EDUCATION SPRING / SUMMER 2015
TWO SUPER-HEADS SLUG IT OUT
I LOVED MY ALLGIRLS’ SCHOOL
GIRLS RISING INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS SHOW
ISS_COVER 2015.indd 1
FROM THE CREATORS OF “SOME OF THE BEST RESULTS IN THE COUNTRY”
COLLEGE (11+, 13+, 16+) 25 APRIL PRE-PREP & PREP (3+ to 10+) 9 MAY
GOOD SCHOOLS GUIDE England’s Independent School of the Year 2011–2012 THE SUNDAY TIMES
DAY, WEEKLY AND FULL BOARDING BRIGHTON COLLEGE.indd 2
COUNTRY LIFE England’s Headmaster of the Year 2012–2013 TATLER
TATLER UK Independent School of the Year 2013–2014
INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS AWARDS
BRIGHTONCOLLEGE.ORG.UK 24/02/2015 17:13
ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Editor’s Let ter
t all started with a conversation, as so many things do. I was at the Independent Schools Show where I got talking to Westonbirt’s sparky headmistress, Natasha Dangerfield. She invited me to visit the school for their ‘Inspiring Women’ day for sixth-formers. So I went to Gloucestershire, I got inspired and a ball started rolling. I then discovered that my alma mater, Godolphin & Latymer, was running a whole week of events designed to empower girls and develop their emotional resilience. Then followed conversations with the Girls Day School Trust about girls and sport, girls and technology and before I knew it, this issue became all about getting the next generation of girls to go for it. As a female of the species, a mother with a daughter and a feminist, I have found working on this issue fairly inspirational myself. Whatever detractors might say, education, particularly the education of girls has come a long long way since I was in short skirts. I have been so impressed by the level of understanding, the knowledge, robust debate and thoughtful concern that is now going into the education of girls. Apparently we are in an era of ‘third-wave feminism’ - I’m not too clear when the other waves rolled by - all I know is that I wish I was a pupil at Godolphin now. The staff are so clued-up on what it is to be a teenager; the issues surrounding self-esteem, academic pressure, mental health, the challenges of a work/life balance that awaits these high achievers – even just working out how to become the person you want to be. The Godolphin I attended was just sloughing off its grammar-school skin. Many of our teachers were, quite frankly, past it and the whole thrust of our education was about academic attainment and little else. Of course, education has come a long way since the 1980s. Right now, character education and resilience are the buzzwords of the moment. It is now well recognised that a system based on a narrow academic focus does not make for happy, healthy individuals. Schools are falling over themselves to demonstrate how many extra-curricular activities they can offer in the hope of producing the well-rounded characters that parents and employers are after. Simon Reid, the principal of Gordonstoun, has written an article on page 87 about
“EDUCATION HAS COME A LONG WAY SINCE THE 1980S” how an escapee from Nazi Germany, Kurt Hahn, established a school in the wilds of Scotland based on the principles of ‘character education’ that so many schools are copying today. Learning to sail, trekking through the Highlands, working as a community lifeguard are all on the curriculum at Gordonstoun; activities that develop self-reliance, resilience, initiative and problem-solving skills far better than sitting in a classroom. Coincidentally, Natasha Dangerfield was head of pastoral care at Gordonstoun before she took over at Westonbirt. She has a strong belief that a non-academic education matters just as much as book learning, and that sport in particular can give many girls a core of confidence that will serve them well in life. She is presiding over some very happy girls in Gloucestershire so she’s obviously getting something right. I hope you enjoy this issue
AMANDA CONSTANCE Editor
CONTENTS p. 18
EDITOR’S LETTER by Amanda Constance
SCHOOL NEWS Education round-up
16 IT’S A CHALLENGE by Amanda Constance
18 FASHION The best new styles
20 INSPIRING WOMEN AT WESTONBIRT
by Amanda Constance
29 THE MAKING OF ME Eve Best
30 ART AT STONYHURST by Andrew Johnson
36 TRUE GRIT: ONE YEAR ON by Robert Milne
41 THE MAKING OF ME
51 TALKING HEAD
Natasha Rufus Isaacs
42 MULTI-SENSORY LEARNING
52 THE RISE IN FLEXI-
by Natalie Verbo
44 OVERHEATED MARKET
by Charlotte Phillips
by Ben Thomas
56 A-LEVEL REFORM
47 THE PRE-TEST DEBATE
by Lisa Freedman
by Andrew Halls & Dr Joseph Spence
60 TOP TEN LONDON NURSERIES
by Sabine Hook
SPRING / SUMMER 2015
TWO SUPER-HEADS SLUG IT OUT
64 JUST ADD POLISH
I LOVED MY ALLGIRLS’ SCHOOL
by Celestria Noel
GIRLS RISING INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS SHOW
The front cover
The front cover depicts five pupils at Westonbirt School, an independent day and boarding school for girls: Cordelia Cross, Emily Pearn, Suzanna Battishill, Molly Smith, and Katharina Huber. Westonbirt School, Tetbury, Gloucestershire, GL8 8QG, 01666 880333, www.westonbirt.org., firstname.lastname@example.org
69 TALKING HEAD Keith Budge
71 TALKING HEAD Mark Lascelles
72 GIRLS AND TECH by Cat Scutt
69 Bedales school
EDITOR Amanda Constance
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77 MAKING OF ME Piers Torday
79 CONNELL GUIDES
ESSAY PRIZE PREVIEW by Jolyon Connell
81 MAKING OF ME Camilla Reid
83 BEST BOOKS FOR 2015 by Andrea Reece
CHARACTER EDUCATION by Simon Reid
93 MAKING OF ME Will Greenwood
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.
94 TRULY INDEPENDENT
Fo l l ow Us O n T wi t t e r @ABSOLUTELY_MAGS
by Janette Wallis
Fa c e b o o k ‘ABSOLUTELY MAGAZINES’
99 HOLIDAY TUITION by David Wellesley Wesley
103 GIRLS AND SPORT
EDUCATION AUTUMN / WINTER 2014
by Helen Fraser
ETON’S NEW SCHOOL
BRIGHT BUT BROKE HOW TO BAG A BURSARY
INSIDE HOLYPORT COLLEGE
‘I WALKED OUT OF SCHOOL”
RAFFAELLA BARKER, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE
108 LE ROSEY p. 3 0
by Harry Mount
ON THE UP
113 TALKING HEAD
THE SCHOOLS MAKING STRIDES IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS SHOW
Apologies Last issue we didn’t credit the front cover image. It depicts Stonyhurst College, an independent co-educational Catholic boarding and day school. Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire, BB7 9PZ, 01254 826345, www.stonyhurst.ac.uk
114 60 SECONDS WITH...
Clare Denning of Bedales p. 18
Number One Girls’ School for A Level Results in North of England*
She believes she can. HELEN FRASER Helen has been chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) since 2009. She regularly speaks and writes about women in education and the workplace. Before joining the GDST, Helen was Managing Director of Penguin Books for 13 years from 1997. She writes about the importance of girls playing sport on page 103
JOLYON CONNELL Jolyon Connell was educated at Gordonstoun and St Andrews University. He was the Washington Correspondent of The Sunday Times and Deputy Editor of The Sunday Telegraph before he founded The Week. He writes about his latest venture, Connell Guides on page 79
So she will.
NATASHA RUFUS ISAACS Natasha Rufus Isaacs was educated at Westonbirt School. She co-founded Beulah London, an ethical fashion label after doing charitable work in India. Her designs are now much in demand and she is busy having her first baby. She writes about how her schooldays influenced her on page 41
QUEEN MARGARETS.indd 1
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 email@example.com 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 www.stonyhurst.ac.uk
PMS 1945 U red and 425U grey
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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.
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Colour palette The red is the device’s predominant colour with the grey as a secondary colour. For ease and economy
30/01/2015 16:02 27/01/2015 11:53
ANDREA REECE Andrea Reece has spent all her working life in children’s books and is still as excited as ever to discover a new children’s author. Apart from being one of the Lovereading4kids editorial experts she is also director of the children’s and young people’s programme of the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival. She selects the best children's books for 2015 on page 83.
CELESTRIA NOEL Celestria Noel is the former social editor of Harpers&Queen and editor of PrivatAir Magazine. She is a contributor to many publications as well as a broadcaster on British style and the social season. She is also joint editor of the new Debrett’s Handbook, a comprehensive guide to modern manners and correct form. She writes about the Debretts Youth Programme on page 64.
London’s dedicated special needs tutoring and educational consultancy • Private Tuition • Classroom Support • Holiday Tutors
HARRY MOUNT Harry Mount writes for the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and the Spectator, among others. His next , Harry Mount›s Odyssey: Ancient Greece in the Footsteps of Odysseus, will be published by Bloomsbury in the summer. He writes about Le Rosey school in Switzerland on page 108
020 8533 0676 firstname.lastname@example.org www.fireflyeducation.co.uk
FIREFLY EDUCATION.indd 1
We are a leading 11â€“18 boarding & day school for boys & girls. Academic excellence and outstanding co-curricular provision are at the heart of Haileybury, providing the exceptional opportunities and truly all-round education that allow our pupils to discover enduring passions and talents. We offer flexible boarding in the Lower School, a range of scholarships at 11+, 13+ and 16+ and a choice of IB Diploma or A Levels in the Sixth Form. Our next Open Mornings are: Saturday 25 April (13+ & 16+), 9.30 am Thursday 14 May (11+), 9.30 am haileybury.com
For further information, or to attend an Open Morning, you are warmly invited to contact the Registrar, Iona Hutchinson email@example.com 01992 706353 Haileybury Hertford Herts SG13 7NU
www.facebook.com/HaileyburyUK Registered charity number 310013
Creating bright futures at accountant
Stowe is an independent co-educational boarding and day school inspiring pupils aged between 13 and 18.
e | firstname.lastname@example.org t | 01280 818205 w | www.stowe.co.uk STOWE EDUCATION.indd 2
ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / News
Paul Sartin of Bellowhead with Turkish folk singers Cigdem Aslan & Tahir Palali
GALLIPOLI Harrow School opened its doors to a unique musical event for the Last Post Project
arrow School opened its doors to British and Turkish folk musicians last month for a live recording of songs inspired by the First World War battle of Gallipoli. The School lost the equivalent of three quarters of its current pupil body during the war. Records list 644 names, many still in their teens, making it a fitting location to record folk songs associated with the Gallipoli campaign, one in Turkish and one in English. The Turkish song, Canakkale Turkusu, is a lament for lost youth. The music, sung by Paul Sartin of British folk band Bellowhead and Turkish singer
Cigdem Aslan with Tahir Palali, will form part of the Gallipoli schools pack put together by the Last Post Project. The pack, aimed at teachers and parents, explores the events at Gallipoli in Turkey, through music, poetry and family stories. The foreword to the pack is by War Horse author Michael Morpurgo. In it, he asks children to consider two questions: why remember, and how? He concludes that only through education can people come to understand each other and live in peace. The pack also inludes the family story of comedian Hugh Dennis whose uncle died at Gallipoli. He said: "We all have a connection to the First World War, perhaps as a family,
a neighbourhood or as a nation. In the pack, you will find stories, poetry and music handed down by that generation to ours. Itâ€™s our inheritance and it is very precious." Musicians, artists and poets are supporting The Last Post Project which aims to get communities across the country playing the Last Post for someone in the First World War. More than 40,000 people took part in 2014, and a week of Last Post activities will take place from 20-26 April 2015. For more information visit â—? www.superact.org.uk/thelastpost 11
School NEWS GOING FORTH here’s no stopping the West London Free School it T seems. The WLFS charitable trust has been given the green light by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to open a new primary school in September of next year. Like the trust’s other two schools, the Kensington Primary Academy will educate children with a focus on a core of academic subjects complemented by art, music, drama and competitive sport. Thirty six children will be admitted to the nursery and 30 into reception each year, with the school reaching capacity by 2022. It will be located in the new development at the corner of Warwick Road and Kensington High Street. Toby Young, the CEO of the West London Free School charitable trust, said: “I believe that all children should have access to a classical liberal education, regardless of background or ability. That approach has proved very popular with parents in West London and the Kensington Primary Academy will be our fourth school.”
STANDING TALL bingdon School have commissioned a new artwork A from sculptor Matthew Lane Sanderson that will stand 10m tall and span the three floors of the school’s new Science Centre. The sculpture, which has been to combine art and science, has been made possible through a donation from a former pupil. Lane Sanderson’s design, which was chosen from 63 applications, is to be installed by the end of the year. It will rise through the stairwell depicting Biology then Physics and finally Chemistry on each of the
corresponding floors. Made from recycled zinc coated steel and enamel, the artwork illustrates a range of scientific themes from nuclear fusion to the tree of life. Talking about his creation Lane Sanderson said:, “Standing as tall as a three-storey house and over a ton in weight, this sculpture could be considered Big! Whilst its purpose and obvious presence will be clear, it will hold some secrets also. I hope all who visit the Science Centre may enjoy both the visual and cerebral challenge presented for years to come.” ● www.abingdon.org.uk
ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / News
rom September 2016, King’s College School, Wimbledon, will take boys aged 11 into its senior school for the first time. The decision, approved by the school’s governing body at the end of last year, enables the school to admit up to 44 boys aged 11, creating two new senior school forms of 20-22 boys each. Head Master Andrew Halls said: “At the moment it is very difficult for a boy from a state school to find a way into King’s below the age of 16. We want to open the door wider, and the first thing this means is to have a significant entry point at 11+ straight into our senior school. But we know this also means we must develop the means to offer support for wider access. We have created a bursary fund of over £3m in recent years – but we have much further to go.” The first entry tests for up to 44 11+ places into the senior school will be held in January 2016. ● www.kcs.org.uk
SCRUM SCHOLARSHIP hrist’s Hospital have launched a rugby C scholarship in honour of one its sporting stars. Joe Launchbury is an English rugby union forward who plays for Premiership side London Wasps. He represents England at international level and previously played for the under-18s and under-20s before making his Test debut in 2012. He left Christ’s Hospital five years ago.
Joe Launchbury often finds time in his busy schedule to drop in for surprise visits to his old school to inspire and enthuse the rugby players. He recently said: “Christ’s Hospital is unique and I feel privileged to have gone to such an amazing school. As I stepped off the team coach before a Fiji match and the team was snaking through the crowd, there was a sudden shout of ‘Housey’! (Christ’s Hospital’s nickname).
PIG STAY edales School has welcomed four curly-tailed residents in the form of B ten-week-old Oxford Sandy and Black pigs. The porcine pupils arrived last week as new additions to the Outdoor Work animal husbandry programme. Year 9 pupils will be responsible for caring for the pigs, including feeding, watering and
I instantly turned and there was just time to shake an extended hand. I did not know him – he was of a different generation – but in that moment we were joined and we both knew we shared something special.” The Joe Launchbury Rugby Scholarship will be awarded to a promising and highly talented young rugby player. The scholar awarded would benefit from financial assistance towards a world-class education. ● www.christs-hospital.org.uk
cleaning out the pigs as part of their Outdoor Work course which is unique to Bedales. Commenting on the pig’s arrival, Andrew Martin, the new Head of Outdoor Work, said: “We have chosen the Oxford Sandy and Black breed as they are known for being docile and hardy.A breeding programme will soon follow which will allow students to experience and fully appreciate the life cycle of animals from farm to fork.” ● www.bedales.org.uk
School News Easter revision
Schools out hen Lord Wandworth College made Saturday morning school W optional, expectations for attendance were no doubt low yet 90% of pupils are choosing to attend. Maybe this is because the school chose to replace normal academic lessons with an enrichment programme of clubs, activities and extension lessons. The activities are divided into three areas Curiosity, Creativity and Consolidation and include subjects as diverse as cryptography, history debating, gadget engineering, film-making and Kung Fu.
helsea Independent College has launched a new C Easter Revision Course to enable students to get ahead for the summer exams. The college has a new flexible programme in which students can choose a 20-hour AS or A2 course - or both - or a GCSE course, in key subjects. The courses will repeat over three weeks. Or students could also choose to do one intensive subject per week over the whole holiday period. The revision courses are run on a similar basis to our teaching courses. They concentrate on three key areas: improving understanding of key topics, raising awareness of the key skills and knowledge that examiners are looking for and finally, improving examination technique. They are tailored to the smartphone generation consisting of small, intensive classes with a comprehensive focus on the common core of techniques and topics, takeaway zip-files of notes, and individualised confidence-building advice with highly-experienced tutors. ● www.chelseaindependentcollege.com
A school spokesman said: “Ultimately we believe that education is about so much more than academic lessons. This programme has been designed to help our pupils become more inquisitive learners – and not just in the classroom. As a character school, we want to help prepare them for life beyond LWC. Employers are not only interested in an applicant’s qualifications but are also concerned that they have developed the right thinking, creative and communications skills. ● www.lordwandworth.org
ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / News
or more than 40 years, MPW has understood that when it comes to a good education, one size does not necessarily fit all. Which is why the sixth-form college is this year introducing the University of London International Foundation Programme at MPW London. MPW is one of only two institutions in the UK approved to teach this foundation programme. MPW offers a wide range of A-Level and GCSE courses offering students moving into the sixth form the flexibility to take subjects that most interest them. Classes are taught in a maximum of eight students With their tailored support, focus on A-Levels and independent learning, sixth -form colleges such as MPW can aid the transition from school to university which requires a level of self-sufficiency a world away from the cotton-wool-wrapped idyll of school life. ● www.mpw.ac.uk
STAR SAILOR androyd pupils were excited to welcome S the most successful sailor in Olympic history, Sir Ben Ainslie CBE, to their school to formally open the new sports hall. The new building includes gymnastic equipment, badminton courts, four indoor cricket nets, dance, football, indoor hockey and netball
facilities, plus access to the indoor swimming pool. Headmaster, Martin Harris, also presented the school’s new development plans, which include a memorial cloister, a new studio and renovated sports pavilion. The Memorial Cloister will link the old house and main teaching block, theatre and sports hall. It will include stone plaques commemorating the lives of all Old Sandroydians who fought and died in conflict, particularly in the two World Wars. ● www.sandroyd.org
LUNAR LANDING he moon landed at Wellesley House when rare samples of moon rocks T and a collection of impressive meteorites visited the school. Pupils were able to get up close and personal with some hand-sized meteorites, enabling students to touch a real piece of space including a 1.2 billion-year-old piece of Mars and a 4.3
billion-year-old nickel meteorite. The lunar samples, provided by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) were collected in the late 1960s and early 1970s during some of NASA’s first manned space missions to the Moon. STFC’s Chief Executive Officer, Professor John Womersley said: “It’s an unforgettable experience to be able to hold such an important part of science history.” ● www.wellesleyhouse.org
CHALLENGE! The deputy head behind Godolphin and Latymer’s new ‘resilience’ programme says the sky’s the limit for her pupils. W o r d s A M A N D A C O N S TA N C E
es, it’s my baby”. Anna Paul says these words with the fierce pride of a new mum. But she’s not talking about a mewling infant but the inaugural Challenge Your Limits week she has just presided over at Godolphin & Latymer where she is deputy head. “It’s has been a week of action, energy, determination, inspiration – and, of course, challenges for all!” says Paul. The jam-packed week of events took place at the end of February with the aim of promoting resilience amongst Godolphin’s high-performing girls.
Events included talks for both girls and parents from Childnet about internet safety and the dangers of social media. Hitgirl, the aerobics company held workouts for pupils, parents and staff. Richard Moore, an associate of the Charlie Waller Trust spoke to girls and staff on the topic of mental health, there were drop-in meditation and mindfulness classes for pupils and staff. A backwards bike - which moves forwards but has counterintuitive levers and controls -provided many laughs and a mental workout. The Middle School (years 10 & 11) learnt how to Knit for Peace.
LEFT GODOLPHIN PUPILS AT WORK IN THE SCIENCE LAB
The idea of the middle school pastoral team - who not only obtained needles and wool for more than 200 girls but then cast on (25 stiches a time) for every pupil - the aim was for every girl to make a square of a blanket that would then be sent to a war-torn country. Highlights included a talk from RAF pilot and Old Dolphin Kate Frayling, a screening of Girl Rising, a film about the global campaign group for women’s education. And then the ultimate can-do girl, Clare Balding gave a speech on keeping the Olympic spirit alive to a sellout crowd of pupils, staff and parents. And all this was the brainchild of a brand-new, 32-year-old deputy head who only started in her role last September. “I told the head that this was something that really matters to me in my interview for the post,” laughs Paul. As to why it matters so much, Paul simply says that after ten years teaching both boys and girls “it’s just a real instinctive wish to do it for the students, it’s about ensuring they are happy.” One spark was the True Grit conference on emotional wellbeing held at King’s College School Wimbledon last spring. (see page 38) but Paul says she’s has always felt strongly about the subject. “Coming to G&L I wanted girls to feel a sense of courage about what they do, not to be scared of failing. Girls feels such a sense of pressure to be perfect yet the truth is that successful people have often failed a number of times." There is also, she says, so much evidence now that emotional resilience
ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Feat ure
can be taught. Richard Moore, for example, was asked to come in and teach the girls practical strategies to cope with life. But how does Paul know all this at such a young age? “I just know you need these skills to do well – you need to look after yourself and be resilient in your mind. I’ve had bumps along the way but I’ve now got the most fantastic job in the whole world. I think my resilience has enabled me to do what I do in quite a short time.” And Paul isn’t stopping there. She wants Challenge Your Limits to be the springboard that sees a whole raft of new introductions to the G&L curriculum. The week of events had a distinctly holistic flavor with yoga, mindfulness and meditation available for everybody. “We are trying to look at every single angle: sleep, exercise, eating, taking good care of yourself in every way” and Paul wants to embed this in to the curriculum. Yr11 already do yoga classes and and Headspace who run the wildly successful mindfulness app have been
Coming to G& L I wanted girls to feel a sense of courage about what they do ANNA PAUL Deputy Head, Godolphin & Latymer
ABOVE YOUNG FILM-MAKERS GET CREATIVE
in touch and G&L wants to work with them on meditation classes for pupils. Paul is also mindful not to bore the pupils with the ‘R’ word too much. “We hope to have a resilience programme by the next academic year but my concern is not to become too repetitive. We must stagger what we teach. So, for example, Year 7 will look at overcoming personal challenges but for the older girls we’ll run classes on resilience to social media and consumerism.” And Paul isn’t stopping there. She has also started Lean In symposiums (in reference to Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg’s exhortation that women need to ‘lean in’ to the corporate world a little more). The girls, says Paul, have a very “idealised notion of the working world. We discuss this in school. They are
acutely aware of the challenges of the generations that have gone before them.” Paul is very keen to foster the leaders of tomorrow. “I went to Habs Girls (Haberdasher’s Aske’s School for Girls) – we were all told there – you will be the leaders of the future. I want to enable women to take up leadership roles if that’s what they want to do.” “Another great passion of mind is that need to support each other – we must get women to back each other and promote other women. If we don’t achieve that, we won’t get anywhere. So much of what women do is heroic.”
AMANDA CONSTANCE Editor, Absolutely Education
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FLYING HIGH Reinvigorated by a new headmistress, Westonbirt is looking to inspire its pupils for the future W o r d s A M A N D A C O N S TA N C E Ph o t o g ra p h y NIGEL HUDSON
he girls come tumbling out of the door like longlegged puppies. Momentarily embarrassed and apprehensive, within minutes they are at ease in their new roles, chatting, giggling and thoroughly overexcited. These are our cover girls, five fifth-formers at Westonbirt school in Gloucestershire who have been yanked out of their classrooms and asked to parade for the photographer in front of their school. It is a freezing cold late January day; none of them have coats on and they couldn’t be less bothered. Wrapped in my winter coat, my maternal instincts are prickling and I’m concerned they are getting cold. ‘God, don’t worry,’ laughs the marketing manager Lucy, ‘they stay out for hours on the lax pitch and don’t feel a thing.’ And so the girls strut their stuff. They run, jump, laugh and play for the camera. Very
quickly they work out what’s wanted, they organise their own stage direction, work in unision and get the shot we are after. Watching the five of them, best of friends, unaffected and grinning from ear to ear, I am struck by how, if this had been me and my friends from my turbo-charged London girls’ school, we would have been so busy preening, pouting and agonising over every moment we wouldn’t have enjoyed it for a minute whereas these girls are simply having a blast. But then Westonbirt couldn’t feel further from London. The school itself is an imposing
The five best friends are totally unselfconscious and grinning from ear to ear
ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Feat ure
EMBRACING INDIVIDUALITY An incredibly friendly and high-achieving boarding & day school in the leafy Surrey Hills for students aged 13 -18.
For more information, or to arrange a visit, call 01483 273666 or Email email@example.com
ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Feat ure
Victorian manor built in the Jacobean style as the country seat of the Holford family. The honey-coloured building sits in immaculate grounds, the perfect backdrop for any photoshoot. It is now an independent boarding and day school for girls of 11-18; with only 220 pupils it’s a small school – there is also now a prep school next door. Patricia Stevenson, the school's director of admissions, says its size is an advantage. “We are like a family, it’s a happy place and everyone has to get on.” The classes are also small, 15-20 on average but for GCSE and A-Level subjects there can be as little as seven or eight pupils. This means there’s “lots of attention for the girls in the middle of the academic spectrum,” says Stevenson.
Westonbirt has never had a reputation as an academic powerhouse. I’d always associated it with nice young gels and minor royals, maybe because Highgrove is up the road. My talkative taxi driver tells me the mainline station car park at Kemble houses more pricey cars than any in southern England. This is well-heeled Gloucestershire after all. I spot plenty of signet rings on pinkies at the school, but there’s a healthy mix of pupils, with many international faces, too.
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“It’s a lovely place to grow up, girls have an inner confidence but not an arrogance,” says Stevenson. And she appears to be right, when I arrive at the school's grand entrance I’m welcomed with friendly smiles from sixth-formers, who are allowed to dress in suits, and staff who seem to have been happily ensconced at the school forever. There's no denying the surroundings are uber-smart, the school is a mini-stately home, but throughout my day I never see any accompanying airs and graces, just girls who seem to be very comfortable in their own skins. Absolutely Education is here for the school’s Inspiring Women day, a careers event designed for the sixth form. It includes a morning of talks from Old Girls plus an afternoon of ‘Critical Thinking’ courtesy of the University of Sheffield. The event is the brainchild of Ann Dunn, the school’s lively careers and further education adviser. Dunn has been at Westonbirt for more than 20 years and “has an amazing depth of knowledge about the old girls” according to head mistress Natasha Dangerfield. Both Dangerfield and Dunn wanted to get the pupils really excited about their futures and “we needed someone to spark that interest”, says Dangerfield. And who better, she says, than “the younger generation of Old Girls” who had recently left. What they had to say about the working world would have far more impact than any teacher’s opinion.
TOP OLD GIRL HERMIONE HARBUTT SPEAKS AT THE CAREERS SEMINAR
RIGHT SIXTH FORMERS TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS
Westonbirt has long been associated with nice young gels and minor royals 23
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It's a lovely place to grow up, girls have an inner confidence but not an arrogance
Dunn corralled the troops. “She’s just great,” says Dangerfield. “She keeps in touch with them all. If you are phoned up by someone who used to teach you you are unlikely to say no.” Each Old Girl speaks for about 20 minutes in front of a seated sixth form. Some have professional presentations, some don’t; the atmosphere is relaxed and informal. There are threads of commonality in the experiences the speakers describe. The power of networking,
how important it is to develop your skills, how even lowly temping can be a great way to test the waters of a certain career and decide whether it is for you. The Old Girls have gone on to a variety of careers. Ex-head girl, Charlotte Boyes is now a qualified vet studying for a postgraduate certificate in Veterinary Business and Claire Galer has devised an award-winning product range for riders. Cordelia Gover was once a PA to the boss of Radio 1, survived breast cancer at 32 and has
TOP SIXTH FORMERS ALLEGRA SEYMOUR AND EMILY BROOKS
set up her own design company. Hermione Harbutt owns her own business creating couture bridal and red carpet accessories. She admits she had no idea what she wanted to do following a psychology degree until she started making jewellery. She says the Young Enterprise scheme at Westonbirt “will be vital to you” – to assembled groans from the audience. But more importantly she says, “All the skills you gain at Westonbirt mean you can apply yourself and learn what you need to make a success.” Natasha Seal, also a previous head girl, went on to run the lacrosse team at St Andrews where she read French and Social Anthropology. She is now training to be a solicitor. Whilst doing her finals she commuted two hours each way to Perthshire to learn to fly and she says it’s this item on her CV that every potential employer has focused on at interview, not the grades and the degree. “They want to know about your other experiences, travel, volunteer work – the ‘character stuff’.” Old Girl Georgie Lee, who came back to work at the school as a housemistress before getting a job in London is perhaps the most eloquent: “Whatever the future holds, I know that I had a good grounding at Westonbirt which encouraged me to broaden my horizons and grasp my independence with both hands.” At the end of the morning session I strike up a conversation with Karen Olsen, who attended the school in the 1960s. She says the school is unrecognisable from then. “It was very archaic and the teaching wasn’t great.” It was just a nice place for young ladies – “we didn’t think of our future so much as the girls have to now”. Olsen admits 25
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the school probably wouldn’t have had a careers talk even 10 years ago. Now she says the school is “really inspirational for young women”. Much of this she lays at the door of head Natasha Dangerfield; “She really does want them to be happy, first and foremost.” And here we get to the rub. The real reason for this careers day. The reason Tatler editor Kate Reardon hogged headlines for Westonbirt last year and Joanna Lumley visited the school for speech day and the school is sponsoring two ‘girl power’ events at Bath Literary Festival are because of Natasha Dangerfield.
Natasha Dangerfield has shaken up the school and dragged it into the 21st century
Since joining Westonbirt two years ago, she has, by all accounts, reinvigorated the school. Or as she puts it “I’ve shaken things up and dragged it into the 21st century. It was a bit sleepy.” Dangerfield is unashamedly ditching Westonbirt’s finishing school reputation and raising the school’s profile. There’s a big marketing drive – hence our visit and the sponsorship of the Bath Literary Festival – and a conscious push to broaden horizons. Dangerfield is a real cracker; an obvious tour de force, in person she’s warm, dynamic and personable. “I am a very positive person,” she says. “With me the cup is always half full.” She’s very keen to be a good role model to the girls and says, “I can have a conversation with each and every girl. I make an effort to get to know them.” She obviously feels very strongly about inspiring her pupils to be the best that they can. It’s important because,
TOP CAREERS ADVISER ANN DUNN ADDRESSES THE SIXTH FORM GIRLS
LEFT NATASHA DANGERFIELD, HEADMISTRESS OF WESTONBIRT
she says, “Girls need to be resilient, they need to leave school with more than a pocketful of exam results.” Not everyone can be an academic marvel and she wants her girls leaving Westonbirt with “communication skills, good manners and well-rounded characters”. Character education is all the rage right now, but nobody could accuse Dangerfield of jumping on a bandwagon. Her own educational background is in PE and she believes sport has a huge role to play in a girl’s confidence. And she spent seven years at Gordonstoun, the alma mater of all things hearty, where she rose from housemistress to head of pastoral care. But, what about all this I ask? The imposing school, formal grounds and carefree girls – surely this isn’t the real world? “Not it isn’t,” agrees Dangerfield “and that’s a positive thing, it’s a safe environment where we can nurture the girls but we keep it real by letting them know what’s out there.” To this extent, Dangerfield has completely redesigned the PSHE curriculum and called it ‘Skills for Life’ . There are, she says, "the same conversations about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” but they also study Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Mindfulness is now on the Y8 curriculum. She has shaken up assessments, increased the size of the prefect body and given pupils a stronger student voice with more councils. The school is also now an iPad school with full WiFi. “We are finally tech’d up,” Dangerfield says with a laugh. “It may be an 19th century building but the girls aren’t stuck in the 19th century,” she admonishes. “And whether we want to or not, we have to keep up.” With a head with this much chutzpah at the helm, I have no doubt that this small jewel of a school will.
AMANDA CONSTANCE Editor, Absolutely Education
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THE MAKING OF ME
EVE BEST The actress on her bluestocking days at Wycombe Abbey What was your proudest achievement? v Leaving a bucket of cigarette stubs under my bed and not getting caught. What was the most trouble you got into? v See above. What is your most vivid memory of your time there? v Our headmistress saying “Do sit down” at school assemblies in the manner of the Queen asking us to tea. Were you too cool for school? Not remotely. I was a bluestocking too square to care. I was a school prefect, though a fairly rubbish one. Where did you go to school and when? v Wycombe Abbey during the Eighties. Did you love it or hate it? v I was very homesick till O-Levels, then I loved the sixth-form. What was your favourite subject or activity there? v English, drama, singing. Who was your favourite – or most influential - teacher? v Mrs Wilmott and Mrs Garrett inspirational teachers who introduced me to Shakespeare. What beliefs do you think that particular school instilled in you? v At the end of every term our head mistress Miss Lancaster read out St Paul's Letter to the Philippians: “ Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Would you send your own children there? v To spend that much time in nature and away from London - yes. I loved the grace and decency and discipline that our headmistress embodied and encouraged. I wonder if it still exists there now. I also loved the all-female environment which can be so nurturing and empowering for young women, without the complications that the masculine energy brings with it. Did you become involved in acting while you were there? v Yes - though being tall I was most often cast in the boys roles. I became a master at tying bow ties. Was there anything else that shaped the performer in you at the time? v I’d been in three W11 Operas (a children's opera company in Notting Hill) before I went to boarding school and played Joseph in The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat so I already had a love of performing in my bones.
My proudest achievement? Leaving a bucket of cigarette stubs under my bed and not getting caught
What effect do you think your schooling had on your character? Did it change you? v I don't feel we can be changed fundamentally - only our attention can be directed down different paths at different times in our lives. Wycombe certainly focused my attention on academic work; more importantly it gave me the permission and confidence to do the other things I wanted to do. Whether acting in or directing plays, conducting choirs or editing magazines - I felt pretty fearless in many ways. I look back on that confidence with gratitude and admiration - it's a good reminder when things get messy. There's been lots of slipping around in the mud since then. How did it influence the rest of your life and career? v It instilled in me what might now be called good old fashioned British values - decency, honour, hard work, good manners, respect for others, responsibility, modesty; also a deep love of language and literature, nature and music. It gave me some truly great friends - strong, beautiful, intelligent women. Anyone I meet now who is/ was a Wycombe Abbey girl feels like a sister. What are you doing now? v I’m an actor and director working mainly in classical theatre and I'm setting up my own theatre company. How would you sum up your schooldays in five words? “Whatsoever things are of good-report.”
EVE BEST is a stage and screen actress and director
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OF ART Stonyhurt College is not only a public school but also home to an amazing collection of historical artefacts Wo rd s ANDREW JOHNSON
o the staircases move?” asked a young Harry Potter fan, hopefully, on his first visit to Stonyhurst. We had to disappoint him on that score, although there are many other features reminiscent of Hogwarts at Stonyhurst. An impressive sight awaits as you travel up the long straight drive towards the college; looming into view, the imposing façade of the UK’s second biggest Grade I-listed building. Inside Stonyhurst’s walls, however, there is the enthusiasm, warmth and energy of a forward-looking establishment that also happens to be steeped in history. Stonyhurst began in Saint-Omer, northern France, where it was founded by the Jesuits in 1593. As a Jesuit school, Stonyhurst belongs to a 450 year old tradition established by St Ignatius Loyola: he had founded 46 schools and universities before his death in 1556, making the Jesuits the schoolmasters of Europe. In the 16th century they were ahead of their time as educators, sharing best practice in their teaching, always striving for excellence,
Artefacts at Stonyhurst include Mary Queen of Scot's prayer book and St Thomas More’s crucifixes and above all seeking to inspire their pupils. Their systematic, holistic approach shaped much of western education for the next three centuries and its success continues today. In order to inspire their pupils, Jesuit colleges across Europe built up important collections of artefacts, both sacred and secular, to support the teaching of a wideranging curriculum. Stonyhurst has a remarkable collection of artefacts from all over the world. Jesuit missionaries, doctors, hospital workers and teachers travelled to every part of the globe, and brought back thousands of fascinating and diverse objects, such as an Egyptian mummy, Indian moccasins, an astrolabe, Chinese art, Guyanese and Zulu ornaments. Sacred objects have also been entrusted to Stonyhurst for safekeeping since the time
of the Reformation, including Mary Queen of Scots’ prayer book, St Thomas More’s crucifix (and even his hats) and illuminated manuscripts. Embroidered vestments include a chasuble ordered by Henry VII, which was later taken by his son, Henry VIII to the Field of the Cloth of Gold. These eclectic items continue to be the valuable source of educational inspiration they were always intended to be, and are frequently brought out of their cases and into classrooms by our curator. They have also reached a wider audience via the BBC: Radio 4’s Shakespeare’s Restless World, for example, featured the eye relic of a Catholic priest who had been hanged, drawn and quartered. More recent history is represented too. The war photographer Tim Hetherington was educated here, and we have some of his powerful images; his most famous photograph, of an exhausted American soldier, won the 2008 World Press Photo of the Year. Tim was tragically killed during an assault on rebel forces in the Libyan city of Misrata in 2011 at the age of 40. We also have a triptych (altar piece) from El Salvador, in
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A portrait of Matteo Ricci, an Italian Jesuit who travelled to China in the 1550s and adopted the way of life. The painting is by a 19th century pupil of Stonyhurst
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Oliver Cromwell is alleged to have slept on a large oak table in the great hall in 1648
memory of Archbishop Oscar Romero; the Jesuit was assassinated in 1980 as he said Mass, for speaking out against poverty and social injustice. Stonyhurst has had a lively history. It was established to provide a Catholic education for boys from post-Reformation England and Wales at a time when such an education was impossible in their own country, and thousands of them made the perilous, clandestine journey to the continent. Events forced the school to relocate three times: to Bruges in 1762, when the King of France expelled the Jesuits
from France; then to Liege ten years later, following the suppression of the Jesuits by the Pope. When Liege was besieged by the French Revolutionary Army in 1794 it moved again, to its current location near Clitheroe in Lancashire: three Jesuits and twelve boys arrived at the Stonyhurst house and estate on 29th August, and in the subsequent 200 years Stonyhurst College has expanded and evolved to become the thriving 480-strong Catholic boarding and day school it is today. Day pupils and boarders alike are very aware of Stonyhurst’s place in history. They are literally surrounded by evidence of how people acted, lived and thought in very different circumstances; how they invented, reinvented and explored; how they stood up for what they believed in. There are several priest holes hidden within Stonyhurst’s walls and under its floorboards, an ever-present reminder of the cost of recusant Catholicism. The explorer and scientist Charles
One of Tim Hetherington’s signature photographs which won the premier Award at World Press Photo 2008: A soldier of Second Platoon, Battle Company of the Second Battalion of the US 503rd Infantry Regiment sinks onto an embankment in the Restrepo bunker at the end of the day. The Korengal Valley was the epicenter of the US fight against militant Islam in Afghanistan and the scene of some of the deadliest combat in the region.
LEFT AWARD-WINNING PHOTOJOURNALIST TIM HETHERINGTON, A FORMER STUDENT OF STONYHURST
RIGHT ONE OF THE OLDEST GLOBES IN THE WORLD. THIS ONE WAS MADE IN INDIA IN 1623
Waterton attended Stonyhurst as a pupil in the 1790s, and is credited with laying the foundations of modern anaesthetics through his scientific experiments. Oliver Cromwell is alleged to have slept on a large oak table in the great hall, en route to the battle of Preston in 1648. In the same hall hang portraits of the seven alumni awarded the Victoria Cross in the First and Second World Wars. Stonyhurst has a strong literary heritage too, having many associations with great writers: Arthur Conan Doyle was educated here, and his name can be seen, etched into a desk; Stonyhurst was almost certainly the inspiration for Baskerville Hall, and an eerie avenue of yew trees in the grounds is strikingly similar to the murder scene of Sherlock Holmes’ Hound of the Baskervilles. JRR Tolkien, whose sons attended Stonyhurst, visited frequently and the local landscapes resonate in his books; Gerard Manley Hopkins attended Stonyhurst seminary (which is now the prep school) as a young Jesuit and wrote some of his poetry here. The Jesuit heritage is apparent in every day school life at Stonyhurst, as a distinctive, 400 year-old terminology remains: academic year groups congregate in Playrooms, from the Jesuits’ emphasis on the value of 33
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Stonyhurst has a strong literary heritage: Arthur Conan Doyle was a pupil and JRR Tolkien visited his sons here drama, public-speaking and debating in education. (A Shakespeare first folio has recently been discovered in Saint-Omer, left behind in the school’s hurried departure. Well-thumbed and copiously annotated, it was evidently a working copy, used in the Jesuits’ frequent play rehearsals.) Each year is named, not by number, but as an aspect of language, such as Grammar, RIGHT THE SCHOOL'S CURATORS AT WORK
LEFT FR EDWARD OLDCORNE'S EYE. HE WAS HANGED AFTER THE REFORMATION
BOTTOM A PRINT BY ALBRECHT DURER THAT BELONGS TO STONYHURST
Syntax, Poetry, culminating in Rhetoric, which is year 13. For all its idiosyncrasies and fascinating past, Stonyhurst is rooted in the real world. Our pupils appreciate their good fortune to be educated in this beautiful and inspirational setting, and whole-heartedly engage with Stonyhurst’s tradition of serving others. The Jesuits have always upheld the importance of social justice - of solidarity with the poor and disadvantaged, expressed in action, not just words, and pupils understand that education is not just for the recipient, but for the greater good. Consequently, year groups work together to raise funds for the school’s various charities, such as the Stonyhurst Children’s Holiday Trust, where sixth formers care for children from local special schools over a week every summer. We also regularly visit, and raise money for, our partner schools in Zimbabwe and Everton, and have supported an education project in Zanzibar, local food banks and shelters for the homeless with donations and voluntary work.
Education should be inspirational. Intellectual growth, challenge and development have everything to do with being open to, and curious about, a plethora of different things. Education is something well beyond the pursuit of exam grades alone (important though they are), and about so much more than data and statistics. Stonyhurst provides the intellectual challenge long associated with a Jesuit education. It may be a 400-year-old school with lots of tradition and a fascinating history; but it’s a school that’s really focused on providing a high quality 21st century education for the young people of this generation. The staircases may not move but it’s still a very remarkable place to be.
ANDREW JOHNSON Headmaster of Stonyhurst College
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ONE YEAR ON On the anniversary of the school’s groundbreaking conference on pupil well-being, the Deputy Head of Pastoral Care at King’s College School, Wimbledon, on how it is still having a worldwide effect Wo rd s R O B E R T M I L N E
hilst the concept for the ‘True Grit’ conference took time to emerge, being borne out of our growing desire to raise the profile of mental health in young people, once we went to print with the event brochures, interest from colleagues in other schools, higher education institutions, medical professionals and parents was quick to come and overwhelming in volume. We were inundated with calls to attend and our programme of speakers grew week by week as people offered their services. Ultimately, the child psychologist, Professor Tanya Byron headlined the day and she, as with others such as Prof Russell Foster, remains a great campaigners for more enlightened ways of working with children. The wave of public interest and support that surged the True Grit conference along has continued its way out into other schools, professional development events and the media. At one point the echoes of the conference could be heard as far away as Port Elizabeth in South Africa, where
a local headmaster, in the regional newspaper, stated that his school and those in the area needed to take note of the developments in teenage emotional resilience research and practice, discussed at King’s College School, London. Closer to home, King’s junior school is running a sister conference entitled ‘caring to achieve’ this spring and with the fine quality of
The echoes of the conference could be heard as far away as Port Elizabeth in South Africa speakers, including Ruby Wax, a known publicist of mental health awareness, it will be a huge success. Other school conferences such as Royal Grammar School, Newcastle’s ‘Out of Character’ and Colfe School’s ‘Developing resilient minds’ continue to show that the concern for adolescent well-being and the role schools have to play in this, is still uppermost in teachers’ minds. So much so that this year’s HMC deputy heads’ conference in Glasgow, has
asked Dr Nihara Krause (adolescent psychologist), a key speaker at the True Grit conference, to headline the event. The deputy heads from the country’s leading independent schools will hear her talk about ‘Building resilience and well-being in young people.’ At King’s, we have continued to keep our pastoral work at the heart of everything we do. The conference galvanised our aims and has sharpened our approach to pupil welfare. The majority of the teaching staff at the school are also tutors, with special pastoral oversight of approximately 12 pupils, during their time with us. We have worked hard in recent months to maintain the same high quality of professional development we gained from the researchers and practitioners at the True Grit conference. Recent developments in staff knowledge have been on matters such as ‘perfectionism,’ ‘adversity’ and ‘competition.’ We tend to have a format at King’s that all invited speakers will talk not only to the pupils, but also to the staff and parents. In this way, we promote a sense of shared responsibility in the bringing up of every child and developing a true community that is learning about emotional resilience and well-being together. With the advent of the school’s ‘parent pastoral web pages’ we have been able to make all our pastoral information available to everyone; an action that not only makes us all wiser, but offers a sense of togetherness in our recognition that we are all doing our best to cope with the same
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Traits of ‘resilient and happy’ children at King’s. They are involved in a meaningful manner over a sustained period of time with school/house/form events. They become mindful of themselves and their emotional response to change. The triangle of home (parents), teacher and pupil works effectively, as a team, to support the pupil’s progress. They foster positive and ongoing relationships with their teachers (adults) and friends. They maintain personal routines such as sleep patterns, eating, exercise and finding the time to rest in a calm environment. In essence, they invest in all aspects of themselves. They have a voice and a sense of influence in decision making at home and school. They are praised appropriately and encouraged to recognise their qualities by teachers and parents.
ever-changing challenges. Part of this publication of pastoral information and aims has been the drawing up of the ’10 traits of a resilient and happy King’s pupil,’ an exercise that has allowed us all to reconsider the behaviour and habits of our pupils, encouraging us all to see the value of them, like us, leading a balanced life. The relationship with parents has always been a close one at King’s: we are fortunate to have a caring and supportive body of people willing to help us with the education of their children. The conference, however, allowed us to make our core pastoral principles more public and this has certainly encouraged greater feedback and involvement from parents. Of late, we have continued to build on the range of talks and experts we provide: recent innovations plan to have even a nutritionist come in and offer cookery workshops for families, showing how diet can help with a child’s mood, sleep patterns, energy and concentration. Whilst many of the approaches to pastoral care at King’s are in response to new and compelling research and expert support from our trusted counselling team, much of what we do is traditional and rooted in instinct and years of experience in schools. At heart, all pupils want to feel trusted, recognised, supported and encouraged.
The conference encouraged greater feedback and involvement from parents at the school
ABOVE PROF TANYA BYRON SPEAKING AT LAST YEAR'S EVENT
BELOW THE HEAD MASTER ANDREW HALLS INTRODUCES THE DAY
Every child will want these needs met in different ways and every teacher will have a different manner of fostering a great relationship with their pupils- this sense of diversity, good humour and innovation in approach is what makes working in a school such fun. And fun, lest we forget it, gets us through almost anything. So what next? Competition is an area of pupils’ lives that seems a natural development of the emotional resilience theme. Some children thrive on it and some falter, but they all experience it and are acutely aware of it. This could be the theme of a sequel to True Grit, ‘Competition: the good, the bad and the ugly.’
They learn to be kinder to themselves and accept being ‘good enough’ in their perfectionist aspirations. They learn to sustain efforts and independently, as well as with teacher guidance, respond effectively to perceived failures. They learn to share their feelings in a calm and productive manner.
ROBERT MILNE Deputy Head of Pastoral Care at King’s College School, Wimbledon
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THE MAKING OF ME
NATASHA RUFUS ISAACS
Being made Head of Stationery Cupboard in the sixth-form is a still a running joke in my family
The co-founder of ethical fashion label, Beulah London, on her Gloucestershire schooldays
❖ It taught me self-confidence and selfbelief. To this day I still have some very good friends from my time there. How did it influence your life and career? Did you ever imagine you would go into the fashion business? ❖ I don’t think it influenced my career. My parents influenced me more so in that sense. I never imagined I would go into fashion – I always thought I’d end up working for an art gallery or do something within the arts.
Where did you go to school and when? ❖ I went to Westonbirt School in 1996 when I was 12 years old What sort of school was it? ❖ It’s an all-girls school, day and boarding. It was old fashioned, and quite small – at the time there were only around 30 girls in my year.
What are you doing now? ❖ I set up Beulah London with Lavinia Brennan almost five years ago. Beulah is a luxury British brand producing beautiful silk evening and occasion wear with a conscience.
Did you love it or hate it? ❖ I loved parts of it. When I first arrived there I remember thinking how terrifying the building was and I told my mum there was no way I was going to go. My sister was there so I ended up eventually being persuaded! What was your favourite subject or activity there? ❖ I loved art – it was my favourite lesson and I would always look forward to it. Who was your favourite – or most influential - teacher? ❖ Probably my art teacher – she was always so encouraging and positive. What beliefs do you think that particular school instilled in you? ❖ To not take yourself too seriously. What was your proudest achievement? ❖ Being made Head of Stationery Cupboard during sixth form. I’m joking - but that was definitely the funniest achievement. To this day it’s still the running joke in my family. I actually used to love drama and acting and being involved in school plays, and I won a couple of Lamda distinctions during the first few years.
What are your plans for the future? ❖ To have a baby in three days! To build Beulah into a global luxury, lifestyle brand. To help women who have been trafficked and provide them with skills in which to build a better life – free from abuse.
What was the most trouble you got into? ❖ Letting some alpacas loose in the school classrooms.
How would you sum up your school days in five words? ❖ Funny, extraordinary, exhausting, frustrating, but rewarding!
What is your most vivid memory of your time there? ❖ We did Leith’s cookery school during sixth form and I remember trying to mash raw potato during one lesson. The teacher was so shocked apparently she still tells the story to this day. I can safely say I’m not the best cook! Were you too cool for school? ❖ No – not at all. I definitely didn’t take myself too seriously! Would you send your own children there? ❖ If I lived nearby, then possibly. What effect do you think your schooling had on your character?
LEFT A BEULAH DRESS FROM THE SPRING/ SUMMER 2015 COLLECTION
NATASHA RUFUS ISAACS is the co-founder of the luxury label with a conscience, Beulah London
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APPROACH Natalie Verbo explains why multi-sensory learning can be more beneficial for SEN pupils than traditional methods. W o r d s N ATA L I E V E R B O
he very title 'Multisensory learning' might bring to mind images of some of the more experimental, avant-garde teaching techniques more associated with schools such as Montessori or Steiner, or even notions of fashionable 1960s child-centred theories, but the approach is more common than you would think, and with the world of work and modern life changing so much, could it be the sort of thing you could apply yourself at home with your children? Traditional â€œchalk and talkâ€? teaching where a teacher stands in the front of the class and addresses silent children is most likely how you and I learned. While no-doubt useful for learning essential facts, having moved on from the industrial age and knowing much more about the ways we learn, there are better ways of having children assimilate information and techniques. You might even be familiar with some of these approaches yourself, as many organisations and businesses take into account the different ways in which people learn. Children are no different. In fact, itâ€™s even more important given
ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Feat ure
how impressionable they are at such a young age. “Multisensory learning is not only the best way of learning for SEN pupils but all pupils can benefit too. Once students start multisensory learning they are more engaged in lessons and see learning as fun rather than the typical pen and paper-based exercise. Their confidence grows as they engage with their learning.” , says Claire Bredahl, SENco and Director of Learning, Abingdon House School. Multi-sensory learning (MSL) is the practice of using more than one sense to learn a new skill. For example, reading out 4+4, then counting out four objects (could be sweets, apples, counters, pencils) and then counting four more to arrive at the answer of eight. We’re all familiar with this, but the idea can be extended to other ways of connecting the different senses to learn something. Before learning how to write on paper with a pencil, children might explore with shaving foam and their fingers to write numbers and letters. Using more than more sense increases understanding of new concepts, concrete examples such as one apple plus two apples when there are physical apples in the room is much more meaningful that a word problem that is talking about theoretical apples. Applying the same idea with our understanding of how people learn through the visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic (tactile) styles, the possibilities of introducing this into learning are limitless. Many of the schools and specialists I meet in the special needs sector are particularly good at using a multi-sensory approach in all of their lessons, utilising tactile learning materials, music, games,
NATALIE VERBO’S Tips for creating multi-sensory learning experiences at home for children of all ages and needs… Create a number line out of chalk on the ground and have your child stand on a number and roll a die to add to, or subtract from that number. Use different mathematical words such as plus, minus, take away, add etc. Use shaving foam, rice or a sand tray to draw numbers and letters. Use play-doh to spell out words. Write down (or get your child to) words you are adding to your child’s vocabulary, throw bean bags on them and call out the definitions when you hit the word (can apply to science, geography, any subject for that matter!) Create a song about a history or science topic. ‘Remember, remember…' Make a model to better understand sizes and shapes, and relationships between different things.
physical exercises and of course traditional reading and writing. The same is true for the best prep schools, especially in the early years. “The wonderful thing about multi-sensory teaching approaches and learning is that it meets the needs of not just those pupils who have additional learning needs, but can successfully help all pupils more fully engage with their learning. This is compared to a more two dimensional visual-auditory learning approach that, sadly, leaves many pupils with special educational needs behind,” says Adam Meyersieck, Dyslexia expert and trainer for Firefly Education London Give some of these ideas a try yourself, and see if you can incorporate some of your child’s interests and strengths.
Traditional ‘chalk and talk’ teaching isn’t necessarily the best way to impart information
NATALIE VERBO Founder of Firefly Education
MARKET The pressure to bag a prized place at a London school has reached boiling point. The Principal of Thomas’s London Day Schools has advice on how to keep calm and carry on. Wo rd s BEN THOMAS
Pupils at Thomas's Battersea
o when will Thomas’s open a senior school, then?” It’s a question that I am asked on an almost daily basis by parents, particularly of boys aged eight or nine, when they find, to their great surprise that we have discussed in a very short space of time all of the independent senior school options available in London. Parents, who simply assumed that their children would replicate their own experience of going to a good, local day school, are astonished to discover that the 13+ options available within half an hour of their front door can often be counted on the fingers of one hand. Their astonishment turns quickly to anxiety, as they then learn that the process which their children must undertake to secure a place in one of these schools is extraordinarily competitive. All London senior schools appear to be reporting a rise in the number of applicants, with little corresponding increase in the number of places available, despite one or two notable new arrivals on the senior school scene. Many schools are seeing between three and five applicants for each place that they have. The 11+ system seems even more ferocious, with Latymer Upper
School reportedly hosting just under 1,300 pupils on their 11+ assessment day this year, for the 170 or so places available. The perception of this overheated ‘market’ is not helped by the fact that, in many cases, it is the same cohort of boys and girls being carted around London, all applying to the same schools. Understandably anxious parents seek to ‘cover their bases’ by applying to more and more schools – making the number of applicants appear greater and greater. Such downward pressure is leading to ‘panic buying’ with tutoring companies rushing in to feed on the frenzy, a rise in applications to senior schools that offer tied junior places at 7+ and 8+ (on the basis of ‘getting in early’) and our children’s childhood at very serious risk of erosion, in favour of endless preparation and teaching towards a test. One doesn’t hear of would-be independent school children roaming the streets of London looking for an education once September comes, so it is fair to assume that, after the stresses and strains of the assessment season, registration lists do eventually shake down and every child does find an education. Undeniably, though, the process has become far more competitive than it used
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ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Feat ure
My Advice Is: Keep calm Take advice from the prep school Make a plan that suits your child – even if this includes options not previously considered Do not try to turn your child into a high-functioning robot Have as much regard to your child’s social and emotional development, as to their academic progress Ban the subject of senior schools from the coffee shop and dinner table; and, above all, love your child for who they are – and make absolutely sure they know that they are so loved. Girls At Kensington Prep School In Fulham
to be and some parents, who would never thought have doing so, have had to consider for their children the many merits of the maintained sector, of boarding, weekly boarding or even moving abroad, should such a luxury be available to them. Two things have certainly changed over the years. First, a long time ago, a number of school governors took the decision to move their schools out of central London, in search of green fields and blue skies that would be good for the hearts and minds of young gentlemen. Charterhouse famously escaped from its monastic home near Smithfield in the City and moved to brand new premises in Godalming, Surrey, just as the industrial revolution took hold in the 1870s. St Paul’s took the seemingly odd (but now inspired) decision in the 1960s to give up its prime property in Hammersmith in favour of 43 acres of disused waterworks in Barnes. The logic was clear and understandable. Sadly, though,
The 11+ system in London is ferocious: Latymer Upper hosted just under 1,300 pupils on their assessment day this year as London’s population grew, few people thought to preserve large chunks of green spaces throughout the heart of the capital, for future generations of schoolchildren. (Ironically, as girls’ education was not historically given the same priority as boys’, smaller buildings survived that were deemed to be acceptable for women’s education, meaning that today’s young women have a much greater choice of independent schools in the heart of the city than their male counterparts.) Secondly, the demographic of the fee-paying population in central London has
certainly changed in recent years. In 2012, London was widely reported to be home to more French nationals than Bordeaux, making the UK capital ‘France’s sixthlargest city’. Our perspective in Battersea confirms this: with a catchment area that includes Chelsea and South Kensington, we have seen the number of pupils for whom English is not their first language rise from 9% to 14% of the school in the last two years. For such European families – and many American ones – boarding schools are where you were sent if you were particularly badly behaved or difficult to teach. For them, the concept of sending their child away to school is simply, culturally unacceptable. As one Columbian mother said to me: “I couldn’t possibly send my child to boarding school: my family back home would never speak to me again”. In such a seemingly frenzied environment, it can be very hard to maintain perspective and sanity. Nevertheless, my
In the meantime, if Thomas’s were to offer a senior education of the quality in which we believe at the preparatory stage, the answer to the original question is: when someone locates 20 acres of prime London real estate that has not already be snapped up by giant corporations building glass towers – I’d be delighted to hear from any vastly wealthy philanthropists, who share my vision of a broad, kind and socially inclusive senior education - but I’m not holding my breath.
BEN THOMAS Principal, Thomas’s London Day Schools
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ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Debate
T he Deb a t e
PRE-TESTING Just what is a pre-test? Some schools do them and some schools donâ€™t. Certainly the business of testing boys in Yr 6 or Yr 7 for entry in Yr 9 provokes strong opinions in supporters and detractors alike. One thing is for certain, given the current pressure for places at our top schools, the pre-test is here to stay. Two super-heads take up the cudgels for Absolutely Education: Andrew Halls of King's College School,Wimbledon and Dr Joe Spence, Master of Dulwich College. Let battle commence...
ANDREW HALLS Head Master, King’s College School, Wimbledon
f you wanted to invent a system that was as confusing and counterintuitive as possible, then the way we all assess boys for leading independent schools would take some beating. If you are a parent who is interested in a boarding place for your son, or a 13+ place at leading London day schools such as King’s, St Paul’s or Westminster, then this is how it works. First of all, you will be told that your son will move at the age of 13, following rigorous tests in eight different subjects – known as the Common Entrance exam. He will sit this in common with all the boys and the much smaller number of girls applying to UK boarding schools or to a number of top day schools with a major 13+ entry. So far, so sensible. Except then you will discover that the Common Entrance isn’t really very important at all. It may test everything from Latin to mathematics (and make sure your son is in for the right level!), but as your son’s prep school will no doubt tell you, the Common Entrance occurs far too late to be of any use as a genuinely selective exam. It takes place in June of Year 8, when there are
only about four school weeks left between your son and his new school. So what do the most selective schools do? They set their own test much earlier – probably in Year 6. This is the pre-test – which schools like mine feel is the only way to get somewhere near the level of fairness we all try so hard to create in our admissions process.
The pre-test does not only help selective schools - it helps parents I understand that the Common Entrance exam helps motivate the boys in their final prep school year, but with results coming in so late, we could not possibly leave our selection until then. It would mean hundreds of boys being told they did not have a place at King’s with just a month left in which to visit other schools and plead for a place – most of these other schools, of course, by then being completely full. At King’s, we have well over 400 boys sit for 60 places at 13, and to select fairly, we need to set tests that we believe allow the
boys to show us what they know and how they can apply this. Our pre-test assesses aptitude in maths, English and reasoning. We set and mark the maths and English papers ourselves: we feel such an important assessment has to represent the educational vision and character of King’s, and so we have steered clear of the new computerised 'common pre-test' taken by some schools. We look carefully at any material sent by the prep school, too, especially the head’s report and recommendations. The pre-test does not only help selective schools – it helps parents. By the spring of year 6, parents know whether their son has got a place at King’s, and if they have not, they have well over two years, rather than four weeks, in which to make other plans. And of course we also use that time to re-consider boys whose prep schools tell us they have made real progress since our pre-test. From September 2016, King’s will also take 44 boys at the age of 11 into our new Lower School. They will join the King’s community within six months of gaining their 11+ results. This means they will not need to take Common Entrance, and so we hope this alternative is more intuitive to those parents who are less familiar with the English private school system.
ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Debate
DR JOE SPENCE Master, Dulwich College
ike many London schools, we have just come to the end of an exhausting, but rewarding admissions' season. Over the last month I have interviewed 300 sets of parents, while teams of my teachers have been interviewing our prospective pupils. We have now sent out the offer letters which will lead to us adding 70 pupils to our school roll at 11+ and 70 more at 13+. We are confident almost all of those to whom we have made offers will say yes, because we have built a relationship with many of them over the last couple of years. They have been to a run of open afternoons and discovery days and information evenings and had individual meetings with a head of school. Expectations have been managed and while most of the applicants know that they are making a legitimate application, most have a place to fall back on should they not receive an offer from us. Although our admissions process requires a vast investment of time from my staff, I would not want to ease it with the introduction of pre-testing. Why? Because young people, and particularly boys, change so much between the ages of 10 and 13. I know the marketing value of securing able pupils early, but what I am interested
in is seeing boys as they are just about to enter my school, and, therefore, testing in January for September entry feels right. Preparatory schools are so called because it is their job to prepare pupils for entry to senior school. Anything which creates a culture in which children are prepared for tests earlier than the eve of exit is anathema to me; I want children to enjoy their learning rather than think, from as early as the age of eight or nine, that learning is about tests
Boys change so much between the ages of 10 & 13 and preparing for tests. Some schools are even offering pre pre-tests. How sad; poor children: pre pre-tested at eight, pre-tested at 10, tested to be kept on the boil at 11 and 12, tested for setting purposes at 13. Thus the modern educational malaise: too much testing, not enough teaching, too little learning. A move away from pre-testing would play its part in stopping the extraordinary progression of an obsession for every school to attract only the very, very ablest.
I unashamedly acknowledge that at Dulwich I am looking to offer places to boys in the top 15% of the academic ability range, and of course I want my share of boys from the top 5%, but I see a wonderful array of boys still looking for schools at 13 having enjoyed their childhood in prep school. I am proud to note that towards 50% of those to whom we made offers at 11+ this year were from families who will be in need of some form of financial assistance and often a deep bursary (more than 75% of our fees). Very few of these children have been over-coached and I want to make sure things stay like that. They need places to be available as late as possible to ensure they have had the chance to understand what a senior school is looking for; that’s largely potential, not the ability to do intellectual tricks and pass a narrowly focussed academic test. Why don’t we all look to play our part in lessening rather than heightening the sense of anxiety around schooling today? If one has faith in the value one’s school can add to the learning experience of young people and the excellence of the education offered, one becomes less obsessed with the children who will ensure that one remains at the very top of the league tables. 49
“I chose Gordonstoun for my child not just for its academic achievements but because I felt the staff truly embrace the School’s philosophy with a passion, and the students experience a rounded, challenging curriculum which will stay with them for life.” Current Parent
FUll bOaRDING FOR bOyS aND GIRlS aGeD 8-18 Gordonstoun Elgin Moray IV30 5RF T: 01343 837837 E: email@example.com
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ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Opinion
We encourage staff and pupils to do practical things to keep themselves mentally healthy
The headmistress of St James Senior Girls’ School on taking a more spiritual approach to education
t James Senior Girls’ School has been established now for 40 years and from its inception there has been a philosophical and spiritual element at the heart of the school. We consider that this aspect of our provision is just as relevant today in a world where young people’s emotional well-being is increasingly difficult to maintain. What we do also goes handin-hand with academic achievement because if our pupils are unhappy, anxious or stressed, they can’t fulfil their potential. We want to provide an environment where every girl’s talents and abilities can flourish and every girl is inspired to pursue her own interests and passions. It’s unusual to be in Year 11, 12 or 13 and not be anxious about exams but we endeavour to help our pupils put their anxieties into perspective so that they can step back and concentrate on one thing at a time rather than feeling
completely overwhelmed. We do this by giving them regular opportunities to experience stillness through meditation, mindfulness, contemplation or simply sitting silently which allows them to discover how to be at ease within themselves. We also encourage them to appreciate the importance of the present moment. In order to give pupils and staff an opportunity to reflect on how they might best care for their own well-being, we are about to hold our first ‘Five a day’ Week. Each pupil and member of staff will be asked to write down five practical things they could do regularly to keep themselves mentally healthy such as take the dog for a walk, say ‘Good Morning’ to the bus driver or sit quietly for five minutes. Another of our current initiatives is based on a ‘Learning Tree’, which takes a holistic view of learning. Up at the top, in the branches of our tree, we have the academic skills that pupils need to acquire, for example if a pupil is writing an essay she might have to ‘evaluate’ or ‘synthesise’ information. At the
bottom of our tree, in its roots, we have the emotional characteristics that are needed to succeed academically such as resilience, confidence, concentration, enthusiasm and managing distractions: particularly important in the world of the internet and mobile phones. We encourage staff to plan their lessons with the ‘Tree’ in mind to give the girls regular opportunities to use these different skills and to consider how they might develop and strengthen these characteristics. Through giving our pupils the selfconfidence to be themselves, we find that they go on to study the subjects that really interest them. The girls naturally find their own niche and genuinely embrace and support each other’s differences. Our leavers go on to read a wide variety of academic courses: they pursue everything from medicine to music technology, Sanskrit to sociology.
SARAH LABRAM Headmistress of St James Senior Girls’ School
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FRIEND Boarding no longer means losing your children for a term at a time. There are now a wealth of options available Wo r d s CHARLOT TE PH I LLI PS
t’s the price to pay for what Jane Grubb, head of Dunhurst, Bedales Prep School calls a more colourful life – that oh-so-impressive juggling act that sees frantic parents attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable by balancing childcare, meetings, house maintenance and – oh yes, fun. Cosmopolitan, buzzy and growing, London is undoubtedly a fabulously exciting place to live. When it comes to education, however, it can all be just a little too exciting. With reports of tutoring at two, exams at four plus and hideous competition to secure a place in London day schools that, until just a few years ago, would have been well
Pupils at Felsted Prep School
down aspirational parents’ wish lists until a capital-wide shortage of places ramped up their desirability, it’s perhaps not surprising that a fair few families are taking a good, hard look at whether they really want their children to go to school here. ‘In many respects … it’s quality of life that parents are looking for,’ says Jenny Burrett, headmistress of Felsted Preparatory School in Essex. ‘They don’t necessarily want their children pushed just for the academic results, they also want them to experience sport, drama, art and music.’ The result is a growing vogue for Outside at Beaudesert Park School
Londoners make up a growing proportion of those looking for a boarding-lite option boarding-based education outside the M25. Formerly a one-format option, sucking children in at the beginning of term and releasing them (occasional exeat excepted) for the holidays, many establishments now embrace the zeitgeist, allowing parents to opt for weekly boarding, stay overnight for one or more nights in the week on a regular basis or opt for an occasional one off. While full boarding is still king with 60,000 places, according to the Independent Schools Council’s 2014 Census, the numbers of families wanting more than occasional term time sightings of their children is rising fast. Last year, just under 6,000 children were flexi boarders, while a similar number opted for Monday to Friday boarding. Londoners make up a growing proportion
of those looking for a boarding-lite option, though their needs, and circumstances, can vary. Cost can undoubtedly be a factor (and with full boarding places not uncommonly costing around £30,000 a year, it’s not hard to see why) but is far from being parents’ only motivation, says Robin Fletcher, national director of the Boarding Schools’ Association. ‘I think it’s family circumstances. A lot of children now who will have started off as day pupils will be saying to their parents “I’d like to board.” And it may well be their families saying for whatever reason that they don’t think full boarding is right, but flexi boarding might well be fine.’ Schools haven’t been slow to respond. Proof that this is far more than a mere flash in the pan is provided by some unlikely sounding names, bastions of traditional full boarding, that are turning their provision on its head. Take Roedean, for example, the iconic Brighton-based girls’ school where, with weekly boarding drawing in an increasing number of locals as well as Londoners –
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ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Feat ure
Fencing at Beaudesert Park School
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Co-Educational Boarding & Day Ages 13 to 18 Est. 597AD www.kings-school.co.uk KINGS SCHOOL CANTERBURY.indd 2
ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Feat ure
A pupil relaxes at Roedean
lured by the one hour travel time that puts the school in the so-called ‘magic circle’ - the numbers of girls opting to spend just the occasional night in school are also on the rise. There, it’s an exercise in reassurance, from the train escorts for weekly boarders to the knowledge that if your daughter is staying on for an outing, match or rehearsal, she won’t be negotiating late night public transport or relying on an after hours lift. Most schools lay down a few sensible rules if only because without them, the logistics experts who coordinate catering and mass duvet washing and drying operations would most likely go completely doolally. Some ask parents for a minimum commitment. At Felsted, children sign up in advance and stay on the same set nights each week. ‘It’s your bed and your space for those nights,’ says Jenny Burrett. ‘The children know that and that stops it being an hotel situation, that wouldn’t work.’ At Dulwich Preparatory School in Cranbrook, Kent, in contrast, around 70 of the 260 children in the upper school flexi board, some for as little as one day a fortnight. It’s similar at Dunhurst, where as long as there’s a bed available (the school stockpiles jolly duvet covers, too) you can book in your child on the day itself – something that takes the stress and tension out of working lives which, these days, can see parents crossing continents pretty much at the drop of an email. And in an era when fewer people these days have a spare auntie or granny stashed away to cover for emergencies, schools’ ability to take up the slack is particularly valuable. ‘We give priority to emergencies, so if there’s a parent who’s stuck in London or
In an era when fewer people have a spare auntie to cover emergencies, flexiboarding can be a huge help for working parents whose flight is cancelled, then the priority goes to them, so it really supports families,’ says Jane Grubb. When it comes to downsides, parents might have a sneaking suspicion that when boarding is a one-off, it risks becoming a glorified sleepover, with all the high jinks that suggests. Schools, however, are way ahead of the game, going to huge lengths to ensure that children feel completely at home but making sure the work, as well as the fun and games, happens as well. ‘It’s a very nurturing environment,’ says Jenny Burrett. ‘You’ve got a very focused time for education, you get the support for prep which parents find very exhausting so there’s all that support.’ Another perennial parental concern is homesickness. In fact, it’s often the other way round, to the point where flexi boarding could be said to be the best way of training needy parents. ‘It’s like a training ground, a safe environment in which to let out the apron strings,’ says Jane Grubb. ‘Once their child comes back and tells them what they’ve done and that they’re enjoying it, almost any guilt parents may have, and their concerns, go away.’ For some, the solution is to up sticks and follow their child out of London. It’s certainly
the case at Beaudesert Park School in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire. ‘In many cases, it seems to be part of a plan – some will have grown up here or have a second home close by,’ says James Womersley, the headmaster. You can’t really blame them for being seduced by the prospect. And whether they stay put or move out, flexi boarding gives parents the freedom to enjoy family life when it suits them and know their child is being superbly cared for at school when it doesn’t. It’s a wonderful system, enthuses mother Zoe Maculan. Four of her five children flexi board at Beaudesert but on different nights, her son in year 4 on Monday, twin girls in year 5 on Tuesday and oldest son in year 6 on Thursday. The only exception is Friday when all three older children board together so nobody has to rush to get in for Saturday school. ‘It’s been amazing and I’ve not had one single problem,’ she says. Caring teachers don’t stint on the fun aspects, from hot chocolate to mystery activities every Thursday which, says her son, ‘could be anything in the world,’ They also ensure that evenings – and bedtimes – run like clockwork, as well as ticking off the acquisition of a few old school skills – like world class table manners. You end up, Zoe says, with ‘grounded, rounded’ children who love boarding but also enjoy special nights at home when she can spend more time with them. ‘We are seeing people asking whether they want their children to grow up with this constant competition or fulfill their potential in a more creative way,’ says Jenny Burrett. No wonder increasing numbers of parents – in London and elsewhere – are considering this fun-packed and flexible form of education as a way of adding a familyfriendly dimension to our frantic lives.
CHARLOTTE PHILLIPS An adviser at the Good Schools Guide Advice Service
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A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD? A-Levels, the assessment criteria will differ and it will, therefore, be necessary to teach the qualification in a different way. So, you ask, why are we getting this radical (and costly) change? Well, like many of the bright ideas that currently illuminate the education landscape, this was one of Michael Gove’s light-bulb moments, a bring-back-the-goodold-days counterblast to perceived ‘grade inflation’. One of his first statements on taking office in 2010 was: ‘We will see fewer modules and more exams at the end of two years of sixth form, and, as a result, a revival of the art of deep thought.’ So, now we have it: fewer modules,
Michael Gove’s radical changes to A-Levels have caused uproar across the education spectrum. Absolutely Education untangles the arguments Wo r d s LISA FREEDMAN
few years ago, I was sitting at a parents’ evening with my son discussing his A-Level options. His Russian teacher was encouraging – but only so far. ‘Well,’ she hesitated, ‘I think you should be able to manage the AS Level, but you might struggle a bit with A2. Why don’t you see how you get on?’ Fortunately, he followed her advice – and ended up with an A* in his A-Level. The point of this story is not simply that I’m a boastful parent (which, of course, I am), but because, for those entering the sixth form this coming autumn, a scenario like this will simply not occur. Under the new system
of A-Levels, only the rarest of teachers will be bold enough to say: ‘Have a go’. They, like their students, will know that every A-Level matters; the advice will be: ‘Stick to what you’re good at.’ At the moment, most sixth formers take AS-Levels in four subjects in Year 12, and then generally drop one to take three A2s in Year 13. The AS-Level is the half way stage to A-Level, counting for half the marks. This approach allows students, like my son, the opportunity to try something a little bit difficult or a little bit different and then decide whether they’re up to the harder part of the exam. The new ‘improved’ A-Level, which will probably (but more of that later) be taught from September will take a fundamentally different form. The content of the courses is changing, but the most significant alteration is that A-Levels will become ‘linear’, with all marks awarded at the end of two years. AS-Levels will continue to exist, but will become standalone qualifications, no longer contributing to the A-Level grade. Though designed to be ‘co-teachable’ with the first year of
Under the new system of A-Levels, only the rarest of teachers will be bold enough to say: ‘Have a go’.
LEFT IN THE SCIENCE LAB AT SEVENOAKS SCHOOL
more end-of-course exams, and certainly deep anxiety, if not deep thought, about what is going to happen. Gove, however, is not the only person who felt that AS levels got in the way of profundity. Many leading independent schools, particularly those with a high concentration of able pupils, are delighted about the removal of public exams in Year 12. ‘We will get the summer term back,’ says Bernice McCabe, long-serving head of ultra-high flying girls’ school, North London Collegiate.
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Of course, schools such as hers have been successfully teaching ‘linear exams’ for some time in the form of the International Baccalaureate (IB) (which examines its Diploma at the end of a broad-ranging two-year course), and the Pre-U (which, since 2008, has examined individual subjects with no half-way stage). Not everyone, however, is quite as delighted about the new format. Michael Gove’s intention was that universities should be given control of A-Levels, which, are, after all, used as the universityqualifying exam. It is, however, the universities themselves, particularly the leading Russell Group universities, who have been most antagonistic to the change. The University of Cambridge has been a particularly vocal critic, and last November sent out a letter to schools explaining its thinking.
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‘We have for some years been strongly of the view that for A-Level students AS-Levels taken at the end of Year 12 are of significant educational benefit. They allow students to assess their academic progress, review their A-Level choices, and make appropriate higher education applications with confidence. Our research, supported by a recent study at the University of Bristol, confirms that AS is a better predictor of success at university than GCSE… We remain in favour of the retention of the current link between AS and A2 and the associated generation of UMS results.’
Michael Gove is not the only person who felt that AS-Levels got in the way of profundity
One of the key reasons for Cambridge’s disapprobation is that GCSEs are seen as a dull marker for the diligent rather than an indicator of intellectual pyrotechnics, so little use when looking for the brightest sparks. Predicted A-Level grades, on the other hand, are considered a notoriously unreliable measure, with many teachers misjudging or deliberately inflating the likely outcome. (For universities like Cambridge, where the minimum - and inflexible – A-Level entry requirements include at least one A*, this can have disastrous consequences for prospective students). Oxford, of course, have largely by-passed the issue by now setting its own admissions tests in most subjects. Then, of course, there are the mathematicians. A-Level Maths is generally seen as a hard subject; 57
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Further Maths only for the super brainy. In this demanding field, the AS-Level has been a crucial bridge to ease the uncertain (particularly girls and those in less high-performing schools) from the calm plains of GCSE onto the fast-moving uplands of A-Level. Currently, A-Level Maths is one of the most popular subjects taken, but experts believe the projected reforms could curb the enthusiasm. Last summer, the government’s own advisors, the A-Level Content Advisory Board (Alcab), sent
ABOVE SIXTH FORMERS AT SEVENOAKS SCHOOL
LEFT FORMER EDUCATION SECRETARY MICHAEL GOVE
One of the explicit rationales of the reform is to make England more competitive with Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore
a letter to the Department of Education warning that if fewer pupils took A-Level Maths, disadvantaged students would have less chance of going to the best universities, where not only Maths degrees, but those in Physics, Engineering and Economics, often require a top grade in A-Level Maths. “The present structure,” wrote Professor Richard Craster, Head of the Mathematics department at Imperial College, London, "is specifically (and successfully) designed to encourage students to dip a toe in the water... There are many ways in which mathematics differs from other subjects and it could well be that it is not best served by a strictly linear syllabus.” It’s not only academics, however, who should be concerned about the reforms. It’s now abundantly clear that the new system is arriving in an exam hall near you with little in the way of a dry run, leading to the view that August 2017 could see considerable gnashing of teeth amongst students, parents, schools and universities. "That the school exam reforms planned to take effect from September 2015 will suffer major problems seem obvious to us," wrote Professor Richard Pring, former director of the Department of Educational Studies at Oxford, in The Times Higher Educational Supplement. ‘Without trials of the new qualifications, England risks a system that will malfunction.’ One already evident ‘malfunction’ is that, instead of commencing simultaneously, the new exams are now being phased in over a three-year period. So a student starting A-Levels in Economics, French and History in September will be taking both ‘reformed’ and ‘unreformed’ A-Levels. And, of course, getting ‘reformed’ and ‘unreformed’ marks. The new A-Level system will leave England (Wales and Northern Ireland are sticking to the old
ways) with one of the narrowest university-entrance qualifications in the world. Virtually every other country now expects those proceeding to higher education to demonstrate a wide range of skills – not just prowess in three subjects. And, frankly, why shouldn’t that be the case here? Though the single-honours degree remains the norm, universities in the UK are increasingly taking an interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary approach, in recognition of the fact that not every 16, 17 and 18-year-old can make a full and final decision about their future intellectual path. Most degrees, too, are now taught in a modular form and fewer and fewer rely exclusively on end-of-course exams. The A-Level reformation will mean our schools will be out of synch not only with our global competitors, but with the institutins they are intended to cater for. Of course, the renaissance may never happen. The Labour party is opposed to it, and, the exam boards, well organised as always, have two sets of curricula at the ready in case there’s a change of political heart in May. A thought which schools – and parents – will, no doubt, find reassuring. Maybe students are not the only people who should be thinking deeply.
LISA FREEDMAN runs the educational advisory service At The School Gates, www.attheschoolgates.co.uk
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or communicating in one word answers. Some of the most popular nurseries still rely heavily on a official or unofficial feeder reputation for the particularly competitive schools, however these can often be overstated. Acorn Nursery is linked to Notting Hill Prep, the popular preparatory school based in Ladbroke Grove which is also owned by Jane Cameron. While Acorn emphasises that attendance does not affect your chance of entrance to the school, this is particularly convincing by the fact entrance is chosen by random ballot.
Competition for pre-school places in London has never been hotter. But which nurseries are most popular? We round up the top ten... Wo r d s SABINE HOOK
n 2004 William Waldegrave told the Daily Telegraph, "The only education you need in life is Acorn and Oxford". The Tory grandee was referring to Jane Cameron's Acorn Nursery in Notting Hill as London’s then most exclusive and sought-after nursery school (where he sent all four of his children). But is it still the hottest ticket in town? Not so much. Acorn is certainly no longer alone in attracting highfliers and celebrity parents; the world of London’s independent nursery schools has only grown in the last ten years. While many of the most luxurious of these nurseries are still located in well-heeled Kensington and Chelsea the net is
spreading up into north London and south of the river as well. The obsession with getting the right nursery as a crucial first step on the educational road map is not entirely overstated. While attending Acorn Nursery may not be a fast track to Oxbridge - getting the right ‘big name’ nursery can substantially help your chances of getting into some of the best pre-prep and junior schools. Parents are right to choose carefully in as much as nurseries provide you child with its first learning experiences away from home and are crucial in reaching key developmental stages needed before starting Reception class. An excellent nursery will ensure children are developmentally strong in communicating clearly and confidently, being independent learners, following instructions, playing alongside others and gaining high levels of concentration and focus. These early learning goals are all the more crucial now that some of London’s most popular pre-prep and junior schools are assessing at the tender age of 3 and a half. The infamous 4+ assessment differs from school to school but in some particulars they are all the same and it is unlikely your little tot will be considered for anywhere if they are still sobbing on your shoulder
Britain’s prep schools are the last bastion of Enid Blyton in a world under siege
ABOVE HARPER BECKHAM ATTENDS THE CELEBRITY FILLED STRAWBERRY FIELDS NURSERY IN PORTOBELLO ROAD
RIGHT CHILDREN AT MINORS NURSERY SCHOOL. WILL PRINCE GEORGE GO THERE?
Prince William’s old nursery, The Minors Nursery School, is now owned by the prolific Alpha Plus Group and this has ensured that it remains a big hitter by their established link to other Alpha Plus-owned schools such as Wetherby and Pembridge Hall School. Again the nursery firmly emphasises that attending will not increase your chances of gaining a place since the main list is decided by parents who have signed up the earliest. Attending
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either The Minors or Rolfe’s nursery, however, certainly won’t hurt your chances when the time to choose between two waiting list candidates presents. Though most nurseries refuse to label themselves as feeders it is worth mentioning those that channel an impressive number of children into certain schools every academic year. Miss Delaney’s nurseries, based in Holland Park, send a high percentage of children to Norland Place every year, Puffins in Parsons Green gets a large chunk of children into Thomas's Fulham and Chelsea Pre Prep managed to get six out of the eight available places into Falkner House’s 2015 Reception intake. This can be explained by a geographical proximity
but also a very good understanding for what the school is looking for during the assessment. A lot of experienced nursery heads will also be an enormous help in fitting your child into the right environment having built up a strong network of connections through the London school scene. With the right head and well regarded nursery behind you singing your child’s praises there is an increased chance that even if your child spent most of the assessment day throwing sand down the back of his neighbours jumper, he will still have a better chance then most. The title of most luxurious and celebrity-filled nursery has now been taken up by the Portabello Road institution; Strawberry Fields Nursery.
This elite nursery is so exclusive they have no website relying purely on word of mouth and a nursery location hidden modestly on the side of a church hall. Well known names include the Beckham’s youngest child as well as a host of other A-list celebrities attracted to the immaculate surroundings and charismatic headmistress. The parent’s association is a who’s who of the top professionals in all fields and competition is rife from who has taken the school bear to the most exotic holiday location and who will be contributing the most impressive prize to the school raffle. Nurseries that make a point of moving children on quickly to more academic and structured learning often 61
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win big brownie points with prospective parents who are keen to feel they are one up on the race for school entrances. In general Montessori nurseries will take a back seat in pushing all children into more formalised learning and phonics and counting will only be introduced when a child is developmentally ready. In contrast nursery schools such as Broadhurst in Hampstead, market themselves as early preps and focus on preparing children for the manically competitive world of high-flying North London schools. With the first influx of assessments sometimes happening as early as two and a half years old for schools such as Dulwich Prep and Highgate Pre-Preparatory, it can feel that focused preparation and fast moving curriculums can not come too soon for some parents. Similarly Pippa Poppins, Fulhamâ€™s most exclusive day nursery, takes children from one and boasts an impressive exit list into all the most prominent local schools. Then comes the most difficult part; how to get a place at these prestigious pre-schools and nurseries?
TOP 10 NURSERIES IN LONDON
ST MARKS SQUARE NURSERY Primrose Hill
TADPOLES NURSERY Chelsea
PIPPA POPPINS Fulham
MARMALADE CAT Clapham
THE MINORS NURSERY Notting Hill
STRAWBERRY FIELDS NURSERY Notting Hill
MISS DELANEYS NURSERY Holland park
CHELSEA PRE PREP NURSERY Chelsea
BROADHURST NURSERY Hampstead
READY STEADY GO Camden
Much of this will come down to strategy and organisationearly registration to a range of early years provision done simultaneously with a slew of school registrations is crucial. And by early, it really means early; a couple of months after birth is already running the risk of being put on the waiting list indefinitely. For areas of London with the most competition for nursery and school entrance (Clapham, Notting Hill, Hampstead and St Johns Wood) registrations should be collected from schools and nurseries before birth and already filled in with the majority of information before entrance into the delivery room. This way husbands can ensure last minute details such as the name and date of birth can be added and forms and cheques will be in the registrars hands before two days has passed. Telephone calls immediately after birth can also help to bring the recorded registration day earlier in the schools records and therefore increase your chances even more. Sometimes the registration form is not enough and conversations with parents are taken into consideration, as in the case of the fearsomely popular Wetherby Pre Prep. Parents need to wait till all applications that month have been considered before knowing if they have gained a definite place. Since there is no assessment of the children before entrance parents are effectively assessed in their place and this conversation will take place days after giving birth. There are also the rare exceptions of nurseries who will accept registration forms pre-birth; Broadhurst Nursery currently accepts registrations from the worryingly early stage of three months pregnant so
Register early for the top nurseries - a couple of months after birth can be too late
that if you waited till after birth you would be far too late to gain a place. With most London families registering for an average of five schools and nurseries at birth the likelihood is that the majority of people on the main list will not even be taking their place allowing more chances for late-comers. The transient nature of many London parents also works in favour of the later registrations since so many families will be re-located or move back home between the two years of registration and a childâ€™s first day at nursery. With registration deadlines already so early it is a wonder that most London nurseries have so far resisted the New York trend of assessing for nursery entrance pre two years of age. It may be a case of watching this space and enjoying the time before tutoring newborns becomes the norm!
SABINE HOOK Early Year's Consultant at Holland Park Education
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POLISH Debrett’s courses for schools focus on soft skills for success in a tough world Wo r d s CELESTRIA NOEL
his is a true story. The then editor of the glossiest magazine in Britain needed an assistant for a particular project. Every over-qualified and ambitious junior employee wanted the job but she gave it to Belinda, an intern she saw bright and early every morning looking smart who smiled, met her eye, said good morning, held open the door and seemed to know exactly what to say or not to say as they went up in the lift together. This is a perfect illustration of the importance of soft skills in the ultracompetitive world of work. Belinda demonstrated people skills and good manners and was friendly but not intrusive. To put it simply, she was the kind of person you wanted to be around. To make yourself that kind of person is the aim of all manners and etiquette. It is not about using fish knives (or not) but about the civilised interaction that makes the world work. And make no mistake, soft or – as they are sometimes known – social skills, are highly valued by employers. This is recognised anecdotally but hard evidence from a recent major survey of business leaders commissioned by Debrett’s showed that poor social skills in business could impact on chances of promotion, while graduates with the highest success rate in achieving promotions also had the strongest social skills. The survey revealed some startling facts. For example, 59 per cent of employers believe social skills to be more
important than academic skills to ensure career progression, and that one of the biggest pitfalls of young employees today is ‘constant use of mobile phones and social media in the office’. One executive noted that many are ‘so over-reliant on computers and spell checks that they don’t even know how to write a letter any more’. This lack of confidence translates into social situations, with self-confidence (73 per cent agree), manners (73 per cent) and verbal communications skills (64 per cent) being cited as key for social success, yet on the decrease amongst candidates. While only 15 per cent are very confident when walking into a room where they do not know anyone, 62 per cent are confident about creating a personal profile on a social networking site. This demonstrates the rift between virtual and real world personalities. Many leaders complained that they had to train highly qualified recruits themselves in areas such as first impressions, presentation and appropriate manners and felt they should have been taught such things earlier. However, with the focus in schools being on exam results and qualifications, social skills are not always emphasised. Debrett’s has responded to this need. Debrett’s has been providing insight since the 18th century and is still recognised today as the authority on British society and manners. While best known in the past for its mighty reference books Debrett’s Peerage & Baronetage and People of Today, it is also a forward-looking networking organisation, with an international reach,
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that provides training to corporations and individuals. Debrett’s works with both independent schools and, via its non-profit-making arm, the Debrett’s Foundation, offers courses to less advantaged pupils at its London headquarters. I spoke to James Field, 36, a senior trainer at Debrett’s, who has worked in schools ranging from his own alma mater, Eastbourne College, to Eton, girls’ boarding schools such as Heathfield, St George’s Ascot and Benenden and London day schools such as Francis Holland. Given that the best independent schools offer speech and drama and pride themselves on developing the whole child, which includes behaviour and manners, I asked him what the Debrett’s courses added. "Over and over again we find that we are making the pupils think of things they have never considered. They are challenged and taken outside their comfort zone. We make them focus, often for the first time, on the impression they make on others." The courses, which range from one to three days, are always developed in consultation with the schools and are tailored to suit different age groups. "We have had eleven-year-olds but the majority are between 15 and 17," says Field. "Lower Sixth is popular as the pupils are by then becoming aware of the future and the importance of interview skills." The courses need to be relevant but also have to be fun and engaging. Field’s
background is in acting and music as well as men’s style; he explains that he and his team of tutors use role-play and interactive work. "We begin with first impressions – handshakes, introductions, making eye contact, then may move on to a bit of age-appropriate networking and small talk." This ice breaking and making them take part can be both challenging but reassuring to teenagers, who may be less used to personal interaction than texting or social media. "Of course social media plays a huge part in their lives and we teach them to be aware of their online profiles. I research them in advance and tell them what I have found out about them and how easy it was to do." A big part of the training is leading school-age pupils towards the world of work, which comes very quickly, with today’s graduates expected to have work on their CVs even while still at school. "Interview skills are a big part of what we work on within schools," says Field, as are CVs. We are all familiar with CVs which list incredible results on paper, but a growing area of focus is the video CV that can showcase not only what candidates say but how they appear and present themselves. "We have a section on personal presentation, dress codes and body language. Then I will ask them to prepare a statement about themselves. How to sell yourself: achievements and interests. They need to be able to answer the question, 'Why you?' – the most basic at an interview."
The finale will often take the form of making a video CV and putting all the skills together. "They can see how much progress they have made but also that it is a continuing process," says Field. "The shyer, less confident pupils begin the course with a closed approach and cannot make eye contact, for example. They have probably never thought of how they appear to others. On the other hand the over-confident get the edges taken off them and an awareness that seeming invincible, as some stars in the school firmament feel, can in fact damage your prospects." Longer courses may include more of what some might consider to be traditional etiquette, such as how to write proper letters (no text speak or emoticons) or simple table manners. However there is no walking about with books on the head or getting out of low sports cars without showing too much leg. The training is relevant and contemporary. The feedback from pupils is overwhelmingly positive. "It was a good experience to have to improve different skills and present myself to other people," says a girl. "It made me more aware of what employers are looking for and was an amazing opportunity." James Field finds the change in pupils’ awareness and attitude, even in a short time, rewarding. "So many of them say they would like to learn more and I am confident that it sets them on a path to practising the kind of soft skills, that you could almost describe as survival skills, which will stand them in good stead for their futures." What more could any teacher want?
TOP DEBRETT'S IS WORKING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE TO GIVE THEM THE RIGHT SOFT SKILLS FOR THE JOB MARKET
CELESTRIA NOEL is a writer and editor of the new Debrett’s Handbook
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ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Opinion
TALKING HEAD The mood music from Whitehall has been all about STEM subjects
subjects. Instead, evidence found that people working successfully in STEM professions are far more likely to have arts and crafts experience as calibrated through numbers of company startups and patentable inventions. This brings to mind Jobs’ observation that the team that developed the Macintosh desktop computer were musicians, poets, artists, historians and zoologists who just happened to be the world’s best computer scientists. At Bedales we believe that there is considerable intrinsic value to be had in an education that is rich in the liberal arts. For those who are persuaded more by pragmatic arguments, we might observe that the creative industries comprise a growing and significant proportion of GDP, whilst a well–developed arts and humanities sensibility appears to complement technological and innovatory careers. I suggest that the question we should be asking is not whether primacy should be enjoyed by arts and humanities or STEM subjects but, instead, why they have come to occupy such very different places in policy thinking. It is of note that the arts-sciences dichotomy has not always been as unshakeable as it appears to be today whilst, intriguingly, the sociologist Richard Florida posited a ‘creative class’ made up of scientists and poets – a framing that I suspect would have found favour with Steve Jobs, and doubtless Sir Ken, too.
In defence of the ‘creative class’
n January, writing in the Times Educational Supplement, author and educationalist Sir Ken Robinson lamented the relegation of the arts to the fringes of the national curriculum on the basis that they are less useful in economic terms than other subjects. The arts are every bit as vital as other areas, he argued, and can help achievement across the board, and with employability. He is absolutely right. For all of the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s recent protestations that we should put an end to ‘false dichotomies’ between ‘subjects we value and subjects we don’t’, the mood music from Whitehall has, of late, been that STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) are the horses to back in terms of skills for employment in the global race. I remain to be convinced, however, that the worlds of arts and humanities,
on the one hand, and STEM, on the other, are easily or usefully separated. The late Steve Jobs, perhaps the best known popular innovator/entrepreneur of recent times, explained that he and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak were also big Bob Dylan fans. However, Jobs’ involvement in the arts extended well beyond simple appreciation: rather, he is on record as considering artistic sensibilities to be central to technological innovation. In 2008 a study by Robert RootBernstein and colleagues of large numbers of scientists found that the most eminent were significantly more likely to spend some of their time in productive arts and crafts pursuits, with the resulting skills being of direct professional benefit. A subsequent study, drawing on the testimonies of a sample of science and technology graduates from Michigan State University, challenges any assumption that arts and crafts should be considered optional extras to ‘serious’
KEITH BUDGE LEFT
Headmaster, Bedales School
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ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Opinion
We’ve seen a marked increase in London parents coming to see us coming home to your house and the friends and staff with whom you live. Academic excellence and results matter of course but increasingly employers want students to possess 'soft skills' – the ability to work in teams, to engage with others and to take calculated risks. I believe that boarding schools outside London are uniquely placed to help pupils develop characteristics such as resilience, flexibility and a willingness to have a go. Drama can improve interviewing techniques, sport develops teamwork and joining an overseas expedition develops persistence and determination. But it’s not all about what pupils get out of school. Life here is also about being part of a community. Our boarders develop a strong sense of belonging, self-awareness and an understanding of the need to collaborate and compromise. We ensure that they don’t ‘live in a bubble’ and engage with the wider community through voluntary service, supporting charities as well as welcoming other schools to our drama productions and lecture series. Selecting a school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. To those parents grappling with the insane race for places in London, I would urge you to think further afield. From where I’m sitting, the view is pretty good!
The Head Master of Dauntsey’s on why it’s worth looking outside London
n the past ten years, London has experienced unprecedented growth in its non-UK born population. This is contributing to an already hugely competitive race for places at independent schools in the capital, as parents arriving from overseas seek a very British education. Most of us have heard about, or experienced first-hand, the ridiculous pressures placed on children – at a relatively young age - seeking to secure one of these precious places. Tutors are engaged, application forms analysed and interviews for multiple schools are rehearsed. Dinner party conversations focus on little else. It’s no surprise then that some parents decide life is too short, that there must be other options to explore. We’ve noticed a marked increase in the number of London-based parents coming to see us here in Wiltshire.
As they drive up to the school, I watch them visibly relax as they breathe the fresh air and take in the views of Salisbury Plain. Concerns about boarding are soon dispelled when they see the facilities and learn that pupils joining at 13 live in The Manor, a separate Lower School boarding house, giving them time to adjust before moving to the senior school campus at 14. There is much to be said for giving children space as they grow through their adolescent years. Many schools outside London have wonderful campus sites where pupils can explore a wide range of extra-curricular activities or have time to themselves or with friends. Pupils can grow and develop at their own pace, without the pressures and distractions of an urban setting. There are, of course, plenty of opportunities to visit local towns to get a 'fix' of shopping or coffee shop chat, but we know from our own pupils that there is an enormous sense of comfort and security
LEFT PHOTOGRAPHS SHOW: JOLIE BRISE AT SEA – THE TALL SHIP OWNED, MAINTAINED AND SAILED BY THE PUPILS OF DAUNTSEY’S SCHOOL.
MARK LASCELLES Head Master, Dauntsey’s School
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MIND THE GAP Girls have lagged behind boys in the tech world for too long; the time for change is now, argues the Head of Creative Teaching & Learning at the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) W o r d s C AT S C U T T I l l u s t r a t i o n PHIL COUZENS
he issue of female participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and digital technology is a hot topic at the moment. Since a peak of around 30% in the 1980s, the proportion of female undergraduates studying computer science has declined sharply. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, in 2014, just over 9,000 women were studying computer science at UK universities compared to 52,000 men. Only 19% of the UK technology workforce is female and figures released by global technology companies paint an even bleaker picture – women hold only 17% of technology roles at Google, 15% at Facebook and 10% at Twitter. In a world where the technology industry is growing at an unparalleled rate, we urgently need to increase the number of talented individuals of both genders choosing to
study and work in this area. Much has been said about the strengths women bring to the table – strong vision, communication skills, collaboration and creativity. It follows that an increase in female representation can only benefit the tech industry by making it better equipped to deal with future challenges. The issue of the increasing gap between the proportion of men and women studying and working in digital technology is nothing new. A more recent phenomenon, however, is the genuine sense that changing agendas in education and the workplace, plus a broader cultural shift around how consumers engage with technology, mean that things might finally be about to change – or at least be able to change. At the core of this optimism is a need to remodel the attitudes, expectations and ambitions of children – boys as well as girls – from an early age. The idea that all we need to do to engage girls
ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Feat ure
In 2014, 9,000 women studied computer sciences at UK universities compared to 52,000 men
in technology is to make computers, phones and tablets available in pink is, at best, a distraction from the real issue and at worst a backwards step, reinforcing unhelpful stereotypes. If we look back at the historical reasons why computer science has come to be perceived as a primarily – if not exclusively – male domain, evidence suggests the release of the home computer in the 1980s directly coincided with a fall in the number of women studying computer science. The key issue was not the computer itself, rather the way in which it was marketed – with games and programmes designed with male interests in mind and advertising typically featuring young men working or playing alone on their computer. Making the tech industry female-friendly is not about making it ‘feminine’, rather it is about making it less distinctively male. By removing some of the elements that, albeit unintentionally, create barriers to female participation – for example the way women are presented in computer games – we can move on to developing the areas that make studying and working in technology appealing to children of both genders. One of the ways in which we can start to remove these barriers to participation is by harnessing the culture shift in how users perceive and engage with technologies. With greater access to devices, a dramatic increase in internet use, and the explosion of jobs in the industry over the past decade, this perception has changed. Computers, social networking and 73
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It should never cross a girl’s mind that she shouldn’t consider a career in tech because of her gender
gaming are now ubiquitous – in fact, girls now outstrip boys in terms of smartphone ownership and Facebook usage. In terms of the creation of technology, the future looks bright for women here, too. The general move away from passive consumption of content towards creation and curation – through blogs, social media, video and image sharing sites – is increasing the power and potential of young people to build content and skills simultaneously. At school and at home, encouraging children, particularly girls, to engage carefully and reflectively in creative activities online will help to ensure we make the most of this natural shift. The recent introduction of coding and computer science as compulsory elements of the National Curriculum from primary school has the potential to have a huge impact in terms of increasing participation among girls and boys. By making computing a mainstream subject, rather than an elective option which students must choose at the expense of another subject, there is an opportunity for children as young as four to be introduced to computational thinking, coding, and problem-solving challenges. Ian Livingstone CBE, creator of the Tomb Raider franchise and a leading digital skills advocate, likens the traditional approach to
ICT teaching – focusing on usage of applications such as Microsoft Excel – as being like teaching pupils to read, but not to write. Computer science, meanwhile, gives girls and boys the skills they need to create their own applications and to understand how technology works. This, combined with activities such as coding clubs and hackathons, gives opportunities for students to be creative while developing the confidence and impetus to further their interest at university and beyond. Of course, we won’t see the fruits of these labours straight away – today’s coding-savvy 10 year-olds won’t be undergraduates for another eight years – but in carrying out the groundwork, we have the power to change the whole landscape. There are now a significant number of female leaders in digital technology – from Silicon Roundabout start-ups to international brands like Google – gaining market share and column inches alike. We need to continue raising the profile and prestige of IT career options, drawing on the increasing need for highly skilled employees in digital technology, and moving away from the perception that computer science is all about bespectacled men writing code in darkened rooms. The current lack of women on undergraduate courses and in
technology careers creates a situation where some women are put off, not because they don’t enjoy the subject but because they don’t want to stand out. Others fear applying for jobs or university courses because they feel they may be ‘filling a quota’, rather than on the basis of their talents. It is these habits and attitudes that need to change. We need to reach the point where it never crosses a girl’s mind that she couldn’t – or shouldn’t – consider a career in tech because of her gender. Although this may seem like a distant vision, change is already beginning to happen. At a recent Digital Leaders’ Conference for girls from across the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) there was a palpable sense of energy, excitement and possibility. Over 150 girls aged from 10-18 were supported by industry mentors from BT, Ogilvy, Capita, Discovery, Morgan Stanley, Accenture and more. They worked together on digital innovation challenges and devised some truly inspiring applications. If these girls are the future, it’s certainly looking bright.
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THE MAKING OF ME
PIERS TORDAY The award-winning children’s author on taking to the stage with Damian Lewis Where did you go to school and when? ❖ Eton in the late 1980searly 1990’s.
What was your favourite subject or activity there? ❖ English has always been my favourite subject, and I was very lucky to be involved in many plays. My first stage appearance was with Damian Lewis, who has subsequently had somewhat more success in that arena than me.
educated at a school with the same quality of teaching and wealth of resources as Eton. What effect do you think your schooling had on your character. Did it change you? ❖ It made me more confident, outspoken and politically aware. How did it influence the rest of your career and life? ❖ Everything I’ve done in my professional life – working in theatre, TV and now publishing – has its seeds in the opportunities I was given at school. I’m profoundly grateful for that.
What sort of school was it? ❖ A large boy’s public school near Slough, with single room accommodation. Did you love it or hate it? ❖ I never believe anyone who truly ‘loves’ school as adolescence, physically and emotionally, is a challenging time for all involved – but overall I enjoyed myself, made some friends for life and learned a great deal, not just academically.
Eton by the river in June was a splendid place to be
TH E W I LD B E YO N D will be published by Bloomsbury in April
What are you doing now? ❖ I write novels, for children aged eight and up, as well as visiting schools and festivals to talk to young people about their own creative writing.
What was your proudest achievement? ❖ The satirical play I wrote and directed about the school, called Did Virgil Wear Boxer Shorts? - which went down better than it was meant to…
What are your plans for the future? ❖ I’m writing a new book at the moment, and have just signed a contract to write another three – so telling many more stories, essentially!
What was the most trouble you got into? ❖ I am basically a super square goodiegoodie and always got caught whenever I tried to smoke/drink/stay out late, so gave up trying pretty quickly.
How would you sum up your school days in five words? ❖ “The past is another country.”
Who was your favourite – or most influential - teacher? ❖ My housemaster, Michael Meredith, was also my A-level English teacher, and a huge influence. He gave me the confidence to trust both my critical and artistic instincts – an incredibly generous and encouraging teacher to have.
What is your most vivid memory of your time there? ❖ Too many to mention, but Eton by the river in June was a splendid place to be.
What beliefs do you think your school instilled in you? ❖ Self belief, and not to be afraid of independent thinking.
Would you send your own children there? ❖ If I had children, and I had billions of pounds, I would like them to be
Were you too cool for school? ❖ The polar opposite! Not sure I ever lived down buying a pair of Superman pyjamas at the annual charity jumble sale in my first term.
PIERS TORDAY is the author of the award-winning Last Wild trilogy. The last book in the series will be published next month.
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Write STUFF The month will see the winner of the second Connell Guides Essay Competition announced. The Guides founder gives us a preview W o r d s J O LY O N C O N N E L L
hen we held our first Connell Guides Essay Competition last year, I was a bit nervous: would we get enough entries from sixth form students? Would the standard be high enough to justify the generous prize? The worries were unnecessary. The novelist William Boyd, who judged the competition, said he was pleasantly surprised, by how good some of the essays were. “The standard of the shortlisted essays was high – thoughtful, intelligent, cogently argued. [The entrants] should all be congratulated.” Reading the short list I felt the same. Boyd and I had lunch together in Chelsea after he’d picked the winner and we agreed that in our
schooldays – we were contemporaries at Gordonstoun – the essays would have been less interesting and less sophisticated. Despite the prize money, the competition might have fallen flat. So don’t believe all you read about declining standards. Yes, far too many schoolchildren these days are shockingly badly taught, grammar and spelling often seem to be treated like relics of the Stone Age (as some of our less strong entries bear out), and a disproportionately large number of our entrants are female. This last fact is hardly surprising I suppose, even if we’ve moved on just a little from the days when T.E Utley, the famous Telegraph journalist, advising his son, Tom, on what to study at Cambridge, recommended he switch from reading English to History. “English is a subject for ladies and foreigners, my boy. A gentleman reads English in his spare time.” Tom’s account of this, in the Daily Mail, made me think of my own university days, studying English, and how outnumbered we few boys were by the girls (not that I minded). Anyway, spurred by the success of our first essay competition, we’re now busy with the second. Entries have just closed for this and again we’ve been inundated by would-be winners, more than 150 of them to go through before sending on about ten or 12 to Philip Pullman, this year’s judge. Once again, too, they’re on all sorts of topics, from Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind to Sylvia Plath’s poem Stillborn and Jez Butterworth’s play Jerusalem. I’m glad I don’t have to pick the winner myself. How will Pullman decide who deserves the £500 prize? I expect he will look for coherence and passion but also, perhaps, for wit. Judging last year’s competition, William Boyd said: “Given the high standard, I decided
Philip Pullman, this year’s judge (above), will have to choose from essays on a range of topics that what I was looking for, to make one piece stand out apart from others, was not earnestness but wit – or, to put it another way, a form of manifest self-confidence.” In the end he picked a lively essay on The Catcher in the Rye by Susanna Crawford from Dalriada School in Northern Ireland. Her conclusion: that for all his teenage angst, the hero, Holden Caulfield is really just a spoilt brat. In my view Miss Crawford was right.
JOLYON CONNELL Founder of the Connell Guides
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ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Opinion
THE MAKING OF ME
CAMILLA REID The children’s publisher on her school days at Godolphin & Latymer in Hammersmith Where did you go to school and when? ❖ Godolphin and Latymer School 1981-1988
Did you love it or hate it? ❖ I think I’d actually say neither: my memory is that I just got on with it, fairly unquestioningly. I was neither rebellious nor a golden girl.
Who was your favourite – or most influential - teacher? ❖ Mr Fitzmaurice, who taught me English at both O and A level. He was a great teacher but he was also the first teacher to connect with me as an individual. Under his direction, we put on some very ambitious productions and took a show to the Edinburgh festival, which was fantastically good fun. What beliefs do you think that particular school instilled in you? ❖ The school encouraged the girls to be hard-working, self-disciplined and high-achieving in their academic subjects. I wish there had been a bit more emphasis on independent thought and creativity in the classroom: looking back there was an awful lot of learning stuff simply in order to pass exams.
the teamwork, communication skills and the self-motivation. I’m sorry to say that the Physics and Economics A levels have proved to be pretty much a waste of time. (Top tip: don’t select A levels to please your parents!) In terms of my wider life, my three best friends from school are still my best friends now. What are you doing now? ❖ I combine being a mum of two with being editorial director of Nosy Crow, a publisher of children’s books and apps, which I co-founded with two former colleagues in 2010. I also write the Lulu series for Bloomsbury.
What sort of school was it? ❖ An academic, all-girls independent school
What was your favourite subject or activity there? ❖ My favourite subjects were English and Art but my big thing was extracurricular drama. I co-wrote and performed in several school plays and that I did love, very much.
I loved the school plays that I co-wrote and peformed in. They were my proudest achievement
THE SPY WHO LOVED SCHOOL DINNERS Published by Nosy Crow
What was the most trouble you got into? ❖ I was suspended (for one day!) for drinking alcohol during lunchhour. I still feel a burning sense of injustice about it: it was a friend’s 18th birthday and we had one bottle of fizzy wine between about 15 of us! It was ridiculous really, especially considering what we were all getting up to at the weekends! How did it influence the rest of your life and career? ❖ I did an Art Foundation course and then a degree in English at Leeds University, both of which I enjoyed. I got my first job as an Editorial Assistant (editing York Notes) in 1992 and have worked in publishing ever since. I use the stuff I learned in my English and Art A levels every day, as well as all the ‘soft’ skills I acquired working on all those plays:
What are your plans for the future? ❖ I hope Nosy Crow will continue to publish more great books and apps and to be an interesting and vibrant place to work. Our book, The Spy Who Loved School Dinners by Pamela Butchart, illustrated by Thomas Flintham has won the Best Story Category in the Blue Peter Book Awards 2015 which is great! How would you sum up your school days in five words? ❖ I’m glad it’s all over!
CAMILLA REID is a co-founder and editorial director of Nosy Crow, a children’s book and app publisher
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ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Review
Ten o f t he Be s t Ne w
BOOKS These are exciting times for children’s literature. Sales of children’s books surged in 2014: absolutely everyone it seems loved David Walliams’ Awful Auntie, which sold over half a million copies, while Jeff Kinney’s latest Wimpy Kid adventure appeared in the top ten books of the year, outselling Dan Brown’s Inferno. This flourishing of what publishers are calling ‘middle grade fiction’ is set to continue throughout 2015 with wonderful books for children from both established and brand new authors. Here’s a selection of what young readers have to look forward to.
THE WINTER HORSES by Philip Ker r
rzewalskis horses are the last descendants of an ancient breed, living on the Ukrainian nature reserve AskaniyaNova. It’s wartime and a troop of SS soldiers have been sent to destroy the horses, as ‘a biologically unfit species’. Kalinka, a young girl orphaned by the war takes it on herself to lead the last two horses to safety. What follows is a gripping story of courage and resolve, based on real-life events. ◆
LOCKWOOD & CO; THE WHISPERING SKULL by Jonathan Stroud
onathan Stroud is a gifted author, and he is on very fine form with these supernatural adventure stories. Set in a Britain where wandering ghosts offer a constant threat, it stars three teenagers, the staff of a Psychic Investigation Agency adept at seeing off the dead. Here they are recruited to track down a stolen artefact that seems to offer phenomenal power to its owner and this a really thrilling read. ◆
MY LIFE AS A GOLDFISH by
list of top books for children wouldn’t be complete without a poetry book and I’ve chosen this new collection from Rachel Rooney, who won the 2012 CLPE Poetry Prize. Rooney is a very exciting new voice. There are poems here on a range of subjects and themes, including some about poetry itself. Mostly short, often rhyming, they play affectionate games with language. There are laugh out loud poems, and lots for sharing, but this is also collection to take into a quiet corner and relish. ◆
CREATUREPEDIA by Adr ienne Barman
reaturepedia by Adrienne Barman is a good example of a beautiful looking book that informs and inspires in equal measure. This unusual guide to the animal kingdom groups creatures together under eclectic headings: so the pretty-in-pinks include the Elephant hawkmoth and Amazon river dolphin as well as the earthworm; Barman’s illustrations are bold and colourful and each is accompanied by a simple caption. ◆
HAMISH & THE WORLD STOPPERS by Danny Wallace
anny Wallace is well-known as comedian and TV presenter. Now he’s a children’s author too, and a very good one. Hamish lives in Britain’s fourth-most boring town but life gets very exciting when one day Hamish notices that the whole world has stopped - except him. What follows is a fast moving, funny sci-fi adventure with some sharp one-liners too and droll descriptions. This will have anyone aged 8 and up in stitches. ◆
THE FARM BENEATH THE WATER
elen Peters’ new book is honest-togoodness adventure story with a timeless feel. Hannah lives on an old-fashioned farm with her siblings and dad. Mum has died. The only thing she likes more than farming is acting, and her mother’s old hen house makes a wonderful rural theatre. When the farm is threatened by a water company who
want to flood the valley for a reservoir, Hannah must convince her neighbours that ancient hedgerows and yew trees are more rewarding than new ‘leisure facilities’. Relationships with family and friends are sensitively drawn, the descriptions of the countryside and its wildlife sublime, while Hannah’s battle against the money men of the water company is compelling. ◆
ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Review
JESSICA’S GHOST by Andrew Nor r i ss
rancis is a bit of an outsider and doesn’t really have friends. But he finds it really F easy to talk to Jessica. They’ve got lots in common and are firm friends within hours of meeting. It doesn’t really matter to either that Jessica’s a ghost. Funny, clever, beautifully written this wonderful book shows how quickly life can change so that it can appear impossible one moment and full of hope the next. ◆
The flourishing of so called ‘middlegrade’ fiction looks set to continue
by J E A N N E
WILLIS &TONY ROSS
eanne Willis and Tony Ross are the Flanders and Swann of children’s books, responsible for a string of very funny picturebooks, often with a sting in the tail. Chicken Clicking is a modern cautionary tale. Chick sneaks into the farmhouse every evening to browse and shop online. She goes on a fun spending spree, but when the hens sail off in the boat she bought them she feels lonely and accepts a friend request she really shouldn’t. The final page is funny, quite shocking, and makes an important point. ◆
THE ADVENTURES OF SHOLA BERNADO ATXAGA Illustrated by Mikel Valverde Translated by Margaret Jull Costa
ushkin Press specialise in books in translation and is almost single-handedly making some of the world’s best children’s literature available in English. Bernado Atxaga’s Shola is an irresistible character. The outside world sees a small, white dog but in Shola’s eyes she is a noble, highly cultivated creature. This mismatch produces all sorts of comic situations and Shola’s adventures will delight children. ◆
has spent all her working life in children’s books. She is very used to odd looks from people on trains and buses who see her reading children’s books, and is still as excited as ever to discover a new children’s author. Apart from being one of the Lovereading4kids editorial experts she is also director of the children’s and young people’s programme of the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival. Lovereading4kids. co.uk is the UK’s leading children’s book recommendation website with unique, honest and trusted content including expert reviews and reviews by children, highlighting the best books in a wide range of genres,with thousands of opening extracts so readers can try before you buy.
THE ASTOUNDING BROCCOLI BOY
FRANK COTTRELL BOYCE
his is Frank Cottrell Boyce’s first stand-alone novel since Cosmic in 2008 (in 2011 he wrote the sequel to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and it’s been well worth the wait! The smallest and weakest boy in his class, Rory Rooney makes an unlikely superhero. But all that seems set to change when he suddenly and inexplicably turns green. Stuck in a hospital
isolation ward with two other remarkably green children – including the school bully – Rory is ready to discover his superpowers. The adventure that follows is by turns hilarious and heart-warming, further proof if it were needed that Cottrell Boyce is one of the wittiest, warmest and most inventive children’s authors of today ◆ 85
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ABSOLUTELY EDUCATION / Feat ure
TRAIL Blazer When Kurt Hahn founded Gordonstoun he established the idea of character education - now a key tenet in many of our best schools Wo rd s SIMON REID
ver the last year one of the main themes of education debate in the UK has been about the need to teach “grit and resilience” in schools. The “Character and Resilience Manifesto” launched by the All Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility published in February 2014 showed the growing body of evidence to prove that this so called “character building” education is needed, just as much as academic excellence, to help our young people successfully navigate the ups and downs of life. This theme was taken up recently by John Cridland of the CBI and seems to be one area that both Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary and Tristram Hunt, the Shadow Education Secretary, agree. In January 2015 Nicky Morgan launched a new £5m Character Innovation Fund scheme in schools as one of her major initiatives in the run up to the general election.
Kurt Hahn called the Moray Firth ‘my best school master’
At Gordonstoun we need no persuasion of the merits of this broader teaching of life skills in schools, as this of course is what we pioneered at our foundation in the 1930s and have continued to lead with quiet passion ever since. The ideas and practices developed at Gordonstoun have in addition been rolled out internationally through the Duke of Edinburgh Awards (started as the “Moray Badge” at Gordonstoun), The Outward Bound Movement and Round Square. Gordonstoun was founded a mere 81 years ago by the German educationalist, Kurt Hahn, who was forced to flee Nazi Germany after imprisonment for criticising Hitler. He founded Gordonstoun in Scotland in 1934 in the shadow of the Second World War. Faced with what he saw, in a somewhat dated term, as the 'moral decay' of young people, Hahn’s perspective was distinctive in his focus on developing the character of his boys (Gordonstoun went fully co-educational in 1972) and he had some strong opinions about how to do this, which he proceeded to develop at Gordonstoun. Gordonstoun from its earliest days pioneered the use of outdoor education and sail training; the value of students contributing to 87
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Last year, our teaching staff spent a total of 1832 nights under canvas with our students their community in a meaningful way; the importance of seeing things from an international perspective; and the way students can flourish if they are encouraged to take responsibility and initiative. We believe that the qualities gained by our student in these areas contribute immeasurably to their academic performance as well as to their development as people. The Gordonstoun Outdoor Education programme takes students in every year of the school, from 8-18 years, on a series of expeditions into the Highlands of Scotland. This year our full time team of four qualified Outdoor Education staff, supported by many of the teaching staff with an interest in this area, facilitated Gordonstoun students spending a total of 1832 nights under canvas as part of the school curriculum, not to mention many more as extra curricular options. These days Outdoor Education is not
LEFT STUDENTS FROM EVERY YEAR AT GORDONSTOUN ARE TAKEN ON EXPEDITIONS INTO THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
BOTTOM SAIL TRAINING IS ALSO PART OF THE CURRICULUM
limited to hiking but includes kayaking, mountain biking, ice climbing, canyoning and snow boarding. The learning is not just acquisition of skills but a much broader and deeper level of personal understanding. The qualities which students typically gain and openly articulate are confidence, creativity, tenacity, resilience, good communication skills, adaptability and leadership. These experiences also provide excellent platforms to help individuals learn how to look after themselves, make sound judgements and decisions and take responsibility for their actions. These are all valuable life skills for later life. Since the school’s foundation, Sail Training has been a key element of a Gordonstoun education. The school’s site was chosen, quite deliberately, between the seas of the Moray Forth and the hills of the Cairngorm Mountains. Hahn called the Moray Forth “my best school master”. These days every Gordonstoun student takes part in a seamanship course to learn the basics of sailing and the teamwork this requires on our two locally built 12 man cutters. We may be the only school in the world to run an 80 foot sail training vessel and all Year 8, 10 and 12 students spend a week sailing on the West Coast of Scotland on Ocean Spirit of Moray. The principle aims of sail training remain to develop confidence, perseverance, leadership and teamwork amongst the students. These are key transferable skills that enhance their ability to perform in all areas, including the academic, and ground them as individuals. As a Year 12 student said after a week on Ocean Spirit: “I guess the knowledge of sailing I gained was great, but developing better communication, tolerance and determination has been the greatest achievement for me this week”. Alongside the adventure on the hills and seas is a belief that every student should commit their time and energy to helping the wider community at least once a week, thus learning both compassion and the 89
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An Independent School for Boys and Girls aged 4-11 Our pupils now enjoy a new theatre, library, specialist facilities for art, music and science and a new suite of teaching areas. â€œThe school fulfils its mission to offer children the opportunity to succeed, to be recognised and to be valued. It achieves its aim to develop the intellectual, emotional and ethical requirements to tackle the challenges that life will present... they nurture, guide, motivate and inspire, and it is a school of smiles and laughter where there is much fun to be had.â€? Independent Schools Inspectorate 2010
Open Mornings 9:30am Wednesday, 11th March 2015 9:30am Thursday, 30th April 2015 9:30am Wednesday, 10th June 2015 To register your attendance at one of our open mornings, please phone 0208 846 9153 or mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Ravenscourt Park Prep School 16 Ravenscourt Avenue, London W6 0SL
www.rpps.co.uk RAVENSCOURT.indd 1
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importance of contributing to society. The first service at Gordonstoun were the 'Watchers' founded when Hahn realised that the nearby Moray coastline had only a limited coastguard service and he worked with the local coastguards to build a watchtower manned by Gordonstoun students in poor weather. The number of services has now expanded to 12 and every Year 11, 12 and 13 student joins one of these.
The Duke of Edinburgh Awards started as the Moray Badge at Gordonstoun They include community service, peer mentor service, coastguard, conservation service, fire service, first aid service, mountain rescue, pool lifeguard service and technical support service. In addition, Gordonstoun students have the opportunity to participate in international service projects the school runs during the summer holidays in Romania, Ethiopia and Thailand.
ABOVE GORDONSTOUN SCHOOL
BELOW AN ADVENTUROUS EXPEDITION
Through taking part in these broader areas of the Gordonstoun curriculum, as well as full participation in a range of sporting, musical, drama and dance opportunities, we see our students develop resilience, integrity and compassion. They become accustomed to new experiences and develop a positive approach to life. This helps them approach their academic learning with the right combination of positive thinking and perseverance. Our academic curriculum prepares students for GCSE’s and A Levels and our teaching staff are dedicated to ensuring every student fulfils academic potential. As you would expect from an education that encourages a broad outlook, Gordonstoun students leave to go to a very wide range of universities all over the world and to study an equally broad range of subjects, from engineering to dance. Nine students went to study in the USA last year as well as a number of European cities. However most of our students choose to stay in the UK and obtain places at Oxford, Cambridge and Russell Group universities amongst others. I believe we see the influence of Gordonstoun reflected in the very wide diversity of occupations of former students and the very high level of volunteering or charitable work undertaken by our alumni. Gordonstounians are distinct in being quietly confident, but not arrogant and I strongly believe that this is attributable to their educational experiences, whether these are on the hills or seas, in the boarding house, on the stage or on overseas projects or exchanges. I was extremely interested to read the CBI’s 2014 report entitled 'First Steps: A New Approach for our Schools' outlining its recommendations for education in Britain which argues that “personal behaviours and attributes (sometimes termed character) play a critical role in determining personal effectiveness in their future lives and should be part of the educational vision”. Indeed the businesses which the CBI consulted all agreed that a broad education
should aim to encourage qualities such as determination, optimism, grit, resilience, confidence, ambition and sensitivity to global concerns. This is ringing endorsement of an educational model which Gordonstoun pioneered 80 years ago. It was ahead of its time, was not afraid and is still not afraid to go beyond what other schools offer and it continues to lead the way in exuding optimism about the prospects of our young people. Most importantly its idealism is rooted in a real understanding of the needs of the modern world: life is unpredictable, change is certain; it is crucial that our sons and daughters both fulfil their academic potential and are as prepared as possible to take on and enjoy the opportunities and challenges ahead.
SIMON REID Principal, Gordonstoun
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KeW GReen preparatory school
An Independent School for Boys and Girls aged 4-11 “My children run to school as if it were their first day. I owe it to you and your colleagues. Kew Green Preparatory exudes a comfortable, confident, nurturing and safe aura, where I feel my children delight in being the bright, chirpy and playful individuals that they are.” Parent of Children in Years 3 & 6
Open Mornings 9:15am Wednesday, 18th March 2015
9:15am Wednesday, 20th May 2015
9:15am Wednesday, 6th May 2015
9:15am Wednesday, 24th June 2015
To register your attendance at one of our open mornings, please phone 020 8948 5999 or mail email@example.com
Kew Green Preparatory School
Layton House, Ferry Lane, Kew Green, Richmond TW9 3AF
www.kgps.co.uk KEW GREEN.indd 1
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THE MAKING OF ME
WILL GREENWOOD The England rugby player remembers endless hours of sport at school in Cumbria
What sort of school was it? v An all boys’ boarding school in Cumbria. It was in the middle of nowhere. Did you love it or hate it? v It was like Marmite – a little bit of both.
What are your plans for the future? v To continue to use sport to facilitate change and grow family well being.
What was your favourite subject or activity there? v Maths or economics were my favourite subjects. The Wilson run was always the activity everyone dreaded but I sort of loved it at the same time.
What beliefs do you think your school instilled in you? v It was a tough school and I learnt never ever give in to anyone or anything. What was your proudest achievement? v Not giving up when I missed home. I moved to boarding school when I was 12 and it was tough but I’m glad I stuck with it. What was the most trouble you got into? v I never really got into huge amounts of trouble, I wasn’t the best-behaved boy but I certainly wasn’t always in detention.
How did it influence the rest of your life and career? v My school life heavily influenced me. I always want to look forward, I hate taking steps backwards and I think that’s the reason I am where I am today. What are you doing now? v Spreading the gospel of family sport and wellness through my company SuperSkills Experiences. We run amazing holidays all over the world and are particularly proud of our family weekend SportFest, which gives children the chance to play alongside legends and learn about the core values of sport.
Where did you go to school and when? v Sedbergh School 1985-1991
Who was your favourite – or most influential - teacher? v Mr McPhail – he was my housemaster, economics teacher and cricket coach. Inspiring, enthusiastic and always getting out the best in the pupils.
I learnt never to give in to anyone or anything
What is your most vivid memory of your time there? v Evans House’s (my boarding house) yard – hours and hours of sport, any sport, in all conditions. Were you too cool for school? v I was the complete opposite of that. I was about tracksuits and trainers, not jeans and gel.
SuperSkills Experiences Summer Dates Rugby & netball in Sardinia with Martin Johnson, Will Greenwood or Austin Healey: 23rd - 30th May 4th - 11th, 11th - 18th or 18th - 25th July 15th - 22nd, 22nd – 29th August From £4,990 for a family of 4 with 2 children under the age of 13. www.superskills-experiences.com Sportfest: 1-2 August 2015 Price is £150 per person for the weekend www.sport-fest.co.uk www.sport-fest.co.uk +44 (0) 116 318 3244
Would you send your own children there? v If I lived up north - and now it’s a mixed school - I might, but we live down south at the moment. What effect do you think your schooling had on your character? Did it change you? v It’s clichéd to say it toughened me up but I didn’t leave there the shy retiring boy I turned up as.
WILL GREENWOOD England rugby player
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INDEPENDENT One of the real advantages of the public school system is that they can really do things their own way W o r d s J A N E T T E WA L L I S
hat defines an independent school? Beyond the sport, the music and the art. Beyond the National Trust buildings, theatres and sports halls. Beyond the exam results, the value added and the university destinations. Beyond the gloss … do independent schools encourage independent thinking? Or are they really purveyors of a gold-plated version of the national curriculum? “All fee-paying schools are ‘independent’”, says Ralph Lucas, editor in chief of The Good Schools Guide, “but some are more independent than others”. The cradle of Britain’s independent education lies in prep schools, the last bastion of Enid Blyton, conkers, elegant handwriting and match teas in a world under siege by social media, tablet computers and texting. At a time when children’s achievement is measured, sliced and diced in hundreds of ways, prep schools have managed to dodge classification. Most of them do not formally administer National Curriculum SATs exams (though many set them for internal monitoring) so, as of 2015, there is still no meaningful league table for prep school achievement. This freedom from death by league table gives prep schools a wide berth for
developing interests and academic curiosity. Preps like The Elms in Worcestershire and Casterton (Sedbergh Prep School) in Cumbria run their own farms. Cottesmore School in West Sussex runs an underground shooting range. Orwell Park School in Suffolk has its own observatory. Brockhurst and Marlston House School in Berkshire teaches boys and girls separately until the age of 11. Beyond this, the best preps
Britain’s prep schools are the last bastion of Enid Blyton in a world under siege take care to nurture individuals who may excel in the less conventional corners of the curriculum like chess, general knowledge quizzes and cookery. As children age, the work of keeping the rust out of the school machine becomes harder. “The most depressing task I ever undertook was looking for a public school for my son after six years at his magical prep”, a parent once confided to us. And it’s true that with university entry looming, senior
schools have far less room for manoeuvre than their junior relations. “The biggest challenge is to counter the remorseless pressure to succumb to the pressure of an assessment-dominated, target-driven, utilitarian approach to education, which reduces it to a diet of spoon-feeding and teaching-to-the-test”, says Dr John Taylor, Head of Philosophy and Director of Critical Skills at Rugby School. Rugby is one of a growing number of schools that have designed their own qualifications in an effort to enrich the thin gruel of GCSEs and A levels. Launched in 2004, with the aim of helping pupils develop high-level research skills, the school’s Extended Project Qualification is now taken by a quarter of Rugby’s sixth form. Over one or two years, sixth form pupils produce a 6,000 to 7,000-word research project on a topic of their choice – everything from quantum mechanics and black holes to animal welfare and witch hunts so far. The quality of work produced played a key role in encouraging the QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) to promote the development of extended projects, now available to all schools as qualifications equivalent to A-Level. Beyond intellectual enrichment, the course offers more concrete benefits. “When
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A pupil at Sevenoaks School
my son missed his grade for uni it was the EPQ that got him the place as the university recognised the degree of independent study and thought and originality,” a parent told us. Another praised it for the breadth it gave her son: “As a scientist he did maths, further maths, physics and chemistry – the EPQ was a useful way to show he could write and to demonstrate his keen interest in world affairs, politics and history”. Rugby has also created a post of Philosopher in Residence to encourage philosophy throughout the school, supervise EPQs, and provide “philosophical support” to other subject lessons. The school also offers the Higher Tier Project, a GCSE level version of the EPQ, now taken by the majority of year 11.
When Bedales School became dissatisfied with the quality of GCSE courses it took a root and branch approach and decided to create its own. Now well established, 2014 saw the fifth cohort to leave Bedales with Bedales Assessed Courses (BACs). Bedales’ signature qualification is proving popular with university admissions staff. “Better preparation for A-Level and development of independent learning skills are common aims, and BACs are tailored with our school’s objectives in mind: ‘To develop inquisitive thinkers with a love of learning who cherish independent thought’ and ‘to enable students’ talents to develop through doing and making,’” explains Deputy Head Al McConville.
Year 11 pupils at Bedales sit a combination of core IGCSEs (in English, Maths, Sciences and a Modern Foreign Language) and can then select BACs from: Art; Ancient Civilisations; Classical Music; Dance; Design; English Literature; Geography; History; Outdoor Work; Philosophy, Religion & Ethics; Theatre. Recent Outdoor Work BAC projects have included renovating a gypsy caravan, constructing a circular brick observatory, re-building a LandRover, restoration of a wedding cart, making traditional oak gates, and the construction of a chicken coop which will house soon-toarrive Black Rock hens. Sevenoaks School, which blazed a trail as the first British independent school 95
Bramley, Guildford, Surrey GU5 0DF | 01483 899609 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.stcatherines.info
S t C a t h e r i n e’s Bramley
Day, full & weekly boarding GSA School 900 girls 4-18 years Founded 1885 ABSOLUTELY_MAGAZINES_MAR_2015:Layout 1 Absolute Education01 January 2015.indd1 1 ST CATHERINES BRAMLEY.indd
Wednesday 11th March Friday 1st May
Monday 2nd March Thursday 30th April
YORK HOUSE SCHOOL
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Co-educational Preparatory Day School 3 to 13 years
Open Day Saturday 14 March 9.30am - 12pm | Headmaster’s talk at 11.00am
Come and explore a brighter future for your child. Small class sizes with a broad and exciting academic curriculum. Excellent sporting provision and a remarkable range of co-curricular activities. Set in 47 acres there is plenty of room for young minds to grow.
YORK HOUSE SCHOOL Sarratt Road, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, WD3 4LW Tel: 01923 772395 | Email: email@example.com | Twitter: @SchoolYorkHouse
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Bursaries available. Administered by Charitable Trust No. 311076
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Pupils at Cottesmore School which has its own shooting range
to drop A-Levels entirely in favour of the International Baccalaureate programme, has designed its own English Literature course for years 10 and 11. The course allows pupils to explore a variety of literary works including pre and post-1914 novels and poetry, as well as Shakespeare and nonfiction. There are also texts in translation and a number of ‘elective’ opportunities that allow teachers and students some freedom to explore works in which they have a particular interest. The course also develops skills that prepare students for the IB Diploma in the sixth form and for university study: critical thinking, research skills, a sense of enquiry and international awareness. It is fully recognised by UCAS and appears on the formal ‘drop down’ menu, alongside GCSE and IGCSE options, as Sevenoaks School Certificate: English Literature.
Casterton, Sedbergh Prep School, has its own farm
Sevenoaks blazed a trail a as the first British independent school to drop A-Levels entirely Dulwich College’s Symposium, now in its sixth year, brings speakers and imaginative programmes to the sixth form for a day’s academic sabbatical. “We want to emphasise learning for its own sake, not for an exam they will take afterwards,” explains headmaster Dr Joseph Spence. “One of our aims is to bring the sciences and arts together so we can look at a topic from different angles.” Each year, a different theme is chosen, from ‘Science and the Imagination’ (Charles Darwin’s great great granddaughter, poet Ruth Padel, spoke about the influence of science on poetry) to 2014’s ‘Power’(comedian Jo Brand spoke about the importance of challenging prejudice, pride and power). Last year’s seminars, some run by teachers, others by the boys themselves, ranged from a practical session on solar power to a seminar on power narratives in the paintings of Edward Hopper. A similar event – Free Learning Day – is run for children in year 10. And ‘Creative Week’ brings the arts into the classroom with spontaneous creativity (“we had over 1600 clay portraits”), talks form art professionals, and visits to plays, exhibitions and music. One of the most striking exam innovations
in recent years, the Cambridge Pre-U, came directly from the independent sector. A group of top independent schools urged the development of more challenging exams that would help universities to separate the wheat from the quinoa. Reminiscent of old fashioned A levels, with all exams taken at the end of a two year course, the Pre-U’s finely shaded grading system extends above the A*, making it easier to identify the very brightest pupils. Introduced in 2008, with Winchester College and Charterhouse among the early adopters, it is now offered, at least in part, by around 120 schools. However, independence is not confined to the classroom. Schools with specialist arts programmes – like Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, Hampstead Fine Arts College and the Purcell School of Music – predictably churn out talent by the bushel. But mainstream independents also nurture the arts. Innovative extracurricular offerings, inspired teachers and even logistics - like boarding or longer school days - have helped independent schools produce more than their share of lovies and divas. So, in this era of education by exam result, can independent schools continue to march to the beat of their own drum? “Independent schools are more at the toothpaste than the crisp end of independence,” cautions Ralph Lucas. “Manufacturers of both are free to create any flavour but crisp makers try out all sorts while 99 toothpastes out of 100 taste of mint”. For families seeking the spectacularly different, there are will always be spectacularly different schools, like Krishnamurti-inspired Brockwood Park (where pupils greet the morning with meditation), Summerhill (where lessons are optional) and a range of Steiner schools. For most parents though, a stiff dash of independence gives education the zest they are looking for.
JANETTE WALLIS Senior editor of The Good Schools Guide
A. HANNA & SONS PIANOS
Family Business est. 1960 – London since 1990
From Grands and Uprights to Electronic Pianos and Keyboards… Official dealer for
We also specialise in piano tuning & refurbishment
…we’re in tune with your needs. Showroom: 94 Kingston Rd, Wimbledon, SW19 1LA | Tel: 0208 540 5541 firstname.lastname@example.org | www.hanna-pianos.co.uk A. HANNA & SONS PIANOS.indd 1
Nurturing, Inspiring, Achieving Success
Independent Day School for Boys aged 4-13 & Girls aged 4-11 located in Hampton A caring and happy school, providing an inspiring education amongst first-class facilities. Achieving high academic standards and excellent personal development within a broad curriculum.
Snapshot Mornings 20 March, 24 April, 22 May, 19 June 2015 www.godolphin.org
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School Open Day 9th May 10am-12noon. All welcome. Tel: 020 8979 6216 Email: email@example.com www.twickenhamprep.co.uk
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Play TIME When it comes to holiday tuition, don’ t over do it and make sure your children are still having fun W o r d s D AV I D W E L L E S L E Y W E S L E Y
often hear parents wax lyrical about their childhood school holidays. They reminisce about how their Christmases revolved entirely around just that, Christmas; how Easter involved only thoughts of skiing and Easter egg hunts; how long summers gave abandon to studious ambition and were filled with excitement and adventure. Nowadays, on the other hand, children’s
holidays are filled with tuition due to the intense and increasing pressure they are under. But whilst there is no denying that children are under more pressure today; equally I don’t think the initial rose bespectacled view is accurate either. I for one, had regular tuition during the holidays, particularly when crunch time came with GCSE’s and A-Levels. I know I was not alone in this, not even close. Perhaps I spent my
LEFT POWDER BYRNE WILL NOW PROVIDE TOP TUTORS WITH ITS EXCLUSIVE CHALETS
holidays whilst at prep school running around the garden with little thought apart from what I was doing at that moment in time, but senior school holidays were far more structured with them entirely devoted to revision in the lead up to public examinations. In this respect, home (holiday) tuition is not a new concept. Far from it. It dates back to Ancient Greece with the likes of Alexander the Great, although in truth he probably had less structured holidays. And curriculum for that matter. What is important now though, in this time of increasing pressure, is ensuring that holiday tuition is balanced and structured. What puts students today in danger with tuition is the ethos that ‘more is better’. Completely untrue. The competition amongst parents that drives their children to have their time scheduled within an inch of their lives, is something I would never encourage. Where is the fun? And what is the point of this relentless achieving if the child is not having any fun along the way? It is creating an environment of hostility towards learning rather than curiosity and joy. Dynamic and intensive tutorials are far more effective at developing study techniques and ensuring understanding and knowledge.
Avoid creating an environment of hostility towards learning rather than curiosity and joy
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Splitting this between time inside and outside of a formal learning environment also helps the student to learn holistically and therefore access the information more readily. Powder Byrne’s recent initiative to provide top tutors with their exclusive chalets understands this idea perfectly. Daily tuition is scheduled around activities, notably skiing. Not only does this provide the student with a change in environment, which prevents them from becoming stale, but it includes exercise into the revision programme. Too frequently activities are cut out of a study schedule in favour of pure revision. In my opinion this inhibits study rather than encourages it. Sports and activities of a cardio-nature boost serotonin and thus energy levels, as well as giving the body and mind time to refresh. By removing this element from a student’s timetable, particularly at such a crucial stage in their school career, removes the balance in their programme. This frequently leads to either heightened stress levels, or a malaise towards their studies. Pre-GCSE, Powder Byrne’s combination of academics and sports is an exemplary way to keep a student enthused and productive. Bonas MacFarlane work with them to ensure that tutors are specialised, knowledgeable and creative. After a morning of French grammar, what better way to refresh a subject and bring a language alive, then getting out on the slopes and using it! I don’t necessarily mean speaking with locals either, but just by incorporating it into
the skiing and making it fun. Who can hear anyone speak as they whizz down the slopes? Where better to practise the rasps of French or the guttural sounds of German than on the mountainside, far out of the earshot of your classmates giggles?! Or if you are more inclined to beaches and palm trees, a Bonas MacFarlane tutor can create a bespoke programme to ensure sufficient and tailored GCSE revision is incorporated with water sports, tennis or some form of highcardio activity to ensure that both child and parents are still able to enjoy some semblance of a family holiday. Children today are more pressured. For sure. With greater competition from an earlier age, this is undeniable. What can benefit them and ease their school careers for all involved, is to encourage and maintain the ‘balance’ touched on above. It is this which has become far more relevant and essential to explore when considering the success of your children. Team Camp use their summer schools to encourage this holistic and inclusive approach to learning from the age of four. Children alternate English and Maths lessons with activities. As well as maintaining
Where better to practise the rasps of French or the guttural sounds of German than on the slopes?
LEFT SPECIALIST TUTORS CAN SPEND THE MORNINGS TEACHING FRENCH GRAMMAR BEFORE LETTING THEIR CHARGES GO SKIING
interest and enjoyment levels, this enables the topics covered to have time to settle therefore enabling the pupil to become more confident with the subject. It is in this capacity that the value of holiday camps becomes most evident. Schools have successfully mastered the ability to deliver curricula in a structured environment. That their timetable includes sports, music, art and drama emphasises the importance of balance in a successful education. Holiday camps and residential tuition then serve as an opportunity to secure this knowledge effectively and creatively, and encourage the student to feel comfortable with it. In addition, it encourages the pupil to organise their time between scholastic learning and skills during the holiday period. From this develops self-discipline which in turn leads to a greater pride in one’s work and therefore a greater determination to succeed. If this ethic is encouraged from a young age, the stress of public examinations will be reduced by default. In addition, it is intended that these holiday sessions should combine academic work with adventure, team work and confidencebuilding. This keeps stress levels down and makes it fun; at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to learn if it’s fun?
DAVID WELLESLEY WESLEY Director, Bonas MacFarlane
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SCHOOL FEES PLANNING
Funding school fees is one of the biggest financial commitments a family can make. As a result, it can be a source of considerable concern for some parents
roviding a good education can be one of the most valuable gifts parents or grandparents can give to children. While the financial implications can be daunting, the key to affording school fees is to plan as early as you can. Saving soon after a child is born gives ten years to build a fund for when they go to secondary school. Generally, parents looking to fund school fees fall into three categories – those who want to invest a lump sum, those who would like to spread the cost of fees, or parents wanting to set up a regular savings scheme
* Trusts are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority
to provide funds to cover future fees. Even though the cost of sending a child to an independent school has risen, a recent census shows a marked rise in pupil numbers to 508,601 in 2013 (ISC Census 2013), while latest figures from the Independent Schools Council (ISC) show that the average fee at an ISC school is £4,765 per term. There are several schemes available to help make school fees more affordable, and an experienced wealth manager can draw up a bespoke investment plan that can be both tax efficient and flexible. For example, you could consider using your annual tax-efficient ISA allowance. By investing the maximum amount permitted in an ISA and selecting funds run by full-time professional investment managers, a tidy sum could be accumulated in the space of ten years. For grandparents, trust* planning can be a useful tool if they wish to make provision for school fees and achieve Inheritance Tax (IHT) benefits at the same time. If they make regular payments from their income without reducing their lifestyle, then these gifts are not counted as part of their estate for inheritance tax purposes. Another option is to give a lump sum for their grandchildren’s education and provided they survive for a further seven years, the gift is free of IHT. Grandparents might also want to consider other solutions, such as life assurance, to help increase the funds created for grandchildren. This can be very useful when there is more than one child you wish to provide for. The history of financial markets has shown consistently that a measured, long term view is always the best approach to investing. Today, it is more important than ever to be fully aware of all the solutions available so that you can make an informed choice for your personal wealth management.
A N G E L I N A S I R A KO V is inviting Absolutely readers to discuss their school fees planning concerns and opportunities in a school fees review. All reviews last approximately 60 minutes and are held in the strictest confidence without obligation. ● Call 0792 696 8778 to make an
appointment for your complimentary guide to wealth management.
The levels and bases of taxation and reliefs from taxation can change at any time and are generally dependent on individual circumstances. The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds selected and the value may fall as well as rise. You may get back less than the amount invested. An investment in equities will not provide the security of capital associated with a deposit account with a bank or building society.
ANGELINA SIRAKOV Associate Partner of St. James’s Place Wealth Management, 0792 696 8778 firstname.lastname@example.org www.angelinasirakov.co.uk
The Partner represents only St. James’s Place Wealth Management plc (which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) for the purpose of advising solely on the Group’s wealth management products and services, more details of which are set out on the Group’s website www.sjp.co.uk/products. The title ‘Partner’ is the marketing term used to describe St. James’s Place representatives.
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B LACKHEATH P REPARATORY S CHOOL IAPS co-educational school for 3-11 years
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. 4 St. Germans Place, Blackheath, London. SE3 0NJ Tel: 020 8858 0692 Email: email@example.com www.blackheathprepschool.com Company limited by guarantee No. 672569 Charitable Status No. 312732
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Open Events 2015 School in Action Thursday 7th May 9.00am – 10.45am
INCLUSIVE • INDIVIDUAL • INSPIRATIONAL
To book, please visit our website or contact our Registrar: 020 7348 1748 | firstname.lastname@example.org www.stjamesgirls.co.uk
Open Morning Saturday 21 March, 9.30am Boys aged 11-18 • Girls aged 16-18 Full, weekly and flexi boarding available from Year 9 Inspirational Oxfordshire site by the River Thames Weekly Bus Route from West London Available Find out more and book online at
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An independent day school for girls aged 10-18 providing an intellectual, emotional and spiritual education. Earsby Street | London W14 8SH
GSA | ISA Registered Charity No. 270156
Senior Girls’ School
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GOLD The Chief Executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) on why sport matters in the education of girls Wo rd s H E L E N F R A S E R
oes sport matter in the education of girls? Would it be fine for girls to sit at their desks or in the library all day, studying hard, and never running around on a hockey pitch or a netball court? Are we here to educate the brain – or the whole person? In my experience, sport can be the making of a woman and in the end that’s what we, at the GDST, are all about. We are trying to ‘make women’ – women who will make their mark in the world, will ride the white water rafting of careers and come out on top. I should say – right from the start – that I was not a sporty girl at school. My inability to coordinate hand and eye meant that I never played for school teams and
There is something wonderfully unselfconscious about throwing yourself into sport watched in awe as schoolmates struck the rounders ball or popped the netball into the net. On those cold hours on the hockey field, my view was that if the ball showed any sign of coming towards me I would move smartly away from it. That didn’t mean, though, that I didn’t like physical activity – I loved gym, and Scottish dancing, and ballet and skating which I did outside school. But I would definitely have classed myself as ‘not a sporty girl’. However, I think that those hours out of the classroom – even when
my legs were blue from cold – gave me some really good things. First – I had to learn that there were some things I really wasn’t good at. Experiencing and overcoming failure is a key tenet of the GDST philosophy. We want girls to realise that no one is perfect and that trying to be perfect destroys people. So finding that there are things you can’t do – but the world doesn’t come to an end – is helpful. I think also that even the modicum of exercise I got – and the much greater amount that my talented friends got – was good for our brains. There is a mass of scientific evidence now that anything that speeds up the circulation in the body actually wakes up the brain and helps our mental function. Scientific research has also show that for girls in particular, weight103
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bearing exercise in adolescence helps build bone strength and protects them from osteoporosis later on. Active girls are less likely to suffer from anxiety or depression, are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. It matters not just for the health of the individual woman but for the health of the nation. Sport also builds habits – girls who get lots of exercise in their school years are more likely to be exercising in their twenties, thirties and forties with all the health benefits that brings. In the past couple of decades, physically active women have been enjoying something of a renaissance in popular culture. Fifteen years ago it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena Warrior Princess seizing the popular imagination. The female characters in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series are just as fierce, strong and smart as their male counterparts. And whatever we feel about the violent dystopias inhabited by Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games or Tris Prior in the Divergent series, those teenagers are strong.
Whatever you think about Katniss Everdeen or Tris Prior at least those teenagers are strong
LEFT GIRLS PLAYING LACROSSE AT PUTNEY HIGH SCHOOL
OPPOSITE PREPARING FOR A HOCKEY MATCH AT SHREWSBURY HIGH SCHOOL
It is heartening to see fictional heroines who can hold their own in a fight, who endure physical hardship and aren’t just waiting to be rescued by a hero on a white charger. It is important to have cultural representations of women and girls who are physically powerful, fast and strong. One of the things that competitive sport teaches girls is a certain type of fearlessness, one that is a vital component of leadership. Taking your team to a fixture, captaining it, building the strategy, enjoying victory, facing defeat – these are building life skills. A 2002 US survey of 400 senior women business executives found that 80% played organised sports growing up, and 69% said sports helped them develop leadership skills that contributed to their professional success. A more recent survey commissioned by EY (as Ernst & Young now prefer to be known) has linked women in senior management positions to experience with sports, finding that 96 percent of the highest ranking female executives played sports, 55 percent of them at university level. In an all girls’ school there is something wonderfully physically unselfconscious about throwing yourself into sport. I have been in our schools when a class of teenage girls is returning from a sports lesson, pink in the face, tousled, throwing themselves
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PUPILS AT CROYDON HIGH SCHOOL
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down on the floor – with never a moment of ‘am I having a bad hair day’, or ‘does my bum look big in this’ – really great inclusive sport takes girls away from all those unhelpful thoughts of bodily perfection and focuses them on the team and the goals. Three of my daughters and stepdaughters played rugby for their college or university. I remember watching one from the side-lines as they tackled each other in the mud, the occasional trickle of blood down the cheek. And thinking ‘how character forming is that?’ And also thinking how few occasions young women get to roll around in the mud and throw themselves at an opponent. Maybe that is why women’s rugby is such a fast-growing sport.
In my view, the first plank of our philosophy should be ‘sport for all’ – that every girl with an interest in sports, or dance, or other physical exercise should have that interest supported and nurtured, whether or not she will ever make the A team or its equivalent. That’s why I love it when our schools have A, B, C and D teams, and beyond, so that all girls who enjoy a sport have the chance to play it. Around the issue of sport come all those issues that beset women – and especially young women. Is it ok to compete, to get hot and sweaty? Is it unfeminine to win, and to leap in the air with joy when you do? (I think the raft of fabulous British Olympic athletes, from Katherine Grainger to Jessica
Ennis to the boxing champion Nicola Adams helped prove that it was good to win.) Are muscles ok on a woman? What on earth has happened to the word fit, which used to mean that you could run a few miles without collapsing but now just means ‘fanciable’? I think sport, and exercise is one of the ways in which women can reclaim their bodies from the kind of obsessions of the tabloid press and celebrity magazines. It is not about being fat or thin, it is about being fit. It is not about how you look, but about what you do. The brilliant ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, developed by Sport England, is a celebration of active women everywhere and proves that whatever our size, ability or previous experience, sport can be a fun and enjoyable part of our lives. But girls still need to get this message. Nationally, girls start doing less activity than boys as soon as they are eight or nine. By the time they’re 14, only 12% of girls are as active as they should be. Despite PE being compulsory in schools, one in five girls still does no activity in a week, twice the proportion of boys. And by the time they leave school, they have habits and perceptions that are hard to shift. And that continues into adult life, with men far more likely to be involved in sport than women. Habits made now will be habits for life and we’ll continue to do all we can to help our girls develop their sporting prowess and physical fitness.
TOP GIRLS PLAYING NETBALL AT PUTNEY HIGH SCHOOL
HELEN FRASER Chief Executive of the GDST
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LUXURY It has long educated the world’s ruling elites, but now Institut Le Rosey, the world’s most expensive school, is hoping to entice London’s super-rich Wo r d s HARRY MOU NT
t is known as the school of kings, counting among its alumni the Shah of Iran, Prince Rainier of Monaco and King Farouk of Egypt. Its catchment area was once the glittering palaces that housed the grandest families on the Continent: the Metternichs, the Borgheses and the Hohenlohes. But Institut Le Rosey is now spreading its net to humble old Britain. For the first time in its 135-year history, the prestigious Swiss boarding school has been recruiting giltedged pupils, aged seven to 18, in London. Co-educational since 1967, it is keen to claim a slice of a market hitherto dominated by British boarding schools such as Eton and Harrow. But at £80,000 a year - more than twice their fees - the most expensive school in the world will hardly be cherry-picking the brightest and best middle-class British pupils. Their parents find British school fees steep enough already. London, however, has become the city of choice for the world’s richest parents so is also home to the world’s richest kids. And it is they who formed the target audience for Le Rosey’s recruitment drive last month, held at the city’s Swiss Embassy. There has long been a tiny British contingent at the school, making up five per cent of its 400 pupils. Its intake hails
from 63 countries, with no more than 10% of its students coming from any one country, to prevent a single nationality dominating. Sir Roger Moore and Elizabeth Taylor sent their children there. John Lennon’s son Sean studied there, too, as did the Duke of Kent and Winston Spencer Churchill, grandson of the wartime Prime Minister. But the days when it served an intercontinental upper-class elite are long gone. “Le Rosey was different in the 1950s when I first came here,” says Taki Theodoracopulos, the Spectator columnist who lives in Gstaad, home to one of Le Rosey’s two campuses. “Then all the kids were upper-class, Rainier and the Shah were looked down upon. It was mostly American. Then the Italians and the French came. And then, in the 1970s, the Arabs arrived.” As the international mega-rich pour in, the school is losing its Euro-Anglo-American founding ethos. “That’s why they’re recruiting the British,” says Taki, whose son attended the school. “They want to get some Europeans, and the odd token Briton and American, but they can’t admit it.” Some of that British sheen is supplied by Michael Gray, Le Rosey’s British headmaster, educated at a Liverpool grammar school.
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Otherwise, the school is not only in another country, it might as well be on another planet as far as most people are concerned. The winter term is spent in Gstaad, with lessons finishing by lunchtime so the children can hit the slopes for the afternoon. In spring, they head to the school’s Château du Rosey campus nestled on the site of a Gothic, 14thcentury château in the village of Rolle on the shores of Lake Geneva. The privately-owned institution is astonishingly well-equipped, with a shooting range, 1,000-seat concert hall and an equestrian centre boasting 30 horses. Few other schools have their own 38-foot yacht on Lake Geneva, let alone a spa for stressed-out pupils to unwind in at the end of the long school day. Classes are in French and
Winter term is in the ski resort of Gstaad with lessons finishing early so pupils can hit the slopes
This article first appeared in the Daily Telegraph.
English, in a system called 'à la carte bilingualism'. The teacher-pupil ratio is an enviable 1:5. But for those who can afford the fees, perhaps none of this seems out of the ordinary. “Seeing a helicopter land on the football pitches with a Russian pupil stepping out with his parents, I was somewhat shocked at the in-your-face parades of wealth,” says Annabel, 25, who worked as a housemaster’s au pair at Le Rosey in 2008. “It is very different to a British boarding school - it is run like a business. One pupil had 'I AM RICH’ planted across his jumper. I felt the boys definitely wanted to prove their wealth in a more crass way than the girl pupils.” Yet the school is at pains to deny that money is a divisive issue among its students. “No one goes around, saying "I’m richer than you’,” Gray told the Times, “It’s completely unsnobbish. If people put on airs and graces they wouldn’t survive.” The school is also keen to stress it’s not just for those who have money but no brains. All the pupils sit official external examinations - the
International Baccalaureate (IB) or the French baccalauréat. Only those who can expect to get into university are offered a place . And only one in three applicants is accepted. “It’s certainly not academic,” says Taki, “But the school does do its best to improve the kids. My son was happy there - and they are polite. My wife was going up in the ski lift the other day with three Le Rosey kids. One was Russian, one American, one Arab. They couldn’t have been nicer or more polite.” Unsurprisingly, this rarefied elite ends up forming close bonds. “I saw a lot of relationships,” says Annabel, who now works in advertising in Australia. “Many of the boarding students were renting out pretty expensive hotel rooms in Gstaad for the weekend, where they could get up to mischief without adult or teacher supervision.” Go to Le Rosey - or, even better, marry another Ancien Roséen, as Old Roseans are called - and you’re set up for life. There’s an Anciens Roséens alumni programme and a strictly private directory that lets you network with other super-rich old boys and girls. With that exclusive alumni network, along with the school’s fabulous settings and eye-watering fees, it’s hard not to agree with F Scott Fitzgerald: the very rich “are different from you and me”. And they start being very different at a very young age.
PREVIOUS PAGE LE ROSEY'S WINTER TERM CAMPUS IS IN THE SWISS SKI RESORT OF GSTAAD
TOP THE LE ROSEY SUMMER CAMPUS IS IN THE VILLAGE OF ROLLE ON THE SHORES OF LAKE GENEVA
LEFT THE DUKE OF KENT IS A LE ROSEY ALUMNA
HARRY MOUNT is the author of How England Made the English
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The glistening new building will stand adjacent to Waterloo Station The independent college features purpose-built education facilities in the basement and on the ground, mezzanine, first and second floors standing below 15 floors of secure student accommodation with 220 contemporary bedrooms all with ensuites. Our boarding school will be offering fully catered options for our students. I am personally excited by the Atrium where I will be able to address pupils on every floor of the educational section of the building all at once. The needs of all of our students will be met with state-of-the-art technology, design and space. The college will offer superb, modern teaching and resources in the heart of the City of Westminster and the students will benefit from being surrounded by the iconic, historical landmarks London has to offer. DLD College London was founded in 1931 and since its foundation has built a strong reputation amongst students, parents, schools and universities. We are proud to boast that the majority of DLD College London students progress to take up places and study a wide range of subjects at an array of the most prestigious and specialist colleges and universities across the UK and internationally. As part of the Alpha Plus Group, we at DLD College aim to maintain a ‘gold standard’ of educational quality. Our classes are small, enabling students and teachers to focus upon the most effective ways of learning.
Rachel Borland, principal of DLD College London, on an exciting move to Westminster
e here at DLD College London are counting down the days until we move into the iconic new building in September. This is a significant step forward for the college, the Alpha Plus Group and the city’s education provision. It is a huge leap in terms of moving education in the right direction and will help to ensure the students receive the best in personalised and best in class education. The two sites which will merge to share this fantastic new facility - the
Marylebone campus and Belgravia campus - have had exceptional results in their current locations and we are sure that once combined the college will become utterly outstanding. We are immensely proud that the new boarding college will rub shoulders with some of the most prestigious and historical buildings in London. The position in the heart of the city will be exceptional. The glistening and crystalline landmark building will stand adjacent to Waterloo Station, directly overlooking Westminster across the River Thames with stunning views of The Shard, The Gherkin and St Paul’s Cathedral on the skyline to the east.
LEFT A PHOTOGRAPH SHOWING WHERE THE NEW DLD BUILDING WILL BE IN CENTRAL LONDON
RACHEL BORLAND Principal of DLD College London
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THE YOUNG ENVIRONMENTALIST Clare Denning, the 17-year-old organiser of Earth Day at Bedales, speaks out What is Earth Day? v Earth day, founded in the US in the 1970s, channelled the energy of the anti-war movement and tackled the serious environmental issues of the day. Bedales will be hosting its own Earth Day afternoon, organised by the student-led green team. The event, on 18 March, will consist of a series of lectures, forums and workshops delivered by leaders of today's environmental movements. This is designed to give young people in particular the opportunity to discuss, debate and challenge the way in which our government and lifestyle deal with the mounting pressure of environmental concerns. I hope that it allows more people to feel empowered and engaged to make a change in their own communities. Why are you organising it? v To unearth some of the pressing environmental issues that face our generation; we hope to promote discussion and elevate the importance of today’s environmental concerns within our community. Bedales is a school founded with the ethos of the arts and crafts movement in the late 19th century; it was founded to prevent the domination of the industrialist movement and instead promote craftsmanship and community values. For this reason we feel a strong sense of responsibility at Bedales to aspire towards a significantly more sustainable and ethical community. I hope to encourage my own school to adopt a more thoughtful approach to environmentalism by hosting this event.
What are your major concerns about the environment? v It is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot sustain the level of consumption fuelled by the consumerist society in which we live; I think there needs to be a shift in the power afforded to major corporations who disregard their environmental duties in their search for profit. The build-up of carbon emissions, excessive deforestation, the throwaway culture and the pollution that plagues our oceans and homelands are among the most urgent issues we must face. Many systems could already be put in place to secure a better future: whether a shift to renewable energy, a pronounced change in the food industry or a reduction in plastic packaging. Yet I think the real problem lies in our fairly short-sighted and egoistical ideology, where we lack respect for our environment and fellow animals and value efficiency and profit above all else.
Bedales was founded to promote craftsmanship and community values
What have you learnt during the organisation process? v I have learnt the importance of teamwork, delegation and communication; that you can’t do everything on your own. It also became apparent from the outset that it is easy to forget the amount of organisation that goes into a conference – from microphones and tea to venues and speakers.
What do you hope to achieve with the day? v We hope to create a sustainable platform from which people feel engaged and empowered to make a change in the way that they live their lives to support a more environmentally ethical and mindful lifestyle.
How has the school helped you with Earth Day? v I have been having regular meetings with senior staff members, who have supported me and helped me to understand the process of organising an event such as this. I have also received a lot of advice from my tutor, Annabel Smith, and set up a committee of students who are working hard to help plan the day.
Who will be coming to speak? v To name a few, we have: Maddy Harland, founder of the Sustainability Centre and editor of Permaculture magazine; Adam Harper, Petersfield’s Green Party Representative; Katie Milward, a journalist from eco storm; and others including anti-fracking campaigners and environmental activists from further afield.
What do you want to do next? v I would like to study social anthropology whilst taking courses in sustainability and permaculture. I hope to volunteer in activist groups like 38 degrees which give people the opportunity to protest against political injustice while maintaining an understanding of the land by working on organic farms around the country.
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