired of the look of wonder on their faces as they edged into our bookshop, jaws dropping at the floor-to-ceiling shelves, inhaling that intoxicating bookish scent. (Side note: books smell so good because of a natural polymer called lignin, which is related to the vanilla bean, in case you were wondering.) A young girl called Imogen once asked me if she could get to Narnia through one of our bookcases. When I told her sadly not, she nodded bravely – looking wise beyond her years – and declared her wardrobe at home didn’t work for getting to Narnia, either; she suspected it was because her father had bought it at IKEA. Instances like this were common:
children would act out their favourite scenes from books between the shelves; they’d tell me all about the books they were planning to write when they were older, and it was a pleasure to see them grow up via the books they read. Books saw them through difficult times: many a Jacqueline Wilson pressed into the hands of a child whose parents were going through a divorce; Matilda devoured by a seven year old who was being picked on at school; and Grandpa’s Island by Benji Davis, a go-to for parents helping toddlers cope with the loss of a grandparent. Books aren’t just for the bad times, of course – and nor are they substitutes for important conversations we should be having with our children -- but they do offer a way to explore worlds and situations we will never encounter ourselves. Books breed empathy and understanding; they offer us adventure and possibility. As a young girl, I spent a lot of my childhood in hospital, having been born with a rare condition that meant doctors had to form fingers for me. I was told I might not be able to hold a pen; I might not be able to write. But, hands wrapped up in bandages, I fell in love with Judith Kerr, Sheila Lavelle, Roald Dahl… I tumbled into these books head first. They consumed every inch of me and, my goodness, I wasn’t not going to create stories of my own. One day, as I was getting ready to close up the bookshop, a young boy came up to me and said: ‘You should get a dragon to guard the bookshop when you’re not around.’ I grinned: ‘Wouldn’t a dragon be a fire hazard?’ He rolled his eyes, bemoaning my adult concerns. ‘No,’ he said,
“ON E L I TT LE GIRL TOL D ME , LO O KING WI SE BEYOND HE R Y EARS, THAT HE R WAR D R OB E AT H OME D I D N’ T WO RK FOR GE T T ING TO NARNIA”
slowly. ‘Not if you get a trained one.’ But, of course! How silly of me. Franklin’s Flying Bookshop is my fifth book, but it’s my first for children. It’s about a bookloving dragon called Franklin who wants to read stories to others… but everyone’s scared of him. Everyone, that is, apart from Luna - a young girl who’s read all about dragons, and so isn’t afraid. Together they come up with a plan to build a bookshop, right on Franklin’s back, complete with singing mice, acrobatic bats and fireflies that map out constellations. Franklin and Luna embody what I’ve seen time and time again throughout my career as a bookseller: the power of books, and the importance of listening. Even if fictional worlds cannot be reached through real-life wardrobes, they certainly can be found inside the pages of a good book. And, as Franklin and Luna point out, sometimes a good book is just what we need. FRANKLIN’S FLYING BOOKSHOP by Jen Campbell is published by Thames & Hudson, £11.95. AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 87
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Faraday Prep School Unique East London Prep
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‘‘Bringing out the best in boys’’ “Bringing out the best in boys”
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LEARNING Eaton House Belgravia head teacher Huw May, a firm advocate of a personalised approach to learning, discusses Differentiation and what it can mean for your child’s education
individualised learning plans, weekly evaluations of students by staff and progress reports being sent to parents every two weeks. This is a completely new approach, so that parents are fully up to date with their child’s current educational progress and needs. Those children that need to be moved on at a faster pace can be encouraged under this system. Those that need help with certain subjects can also be helped. All the children benefit and progress faster, also gaining confidence from their success.
Q: Why is individualised learning important? A: We need boys to discover a love of learning early. The aim is to find out what drives children academically and to make them direct their own learning. You do that by igniting the spark of their interest and prompting them to think about what they are learning in a wider context – and it always works! Q: You are focusing on a new kind of planning that will help children progress further and faster. Can you give us an overview of what that is? A: We are working on theories about Differentiated learning that involve
Q: How does Differentiation work? A: Each week the staff reviews the boys’ progress in English Comprehension, English Composition and Mathematics. Every boy’s progress is considered individually against a set of objectives and expectations and the staff ensure that those objectives and expectations are met, pupil by pupil. This allows us to remedy any deficiencies or add in faster- paced work, as required. Parents then receive a Progress to Date Sheet every two weeks. This is, of course, a great deal of work for the staff but it means that we are all, myself included, aware of the potential of every single child in the school. Nobody’s potential talent will be overlooked. No boy will be able to coast at Eaton House Belgravia Pre-Prep!
Q: Why is this so positive? A: It relieves stress and anxiety inherent in the whole process. If a child arrives at school and their first meaningful contact with the teaching staff is in November, they may already feel behind in a topic. This system allows me, as headmaster, to choose individualised learning plans with the teacher, looking at all the information available. We have an ‘open door’ policy. I would call parents in if there was any kind of problem, and I would catch it early. We would look at any concern objectively and find a pathway to help the boy over that particular hurdle. Q: Is it just for academic subjects? A: No, we also look at the boy’s social progress, which helps to drive his learning too, and we set global targets for the term. We might suggest a boy takes on more extra-curricular activities, for example. Q: How have parents reacted? A: Very positively, it seems. Parents get hard copies of the information and it creates a detailed level of reporting about their child’s education that they really want. It allows the senior management to interact more personally with the parents. When the time comes to make school choices, parents know that we will be able to advise on the very best choice for their son, based not on an overall impression or occasional class tests, but on long-term performance, week in and week out. They recognise that this is extremely useful when key decisions are made about the future. AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 89
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THE MAKING OF ME Earlier this year, author of the Mortal Engines quartet Philip Reeve appeared at the inaugural Hanford Literary Festival. Here he reflects on his schooldays in Brighton
Q: Where did you go to school and when? A: I went to several schools in Brighton, from 1971-1984 Q: What were your schooldays like? A: Mostly fairly happy, I think. Q: What were the schools like? What was the ethos? A: My primary school, St Luke’s, which is still there, was very good. It was a well-established school (my mother went there, too). I seem to recall it being fairly laid-back – there was no uniform, for instance: I think that was phased out just before I started. There was a strong tradition of music and drama, led by a teacher called Pat Holford and the music teacher Mrs Taylor. They produced an excellent play each summer, which I enjoyed having a chance to take part in. I was sorry to leave St Luke’s, and sorrier still to end up at Stanley Deason, a large comprehensive 40 minutes' walk from home. Stanley Deason had quite a rough reputation, and if you Google it now all you find is a Guardian article from the Nineties with the
headline, ‘Is This The Worst School In Britain?’ But once I’d settled in it was fine. There were some good teachers; it didn’t feel like the worst school in Britain. After that I moved on to a sixth form college, Varndean, for A-Levels. That felt very grown-up. Q: Did you love it or hate school? A: I’m sure there were times when I hated it, but I enjoyed a lot of it. Q: Who was your favourite or most influential teacher? A: That’s hard to say, there were lots. I adored Miss Ellis, who was my class teacher when I was seven. She used to sit us down and read a story at the end of each day. I remember her reading us The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which introduced me to the Narnia books, great favourites for a while. I always liked my English and history teachers, because those were favourite subjects. My art teacher at Stanley Deason Mrs Gosling was a big influence. My first PE teacher there was a stereotypical bully, and because I was rubbish at all sport I fell foul of him a lot and had a pretty miserable time in PE
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School’s Out Q & A
lessons. But after my first year he left and was replaced by Mr Waller, who was just as much of an alpha male but who took one look at me, realised I wasn’t cut out for sport and made allowances. I don’t remember him ever telling me off or jeering at me the way his predecessor did, and I’ve always been grateful for his tolerance. Q: Did you have a favourite place at school? A: The library, of course! Q: Where did you sneak off to? A: Stanley Deason was next door to East Brighton Park, a fairly large and wild park. I used to go out at lunch time and wander down to the tea rooms there, have a cup of tea, eat my packed lunch, and read a book. I’ve always liked a bit of solitude, and it’s hard to come by in a school. Q: What was your proudest achievement? A: In my final term at St Luke’s, my class teacher Mr Guildford encouraged my friend Steven Saunders and I to develop a silly spoof
of Star Wars we’d written into a class play, which we ended up performing in front of the whole school. It was very sporting of him, especially since we’d cast him as the villain, Daft Ada. Q: And your biggest fail? A: I did pretty poorly in maths. I think the danger of knowing what you want to do from an early age is that you just concentrate on that. I always knew the arts were for me, and thought maths was something difficult and dull, which I needn’t bother with. But actually it would have been useful to be numerate, so I wish I’d made more effort. Q: What did you enjoy doing at school? A: I was slightly stage-struck – I’d worked out early on that, if you’re shy, the stage is exactly the place you want to be. So I always enjoyed getting involved in school productions. Q: What was the most trouble you got into? A: I was a very timid kid and frightened of getting told off, so I was very rarely in trouble. When I was, it was always for very minor things. I rather regret that now, I wish I’d had less respect for authority and had a few elaborate transgressions to look back on. Q: What is your most vivid memory of your schooldays? A: It’s mostly the ancillary things, like the walk home, or hanging about in the playground. In my last few days at St Luke’s, Mr Guildford took a group of us up onto the school roof, from where you seemed to be able to look out over the whole of Brighton, all the way to the Downs. It was a lovely, sunny afternoon in the summer of 1978 and it feels like yesterday. Q: Would you send your own children to the schools you attended? A: If I still lived in Brighton I’d happily send my son to St Luke’s or Varndean. Stanley Deason, having changed its name once or twice in an effort to shake off its reputation, sadly closed in the late Nineties. Q: How did school influence the person you are today? A: I’m not sure it did! I think most of the things which influenced me were those I discovered for myself. But I’m sure various teachers and librarians nudged me in the right direction along the way.
~ I wrote a silly
spoof of Star Wars with a friend and cast my teacher as the arch villain Daft Ada
Q: Did you ever imagine as a schoolboy that you’d be a successful writer? A: I day-dreamed about it, but it didn’t really feel achievable. By secondary school I’d decided I was going to be an illustrator, which seemed slightly more realistic. Q: What are you doing now? A: Living on Dartmoor, writing a second sequel to my novel Railhead, and working with illustrator Sarah McIntyre on some more of our books for younger readers. Q: How would you sum up your school days in five words? A: Why would I want to? AUTUMN • WINTER 2017
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TIME Hitting the slopes with children can be one of the best family holidays there is. Here’s how to make it a magical holiday. M O R AG T U R N E R
et’s be honest, any holiday with children can be a bit of a production. The effort that it takes to pack for everyone, navigate the airport and actually get you all to your hotel room takes military precision and serious stamina at the best of times, but no holiday is trickier to manage than one on the slopes. Parents who once used to jet off for the weekend to the Alps on a whim shudder at the mere thought of attempting even a whole blissful week with children in tow. Whereas you might wing it and leave the extras out, you can't allow your children to get cold, so that means copious amounts of warm (read: bulky) clothes. Next, there are the favourite books, toys and amusements for the journey and the evenings. And finally, the jigsaw puzzle of childcare; this is before you even start to consider a resort that works for all of you. What you want is great slopes for you and safe slopes for them to learn, make friends and stay safe. But it doesn’t have to be this hard. By choosing the right resort and booking with experts who can guide you through the process and flag up the extras that you might need or will definitely need – making sure all the bases are covered – you can make skiing as a family just as easy as any sunny ‘fly and flop’ holiday. “There is no reason why you can’t ski with kids and have great, relaxing trip,” says Kirsty Edwards, Ski Manager at Scott Dunn. “You can and you should – it’s one of the best holidays a family can have together.” According to Edwards the key to making the most of your time is careful forward planning with local experts. “Do your research or ask your travel company to advise you and come up with suggestions," she says.
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FA MILY SKIING
A TRADITIONAL CHALET FROM PASSEPARTOUT
“A QUICK FLIGHT AND A SHORT TRANSFER ARE KEYS TO A GOOD FAMILY SKIING HOLIDAY” RIGHT RE SORT
SKIING FOR THE FIRST TIME CAN BE SO MUCH FUN
A quick flight and a short transfer are key to the success of a skiing holiday with children. No one wants to spend hours on a plane followed by even longer on a coach twisting through mountains – but it can be a recipe for disaster with young children in tow. For parents of under-fives skiing is all about European destinations. Easyjet and British Airways have daily flights from Gatwick to Geneva, only 90 minutes' flight away and Innsbruck and Zurich are just two hours by air. Once you reach the airport you ideally want a transfer that is no longer than 90 minutes. From Geneva you can reach Morzine, Les Gets and Courchevel in this time. All are great family-friendly resorts that have a good selection of runs, including plenty of greens and cruisy blues for when your ski bunnies tentatively venture out onto the slopes for the first time to experience powdery perfection. Likewise, Obergurgl and Alpbach in Austria are a short journey from Innsbruck, while Saas-Fee and Wengen close to Zurich offer similarly family-friendly skiing. AUTUMN • WINER 2017 | 93
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weeks too. Your tour operator can tell you when these are. If they can’t then the prices alone should be a good indication. One tip is to pick a quieter stretch closer to either end of the season. For instance, in March, even though the snow might be less predictable in many resorts, it should be a few degrees warmer than the beginning of January, when biting winds and freezing temperatures could really put your shivering children off heading outside, especially if they are very young. It’s inevitable that they will get cold and wet, and loose gloves/scarves/ snoods, but you want to minimise the freeze factor or you’ll find yourself with a distressed child who refuses to put their skis back on, ever again.
H OTEL OR CH ALET ?
PERFECT SNOW IN FRANCE
Other things to consider when choosing a resort are accessibility to shopping and child-friendly restaurants. So ask your tour operator about the off-piste activities.
W H E N TO G O?
The first thing to say about timing is avoid the peak school-holiday times if you possibly can. The hotel and flight prices will be inflated due to high demand, the slopes will be packed (with way too many fearless teenagers) and the babysitters' diaries will be choc-a-block. And be aware that it’s not just British holidays you are trying to dodge. European schools all have their equivalent half term and holiday
“BOOK A CATERED CHALET FOR AMAZING MEALS, AS WELL AS A PLACE TO KICK YOUR SKI BOOTS OFF FOR THE DAY”
Both hotels and chalets can cater for families brilliantly. While hotels offer more facilities, such as swimming pools and restaurants, the traditional, cosy feel of a chalet, especially a small one, can really add to your holiday. Self catering is always an option, but, just as with any holiday, it adds to the to-do list. Instead why not book a catered chalet and enjoy the amazing breakfasts and dinners, as well as afternoon tea when you kick your ski boots off for the day. While shared chalets are fun, for the ultimate ski accommodation, opt for a private chalet, many of which come with a skilled chef, patient nanny and glitzy perks such as a hot tub. This will make it more of a holiday for your children and, crucially, for you too. “Another big consideration is proximity
K I D S ’ S K IW E A R B R A N D S W E LOV E
Great designs in a range of colours. Zatki do everything from ski equipment and sturdy backpacks to jackets and footwear.
Expect blizzard-proof jackets and salopettes that can cope with temperatures as low as -20, plus high tech snow boots and warm layers.
With their cool, retro collection, St Berts make amazing sweatshirts and tees, perfect for kids to wear when they come off the slopes.
Swedish brand Polarn O. Pyret have everything from neck warmers to salopettes for newborns, so you can keep tiny ones cosy.
For stylish and practical skiwear head to Boden. Their rainbow jackets will make it hard to lose sight of your child on the slopes.
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FA MILY SKIING
staff speak fluent or excellent English – and your child may even enjoy the opportunity to practice their French or German if they are already learning this at school. As with any childcare arrangement, ask to see references and qualifications to give yourself peace of mind. Also let's not forget about après ski? You also want at least one opportunity to dance to questionable Europop while still in your ski boots. Ask the nanny to put them to bed that night while you party, and maybe help with breakfast the next morning.
LESSONS AND INSTRUCTORS
RELAX IN A HOT TUB AT L’APOGÉE IN COURCHEVEL
to the slopes,” says Paola Fiochhi Van Den Brande owner of Passepartout Homes, a suite of luxury chalets all over Europe. “The closer the better really. Children don’t like walking far carrying their skis, helmet and all the other kit they need, especially if they are cold and wet, so you don’t want to make them walk too far at the end of the day. Ski in ski out is great because it’s so easy but a private shuttle or, at the very least, a bus service close by, can help you get to and from the lifts,” she says. However, the downside of ski in ski out chalets is that, by their nature, they tend to be more remote. While this is lovely, it makes
“YOU WILL BE TRULY AMAZED AT HOW QUICKLY CHILDREN PROGRESS”
these chalets tricky to get to with children who can’t ski. And what happens if you suddenly need a trip to the pharmacy or the weather closes in and you need a distraction such as shopping or dining? That isn’t going to be possible when the lifts are closed.
PASSEPARTOUT'S CHALET KLOSERS
If your children are too young to ski (or ski for any length of time), then you need childcare. All good ski operators offer hotels with kids clubs. For total flexibility, a private nanny is best. They can follow whatever routine works for you and even bring your children to meet you on the slopes for lunch after you've had your morning run. You can all then head back down the mountain or squeeze in a few more afternoon runs, letting the nanny take the children back to the chalet. All ski resorts have a selection of nanny agencies working locally. Many of these
Within reason, the younger the better when it comes to ski lessons. Who hasn’t been made to feel like a really rubbish skier when a zippy little five year old whizzes past them? Well that child could easily be yours if you get them into salopettes early. All resorts have ski schools. Some will be attached to tour operators or hotels, while others will be local, but all will have Englishspeaking instructors and should be happy to take children as young as three for up to two hours in a group of four or five, getting them used to the kit and basic ski techniques. You will be truly amazed by how quickly progress occurs. Children generally have less fear and much more flexibility, so when they do fall they don’t seem to care and it rarely hurts. But if you do have a young child who is unsure, don’t force it too much. Build some snowmen instead and get them used to rolling about in the powder. As well as ski schools, you have the option of private instructors who can take the kids to the nursery slopes. They can be booked through a ski school and, while this is a more pricey option, one-to-one tuition will bring your child’s skiing on far quicker. This option is great if you are going away with another family and have two or three children who can share lessons. Instructors are flexible and can work around your preferred timings and location. The other bonus of using a private instructor as that this gives you some flexibility to leave the children, sure in the knowledge that they are having fun and learning new skills. It might be one of your best opportunities to slip away for an Alpine lunch or tackle that slope you've been promising yourself. The final point to make when you are taking children skiing is to book really early. Seasoned skiiers know all the best places, and the best times, and will book up to a year in advance. Start planning now and, come the holidays, you'll be hitting the slopes with ease. AUTUMN • WINER 2017 | 95
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Register for Open Days and Apply Online www.oakﬁeld.dulwich.sch.uk Admissions@oakﬁeld.dulwich.sch.uk Co-ed 2-11 125 - 128 Thurlow Park Rd, SE21 8HP
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SCHOOL GATE SURVIVAL GUIDE
A new school can be just as daunting for parents as for their offspring, especially when it comes to ‘fitting in’ in with the crowd. Here’s how to survive it M O R AG T U R N E R
PARENT P OLITICS
Then there there’s the rest of us. How we dress for the school run should not be any different to how we manage our wardrobes in any other situation. If you are heading off to the office afterwards, and wearing your sharpest suit, great. Or maybe you’re in your gym kit, and that’s fine too. One personal tip: tread carefully around mothers clad permanently clad in ‘athleisure wear’, which seems to be a favourite get-up of the super competitive type. The parent who won’t get out of the car because they are still wearing PJ bottoms or have just noticed a huge dollop of toothpaste on their jumper is – in my personal experience – far more likely to be good company for a cup of coffee.
4. GET INVOLVED, BUT NOT TOO QUICKLY
sk any experienced parent and they will tell you that playground politics really do exist and can make or break your experience of your child’s time at a school. As a veteran (mother of three), here are my tips for not only surviving the experience but also enjoying it.
1. REMEMBER YOU’RE NOT AT SCHOOL Some adults want to re-live their own school days and that queen bee of the playground back in the day may do her level best to have the same status second time around. Do chat politely, but don’t get sucked into a parallel universe where what happens at the school gates interferes with what’s going on in the real world. Does anyone really care who got chosen to play the lead roles in the school play? Does it matter who baked brownies for the cake sale and who did a mad dash to Waitrose?
2. BOYCOTT CHILD BRAGGING I once had a parent tell me her child was “truly gifted” and could read independently before they even started reception, this while my son was still sounding out his phonics. While some children may be outstandingly gifted little individuals (and let’s hope they are), parents should not feel the need to live vicariously through their offspring, so it is best to close your eyes and ears to any kiddy one-upmanship that you see around you. What matters is that your own child is flourishing and progressing at their own pace. As long as you know that – and teachers and your own instinct as a parent are the best guides – that’s all that matters.
3. DRESS AS YOU LIKE At the school gates, as in life generally, there will be people who always look immaculate.
You want to meet other parents and show willingness to help out, but think for a second before you sign up to the PTA, the cake sale and the school charity committee. It’s great to volunteer, but if you don’t have the time or know from past experience that committees bring you out in a rash, don’t beat yourself up. Also take your time to pick an area that plays to your strengths so that you can truly help the school community.
5. TAKE TIME TO MAKE FRIENDS Some of the most wonderful friends you will make are other mums and dads. They are funny, self-deprecating individuals who are much more likely to regale you with parenting mishaps than they are to drone on about their child prodigies. These people will willingly share pickups, lend sports kits, and celebrate the highs and lows of the journey of being a parent with you. It might take time for you to find them in the sea of new faces in the playground, but trust me, they are definitely out there. AUTUMN • WINTER 2017 | 97
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PARENT P OWER
LINES As it turns out, your mother was right and every child does need properly ﬁtted, ‘sensible’ school shoes. So toe the parental line and resist all entreaties for those glitzy numbers with ﬂashing lights and inbuilt wheels LIBBY NORMAN
ere you are, trying to reason with a reluctant four year old (or 12 year old) that it is very important to get shoes fitted properly – “sensible shoes” – or their feet won’t grow properly. And it’s flashback time. You clearly remember the torture of sitting in that fitting hot seat, with your foot in a weird gauge, before shoe after ghastly sensible shoe was brought out. It’s time to be strong and put all sympathy aside, even if you secretly agree that those trainers with flashing lights, purple spangles and inbuilt wheels are much more fun. Here’s why.
hildren’s feet are malleable. In a newborn, they are made up of soft and flexible cartilage and this only converts to bone over time, a very long time. By age five, your child has the full complement of 26 bones, but their feet are still vulnerable. This means well-fitting, properly made shoes are essential right through school. 98
WHY FIT PROFESSIONALLY?
ou may think you can spot when the shoe fits, but this is more complex than Cinderella and Prince Charming. Emma Stevenson, podiatrist and spokesperson for The College of Podiatry, says: “A professional shoe fitter will not only look at the length of a child’s foot, but also the width, which is important. Also, children will often not say if their shoes are too small, particularly if they like the shoes, which is why it’s worth having regular checks.”
AND HOW OFTEN?
hildren’s feet are, rather like the rest of them, miraculous. On average, they grow two sizes a year up to the age of four, one size after that. It doesn’t always work that way though – so nothing for what seems an age, then a massive growth spurt. Emma Stevenson says The College of Podiatry recommendation is to measure older children every three to four months. For children aged one to three, it’s around every eight weeks. So grit your teeth, join the queue and get the fitting done as close as you can to the start of term.
DON’T SWEAT IT
t has to be leather all the way for school shoes because, as Start-rite’s brands manager Denise Aldous points out, children are very active. Leather is flexible and breathable, essential for growing feet and good for sweaty feet (yes, children’s feet do a lot of that too). Look for good padding on uppers and flexible soles. The College of Podiatry reminds you to check their socks fit properly too.
AND THE GOOD NEWS? Lots of good work is being done to reduce the fitting stress. You can download devillishly clever measuring tools from Start-rite – involving digital photos and a special grid – which tech-obsessed children might just enjoy. Or buy its measuring gauge for home use. Oh, and bare feet are great for foot health. So let your child run around as nature intended, wherever it’s safe to do so, sure in the knowledge you are nurturing their feet while saving a fortune on shoe leather. * For information on foot health, visit scpod.org. For fitting tools, visit startriteshoes.com/fitting
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