Page 1



The benefits of adventure education


London’s new Forest Schools



From Calne to Afghanistan


ISS_COVER 2016.indd 1

26/02/2016 14:25


28/01/2016 18:37




rince Phillip has had plenty of stick in recent years for his howlingly un-PC gaffes. But back in grey 1950s Britain he created something rather wonderful: The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. A flexible scheme that aims to develop young people of all abilities for life and work, DofE challenges 14-24 year olds in a number of ways through volunteering, physical activity, life skills and expeditions. In 1956 1,000 young people achieved DofE Awards; last year 111,859 managed the same feat. I did my Bronze, Silver and Gold DofE as a teenager and I’m quite sure that I gained more skills for life from those experiences then I did

food and tents and headed out across the moors. This was light years before mobile phones. We were often the only human beings for miles and our only contact was at pre-arranged points. It was physically tough and, at times fairly terrifying. Such as the night we girls clung to our tent pole with all our might as the wind shrieked through the barren glen we’d made camp in. We made it to the Moray Firth in one piece, exhausted but pleased with ourselves in a way that only happens when you have pushed yourself beyond what you think you are capable of. DofE was immensely character building for me – and now character education is back in fashion. I interviewed Leanna Barrett, the founder of Little Forest Folk, London’s first full time Forest School nursery on page 26. She grew up in the Brecon Beacons and believes

“WALKING COAST TO COAST ACROSS SCOTLAND FOR MY GOLD AWARD IS STILL ONE OF MY TOP EXPERIENCES” from school. Whether it was pulling up weeds in the garden of a mental hospital, freezing on a cold hockey pitch, screeching away on a violin or walking in the Brecon Beacons, the DofE taught me responsibility, organization, grit, perseverence, timekeeping and more. It culminated when, aged 16, I walked from coast to coast across the Scottish Highlands, from Little Loch Broom to Dingwall, in four days for my Gold expedition. It still stands as one of my top experiences to date, and one of which I am most proud. Four 16-year-olds, two boys and two girls, we mapped and planned our route, we carried our

strongly that children must be allowed to take risks. On page 83, Mark Lascelles, Head of Dauntsey’s, says managing risk is an essential life skill. So he might be prone to saying the wrong thing, but maybe we should take our hats off to the Duke of Edinburgh, because 60 years ago he created something that has really changed lives. I know it changed mine. I hope you enjoy this issue.

Amanda Constance EDITOR

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N |

BB_Eds Letter.indd 3


02/03/2016 09:55



12 NEWS What’s going on in the world of education

17 CLASS ACT Alan Rickman’s schooldays in pictures


20 THE FALCON SCHOOL FOR GIRLS The creative London preparatory school

n u r s e ry & p r e - P r e p

26 INTO THE WOODS The growing popularity of London’s Forest School nurseries

34 SHUNNING SEN Are prep schools always better for children with learning needs? asks Charlotte Phillips

38 GOING FOR A SONG? The pros and cons of a choral education. By Charlotte Phillips

43 GIVE THEM TIME Sebastian Hepher, headmaster of Eaton Square School, on how to make our children happy

45 CODEBREAKER Sarah Gilliam, Head Teacher of Maple Walk Prep School, on understanding ISI reports





48 TOP HEADMASTERS Our list of the living legends and the ones on their way there

58 EXAM HELL Are our GCSEs and A-Levels fit for purpose? asks Lisa Freedman

66 HEAD TO HEAD DEBATE To IB or not to IB?

69 SINGLE SEX V CO-ED By Mark Beard, Headmaster of University College School

74 MAKING OF ME Artist Arabella Dorman

s c h o o l’ s o u t




Can music make you smart? By Amy Fancourt, head of Psychology at Queen Anne’s, Caversham

83 RISKY BUSINESS The benefits of adventure education, by Mark Lascelles, Headmaster of Dauntsey’s




| A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

BB_Contents.indd 4

02/03/2016 10:52








Editor A M A N DA CO N STA N C E Advertising Manager

A NDY MABBITT Art Director

R AY SEARLE Senior Designers


STEWART HYDE Finance Director

ALEX A NDR A HVID Pa to the Directors



SHERIF SHALTOUT For advertising enquiries please call 020 7704 0588 or email: Subscriptions are available simply by emailing Part of the



s c h o o l l e av e r



197-199, City Road, EC1V 1JN 020 7704 0588 Z E ST- M E D I A .CO M

Zest Media Publications Ltd. cannot accept responsibility for unsolicited submissions, manuscripts and photographs. While every care is taken, prices and details are subject to change and Zest Media Publications Ltd. take no responsibility for omissions or errors. We reserve the right to publish and edit any letters. All rights reserved.


What’s the point of university? asks Eleanor Doughty

98 BRIGHT FUTURE Are Moocs massively overated? asks Janette Wallis



101 LET ME IN How to get into Oxbridge, by James Gold


The benefits of adventure education


London’s new Forest Schools



From Calne to Afghanistan

l a s t wo r d

114 LORD O’SHAUGHNESSY Founder of Floreat Education


ISS_COVER 2016.indd 1

26/02/2016 14:25

F RO NT COV E R The Falcon School for Girls 11 Woodborough Road, London, SW15 6PY, 020 8992 5189

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N |

BB_Contents.indd 5


02/03/2016 10:53

blue { shift }

blue{shift} is london’s premier creative coding educator and learning platform for kids



Founder Floreat Education Educated at Wellington College and Oxford, James O'Shaughnessy was Director of Policy and Research for the Prime Minister from 2007-2011. He founded Floreat Education in 2012 and writes about its ethos of character education on page 114.

I can read... ...I can write... ...I can code! Come code with us this Easter holiday...


Head of Latymer Upper School Born in West London, David Goodhew attended a local comprehensive school before studying Classics at Oxford. He features as one of our Top Heads on page 48 and writes about Latymer’s ambitious bursary programme on page 71.

blue{shift} teaches children a creative approach to coding. We encourage children to create with technology, not just consume it. 3 weeks of computing coolness in West London: March 29 – April 1 April 4 - April 7 April 11 - April 14 Summer camps too! Coding * Robotics * Touch typing * Creativity

Sign up at 233 Portobello road, W11 1LT 0208 133 9863

BLUE SHIFT CODING.indd 1 AE_Contribs.indd 6


Head of Psychology at Queen Anne’s School Amy Fancourt has a degree from Durham University, an MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience from Birkbeck College and a PhD in Psychology from Goldsmiths College. She writes about Queen Anne's research programme BrainCanDo on page 78.

our partners include

24/02/2016 12:58

02/03/2016 09:58

020 7205 4198

J103763ANVIL.indd QW advertising MOUNT 1 2015 – Absolutely - 210x297 - 24th February.indd 1

24/02/2016 11:48 16:58 29/02/2016



Portrait painter and war artist Arabella Dorman was educated at St Mary’s Calne in Wiltshire. She has painted many prominent figures and her conflict art is drawn from her experiences with the British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. She writes about her school days on page 74.


We offer IB and A-levels

Director, Varsity Education James Gold was educated at Cambridge. He has worked in the education sector since graduation and established Varsity Education to offer immersive courses led by current Oxbridge academics. He offers his insider tips on getting into Oxbridge on page 101.

Learn for Life Safe in the heart of England Come and see for yourself Call us now to book an Open Morning or individual visit 01572 758758 Oakham is a great co-educational boarding and day school for 10 -18 year olds

OAKHAM.indd 1 AE_Contribs.indd 8


Adviser at the Good Schools Guide Advisory Service Charlotte Phillips was educated at Godolphin and Laytmer and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She writes about a choral education on page 38 and the problems of diagnosing SEN on page 34.

29/02/2016 16:10 02/03/2016 12:26


25/02/2016 11:57

Developing outstanding individuals Using your School Branding System©

A Co-educational Catholic Boarding and Day School for 3–18 year olds The logo

Tel 01254 827073 This is the new logo for all members of the Jesuit Institute group of schools and should be used across all communications materials within the school to help promote the links with the Jesuit Institute. It is designed as a unit with the ‘sunburst’ and the lettering. They must be kept as one unit. These Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7crest9PZ

PMS 1945 U red and 425U grey

White out of 425U and 1945U

2 elements should never be used in different proportions to those shown below. They can appear discretely and we would recommend they feature no smaller than 35mm wide. There are 3 versions of the logo supplied on your CD, including a black version. They are shown below. The logo should not be used in any other colourway or distorted. However it can be scaled in proportion. We have also created an extra logo artwork for use when applied to uniform and is being stitched or embroidered.


23/02/2016 18:46

Logo formats




Felsted School hosted one of their biggest charity events, a Neon Colour Festival in aid of two of the school’s Charity Partners, Sparkle Malawi and Volunteer Uganda. The event involved the whole school running seven laps of a 3.5km course, with runners being splashed in a new colour every lap.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 11

AE_News_Opener_No Bleed.indd 11

29/02/2016 15:12

DRUM ROLL Malvern St James pupil Roseanna Gray appeared on Blue Peter recently and performed a drum solo to the delight of the presenters. Lindsey Russell exclaimed, “You are such a rock star!” while fellow presenter Barney Harwood concluded the piece with: “Watch this space – she is special”. Roseanna has been interested in drums from an early age. She achieved her Grade 8 Rock and Pop Drums qualification with Distinction, last summer at only 8 years old – a record for the UK.




righton College has broken with hundreds of years of tradition and scrapped its uniform code in order to accommodate transgender pupils. Headmaster Richard Cairns told students that uniform codes going back 170 years will be replaced by a ‘trouser uniform’ and a ‘skirt uniform’ for all pupils up to the age of 16. At least one pupil has already taken up this option. Cairns said: “This change follows requests from a small number of families. It ties in with my strong personal belief that youngsters should be respected for who they are.”



ondon is to get a new Catholic school. Alpha Plus have announced that Laura Martin will be the founding headteacher of St Anthony’s School for Girls which will be sited at Ivy House, North End Road, NW11 and open in September 2016. Martin will take up her position from April this year. Mr Julian Drinkall, CEO of Alpha Plus Group, said: “Under Miss Martin’s leadership, we will develop a successful Catholic girls’ school to complement the already outstanding offering at St Anthony’s School for Boys. We expect many positive linkages to develop between the boys’ and the girls’ schools. 

teacher from a Wembley comprehensive could win ‘the Nobel Prize for teaching’ after being included in the top 10 shortlist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2016. Colin Hegarty set up a series of online teaching aids to help students learn maths. He has created 1,500 online tutorials which have been viewed nearly 5 million times. He has been selected from 8,000 nominations worldwide and is set to win $1 million if his name is announced in Dubai in mid-March.


Beaudesert Park School has opened a brand, spanking new hightech performing arts centre. The £3m development means that the 430-strong Cotswolds co-ed prep now has an amazing peforming space, complete with sound-proof music pods, disappearing double height wall and professional recording capabiliites.

12 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_News.indd 12

02/03/2016 10:54




t Mary’s Shaftesbury's new wellbeing and happiness programme to build self-esteem and courage in its pupils is going well. Girls learn relaxation techniques alongside how to relieve anxiety, stress and lift mood to further enhance academic excellence and increase self confidence. Girls at the school are already high achievers: the school is in the Top 10 based on A-Level results and 95% go on to their first choice of university, including Oxbridge.




nerve-wracking day lies ahead for the choristers at Westminster Abbey on 14 March when they will sing for HM The Queen at a service for Commonwealth Day. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will also be attending. For the youngest boys it will be the first time they have sung for the royal family. It will be live on the BBC as part of the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations.


unior King’s Canterbury opened its brand new Michael and Vibeke Herbert Music School earlier this year. The school raised more than threequarters of a million pounds to enable the building of the school which is named after former pupil, Michael Herbert CBE. It was opened by another former pupil, world renowned conductor, Harry Christophers CBE, in January.

PIN UP by Helen Brown

Stephen Fry has co-founded a social media platform designed to be an online pinboard for education.



illfield school has become the first school in the UK to sign up for an anti-doping accreditation scheme. The famously sporty school in Somerset has signed up with UK Anti-Doping to get ‘clean sport’ status. A spokeswoman for the anti-doping agency said there was not a problem with doping in school sport, but it was important to get the message across to young athletes. David Faulkner, Millfield's director of sport, said: “We must all take responsibility to give young athletes the tools to make the right choices for their sporting development both now, and as adults.”

Pindex, which launched last month, creates and curates educational content for teachers and students. The site will encourage educators to share their most engaging and captivating material. Fry said: “At a time when it is easy to lose faith in an online world... it is worth remembering the incredible power of the internet to inform and educate, lucidly and entertainingly.”

SOMETHING THEY SAID ‘I understood that I had a lot of friends who didn’t live in the same situation as me and I knew my only way out of this was through education. I worked really hard in school. Really hard. I don’t think I was intelligent but I feel like I worked so hard I kind of made myself.’ Ellie Goulding

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 13

AE_News.indd 13

02/03/2016 10:54


ST CATHERINE’S WELCOMES AWARD-WINNING CHILDREN’S AUTHOR St Catherine’s girls were thrilled when children’s author Frances Hardinge visited the school as this year’s Literary Lecturer. They were even more excited, when the very evening after signing copies of The Lie Tree at the school, Hardinge was awarded the Costa Book of the Year Award.


hree of south London’s tops schools are coming together on 16 March to celebrate their founder. Edward Alleyn’s Gift: The Foundation Schools’ Concert will see 450 pupils, alumni, teachers and parents from Alleyn’s, Dulwich College and JAGS schools perform Verdi’s choral masterpiece, the Requiem Mass at the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank. They will be joined by internationally recognized soloists and the concert will be conducted by the three directors of music from the schools. Tickets are available through the Southbank Centre 0844 847 9910

Following the lecture, one pupil declared: ‘I liked her top tip to always be stubborn and keep writing’. It has certainly paid off in Frances Hardinge’s case and it is exactly the sort of ethos St Catherine’s fosters.




indamood-Bell teaches children and adults reading and comprehension. The London Centre is having a coffee hour on Thursday 7 April from 9am to 11am. The public is welcome to explore their Learning Centre in Notting Hill, see instruction demonstrations, learn about their results and research. lind amood bell .com



uccessful kids coding company blueshift coding is running a number of Easter Camps at Chepstow House school in March and April. With camps available for Mini-Coders (aged 4-5) to Senior Coder (aged 9-12) it’s a great chance to do physical computing, engineering, coding and robotics. Blueshift run term-time coding classes and holiday camps in west London, with after-school clubs at Chepstow House, Wetherby Prep, Falcon’s School for Girls and Bassett House. bl u eshif /cl a sses



former student from St Helen’s School is celebrating after receiving a Diamond Jubilee Scholarship from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Ciara Norris, who is currently at Cambridge, joins the elite set of 102 engineering students who have been given the prestigious award. Dr Mary Short, Headmistress of St Helen’s, said: “It is always wonderful to hear news of former students achieving exceptional success. Ciara has been passionate about pursuing a career in engineering from a relatively early age and we supported her ambition every step of the way.”

SOMETHING THEY SAID “The fact is, the exam workforce has been operating as a cottage industry which, despite some modernisation, now needs to reinvent itself for the 21st century.” HMC Chairman Chris King, headmaster of Leicester Grammar School

14 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_News.indd 14

02/03/2016 14:11

ACHIEVEMENT. IT’S INFECTIOUS. From being the top IB Boarding School in the country, to our national call ups for Hockey and Lacrosse, a Cheltenham Ladies’ College education gives girls the best possible opportunities to achieve their potential in both academic and sporting arenas. Our girls leave us as well-rounded individuals, ready to find their place in the world. We’d be delighted to welcome you at our Open Day on Saturday 11th June, so that you can judge for yourself. To book a place, please visit our website:


26/02/2016 11:38

Sa PEN tu rd M ay O 7 M RN ay IN 20 G 16



A friendly and spirited community “Dauntsey’s is noted for its unpretentious and friendly atmosphere. Our pupils come from many different schools and arrive at Dauntsey’s eager to make new friends and ready for a challenge.” — Registrar, Joanna Sagers

Boarding & Day School Co-educational 11-18 West Lavington, Devizes, Wiltshire, SN10 4HE T. +44 1380 814500 Absolutely Education Spring 2016.indd 1 DAUNTSEYS.indd 1

19/01/2016 15:16:24 22/02/2016 12:08


CLASS ACT Latymer Upper remembers Alan Rickman


ollowing the death of Alan Rickman in January this year, his old school, Latymer Upper in London, released these fabulous pictures of the actor from his time at the school. Rickman joined the school on a scholarship in 1956 and became an enthusiastic drama student, as these pictures show. Rickman remained hugely supportive of the school throughout his successful career and was due to visit the month he died. Headmaster David Goodhew said he was, “An inspiring Latymerian who will be much missed.�

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 17

BB_Alan Rickman.indd 17

29/02/2016 15:03

3 & 4 BEDROOM TOWNHOUSES, LAUNCHING SOON A stunning collection of 1, 2, 3 & 4 bedroom apartments and townhouses in the heart of Kennington, just a stone’s throw from central London.


A development by

Images are CGI representations of St Agnes Place and St Agnes Place show home photography

0001331 St Agnes Ad Absolutely Magazine THE MEDIA PEOPLE_ST AGNES.indd 1 297x210 AW V1 AH 010316.indd 1

12:41 01/03/2016 16:18




2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 19

AE_News_Opener_No Bleed.indd 19

02/03/2016 10:09

GROWING BRAINS The Falcon School for Girls is a young prep school that is teaching its girls to think differently A M A N D A C O N S TA N C E


he Falcon School for Girls ticks many traditional prep school boxes. Go-getting, high achieving pupils? Tick. Dynamic, motivated staff on hand at all times? Tick. Smiling girls in twee Peter Pan collared uniforms? Tick. A school housed in gorgeous red brick Edwardian buildings on a leafy residential street? Tick tick tick. But the exciting thing about The Falcon School for Girls is it is all of these things and more. Beneath its photogenic exterior there is something just a little bit extraordinary taking place. A clue is in the school’s

rather grandiose marketing strapline of ‘London’s most creative preparatory school’. Attempting to keep at bay images of riotous paint-splattered St Trinian’s girls, I ask headmistress Joan McGillewie, what exactly does this mean? “It means we have creativity at the heart of our learning,” says McGillewie, and by this she doesn’t mean large quantities of the aforesaid paint. Rather, the school is inspired by the idea of creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. The school’s ethos is much informed by educationalist Sir Ken Robinson (he of the most watched Ted Talk ever) which boils down to the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question, to imagine lots of

20 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_Falconer_02.indd 20

01/03/2016 15:38


“It’s not about how many girls I send to St Paul’s but how many girls I send to the right school for them”


possible way to interpret a question; the ability to think laterally. In the classroom, McGillewie says, “it’s about allowing the children to present the problem and allowing them to come up with the solution.” McGillewie recalls doing a school project at the age of 10 in her native South Africa. “I remember as I left the class I was told what to look at, which topic to choose. I was consistently told: ‘This is how you must learn.’” This is not how it’s done at Falcons. “It is not about dictating,” says McGillewie. “It’s about diversifying, giving the children that freedom to think for themselves”. This doesn’t mean the school veers away from an academic curriculum. Far from it.

Pupils in the “We teach traditional science lab material but it doesn’t mean we can’t learn and work in a different way,” says McGillewie. So as well as the expected academic subjects on offer (“the girls are working a year above their chronological age,” says McGillewie matter of factly) there’s a strong emphasis on creative arts, plus philosophy from Year 3, as well as Mandarin and coding. “To be academically strong you need to be creative,” says McGillewie. “The job market is now full of A* students and what separates people today is those who can think outside the box.” By this she means the Falcon girl who can go into an 11+ interview and come up with a creative answer that separates

her from the other hundreds of girls after a handful of places. And it’s about more than just the 11+. “We want to prepare the girls for a different future – the workplace is changing rapidly,” says McGillewie. “Half of our pupils might have to make up their own jobs.” The school is too young to know how its pupils are doing in the real world, but by the 11+ yardstick which seals success for so many London preps, it’s knocking the ball right out of the court. Girls are going on to a veritable smorgasbord of the country’s best schools, from day schools such as St Paul’s, Godolphin & Latymer, Latymer Upper and Notting Hill and Ealing to boarding options such as Cheltenham Ladies College, Down House, Wycombe Abbey and Bedales. Indeed, the school itself it born out of success; that of the Falcon School for Boys in Burnaby Gardens in Chiswick. “It’s very nice, we got started through parental demand,” says McGillewie. “Parents just kept asking us where the girls’ school was.” And so a girls’ school was started in a small house in Gunnersbury in 2000, mainly housing siblings of boys at the established Chiswick school. But then “as we became successful at 11+, word spread”, says McGillewie, and soon the school needed a new home. FSG is part of the Alpha Plus Group, the independent schools group that includes super successful schools such as Wetherby and Pembridge Hall. “One great thing about Alpha Plus is that you don’t all have to be the same but there are similarities that parents like and trust,” says McGillewie. “They have a gold standard, a certain accepted level. If a parent goes from a Pembridge to a Falcons, they should find the same standard across the board.”

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 21

AE_Falconer_02.indd 21

02/03/2016 10:11


When the site of the old (and much loved) Putney Park school came up for sale in 2013, Alpha Plus bought it for The Falcon School for Girls. The school is made up of four separate freehold buildings on Woodborough Road. Alpha Plus spent a year renovating these buildings from top to bottom before the school opened in September 2014. They are now everything you could dream of for a prep school; not only are the buildings beautiful and on a quiet leafy road but each one is gleaming with new paint and bright with pupil’s artwork. Each building leads into large extended gardens, filled with play equipment – including a large wooden boat - and No.22 leads directly into Putney Park itself. “The move was a big step for many parents,” admits McGillewie, “over 50 children moved over from the Gunnersbury sites. But the parents stayed “with us because of our warm caring ethos,” she says. There is now a 50/50 split between more local children from areas such as Putney, Barnes and Sheen and the older girls from Ealing and Chiswick who moved with the school. Pupils currently number 102, with 130 starting in September this year. There is the capacity for 350 pupils but the school will grow “organically”, says McGillewie. Class sizes are currently 10-15 but will eventually be 15-18 “but the beauty is that as we grow, we can split the classes so we have more space to grow”. The main points of entry are reception and pre-reception and the intake is non-selective, “although we ensure the children are able to cope with the curriculum,” says McGillewie. There is also


Headteachers who tell you it’s no setting as yet. “We're not pro Headmistress about ‘more than just exams’ are setting too young,” says McGillewie, Joan McGillewie ten a penny. But The Falcon School but says that as the school expands, with some of her pupils for Girls seems to have a head “we will adapt how we work to meet and teaching staff who really walk the needs of the children”. the walk and has created a progressive The progressive ethos that pervades the school wrapped in traditional clothing that school extends to the dreaded 11+. No prep is producing not just brilliant results but head teacher can ignore these exams or capable girls, too. the anxiety they can cause but McGillewie McGillewie has a favourite story to tackles it head-on. “I talk about our 11+ illustrate what she hopes is the school’s preparation from the moment these girls philosophy. “We don’t want children to just arrive at pre-prep.” Her attitude is that it is pass exams, we want to go deeper,” she says. “like preparing for a marathon” and talks to McGillewie talks about a Year 5 girl now at the girls about diet and rest. Latymer who went home following a lesson Dealing with (and maintaining realistic) on Remembrance Sunday. She returned to school the next day with four apple pies. Joan McGillewie told her: ‘They look nice’ and she said: ‘I have made these the way they would have made them during the war.’ “That sums up the desire for this school,” sayd McGillewie, “to inspire pupils to take their learning further. We stimulated that parental expectations are also part of a little girl’s learning to go beyond what we head’s job and again, McGillewie says “they asked of her.” must be addressed at the very first meeting. “We are about academic excellence,” she If there are girls with St Paul’s ability, we will says “but not at the cost of life long learning take them there but if a child isn’t up to it, we and love of learning.” won’t push it. For me, it’s not about how many girls I send to St Paul’s but how many girls I send to the right school for them.” TH E FALCO N SCH OO L McGillewie says that last year, five pupils FO R G I R L S sat the notoriously competitive Latymer Upper 11+; all five got interviews and four got 11 Woodborough Road, London, places. “What does this say about us?” she SW15 6PY, 020 8992 5189 says. “It says we read our girls correctly, our admin@ expectations are right.”

To be academically excellent you have to be creative

22 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_Falconer_02.indd 22

01/03/2016 15:38

WHOLE SCHOOL OPEN MORNING Wednesday 22nd June 2016 9.30am – 12.00pm (by appointment only)

ST HELENS.indd 1

02/03/2016 13:21


The Falcons School for Boys Pre-Preparatory & Preparatory

Wetherby Senior School

The Falcons School for Girls

Wetherby Preparatory School Chepstow House School Wetherby School Rolfe’s Nursery School St. Anthony’s School for Boys Portland Place School St. Anthony’s School for Girls Hilden Grange School

Abingdon House School

Pembridge Hall School

Davenport Lodge School

• Provides first class learning which enables children and young people to achieve their full potential • Teaching combines the best of traditional and modern methods • Access to the latest classroom technology

Tel: 020 7487 6000

Twitter: @Alpha_PlusGroup 8680-APG Ad GROUP.indd Schools-Colleges ALPHA PLUS 1 Absolutely Education.indd 1

29/01/2016 14:42 10:29 22/02/2016


Nursery & Prep



2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 25

AE_News_Opener_No Bleed.indd 25

29/02/2016 15:12

Into the

WOODS Nurseries with Forest Schools are becoming popular with London parents who want their children to go wild in the country A M A N D A C O N S TA N C E


hat do you do when it’s pouring with rain? I ask Leanna Barrett, the founder of London’s first full time outdoor nursery for 2-5year olds. “We put our hoods up,” she replies. “The children love to play in the water when it rains.” Welcome to Forest School, a Scandinavian import that has become increasingly popular in primary and nursery schools across the UK – and is now catching on in London. The ethos behind Forest School is to get children outside, in all weathers, ideally in woodland, where they can learn and gain confidence through hands-on experience, interacting with nature in an ever-changing environment. The first UK Forest School was set up in 1993 by a team from Bridgewater College in Somerset. Inspired by a field trip to some Danish nurseries, they employed the principles of an outdoor-focused, child-centered and play-based approach in their own school and were stunned by the way in which the children blossomed in confidence and creativity. Carol Evelegh, founder of The Kindergartens,

a group of London nursery schools for 2-5 year olds, says Forest Schooling has amazing benefits for children’s confidence and self-belief. “It’s fascinating to watch the slightly more cautious kids – you get them out there and they are so much more confident,” she says. A teacher at Thomas’s Battersea for years and a governor at King’s Canterbury in Kent, Evelegh said she immediately saw the advantages of Forest Schooling for her urban nurseries. “I look at all the space out of London and you see the lack of space in London,” she says. “Children just need to run – they need air and to run and play.” Every 3-4 year old in her nurseries goes to Wimbledon Common at least once a fortnight for a morning of Forest School “whatever the weather”. Lessons are planned, just as they would be indoors, but it’s a “very broad plan,” says Evelegh. Once on the common, “we follow the children,” says Evelegh. “It’s very open-ended, we could be whittling magic story wands or making mud pies in the stream.” Evelegh says the changing natural environment can have a marked effect on some of the children. “It brings a natural calm to them”, she says. “They discuss new things, they problem-solve, they work in teams and they are free to take risks.”

“Children just need to run in the fresh air and play”

26 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_Forest_Schools.indd 26

02/03/2016 12:47


Above Pupils at Little Forest Folk have fun in the mud

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 27

AE_Forest_Schools.indd 27

02/03/2016 12:47


Boisterous boys, in particular, “are very different” outside the formal boundaries of the classroom, she says. “They enter a magical, changing world and their focus is amazing.” Evelegh says some parents were worried at first – that were darling would be too cold or too wet – but on witnessing the change in the children, their enthusiasm and sense of pride in their achievements, they are now as hooked on the idea as their children. Leanna Barrett grew up in Wales, rockclimbing in the Brecon Beacons. Her husband James is Australian. They met when they both worked at the luxury wilderness safari lodge, Jack’s Camp, in Botswana. They are outdoors folk, to put it mildly, so when they had their first child, Ella, four years ago, Leanna and James felt so strongly about her being able to run freely outdoors that they started a fulltime forest nursery for her. Little Forest Folk opened on Wimbledon Common with ten children in January last year. There are now 129 children who come for up to five days a week at the nursery (there’s a maximum number of 30 per day). The children are outside, on a three and a half hectare site, warm and dry in special waterproofs from Sweden, from 9am till 4pm and inside a geodesic dome (think the Eden project) at either ends of the day to help parents with pick-ups. The nursery has been so popular that Barrett and her husband James are opening two more nurseries in Wandsworth and Chiswick in April this year. Barrett is adamant that the children have “total freedom” on the secure, fenced site. Specially trained teachers follow even the youngers ones at a distance, “it’s amazing how quickly they learn how to risk-assess for themselves,” she says. Indeed, when prospective teachers come for interview, Barrett has a special ‘tree test’ for them. “We take them over to one of the children’s favourite climbing trees,” she explains. “If the teacher helps the children climb the tree and holds their hand, we know they’re not for us. But if they stand nearby, waiting to help, if needed, then we know they’ll fit in here.” “We don’t teach the children, we help them to learn,” she says. Children are encouraged to explore and get muddy and learning is “by accident,” says Barrett. “The key to good teaching”.

Above Getting stuck in at The Kindergartens

Barrett has seen how for herself how transformative the experience can be. She recounts one little girl arriving for her first day in a dress from Disney's Frozen. “She stood and screamed and screamed,” says Barrett. Nobody understood what was wrong and then “we realised it was because she’d just got some mud on her”. Yet, within days, in the right clothes, the same little girl

was happily squatting in the mud “digging with her bare hands”. Left That’s not to say that Wrapped up well at teaching is ignored, Little Forest Folk it’s just introduced in a different way. For example, instead of an iPad, children are taught the ideas of sequencing and coding using an ingenious wooden robot which is programmed using coloured blocks. And if a boy is in his waterproofs playing in the mud kitchen, then “he’s fully engaged,” says Barrett. “So that’s when we might pick some pieces of ‘cake’ and start counting with him.” Barrett is also keen that this experience isn’t only for children with parents who can pay. She’s running the nurseries as social enterprises – 11% of places go for free. “It’s really important to provide this,” she says. “It helps mum back into work, and often the kids who need us most are the ones growing up in tower blocks.” Forest Schooling has obviously struck a chord with London parents. Why? “Because it gives them the childhood they deserve,” says Barrett. “The children can play freely with nature. It helps with their confidence and resilience. They are happy; we see it every day. It is how they should be.”

28 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_Forest_Schools.indd 28

29/02/2016 15:18

Summer Term Open Day Tuesday 26 April

No restriction on subject combinations One-year and two-year courses Maximum class size of 8 Expert UCAS advice Individual support tuition Easter Revision courses

Phone us on 020 7835 1355 to reserve your place today Visit our website: London 90-92 Queen’s Gate, London SW7 5AB

MPW London is a leading provider of A level, GCSE and specialist retake and revision courses.

MPW.indd 1

22/02/2016 11:47

At Monkton we look at schooling differently. Come and see us and find out how.

Open Mornings Saturday 7 May Saturday 8 October

What will your day at


be like? 01225 721133 01225 721 Day and Boarding School. Bath. 2 to 18 133 Boarding and day school. 2 to 19


24/02/2016 16:26




Great expectations Victoria O’Brien, Headmistress of Rolfe’s Nursery School, on aiming high in the early years


n a busy world, it is so easy to lose sight of which elements to focus on when educating our very youngest children. It is often viewed that above all else, the measure of a good education is the pace at which a child learns to read, write and master numeracy skills. As an early years headmistress and inspector, I disagree with this. A quality early years education must consider much more than the standard approach of rote learning. It should develop the whole child. Of course, children must join their reception class with a sound knowledge of phonics and numbers but we must not forget the value of the development of a child’s character, supporting them to acquire simple life skills, a love of learning and from this, build a lasting self-confidence. Expectation is an incredibly powerful tool. My eight years as a headmistress has shaped my opinion in this regard and now my rather simple philosophy is this: if the influential adults in a child’s life expect a child to succeed, then the child

“A quality early years education is much more than rote learning”


suggest that we look towards will, most likely, succeed. Children Teaching creatively at Rolfe’s empowering children with key must be given the opportunity to skills for the future as a starting make mistakes as they grow and Bottom point. We at Rolfe’s encourage learn. They must be able to try A pupil plays with wooden blocks children to develop an ‘I can’ new things and take risks without mentality, building resilience and repercussion. Many of the best encouraging each to try new things. We teach learning opportunities in life occur when them to concentrate for extended periods of there is freedom to explore, create and time and to persevere when the going gets experiment, which is, after all, how the light tough. We catch children ‘doing the right bulb was created and penicillin discovered. thing’ and we abundantly praise them for Looking to the future and the growth of it. We praise children for trying their best (I artificial intelligence, I would suggest that repeat the word praise deliberately; praise it is those who have been taught to think is key). We support children to creatively and to express their develop their fine-motor skills ideas confidently that will be the so that they are empowered to most professionally sought after. write, use a computer and hold More and more children seem a pencil correctly. We work on to be reluctant to take a risk phonics, writing and numeracy and this is having an impact on skills in fun and creative ways. their learning. At Rolfe’s Nursery In particular we use movement School we have a helpful saying: when teaching young children ‘Mistakes are our friends, they so that we activate both sides help us to learn’. V I C TO R I A of the brain. We teach children So what is the best way O’BRIEN Headmistress of Rolfe’s manners and how to respect the to prepare a child for the Nursery School world and others. reception year? I would

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 31

AE_Rolfes 2.indd 31

29/02/2016 15:27



Coffee & registration at 10am followed by presentations from the Headmaster & Director of Studies, then an individual tour of the school RSVP - call admissions 01903 874701 | visit Windlesham House School, Washington, West Sussex, RH20 4AY

Open am may 21s.indd 1 SCHOOL.indd 1 WINDLESHAM HOUSE

25/02/2016 11:09:37 25/02/2016 13:50




A life less ordinary Roy English, Head Teacher of Abingdon House School, on the challenges of autism


o measure the success of our societies, we should examine how well those with different abilities, including persons with autism, are integrated as full and valued members.” So said Ban Ki-moon. When we hear the term ‘autism’, our minds might immediately conjure up our own personal vision of a typical autistic person, perhaps drawing on recollections of autistic people as portrayed in the media. We all know, for example, that many autistic individuals have outstanding gifts. Recently Derek Paravicini, a musical savant, performed at Abingdon House School while Adam Ockelford gave an inspiring talk on the journey the two of them had made. Reading Adam’s book In the Key of Genius I was struck by the immense difficulties that Derek faced, is facing and will continue to face for the rest of his life. Yet, despite these difficulties, this is an individual who is, by any standard, highly successful. Many autistic people face a long time of low-paid employment if they manage to get a job at all. The scale and complexity of the issues raised in dealing with individuals with autism in our society are astounding. In the UK in 2016 there are around 700,000 people living with autism. A study by the London School of Economics estimates that autism costs the country at least £32 billion per year in treatment and lost earnings. Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition. It will often dominate the life of an individual. With the correct help, many children will learn coping strategies and

“With the right help, autistic children can learn good life skills”

ways to deal with sensory issues. Despite this, many will experience failure in school, social and work situations. These failures lead to a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and mental health issues. Many people with autism are often very vulnerable to abuse because of their lack of social skills. Being taken advantage of and even bullied is not unusual. It is vitally important that individuals

Above A child at Abingdon House

do not receive adequate help Left will reach A pupil studying breaking point. To parents who have an autistic child, I do not need to remind you that your child is unique and their potential will become increasingly evident to you over the years. However, you know better than anyone that life will be a constant series of challenges. I would encourage you to find learn life skills and social communication professionals that you can trust and work skills in order to cope in society. Without in partnership with them. Also, seek out these vital skills those with autism will other parents who are travelling down a become ever more isolated and marginalised. similar path, and talk to them frequently. Having a child with autism often has a Be sure to seek out the correct educational profound effect on the lives of the immediate establishment for your child. family. Caring for an autistic To others, who are not so child or young adult can be directly involved, I simply ask a tremendous emotional, you to care and to support financial and physical strain. those who you may know Not knowing how best to who are dealing more directly help them can also take a toll with autism. on their siblings and wider Author Seth Godin says, family. For many families, at “When enough people care least one parent cannot work about autism or diabetes outside the home. Parents can or global warming, it helps R OY E N G L I S H become isolated and depressed Head Teacher, everyone, even if only a tiny Abingdon House School themselves and many who fraction actively participate.”

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 33

AE_TH_Abingdon.indd 33

02/03/2016 10:17

OPEN TO ALL Not all private schools welcome children with SEN, but thankfully, some mainstream and specialist schools are bucking the trend CHARLOT TE PHILLIPS


any parents assume that if their child has learning needs, then the independent sector, with its small classes and high staff-to-pupil ratio, is the place to be. And in some cases that’s absolutely true, even in high-pressure inner London, as long as you know where to look. Take Sinclair House, in Fulham and on the fringes of zone 1. It’s completely mainstream, yet fast establishing a reputation as a first class nurturer of academic high achievers and SEN pupils alike (and some children, of course, are both). Over the years it’s taken everything from dyslexia to communication difficulties in its stride, supporting children with sometimes extensive needs – but without compromising on the highly focused attention it devotes to all its pupils.

We could name other schools that do similarly wonderful things with exceptionally quirky children. But here’s the rub. Being good with SEN may be a strength – but it’s one some head teachers actively play down. Surprising? On the surface, very. Schools aren’t exactly known for being shy and retiring when it comes to broadcasting even

pupils – and parents - to consider. As a society we all welcome diversity. Inclusion is a wonderful thing. Until, that is, it happens to wash up in your own child’s class when it becomes personal – and then it’s a very different story. Like it or not, parents can see children with learning needs not as a demonstration of a school’s inclusivity but as a barrier to success in the super competitive senior school place race. A school can have any number of dazzling features, from award-winning lunches to their own polo team. But even offering Quidditch, with working broomsticks, wouldn’t be enough without that heart-warming, expenditure-justifying list of top senior schools in the annual leavers’ destinations list, complete with a fat spread of scholarships. And if children with learning needs are felt to be sucking up more than their fair share of resources, parents can get twitchy. It’s not fair. But in some results-centric schools, it can, unfortunately, be a fact of life.

“Being good with SEN is a strength but some heads actively play it down” the most modest of successes, particularly when it comes to turning that old prospectus chestnut, ‘recognising each and every child as an individual’ into glorious Technicolor reality. Being able to point to the progress made by pupils with learning needs should be a particularly rainbow-hued example. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that, particularly when there are other

34 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_SEN_Diagnostic_02_use.indd 34

29/02/2016 16:03


Above One-to-one teaching at Bredon School Below Pupils at Sinclair House

And there’s more to schools’ concerns than worries about over-reaching ambition alone. Officially, the numbers of children with learning needs have actually gone down, according to the government. ‘I wonder where they’ve put them,’ says the Good Schools Guide’s SEN director Bernadette John, drily. In her experience, mainstream schools are seeing record numbers of applications from families whose children have learning needs – and they simply can’t cope. Several well-known preps, previously known for being open to most, if not all, comers are starting to impose an unofficial quota on the numbers, and severity, of children with learning needs further up the school. Danes Hill, a large, successful prep on the fringes of London, is one of the schools to rethink its admissions policy. While it will remain broadly non-selective in nursery and reception years, the school is placing a greater emphasis on academic ability from

Year Two onwards, though reluctantly so, says head of admissions, Carolyn Ward. "With success in 13+ exams one of our primary goals, and an important parental expectation, it simply wouldn’t be fair on everyone as some pupils are not best equipped to deal with sustained academic pressure." It’s hard not to have sympathy for schools. Of course there are heads whose attitudes to special needs are (unofficially) negative, whatever the policy document says. But even in the most sympathetic of environments, catering properly for children who need extra support demands thought, resources and, almost invariably, expenditure. Parents will usually be asked to sub at least some of the costs – one-to-one lessons with a specialist teacher, for example. But some children will need extra help at lunchtime, break or

even just with moving between classrooms. Training potentially every staff member to be effortlessly versatile in adapting teaching techniques to a range of needs, though perfectly possible, is a big, time-consuming and pricey ask. “I think it’s more a case of being underresourced," agrees Gemma Doyle, head of marketing at Cavendish Education. “Schools

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 35

AE_SEN_Diagnostic_02_use.indd 35

02/03/2016 12:50


may have to have somebody on the staff who has responsibility for the SENCo role but if you’ve got 30 children in a school of 600 that have got SEN, one member of staff just isn’t enough.” It’s one of the reasons that more specialist independent schools groups like Cavendish Education are flourishing. Each of its four schools has a particular SEN specialisation, underpinned by small classes and a focus on the individual. The group’s newest venture is the Independent School in West London, which caters for dyslexic pupils who need more heavy-duty support and what amounts effectively to a bespoke education. Currently its pupils are aged from 11 to 16, but they may consider a broader age range in the future. Cavendish also owns Bredon School in Gloucestershire. Though brilliant with dyslexia, its education (boarding and day) is

Above Pupils feeding pigs at Bredon Scbool Left Children with SEN require specialist teachers

“Is Sinclair House at the vanguard of a brave new approach to education?” all through (3-18) and designed to ensure that every child, with or without learning needs, can flourish. "Families walk up the drive and fall in love," says Doyle. "We tailor pupils’ education to find the thing that lights them up. And once they’ve found the area in which they’ll shine, they’re flying." Instead of forcing everyone into team games, for example – something that Gemma Doyle describes with commendable understatement as "often not a great fit for children with SEN," there’s a vast range of

individual sports to choose from instead – all of them with equal kudos ratings. Sinclair House, too, seamlessly integrates children with learning needs – and manages it brilliantly. How’s it done? A lot of hard graft, coupled with huge amounts of sensitivity, for starters. "We maintain high teacher-pupil ratios, so that we are able to nurture pupils’ self-confidence, and support personal academic goals and objectives," says the principal, Carlotta O’Sullivan. Small class sizes and flexible teaching also mean that lessons can be tailored and differentiated across a range of abilities, learning styles and interests. As a result, the gifted and talented can also blossom. "We have one child in Year 6 who is working towards an art scholarship and already doing GCSE portfolio level work," says O’Sullivan. And with leavers in recent years heading to senior schools including Latymer Upper and King’s College School, Wimbledon, the school’s approach is clearly not interfering with the trajectories of high fliers. Indeed, being exposed to so many different characters, interests and abilities than might be the case elsewhere is a positive advantage for pupils’ future development. Inclusivity isn’t taught but is implicit in

the way the school works, helping to foster respect and tolerance in and outside the classroom. It builds what Sinclair House describes as ‘emotional dexterity’ – a critical life skill and one that, ultimately, could benefit society as a whole. It sounds wonderful. So could Sinclair House be the vanguard of a brave, new approach to education, where pupils with learning needs are welcomed and made as much of as the top achievers? Or, together with Cavendish, will they remain niche operators, bravely sticking to their ideals and keeping their cool while white hot ambition dominates the mood elsewhere? It’s not easy, concedes Bernadette John at the Good Schools Guide. “When the demands on children ramp up with the introduction of specialist teaching and with external exams looming, [independent schools] are very unwilling to consider new entrants with SEN." But with perseverance, she says, it is possible to find schools that will take a chance on children at four when they either don’t have a diagnosis or might still catch up. Some may take children with unresolved difficulties into Key Stage Two. Above all, they should be schools that look past SEN labels and relish the unique contribution that every pupil brings to the community. And as Sinclair House and Cavendish Education demonstrate, they’re rare beasts, no question - but they are still out there.

36 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_SEN_Diagnostic_02_use.indd 36

29/02/2016 16:04

Open Morning Tuesday 3 May Come along anytime between 9am and 11.30am and see our school in action! Eaton Square School is an independent, coeducational Nursery, Pre-Preparatory and Preparatory school in the heart of central London, educating children from the age of 2 ½ to 13 years old. The main school is in Belgravia, with three nursery schools located across London. 79 Eccleston Square, London SW1V 1PP T: 020 7931 9469 E:

Elvaston Place Open Morning Thursday 9 June - 9am The Long Garden Open Morning Wednesday 8 June - 9.30am Booking is essential Hyde Park School offers your child a unique, well-rounded education, with 2 locations in central London. Our Nursery & Pre-Prep is located behind Marble Arch (W2) and takes children ages 2 - 5. Our Preparatory is in South Kensington (SW7) and takes ages 4 - 11. The Long Garden, St George’s Fields, Albion Street, London W2 2AX ~ 24 Elvaston Place, London SW7 5NL T: 020 7225 3131 E:

Open Mornings First Tuesday of every month at 9.30am Booking is essential

The Lyceum is a small, non-selective, independent nursery and school for boys and girls aged 3-11, with a unique educational philosophy delivered through topic-based learning. The school is situated in the City of London, near to Old Street and Shoreditch. 6 Paul Street, City of London EC2A 4JH T: 020 7247 1588 E:

MINERVA.indd 1

26/02/2016 14:23


Taking the chorister route to a private education can save you lots of money. But it’s a demanding lifestyle and not a decision to take lightly CHARLOT TE PHILLIPS

38 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_TH_Choral.indd 38

29/02/2016 16:16



t’s hard to be unmoved by the celestial singing of a top-notch cathedral choir. As traditional as honey for tea or swallows in summer, becoming a chorister is also – more pragmatically – a potential route to the best musical education going. And with luck, it can cost you almost nothing. Where there’s a cathedral choir, there’s usually a specialist school nearby that is responsible for recruiting and training the choristers, mostly boys aged between 8 and 13. Many, like those at The Pilgrims’ School in Winchester (pictured, left), share their academic timetable with other prep pupils. Others take a very different approach – none more so than Westminster Abbey Choir School which is that rarest of beasts – a tiny boarding school in the heart of London that is just for choristers. Then there are the choirs that don’t have a dedicated school to call their own. Temple Church in London, for example, selects and trains its own choristers but doesn’t provide a full time education.

Getting a place as a chorister is about raw talent Instead, boys are recruited from a range of schools – state and private – across the capital. Gaining a place as a chorister is about raw talent rather than a polished performance and singing lessons or Saturday stage school definitely aren’t necessary. ‘We don’t expect children to arrive fully fledged and be able to sing “Wings of a Dove” perfectly or anything like that,’ says Jonathan Milton, headmaster of Westminster Abbey Choir School. ‘We’re looking for potential. It’s someone who’s bright of eye, who’s got some spark about them and is prepared to have a go.’ The selection process is correspondingly low stress - no crowds, stage, judging panel or pressure, just the head of music with a keyboard who will work through a series of musical games that test pitch and rhythm. Some schools also ask the child to prepare a short song or simple hymn. If selected, the immersive musical education that choristers get puts them at a distinct advantage

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 39

AE_TH_Choral.indd 39

29/02/2016 16:17


when it comes to snaffling places – and music scholarships – at top senior schools later on. With so much of the hard musical graft already done and dusted (choristers will learn at least one instrument, sometimes more, to a high standard, on top of the singing) schools know they’re getting trained talent that can be guaranteed to add a high quality lustre to their performing arts straight out of the box. But for parents, the savings can start far earlier than that. Chorister places usually come with substantial subsidies, while The Temple Choir awards scholarships worth two thirds of the fees at any senior London day school (often the City of London School for Boys). Unsurprisingly, parents are cheerfully upfront about the incentive of paying bargain basement prices for a world-class education. ‘Oh, yes, money’s definitely a factor,’ says one. ‘Especially with no questions asked. You can be as rich as anything and still get your 40 per cent off.’ Not everyone, admittedly, is keen to stress the cash back element. ‘Absolutely not, says a horrified choir insider. ‘I don’t think that’s the right way to approach it at all.’ She’s got a point. After all, however great the savings on the fees, a chorister’s life is hugely demanding. ‘They will sing between 700 and 800 pieces a year, which is a lot of music [and] have between 6 and 10 minutes to get a piece up to standard, so they’re working hard,’ says Tim Cannell, head master of the Prebendal School in Chichester. Parents, too, need to be aware of the lifealtering impact of raising a chorister. Most days, Christina Tyson, whose son is a Temple Church chorister, crosses London so he can attend after school rehearsals. And Christmas, with its non-stop concerts, rehearsals and services, tends to be a wash out. ‘December’s hilarious,’ says Christina. ‘Everyone says, “Where are you going at Christmas? I say, “nowhere.”’

Sometimes, though the children are keen, it can take longer to win parents round. ‘I said no way on earth would my son ever board,’ says mother Ali Dugdale. That was before she saw The Pilgrims’ School, which trains two choirs’ worth of choristers, one for Winchester Cathedral, the other at Winchester College, and fell instantly in love, as did her son. He started as a boarder in year 3, successfully auditioned as a chorister and is now studying music at Oxford. And Ali became so enamoured of the whole process that she now works at the school. What stands out, she says, isn’t just the musical training but the Top old, you’re a team. It’s qualities that come with it. ‘If the Pupils at Pilgrims’ a friendship-building choristers are in a concert that starts Above exercise that gives them at eight and the bit they sing in isn’t England cricketer responsibility.’ until 10.30, they will sit and wait Alastair Cook was a Look at what former and will be bang on the note, chorister choristers go on to all together, bright and perky. They Left achieve and it’s hard are professionals.’ A pupil at Westminster not to agree. Isaac No wonder that, even with a Abbey Choir School Waddington, a recent complete absence of financial finalist in Britain’s Got incentives, choral singing elsewhere is Talent and record-setting cricketer Alastair also massively popular. Cook may have followed very different paths, At Mayfield School, there’s stiff but both have benefited from their early competition among pupils, girls aged 11-18, musical training. to secure a place in Schola Cantorum, the ‘It’s a big commitment and at times some school’s audition only choir that spans the of them will have a difficult path through it age range and is in huge demand, singing in but there are very few who leave and wish venues that range from Westminster Abbey they had never done it,’ says Tim Cannell. to the Vatican. ‘Top performance, whether it be in sports Mayfield’s director of music, Peter Collins, or music, comes through hard work and believes that the girls gain a lifelong benefit practice. The important step is for children from learning how to work together in a to learn that there are a lot of hours that go in way that demands exceptional commitment behind the scenes to make it to the top.’ and maturity. ‘Whether you’re 11 or 18 years

40 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_TH_Choral.indd 40

29/02/2016 16:17

WE ARE WESTONBIRT “Westonbirt has the wow factor” Tatler Schools Guide 2015

Open Door Day, Thursday 5th May 2016, 9am-12pm • Independent girls school - day, boarding and flexi-boarding • Individual teaching and learning • 220 acres of parkland

• 25m indoor swimming pool • Golf course • Gymnasium • Tennis courts

Westonbirt Schools Tetbury Gloucestershire GL8 8QG E: T: 01666 880333

WBS Absolutel Edu Mag WESTONBIRT.indd 1 - A4 - 25.2.16.indd 1

25/02/2016 14:47 13:41 25/02/2016

Energy Courage Integrity Flexible courses for students aged 11-18 An opportunity to live and study alongside British students A safe, accessible location in rural Cambridgeshire Exceptional support towards first class academic results and university entrance

For more information please contact: | @Kings_Ely

KINGS ELY SCHOOL.indd 1 KSE0025 Dubai FP Ad A4.indd 1

27/01/2016 11:27 25/01/2016 20:22




Give them time Sebastian Hepher, Headmaster of Eaton Square School, on how to make our children happy


ow can we make our children happier? I have been asked this question several times recently and with such a multitude of factors influencing a child’s happiness during their school years, it’s hardly surprising that parents want to safeguard them against feeling out of place. From academic pressures and competition to secure places at reputable schools, to feeling confident and fitting in socially, children need a wealth of support from their educational environments. It’s an interesting consideration for me as a headmaster and something that I, along with all of the teachers at my school, strive to improve and enhance on a daily basis. I know that when walking through the corridors and classrooms of Eaton Square School that happiness is evident in all children and classes. We pride ourselves on making this

“There is a danger that in pursuit of academic results we lose sight of the child”

Above The childrens’ wellbeing is a priority at Eaton Square School

can play after school, read books for pleasure a priority – we’re well or spend quality time with their family are aware that if the pupils potentially becoming things of the past as are not happy, they more and more families are succumbing to will not progress or Left the pressures of academia. Children run the thrive as individuals. A happy pupil risk of losing that down time when they can During my career recharge their batteries, reflect on the day as a headmaster, I and most importantly, when they can think have seen an increasing shift away from the and dream. more traditional, well-rounded educational As educationalists, we have a responsibility pathways to a system that is more focused to children and their parents to tell them that on academic performance. Of course, there these ‘old-fashioned’ values of a well-rounded must be aspiration, focus and rigour instilled and holistic approach to education still have in students, but is there a danger that in a place. It is our collective responsibility pursuit of delivering these academic aspects, to manage parental expectation and the we lose sight of the individual child and their inevitable competitiveness which follows, personal needs. as well as ensure that the From homework in nursery, children in our care are not interview practice for entry into placed in positions where they reception, extra tuition which may be burdened and overincreases during exam periods stretched. We cannot allow and the demand for holiday our boys and girls to spend homework, it is clear that for all of their time working and children, the pressure is well performing without the very and truly on. The result is that real acceptance of the need for many of those key moments SEBASTIAN time when they can grow and during the day when children HEPHER develop at their own pace, with can simply be ‘themselves’, are Headmaster, Eaton Square School laughter and happiness. lost. The times when children

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 43

AE_Sebastian Hepher.indd 43

02/03/2016 10:19

Scottish Charity SCO06123 Picture © Tatler & Hugo Burnand

Discover Discover Glenalmond College, a school with an unsurpassed tradition of helping each pupil make the most of their personal journey. A school which encourages each child to reach their academic potential and develop their individual abilities to the full in a range of artistic, sporting, social and adventure activities.

• • • • •

80% of pupils are full boarding 75% British pupils Outstanding pastoral care for girls and boys aged 12-18 300-acre countryside campus near Perth, Scotland Just one hour from Edinburgh or Glasgow airports

T: 01738 842144


inspiring learning


23/02/2016 13:09




Codebreaker Sarah Gillam, Head Teacher at Maple Walk Prep School and ISI inspector, on understanding Inspection Reports


hoosing the right school for your child is daunting. All parents want the best for their children and navigating through reams of glossy brochures and visual presentations is overwhelming. Add to this ‘the word on the street’ and it is remarkable that any parent survives school selection without having to lie down in a darkened room. There is a shortcut, however: the Inspection Report. Learn to decode this and you could save yourself a fortune in registration fees. Firstly note, independent schools are not rated by Ofsted but regulated by the Independent Schools Inspectorate. The ISI do not give over-arching grades and instead key areas, such as the ‘contribution of teaching’ or the ‘quality of

“Understanding these judgements can be a powerful weapon in a parent’s arsenal” leadership and management’, are judged and scored separately. Grades are awarded from ‘unsatisfactory’ at the bottom end right up to ‘excellent’ – and in some rare cases, the curriculum can be judged as ‘exceptional’. Knowing what these judgements actually mean can be a powerful weapon in a parent's arsenal. At the ‘exceptional’ level, a school will not only have weighty ambitions for their pupils’ achievements, but it will also have fulfilled these to the hilt. It goes without saying that pupil achievement at an 'exceptional' school will be way above the national average. All pupils, including those with special educational needs or English as

Regular outings on foot to the local swimming pool should not, therefore, be rejected in favour of an underused Olympic-sized facility on site. Similarly, rows of brand new iPads are only as good as their integration and use within the whole curriculum. The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils is also scrutinised. According to ISI criteria, a school graded excellent in this area will have pupils that ‘show a keen sense of fair play’ and also an awareness of those less fortunate than themselves. Alongside this, schools should regularly engage with the local community and fundraise for charities, in order to develop pupils’ social and moral selves. In the course of their inspection, the ISI team will look at pupils’ work, talk to management, question pupils and parents and, perhaps crucially, observe lessons. Excellent teaching needs to be nurtured. This means that teachers Above an additional language, will be judged should be supported, encouraged, A teacher and pupil at Maple on their individual progress and well managed and given regular Walk Prep their approach to learning. In effect, opportunities to keep up to date there is nowhere to hide for schools with their specialist subjects. A lack that blame poor results on an unusually high of investment in staff development can lead to number of ‘challenging’ pupils. stagnated teaching and a high staff turnover, Conversely, a highly selective school that so look for a school that provides ongoing sits on its laurels may not achieve as well as opportunities for training. a non-selective school that recognises the Inspections should be detailed, rigorous need to challenge all pupils according to their and unbiased. And while they can cause individual ability. waves of panic to ripple through It is easy to be wowed by a school, a good school should impressive facilities, and have an attitude of ‘bring it on’. these certainly help a school Parents should, however, trust on the road toward ‘excellent’, their own instincts, because no but even small schools, with amount of reading or decoding limited budgets, should can replace actually visiting a compensate by making sure school. facilities nearby are utilised And what a report will never or that school trips make the be able to tell you is whether a SARAH GILLAM Head Teacher at Maple best use of their surrounding particular school is the right one Walk Prep School environments. for your child.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 45

TH New Model School.indd 45

29/02/2016 16:30


22/02/2016 14:35





2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 47

AE_News_Opener_No Bleed.indd 47

29/02/2016 16:33


Call it the Anthony Seldon effect... we have noticed that some headmasters can command rockstar status, their public appearances causing wild hysteria among flinty-eyed Tiger Mothers. Fearless innovators, bold thinkers and courageous leaders; here’s our pick of some legends in the making and some who are already there CHARLOT TE PHILLIPS



The Mary Poppins award for being (practically) perfect


he one other heads want to be when they grow up. If you meet him, it's worth checking he hasn’t got singed ears – they must be permanently red, what with levels of adulation that border on the indecent. “For my money, the best of the best,” says one of his (many) admirers. It’s a tribute to this all round good egg that he’s apparently untouched by a glittery public persona that many a head elsewhere would sell his trophy cabinet for. Not that it comes without effort. You don’t lead a school to all-round glory (last year, 75 per cent of A-Levels were at top grades A*/A) without putting in the hours. A bit of a star turn from the off (first teaching post was at Eton) he joined Highgate in 2006. Not one for

sitting still for long, he’s reformed the curriculum (if a public exam isn’t good enough for the pupils, he’ll find an alternative that is), taken the school co-ed and added two new year groups (7 and 8) to the senior section. But there’s more to life than just being a head. Like teaching (linguistics), being a school governor

(three other establishments and counting) chairing committees - and doing good. He’s made outreach a huge thing, dispensing maths and science teachers to over 30 local schools and setting up a sixth-form bursary scheme that combines a Highgate education with work experience. And for light relief? Discounting a recent turn interviewing Simon Cowell in front of an 800-strong audience, he likes cross-country running and reading. From parental effusions to Michael Gove’s description of him as “Kylie Minogue to Sir Philip Green’s Sir Tom Jones’ (Arcadia adds commercial muscle to the outreach programme); tributes are glowing. “Wrong to refer to him as ‘one to watch’ - he is already a legend,” says an industry insider. See also: fellow legend Andrew Halls of King’s College, Wimbledon


48 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_TopTen Heads_To Edit.indd 48

02/03/2016 10:30




The local boy done good


rowing up, David Goodhew often walked past posh Latymer but never clocked it. As a working class lad living round the corner, it just wasn’t on the radar. How things change. One first class Oxford degree later, followed by top teaching experience in assorted schools, including Eton, he's back in the ‘hood – this time as head. Goodhew is referred to (frequently) as ‘a genius’ – and one of the many reasons for the school’s supersize presence on the London education scene – 1,200 plus sat the last 11+ entrance exam. Achievements? We

forgotten his roots. The plan is for a quarter of pupils to be admitted on full bursaries by 2024. ‘Runs the coolest school in London,’ says local parent. ‘Surrounded by affluence, he’s trying to claw back a good education for commoners not born into rock royalty or hedge fund gold.’



Charge of the nice brigade prize

could go on and on. Teachers spending quality time out of the classroom to hone their subject knowledge. Rounded and grounded pupils, who don’t just think outside the box but all around it, (innovative solutions are a speciality du curriculum). But he’s not



ou don’t get put in charge of Wellington without having aced it elsewhere and Julian Thomas arrives fresh from stunning results at Caterham School (once a place ambitious parents wouldn't look at twice, now with results that put more famous rivals in the shade) – all thanks to his dynamic leadership. But there’s more, much more. Like getting an MBA in educational leadership and rising effortlessly through the ranks as a teacher in some of the best schools in south-east England. Wouldbe Wellington parents are sitting up and taking notice, registering in record numbers since he joined last September. As role models go, there’s

something for everyone, from trekking to the South Pole last year (rugged risk taking) to writing textbooks (unshowy brilliance). Not to mention a beard neat and authoritative enough to rule the school. He runs on a heartand head-turning combo of hard work, determination and ambition – oh, plus the rugged good looks and, as one prospective parent put it, "voice of pure chocolate". More pertinently, he’s pupil-centred and does a nice line in infectious passion. Delighted school staff point to his mastery of the ingredients list for the ideal Wellingtonian (inspired, intellectual, independent, individual and inclusive, apparently) coupled with tangible desire to send them out into the world equipped with a commitment to do good and serve others. “The Richard Branson of the public school world,” says an awestruck insider. ‘He’s a great moderniser, outdoorsy, very modern, just brilliant at stepping into the awfully big shoes of his predecessor.’


2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 49

AE_TopTen Heads_To Edit.indd 49

02/03/2016 10:30

WORLD-CLASS IB SCHOOL Sevenoaks (founded 1432) is a co-educational day and boarding school for students aged 11 to 18. Just half an hour from Central London and Gatwick Airport, our superb 100-acre campus is in the Kent countryside. Academic excellence is delivered by a broad, balanced programme of study and exciting teaching. Strengthened by wise pastoral care and the inclusive influences of the International Baccalaureate, Sevenoaks students work hard to satisfy their natural curiosity and extend themselves far above and beyond the core curriculum.

It’s all about the IB here and Sevenoaks shows everyone else how it’s done. Tatler Schools Guide

Sevenoaks is known for its global outlook and forward-thinking ethos. With over 1000 pupils, the student body is lively, cosmopolitan and open-minded. Boarding is an important element in the school’s daily life and ethos, while our 600-year history, location and 700 day students ensure that the school remains firmly grounded in the local community. We have offered the International Baccalaureate since 1978. Registered charity 1101358


16/02/2016 16:47




Spread a (lot of) happiness award




The Saint of Sarf London

onderfully humane, popular and dedicated to his school, Alex Peterken is a huge hit. Staff adore him, parents trust him and pupils visibly relax on arrival. Some reckon gorgeous school architecture is inspiration for his modern-yet-mellow approach (he was out for a duck in last year’s parent vs. staff cricket match). A good delegator with a collegiate approach who still teaches as well as singing in the choir, he’s resisted the pressure to chase league table glory, instead keeping the intake broad while overseeing mega spend on facilities (£11 million on labs to library to new boarding house and counting) and bumping up the

academics. No surprise that quality teaching and confidence-building are his must-have aspirations, but it's worth clocking the not-so-small print on the list that stresses the vital importance of a sense of fun. If there’s no enjoyment in a school, he feels, “we might as well all pack up and go home”. Put children first and you can’t go wrong. Given the results – the school’s continuing renaissance, more pupils achieving strings of top grades at GCSE – few would disagree. Parents, signing up in ever increasing numbers, certainly don’t. “An admirable character,” says a supporter. “He’s warm and approachable and dedicated to public service in a way you think of as quintessentially British.”



ot just clever but so nice with it that it’s not unknown for would-be worshippers to engineer meetings just to touch the hem of the sacred robes (choice of BA and PhD). You need advanced nerves and nous to drive this 1,700-strong, high profile London school, fuelled by the hopes and dreams of their aspirational parents. Since arriving in 2009, he’s done them proud, rejuvenating, galvanising and energising, knowing when to nurture and when to let go. From the Dulwich Diploma where A-Level depth, IB breadth and original research are rolled up into one bumper qualification, to Free Learning, which lets top teachers off the leash to go way beyond the curriculum and Dulwich Inventive, a glorious week-long subject mash-up linking humanities and sciences, innovations have come thick and fast. Investment and community involvement (supporting best local primaries) ditto. No wonder original thinkers flourish but not at the expense of exam success (85 per cent top grades at GCSE in 2015, 62 per cent at A-Level), while the latest inspection report glitters with gold stars. Interested? Join the growing queue for a dose of Dr Spence’s unique blend of curiosity, emotional intelligence and compassion. And bring something to read. One of Dr Spence’s own works (including journalism, plays and libretti) might do nicely. Even his email manners are courtly, says an industry insider. ‘Best in the business. He never scrapes a few words together and that counts for something.’


AE_TopTen Heads_To Edit.indd 51

02/03/2016 10:30


25/02/2016 10:38


increasingly British. If league table trajectory (up 66 places in 2015) continues, beady-eyed competitors will need to take careful note. Savvy Londoners who knew Oliver Blond from his days at super successful Henrietta Barnett already have – the last open day was ‘rammed’. Just don’t expect a hothouse-sur-mer. "He’s that rare thing, a head who doesn’t do it with smoke, mirrors and extrovert charm," says Susan Hamlyn at the Good Schools Guide. “He knows the value of keeping quiet – particularly useful when it comes to finding out what girls really believe about themselves rather than what teachers think they believe and then, if there is a lack of self-confidence, finding ways of dealing with it.”



The oil tanker award – for turning it around


efore Oliver Blond’s arrival, doughty Roedean parents and former pupils didn’t stint in their choice of words to voice feelings about this legendary school’s former decline. As forthright a bunch as they come, their descriptions were a marvel of plain speaking. Lesser heads would have blanched. Not OB. Winningly polite, courteous and non-confrontational to a point, he’s won them over with advanced listening skills (reckoned to be his sixth sense). No pushover, though, with staff expected to get it right first time. Boarding facilities have been glamorised (check out the hanging lights), teaching galvanised, bright locals wooed with sixth form scholarships and numbers of overseas pupils pruned after years of monoculture domination in some year groups. Bums on seats now




The Housewife’s Choice


ll prep heads do charm but few do it to greater effect than Duncan Bailey. Since 2011, he’s been wowing the Cothill community with his sheer love of the job and all round nous. The school is guaranteed fustyfree with a traditional approach now retailored for the 21st century. There's a new teaching block and staff accommodation filled with surround sound motivational staff. Bailey shops for them at university, reels them in with the promise of top-notch training

and offers them their freedom after three years. They never leave. Role models as well as teachers, their interests – cricket, football, microlight flights – provide a background hum of inspiration. Any matching spark in pupils is quickly converted into a blazing fire of enthusiasm that plays well with top senior schools who mop up the vast majority at Common Entrance. No plans to change key entry qualification – a smile. Boys are happy, polite and busy. Staff ditto. He's a head who still sees himself as one of the boys. What’s not to like? ‘Huge enthusiasm, natural touch with boys and knows them inside out. Utterly charming with parents but understands distance between school and home,’ says a school insider. ‘This is his time.’




Beyond a boffin


ith more letters to his name than you can shake an alphabet book at, Dominic Luckett is already super qualified as a jolly good fellow – unlike Henry Vlll, his PhD subject. He combines book learning with an impressive understanding of teenagers which led to many mourning his recent departure from Mill Hill School,

where he’d been the popular head since 2007. While North London gets used to life without him, the Sherborne posse can’t quite believe

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 53

AE_TopTen Heads_To Edit.indd 53

02/03/2016 10:31


19/02/2016 12:24


DOMINIC LUCKETT DID A PHD ON HENRY VIII their luck. Though a very new arrival (started January 2016), he and his family have taken to life here and made themselves instantly at home. Charmed staff already praise his upbeat, positive presence which, they say, is making a 'tremendous impression'. Luckett already has an instinctive understanding of what works (much is done well, especially sports and performing arts) and what needs a leg up (academic results currently described by Good Schools Guide as ‘good rather than stellar’). Omens are good. “Quite simply, in a short space of time he’s already managed to make everyone feel as if they matter,” says a school insider.

multi-hued coat. Staff are given enough autonomy to customise the curriculum and turn it into dazzling good fun but without slowing the flow of boys to top public schools, which snap up these sporty, clever hard-working chaps who pitch in with gusto. Faber’s charm certainly shakes the money down – £3 million raised in just 18 months, phase one of a top-to-bottom revamp of the school. “The best person I’ve ever worked for,” said one school employee.




The demon for detail


ichard Maloney looks every inch the model headmaster he is, commanding a room with personality alone, his aura probably visible from an international space station. Still in his 30s when appointed head in 2009 at Bede’s, his leadership style is a fortifying blend of persuasion, energy and innovation. Bifocal vision – he’s a demon for detail while simultaneously clocking the bigger picture – is very handy for new

projects. “He misses nothing,” says one staff member. Maloney switches effortlessly from exploring finer points of A-Level philosophy – he packs in a spot of recreational teaching, both Religous Studies and Philosophy – to mastering Zen-like intricacies of bio-mass energy systems and water-based Astros (there’s very little he doesn’t know about either). He even found time to write for The Sunday Times earlier this year, too. He leaves Bede’s not as he found it but much, much better. The Zoolological Society is flourishing – they breed and look after endangered species. Ditto results, down to raised expectations rather than tougher entrance exams. Progress made at A-Level: 50 per cent of grades were A*/A in 2015, putting the school in the nation’s top one per cent. Holistic values that underpin the school's ethos and make the most of every pupil’s talents, academic or otherwise, have been preserved intact for future generations. No wonder London parents have started to sit up and take notice. Now aged 43, Maloney is moving to Uppingham in September. The Rutland school has got itself a rare treasure, sigh staff. "Humane, compassionate, infinitely painstaking while also being dynamic and visionary," says a school insider.




The charming one


ive years after swapping a high profile parliamentary and writing career for a post as headmaster, David Faber has no need of spin doctors. Arriving fully formed for headship – none of this messing around with the intermediate rungs of the teaching ladder – he’s not so much a breath of fresh air as a breeze. He’s won over staff, parents and pupils with a charmstippled personality (Eton and Oxford) that doesn’t swamp but bathes everything in an invigorating mix of aspiration and even the odd spot of fun. Whisper it softly but the school, where baby toffs are treated to a first coat of polish, once had something of reputation as an exam factory. No longer. Academics are as full of colour as Joseph’s

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 55

AE_TopTen Heads_To Edit.indd 55

02/03/2016 10:31

PUTTING GIRLS FIRST ‘Into Senior School’ Taster Events in for girls in Year 5 on 23 and 25 June Check website for full details


Junior School: 020 8852 1537 BLACKHEATH HIGH SCHOOL.indd 1

Senior School: 020 8853 2929

@blackheathhigh blackheathhighschool 02/03/2016 11:57




Eastern promise Carol Chandler-Thompson, Head of Blackheath High School, asks what we can learn from Asian education


here has been extensive recent media coverage of the differences between Asian education and British, fuelled by ‘fly-onthe-wall’ documentaries. In Chinese School, five Chinese teachers were placed out of their context into a UK school to see if Chinese teaching methods would ‘cut it’ in a British state school. This evolving debate seems to have emerged out of the comparisons between Asian and British approaches to education made by the former Education Secretary Michael Gove, who referred to the high PISA rankings of countries like Singapore, China and South Korea and pointed to their marked success in maths examinations as a potential model for the future of British education. It is bold to claim to hold a view on education throughout the whole of Asia, as some commentators do, but clearly there are some valid comparisons that can be made. For me, spending three years as part of a start-up team for a very successful British school in Jeju, South Korea was hugely enlightening and there is much that about the culture of education in both UK and South Korea that is worth further consideration. One obvious difference between the two approaches is the centrality of Confucianism in Korean and North East Asian education, something that is wholly absent from the UK. Not only does Confucianism place respect and veneration for teachers at the heart of society, but it also dictates that families value education above all other things as a means of building for the future and training the mind. Huge sacrifices are made to provide a child with a good education. To be

“It is anathema for Korean students to question a theory: respect is key ”

a teacher is to do something important and meaningful. With Confucianism comes also a respect for elders and hierarchy that is no longer so evident in British schools. In its less desirable manifestation however, hierarchy and agerelated power relationships can be abused by older students, unscrupulous in exploiting or bullying younger pupils, to the degree where it is a real social problem in some Korean schools. Confucianism

Above A teacher and pupil

ingenuity and curiosity is central to a good British Left education; this Students in the lab at Blackheath is a feature that High School Asian educators are increasingly seeking to integrate, but which is as yet is characteristic in most East Asian educational establishments. The could never be transplanted into UK schools, growing success of the IB, with its focus on and neither would it be desirable in all the Theory of Knowledge, will go some way elements. A willingness to teach students to changing this focus. Yet at the moment, about global ideas like Confucianism is, it is anathema for many Korean students however, hugely beneficial. to question an argument or theory that a The most inspiring difference I observed teacher is conveying. Respect is key. was the emphasis in UK independent So there’s no clear-cut comparison to education upon the arts and sport, something be made. We should not rush to adopt the EBACC seems set to erode every element of the top in UK state schools. Some PISA performing education Korean students, having systems, especially as there previously experienced very is much to query about the little in their public schools in validity of these ranking the way of competitive sport or systems. But we have much to creative arts, were transformed learn from each other. by their experiences on the Lessons can only be learnt stage, in the orchestra pit and with a genuine understanding CAROL on the football field. of each other’s cultures and CHANDLER-THOMPSON Related to this, a culture that takes time, intelligence Head, Blackheath High School of encouraging risk-taking, and objectivity.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 57

AE_TH_Carol.indd 57

29/02/2016 17:00

OUT OF TIME According to its many critics, our public examination system is entirely at odds with a 21st century education. With unpopular new reforms adding to the confusion, Absolutely Education asks: are GCSE and A-Levels are still fit for purpose? LISA FREEDMAN


hen my son completed his last A-Level one cloudy afternoon in June, he put a full stop to his 46th public exam That's an incredible figure, without even taking into account the raft of course work and assessment which had marbled his teenage years. Fortunately, he was not found wanting (and is now happily at university). The same, however, cannot be said about the exam system itself, which many people feel has become a cumbersome juggernaut entirely unfit for purpose. Tony Little, for example, the recently retired headmaster of Eton College, has been a particularly vociferous critic, arguing that an approach largely unchanged since the reign of Queen Victoria is not adequate preparation for a world where collaboration, imagination and communication are certainly as critical as a grasp of French verbs or history dates.

Writer and Sunday Times columnist India Knight has also written tellingly about why she feels the ‘endless nightmare treadmill of exams and tests’ and the ‘constant measuring of a child’s worth as defined by one thing only – the ability to be a swot’ has contributed to the widely acknowledged misery of the modern English childhood. Narrow, unwieldy, stressful and extraordinarily expensive, there’s little doubt our current exam arrangements could do better.




aunched in 1986, GCSEs were introduced at a time when the majority of adolescents left school at the age of 16. At this point, they served a dual purpose. Firstly, they were intended to help employers select the most able and diligent; secondly, they allowed schools to identify those who should remain in the sixth form and proceed to university or professional training.


Having seen two children through 22 of these, I know first-hand that GCSEs are ludicrously time-consuming and mindwasting, absorbing almost an entire term in revision and examinations, and most of the preceding year in preparation. Apart from the stress and wasted learning opportunities, educators now convincingly argue that, since the school leaving age was effectively raised to 18 in 2015, GCSEs have become redundant. In the meantime, recent revisions instigated by Michael Gove and introduced by the current government seem to have made them even less relevant. Under the new EBacc performance measure, for instance, vocational subjects (such as the Arts and Design Technology) have been sidelined, while elements of the curriculum particularly relevant to the working world (such as the ‘speaking and listening’ component of English Language) have been eradicated.

58 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_Exams_Fit For Purpose?.indd 58

01/03/2016 17:45





Levels, first established in 1951, were originally taken by just 5.5 per cent of the student population, and, like GCSEs, they served two purposes. Then, as now, they were designed as a means of university selection, but they also acted as a record of achievement for those leaving school at 18, particularly those going into professions (such as law, accountancy, and teaching), which, at that stage, had a largely non-graduate intake. Unlike the Higher School Certificate, the broad-ranging diploma they replaced, A-Levels were examined on a subject-by-subject basis, encouraging students to undertake in-depth specialisation in two or three subjects in direct preparation for degree-level study.

An approach largely unchanged since the reign of Queen Victoria is no preparation for the 21st century DO THEY DO THE JOB TODAY?

The scope of A-Levels was called into question almost from the start and this questioning has continued ever since. (If you try having a conversation with a 15 year-old about precisely what they want to do with the rest of their lives, you’ll understand why.)

Above Are our public exams no longer suitable?

In the past 60 years, plan after plan has been put forward to broaden their scope, but the introduction of AS Levels in 1989 was the only concrete progress made in this direction. Now, even this small step, has been drastically modified. Until last year, most sixth formers took AS Levels in four subjects in Year 12, generally dropping one to take three A2s in Year 13. The AS-Level was the half way stage to A-Level, counting for half the marks. The new A-Levels (which started being taught in some subjects in September 2015), have now become ‘linear’, with all marks awarded at the end of two years. AS-Levels continue to exist, but (in reformed subjects) no longer contribute to A-Level grades.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 59

AE_Exams_Fit For Purpose?.indd 59

01/03/2016 17:45


Above A pupil at Latymer Upper studying hard Right Latymer pupils: Michael Gove, whose facing exam stress scheme this was, was Below determined to take Overtested students? A-Levels back to their roots as a preparation for university study (or at any rate for studying at Oxford, his own alma mater). Universities, however, particularly the Russell Group universities, remain insistently keen on the unreformed AS-Level, as they feel results at the end of Year 12 are the most reliable component in the selection of Year 13 candidates. They believe that GCSEs (a stressful but not stretching exam) are a poor indicator of scholarly potential, while reliance on teacher predictions for A-Level outcome is notoriously fraught. Cambridge has been particularly strident in its advocacy of Year 12 exams, stating ‘where the school/college delivers A-Levels without external assessment in Year 12 and UMS information (AS-Level scores) will be absent from the applicant’s profile, more weight will inevitably be placed on the other elements of their application. Occasionally, an applicant without this information might not get the benefit of the doubt in comparison to one with a very high UMS average. Alternatively, doubt might be resolved by making a stiffer offer than usual.’ So there you go: either do AS-Levels or expect to lose out. Cambridge (like Oxford in most subjects and

The Russell Group universities remain insistently keen on the unreformed AS-Level UCL in some) is now intending to introduce additional entrance exams to make sure they are not reliant on the public exam system. Understandably, schools are being cautious in the new landscape, and recent research carried out by UCAS suggests that almost three quarters are planning to hold AS-Level exams this summer. Whether schools continue with AS-Level or not, what is almost certain to happen in August 2017 (when the first set of results for the new exams are released) is, to put it gently, considerable disruption. A-Level grading (where two exams systems will be running simultaneously) will no doubt create some handy headlines for the national press, but a far less satisfactory experience for those depending on the outcome.


The new exam system has left England with one of the most costly and complex public exams systems in the world and one with the narrowest university entrance qualification. It is a system incompatible both with what is required in life today and, to an ever-growing

extent, what is required by universities, which, instead of educating just 17,000 students in a narrow range of subjects, as they did when A Levels were first introduced, now cater for over 340,000 students studying a vast span of vocational and non-vocational degrees. Other approaches have been certainly been considered. The one that came nearest to fruition was the diploma developed by Sir Mike Tomlinson, a former chief inspector of schools, who in 2004 recommended a coherent 14-19 curriculum with academic, technical, creative and vocational programmes offered around a core of maths, literacy and IT. Tomlinson suggested that these comprehensive streams would be assessed annually, largely internally, with just one set of public exams, a final graded leaving qualification taken at 18 or 19. When his diploma was proposed, it found widespread support from teachers, Ofsted, and universities. Unfortunately, however, it didn’t carry the day with politicians. If something along these lines had been adopted then (or indeed now) pupils – and even standards – might be better off. At the very least, our testy and over-tested children would be handed back ‘the best years of their lives’.

LI S A F R E E D M A N runs the education advisory service At The School Gates

60 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_Exams_Fit For Purpose?.indd 60

01/03/2016 17:32


When considering your child’s future, schooling is a big consideration. At Loretto, we believe that shouldn’t be taken too literally. Although small in size, our uniquely rounded approach to education offers big opportunities to every one of our pupils, irrespective of age, outlook or background. That’s helped Lorettonians go forward with confidence in life – in mind, body and spirit – since 1827.


A coeducational boarding and day school for boys and girls aged 0-18. To discover more about how we’re ambitious for all, visit E: T: 00 44 131 653 4455 Scholarships and means-tested bursaries up to 105% of the fees available. Loretto School, Linkfield Road, Musselburgh, East Lothian, Scotland EH21 7RE

LORETTO.indd 1

12/01/2016 14:14

FELSTED.indd 1

23/02/2016 17:29




Role play

Adams Williams, Headmaster of Lord Wandsworth College, on why it matters to be a super model


t’s the stuff of nightmares, the dinner-party opening gambit that invariably guarantees the person I’m sitting next to quickly turns away and begins a conversation with someone else. I’ve tried a range of answers over the years, from dolphin trainer to trainee astronaut, safari guard to underground train driver. All elicit a pretty decent, though mildly incredulous response of “really?” followed by a subsidiary question or two before my cover is blown... “Actually, I’m a teacher.” With these words, their exit strategy from the conversation begins (it’s even quicker if you say you’re a headmaster). But what I should really be saying (with a large element of tongue in cheek) is that “I’m a model”. Our teenagers today need to look too hard for the right role models, and when they find them our media are often quick to highlight flaws in their character, skipping the good

“Teenagers need role models to become better versions of themselves”

Above Boys on the rugby pitch at LWC

I am consistently amazed and impressed stuff. Don’t get me by the way in which they undertake their wrong, outstanding responsibilities. It is counterintuitive role models are out Bottom perhaps, but the more responsibility one there, but I just don’t Girls in one of the dorms offers, the more conservative they become and believe there is a creating an environment where risk-taking is perfect package in stimulated is very much our modus vivendi. any one individual. Teenagers, in fact all of Our pupils live such fast-paced lives with a us, need role models; they help us to become constant smorgasbord of conflicting images even better versions of ourselves, they help and opinions on view, it is up to us as teachers inspire and challenge our own outlook and at to model consistently the behaviours that will times even make us feel better. provide the basis for their future lives. We In my teaching career to date, I have seen must be motivators, optimistic, demonstrate the impact of inspirational staff, though they integrity, trust and self-control every day. We are not always the folk one would expect. A must model what it is to be energetic, loyal, school and a community needs its Miss Jean resilient and courageous. Pupils and parents Brodies, Brian Coxs, brooding dramatists, are quick to tell me when we’re not modelling explosive musicians and outward-bound properly, but we strive to do our champions. Their modelling best! Our complete immersion impacts on different pupils at into character education different stages of their lives provides a mandate for this and and, as a head, it is a privilege to it is something we feel a strong see such staff all in one school. connection to. Teenagers need a voice, Alas, our looks may not get us too and watching them onto the catwalks of Milan but take responsibility at Lord we do have the right when asked Wandsworth College for “what do you do?” to say “I'm appraising teachers, writing A DA M W I L L I A M S Headmaster, a model”… and then pass the policies, creating school films Lord Wandsworth College bread rolls. and interviewing teachers,

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 63

AE_TH_Wandsworth.indd 63

29/02/2016 17:16


Co-educational excellence for boys and girls aged 4-18 ‘Pupils’ personal development is outstanding by the time they leave and is a great strength of the school’ (ISI 2013)

Check our website for Open Days 020 8557 1500 Townley Road, Dulwich, London SE22 8SU ALLEYNS.indd 1

29/02/2016 10:12




Technical hitch Jonathan Taylor, Headmaster of Northbridge House Canonbury, says that good teaching must come first


echnology is a wonderful thing. It helps students send questions to a space station, it shows them the latest pictures of earth and it even allows a British astronaut to call home. But for all its potential, for all its undoubted benefits, technology in the classroom can harm as well as inspire. The dangers of the internet are well known and obvious to parents. They range from the mildly irritating – the always online but socially disconnected teen – to the more sinister – the bully and the predator. Less remarked on are perils of a different kind: the hype and hubris of tech evangelists. These are the people who would have you believe that the only answer to your child's education is the right hi-tech solution. They routinely insist that every child must have a tablet in the classroom, that advances in online learning could soon make teachers superflous and that a school that isn’t at least considering a robot to help with diction and spelling can’t really be considered cutting-edge. Their willingness to imply that knowledge can be learnt without the inconvenience of a teacher is never deterred by evidence to the contrary. Yet according to a recent wide-ranging OECD study, not only is there no correlation between investment in classroom computers and pupil performance but that frequent use of such technology is likely to be associated with lower results. The UK has some of the most ‘technology rich’ classrooms in the world yet its state education system lags behind many nations, including China. I have been a head teacher in China and during my time there I was

“Beware the hype and hubris of tech evangelists”

struck by the extent to which teachers were sceptical of anything that diminished their responsibility for the educational progress of their students. Classrooms were far less equipped with technological distractions than those in the UK and teachers focused on what really mattered – the interaction between teacher and students. It is how we use technology in schools that matters not its mere existence. Just as Heston

Above Senior school students at Northbridge House Canonbury

dialogue between the teacher and student. Neurological research suggests Left our brains assimilate Sixth form students knowledge by picking at the school up on signals given by the person giving a lesson. In turn, the teacher adapts the lesson by reading the responses of the students. The teacher stimulates Blumenthal might be able to create amazing and prompts. The student questions and food with blowtorches and moss, it is his skill interrogates. They do not simply ‘plug in’ as a chef, not the moss or the blowtorch that and ‘download’. Anyone who thinks effective is the key factor. It’s the same with teaching. teaching is straightforward has never taught. There are some highly skilled teachers Technology is amazing. In a single out there utilizing educational technology generation it has connected students to the to great effect. But it is not the software world in ways unimaginable to their parents. or hardware per se that is It will no doubt continue to driving the improvements in astonish future generations but educational outcomes. Putting it’s not enough and it will never the latest educational software be enough. in the hands of inadequately To learn properly students trained or uncommitted will always need excellent teachers is no more effective teachers. The right technology than putting a blowtorch in the can enhance teaching but it hands of an amateur chef. can't be a substitute for it, and Learning is not a one-way to suggest otherwise is not JONATHAN TAYLOR Head, North Bridge House street. Good teachers know only erroneous but also Senior School, Canonbury that the best teaching is a pernicious.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 65

AE_TH_Jonathan Taylor_use.indd 65

29/02/2016 17:28

The IB

Mark English

D eput y He a d (Ac a d e mi c) at Unive r sit y Coll e ge S c h o ol


hen I was a teenager, secondary education was founded on absolute certainties. GCSEs were followed by A-Levels, and A-Levels inexorably led to a place at university. The subject knowledge developed at GCSE was the only possible precursor to effective post-16 study. Likewise the typical three A-Level diet, perhaps with General Studies thrown in for variety, facilitated the necessary depth to allow pupils to cope with the greater intellectual demands and need for self-reliance present in undergraduate courses. An A grade meant an A grade, and life was simple. Since those distant days, the landscape of post-16 options has changed almost beyond recognition. Universities and the world of work find that our school leavers are not as well-prepared to be good students and effective employees. The onus has been on schools to find new ways of broadening, stretching and enriching our students’ academic experience. Without doubt the International Baccalaureate has, in the face of this apparent uncertainty, grown in

stature. It offers depth, breadth, research opportunities, and recognition of students’ cocurricular contribution. In short, it ticks all of the boxes. But at what cost? The breadth of the IB is enforced and does not easily allow for the kind of specialisation that certain university courses require, such as Natural Sciences or Medicine. The experience of IB students can be hectic. All curriculum areas are locked into the diploma so, even though the Modern Languages courses may be attractive and the Maths courses less so, there is no room for heads of academic departments to bring their judgement to bear in order to pick the exam specification that caters most effectively for their student.

On the other hand, the A-Level has been reinvigorated. All A-Level subjects will be linear from September 2017 with terminal examinations. The A-Level equivalent of the IB’s Extended Essay, the EPQ, has gained hugely in popularity and provides a superb opportunity for learners to acquire research skills whilst deepening their knowledge of a specific subject area (I would add anecdotally that when I have conducted Oxbridge mock interviews, I have found consistently that relatively pedestrian interviewees have come alive when engaged on the topic of their EPQ). Independent schools have maintained breadth by continuing with the model of a four-subject offering in Year 12 reducing to an informed, specialised three-subject choice in Year 13. The IB has provided a timely reminder to politicians and exam boards of the importance of an ethical, ideologically-neutral approach to academic study in schools. However, the much-derided A-Level, that common currency for UK universities and employers, has been re-born and post-16 education is all the better for it.


AE_DEBATE.indd 66

02/03/2016 12:38


The IB

Nigel Lashbrook He a dm a st e r of O akh am S c h o ol


he IB Diploma has always been one of the world’s most highly regarded and academically rigorous educational programmes. With all the recent changes to A-Levels however, it is now, more than ever before, an exceptionally good choice for British parents – for those forward-thinking or aspirational families who believe that education is about more than just passing exams. The new A-Levels are becoming, two-year linear courses with either a much-reduced amount of coursework, or none at all. They are focused on testing the volume of knowledge that a student can retain for their final exams. By contrast, the IB assesses students in a variety of ways, which suits children of different aptitudes and, most vitally, develops a range of skills beyond the ability to simply do well in exams. Every IB subject has 25-55% of internally assessed components. For example, pupils studying English will undertake coursework worth 55% of their final grade – which includes a written assignment, an oral exam and spoken literary analysis of an

extract of a text they have studied. The British Chambers of Commerce recently announced that 88% of businesses think school leavers are unprepared for the workplace, lacking key skills – most notably, the ability to communicate. Just think about all the additional skills that these IB students will leave with, alongside their knowledge and their grades. Through the Theory of Knowledge course, IB students will also learn how to question facts and opinions, to become more discerning and critical about what they accept as the truth. At Oakham, we’ve always transferred the skills IB students learn across to A-Level students, through additional activities, seminars and learning opportunities

– but now, more than ever before, we will be ‘propping up’ the shortcomings of the A-Level system and ‘bolting on’ vital skills training. IB students also have more options available to them. This is a result of having to study more subjects (six instead of three) across a broader academic spectrum .The IB doesn’t narrow life down at age 16; instead, it begins to open up the world to its students, in their university choices and career pathways. But if the IB is so good, then why don’t more UK schools offer it? Quite simply, the rigorous inspection programme one must go through to be able to offer it, alongside the breadth of teaching that it requires, means that the IB is a far more complex programme for schools to run and as such, it is offered in fewer schools. Oakham offer both A-levels and the IB (especially for those students who want to specialise). But with the globalisation of our economy, the changes to the world of work and the never-ending political tinkering of our education system, there really is only one question that parents should ask: ‘Why wouldn’t you consider the IB?’


AE_DEBATE.indd 67

02/03/2016 12:38

Ackworth School A foundation for life Ellie Williamson started playing netball in junior school. Since then she has followed the England Netball Pathway and is now in the Regional Academy. Ellie trains 4 or 5 nights a week and has high level netball matches most weekends. She represents Yorkshire and has a chance of playing Super League netball in England. Ellie does this and still gets top grades across the board!

Sam Todd is one of our elite squash players. He became the first British player to win the British Junior Open since another famous Old Scholar, James Willstrop won the title in 2002. Sam is the leading squash player for his age in the world. This season he has already won the British Under 13 Closed, US Open and British Junior Open.

At the age of 9 Lucas Culff appeared in a television commercial for the show ‘I’m a Celebrity...Get me out of here’. Last year he performed in the musical, Carousel, as one of the Snow Children. He has also had a role as a child in the hit series, Emmerdale, for many years. His first speaking role was in Downton Abbey, the most watched television drama show in the world.

Pontefract Rd, Ackworth, Pontefract WF7 7LT l 01977 611 401 l ACKWORTH SCHOOL.indd 1

04/02/2016 09:19




All equal

Mark Beard, Headmaster of University College School, says a good education is not about gender


aving taught in both all-boys schools and fully co-ed schools, I have seen the merits of both systems at first hand. If you can find a way to manage adolescent girls and boys so as to minimise distraction and stereotyping then co-ed schools can work very well. Personally, I have never witnessed such high standards of art, music and drama as from the boys of UCS. They can be themselves and express their creativity unimpeded by feeling a need to impress the girls or being restricted to stereotypical machismo. UCS is all-boys from age 7 to 16 and remains the “gentlest of schools” as described by old boy Stephen Spender. There is, of course, a multitude of ways that girls and boys are able to socialise together outside of the school day. For day

“Good schools are good schools whatever the gender of the children” schools, young people do spend more hours out of school than in it: so in fact the two sexes are not segregated for most of their time. At UCS we do, though, appreciate that it is important for older girls and boys to learn how to work alongside one another and for eight years now have welcomed girls into our Sixth Form. The students at this point are more mature and better able to take full advantage of the educational opportunities on offer without being impeded by adolescence. The confidence that is engendered allows both boys and girls to make subject choices and pursue their academic and extra-curricular passions in


ways that kick against stereotypes. necessary soft skills and attributes Mark Beard Boys from UCS go to top universities to depart one day through the school with a pupil in a science lab at to study English, Modern Languages gates and make a genuinely positive UCS and creative subjects, whilst UCS impact on the world beyond. girls regularly secure places at elite That is why more than higher education institutions on medical 500,000 children (and counting) remain in and engineering courses, for example. A coindependent education Despite the enormous educational sixth form experience is thus a task of paying school fees, for an increasing suitable platform for graduating from school number of families, private schooling is into the co-educational world. their preferred choice – so there must be I suspect, though, that the gender makesomething about an independent education up of a school’s pupil population is a minor that is desirable. factor compared with the quality of the Indeed, the independent school model is teaching and learning, the opportunities one of Britain’s best exports. The benefits for personal and academic enrichment and are well-documented but I believe they boil the overarching school ethos. These stem down to providing opportunity. Opportunity from having dedicated staff, both in and out of the classroom supportive parents and engaged for young people to develop a pupils. love of learning and intellectual What all good schools should curiosity. Opportunity to develop be celebrating is the level of the confidence to be themselves, personal development that and to have the moral courage their children undergo, as well to stand up for what they feel is as their academic success. This right, to be members of a global is particularly true of schools community based on mutual MARK BEARD within the independent sector, respect. Good schools are good Headmaster of University which has a strong track record schools whatever the gender of College School for equipping its pupils with the the children inside them.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 69

Talking Heads.indd 69

29/02/2016 17:44

GDST schools. Where girls can.

Choosing your daughter’s school is one of the biggest decisions you, as parents, will make. At the GDST we put girls first, ensuring that everything in their school lives is calibrated and designed to meet their educational and pastoral needs.

The GDST has always been a pioneer of girls’ education in the UK. Our network of 26 schools and academies provides unmatched opportunities, connections and resources for girls between the ages of three and 18.

GDST schools in London

GDST schools and academies outside London

Blackheath High School Bromley High School Croydon High School Kensington Prep School Northwood College for Girls Notting Hill & Ealing High School

Putney High School South Hampstead High School Streatham & Clapham High School Sutton High School Sydenham High School Wimbledon High School

The Belvedere Academy, Liverpool Birkenhead High School Academy Brighton & Hove High School Howell’s School, Llandaff Ipswich High School for Girls Newcastle High School for Girls Northampton High School

A network of Confident, Composed, Courageous, Committed girls.

GDSTadvertAbsolute EducationMarch2016.190mmx134mm.v8_3mmbleed.indd 1 GDST.indd 1

Norwich High School for Girls Nottingham Girls’ High School Oxford High School Portsmouth High School The Royal High School, Bath Sheffield High School Shrewsbury High School

See to find your closest GDST school or academy, and arrange a visit.

19/02/2016 15:52:25 22/02/2016 09:23




True riches David Goodhew, Head of Latymer Upper School, on its ambitious bursary programme


hen I’m asked what Latymer Upper School has to offer its pupils, the description that comes to mind is; ‘a life-changing education that is academic, rounded and grounded’ – an apt phrase for our school’s ethos that also resonates with me on a personal level. My education was indeed life-changing. I was privileged enough to read Classics at Oxford - a wonderful experience, made all the more special by the fact that I was the first person in my family to go university. I was also one of only a very few boys from the comprehensive school I attended in west London to gain entry to Oxbridge. My life thereafter has been shaped by the opportunities education gave me as a child and it’s my ambition that a Latymer education should be available to bright children, regardless of their financial background.

“Edward Latymer’s will of 1624 provided for the poor children of Hammersmith” Fortunately, I’m working in a like-minded school. Latymer Upper has a very long tradition of educating academically able children from all walks of life. From Edward Latymer’s will, written in 1624, which provided for the education of poor children of Hammersmith, through to the Direct Grant years when the majority of pupils studied here on a free place, Latymer has focused on the riches of intellect, rather than background, of its pupils. Numerous members of our large and vibrant community of highly intelligent, well-rounded and resourceful Latymerians were recipients of a


free place. Many are eminent in their our stringent academic criteria but Pupils at work at Latymer field and some are household names. who would be unable to study here Upper School But without the benefits of a free without the help of a bursary. Of this education at Latymer, society may figure, the majority receive over 75% have been denied the scientific contribution support with 77 children on a free place. from the likes of Professor Richard Perham As educators, it’s exhilarating to see our and Sir Harpal Kumar or the on-screen (and pupils grow into inquisitive, caring adults. off ) charm of Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant or Latymerians leave school armed not just Lily Cole. Talented Latymerians who would with excellent A-Levels but also with a have been unable to join the school without developed social conscience. The benefits of financial help. the inclusivity that comes with bursaries are When the Assisted Places scheme, profound and offer valuable life lessons for all which followed the Direct Grant system, pupils. To be exposed to different viewpoints ended in 1997, Latymer’s governors had on issues that affect the whole of society a choice. End 360 years of pretty close to is only possible if students learn in a more needs-blind admission, or revolutionise the socially balanced environment. Latymer way in which we manage our Upper is all about excellence pupil population? We chose and inclusion - I feel strongly revolution and in 2004 we that the two concepts should opened the doors to our new not be mutually exclusive. Development Office, the aim With the 400th anniversary of of which was to fundraise the Latymer Foundation eight for bursaries. It has been a years away, our goal is to be in remarkable journey. Twelve a position by 2024 to offer full years ago our bursary pupil or partial bursaries to up to a DAV I D numbers had been reduced to quarter of our yearly intake. I GOODHEW 13. We now have 116 very bright like to think Edward Latymer Head, Latymer Upper School children - all of whom have met would approve.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 71

AE_TH_Goodhew 2.indd 71

29/02/2016 17:49

Harrogate Ladies’ College Top UK Boarding School

Girls aged 11-18

GCSE and A Level programmes 52% secured places at Russell Group universities Safe, stable and supportive environment Extra-curricular activities and weekend trips Scholarships offered

call +44 1423 537045 or email to find out more HARROGATE LADIES COLLEGE.indd 1

25/01/2016 17:10




Full STEAM ahead Eve Jardine-Young, Principal of Cheltenham Ladies' College on inspiring young scientists


s a generation, we are witnessing incredible developments in fields such as quantum biology, astrophysics, medicine, materials science and the digital world. Boundaries between the traditional academic disciplines are becoming less defined, bringing us greater scope for imagination and innovation. Addressing the global challenges of our time will require intellectual agility, creativity and strong communication skills as well as a clear understanding of scientific theory. For the past 20 years I have witnessed an exciting journey for schools as the digital revolution and a more integrated approach to innovation and design has gathered momentum. There is a great deal to be excited about as regards future employment opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) and many are responding to this challenge with enthusiasm, seeing a future with new and currently unimagined jobs. Nationally, girls have tended to opt out of science subjects, but the number of classes being taught at CLC continues to rise, including a majority of sixth form pupils

“A majority of Sixth Form pupils at CLC are taking maths or science” taking Maths or Science. As with all teaching, STEAM subjects should nurture curiosity, creativity and self-confidence. It was with these principles in mind, that CLC launched a new Engineering, Enterprise and Technology (EET) Department in September, which teaches the girls business awareness, design, coding, and problem-solving, to enable them to develop real confidence and skills in these areas.

that saw 17 girls help to rehabilitate, track Academic studies suggest that girls benefit and release orphaned orangutans in Borneo, from strong and early advice dispensed by becoming the first school group ever to reach careers advisers and teachers. Therefore, it the remote release site. is important to ensure that schools provide Alongside creative teaching and the the tools and opportunities necessary for co-curricular enrichment opportunities girls to make an informed choice regarding of STEAM subjects, there is no substitute furthering their studies in science. For for accessing female role models who are example, girls learn Engineering from the passionate about what they do. CLC is age of 11 at CLC, which teaches programming, blessed with inspirational alumnae who are soldering, designing, experimenting and generous with their advice and wisdom. testing to destruction, as well as using 3D These include Dame Mary Archer, who printing, computer-aided design (CAD), laser has won awards for her work on renewable cutters and traditional tools. energy and Dr Clare Marx, the first woman In addition to inspired and challenging in 400 years to be appointed President of the teaching, the opportunities to enjoy a Royal College of Surgeons. wide variety of co-curricular The opportunities in enrichment opportunities will innovation, design, science and be a feature in many schools. A technology have never been so commitment to science through exciting for schools. The shared such opportunities gives girls encouragement, joy and passion an unprecedented opportunity that comes from the exchanges to explore the physical and and mutual inspiration that natural world around them. crackle between pupils, role At CLC, these have included models, parents, teachers educating girls about equations E V E JA R D I N E and an online community of of motion using combustible YO U N G Principal, Cheltenham fellow enthusiasts, means that we gases, a trip to NASA’s Kennedy Ladies’ College are all enjoying the adventure. Space Centre and an expedition

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 73

Talking Head Eve Jardine 2.indd 73

29/02/2016 17:52

The M A K ING of Me



Where did you go to school and when? A St Mary’s Calne 1986-91 and then Bedales 1991-93 Q

Q What sort of school was it? What was its ethos? A Calne was an all girls’ academic school with an emphasis on discipline and academic achievement.

were part of an old and defunct system. I crept back to bed terrified - sadly our dormitory was still warm the next morning! Were you too cool for school? I definitely thought I was! I was an out and out rebel and when I got bored of my studies and couldn’t escape to the art room, I would spend much of my time plotting my next adventure or escapade. Q


Did you love it or hate it? I struggled with the discipline but I loved the academic and artistic opportunities Calne offered us, and made many friends for life. Q


Q Would you send your own children there? A Certainly not my son (although I am sure he would think he’d gone to heaven!). It would depend on my daughter’s character, but I would prefer to send my children to a co-ed school as I feel this is a more healthy preparation for the real world.

What did you like most about the school? A The art room. Q

Q Who was your favourite – or most influential – teacher? A Mr Topley – my art teacher.

What was the particular ethos of your school? A To prepare academic, ambitious and well rounded girls to engage with the modern world in a meaningful way. Q

Q What was your proudest achievement? A Being the first person to be allowed to use oil paint in the art school. Q What was the most trouble you got into? A When I thought it would be fun to set the fire alarm off during the

Governors’ annual conference and dinner. While I thought it a brilliant heist, the staff and their guests were not very happy. Q What is your most vivid memory of your time there? A During a very cold winter, I took it upon myself to try and get us all sent home by bringing down the entire school’s central heating system. I broke into the gardener’s hut to get equipment to break the ancient Victorian pipes under the school’s foundations, only on going down in the middle of the night to do the deed did I realise that the pipes

Q What effect did your schooling have on your character? Did it change you? A Of course, you are at school during some of your most formative years. It taught me a love of reading, learning and an academic discipline for which I remain eternally grateful. Q How did it influence the person you are today? Did you ever imagine as a schoolgirl that you’d be a famous artist? A I certainly don’t see myself as famous, but ever since I was 8, I was determined to be a self-supporting artist engaged in work that addresses the world we live in. I made some of my


BB_EArabella Dorman 2.indd 74

02/03/2016 10:40



closest friends at school, which marked the beginning of a fascination with, and love of people, and has led me to be the portrait painter I am today. What are you doing now? As a war artist, I am preparing for a number of exhibitions around today’s refugee crisis and my work from Afghanistan, as well as a major exhibition of my portrait paintings. Q




What are your plans for the future? A As a portrait painter and war artist, my real interest lies in people – in what makes us human, and in the human face of conflict and its consequences. Nowhere have I been more overwhelmed by the repercussions of war than in the refugee crisis today, so that is my primary focus now as well as some very exciting portrait commissions. I go to where my work takes me. Q

03 01 An oil portarit of Chica Lowson 02 The Old Schoolmaster 03 An oil portrait of The Hon Hugo Grimston 04 A charcoal portrait of Kitty Matthews

Q How would you sum up your school days in five words? A Learning, laughter, naughtiness, rebellion, discovery.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 75

BB_EArabella Dorman 2.indd 75

02/03/2016 10:40

“Boarding at Campbell is a life-changing experience. It has given me confidence, independence and friendships that will last forever.”

Welcoming and inspiring boarders from 11-18 years old. Experience the very best UK education from £4,350 a term in the safety of a stunning 100 acre woodland campus. Visit to find out more

CAMPBELL SCHOOL.indd 1 SENIOR Education Dubai Advert.indd 5

02/02/2016 17:15 09:49 29/01/2016


School’s Out



2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 77

AE_News_Opener_No Bleed.indd 77

02/03/2016 11:13

TAKE NOTE Can music make you smart? We hope to find out with our BrainCanDO neuroscience programme, says the Head of Psychology at Queen Anne’s School D R A M Y FA N C O U R T

78 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_SMART music.indd 78

02/03/2016 10:44


‘Anatomists today would be hard put to identify the brain of a visual artist, a writer or a mathematician - but they would recognise the brain of a professional musician without a moment’s hesitation.’ Neurologist Oliver Sacks.


euroscientists have known for some time that music has an effect on the brain that, thanks to the latest neuroimaging techniques, can be seen and identified. A BrainCanDo research project at Queen Anne’s School, in collaboration with Goldsmiths, University of London, is investigating exactly what is happening in our brains when we make music – playing an instrument or singing - and examining the findings to try to discover whether musicality has a direct link with intelligence and cognitive performance. BrainCanDo is an educational neuroscience programme created by Julia Harrington, Queen Anne’s School’s headmistress, and developed over the last four years. It is based on the principle of the importance of understanding teenage brain function and development, mindset and brain plasticity, and is now embedded in the school culture. We know that music can boost our mood, is a good way to develop confidence, is a source of great pleasure, and can be fun. But what if it can also help you to be more ‘intelligent’ and perform more effectively in other areas …..We knew that picking out notes on a piano or strumming a guitar leads to structural changes in the brain. But do those structural differences underpin or relate to ‘intelligence’? Do children with higher levels of intelligence respond more favourably to musical instruction? Do children who learn to play a musical instrument develop a stronger work ethic and determination which translate to greater ‘intelligence’ or better academic performance?

We knew, too, that the attitudes and beliefs a child holds about the nature of intelligence as either ‘fixed’ or changeable with effort and hard work can influence a child’s academic performance. Can perfecting such a fine skill as learning to play an instrument change the attitude of a young person from a belief that ability is fixed, to an understanding that any ability can be enhanced through effort and practise? These questions are what our project aims to find out. We have embarked on the research Above with Goldsmiths to A student at Queen measure the dynamic Anne’s School in nature of the relationships Caversham plays the cello that are formed throughout adolescence between personality, intelligence, academic ability, and musical interest and ability. In the first phase, researchers tested 313 of our students aged between 11 and 16 on measures of non-verbal intelligence, musical listening abilities, personality, musical interests and preference, and attitudes towards musical ability and intelligence. The findings showed that intelligence is related to certain musical listening skills, and that there is a connection between musical ability and intelligence. We also found a link between attitudes towards musical ability and intelligence, academic effort and achievement. Those students who believed that musical ability was not fixed, but developed through hard work and effort, were more likely to adopt the same view of intelligence more generally and to show the highest levels of effort towards their academic work. Music is a good model for the plasticity of the teenage brain. If young people can understand the dynamic nature of their developing brains, we can foster a positive approach to learning a musical instrument and also help them to recognise that musicians are not born brilliant but achieve brilliance through effort, hard work – and practise! And using musical engagement as a model shows there is a wider link between self-belief

“Picking out notes on a piano or guitar leads to structural changes in the brain”


AE_SMART music.indd 79

and achievement that can help with the development of cognitive and social skills as well as academic achievement. This could have implications for future teaching interventions. The initial findings from our research show us that those students who believe that musical ability and intelligence are not fixed but can be changed through experience are more conscientious and academically high achieving. Put simply, poor performance is not failure; it’s an opportunity to improve. We know that music is motivational; this research shows that it can genuinely help teenagers change their attitudes towards learning. So, what next? The research will be repeated at Queen Anne’s School annually over the next five years. We’ll have our second set of data in the summer. The research will be replicated in Sutton Valence School in Maidstone. And in June, we’ll be hosting a ‘Music and the Brain’ conference in London.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 79

01/03/2016 17:21

‘Boarders feel safe and well cared for’ ISI report, October 2014

Taunton School is a co-educational, non-selective independent school set in a spacious 56 acre campus in Somerset, surrounded by beautiful South West England coast and countryside. •

Vibrant boarding community from 7-18 years

An IB World School with a choice of A Levels, IB or BTEC at Sixth Form

Extensive subject choice & option combinations

High expectations of effort and achievement in every area of school life

International intake brings energy, diversity and broad minded ethos

Performance Sport Programme and state of the art facilities

Huge co-curricular programme including CCF, Duke of Edinburgh, music, dance, drama

Focus on wellbeing and excellent pastoral care

A thriving International School offering an intensive one-year GCSE/Pre-IB course with over 23 subject choices, including Design & Technology

TAUNTON.indd 1


Contact us! Contact Admissions to discuss your future at Taunton School. +44 (0) 1823 703700 04/02/2016 17:17




Sporting life Natasha Dangerfield, Headmistress of Westonbirt School, on what physical education can teach us


hile I would not consider myself an academic, I credit much of my ability to undertake a headship with the experiences I have had through my own life in sport. On a daily basis, skills I have used and developed through my own sporting involvement reaffirm for me that the opportunity to participate in PE and sport at school underpins some valuable skills for life, as well as providing a foundation for a fit and healthy lifestyle. The ability to work in a team, determination, confidence, assertiveness, enthusiasm and commitment are just some of the characteristics you will see in a job advertisement for pretty much any role you apply for and while there are lessons for character education, PSHE and life skills, no subject consistently applies and challenges such traits as your involvement in a sports team. Chances are the first opportunities we get to work in a team will stem from PE lessons; understanding how we respond to different people in a variety of situations, both pressured and not, will have been refined as girls have progressed through

“It’s about pushing yourself to do more than you think you can do” team after team. Creating a desire to succeed, to overcome the odds and to play in whatever the weather will make you stand out from those girls who don’t bother to put themselves forward, or who convince their parents to call in sick because the rain is not stopping play. If you are a team player, you already stand out and it is characteristics such as these which will makes such a difference in the competitive real world.

Making the best of yourself is a heart and mind process, it requires the body and the soul to be healthy, to know its limits and to recognise that from physically challenging situations we can overcome odds and grow mentally and emotionally as a result. It is common knowledge that endorphins release as we undertake exercise; those feel-good hormones that can lift the spirit. We know that as we stop pushing our bodies and challenging our cardio and skeletal systems, we weaken physically and lower our levels of resistance. So it is not just about being in a team that can make a difference, it is about pushing yourself to do more than you think you can do. For those girls that just get out there and ‘do it’ as Nike so often remind us, there is nothing that can top the feeling of having completed that extra mile or finished the toughest game on a wet and windy pitch with that final winning goal. We strive as teachers to push students from their comfort zone, to allow them to Above stretch and extend themselves beyond their Sports sociologists Westonbirt girls celebrate on the imagination. If they can do this physically and would argue in favour of lacrosse pitch at mentally then their world stretches further the theory of ‘centrality’, school than those who cannot see beyond the suggesting that those parameters of the book they read, or the sofa who take up dominant they sit on. It may not suit all, but it certainly roles in sport - such as coach or captain – will makes a difference to many and combining a often end up in the more dominant positions well balanced approach to life makes all the in society. It is always interesting to look at difference. your own contemporaries to see With the variety of strong if this is true. female role models we have to Often, the most organised inspire and motivate us, now students are those that are is a particularly good time in a team, or part of a sport for women to drive forward that has a routine, a training together. From Chrissie programme which develops Wellington to Jessica Ennis, time management skills and Fran Kirby to Debbie Jevans – prioritisation. This often leads N ATA S H A take your pick, we have a range to a greater sense of well-being, DA N G E R F I E L D of role models to choose from… as there is a level of control that Headmistress, Westonbirt School now, where are those trainers? can be part of a busy schedule.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 81

AE_TH_Natasha.indd 81

02/03/2016 14:27


Subjects on offer include: ü Law ü Medicine ü Business and Management ü Engineering ü International Relations

Varsity Education offers two-week summer programmes in Oxford and Cambridge taught by specialist academics •

Programmes designed and taught by Oxbridge Fellows

Academically intensive undergraduate level teaching

One-on-one and small group tuition

Insider admissions guidance

The must-attend summer programme for talented 15 -18 year olds

Apply online now for July and August 2016 | +44 (0)1865 807 140

VARSITY.indd 1

02/02/2016 09:23




Risky business Mark Lascelles, Head Master of Dauntsey’s on the importance of adventure education


ime and again I hear universities and employers say that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between applicants who have the same top grades. No matter how many changes the government makes to the A-Level curriculum, academic results can only tell you so much because people are, of course, about more than grades on a piece of paper. Schools must therefore fully equip young adults with the necessary life skills to ensure they stand out from the crowd and set them up for life beyond the classroom. Understanding risk and not shying away from it is an important life skill. Pupils can develop this through being exposed to it in the security of a school environment. Dauntsey’s has a strong emphasis on adventure; such is our commitment, I appointed a dedicated Head of Adventure, Sam Moore, to bring together our many activities. Sam embodies Dauntsey’s attitude to adventure education. He believes passionately that it plays a vital role in preparing children for life, never more so than in today’s ever changing world where they live in an increasingly risk-free environment. Sam has developed a programme of adventure activities for pupils, split into two areas: High Adventure takes the form of longer-haul trips, activities and experiences that involve relatively small numbers of pupils participating at a high level, normally with a high staff to pupil ratio. Typically this type of adventure will require time and dedication from the pupils and they will have to achieve specific skills and competence at a

“I have appointed a dedicated head of adventure at Dauntsey’s”

given activity to allow them to access remote or challenging environments. Examples of High Adventure might be taking part in the Devizes to Westminster canoe race, racing our tall ship, Jolie Brise in the Tall Ships race or a joint expedition with Marlborough College to Kilimanjaro. Accessible Adventure takes the form of programmes where large numbers of pupils have short experiences that serve as an introduction to

Above Dauntsey’s tall ship the Jolie Brise

seeing pupils learning to be as concerned Left Pupils making for others as for a camp fire themselves and – most importantly – to be able to admit and then correct their mistakes. Equally, the more confident ones learn to follow leadership and are then able to provide better adventure and to various activities. These leadership when needed. serve both as education experiences in Developing these traits can take their own right and as a gateway to High courage. Exploration inevitably involves a Adventure for those that enjoy them and find few wrong turns, so we work to build the them rewarding. confidence needed to tackle things pupils An example of Accessible Adventure is may not believe they can do, safe in the learning to kayak on the Kennet and Avon knowledge that we are here to help find a canal, camping in the school grounds, or a way around an obstacle. As a result, pupils’ night hike on Salisbury Plain. confidence and self-esteem rise The results are remarkable. dramatically as they discover Pupils who joined us as what can be achieved, often relatively quiet, cautious under challenging conditions – types, grow in confidence and and this pays great dividends are willing to take on new back in the classroom in terms experiences. Those who you of academic progress. would not immediately view In short, what you learn as “the outdoors type” can outside the classroom can demonstrate great resilience have a profound effect on the MARK LASCELLES and good humour in the face of development of your character Head Master, Dauntsey's adversity. I particularly enjoy and your entire future.

2 0 1 6 2| 0A1 6 B S| OBLRUI T IESLY H E D U C A T I O N | 83 75

Talking Head Head Head Head Dauntseys.indd Dauntseys.indd 75 83 Talking

02/03/2016 10:26 14:17 11/02/2016




The director of service at Sevenoaks School, on the benefits of voluntary service, for her pupils and the community R E B ECCA B R OW N


oluntary service is a popular co-curricular activity and a compulsory element of the Duke of Edinburgh’s awards and the International Baccalaureate Diploma. As a recommended experience to include in a UCAS application, it is believed to add value to an individual’s skills and CV. But service is so much more than a box-ticking exercise; it teaches social responsibility, opens students’ minds and encourages individuals to become a force for good. Sevenoaks School was one of the pioneers of school-based community service in England, creating its Voluntary Service Unit (VSU) in 1960. It remains one of the largest and most ambitious school service programmes, in which some 700 students volunteer every week, involved in activities with a broad theme of Global, Local and School Service. Service is a core element of the IB, which defines it as ‘a collaborative and reciprocal engagement with the community in response to an authentic need’. The IB outlines four approaches:


irect Service is an excellent starting point for children of any age: the immediate engagement with an individual or local community which can fulfil a genuine need. In addition to meeting that need, it can raise awareness of local issues and promote D

Sevenoaks was a pioneer of schoolbased community service in the UK


n this third approach individuals speak on behalf of a cause to promote action on an issue of public interest, for example performing a play on replacing bullying with respect, or creating a video on sustainable water solutions. The Sevenoaks School Charity Action Group is currently working closely with a local charity, The Bridge Trust, and as part of this, students are taking part in a sleep-out. The homelessness statics have been enlightening to our pupils, both local and international. I


astly, students can offer service by collecting information, analysing data, and reporting on a topic of importance to influence policy or practice. For example, they may conduct environmental surveys to influence their school, contribute to a study of animal migration, compile effective means to reduce litter in public spaces, or carry out social research by interviewing people on topics such as homelessness. In recent years, Sevenoaks students have assisted a research organisation with biodiversity surveys in Madagascar, providing material for conservation purposes in conjunction with government agencies, and describing this as ‘a life-changing experience’. Service can and should do more than fulfil the criteria of the IB or contribute to a school’s ever-expanding co-curriculum. Whilst attending a lecture at Windlesham School, I heard a guest speaker refer to service as finding your ‘dharma’, a Buddhist term which loosely translates to finding one’s purpose. So if I am asked why should we ‘do’ service I reply, so we can find our dharma! While service can be a transformative experience for the volunteer, promoting self-awareness and developing resilience, accountability and independence, it is also an opportunity to use one’s education for good. L


trust and respect between young adults and others in their community. At Sevenoaks around 110 individuals are academic and peer mentors, working with younger students at least once a week. Pupils volunteering with Riding for the Disabled


ith Indirect Service, the student does not see the beneficiaries of their work – it’s a behind-the-scenes role where they use their skills effectively. For example, a group of pupils might redesign a not-for-profit organisation’s website, write original picture books to teach a language or nurture tree seedlings for planting. We have recently been involved in a fantastic indirect service project, assisting a local entrepreneur who has her own cobnut plantation. Students have been harvesting the nuts and pruning the trees. In return she has given them a bag of cobnuts (a local delicacy) to put their entrepreneurial skills to good use. W

84 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_Service in schools.indd 84

02/03/2016 14:21

CGI of Keybridge at night, living room and kitchen of two bedroom show apartment CGI’s and photos of two bedroom show apartment are indicative only

MOV E U P IN T H E WOR LD The UK’s tallest residential brick tower brings Manhattan-style living to a vibrant new Central London district – a Zone 1 address with London’s best schools and universities on its doorstep. +44 (0)20 7205 4295 | | Sales and Marketing Suite Now Open 80 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RG

Developed by

Selling agents



01/02/2016 14:28

ABOVE Patrick Derham, Head Master of Westminster School, speaking at the 2015 Independent Schools Show

ISS 420x297 ISS.indd 2 London 2016 v1.indd 7-8

24/02/2016 14:40

Meet the big names of British education As the UK’s largest open day, the Independent Schools Show welcomes 200 of the country’s leading schools to Battersea Park, 12–13 November. Join us at this informative and dynamic event to meet key admissions teams; speak with heads; enquire about entry requirements at all stages; explore scholarships and bursaries. The Education Theatre, the programme of talks and events at the Show, is the UK’s leading forum for parents to find information and answers about independent education. Watch the 2015 Education Theatre talks and register for 2016 tickets at

Saturday 12 November 10:00 - 17:00

Sunday 13 November 11:00 - 16:30 Battersea Evolution, Battersea Park, London, SW11 4NJ


24/02/2016 24/02/2016 14:04 14:40




S 9+


b y S a ra Pe n ny p a c k e r


Touching and thought-provoking this is a lyrically-told story perfectly presented. Peter’s life falls apart after his mother dies in a car crash. The only thing that makes him happy and keeps him going is Pax, the fox he raises from a kit – and his love of baseball. But when Peter’s father goes off to join the army, Peter must go and live with his grandfather and return Pax to the wild. Neither Peter, nor Pax can bear the separation; both are determined to be reunited. This is their story and Jon Klassen’s illustrations capture the mood of the story perfectly.

elected and reviewed by the children’s book recommendation site Lovereading4kids. are this spring’s highlights for children and teenagers. The name of Kenneth Oppel may not be instantly familiar but his poignant and thrilling time bomb of a tale The Nest, will be loved by fans of Patrick Ness and Neil Gaiman whilst fans of Geek Girl will devour Waiting for Callback, a fresh and funny comedy of manners. For animal lovers, there is Pax with echoes of the classic The Incredible Journey; Time Travelling with a Hamster, a terrific adventure that puts family relationships, particularly male ones, at its heart and the debut, Beetle Boy which fuses science, survival and sleuthing into a rollickingly good adventure. For teens don’t miss Beautiful Broken Things, an utterly compelling and authentic portrait of the intricate ebbs and flows of friendship and Not if I See You First, a wonderful read with sharp kicks of wit and hugs of compassion. You will find an exclusive extract available on of every title selected so don’t just take our word for it, have a read and decide for yourself.



b y Ab i E l p h i n s t o n e SIMON & SCHUSTER

A fantastic sequel to The Dream Snatcher, it continues a thrilling series that is sure to capture imaginations and have boys and girls, young and old, reaching for their catapults and quivers. Fabulous, feisty Moll with the ever faithful and courageous Gryff by her side continue their quest to save the old magic and stop the Shadowmasks from destroying them. This is a tale filled with adventure, peril, mystery, friendship and of course magic and, about finding courage in the darkest of moments and to stand up for what you believe in.

88 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_TH_Books 2.indd 88

01/03/2016 17:42




Beautiful Broken Things

Simon Thorn & the Wolf’s Den



This powerful, punch-packing debut is an utterly compelling, authentic portrait of the intricate ebbs and flows of friendship, and of a young adult trying to navigate the tempestuous waters of past traumas. Accessible and profoundly moving, Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne’s story is sure to resonate with teens.

Aimée Carter’s twisty, original thriller stars a gang of kids with special abilities up against a cast of powerful adults. Instead of being trainee wizards however, these young people are at shapeshifter school learning to turn themselves into animals. Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson.

by Sara Barnard

by Aimee Carter






Beetle Boy

The Nest



A rollicking adventure spiced up with fascinating info about beetles, this debut novel fuses science, survival and sleuthing! When his father goes missing, Darkus is sent to stay with his uncle. There he is befriended by a giant beetle who is connected to his dad’s disappearance. What is going on? And who is Lucretia Cutter, one of the best villainesses since Cruella de Vil?

A truly exceptional and unsettling work in which the stinging clarity and poignancy of Oppel’s writing is exquisitely echoed by Jon Klassen’s haunting illustrations. While comparisons to A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Coraline by Neil Gaiman come to mind, this is a remarkably original creation that creeps under your skin and pierces your heart.

b y M .G . L e o n a r d

b y Ke n n e t h O p p e l


his clever, touching time travel adventure owes as much to The Railway Children as it does to Back to the Future. Al (for Albert, after Einstein) Chaudhury’s dad is dead but – he was a physicist and he’d already been experimenting with time travel and, realising what is going to happen, left instructions enabling his son to go back in time and prevent the childhood accident that will ultimately kill him. Huge congratulations to Ross Welford for observing all the rules of time travel and constructing a terrific adventure that puts family relationships at its heart.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 89

AE_TH_Books 2.indd 89

01/03/2016 17:43

Boarding at its best

“The quality of boarding is excellent ” Independent Schools Inspectorate report 2015 Telephone: +44 (0) 1227 475601 Skype: admissionsstedmunds Email:


St Thomas’ Hill Canterbury, Kent CT2 8HU United Kingdom

03/02/2016 15:38



The Icarus Show by S ally Christie


The Forbidden City

by Will Mabbitt



Alex is getting by at school by making himself invisible. But the balance of power there changes with the arrival of mysterious notes from someone calling themselves Icarus, promising to fly. As Alex learns who Icarus is, the knowledge is both thrilling and troubling. This is a lifeaffirming look at friendship with a little magic in it, too.

Mabel Jones is forced to leave the 'hooman' world and venture into the Noo World, run by animals, to search for her sister. Wildly inventive, the author delights as much in fantastical word-play as he does in the kind of gross humour kids love. Ross Collins was born to illustrate this and his drawings are an integral part of the enjoyment.



NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST by Eric Lindstrom



Waiting for Callback

Never Evers

b y Pe rd i t a C a rg i l l & Honor Cargill

b y To m E ll e n & Lucy Ivison



Geek Girl meets Fame in this terrific comedy of manners. 15-year old Elektra is an eager thespian and newly signed up with an agent but not all goes according to plan. The world of auditions, call-backs and pushy mothers offers great comedy material – co-author Honor, only a teenager herself, has direct experience and it shows.

As warming as a cup of hot chocolate on a winter’s day, Never Evers is about two groups of teenagers on a school ski trip told in alternate chapters by Mouse and Jack. There’s an instant spark between our narrators but the path of true love is interrupted by friends, a hamster and even a French version of Justin Bieber.



n incredibly uplifting, thought provoking and sharply beautiful debut. The first chapter smashes into your senses, sending them reeling and from then on you are totally engaged. Eric Lindstrom has created a wonderfully spiky and courageous character in the visually impaired Parker and, as she tells her story you can hear her voice as her personality bursts from the pages. With sharp kicks of wit and hugs of compassion Not If I See You First is a wonderful read.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 91

AE_TH_Books 2.indd 91

01/03/2016 17:43

We’re letting you into a little secret... Wells Cathedral School:

an ancient 3-18 co-educational day and boarding school set in the heart of England’s most beautiful Cathedral city with an internationally-renowned specialist music faculty. Wells, in the county of Somerset, is a haven where every student can thrive and flourish, whatever their interests and talents. Just two hours from Heathrow Airport.

See it to believe it!

“Tracing its roots back to 909, Wells is one of the world’s oldest schools, and wears its age beautifully; there surely can’t be a lovelier place of learning anywhere.” Good Schools Guide, 2015

since AD909 +44 1749 834213


13/01/2016 11:53


School Leaver



2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 93

AE_News_Opener_No Bleed.indd 93

02/03/2016 11:13

TURNING OUR BACKS With steep tuition fees, a shrinking job market for professionals and large corporations taking on school leavers, just what is the point of university? ELEANOR DOUGHTY


s little as five years ago, the choice facing teenagers at leading schools was where to go to university. The class of 2011, the last university intake year before tuition fees were raised to £9,000 a year, faced an inexplicable choice: go to university now, while it’s affordable, or embrace the gap year dream – and pay for it. Now, the choice that upper sixth formers must make now is whether university is worth it or not. With fees at an all-time high, and more available options for education post-18 than ever before, the goal posts have changed. Employers are feeling it too. In January, publishers Penguin Randomhouse became the latest corporation to discount the degree classification from its application process. This followed City firm

Ernst & Young’s decision last August to do the same, and an earlier move by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to ditch A-Level results when recruiting graduates. To keep up, careers advice at school has had to diversify – even if progress is slow. Research last year found that an overwhelming percentage of teachers would “rarely or never advise a pupil to apply for an apprenticeship if they had grades required for university entry”. Despite the government’s attempts to push wide-ranging apprenticeships schemes,

university is still the default position for many. While costs have gone up, in 2014, more 18 year olds from the poorest backgrounds went to university than ever before. Andrew Fleck, headmaster of Sedbergh School in Cumbria, believes that university is very much of value. There are four main reasons for this, he says. Firstly, because it is “a place of late adolescence maturation, and this is closely linked to independence.” It also “offers a breadth of experience and the opportunities to meet new people, and is important as a place of academic study. Finally, he says, university is somewhere that should, in theory, prepare one for the workplace.” But he has also made a public call for independent schools to do more in the way of offering vocational training to pupils. “I have never met anyone who disagrees that the country needs

Penguin has become the latest company to discount degrees for new applicants

94 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_Whats the point_02.indd 94

02/03/2016 09:23


more high-quality vocational education but it appears that the contribution of HMC schools is particularly poor in this regard, with only 44 [out of 276] schools recorded as offering non-A-Level vocational programmes. “We know that our pupils are set to enter a competitive global labour market, but how many of us have really explored what that means? “Our schools have successfully directed pupils into comfortable middle-class professions accessed through Russell Group universities, but these opportunities are shrinking, and with further stimulus from the rising cost of university education, we know

“It is high time private schools considered a broader educational diet”

that increasing numbers of pupils will bypass university and enter the labour market direct from school. “If they are to do so successfully, we must prepare them for it. It is high time we considered a broader educational diet.” Chris King, headmaster of Leicester Grammar School, and chairman of the HMC, criticised the standard of modern university teaching in an interview with The Times last year. Now, he says, when sixth formers tell him that they want to go to university, but they don’t know what they want to do, alarm bells ring. “I can detect the risk that they will potentially pass from school to university

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 95

AE_Whats the point_02.indd 95

02/03/2016 10:47

To learn more about Uppingham School, situated in a beautiful part of central England, please visit or contact Admissions on +44 (0) 1572 820611 Uppingham School, Rutland LE15 9QE : Co-educational : 13-18


Reg Charity No. 1147280

There are very few real boarding schools left. With 99% of pupils boarding, Uppingham is one of them. If full boarding is what you want we believe we are among the best.

01/02/2016 14:32


Above Eddie Redmayne at the Oscars, and a model, in Duke & Dexter shoes Left Oxford punts. Not tempted?

with no real attachment to the subject they are about to study in depth.” But it isn’t for everyone. “One of my top pupils has just won a training placement at PwC,” Fleck says. “She’s done fantastically well.” More than just apprenticeships, the opportunity to venture straight into the workplace is an option at 18, if you’re competitive enough to take it on. Other businesses offer similar options, and some such schemes are highly paid. The most competitive can pay up to £25,000 for a young person to work and study, although most of the country’s biggest brands start apprentices on a figure of about £15,000. In some cases, not going to university pays off in other ways too. Archie Hewlett founded his footwear company Duke & Dexter a year after leaving Radley College. Despite having achieved highly at A-Level and been offered a place at Durham University, he took up on his own. He explains that at school, he never contemplated doing anything other than going to university, yet when he left,

the business world was more tempting than undergraduate life. The feeling that going to university was simply the done thing is echoed by many of those in their early 20s nationwide. For those for whom the question was not ‘will you go to university?’ but ‘where?’ it is a sticking point. 23-year-old Eleanor Muffitt tried university twice, before deciding it wasn’t it wasn’t right for her. “I only went to university because it was expected of me. I never made a conscious decision to go – it just seemed so obvious to me that this is what I had to do,” she explains. “I’m glad

“I’m glad I dropped out of university, I only went because it was expected of me”

I dropped out. I was doing a course that I didn’t enjoy.” Leaving university, she took a year out to travel, and consider her options, before enrolling on an apprenticeship at the Daily Telegraph. Paul Fairclough, head of sixth form at Sedbergh, agrees that going to university “was certainly” the done thing for many students. “The costs involved are now giving more serious consideration to issues of employability after graduation,” he says. “We are seeing an increasing number of pupils enrolling on what more ‘vocational’ courses – events, agricultural and business management.” For those that do choose to go to university, it’s about making strategic decisions. One City worker, who graduated in 2014, explains: “I wanted to work in London ultimately, so I went to university there. My proximity to the job market and the opportunities there for work experience made going to university worthwhile. It served a dual purpose.” While for some sixth formers, all it might take is some canny decision-making, there is a gap that university admissions have failed to plug. This is the relationship between school and the soft skills that come from it, and those necessary for future employment. “Random House say they are keen to accept people with a range of skills, but admissions tutors focus on academics,” Fleck says. “Different universities have said that they don’t even read the personal statement. This is a problem. Employers are looking for academic achievement and a wide range of skills. It would be sensible if that tracked all the way through from school, but it just doesn’t.” The tide is turning on the straightforward and immediate pathway to university. Just how far still remains to be seen.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 97

AE_Whats the point_02.indd 97

02/03/2016 10:48

WORLD WEB MOOCS, or Massive Open Online Courses, are attracting millions of students worldwide. Are they a substitute for university or a mere flash in the pan? J A N E T T E WA L L I S


ozing from a primordial jelly in 2011, expanding and replicating across the globe … No, not the latest exotic flu, it’s MOOCs, those curious online courses proliferating so swiftly that 35 million students registered for them in 2015, more than double the number that took part in 2014. MOOCs, which stands for Massive Open Online Courses, are universitylevel web-based open enrolment classes. Many are offered by blue chip unis (think Harvard), most are free, and no special background or qualifications are needed. The variety or subjects offered is immense, ranging from Activism (‘How to Change the World’ from Wesleyan University) to Zoology (‘Do you have what it takes to be a veterinarian?’ via University of Edinburgh). 10,000 people signed up for Dundee University’s ‘Identifying The Dead: forensic science and human identification’, a course that allowed students to investigate a murder mystery by the crime writer Val McDermid. MOOCs were born of an idealistic and democratic impulse – to make education from the finest sources available to all. No longer would poverty, geography or an absence of traditional educational qualifications stand

in the way of learning. Offered by online ‘platforms’ like Coursera, edX and UK-based FutureLearn, MOOCs would be accessible to everyone with an internet connection and a inquisitive mind. Adult learners who had never had the time or inclination for academic study in their younger days could now surf the mind of the globe. Less expected, perhaps, were MOOCs’ popularity among the young. Private tutors

stand aside! The newest weapons in the education arms race are MOOCs. MOOCs offer the same curriculum and assessments that students experience in the classrooms of some of the world’s top universities. School kids can pit their wits against students at the University of Bristol, Exeter or Nottingham

– to name just three UK unis offering Moocs – and show how brilliant they really are. School leavers can, in theory, improve their appeal to employers or beef up a future UCAS attempt. New MOOCs, specially designed for the school market, have been released to mop up this new well of interest. “There is an increase in MOOCs geared towards high school students to help them bridge the gap between school and university and to get a taste of different degree options through introductory courses,” explains Carolyn McIntyre, CEO of which provides useful reviews and forums. Two MOOC providers in particular have high school offerings: edX with its High School Initiative, and FutureLearn with the Going to University Collection. Rather than a substitute for university, MOOCs are helping youngsters to get there. The courses are popping up on personal statements, alongside community service and work experience, as sixth formers strive to stand out from the crowd and show ‘passion’. The Student Room advises uni applicants not to hold their light under a bushel: “If you’re going to be applying to unis this September and you’ve taken a MOOC that’s relevant to your course then don’t forget to mention it in your personal statement as it demonstrates your commitment could help you get a place

98 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_MOOCS.indd 98

02/03/2016 09:30


on the course you want.” MOOCs can even be listed among academic qualifications if they are certified (which usually requires a fee ranging upwards from £35). Best not to go crazy though. “An armful of completed MOOCs is not, in itself, likely in impress a university if you don’t have the required exam results,” warns Sue Fieldman, an advisor with the Good Schools Guide Advice Service. “It’s a bit like reading extensively around your subject – it’s great as a conversation starter for university interviews and to include in your personal statement, but only if you know your stuff.” Along with beefing up CVs, some sixth formers are using MOOCs to take part in subjects not offered at their school. Your sixth form doesn’t offer A-Level Sociology?

Your sixth form doesn’t offer A-Level Sociology? No problem, try Princeton University instead. No problem, try an Introduction to Sociology from Princeton University. Want to push ahead in IT? Register for Web Science from the University of Southampton. Despite their rapid spread, MOOCs are unlikely to unseat the traditional university experience. “The MOOC I took part in recently was ok”, says Josh Cooper who graduated from university three years ago, “But it wasn’t like a real university course. It had a forum, where we were encouraged to discuss topics from the course, but it didn’t seem like many people did. At university you have to.” Josh also found feedback to be an issue – what kind of comments can be on a course taken by thousands of people? Nor are MOOCs about to depose old-style qualifications when it comes to finding a job. Most people in the real world are more likely to think a MOOC is a bovine atomic weapon than a university level course. And online courses can not yet match person to person contact when it comes to networking. Completion rates for MOOCs remain absurdly low – often less than 5%. There may be a reason, beyond snobbery, that universities have entry requirements: without a solid background in some subjects a MOOC may be hard to follow. And without


courses in person or online (so the pressure of university exams Future Learn offers a number of and graduation requirements, long as the latter pay a smallish courses to school MOOC assignments may not get fee at the end of each MOOC pupils completed. to verify their identity). Going Even for those motivated enough further, six universities from Australia, Europe, Canada and the US are to finish the courses and ace the homework, a niggle remains over identification and working together to award formal credit for verification. How can a course provider verify each other’s MOOCs. Blogger and business student, Laurie Pickard, chronicled her that it was you who completed the work and completion of an entire MBA equivalent, took the tests rather than your brainy friend? What’s to stop an enterprising post graduate one MOOC at a time. student setting up an online MOOC exam However they develop in the future, business? MOOCs are already making a revolutionary MOOCs may never replace red bricks difference. They give us all an opportunity to and ivy, but they are sure to walk ever more learn from some of the best. I’m eyeballing cosily alongside them. From autumn 2016 “Guerrilla Filmmakers” from Norwich the Texas State University system in the University of the Arts. Which course will be USA is offering a cost free first year of uni right for you? to students who take 10 free MOOCs and JAN ET TE WALLI S pass the course tests. Meanwhile, degrees from the University of Arizona no longer is an editor of The Good Schools Guide differentiate between students who take

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 99

AE_MOOCS.indd 99

02/03/2016 12:36





Head of Thornton College, Mrs Jo Storey

Thornton College is situated on the Buckinghamshire/ Northamptonshire border and educates just under 400 girls aged 2 ½ to 18. Children of all faiths and of none are welcome. Thornton is well known for its exceptional pastoral care, outstanding academic achievement and high expectations of all its pupils. It is one of the top performing non selective schools in the UK. Pupils respect one another, value the community spirit, have fun learning and accomplish great things. They are extremely well educated both inside and outside of the classroom and grow up with confidence and a strong sense of humility. For further details and to request a prospectus visit the school website


03/02/2016 15:44


LET ME IN Everyone wants to get ino Oxbridge, but how do you get through the doors? The director of Varsity Education has the inside track JAMES GOLD

Q If a student is looking to apply to Oxbridge, when should they start the application process? A Early preparation for an Oxbridge application is absolutely essential. Their knowledge and thought process will need to extend far beyond the A-Level curriculum. They should to look to increase their breadth and depth of knowledge in order to fuel both their understanding and interest in the subject. For instance, if they are a history student studying the Civil Rights Movement, they should consider studying the Anti-Apartheid


Movement for comparison. Also, the student should try to keep on top of the news and consider how it relates to their subject as it may be discussed during interviews. Q Is it best to choose a degree which leads to a career path? A We always advise students to study a degree which they genuinely find interesting and enjoyable as it will form a large part of their life over the next three to four years. Students that thrive in high-level academic environments are those who are genuinely passionate about their subject. It is always

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 101

AE_How to Oxbridge 2.indd 101

02/03/2016 14:02

The Pilgrims’ School, Winchester Day and boarding for boys aged 4-13

“A fine school in which the musical, the sporty and the clever boy will positively flourish.” Good Schools Guide

“Like you, I do not want an ordinary education for your son; I want an exceptional school that will make the most of his one chance. At Pilgrims’, we have no intention of settling for ordinary or OK. We strive to realize every ounce of potential and value many different types of success.” Tom Burden, Headmaster

The ancient city wall runs around the boundary of our extensive playing fields; few school pitches can boast such a stunning setting.

Nestled between Winchester Cathedral and Winchester College, the beautiful and venerable buildings that surround us are an ever-present reminder of history and tradition. | 01962 854189 | Untitled-3 1

04/01/2016 12:51


Left Students on the cobbled streets of Oxford Right Relaxing on a college lawn

possible to take conversion courses after an undergraduate degree, for a career in law for example, and many careers do not require a specific degree subject.

choice will not stop a top student receiving an offer however, the right selection will undoubtedly make the application process easier.

Q Choosing a college is quite difficult. Does it matter which college a student applies to? A Students should dedicate time to selecting a college as it will be the place that they will eat, sleep and study for the entirety of their degree. Whilst colleges generally have more similarities than differences, it is important for a student to choose the college which is right for them based on their priorities whether it is the size, history or location. It is also important to consider that choosing the right college can sometimes have an impact on application success. For instance, if the student is the right fit for the college, they will find they have more in common with the interviewer, ie. a liberal minded student discussing politics with a like-minded professor will feel more confident and comfortable during interviews. College

Q How can a student stand out to an admissions tutor? A Admissions tutors are looking for intelligent, academically curious and interesting students. Simply having straight A*s at A-Level doesn’t necessarily mean a student is right for Oxbridge. Students should seek to develop their confidence and knowledge such that they can have a broadranging and challenging discussion during interviews that will peak the interest of an admissions tutor. Varsity Education often advises students to be creative in their preparation. We would reasonably expect any students looking to study law to have visited a court to see the judicial process in action. A more creative student may have attended the House of Commons or investigated the legal system in foreign jurisdictions to understand points of connection and contrast.


Q We hear a lot about the importance of extracurricular activities. Is this importance overstated? A “We believe that academic curiosity carries greater importance than extracurricular activities in the case of Oxbridge admissions. Oxbridge is an elite academic environment and whilst students will often participate in an impressive range of extracurricular activities, this is not the principle criteria upon which they are selected. Oxbridge academics are world leaders in their field of study. They are looking for students who share their passion and curiosity for a subject to which they have themselves dedicated decades of study. As a result, developing a strong academic profile is more important than undertaking a large number of extracurricular activities.

Q Should younger readers, such as those sitting their GCSEs, be thinking about their Oxbridge application? A It is never to soon to be thinking ahead about your university choices, but students currently sitting GCSEs certainly shouldn’t worry if they have not yet given the topic much thought. The summer after sitting GCSEs is an ideal time for students to start thinking more seriously about whether they wish to apply to Oxbridge. Residential summer courses, such as our two week preparation programmes, can be an excellent way of gaining an inside understanding of the admissions system, understanding whether Oxbridge is right for them and building a road-map towards a successful Oxbridge application.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 103

AE_How to Oxbridge 2.indd 103

02/03/2016 14:01

Set in 70 acres of beautiful countryside yet conveniently located close to major air, railway and motorway networks, the students at Woodhouse Grove benefit from being in the countryside with the advantage of having major cities on their doorstep. The school is serviced by the recently opened Apperley Bridge train station giving pupils direct access to Leeds and beyond within 10 minutes. Our boarders enjoy modern, well equipped boarding houses, a secure and caring environment, a 'home from home' atmosphere, and an ever changing list of activities which contribute to the enjoyment of being a boarder at the Grove. To see an up to date list of weekly activities please visit our website.

It is our aim to unlock the potential of each individual by offering every pupil life-changing opportunities and an environment in which academic excellence is promoted through learning and shared experiences. We want our pupils to experience an outstanding, all-round and full education at the heart of which are the academic qualifications of which they are fully capable. Every individual child in this School counts; we ask nothing more from them than that they have the courage to be, not ordinary, but extraordinary and to strive to do their very best. We want them all to be confident and proud of their academic achievements and to believe that there is no glass ceiling to their academic attainment.


03/02/2016 11:09




Keep calm

Steven Boyes, Principal of MPW London, has advice for A-Level students on coping with the new reforms


hat do the A-Level reforms mean for applications to the most competitive universities? It is a time of great uncertainty for students taking GCSE and A-Levels today and the pressure to get the UCAS application right has never been greater. Admissions tutors will find it increasingly difficult to differentiate between applicants as more A-Levels become linear. Students will find that their GCSE grades are under much closer scrutiny than ever before, both because AS-Levels are no longer compulsory and because of concerns over the unreliability of A-Level grades predictions Dr Seán Buckley, academic director at MPW London and author of Getting into Oxford and Cambridge, comments: “There is strong evidence that universities are now examining applicants’ results histories much more forensically. If students have performed well at GCSE then this will give the universities concrete evidence about their potential in the absence of AS results. Some schools are adopting a policy of entering all of their students for AS examinations, even though the material will be examined again at the end of the two-year A-Level programme, so that evidence of academic progression can be presented to universities.” In addition, there are the hurdles of interviews and admissions tests. Many Russell Group universities currently interview students for their more competitive courses, such as Medicine, Law and Engineering, and it is possible that this may become the norm for other subjects. The University of Cambridge recently announced

“The goal posts have shifted and students must remain competitive ”


that they are introducing entrance tests for which students undertake MPW students outside the all undergraduate applicants from 2017. a guided research project Albert Hall What can students do? The first thing to on any subject of interest, remember is that any worries and concerns usually alongside their are shared by every other applicant and the A-Level studies in Year 12. A good EPQ admissions process remains a level playing shows that a student has developed the field. Having said that, the goal posts have research skills that universities are so keen shifted and students need to be aware of this for students to possess before they arrive. in order to remain competitive. The personal Extra-curricular activities such as the statement has always offered students a Duke of Edinburgh Award also mantter chance to shine and it now takes on an even but do remember that no matter how greater weight than it has in previous years. impressive your sporting or volunteering A strong personal statement will show activities are, will not compensate for a academic ability and interest, as well as weak academic history or below par grade genuine passion for the course. predictions. Students would be wise to bear Although it is a time of this in mind; a common failing great change and ever-greater is for applicants to produce competition, it is not a time for lengthy lists of learned books students to panic. The best way without demonstrating that to get into any university has they have engaged with them in always been to work hard, to any meaningful way. achieve the grades you deserve One way to demonstrate and to demonstrate genuine academic ability is through the intellectual curiosity and S T E V E N B OY E S increasingly popular Extended capability. If you keep that up, Principal, MPW London Project Qualification (EPQ) in you can’t go far wrong.

2 0 1 6 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 105

AE_TH_MPW_use.indd 105

02/03/2016 14:35

To see rst hand how we can help your daughter to ourish academically and to develop her talents – wherever they lie – and discover hidden ones, join us for an open morning or personal visit.

Educating mind, body, heart & soul

New Sixth Form Centre Oxbridge Success Full & Weekly Boarding Creative Thinking 01435 874642 registrar@may The Old Palace, Mayeld, East Sussex TN20 6PH


Open Mornings: Tuesday 19 April, Friday 16 September 2016

An independent Catholic boarding and day school for girls aged 11 to 18


16/02/2016 16:31

UK Independent School of the Year 2013–2014






Absolutely_Education_134x190mm_Spring_Edition_Outlined.indd 1 BRIGHTON COLLEGE.indd 1

_ADVERTS.indd 1



26/01/2016 14:15 17:26

02/03/2016 12:34

Experience an education in one of the world’s most vibrant and exciting university cities Boarding and day places from 11+, 13+ and 16+

2016 Open Days Saturday 23 April (Boarding and Home Boarding) Thursday 29 September (Sixth Form Evening) Saturday 8 October (11+) Saturday 12 November (General)


Book online at 01223 508 904

02/03/2016 10:23

London’s leading day school for specific learning difficulties

...and all of a sudden, nothing is impossible. 1014 FairleyHouse Absolutely Education HalfPage v2 .indd 1 FARILY HOUSE.indd 1

_ADVERTS.indd 2

020 7976 5456

29/08/2015 14:38 04/09/2015 17:27

02/03/2016 12:34

Weekly boarding @ St Catherine’s

A happy alternative to the London Day School OPEN MORNINGS Friday 29th April Wednesday 15th June

Bramley, Guildford, Surrey GU5 0DF 01483 899609

Day, full & weekly boarding GSA School 900 girls 4-18 years Founded 1885 ST CATHERINES 1 1 Absolute Education01BRAMLEY.indd February 2016.indd

25/02/2016 17:13 25/02/2016 13:39:14

St Andrew’s St Andrew’s School School Pangbourne, Pangbourne,Berkshire Berkshire

Nursery Pre-Prep Pre-Prep Nursery

Prep Prep

School bus services from the Beckenham/Bromley, Dulwich/Herne Hill & Clapham/ Streatham areas

What makes us different is the difference we make St Andrew’s offers an exceptional all-round education with weekly and flexi boarding for boys and girls aged 3-13 set in 54 acres of delightful Berkshire woodland. The school provides excellent academic teaching, sport & music allied to outstanding pastoral care. We are proud of our friendly atmosphere and small classes where learning is fun.

Open Events for 2017 entry

St Andrew’s offers an offers exceptional all-round education withwith weekly and flexi St Andrew’s an exceptional all-round education Come andsetVisit Us boarding for boys and girls aged 3-13 in 54 acres of delightful Berkshire weekly andTo flexi boarding for boys andplease girls aged 3-13 set arrange an individual tour,academic contact: woodland. inThe school provides excellent teaching, sport & music acresReeves: of delightful Berkshire woodland. Theorschool Mrs 54 Carolyn 0118 974 4276 allied to outstanding pastoral care. We are proud of our friendly atmosphere provides excellent academic teaching, sport & music allied and small classes where learning is fun.We are proud of our friendly to outstanding pastoral care.

Pre-Prep & Prep

Wednesday 16 March 9.30 - 11am

Senior & Sixth Form

Thursday 10 March 9.30 - 11am Wednesday 29 June 6.30pm - 8pm (including D’Art exhibition)

atmosphere and small classes where learning is fun.

Come and Visit Us

Come andtour, Visit Us contact: To arrange an individual please

Please see our website for details of further Open Events and Taster Sessions.

arrange an individual tour, please contact: or 0118 974 4276 Mrs Carolyn Mrs Carolyn Reeves: or 0118 974 4276

_ADVERTS.indd 3

15 & 19 Westwood Hill, London SE26 6BL


020 8557 7004

22/02/2016 14:59 02/03/2016 12:37


‘“What a wonderfully nurturing and exciting environment you have created at St Mary’s. I can see why the girls thrive in such a lovely place.” Prospective parent

Independent HMC boarding and day school for 440 pupils Situated in an inspirational 45 acre site on the banks of the River Thames, 2.5 miles from Henley-on-Thames Boys 11-18 • Girls 16-18 • Boarding available from Year 9 A full ISI inspection in 2015 judged Shiplake College as EXCELLENT across every inspection category

Open Days 2016 7 May, 8 October & 12th November

Upcoming Open Mornings


Whole School: Saturday 3 October 2015

For more information please call +44 (0)1249 857200, email: or visit

Sixth Form: Saturday 10 October 2015

St Mary’s Calne, Wiltshire, SN11 0DF

A thriving independent day, weekly and flexi-boarding co-ed prep school for children aged 3 - 13




02/09/2015 19:00

04/02/2016 15:56

The quality of the pupils’ achievements and learning is exceptional Kensington Prep School in Fulham received the highest possible grades across the board in the recent school inspection. See the full Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) Report on our website for more details.

…a Cotswold childhood Open Morning Friday 18th March 9.30 - 12.00 noon

596 Fulham Road London SW6 5PA Phone: 020 7731 9300 Email:

Registration deadline for 4+ entry in September 2017: 30 September 2016. Entry is selective by assessment.

Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire t: 01453 837318 e: w: BEAUDESERT PARK SCHOOL.indd 1 _ADVERTS.indd 4

27/01/2016 17:19

02/03/2016 13:16

Boatloads of family fun this summer! Our collection of award-winning holidays is designed for families who want far more than the usual summer break. Try white water rafting in Austria, mountain biking in Tuscany or snorkelling off the Galapagos Islands. We have a range of holidays to suit all ages and abilities.

Visit or call 01670 785 093 to find out more


26/02/2016 13:46


OPENING N MOJRune 2016 11

SINCLAIR HOUSE SCHOOL For Boys and Girls aged 2-13





10.00AM – 11.30AM 59 Fulham High Street London SW6 3JJ

9.30AM – 11.00AM 196 Munster Road London SW6 6AU

Contact us to arrange your personal visit or flexi boarding taster MSJ Buses serve 5 counties. Direct trains to Great Malvern. 15 Avenue Road, Great Malvern, Worcestershire WR14 3BA. Tel: 01684 584624

Tel 020 7736 9182 Email SINCLAIR HOUSE.indd 1 0023 Sinclair House Ad 90mm x 134mm (Absolutely Education) EDIT.indd 1 _ADVERTS.indd 5

Who do you want to be?

16/02/2016 17:05


The Boarding and Day School for Girls aged 4 - 18

MALVERN 08/02/2016 15:08 ST JAMES.indd 1

22/02/2016 15:12 02/03/2016 13:16

...inspiring independent minds

• • • •

Outstanding boarding school for girls aged 11-18 Fantastic team sports Friendships for life Excellent results – a top 100 Independent School

T: +44 1747 857111

A top 20 Independent Girls Boarding School

ST MARY'S.indd 1

02/02/2016 09:33

Open Evening: Wednesday, 5th October from 4.00pm – 7.00pm

Catholic Day and Boarding School for girls aged 11 to 18 • Experience teaching the IB Diploma for over 35 years • Exclusive pre-IB Middle Years Programme • Nurture and support: girls gain excellent results • Places achieved at top Universities worldwide

• Scholarships and bursaries available • Multilingualism: up to 9 languages taught • Internationalism: over 40 nationalities, yet one shared mission • All faiths welcome

Please contact: Tel: 020 8949 0571 George Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT2 7PE. MARYMOUNT.indd 1

_ADVERTS.indd 6

25/02/2016 16:41

02/03/2016 13:13

This is your Experience

Down to Earth, caring and vibrant co-ed Nursery and Prep school just 45 minutes from Victoria and London Bridge. For a private tour please call our registrar on 01444 483528. GREAT WALSTEAD.indd 1

14/07/2015 14:41

“A very special place to grow up in” Good Schools Guide

Inspiring girls from 11 –18 GODOLPHIN.indd 1

_ADVERTS.indd 7




05/01/2016 10:29

02/03/2016 13:13


26/02/2016 16:11

St Hilary’s School IAPS Preparatory Day School and Nursery in Godalming


Boys 2—7 • Girls 2—11

IAPS co-educational school for 3-11 years

OPEN MORNING 2016 Friday 29th April 10.30am—12pm

Overlooking Blackheath and set in five acres of beautiful grounds, this leading prep school offers an outstanding education. Regular open mornings are held throughout the term when you can come and join us on a normal working day.

Tel: 01483 416551 • Email:

4 St. Germans Place, Blackheath, London. SE3 0NJ Tel: 020 8858 0692 Email: • @StHilarysSchool Registered Charity No.312056

Company limited by guarantee No. 672569 Charitable Status No. 312732


07/09/2015 17:29 SCHOOL.indd 1 ST HILARYS

25/02/2016 17:18 02/03/2016 13:15






ord O’Shaughnessy began Floreat Education in 2012 with plans to establish a small family of co-educational primary schools in London, educating children from three to 11 years old. There are currently two primary free schools, Floreat Brentford and Floreat Wandsworth, with three more expected to open in September.

“We have a taught

“The idea for Floreat has been a long time

formal than any other schools but we are not Gradgrindian. I think too many schools have an unambitious view of what children are capable of. We do stretch the children but in a way that is enjoyable.”

virtues literacy curriculum for children in Reception to Year 2. The children study the character virtues of honesty, service, perseverance and curiosity. They represent the four dimensions of character and pupils study 18 in total.”

“We are definitely more

in the making. I was previously director of policy and research for David Cameron from 2007-2011. I needed to get my hands dirty in the education sector and set up something new and good.”

“During my time in politics I was very involved in the free schools and academies programme and education reform.” “After leaving politics, I spent a year at

Wellington College (my alma mater) with Anthony Seldon. Having Anthony as my mentor was wonderful. I was very influenced by my time there. The emphasis on character and well being that was central to Seldon’s headship is at the heart of Floreat.”

“Martin Luther King once said: “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” As well as providing our pupils with a knowledge rich academic curriculum we want to develop their character, their honesty, perseverance, curiosity and joy.”

“We aim to teach our children what it is to be a good person”

“We are in west, south-

“We teach our children what it is

to be a good person. We want them to make a positive contribution in the world.”

“It is a very classical education – in the sense that you develop your mind but also develop your morals.” “The Greeks called it practical wisdom. It was the undisputed standard of education for 2000 years. Since then we have swung between very child-centred and very standards-only education models.” “We believe character education can be both taught and caught. An extra-curricular activity such as sport or the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme is a classic way to ‘catch’ character education.”

west London partly by chance, partly by choice. We love multi-academy trust schools that are close to each other – can share and collaborate. Tight knit works for us, this is a people business first and foremost.”

Above A pupil at Floreat Wandsworth

“We probably will open a secondary at one point but at the moment we are trying to get good at one thing.”

LO R D O ’ S H AU G H N E S SY Founder of Floreat Education

“Free schools are a way of closing that gap between private and free schools.” “I was appointed to the Lords

last October so I’m less handson than I was, but my hands still seem to be quite dirty!”

“I will be focusing on fundraising for Floreat in the next six months. Our ambition is to create world-class schools and that requires investment.”

114 | A B S O L U T E LY E D U C A T I O N | 2 0 1 6

AE_Floreat Education.indd 114

02/03/2016 14:33

Charity No. 312052

“Different, Diverse, Distinctive.... We loved it!” THE G O OD SC H O O L S G U I D E

Our film gives a fabulous insight to life at Frensham. Watch it and see for yourself at

Frensham Heights Think, Create, Explore C O - E D U C AT I O N A L | D AY & B O A R D I N G | O N E H O U R F R O M L O N D O N


03/02/2016 09:10


13+ Entry

13-18 YEARS I



Saturday 18th June 2016

Sixth Form Entry

Saturday 30th April 2016

To register interest or for more information please contact: +44 (0)1227 595772 Absolutely British Education Dubai_The King's School_2016.indd 1 THE KINGS SCHOOL CANTERBURY.indd 1

1/20/2016 1:45:11 15:54 PM 20/01/2016