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NO BRAINER Will cognitive tests replace the 11-plus?



SPRIN G 2018

Master Class

Marlborough College icon Robin Child





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Your daughter is unique and so is Heathfield. As well as providing an excellent academic education and top-class pastoral care, we guide your daughter to understand her personal strengths, live her ambitions, and develop as the best possible version of herself. Our education goes far beyond exam results – individual talent and spirit is celebrated throughout the school. Live life like a Heathfield girl.

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An all-through education for your whole family A new era of education begins... Following the opening of Eaton Square Upper School, Mayfair we are now able to offer families in central London an all-through co-educational school experience. Join us at the age of two in any of our nursery schools and stay all the way through to A-Levels at 18 years old. To book a tour of our Nursery and Preparatory Schools visit: To book a tour of our Upper school visit: MINERVA.indd 1

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We l c o m e

From the



consider myself a fairly liberal, openminded sort of person. But then I heard myself discussing my son’s GCSE options with him. Barking at him, like a demented sergeant major that, ‘Yes, he could do one non-academic GCSE as long as he did 12 academic ones’ and ‘No, he couldn’t do Photography and Drama and certainly not Art as well.’ And then I got to work on our spring issue and realised what an idiot I am. Because if this special arts issue has taught me anything it’s that there should never be a hierarchy of worth between subjects considered ‘useful’, ie academic, and ‘less useful’, ie the arts and sport. I only need to consider my son’s attitude to drama. He’s playing Bill Sikes in this term’s school production of Oliver. The drama department

him grow immeasurably in his first three years at senior school, it is drama, without a doubt. Laura Dockrill, a brilliantly talented writer, illustrator and performance poet, says drama was the making of her at the BRIT school. Read about her time there on page 70. And there is more about this amazing, non fee-paying performing-arts school on page 44. We also have Rachel Kelly on the power of poetry on page 84, an interview with North London arts doyenne Candida Cave on page 72 and a round-up of schools with outstanding arts on page 49. Jonty Claypole, the director of arts at the BBC – in an exclusive column for us on page 21 - says an arts education taught him how to empathise and how to write. As someone with a similar background, I would concur. So often, arts graduates feel they

“THERE SHOULD NEVER BE A HIERARCHY OF WORTH BETWEEN SUBJECTS CONSIDERED USEFUL AND LESS USEFUL” at his school is superb (it’s a London comp while you’re asking); the teachers are imaginative, driven and hugely committed. They expect similar levels of discipline and commitment from all those involved in the play. The whole company put in endless hours of rehearsals, including two or three weekends. Through his involvement with three brilliant productions, my son has learnt a great work ethic but also empathy, confidence, team work, stage craft, poetry, music, geography, history… He is someone who loves sciences, humanities and sport. But if I was to pinpoint one subject that has made

don’t have a proper job, they aren’t qualified for anything, not like a lawyer, scientist or doctor. So isn’t it ironic that with the rise of the robots, these horribly-named ‘soft skills’ (actually just how to be human) are the ones our children must develop more than ever. The future is bright for the creative class. I hope you enjoy this issue.

A manda Constance EDITOR

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Amanda Constance ž



Georgia McVeigh ž


Helen Crossman ž



Hayden Taylor ž


What’s going on in the world of education


Andy Mabbitt ž


A personal viewpoint from Jonty Claypole, Director of Arts at the BBC



A celebration of art teacher Robin Child, by Dr Niall Hamilton P R EP


The importance of encouraging art in the early years, by Ambika Curbishley


Leah Day ž


Craig Davies ž


Phil Couzens ž


Pawel Kuba, Linsey Cannon ž DESIGNER S

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Baking with children can teach them a lot about science, says prep head Jill Walker


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The education experts answer your questions

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Mayfield School builds girls ready to take on anything, says Eleanor Doughty


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BRIT school alumni are taking over the world, Absolutely Education is impressed

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Art and art therapy can help with learning needs, says Charlotte Phillips


A group of London girls' schools are replacing the 11-plus, Lisa Freedman investigates


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Laura Dockrill's happy schooldays at the BRIT S CHOOL LE AVER


Absolutely Education meets Candida Cave, founder of Hampstead's Fine Arts College S CHOOL'S OUT



Writing and reading poetry can help stressed teenagers, says Rachel Kelly L AST WORD

98 MARINA GARDINER LEGGE Headmistress of Heathfield School

F RO NT COV E R Pupils at Mayfield School, a Catholic boarding and day school for girls aged 11 to 18 in Sussex.

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


Laura Dockrill

Writer, illustrator and performance poet

Laura Dockrill was born in Brixton and attended the Brit School in Croydon where her friends included Kate Nash and Adele. She writes about her school days on page 70. What’s the worst playground taunt you ever received? I had one friend at primary school and we were mostly ignored! Which was fine, we lived in an imaginary world of make-believe every play time. Which was quite nice really.

Niall Hamilton

Senior Admissions Tutor, Marlborough College

Niall Hamilton began working at Marlborough College in 1985 after completing a PhD in the history of school architecture. He writes a celebration of Marlborough's legendary art master, Robin Child, on page 22. What’s the worst playground taunt you ever received? I was teased about my obsession with architecture, to the extent that my housemaster allowed me to draw pictures of cathedrals rather than play cricket. I was so lucky!

Senior School Open Day Friday 9 March 2018

Rachel Kelly

Writer and mental health campaigner

Putney High School

Rachel Kelly was educated at St Paul’s Girls’ School and Magdalen College, Oxford. In her early thirties, she suffered two major depressive episodes which have become the defining events of her life. She writes about the healing power of poetry on page 84 What’s the worst playground taunt you ever received? I remember some girls singing ‘Liar, Liar/ Pants on fire!’ Not quite sure what it means but at least it rhymes! 

35 Putney Hill, London SW15 6BH T: 020 8788 4886 Follow us on Twitter @putneyhigh Registered Charity No 306983

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Inspired | Intellectual | Individual | Independent | Inclusive

Discover more about the Wellington Identity at


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Spider Man


A Moat School student has won first prize in a national arts competition. Ollie Baldry's sculpture of a spider made from scrap metal –called Nature Versus Technology – won in the KS3 Individual Art category. It was one of two works submitted to the Independent Schools Associations National Art Finals by Moat School pupils.

Westonbirt School has appointed three industry ‘Champions’ who will offer support and mentoring to pupils and inspire them for future careers. The three women come from very different sectors. Aimee Neaverson works for the Overseas Development Institute, Hermione Harbutt (pictured) is a successful accessories entrepreneur, and Shefali Sharma has a Master’s in Space Engineering and Astronautics.

Snow Show Pupils from Truro School worked with local artists to create a successful sell-out performance of Han Christian Anderson's epic fairy tale, The Snow Queen which was adapted for the statge by Director of Drama Ben Oldfield. The students collaborated with to a professional standard on the acting, costume and stage design and technical aspects of the play.

“Westonbirt's new Champions will inspire pupils for future careers”

AUCTION AC T I O N Hyde Park School has raised thousands of pounds for the East Africa Children’s project, following a fundraising drinks evening and an auction of student art. The £6,000 donated so far will provide vital funds for children across Uganda; allowing them to buy educational materials and solar lighting for their homes.

P I V O TA L PROCESSION Oundle School joined forces with Mossbourne Academy to take part in the Lord Mayor’s Show, an event which dates back to the 16th century. Pupils from both schools were part of the procession taking to the streets of the City with painted faces and full costume, representing The Worshipful Company of Grocers.

“I did Latin A-Level but I've never used it in my life but I use sport and what I've learnt from sport all the time” CLARE BALDING

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Fiction Fun Cranleigh Schools have released the shortlist for the 2018 Awesome Book Awards. Pupils from 45 schools across London and the South East will read the shortlisted books and cast their vote before the winner is announced at an awards ceremony in May.

FESTIVE FUN Pupils from St Anthony’s Girls performed traditional carols and classics such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on Hampstead High Street in December. They sang for tourists, local residents and businesses, and Headmistress Laura Flannery, commented: “The girls put on an impressive performance and were excellent ambassadors for the school.”

REASONABLE ROBOTICS An innovative low-cost robotic hand created by pupils at Kent College Canterbury has bought them a place in the Young Engineers of the Year Award final in March. The students were given a real -life engineering problem by the Engineering Education Scheme and tasked with designing a low-cost robotic arm for people who can’t afford more expensive models.

HEAD HUNTED Kensington Park School have announced the appointment of Paul Vanni as headmaster. Vanni is leaving his current post as Deputy Head of St. Paul’s Girls’ School to join the new independent school. He said: "The passion and vision of the leadership team has drawn me to Kensington Park School."

Hats Off

“A 14 year old girl recently said to me: “I thought feminism meant girls can do anything but somehow it’s become girls should do everything”

World-famous milliner, Philip Treacy, visited Putney High School to talk about his career. He brought with him the original pieces he created for Sarah Jessica Parker and the Harry Potter films. A strong advocate of the creative arts in education, Treacy said: "Encouragement is everything."



“We are struggling against an ingrained and poisonous perception that engineering is for boffins, that it is boring and perhaps, worst of all, that it is not for girls... Only 9%of the engineering workforce is female. It's a terrible and, frankly, incomprehensible situation.” J A M E S DY S O N , I N V E N T O R

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The pastoral care & andard of education are outanding, our daughter achieves academically, enjoys a fun school life during the week and happy family life at the weekends, we feel we have found the perfect balance” Y7 parent, London.

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Vi c t o r i o u s Vo i c e


TOP DOG The Sunday Times Schools Guide 2018 has named St. Mary’s Calne as the top achieving independent school in the South West, ranked by their outstanding examination results. Their success didn’t stop there, and Calne was placed 35th in the national independent school rankings.

“St Mary's Calne was named top independent school in the south-west of England”

Head Groundsman, Bob Dutton, who has looked after Millfield Prep School for 48 years, is retiring. In honour of his service to the Somerset school, Millfield Prep has named their cricket ground ‘The Dutton Ground’ to celebrate his near halfcentury at the school. Dutton, who joined in 1969, said: “I am honoured and surprised to have the cricket pitch named in my honour. Thank you to Millfield Prep for many years of enjoyable work and support.”

A Lancing College pupil has won the boys BBC Radio 2 Young Chorister Award 2017. Rafael Bellamy Plaice sang two hymns to win first prize. Headmaster Dominic Oliver said: “We are all absolutely delighted that Rafi has been recognised in this way.”

F O W L P L AY Living up to its name, Hawkesdown House School has played host to some feathered friends in honour of the renaming of the School Houses: Kites, Falcons and Owls. Pupils were joined by the feathery namesakes, plus a few extras including a Bald Eagle and a Harris Hawk, and received a lesson on their handling. Despite a small incident involving Stan the hawk and a pair of speakers, the birds were impeccably behaved, and had a good fly around the assembly hall.

Top Story


S H OW TIME Papplewick School’s production of Ebenezer was a huge success with 65 pupils and staff from Upton House School attending a special matinee performance for this dramatic retelling of Charles Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol. Headmaster Tom Bunbury said: “The deafening applause was a testament to the enjoyment of the audiences!”

Bassett House has been awarded Gold by the Primary Geography Quality Mark, accredited by the Geographical Association. The school, which only applied for the Silver Award, was presented with the higher honour after the excellent quality of geography taught throughout the school was recognised. Bassett House remains one of only eight schools across the UK to have been presented with the Gold Award.


“Illustration is seen as something less than fine art, and writing for children as slightly less than writing for adults. That’s a shame, because we know that literature is life-changing for children.” C H I L D R E N ’ S L A U R E AT E L A U R E N C H I L D

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The Good Schools Guide


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“Dauntsey’s is ... Fab”

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S TA R A D V I C E Rising star Edward Bluemel returned to his old school, Taunton, to provide students with an insight into the acting world. Bluemel, who's credits include Touch and The Halcyon, said: “My advice to those aspiring to be actors is good luck, always try to have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously.”

“My advice to aspiring actors is, try to have fun and don't take yourself too seriously”

S p e e ch Success


Queen’s Gate scooped three of the top ten awards at the Model United Nations Conference held at Benenden School. Maria Posada and Catalina Marti were selected as Outstanding Delegates from 250 delegates from more than 40 schools and Laura Connies-Laing was nominated as a Highly Commended delegate, rounding off a great year of sucess for Queen's Gate girls at the MUN.

Sinclair House School pupils have launched a campaign to tackled air pollution in Hammersmith and Fulham. The School Council launched an initiative in the autumn; researching the impact that trees can have on air quality and crowdfunding to raise money to plant 60 Hornbeams in Bishop’s Park in support of the Teratrees Tree Campaign during National Tree Week.

GLOBAL SUCCESS A deputy head from northwest London has been shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize 2018. Eartha Pond is a professional footballer, deputy headmistress of The Crest Academy, and a fundraiser of more than £100,000 for Grenfell Tower survivors. She has now been named in the top 50 shortlist for the Global Teacher Prize, having been selected from over 30,000 nominations and applications from 173 countries worldwide.

DIRECT DRAMA Pupils from Dauntsey’s School have staged a new play, conceived and directed by a sixth-form pupil. Betrayed by my Mind by Upper Sixth student Charlie Hinton provides an insight into teenage mental health. Director of Drama, Rikki Jackson said: "It was thoughtprovoking, challenging, moving and, above all, heartfelt.”

Top Story



London’s first academic members club, The Study House, has been inundated with membership applications, so much so that it will be implementing a waiting list. The club provides a fresh take on the tutoring industry, offering an allinclusive service of after school pick ups and home drop offs and classic tutoring for all subjects including music and languages. It is heralded as being a strong contender for London parents who are seeking an alternative to a classic boarding school education.

MPW pupil, Laura Aris has been awarded first prize in the ISA Film and Digital Art Competition. Her short film, Days Like These - about the topical issue of gender - scooped the top prize . Aris said: “I used the film to demonstrate my belief that the gender norms instilled in us are arbitrary... I absolutely loved the experience of making this film and am so glad I took the gamble and did something that is so close to my heart.”


“By the time your child is 11, he or she might be studying

the Second World War for the third time, but coding will too often remain neglected.” J O H N H A R R I S I N T H E G UA R D I A N

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The renowned illustrator and author James Mayhew will open the Bishop Stortford College Festival of Literature, painting live on stage with the school orchestra JASMINE ROBERTSON


ext month, the illustrator, artist and storyteller James Mayhew will return to Bishop’s Stortford College to launch its Festival of Literature. Mayhew, the renowned illustrator behind the award-winning Katie’s Picture Show books, has a unique way of presenting classical concerts; he paints live to music, incorporating narrative with illustration on stage. This will be the third time that Mayhew has taken part in the College's Festival of Literature; this year’s theme for his performance is ‘Around the World’. While the College Orchestra will be performing musical pieces such as Beethoven’s Egmont overture and Fauré’s Pavane Mayhew will time his painting perfectly so that the last note of the performance ties in with his final brushstroke on the canvas. As in previous


James Mayhew painting live with the school orchestra

“Mayhew works in perfect time with the orchestra”

years, Mayhew’s paintings will be auctioned off to the audience at the end of the evening in order to raise money for the College charity, which this year is the Place2Be organisation. Mayhew has performed at the Royal Opera House, The Cheltenham Music Festival and the Royal Albert Hall, and he has painted in time to music as diverse as Rimsky’s Scheherazade, Stravinsk’y Firebird, or Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. His performances involve him narrating and illustrating to the music live on stage as the illustrations are projected onto a screen so that the audience can watch the pictures

grow in time to the music. Mayhew's passion for music, vast knowledge of folklore and 25 years of experience as a storyteller and children’s illustrator, means he is able to bring all these strands together with perfection. F E S T I VA L O F L I T E R A T U R E 1-8 February 2018 Bishop’s Stortford College For info or tickets visit:

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Senior School & Sixth Form

13–18 years, co-educational boarding and day school Lancing College offers pupils a journey of discovery. Stretching horizons, building on strengths and ensuring every child achieves to their full potential. We inspire pupils to explore new opportunities, and ensure they leave as confident young people with strong values, ready to take their place in the world.

Registered Charity Number 1076483

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A personal viewpoint from the Director of Arts at the BBC J O N T Y C L AY P O L E


t’s fair to say my parents were under the moon when I told them I wanted to study Art at A-Level. With English Literature, History and Philosophy already lined up, it was clear I was never going to find the cure for cancer or save the British car industry. But having encouraged me to while away many an hour in art galleries throughout my childhood, they were aware it was their fault as much as mine, and it would be hypocritical to stand in the way. I was lucky enough to go to a school that was supportive of arts subjects, but was still aware of that strange hierarchy which so often puts more value on the sciences and mathematics. There was even a first division class for those who excelled at those subjects. I couldn’t explain why this was the case: the arts were what I was good at, while my brain shut down at the mere thought of Double Physics. Why should what one child is good at be valued differently than another? There is ample space in the world and need - for us all.

“Art is what survives, telling future generations what it was like to be human” Through the arts I learned two essential skills that seem to me as indispensable as anything else. The first is how to empathise. I was drawn to books, paintings, music, cinema because they presented alternate realities, different ways of being. The arts made me feel empowered, like I could make choices; that I could live simultaneously in the world, in my head and in the minds of others. The arts take you out of yourself

or university, most of us have to quickly shape our interests into skills and tasks somebody might want to pay us to do. The important thing is that you are good at it and studying the arts enabled me to excel in ways I could never have imagined if compelled to plug away at science and maths. Education is surely about listening, watching and encouraging children to follow their talents as much as pedagogically plying them with the stuff we think they ought to know - it’s the former that will ultimately help them to fulfilment and success. I bring this conviction to work every day at the BBC and see it as my job to use broadcasting to ensure children, teenagers and adult learners like me don’t A B OV E get left out. BBC Childrens and allow you to look back at your own Jonty Claypole is does with programmes life - and when you do that you can escape Director of Arts at about storytelling, music, the ruts and stride out on new paths. Yes, the BBC craft and film-making. better career paths, too. And it’s the spirit behind And if this sounds a bit airy-fairy still, Civilisations - a major series presented by let me be more material: the arts taught me Mary Beard, David Olusoga and Simon how to write, by which I mean construct Schama looking at the history of art from an argument and articulate complex ideas the dawn of human history to the present rather than flowery prose (although I’ve which launches on BBC Two in March. time for that too). Over the last 20 years of Art is what survives, telling future my career, I have come to believe this most generations what it was like to be human at elementary of skills is also the rarest and a certain place and point in time. It is, more I’ve seen individual after individual soar than anything, at the heart of our human because they are able to do what so few story. While my A-Level art work, boxed others can: express themselves clearly and away in that attic room where it belongs, persuasively. may not be part of that story, it was central If my parents were concerned I would to my discovery of the developmental and spend my life making collages in the attic mind-expanding vitality of art and culture room or contemplating, like Heidegger, - and that’s as worthy as anything else of a ‘the thingness of the thing’, they needn’t place in our syllabuses. have worried. On emerging from school SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 21

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In early December, Sotheby’s exhibited paintings by four former pupils at Marlborough College to celebrate 50 years of co-education and the remarkable work of Robin Child, its former Head of Art D R N I A L L H A M I LT O N


tart at Page 100 was the title a film made in 1997 about the work of Robin Child, the Head of Art at Marlborough between 1971 and 1992. He does not believe that anybody needs to go through the tedium of being a bewildered beginner, hence the title of the film: begin at the highest level and grasp the plot immediately. He provides his pupils with a clear visual language and many thousands of those who have studied with him have realised that they can produce excellent work through understanding the work of great artists, ranging from antiquity to our own times. The beauty of the grammar that he presents enables his pupils to leapfrog straight through any ‘introductory chapters’ into a world of excellence. He underlines the fact that talent is all very well, but sometimes it can get in the way and prevent development. Cézanne is the great exemplar, an artist who struggled with some conventions and traditions but who found a new of way of seeing that paved the way for the 20th century. Child’s belief in the potential of each individual resulted in the Marlborough Art School being packed with aspiring pupils who were keen to learn more: just under one third of the sixth form took Art A-Level – almost everybody obtained a top grade - and the College ran its own one term postA-Level foundation course. Students would come back from famous London Art schools for refresher courses at the College because

He was always the first to say that his achievements in the Art school were the result of teamwork, and his staff knew that he expected total commitment. Life in the department was one non-stop departmental meeting and teachers were expected to teach one another. Daft bureaucratic tasks were given short shrift and the subject itself and the needs and interests of pupils were given top priority. The lecture room provided the essential build up for both staff and pupils before release into the studio. Twin projected images provided the vehicle for dialogue and subsequently the ring mastering that then took place in the Art School’s central space was mesmerising, with Child talking eloquently

“During Robin’s tenure Marlborough’s Art School was packed with aspiring pupils ” the teaching there was inferior. The great and the good took note. London art dealers came down to look at the work of the pupils and at one stage the Royal College of Art tried to lure Child away from Marlborough.

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about visual and philosophical matters. As pupils wrestled with problems concerning figure drawing or colour relationships they ABOVE would suddenly realise A painting by Robin Child's that the precise answer former student Emily Faccini that they needed was RIGHT being articulated with One of Child's own paintings crystal clarity. Startling LEFT revelations occurred on a is something which he is A painting by Child's former regular basis in this packed incapable of doing. In his student Silvy Wetherall arena during marathons of work he has been hugely sustained focus. indebted to Jan, his wife, who Robin Child’s teaching for years entertained and looked extended far beyond the realms of after so many Marlburians at their making pictures, and the steady stream house in George Lane, the home of their of advice and thoughts presented a daughters Rachel, Lauren and Jenny. Montaigne-like explanation of how to live. The legacy of Robin Child’s teaching His work extended into adult education can be found throughout the world of art through the Marlborough Summer School, and design. So many former pupils have the University of the Third Age and through gone on to great things, but conversations the astonishing courses at Wedhampton about the Art School feature large in which he developed after his departure the recollections of many former pupils from the College. He lectured nationally and who have gone onto work in other areas. internationally to thousands of teachers and What he gave them was self-belief, with established his Research Centre courses. art lessons that provided them with His work has continued at Sidmouth where some of the first and most important some supposed he had gone to retire. This bridges into the adult world. He is an

educator par excellence but he has been something of an embarrassment to the establishment of the art world. He has never courted publicity and he remains almost invisible on the internet, but his example and his wisdom should be taken note of and celebrated.

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Teaching children to fly Our schools differ in character but share the same focus: teaching children to fly. The higher and happier the better. The powerful combination of highly trained staff and tailor-made teaching encourages our pupils to excel. They mostly call it having fun. We call it being the best they can be. OPEN DAYS Bassett – open afternoon – 2 March Orchard – open morning – 8 March Prospect – open morning – 22 February To book in, please call the school you would like to visit.

Notting Hill | 020 8969 0313

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Chiswick | 020 8742 8544

Putney | 020 8246 4897

03/01/2018 10:32


MAKING THEIR MARK The Early Years coordinator at Dallington School in Islington on the importance of encouraging young artists AMBIKA CURBISHLEY


he children I have taught over the years arrive having already had a range of different experiences when it comes to art. Some children immediately experiment and explore and think creatively when they are making or drawing, others do not want to get paint on their fingers, or say, 'I can’t do it!' As my teaching career continues, I have come to question how we as adults influence children’s attitudes to art and how we impact on children’s interest in this area. Often talking to parents and practitioners gives an insight into how their own experiences at school or their outlook on art has an impact on how they approach the subject with their children. I have heard people say, ‘It doesn’t look like anything, it’s a scribble.’ I then spend time explaining that that ‘scribble’ is where the child is at developmentally and that the child has just told a whole story whilst making those marks. I also hear parents describe how they felt they were not very good at art at school and, therefore, they

“Let children create and make a mess, it can be cleaned up but a child’s confidence takes a lot longer to rebuild ” don’t know how to go about teaching their own children. So, did someone along the way dismiss attempts they had made as a child, squashing confidence? There is great value in allowing children to express themselves, to make choices about the media they wish to use, to learn through the process of creating and to make discoveries along the way and to praise each child’s art work. Those early ‘scribbles’ and the freedom to make them and for them to be valued, cannot be

emphasised enough. If opportunities do not arise, does the child miss a stage of building up a repertoire of marks? Can this gap then be filled at a later date? As early years educators we can do that to a degree and provide opportunities but children also need those opportunities at home, too. Sometimes, people have asked me whether the reason a child does not draw or take part in art activities is because they are not interested. I then question why they might not be interested at the age of three! Do they find it difficult or has an adult influenced their desire or opportunity to participate in art-based activities. So when a child shows an adult a drawing, we need to think about our responses, instead of, “What is it?” which for a child, that knows exactly what they have just drawn, is a little deflating “Can you tell me about it?” leads to a far more in-depth discussion. You may be very surprised to find that those several lines across a page are a ladder that goes up to a fairy castle or a train track or that those circles that go round and round are the movement of a car. Let children create A B OV E

A young pupil at Dallington

and make a mess, it can be cleaned up but a child’s confidence takes a lot longer to rebuild. I am fascinated by the early marks that children make and the insight they give into different areas of development. For example, their language skills can be heard through their descriptions whilst drawing, their physical development observed by looking at their self awareness depicted in their figurative pictures or how they hold a paint brush, to their emotional development, where drawings can depict how a child is feeling. As long as I continue to teach, I hope I will be able to place an importance on art in the early years and recognise all that it can lead to.

AMBIK A CURBISHLEY Early Years Coordinator Dallington School

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TAP INTO TECH Teaching children to become creative coders is just as important as teaching them to read and write


hen you think of coding or robotics, creativity is probably not the first word that springs to mind. We instantly associate certain activities with inspiring creativity: music, theatre, writing and painting to name a few. Coding, however, is usually viewed as mathematical, computational and even boring, but it does have a creative side. Coding gives us the capacity and freedom to build anything we can imagine. What could be more empowering than that? Coding has brought us smartphones, tablets and smart-home devices – all of which someone had to imagine, create and build. Coding also underpins many of our basic daily routines – checking emails, using a computer or even running a washing machine – it is part of our everyday lives.


information security, cloud storage and emails. We then build on this fundamental knowledge with advanced graphics, animation, web design, advanced spreadsheets, word processing and relational databases. This provides children with an excellent set of tools which are a fantastic foundation for any career. For a practical introduction to the world of coding, Scratch is a simple but powerful block-based coding language that enables children to intuitively design and create programs in a fun and accessible way. Without needing to type a child can integrate as much creativity as they like by arranging and connecting blocks, using them to tell animated stories and create games: their imagination really is the limit. For children who really love being creative and finding solutions to problems, LEGO Robotics challenges them to build their own robot and use it to solve problems and challenges. This enables children to have fun, whilst learning the fundamental concepts of programming. They can modify their robot’s design to better tackle various challenges, learning more advanced A B OV E

Making robots at FunTech

“We don’t want them to be consumers of games but the creators of games they’d like to play” Children are growing up with technology at their fingertips that has never previously been available and at FunTech we believe that teaching digital skills is just as important as teaching literacy and numeracy. Whilst not every child may want to be a programmer or computer scientist, one thing is for sure, your child will be using technology in whatever career they choose. And given the emphasis the government is putting on coding skills in the curriculum, coding is clearly here to stay. At FunTech we agree that children should be taught coding, but in addition to essential computing skills, such as folder structures,

concepts as they progress. Through coding they’ll learn to program their robot to navigate mazes, overcome obstacles and even battle other robots. We encourage children to explore what they can achieve by combining creativity and experimentation through code. In our safe and stimulating environment they can question their assumptions and most importantly – make mistakes and learn from them. This ultimately provides them with a platform to not just be consumers of games, but to become the creators of games they’d love to play. Being able to code allows children to build just about anything they can imagine. What better gift to give in our increasingly technological world?

M I L LY M I L L S Manager FunTech Coding

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12/01/2018 09:22

Individually known, Individually nurtured. Boarding & day school for girls aged 9 - 18

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GET PERSONAL Huw May, Head of Eaton House Belgravia, on why he is advocating individual learning plans in the classroom


e are focusing on a new kind of differentiated planning that will help Eaton House Belgravia Pre-Prep children progress further and faster. This is not only important for their 7+ and 8+ exams but for their learning progress at the Prep school that they eventually join. We are now teaching our boys to go further and faster as fast as they are capable of in all subjects. We are a traditional yet innovative all boys’ Pre-Prep with a great heritage going back to 1898. We get some of the best results in London with six boys getting offers to Westminster Under and St Paul’s Junior School at 7+ in 2017, but it is exciting to try something new, especially something that gives parents detailed progress on their sons’ academic and social wellbeing. For us, differentiated learning involves individualised learning plans, weekly

I don’t think the ‘once-a-term parent evening’ begins to cover what our boys’ need evaluations of students by staff and ‘progress to date’ reports being sent to parents every two weeks. This is a completely new approach so that parents are fully up to date with their child’s current educational progress and needs. Those children that need to be moved on at a faster pace can be encouraged under this system. Those that need help with certain subjects can also be supported. All the children benefit and will progress quickly, gaining confidence from their success. I feel that the ‘once a term parent evening approach and report’ does not begin to

expected level and which are working above and below that level. This allows us to remedy any deficiencies or add in faster-paced work as required. Parents then receive a ‘progress to date sheet’ every two weeks. This means that we are all, myself included, aware of the potential of every single child at the school. Nobody’s talent will be overlooked at Eaton House Belgravia PrePrep. Individualised learning is important. We need Eaton House Belgravia Pre-Prep boys to discover a love of learning early. The aim is to find out what drives children academically and to make them direct their own learning towards new passions. It always works! Differentiation relieves any stress and anxiety inherent in the whole process of learning. cover what our boys We have an ‘Open Door’ policy. I will call A B OV E In the need. We need to catch parents in if there is any kind of problem, classroom at any problem, in maths just so we can catch the issue early. Eaton House for example, and help Together, we will find a pathway to help that that boy until he fully boy over that particular hurdle. understands that part of the work. ! We Differentiation is not just for academics. teach at different levels in a classroom so We look at the boys’ social progress which that everyone works at his own pace. helps to drive his learning too, and we A differentiated learning system requires set global targets for the term. We might great commitment from the whole team. suggest that a boy takes on more extraEach week the staff actively curricular activities, for reviews the boys’ progress example. in English, Comprehension Parents have reacted very and Mathematics. Every positively. When the time boy’s progress is considered comes to make school choices, individually against a set of they know that we will be objectives and expectation able to make the very best and the staff ensure that those choice for their son, based not objectives and expectations on an overall impression or HUW MAY are met, pupil by pupil. We occasional class tests, but on Headmaster can then find out which of long term performance. Eaton House Belgravia the boys are working at the SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 29

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Independent day and boarding school for girls aged 11 to 18.

Where every voice is heard. Let’s help your daughter find hers…

Come and talk to us

Open Mornings

Saturday 3rd March 10 – 12.30pm Thursday 8th March 9 – 11am

• Exceptional independent boarding and day school for girls 11-18 • Set in a beautiful Hertfordshire estate just 36 miles from central London • Full, weekly and flexi boarding options • Excellent record of academic success • Outstanding reputation for pastoral care • Scholarships available

“We are parents to an extremely happy and content Year 8 girl who has grown in confidence since her arrival two years ago. We just wish we could send our sons there too! Current parent

Please contact our Registrar to book your place Melanie Harper at or call 01462 443888 Princess Helena College, Near Hitchin, Hertfordshire, SG4 7RT

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11/01/2018 11/01/2018 16:59 16:50




KNEAD TO KNOW Jill Walker, Headmistress of St Nicholas Prep School in Kensington, says baking with children can teach them important lessons about food, science and more


ot many parents will look at their kitchen and think ‘laboratory!’ but that is exactly what it is. It’s a place where elements are combined and altered after undergoing a series of chemical and physical processes. How successful the experiments are, of course, depends on the skill of the lead scientist, traditionally known as the cook. For parents looking to help their child learn at home, baking can be a perfect way of combining learning and fun. So how can they turn messing around in the kitchen into a learning experience that doesn’t squeeze the fun out of it?


Start with the ingredients and measurement. Science, like baking, requires a set method of working – measuring accurately, finding the right equipment, observing closely, describing what is seen, predicting and drawing conclusions. Talk your child through each of these stages, explaining what quantities are needed, why you need them to be precise and how you can accurately measure them.

Five simple questions to ask your child

What is the effect of heating and cooling on the ingredients? • Why do cakes have ‘holes’ in them? • What happens to the sugar when we stir the mixture or add it to warm water? • How much does it weigh? • What is the effect of adding sugar to the yeast?


Cook with mother: educational and fun


Baking provides plenty of opportunities for visual stimulus. Show children how to cream sugar and butter together, or how a cake needs to go from a solid to a liquid back to a solid again to be fully baked, or how yeast can make bread rise. These can all be seen, discussed, and learned from.

S TA R T W I T H B R E A D One of the very best recipes to start with is a simple bread recipe. Bread is fantastic because you can ask questions relating to temperature (why does it need to be left to prove? Why does it have to bake at a certain temperature?); fermentation (how does yeast work?), measurements, changes of state, and more. A basic sponge cake is another great idea – you can

discuss irreversible changes – and work on equations and maths problems when working out the ingredients you need.


To make the most out of these home baking sessions, parents should look at what is on the curriculum, and tie it all together. For those who are unsure, the internet is a fantastic resource – it will give you plenty of information on key vocabulary, for instance, and simple explanations of basic scientific concepts. And don’t forget, baking touches on all the STEM subjects, so there is a lot that can be learned from one seemingly simple cake or loaf of bread.


Headmistress St. Nicholas Preparatory School

Remember this is not a lesson. For your child it’s a chance to discover, play and enjoy themselves with you. So make sure it's fun.

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03/01/2018 10:14




A PERFECT EQUATION here’s an unresolved mathematical problem that today’s parents are desperately trying to solve. If there are 24 hours in a day, how can we fit in the time it takes to do the school run, an eight hour school day, an hour or two of clubs, tutoring, or ‘cv-boosting’ activities (plus their travel time), a family dinner to discuss the day and encourage good manners, along with some ‘downtime’ to relax, and, of course, the recommended 10 hours children need to sleep? That’s without adding parents’ own busy working lives into the equation! While mathematicians might struggle to make these numbers add up, I’m more interested in the consequences of juggling these commitments. To my mind, it all adds up to one thing: the erosion of childhood -

“Sandroyd is the only prep to be shortlisted by TES for Best Boarding School 2018” spending more time in cars or with tutors than playing outside. Over the last year at Sandroyd, prospective parents have told me how they are seeking more than just an outstanding education that will ensure their child accesses the senior school of their choice, they also want to give their children a wonderful childhood. Our current parents too, regularly tell us how much they value the childhood that we, as a boarding school, are able to provide. One mother’s recent feedback sums it up best, “In a world of video games and social media, Sandroyd is an oasis - creating the childhood we always dreamed of giving our children.”



Alastair Speers, Headmaster of Sandroyd School in Wiltshire, on why it ‘adds up’ to choose a boarding prep school education, childhood and character. The fact that Sandroyd has, since 1888, been successfully combining these ‘parts’, has been acknowledged - as we are the only Prep School to have been shortlisted for Best Boarding School at the 2018 TES Independent School Awards. So, if parents want to ‘add up’ their time and consider a boarding prep school for their children, what should they look for? The lynchpin is, of course, exceptional pastoral care. Happy children who feel supported, thrive in the classroom, are able to fulfill their academic A B OV E The reason why potential and win their senior school place. Sandroyd childhood is increasingly Happy children also thrive outside of the pupils becoming part of the classroom – confidently able to develop educational equation is, their interests and talents. quite simply, because of Aristotle’s assertion Therefore, you need to ask boarding that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of prep schools how they really know and its parts’. Choosing a good school is just one understand every pupil, how they ensure part. Choosing how your child spends their each child feels safe to develop, explore and time before and after school, in the evenings make mistakes. At Sandroyd we hold a and at weekends – is another. Another part pastoral meeting every morning where staff is choosing how you will ensure your child discuss our pupils’ needs. Be it friendship develops essential character skills, traits, rifts, academic concerns, or resilience issues and manners. – we ensure each child is supported. Good boarding prep schools Finally, and most are able to successfully importantly, happy children combine all of these vitally are able to really enjoy their important ‘parts’ of the childhood. They just need the educational equation, to right setting, and the time, produce an outcome that to be able to do so. To enjoy is so much greater than downtime and hobbies (from if each are considered in riding horses to bikes, or isolation. Good boarding making things from movies ALASTAIR SPEERS schools are all encompassing, to models) away from the Headmaster where the ‘parts’ seamlessly pressures and expectations of Sandroyd School work together to combine modern society. SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 33

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e are ambitious for our Pre-Prep boys to do well in the 7+ and 8+ exams and we support them so that they excel academically and in every way

7+ LEAVERS 2017

Mr Huw May, Headmaster of Eaton House Belgravia Pre-Prep and Prep

We care about the schools our boys go to Mr Huw May, Headmaster of Eaton House Belgravia Pre-Prep and Prep, sends congratulations to the Pre-Prep 7+ and 8+ class of 2017 who gained places at many top schools including Westminster Under, St Paul’s Junior School and Dulwich

College Junior School. If you would like to be part of our two successful, caring and happy schools, speak to the Head of Admissions, Jennifer McEnhill, about joining the class of 2018 on 0207 924 6000 or contact

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02/01/2018 18/12/2017 17:16 13:08


QUESTION TIME The experts at Gabbitas Education have the answers


How do we decide whether our child is best suited to a prep school that finishes at Year 6 or Year 8?


A well-chosen prep school will provide a solid foundation for a child’s academic career. It will play an enormous part in determining the options available to them when it comes to senior school and will prepare them for a smooth transition. If consideration for the prep school is intrinsically linked to the senior school, one must look at the intake ages at the desired senior school. Does the senior school provide entry at age 11, age 13, or both? This is vital not only so there is


“It is vital to avoid a ‘small fish in a big pond’ scenario whereby an unprepared 11 year old goes to senior school”


Hanford pupils on a winter’s morning

a smooth flow from prep to senior, but also to avoid a ‘small fish in big pond’ scenario whereby an unprepared 11 year old may be overwhelmed by the additional demands and expectations of their new environment. If the child is assessed as being confident and ready, then a prep school with progression into a senior school at age 11 would make sense. If there is doubt, however, then a two-year gap can be a useful testing period. There is never a 'one-size fits all' solution to choosing the best prep school for

your child, and that's what makes my work so interesting. From our experience, the best decision ultimately relies upon an unbiased (and unemotional) perspective on a child’s abilities and needs. Every family has a different set of circumstances and its my job to understand themand advise objectively. Some parents are surprised to hear that their first choice prep school might not be the best place for their child to thrive and prosper, but with hindsight they are always grateful they took good advice. SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 35

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My daughter's school friend has told her that she is already being tutored for an entrance exam for our preferred senior school which they will sit in 2019. Is this over the top or are we falling behind?


First of all, don't panic! It's very easy as a parent to worry about what other families are doing but common sense will tell us that each individual child should be treated as just that. What we would suggest you do is take a look at your child and decide whether there are any areas that a private tutor could help you with. If the entrance exam is written by the school it will normally focus on verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning , Maths and/or English. If the school uses the Common Entrance, core subjects are Maths, English and Science. If your child is at a prep school, then the school should have already given your child some coaching. If your child attends a state school then it might be sensible to prepare your child. In either case, use a good tutor agency who can provide an objective assessment test and a mock interview so you can understand where your child is now and recommend a plan of action. And although starting a year in advance seems excessive, it's never to soon or too late to start: remember, preparation is everything!


There is a lot of talk about gender and diversity at our school gates, in the press and in general. How are schools changing to adapt to this new environment and how can we as parents help?


Whilst it is positive that increasingly young people feel comfortable identifying as who they wish to be (straight, homosexual, non-binary, trans, faith no faith etc), with this comes a responsibility for schools and families to understand what this means for their young people. Written by educators, educational specialists, consultants, diversity practitioners and parents, Inclusion Matters is the first resource of its kind to provide background information on English state and independent schools’ statutory obligations under the Equality Act 2010. It offers practical questions in an easy-to-use checklist format to help empower parents and carers to consider and discuss a school’s commitment to LGBT+ inclusion. More and more young people are rejecting the rigid boundaries that society puts on gender labels. Schools need to catch up in order to provide an environment that young people can thrive in. Encouragingly, steps are slowly being taken; last summer saw the first independent school participating in the Pride March in Brighton, a growing number of schools are embracing the need for inclusion training for staff, and more schools are providing non-gender specific uniforms. But there is still a long way to go. The Inclusion Matters guide is available online at: www.




A family at my son's school recently became the guardian family of a nine-year old girl from Thailand. I have a son the same age and am interested to find out more about what it involves, the rewards and how it could affect my son.


International students who study in the UK should have a UK-based Education Guardian appointed by their parents to represent their child and act on the parents’ behalf in the event of an emergency. Some families choose a family friend, but many families now appoint a professional Guardianship Agency to find, check, approve, support and monitor their Guardian Family. Guardian Families come in all shapes but most importantly they will all be caring families who like the idea of supporting an overseas student in the UK. Guardian Families also need to be homeowners and provide a room with some space for clothing and a desk for studying and they will be paid according to the amount of time a student stays with them. Having a younger child should not be a concern as the agency you choose should work hard to ensure you have the right student to fit in with your family. So whether you would prefer a similar aged child so that they can grow up together, or an older child who can act as an elder sibling, it can work to suit you. It is a wonderful experience for UK families to participate in, and to know that you and your family have helped a young person to settle in and make the most out of their UK school experience is a rewarding achievement. Friends are made for life.


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

Life offers us

Limitless possibilities Oakham just helps you make the most out of them Oakham in their words With a proud heritage and progressive outlook, Oakham is a high-achieving independent school in the heart of England where opportunities are both inspirational and obtainable. A shared belief in making the most out of any opportunity and to be the best you can be sets us apart from other schools. With a welcoming and friendly support structure, Oakham offers an ideal environment for boys and girls aged between 10 and 18 to learn, thrive and prosper in our modern world. We’re one of the UK’s top schools for the IB Diploma and our students achieve consistently excellent A-level results, whilst still having time to enjoy an exceedingly rich extra-curricular lifestyle.

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What makes Oakham so special? To organise a visit please get in touch with our admissions team: 01572 758758 We look forward to meeting you

03/01/2018 12:57 10:20 18/07/2017

CONFIDENCE TRICK Mayfield School is teaching its girls to take on the world. Absolutely Education is impressed ELEANOR DOUGHTY


o get to Mayfield School by car one must wind one’s way down single track roads, up and down hills, and past fields of ponies, before high on the hill, just before the entrance to the extremely charming Mayfield village, is the funny rural combination of astroturf and ancient buildings that denotes a school is in sight. Mayfield, in East Sussex, was founded in 1863 by Mother Cornelia Connelly, admitting girls aged 11-18, day and boarding. They stride purposefully from building to building in their checked kilts and navy jumpers, chattering away with that teenage urgency. Mayfield’s headmistress, Antonia Beary, emerges from her office, a welcome smile spreading across her face. An English teacher by trade – her favourite is Shakespeare, and specifically Hamlet – next year, she’ll have been at Mayfield ten years, first as deputy head and now as headmistress. After reading English at Trinity College Cambridge, she taught at The Leys in Cambridge, and then Ampleforth, where she worked during its transition from boys only to co-ed. But now it’s girls, girls, girls. “Girls can do, and do do better, in an all girls environment,” she says briskly. “Girls education doesn’t have to be pink and fluffy – you can be rigorous, you can be challenging, and it gives the girls greater confidence to be making more informed decisions.”

Whether you agree with this or not, it certainly seems true of 17-year-old Amanda and Chelsea, who show me round. Between them, they do everything at Mayfield – and there’s a lot to do. The art department is especially impressive, currently full of sixth form girls’ work, as they prepare for art school interviews. The works sitting on shelves in the art department look very much like they could be sold at Sotheby’s. Apart from art, there’s sport in spades: netball, tennis, dance, and swimming, on top of a traditional gym, a purpose built equestrian centre, opportunities to train as a lifeguard (and be paid for it too), plus Zumba classes, fencing and badminton. The music department runs chapel choirs who perform in cathedrals across the country, orchestra and string groups; inside the thriving drama department girls can opt for Speech & Drama lessons via LAMDA. Head girl Chelsea works within the chaplaincy, too. Ah yes, the Catholic element. This is “really important” to Miss Beary. “We’re a Catholic school and it is important. All are the girls Catholic? No. Are all the staff Catholic? No. Do we beat them over the head with bibles? No!” She laughs. Mayfield is not super churchy, even for a Catholic school. There’s whole school mass on Sundays, morning prayers in tutor groups, and year groups meet for liturgies during the week. Some schools choose to focus on mindfulness; this, Miss Beary says, is “secular religion. There’s a great value to it, but the drawback is when it encourages you to become completely self-absorbed. What’s important is that sense of looking beyond yourself, and I think there is a tendency for teenagers to be focused on themselves.”

“What I don’t want is boring. We don’t do boring. It’s a cardinal sin to be boring”

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ABOVE Mayfield girls have confidence in spades

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LEFT Mayfield has brilliant equestrian facilities

country course, and opportunities for girls to compete, if they wish. “People make BELOW assumptions,” says Miss In the science lab Beary. “Oh, they’ve got horses so they must be nice girls who just did riding. Yes, they ride, but they also do maths and chemistry and ceramics. It’s one part of the whole school experience. There is nobody who just does riding. If all you can talk about is horse then you’re really boring.” What the two girls that show me round have in spades in confidence – that priceless key element that comes with independent school education, but is so often difficult to pinpoint. “It’s a balance,” muses Miss Beary. “We need to be really wary of a sense of entitlement. I think some people presume that an independent education can lead to arrogance, and to ignorance in some ways.” This manifests itself in particular ways in girls’ schools. “For girls, there is that worry… you can do it but you may not be able to do everything at once. That sense of feeling like you’ve failed if you’re not the perfect mother, and the perfect boss, and the perfect wife. You can be those things, but you might not necessarily be able to be all off them at once. There is no shame in saying, ‘I’m going to focus on this now.’” not as frightening as they think it’s going to Mayfield girls have an inspirational be.” Not all girls are west London expats, headmistress. She smiles, looking out of far from it – “we have boarders who live her office window at the girls filing past in Mayfield itself, and an international before lunch. “What I don’t want is boring. element which is really important, of 20/30 We don’t do boring. It’s a cardinal sin to different nationalities.” Diversity is key, be boring. There are too many things she says. “There are a lot of schools in this happening here for you to be boring, it’s area where it’s just white middle-class girls not allowed.” and boys. They’re good schools, but have no range. I think it’s really important for the girls to go out and perform on a global stage, to see the sense of different perspectives, different political environments, culture. The world we live in is struggling [because] too many people spend too much time with people like them, and are not confident in building bridges. We’ve got girls who are princesses, and girls on 100 per cent bursaries, there’s a whole cross section.” Some ponies clip-clop past, in front of the astro-turf, where girls are playing hockey before lunch. It wouldn’t be a rural girls’ boarding school without an equestrian centre. The one at Mayfield has tailor-made livery packages, an indoor and outdoor menage, a cross

“Yes, girls ride, but they also do maths and chemistry. If all you talk about is horse then you’re really boring” Running a girls’ school comes with a huge amount of responsibility, in this day and age. Education is about far more than academia, and, increasingly, about feminism. I wonder how Miss Beary dealt with the recent #MeToo debate. “We are educating girls to go out and make a difference, to go out and be confident in themselves, and if we’re not preparing them to deal with men and boys, and even women in the workplace socially then we’re not doing our job properly,” she says. Her duty is to give them “the confidence to not be precious, to accept people as they are, and not accept behaviour that is disrespectful of anybody. I hope they would have the confidence to say that [something] is not acceptable, and raise it at the time. I hope they would have the confidence to support other people.” It all comes down to respect – “for yourself, for other people, engaging with people on a one to one level, saying ‘I’m not happy with this’.” The key to it is confidence: “I hope that’s what we are instilling in them – not just to jump on a bandwagon.” The school has 400 or so girls, with about a half and half split day/boarding. Increasingly, parents are coming from London with their daughters, says Miss Beary. “We’ve got parents who didn’t board themselves, and hadn’t thought about boarding before coming to look around. Because we’re flexible with boarding, it’s 40 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | SPRING 2018

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12/01/2018 09:20

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CHOOSE LIFE Adam Pettitt, Headmaster of Highgate, says it’s time we recognised the power and passion of the arts subjects


very March I cast an eye over the subject choices for GCSE and A-Level, and wonder whether my pupils are following their hearts or their minds, passion or logic, in making those choices. Ten years on from the financial crash and facing the uncertainties of Brexit, I’d say they’re taking positions on what they believe will make them employable and marketable – no bad thing in itself – but in turning from art, design, history of art, music or theatre studies, are they actually playing safe, or missing a golden opportunity? The British creative industries are worth £92 billion, represent 5.3% of the British economy and its sector saw 7.6% growth compared to 3.5% in the wider economy in 2015-16; with just short of 2 million people employed in the creative industries, and 25.4% growth in the creative industry workforce since 2011, it’s high time we tackled the perception that a course in a

“It’s high time we tackled the perception that a creative subject isn’t a smart choice” creative subject isn’t a smart choice. We can though be forgiven for thinking that there is a hierarchy of worth and employability in our school curriculum: which subjects get more exposure on the timetable? Which subjects bear the brunt of cuts? Confidence in number and with text rank above that in movement, song or craft; the one is seen as essential, the other is there for fun. In a timetable, subjects vie for worth, and we wrongly assume there’s no alternative or equivalent or complementary rigour in a creative subject. So parents who haven’t seen first-hand the furrowed-brow

test for any curriculum. And employers say time and again that what they want first is human capital – ingenuity, problem-solving, collaborative skills, communication. It is precisely these qualities that are developed when young people do things they are passionate about: what makes us employable, productive, entrepreneurial, creative, is doing things we love. So follow the heart, and the mind follows on. Passionate about maths or science; passionate about history or economics; passionate about art, design or theatre: no hierarchy; nothing soft; simple. Done well, education will throw up balanced, diverse, complementary intelligences to fuel a responsive, flexible and diverse economy. Any other narrative and you have to change the system, eschew early specialisation and keep all subjects. demands of studying So how does a creative subject make A B OV E power, politics and your children more employable? Why An art class at identity in Art History, does a balanced, fair society need thriving Highgate or 20th century politics creative industries? At one level it’s about and Marxism as the viewing and interpreting and articulating backdrop to Brecht in Theatre Studies, the story of our humanity and civilisation, or witnessed the unleashing of industry of exploring our bonds and connections and persistence in a 15-year-old bringing with power and people, justice and religion. their creative intelligence to canvas or The collaborative engagement of performer, screen, may well fall in with a narrative artist, craft worker or critic goes to the that lucrative employment heart of being fully human, of follows those who make ‘smart making sense of our lives, of choices’. being fully alive: no wonder An alternative narrative there’s good living to be made. needs to underpin a choices So next time your children system, particularly at ask you how to choose, check A-Level: if there are no there’s a spark of passion compulsory subjects, in their reckoning. Stressall subjects must have test their thinking for that ADAM PETTITT equivalent worth, and employability-enhancing Head that must stand true for passion. It’ll be a smart Highgate School employability, the ultimate choice! SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 43

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FAME ACADEMY BRIT School alumni are taking over the world. Proof, surely, that it is the most successful arts school in the country right now A M A N D A C O N S TA N C E


hat do successful actors, singers and performers like Amy Winehouse, Kates Nash and Tempest, Tom Holland, Rizzle Kicks, Leona Lewis, Jessie J, Cush Jumbo and Adele all have in common? They all went to the BRIT School. Despite concerns that it is the alumni of elite private schools such as Eton and Harrow currently hogging the spotlight on stage and screen, you only need to look at the long, long list of famous names of the non-fee paying Brit School for Performing Arts and Technology to know that it is, by any measure, the most successful arts school in the country right now. “This is the place where thousands of artists have been nurtured, encouraged and inspired. They are household names on television, in our cinemas, in the West End, on Broadway and on our radios and they have come from here: The BRIT School,” says its principal, Stuart Worden. “But equally importantly, we have likewise nurtured, encouraged and inspired set designers, record producers, technicians, illustrators, film editors, fashion designers, stuntmen and choreographers – the people behind the scene, behind the camera, behind the lights, working on new technology. They too have made exciting and significant careers in the performing and creative arts and their role is just as important,” he says.

Worden is biased, of course. But the BRIT school has many other, serious fans “I have never been to a school like this, anywhere in the world. I think it’s that unique. I can see why as a 14 or 17 or a 19-year-old you would want to come here. It’s a very special place." That’s Tim Cook, CEO of a little company called Apple adding his praise to the pile. It was in the late Eighties that educator and entrepreneur Mark Featherstone-Witty was inspired by Alan Parker’s film Fame to set up a school for the performing arts in London. With the help of a “few, brave individuals”, says Worden, such as the ‘Fifth Beatle’ Sir George Martin, Sir Richard Branson, and Kenneth Baker (Education Secretary from 1986 to 1989 and now Baron Baker of Dorking) the BRIT School was founded in 1991 in Selhurst in the London Borough of Croydon with a mandate to provide education and vocational training for the performing arts, media, art and design and the technologies that make performance possible. The school opened its doors in 1991, with the support of the Department for Education and the British Record Industry Trust (hence the 'BRIT' name), the charity whose mission it is to 'support young people in music and education'. With its 25th anniversary year just drawing to a close, the BRIT School is now the UK’s leading non-fee paying performing arts and technology school (one of only two performing arts schools nationally to be so) providing a unique free education for over 1,200 pupils aged between 14 and 19. (Students join the school either in Year 10, aged 14, or Year 12, aged 16.)

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ABOVE A performance by students at the BRIT school

If it’s a creative subject, then it will be available to study at the BRIT. Students can choose to specialise in Music, Dance, Theatre, Musical Theatre, Media, Interactive Digital Design, Visual Arts and Design, Technical Theatre Arts and Community Arts Practice alongside the teaching of National Curriculum subjects at both GCSE and AS/A2 Level and BTEC vocational qualifications. Janice Vee’s son James joined in Year 10. Vee, a voice-over artist and mother of two, moved her son from his independent school, Portland Place, to the BRIT School in 2016 and hasn’t looked back.

“I have never been to a school like this, anywhere in the world. I think it’s that unique”

“I found out about BRIT School through a friend,” she says. “I had completely poo pooed it, I thought it was just a performing arts school and it would be like Fame with people dancing on the tables. But they have a great choice of subjects… I didn’t realise about their design curriculum at all.” Her son had been struggling at Portland Place, which “just wasn’t for him”, she says. They went to the Open Day, James loved it and was offered a place to join in Year 10. This summer he will take his GCSEs – a mixture of the core National Curriculum alongside arts subjects such as DT and a SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 45


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“The way we were taught made us appreciate every form of art across all the disciplines. It makes you value what other people do, whether that’s a lighting person or a stage designer, that’s as important as a singer or actor – that’s their art,” she says. Dockrill joined the school at 16 to do Theatre and English and thrived in the liberal, creative atmosphere. “We felt hugely supported,” she says. “The teachers were very relaxed and open with us.” She recalls teachers very engaged with their students. “I just remember we did a bit on political speeches in our English classes and our teacher said don’t just do any old thing, use what’s important to you, use what hurts.

Jessie J. Tom Holland

Leona Lewis Rizzle Kicks

BTEC in Arts and Design. The syllabus is much less formal and academic than at Portland Place. “For James, the way he learns it makes more sense,” says Vee. “It’s coursework-based rather than exams which works much better for him.” Last term James, who is interested in technical theatre art, had to pass an interview to gain a place in the sixth form where he will study UAL Extended Level 3 Diploma in Art & Design – a course equivalent to three A-Levels in the UCAS points system.

Kate Tempest

Amy Winehouse

This was no walk in the park. The interview process to get into the sixth form is rigorous; James had to create a portfolio of work and show that he will be able to cope with the demands of the course. A number of his friends currently in Year 11 have not been offered places for next year. “They are only letting kids into that school who really want to be there,” says Vee. “They really have to prove themselves.” There is an average of 2,350 applications for 600 places. Vee says her son has been expected to stand on his “own two feet” at the BRIT School, far more than when he was at Portland Place. He is no longer “molycoddled”, says Vee “and they don’t email parents every second”. The students are encouraged to take charge of themselves. Not only do BRIT School’s most famous alumni have confidence in spades, but many seem to have a shape-shifting ease with different genres and artistic disciplines. Laura Dockrill, a successful writer, illustrator and performance poet and BRIT School alumnus says this came from the creative freedom they were given at the school. “The teachers would just say, ‘Yes! Yes! You can go and do that, yes you can.’”, she says. “It’s like the first time a child is told that they can go and try something. You have that permission.”

“The way we were taught made us appreciate every form of art across all the disciplines” "That’s why my friend Adele has done so well, because she was encouraged at BRIT school to use what really matters to her so she used her break up. "That form of expressionism is really encouraged,” she says. She admits this emotionally open atmosphere “isn’t for everybody” and while she insists it was nothing like Fame, she does admit that occasionally somebody would break in to song in the corridor. But while the BRIT School was a long way from the academic and formal school from which she escaped at 16; she says that it wasn’t a free for all. “There wasn’t discipline in the sense of teachers shouting at pupils but there was a strong sense of, ‘If you don’t take this opportunity then on your head be it,’” she says. “You are expected to give it everything.” Dockrill absolutely adored her time at the school; her younger sister followed her, joining at 14 “which saved her bacon”, says Dockrill, “because she hated her school, too”. Janice Vee feels similarly positive. “No-one I know says anything bad about the school,” she says. “It’s the only school I can think of that has this level of creativity. It’s an exact fit for our son. He’s happy there and that’s all you want, isn’t it?”

Read about Laura Dockrill’s memories of her time at the BRIT School on page 70.

SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 47


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BUCKINGHAM Looking for a school that’s engaging and challenging, with an exciting curriculum? Somewhere with a warm, caring, friendly atmosphere? A school with a strong work ethic where your daughter will make excellent progress and fulfil her true potential?



Join us to find out how Thornton can help your daughter thrive. For further information and to book a place, please phone Claire Ballantyne on 01280 812610.

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For girls aged 3 to 18. Children of all faiths and of none are welcome.



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Students respect one another, value the community spirit, have fun learning and achieve great things. They are extremely well educated both inside and outside the classroom and grow up with confidence and a great sense of humility.

03/01/2018 10:55


BELOW A ballet student at Tring Park School

“Ever since Billy Elliot hit the West End, the number of young, male dancers has been on the rise; five Tring Park boys have played Billy in the hit show"





Independent schools have unparalleled scope and rescources when it comes to an arts education. We celebrate those who stand out from the crowd GEORGIA MCVEIGH

ver since Billy Elliot hit the West End, the number of young male dancers has been on the rise. This is particularly true at Tring Park, a school which dedicates itself to the performing arts regardless of background and means. Five Tring Park boys have played Billy, and Principal Stefan Anderson believes that, “the show has inspired thousands of young boys to get involved with dance”. The Sixth Form dance course unconventionally falls over three years, and while the first year focuses on all aspects of dance, they may then specialise in either Contemporary Dance or Ballet Dance in the final two years. Tring also offers its pupils the opportunity to take part in the ENCORE Dance tour, the graduate company for Tring Park. Through this they are given the chance to experience working in professional theatres, and after intensive training showcase their work to a range of industry professionals, giving them a step up into the world of performing arts. Tring Park has nurtured many boys who have gone on to leave their mark on the world of dance, and provides a fully supportive environment well after its students have left. SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 49

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ompleted in 2016, Bedales School’s award winning Art and Design building is a talking point in itself. Its sprawling wooden frame and impressive magnitude has a modern and refreshing feel without being garish, and it complements rather than eclipses the lateVictorian architecture of the main school. Headmaster Keith Budge calls it an “architecturally rich environment”, and what lies inside is more impressive still. Size such as this means that the Bedales facilities have expanded tenfold. Now, students have access to two floors of specialist provisions. It boasts woodwork and metalwork workshops, a ceramics studio, a jewellery making area, design hub and a printmaking area to name but a few. In addition, it has its own studio gallery to exhibit the wide range of work produced by its pupils. Adorned with solar panels to lower the carbon footprint produced by these amenities, Bedales has successfully created a well rounded space that encourages creativity in all of its pupils. ABOVE




s the academic year draws to a close, Alleyn’s school is a hub of activity. Students, teachers and parents alike prepare for the imminent arrival of the summer holidays - and the main event of the year. The celebratory Summer Art, Media and Design Show is carefully curated over three terms to showcase the greatest achievements of its

An example of work on display at Alleyn's Summer Show BELOW In the studio of Bedales' Art and Design building

students. The diversity of media, from oil paintings to digital installations, reflect the aim of the art department not to "impose any ‘house style’ but try to get students to create work that is meaningful, personal and exciting to them”, says Head of Art, Sally Reynolds. The Summer Show was opened last year with talk from Jennifer Scott, director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, who spoke of the importance of art in society and commended the quality and diversity of the art at Alleyn's. The large turnout and reputation of the show is a testament to how, whilst academic excellence is at the core of Alleyn’s, art is also celebrated and holds an important part in everyday life, and student artwork is displed on a rolling basis around the school throughout the year. The art department is home to several printing presses, as well as equipped for all 2D and 3D media.

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LEFT The Reeves Art School building at Lancing College RIGHT Fine Art at Malvern College






pened in 1974, the Lyndsay Art Centre at Malvern College has 44 years of experience in artistic deference. The department leans heavily towards Fine Art, and one look at the displays in the corridors explains why. While the main function of Fine Art is traditionally to be aesthetically pleasing rather than fulfilling any purposeful function, the displays at Malvern bring the school to life. With studios dedicated purely to specific mediums, students can experience both acrylic and oil painting onto large-scale canvas, 3D printing, and installation and casting. The purpose built Print Room houses two presses for both etching and relief printing, and

there is the option to take part in silk screen printing as well. A weekly life drawing class, alongside a programme where professional artists come in to give talks and work alongside the students only adds to the rich experience that defines the art at Malvern . Each Upper Sixth art student is given their own studio space to encourage them to create the confident art that is so apparent upon arriving at the school.

“Lancing College’s art studio is an architectural triumph; a combination of minimalist design and a bold glass facade that allows for views down to the sea”


ituated on the southern edge of the campus with jawdropping views across the valley all the way to the sea, the location of the art school at Lancing College alone is enough to make it admirable. Lancing have capitalised on this, and the architectural triumph that is the Reeve Art school is a combination of minimalist design dictated by its setting and a bold glass facade that allows for dramatic views of a proposed National Park down to the sea. It is comprised of two adjacent wings, and although large, is also energy efficient, with natural energy saving strategies arising from its sheltered placement and a termodeck that provides heating regulation. The interior houses facilities for a wide range of media, including sculpture, textiles and land art, and it is obvious that much of the work is influenced by the panoramic views that come as a result of the clever design of the building. It would be hard not to take inspiration from such a breathtaking setting, and the quality of the art produced is a reflection of this. SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 51

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ABOVE A dress and fan designed by Leweston student Kasey Chiu RIGHT Music at Oakham




ed by the author of teaching resources for the new OCR Art and Design course, Jemma Lacey-Scott, the textiles department at Leweston School has thrived in the 20 years since its inception. Its flexibility sets it apart, adapting to specialist portfolios that cater to specific BA degree courses such as shoe design, animation, sculpture, interiors and fashion marketing. In much the same way as a university course, textiles falls under the art and design pathway at Leweston, which grants students access to graphics, photography and the use of ICT to visualise their ideas. The department also plays a big role in overall school life, and is the first port of call for both costume and set design for

“The flexibility of Leweston's textiles department sets it apart, adapting to any number of specialist portfolios” various productions throughout the year. Textiles students also receive recognition for their achievements at the Summer Exhibition, and Winter Fashion Show, the most recent of which featured up to 300 pieces designed by students. The commitment and dedication to textiles is obvious in the beautifully crafted and intricate designs of the pieces, each one displaying the flair of individuality that is nurtured by the department.


hilst they are well known for all three pillars of music at Oakham - performing, creating and encouraging an appreciation of music, the school also has an outstanding reputation for composition. With a staggering 35 newly commissioned pieces of music, pupils are encouraged to showcase their talent and excellence by writing their own. Director of Music, Peter Davies is a big supporter of the benefits of composition, “I strongly believe that in teaching pupils how to compose music, it develops a transferable set of skills that can help pupils to think creatively and to plan strategically in other aspects of their lives and study”, he says. Music plays an important role in the life of the school, with 15,000 individual music lessons and 80 concerts performed each year. The school reaps the rewards from this dedication, taking home numerous awards for their composition pieces and choral achievements; one pupil won the UK’s leading event for young composers, and his piece of music was broadcasted on Radio 3.

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LEFT A Gordonstoun art work inspired by the sea



ature is at the heart of life at Gordonstoun - it has to be given its setting. Located on the North coast of Scotland, moors engulf the school, and relief comes from the rocky beach on the Northern tip. Perhaps due to this rural setting, Gordonstoun places great emphasis on the outdoors and the natural world, with compulsory sailing and walking expeditions written into the curriculum. It comes as no surprise then, that much of the Art created at Gordonstoun has a nautical theme, and the students are encouraged to take inspiration from the nearby beach to invigorate their creative work. The result is exceptional. Regular trips to the highlands and sailing expeditions to the West Coast are a clear source of inspiration for students at Gordonstoun, and this shines through in their work, which has a depth to it that would not be found in those confined to the classroom. All aspects of art produced at Gordonstoun is touched by nature, but the beach and sea is prominent, obvious when observing the drawings and paintings of the coastline, and the different textures used to explore a marine theme.

BELOW Queen Anne's pupils playing the cello




radfield College is well known for its academic excellence, extracurricular opportunities and 19th century buildings. So it may seem somewhat uncanny that nestled amongst its grounds lies a Classical Greek Theatre, or, as it’s affectionately known to both pupils and staff, “Greeker”. Carved out of a disused clay pit in 1888, the theatre, like its Graecian predecessors, is steeped in history. The first play staged at Greeker was a production of “Antigone” in 1890, and from then on, it went from strength to strength. After a renovation in 2009, the theatre was reopened in 2014, and is now an integral part of school life, hosting a wide range of Summer performances and regular drama lessons if the weather is good. Over the years, pupils at Bradfield have performed to the likes of Agatha Christie, TS Eliot and Sir Peter Hall. Perhaps most impressive though, is the Greek play, performed triennially and which sees students perform in Ancient Greek. Rehearsed over a nine-month period, the rarity of the production make it a must-see performance.




he music at Queen Anne’s school is more than simply a past time. They encourage playing an instrument, composing, singing and listening, but what sets Queen Anne’s apart is the use of music as an educational aid. The school has conducted research in an educational neuroscience programme with Goldsmiths, University of London which showed that participating in musical life of the school has a transformative impact on the overall academic success of its pupils. The school uses the music department to enhance memory and attention as well as motor coordination and speech processing. Headmistress Julia Harrington praises the department, “Musicians achieve brilliance through effort, hard work and practise. Using musical engagement as a model, our research shows that there is a link between self-belief and achievement”, she says. In response to this, the school is home to three choirs, jazz and concert bands, and many smaller groups to ensure that each and every pupil at Queen Anne’s has the opportunity to get involved with music, and all are encouraged to take part in some of the 48 annual music events at home and abroad. SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 53

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ALL LIFE IS HERE The Head of History of Art at Benenden School in Kent on the resurrection of Art History A-Level


aving taught Art History for over 20 years, I have seen numerous changes to the specifications offered. Exam boards that offer the A-Level have dwindled and only one remained (AQA) - until last year when they too decided to pull the plug. All was lost… or so it seemed until, after a highprofile campaign supporting the subject, Pearson and Edxecel resurrected the A-Level at the 11th hour - to the delight, and relief, of staff and students alike. But why did the threatened loss of Art History spark such widespread outrage? And isn’t Art History, according to Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones, just ‘a posh subject’ for the elite before a familyfunded spell at university? Sadly, he does have a point: Art History is mainly taught in the private sector and state schools cannot accommodate the necessary breadth in their curriculum due to inadequate government funding. A-Level Art History is offered at only 17 state secondary schools

“Art History should not be the domain of the elite.” out of more than 3,000. By contrast, over 90 fee-paying schools offer the subject and close to 900 students took the exam last year. However, Art History’s specialist vocabulary and critical evaluative skills rival the demands of any History or English specification. I agree with Professor Deborah Swallow, Director at Courtauld Institute of Art in London, when she defends Art History against charges of being ‘soft’, arguing it is a “rigorous interdisciplinary subject that gives students the critical skills to deal with a world that is increasingly saturated with images”. As she points out, Art History brings together visual analysis with, among other areas of



study and research, history, languages, literature, chemistry, and art and design. Increasingly in this digital age, how will students become discerning in their visual analysis to appreciate and be knowledgeable about cultural diversity and to articulate what they do and do not like? The study of Art History is vital in enabling students to connect with past styles and periods and value present art and architecture. I feel the Art History in Schools campaign to bring Art History into the state sector, is essential to break the ‘privileged’ association with the subject and for others to see just how beneficial the study of Art History can be. At Benenden, it remains one of the top five subjects chosen at university and successful destinations include Cambridge, Edinburgh and Bristol. An Art History graduate has highly desirable and eminently transferable skills across a range of art and non-art specific professions. An Art History degree covers the areas of media, museums and galleries, education, conservators, auctioneers and antiques, publishing.... the list could easily go on. Steve Mansfield with Benenden pupils

Saving Art History A-Level is a start but there’s currently a general narrowing of opportunity in the curriculum that cannot be a good thing. Art History should not be the domain of the elite. As Sunday Times art critic Waldemar Januszczak, the son of a cleaner and a milkmaid, wrote: “Civilization cannot be understood without it.” With this recent resurrection, the future of the subject, and hopefully its more widespread appeal through the new A-Level’s global outlook on art and architecture, will dispel elitist myth and confirm the subject as an enriching, but above all, serious and demanding subject with enormous career potential.

STEVE MANSFIELD Head of History of Art Benenden School SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 55

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06/12/2017 10:45


SOFT SELL Drama at Hurstpierpoint College equips students with an array of skills for future employment LUKE GASPER


s Fifth Form students begin weighing up their A-Level options, the clandestine posturing of academic departments becomes more blatant. What subjects to take further? Which subjects will facilitate your chosen pathway? Which subjects will the universities like most? We are in dangerous times with how much pressure we are applying to the 16+ generation in schools and the reality of how expensive university education has become adds an even greater pressure to the next generation of young adults in this country. There can be little denial that the emphasis in schools has firmly shifted towards the 'core' subjects in recent years but at what cost to the students overall educational experience? In amongst the reforms and re-reforms, however, lies an unchanging mantra when it comes to the role of the teacher. We are here to help build the potential futures of the students we teach and enable them to

“Drama allows students to make cognitive and physical connections with the world around them” be brave enough to make decisions that are informed and right for them. This generation will face the most competitive employment environment ever and it will be the small margins that help them progress. Studying drama at any level allows students to make cognitive and physical connections with the world around them in a variety of mediums and with no fear of being right or wrong. The range of skills one can experience in a single lesson provide the student with tools that will inevitably be used in other situations.

A B OV E should be from 13+ onwards that It is these skills that employers A performance at these skills should be honed. refer to as soft skills; the personal Hurstpierpoint With a foundation of creativity attributes, traits, inherent established, the GCSE and social cues and communication A-Level courses available enable abilities needed for success in the the student to tackle the more complex workplace. Soft skills characterise how a elements of the subject. This will include person interacts in his or her relationships knowledge and understanding of history, with others and, unlike the job specific hard skills, they are much harder to learn in most philosophy, language, literature, maths, science as well as the other creative arts. classroom environments. I have often heard drama in the The teaching and study of drama in curriculum described as a ‘soft’ subject; schools naturally exposes students to ironic in many ways that such a subject every aspect of the soft skills definition naturally induces the soft skills that may and engaging with them at a young age well provide a young adult with their first prompts a far more instinctive young adult. steps into professional life. Whether through improvisation or simply engaging with a character in a script a drama student must employ imagination in their work and be brave in making decisions that an audience can engage with. Over the course of an academic year every student is able to progress even if that progress is simply about engaging with others in a more confident manner. To truly develop these skills takes time and too often drama LU K E G A S P E R is seen as a subject for younger students that is replaced by other subjects later Director of Drama in their school career when actually it Hurstpierpoint College

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DESIGNS for LIFE Putney High’s textiles department is educating the fashion designers of tomorrow JASMINE ROBERTSON


ith its rich heritage of fashion pioneers, (think Mary Quant, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen) nurturing sartorial talent has been a key element of the UK’s drive to lead in the arts and creative industries. Putney High School GDST is one of many London schools that have been achieving success in sending students on to some of the finest art colleges in the country. But in recent years, Putney has also been at the forefront of a new fashion, for specialist study in Design Technology, Fashion and Textiles. A dedicated department at the school has seen a record take-up at both GCSE and A-Level, thanks in part to the leadership of ex-Valentino designer Stuart McLaughlin and textile designer Elisabeth Buecher (École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués and Central St Martins).

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“The A-Level work at Putney High is of an undergraduate standard” “We believe in creating an environment as much like a design school as possible,” explains McLaughlin. “We encourage students to take risks and focus on the work itself rather than the grade… We teach a wide range of different skills to help them produce high quality garments”. According to Ben Rice, former menswear designer at Paul Smith, and just one of the school’s industry contacts, “the A-Level work is of undergraduate standard”. From Year 8 onwards, students are tackling everything from initial design to pattern drafting as well as exploring the manufacturing aspects of each project. This not only provides challenge but also allows for the creation of innovative garments that have never been seen before. study at A-Level.” Lily Woodhouse (Year One of the biggest attractions of the 11) says: “My theme this year is punk – I’ve course is the opportunity to showcase learnt so much about the 60s and 70s – it finished work in a real fashion show can really help you learn about the politics environment. The students’ catwalk show and history of an era”. was a highlight of the summer term, opened Although the focus is most definitely on by none other than former head of couture the clothes themselves, the success of the at Alexander McQueen, Deborah Milner. students is undeniable. All GCSE students Kate Larkin (Year 13) says: “I love the achieved A* or A grades this year and the challenge that manufacturing a number taking GCSE has risen garment presents… you can steeply from 11 students in 2013 push yourself to create more to 56 in 2017. At A-Level LEFT Department head ,Stuart complex designs and for this student numbers have risen McLaughlin, advises a student reason Textiles is unlike from two students in 2013 BELOW any other subject that I to 16 in the current Years Putney High students 12 and 13 with results at measuring up A-Level over the last four ABOVE AND RIGHT years averaging 75% A* Fashion sketches and an 98% A*/A. embellished jacket Students have recently gone on to win places on prestigious courses at Central St. Martins, Parsons New York and to study Costume Design at Wimbledon School of Art; hopefully set to follow in the footsteps of other Putney alumnae who have already gone on to great things. One such alumna is Rachel Singer (class of 2009), a tailor with ambitions to open her own fashion house on London’s Savile Row offering bespoke tailoring to women. In April 2015 she started at the Savile Row Academy, learning traditional tailoring techniques, creating handcrafted bespoke suits and simultaneously creating clothes for private clients. So what does Putney put the success down to? The school prides itself on being innovative and genuinely open to new ideas.

Pupils really do have the freedom to pursue their passions across a range of subjects and the school makes sure pupils benefit from the best opportunities, wherever their talents lie. Head of Department Stuart McLaughlin is well-connected, and has brought the school contacts with big names such as milliner, Philip Treacy, Deborah Milner and Ben Rice (former menswear designer at Paul Smith and now at high fashion brand Lumiere Paris). They talk to the students and more importantly, help open doors to coveted work experience placements. “This is not only fantastic in terms of inspiration, but it gives a much misunderstood subject a real world context, showing it is possible to make a career in fashion,” he says. The AQA exam board has retained four of the Putney students’ A-Level work as exemplar projects in the past two years, to use in national assessor training, fantastic accolades for the students involved and more proof of how much Textiles is enjoyed and valued as a creative discipline at the school. The future of fashion is bright. SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 59

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Express Yourself Art and art therapy can help with an enormous range of learning needs CHARLOT TE PHILLIPS


or artist Safia El Dabi, it was the absorbed fascination of an autistic pupil in an art project at a special needs school that finally clinched her decision to train as an art therapist. The student - a 14-year-old girl - was painting a series of striking marks on sheets of paper stuck up on the walls. Because she was non-verbal, she would put out her hand to ask for more paper, switch colours and carry on, completely immersed. ‘This is a child who rocks on her chair the whole time and who can’t look at you when you’re talking,’ says El Dabi. ‘Suddenly she has her eyes fixed on the paper, she’s doing these patterns. I suddenly realised that there’s something in this that really, really works.’ El Dabi is now studying for an MA in art therapy at Goldsmith’s and finding it an exceptionally fulfilling experience. ‘In art therapy it’s all about how you feel after you’ve made your work. For me, my own artwork makes more sense now. It feels authentic,’ she says. Art has a well-established role on the curriculum at schools for pupils with learning needs. Their ability and engagement levels span the gamut from gifted to dauber, something that can come as a surprise to the outside world which (wrongly) tends to assume, courtesy of

artists like cityscape supremo Stephen Wiltshire, that anyone with autism will automatically be blessed with Leonardo da Vinci-style levels of talent. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions that prove the rule. Take Toby Boult, who has Asperger’s. His drawings and paintings of trains, planes, ships and personalities combine a mastery of his subjects with an astonishing eye for detail - all are completed freehand and from memory. He took and passed GCSE art with a top grade and has carried on with the subject into the sixth form. But art is more than a pastime. It’s also a conduit through which 18-year-old Toby communicates with others, from conversations about his work to the gently humorous photo stories he produces about the royal family (another interest). The role art has played in so many different aspects of Toby’s life, inside and outside the classroom, is convincing evidence its intrinsic therapeutic value. Art can be transformative, say practitioners, because it offers something extra compared with other subjects, however brilliantly taught. That’s down, in part, to its combination of freedom and physical engagement, says Sineid Codd, art teacher at Parayhouse School in London, where pupils have speech, language and communication difficulties. ‘We’re dealing with specific material and processes but there’s extra freedom in the making of the work. Because we don’t have to do it in a

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LEFT A family workshop at the Royal Academy for children with SEND BELOW LEFT A disabled child creates a painting with a helper BELOW RIGHT Toby Boult's self portrait

“Neuroscience is producing study after study showing the efficacy of art therapy” very specific way, it means children are developing their own styles and characters.’ Art therapy takes this sense of engagement and freedom of expression to another level. Its history in the UK goes back to the Second World War when artist Adrian Hill, hospitalised with tuberculosis contracted in the trenches, asked for paints to overcome the boredom of convalescence. As other sick soldiers at the sanatorium also started drawing and painting, medical staff began to notice that they recovered faster than other patients. Today, art therapy is a recognised specialism with its own association and rigorous post-graduate level training programme. Once qualified, therapists

work with adults and children, some with learning needs, others traumatised by their experiences of everything from bullying to bereavement. For children, including those with special needs, art therapy can be a liberating experience because, unlike so many other aspects of their lives, they are the ones who are in control. Understanding what art therapy involves does require a fairly major shifting of expectations as almost everything that most of us would associate with the conventional process of creating art is turned upside down. An intensely private experience, it happens either in a small group or one-toone in its own space that’s away from the main throng. Instead of working towards a finished artwork, sharing it with family and friends and perhaps displaying it in public, art therapy is very often all about expressing emotion while the work it gives rise to is for private consumption only. And sessions that don’t lead to a completed work can be just as productive – therapeutically speaking – as those that do. ‘They make choices and it’s up to them to say when the work is finished or whether they’d like to continue with it. It’s not about making a piece of art for display,’ says Paul Morrow lead practitioner in the creative arts for Westminster. It’s that process of creation that’s crucial, agrees Priya Dhingra, director of the Ed SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 61

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“It is not about making art for display; it is the process of creation that is crucial” Psych Practice. ‘It is really used with can be to put a value on just what it can kids who find it very difficult to do the achieve. With a growing requirement for talking therapies,’ she says. She tells the just about every educational intervention story of a child who was struggling with to come with solid evidence to back it up, overwhelming emotions after a family there is pressure to demonstrate, beyond crisis. Too young to articulate his feelings, a shadow of a doubt, the positive impact of he would come up with stories, using art therapy on brain function. It’s starting colours to express what people were saying to happen, stresses Hephzibah Kaplan. to him – and how he felt about it, enabling ‘Neuroscience is producing study after the therapists to start working with him. study showings its efficacy.’ Like any other therapeutic tool, art Those involved with art in general and therapy has its limits – for people who don’t art therapy in particular are, in any case, enjoy messing around with clay or paints, in no doubt about its life-changing impact. music or play therapy could be better That includes major cultural organisations options. It also comes with its myths, in which are stepping in to fund innovative particular the notion that it is only effective events aimed at pupils with learning needs. for people who are highly artistic. ‘You don’t Earlier this year, teachers and pupils need to be good at art but you do need to be from special schools enjoyed a week of sufficiently interested in using art materials creative arts at The Tate, when A New to explore your creative self,’ stresses Direction’s Special School network, Hephzibah Kaplan, director of The London working with Studio Wayne McGregor, took Art Therapy Centre. over Tate Exchange, a collaborative, In our evaluation-obsessed experimental space that hosts a days, one of the hardest aspects range of projects designed to ABOVE AND of art – and art therapy – spark new perspectives on art. BELOW The Royal Academy of Arts has a busy SEN schools programme

At the Royal Academy of Arts, where a busy SEN schools programme is getting on for its first decade, children are able to explore artwork and artists on their own terms, responding to what they see, sometimes by creating their own work. A Rubens Exhibition, for example, involved students voting on the pictures they wanted to discuss and then being drawn into a narrative about them. When so much of education is about things being either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and confidence can be so easily dented, says Molly Bretton, access and communities manager at the Royal Academy, art-based events like this can be immensely valuable. ‘I think there’s a very special role that creative spaces and art making can play in allowing the space for young people to explore ideas and their identity and levels of self-expression that they can play out and build into other areas of their life.’ Creating art can also help people with learning needs feel connected to the wider community, believes Paul Morrow. ‘Making art in an area and space [which is] displayed and valued …is about our experience of being human [and] leaving our mark on the world.’ Some of the details of individual pupils have been changed.

Tate Exchange Royal Academy of Arts SEN schools week, March 2018. Five workshops exploring a range of paintings and sculptures. SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 63

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MAKE SOME NOISE Brendan Pavey, Head of Northbridge House Senior in Hampstead, on why he loves a classroom din


icture this. You are in your first week as head teacher at your new school, eager to create the right impression and you hear an almighty din coming from along the corridor. You find the classroom where the noise is coming from and you see a teacher, lounging back in his chair and a classroom full of children almost shouting at one another. You can’t quite believe your eyes! Not one child is looking at a book, no-one is writing anything down, and nearly every child is trying to say something over the next. The teacher is just staring, with a huge grin on his face, as the scene unfolds. What do you do?!? Consider the other side of the equation. Historically, I have nervously toured prospective parents around school, worried about what I might find as I lead them towards a classroom. On finding a quiet, studious-looking classroom I have silently exhaled a sigh of relief. ‘This parent will be impressed by the concentration and diligence of our children and by the classroom management of our teachers,’ I quietly think to myself. Within the profession, and amongst parents, there still seems to be a persistent belief that quiet classrooms are best for learning. However, if I think about the outstanding lessons that I have observed over the years, not one of them has been quiet. What has marked them out has

“If I think about the outstanding lessons that I have observed over the years, not one of them has been quiet.”


numeracy – and the even more provocative been the energy and response was the suggestion that we should excitement in the be promoting these skills to greater status! classroom, and very We now need to give teachers the tools to often the noise level! promote the right classroom climate to We need a re-think – we need to be enable effective discussions to take place. actively promoting noise and energy in the These tools are already in place in our classroom. Whilst there is still a time and a English department. Above the board, place for silent individual study, we should and modelled through teacher-led class also recognise that at the point you have discussion, are laminated posters with children arguing about anything (e.g. which statements such as: ‘Good English students political party has the best policy), then you are… active listeners’ and ‘When responding have some fantastic learning taking place! in class aim to…. agree…. build…. challenge It is not easy and takes great teacher skill your peers’. This simple technique is being to create the right classroom climate to built upon by giving children sentence enable this to happen – but this is the end stems to scaffold their goal that we should be giving discussions and to teach them our teachers the tools, and the the techniques required for permission, to reach. powerful conversations. I recently gave a I firmly believe that this presentation around my is going to underpin some passion for noisy classrooms wonderful academic outcomes to a group of Cognita head for students, who will not only teachers from around the have great qualifications, but world. I challenged them BRENDAN PAVEY the ability to translate these with the idea that we should Head Teacher into effective life skills in their be promoting oracy skills to Northbridge House chosen place of work. the same level as literacy and Northbridge pupils: never quiet

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IN FULL VOICE The Director of Music of Lancing College Chapel, on the art of choral song N E I L C OX


ancing College was founded in 1848 by the Rev Nathaniel Woodard on a spur of the South Downs in West Sussex. Construction of the chapel began 20 years later, on a scale not seen since the building of the great medieval cathedrals. It rose steadily and mightily, with foundations sunk deep into the chalk below. These supported first a glorious crypt chapel which floods with light at every early morning service, and a colossal single-span upper chapel, its stone vaults towering a full 98 feet above the paving stones of the nave. This was a great statement of faith, an Anglo-Catholic declaration of fortitude and defiance. This is a building that aims for the best, and its music follows accordingly. From its earliest days the choir has played a huge part in the worship of the school, building up an enviable reputation in the county and the country through CDs, tours, cathedral visits and broadcasts. The acoustics of the sandstone chapel are tricky, demanding the singers sustain an expressive line when there is little natural

“In recent years the choir has produced two of the BBC Young Choristers of the Year” resonance in the church: this is challenging, but means the singers get used to singing cantabile lines, perfect in the performance of early polyphonic music. This glorious music, by Tallis, Byrd, Victoria, Palestrina and others still forms the core of the choir’s repertoire. Recently written music too, of course – Britten’s Saint Nicolas cantata was written for the school’s centenary in 1948 (Britten’s partner Sir Peter Pears was an old boy of the school), and in 1998 the choir gave the premiere (in Westminster Abbey) of Arvo Pärt’s Triodion, commissioned for the 150th anniversary of the college. Student

compositions are also included in the services, often giving the pupils their first opportunity to hear their pieces sung in public. Music scholars at the school often include former choristers from some of our greatest choral foundations, and these play a big part in maintaining the standard of excellence we aim for in the choir. Their sight-reading skills are invaluable in the way we can maintain a wide repertoire of music; this in turn holds the interest of the most talented singers as they work alongside boys and girls of more limited experience. In recent years the choir has produced two of the BBC Young Choristers of the Year, one boy and one girl, and both former cathedral choristers. Worship in the chapel is centred on the celebration of the Eucharist, and this is the principal school service each week. There are around fifty pupils in the main choir, and from these springs the more specialist Choral Scholars group numbering around 18 students. Opportunities are open to any other pupils in the school to come along and sing in things, firstly in the A Cappella A B OV E

Lancing College choristers

group and later in the Student Voices. This in turn joins forces with the adult College Singers choir to perform the great choral works such as Handel’s Messiah, the Brahms Requiem and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. Whilst the main job of the choir is to lead the congregation in the worship in Chapel, the choir is also a great social meetingpoint, taking in boys and girls from all year groups and all houses. I love that moment in each rehearsal when the laughing and jostling teenagers pile in, fall silent, breathe in, and then produce the most beautiful, soul-searching sound. It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with them week in, week out.

N E I L COX Director of Music Lancing College Chapel

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No Brainer An alliance of London girls’ schools is planning to replace the 11+ with cognitive tests to make the admissions process less of a headache LISA FREEDMAN


hen my oldest child was sitting 11+, I used to wake up in the middle of the night and count school places. The activity certainly didn’t send me back to sleep. Now, however, a significant tranche of London schools is planning to make their admissions process less nightmarish and, from 2019, will be simplifying their entrance exams. The loose alliance of schools known as the North London Independent Girls’ Schools’ Consortium (12 all-girls’ schools in the capital and surrounding suburbs)

have long tried to ease the pressure on pupils by coordinating their exams and the date on which results are released. Now, they intend to radically reorganise the exams themselves, replacing the traditional written papers in Maths and English with a single aptitude test, which, they hope, will be considerably less stressful. "We’ve had discussions for the past few years to address concerns about young children’s mental health, particularly girls," says Lucy Elphinstone, headmistress of Consortium member Francis Holland School, Sloane Square. "Then, a number of prep-school heads gave a presentation to senior-school heads about the effects of 11+ testing with a plea to significantly modify or

get rid of it. In its place, they advocated the use of cognitive testing." Cognitive tests – or, to use a more oldfashioned term, IQ tests– have, of course, long been a significant plank of school admissions. They were (and remain) the dominant means by which the country’s 163 grammar schools discriminate amongst their multitude of applicants. Increasingly, however, they have also been employed by the independent sector. Eton, for example, introduced a bespoke computerised aptitude test as a key part of its admissions process in 2002, and this type of assessment has now become widespread in 13+ ‘pretesting’, where applicants frequently sit online multiple-choice tests. Lucy Elphinstone believes that one of the most significant benefits of cognitive testing is that it’s less easy to tutor for, and, as a result, less likely to induce the same level of ‘I-can’t-do-it’ panic. "Girls take similar tests every year at school to track and forecast progress and don’t blink an eyelid." A further plus is that cognitive tests are seen as fairer to those for whom English is an additional language and applicants from state primary schools, who may not have received the same level of preparation. Independent schools are, of course, fortunate, that, unlike their grammar-school counterparts, they can employ cognitive tests as just one strand of a multi-faceted admissions process, using school reports and interviews to give a more in-depth picture, and the Consortium are currently ensuring that both these components are more robust. Traditionally, decisions about who and how to interview have been left up to individual Consortium schools, with some interviewing all girls before the written tests, others interviewing all after, and many making an initial edit based on the outcome of the written exams. Victoria Bingham, recently appointed head of Consortium member South Hampstead High School, which receives about 10 applicants per place, is hoping to continue the practice she’s just introduced of providing one-to-one interviews for every applicant. "The difference between candidate number 20 and candidate number 100 in the written papers is usually not that great. What we’re looking for is spark and an interview can entirely reverse the order. A creative girl, full of character and intelligence, might not be particularly well suited to reasoning tests, while the child who’s good at the tests may come across as a bit of an automaton."

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The interview process itself is also evolving, aiming to ascertain aspects of personality and ability beyond the merely academic. Highgate School, for example, a co-educational independent school in north London, introduced group interviews several years, intended to evaluate intellectual curiosity, problem solving, listening skills and the ability to collaborate. This approach is also being favoured by the Consortium. "We’re looking at far more group-based activities likely to suss out creativity and critical thinking, the skills we believe are required to thrive LEFT in a rapidly changing world," South Hampstead High says Lucy Elphinstone. School pupils The Consortium’s move RIGHT has aroused considerable SHHS girls on the sports pitch interest elsewhere, and BELOW other schools, such as Lucy Elphinstone, Head of Wycombe Abbey, ‘are Francis Holland, Sloane currently reviewing their Square processes’. Some, such as Cheltenham Ladies’ College, ‘The longer you have with already have measures in place to smooth them, the more you feel you can make the 11+ transition, and here, a voluntary, the right judgement. We’re looking at the ‘non-binding’ ‘pre-assessment’ is offered to pace they work and their accuracy, how all applicants in Year 5. they cope with the unfamiliar and how they "We provide a one-and-a-half-hour onerespond to guidance.’ to-one assessment," says Dr Hilary Laver, At Cheltenham, the pre-assessment Admissions Director. "It’s heavy on our also provides the opportunity to talk to time, but we feel it’s incredibly valuable." parents. "It enables us to understand their The assessment consists of a 15-20 ambitions. We’re honest with them and give minute chat and written samples of the type them a sense of where their daughter will of questions in maths, verbal reasoning and fall in the cohort." creative writing girls will confront if they In a system in which not every child proceed to sit the entrance exam itself. can gain a place at their preferred school, parents will, understandably, feel anxious about their children’s prospects, and Lucy Elphinstone feels this concern has been one of the chief drivers of the tutoring business. "With the new tests, familiarity will certainly give greater confidence, but tutoring will not significantly affect the outcome. We hope common sense will prevail." Leading tutorial companies, like Keystone Tutors, agree – up to a point. "The computerised cognitive tests currently used are purposefully designed with as little transparency as possible and no tutor can claim to have in-depth knowledge or experience of the tests themselves," says founder and director Will Orr-Ewing. "However, the cold hard facts are that the numeracy and literacy content of these tests is rooted in Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum. As such, a comprehensive understanding of the Maths and English syllabus will stand students in good stead."

“Cognitive testing is less easy to tutor for, so less likely to induce the same level of ‘I-can’tdo-it’ panic” Keystone also believe a well-honed exam technique can be of benefit. "Often questions may be testing something quite simple, but be presented in a complex way." If, as the schools argue, tutoring isn’t the answer, what is? "We feel the changes will give parents more of a role to play," says Lucy Elphinstone. "The best way to develop cognitive skills is for families to sit round a dinner table at night discussing the news; for girls to be taken to exhibitions, concerts, the theatre." Ultimately, of course, a selective system will never be entirely stress free, but the Consortium schools and their counterparts elsewhere are all aiming for the same thing. As Dr Laver puts it: "What we hope is that girls will come to the exams in a relaxed state, so they have as much brain space as possible to focus on what’s being asked." Lisa Freedman is the MD of At The School Gates; SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 69

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M A K ING of Me

Laura Dockrill

The writer, illustrator and performance poet on happy days at the Brit School in south London

Where did you go to school and when? I went to the Brit School for Performing Arts (OVER 10 YEARS AGO NOW!!!)

Did you have a special place at school? Those rooms at The Brit School. They were cold, intense and completely black, littered with scraps of poetry, crisp packets, browning apple cores and flattened Ribena Cartons. And we were obsessed with them. With the curtains closed and the spot lights on full, we would often be still there at 7pm on a Friday just ‘hanging out’, making up stuff (and school finished at 12 on Fridays.)





What sort of school was it? It is magical and special. When I first stepped foot in the building I immediately felt at home. I had struggled in my previous school to find a footing as it was very academic and felt a huge amount of pressure and further and further away from what I actually wanted to do. But Brit School was my habitat and home to my species; it’s an open-minded, free-thinking, risk-taking school that encourages and empowers young people to take leaps and be brave and experiment with form and genre. I am eternally grateful to it. Q


What was your favourite subject? Theatre. The theatre department was a scrubby little layout of three rooms, all painted black with the most simple of set ups. Our costume bit was basically made up of a wig, an old mustard moth-eaten arm chair, a few weird outfits and a mop. But that was all we needed, the space was a complete blank canvas. Q


Q Which teacher influenced you most in life and why? A I have had a lot of wonderful, inspirational teachers in my life. Nick Williams, then the principal of Brit School, who always gave me time in his office to

tirelessly go over my essays and poetry and always encouraged my writing. Then there was Miss Bamford, who taught me at primary school. She was a solid punk with a shaved head, dyed ox-blood red. She had a pierced nose, tattoos and ginormous wonderful boobies - so great that we would deliberately fall over in the playground just to get a hug from her. I always loved that she came to school dressed like herself. It gave her not only an informality and genuine softness and likeability factor but made us feel we could trust her, like she was legit, ONE OF US.

Q What beliefs do you think your school instilled in you? A It endorsed my love and verve for theatre, language and literature but also allowed me to play across other strands and mediums, pushing me and guiding me. It spoke to me like an adult but let me think like a child. It made me think freely and work collaboratively and actively; and understand rejection, competition, kindness. It practises and demonstrates the importance of valuing and respecting art across all of its many borders, strands and disciplines; there is no star of the show. The school showed me how to work hard. To trust that enough is never enough, there is always more to do, more reading, more talking, more ways to be active. That it is illegal to be bored and even worse to be lazy. But also, I thank it for infusing me politically and socially, bolstering myself as a woman, supporting me as a young feminist and helping me find a confident voice in the competitive world of writing.


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with a broad, vibrant, experimental approach to making art. And making mistakes too. I find enjoyment and freedom in just whirling away the hours with a pen and a stack of paper. Tell us about your latest book? Big Bones is about a young girl who loves her body. It is an endorsement into body positivity, food, confidence and womanhood. I loved writing it and eating my way through the chapters. I wrote it in a really weird time in my life where I turned 30 and thought WAIT A SEC, WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING? It is a bit of an apology and love letter to my younger self and a conversation with my younger readers. It’s very special to me. Q

What is your most vivid memory of your time there? A So many, they all roll into one kind of blurry dream where I can’t even report what was school and what was social, it was such a happy place. I felt like I really got the chance to thrash out my emo-teen years there and was allowed to do it, it was a bit like rehab in that way. I remember lots of first encounters of meeting people that have since gone on to become my best friends.



Were you too cool for school? No. I talked to and loved everybody. I wore multi-coloured tights, leopard print converse, ill fitting jackets, had bitten-down, painted, chipped nails, knotty hair and was usually eating a tin of tropical fruit in syrup. Q


Q What effect did school have on your character? Did it change you? A Yes, for all of the above reasons. Sometimes I meet people and I can’t help but think, ‘I wish you got the chance to go to Brit.’ People say they can always tell a Brit kid.

Q Where did you develop your love of writing and drawing? A I have always written and drawn. I’m obsessed with fairy tales, Greek mythology and Roald Dahl. I’ve always believed that words and art go together in some way. I like the way words and art look on a page/ screen/ stage together. Then I am obsessed with the way humans talk, move, explain themselves. Both my parents raised me to love people, to enjoy the art of conversation and proper storytelling. I think both of my parents lead me to believe that the process of an artist is just as important as the end product of the art itself. So I enjoy finding stories within stories. The scratchy scribbly bits in-between. I’ve always been fascinated

What are your plans for the future? I would just love to do more and much of the same, because I feel so grateful that every day I am met by my characters and stories and that gets to be my job. I don’t want to be greedy and ask for more than I already have. Q


Q How would you sum up your school days in five words? A Escape, play, surreal, magical, precious.

Big Bones is published by Hot Key Books in March 2018 SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 71

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QUEEN of ARTS Hampstead’s Fine Arts College has grown from a good idea into a quietly starry college for 13 to 19 year olds. Absolutely Education meets its founder, Candida Cave A M A N D A C O N S TA N C E 72 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | SPRING 2018

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he Fine Arts College in Hampstead wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for a story of love and an Italian racing driver. When Candida Cave’s old flatmate from her student days at the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford fell for said Romeo, she asked Cave if she would take on the two boys she was tutoring in History

having flowers to making sure we’re not overcrowded”. Cave appears to embody her own calm philosophy. Small and slight, she has a sharp bob and very bright eyes. She speaks softly and carefully but with precision. It is hard to imagine her ever getting ruffled. Cave’s belief that with the right conditions, students can flourish and grow academically and creatively – in their own time and own way – has grown into a hugely successful business. Places at FAC are hugely in demand and that’s without any advertising, ever. When the college opened in the late Seventies, Cave and Cochrane offered Art and Art History A-Level – which was unheard of in London colleges at the time. Most students now come to FAC for sixth form and to take advantage of the art-based A-Levels on offer: Fine Art, Photography, Textiles and Graphics. They can also choose from numerous academic subjects. Entry is non-selective, applicants need at least five GCSEs and all Year 12 and 13 students are expected to take four A-Levels. By 1994 FAC started offering GCSEs.

students going from a prep environment to a very academic formal environment, they can come to us in Year 9 and do music, art and photography as well as academic subjects.” We tour what Cave describes as the “Tardis-like” college. It is certainly bigger than it looks; a maze of narrow corridors and small rooms which have even spilled into neighbouring buildings. We find small tutorial groups – sometimes just two or three students; regulation teenagers in baggy sportswear and beanies with a multitude of piercings. This is no school environment, there are no teachers at the front of the room. The atmosphere is informal, consensual and personal – much like a university setting. From a quintessentially Hampsead fine art class – complete with a life model wearing nothing more than a flower hat - to a music production class; students appear engaged and engaging. It’s all very relaxed. And it’s easy to see it working brilliantly at sixth-form but will parents feel comfortable with this set-up for Year 9 pupils ? Cave points out that

“THE WAY EDUCATION HAS GONE RECENTLY, ARTS SUBJECTS ARE BEING REALLY SQUEEZED” of Art. Cave said yes and found she rather enjoyed – and excelled – at teaching and the next September, 20 students were referred to her. And a year after that Cave established her own sixth-form art college with fellow artist Nicholas Cochrane. That was in 1978. Forty years on, the Fine Arts College in Belsize Park is something of a north London institution – for those in the know, of course. Everything about FAC is rather discreet; a collection of small buildings around a cobbled courtyard, it is tucked away site behind iron gates on England’s Lane. It feels like a calm oasis rather than a school; it’s hard to believe it’s in London. Cave says they have consciously created a happy environment for students. “Condition, consciousness, calm – all these things help students learn,” she says. “We all believe that here in terms of the way we run the place,” she says, “from always

“Everything has been really quite organic,” says Cave. “We realized a number of students weren’t happy at their schools so we started GCSEs.” Since then there have been small Year 10 and Year 11 groups at the college. From September this year, the college will be expanding to take Year 9 students for the first time. Cave says the decision to introduce Year 9 pupils to the college is a “natural development” and makes sense as Year 9 is the natural entry point for many of them. Cave says she hopes many pupils will join “straight from prep school to give themselves a good sweep at GCSEs”. The demand is definitely there. “I genuinely believe there are a great number of 13 year olds who are very good at art, music, drama and the way education has gone in the past few years those subjects are being squeezed,” says Cave. Rather than

younger students have a “formal structure to the day” at FAC with classes from 9am to 4pm. All students have a personal tutor who they see once a week and there are fortnightly reports on each student, too. Students come to the college from everywhere. 2017 graduates joined from London schools such as North Bridge House, Harrodian School, Francis Holland, Emanuel and King Alfred School and public schools such as Bedales, Tudor Hall, Haileybury, and Ampleforth. They have gone on to a variety of destinations, both academic universities in the Russell Group, to American universities but also to a number of elite art colleges such as Central St Martins, Goldsmiths, and Parsons New York. Looking down the list of 2017 leavers it’s hard not to notice a certain Brooklyn Beckham. The college has seen its fair share of celebrity offspring passing SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 73

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LEFT AND BELOW Art classes at Fine Arts College

through the iron gates in recent years; from the Beckham’s eldest, to Madonna’s son Rocco Ritchie and Anais Gallagher, daughter of Noel. Cave will, quite rightly, not be drawn on her starry charges. “It’s a sensitive matter because I want the students to feel they have a normal education – when the paparazzi realize they are here they make the students life really difficult,” she says. “The highprofile students love it being low key.” It all feels terribly privileged, like a funky finishing school for well-cushioned kids. Cave says they are attracting more children from the state sector, the college offers one full scholarship and 10 part scholarships a year. “We do have an increasing number of students from the state sector,” says Cave. “This is a wealthy area but ideologically many parents want to stay in the state sector and then ‘top up’ at sixth form.” And Cave has a telling anecdote about her attitude to the liberally parented children in her care. When they are on study trips in public spaces she doesn’t allow the students to lounge. She reprimands them: “Your mother wouldn’t let you behave like that.” And they have said: “Oh yes she would.” And Cave tells

them to sit up and shape up anyway. For all the quiet tones, there is some steel in Cave. “We do feel that this isn’t just a place to get exams, it’s for a real education, for how you live life.” She gives the topics of drugs similar short shrift. One can’t view this many teenagers in trainers and beanies without raising the issue. “We take a zero tolerance attitude,” Cave says. Students must sign a contract when they come; if they are found to be taking or selling drugs, expulsion is immediate. “We do use random drug testing, twice a year,” says Cave. “Students and parents know this and to date, thankfully, no one has ever failed them.” Until recently, the college was very much a family business. Cave and Nicholas Cochrane were married for years and have two children (now divorced they are still “great friends”, says Cave.) Their daughter Emmy is now head of History of Art at the college. Cochrane retired three years ago, partly due to ill health, and Cave sold the college to Duke’s Education run by Aatif Hassan two years ago.

Ostensibly, things have stayed the same. Cave has taken a step back from day-today teaching but she says she still has a great appetite for leading the college and for life in general. She’s also a playwright – her last play on the Mitford sisters was performed in 2010 and she’s writing another now. “I love being among this age group. I genuinely believe that education and curiosity makes life better for the individual and I really like it when you see a student who’s been inhibited or academically neglected really flourish.” Will the college take the logical step and become a full school, opening to children from Year 7? Cave has obviously considered this, but for now she says: “I don’t know, let’s just wait and see.” But with the college going from strength to strength, nobody would be surprised.


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Christie’s Education provides a great opportunity for postgrads to enter the commercial art world GEORGIA MCVEIGH


he world of fine art is notorious for being a closed shop; elite, prestigious and very, very hard to get in to. And few auction houses are more revered than the likes of Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonham’s, the blue chip brands of the art world. They are the first port of call for the sale of some of the world's most acclaimed art; last year’s record-breaking sale of a Da Vinci that went for $400m is just one example.

A Rubens painting at Christie’s

Many students attempt to break into this privileged world and a few years ago Christie’s made this a whole lot easier. In 2013, Christie’s Education – Christie International’s specialist provider of postgraduate higher education and continuing education – launched its 15-month MSC post-graduate programme in Art, Law and Business in London and New York. At the heart of the Christie’s ethos is their expertise, and they are offering a fantastic opportunity to committed postgraduates to learn the business from the inside out. The course is not for the faint-hearted, however; it is full-time, intensive and demanding. Successful applicants must demonstrate a strong motivation to enter the commercial art sector and don’t even think about applying without a 2:1 and a second language (and deep pockets, the 15-month course costs £36,000). But for successful applicants, the MSC in Art History, Art Law and Art Business at Christie’s Education equips students with an advanced understanding of the art markets and practical experience in the three areas that make up today’s international art environment. The course is taught via lectures, seminars and tutorials by faculty staff, lawyers, and other art-world professionals. The programme also puts great stock in the importance of cultural immersion; students travel to significant art fairs and Biennales both in Europe and further afield. Christies Education benefits from unparalleled relationships with art world insiders. The real boon of the course, is that if students prove

“Christies’s Education has unparalleled relationships with art world insiders” themselves academically, they finish their time with a placement at the Christie’s auction house, rounding off their education with hands-on experience. This spirit of “embedded employability” is what the course is all about, and in the five years since it was founded, Christie’s boasts a 100% employment rate. Although there is no guarantee of a job at the end, Christies Education handpicks the students that express a flair and passion for the industry. In doing so, the company remains dedicated to the expertise it is known for, and opens a door to the art world that was previously firmly shut.

TAKE ART In 2012 Christie’s Education joined forces with the Harris Federation to create the Harris Academies Programme for Year 9 gifted and talented students. The Harris Federation is a multi-academy trust that runs schools in some of London’s most deprived areas. Christie’s Education worked with Harris to create a programme of cultural enrichment for students that would expose them to the art world in an accessible way. The pupils first receive a lesson in art history, they also visit the Christie’s auction house, and gain exclusive access to objects that have been consigned. The culmination of year is when the students take part in a mock auction, using art they themselves have created in class. The students act as the auctioneers, and parents, students and staff alike are invited to come and watch the live auction.

For more information or to apply for the 2018/19 course visit SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 77

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FATED FUTURE When two students from very different backgrounds became school buddies, little did they know that there paths would cross at Cambridge



very year, Brighton College pupils in the lower sixth are buddied up with their peers from the London Academy of Excellence in Stratford in the East End in order that, despite often very different backgrounds, they can work with and help each other. The LAE, a flagship free school which looks over the 2012 Olympic site, was created when Brighton College’s headmaster Richard Cairns teamed up with inspirational east London state school head Joan Deslandes to create a sixth form catering for the highest achieving 16-year-olds in the Newham borough. Brighton College’s Ayesha Holderness, 18, and the LAE’s Shukri Abdullahi, also 18, from east London, were buddied in 2015 and became firm friends. They are now both first years in the same hall at Cambridge University where they are both studying medicine.

“I was stunned when I realized we were both going to be doing medicine at Queen’s College”


When school told me we were going to buddy up with pupils from the LAE, we were excited but, I must admit, a little bit apprehensive too. I wasn’t actually meant to be Shukri’s buddy but the girl who was, was off sick so I took her under my wing and she became my buddy – I guess it was meant to be. We hit it off – and spent most of the time talking about making the transition from GCSE to A-Level and the work we had to do. When Shukri came to Brighton, she sat in on our lessons and we helped each other out which I think made us realise how similar


we are. We were both doing exactly the same A-Levels – Biology, Chemistry and Maths, with Shukri also doing Further Maths. We had plenty to chat about! It was great to share both our worries and aspirations together and gee each other along. We exchanged phone numbers after we first met and have kept in touch ever since. We hadn’t said to each other that we were applying to Queens so I was stunned when I realised – by looking at the Queen’s College Facebook page in August – that we were not only going to be studying the same course at the same uni but also in the same college! We are even in the same medical set at Cambridge which makes it even more unbelievable. I think the buddy scheme is a great idea, it really helped us both in the application process and I can’t imagine my first few months here without having Shukri – it has been a real comfort in that everything’sbrand-new first term.” Ayesha Holderness and Shukri Abdullahi


I went to Langdon Park in Poplar before the LAE so arriving at Brighton College was exciting - walking through the arch, it seemed grand. I had only heard of the school because our own school houses are named after the independent schools that support LAE so it was great to see the place my house had been named after. And then when I met Ayesha and the other pupils at the school, it was nice to discuss our similar aspirations and life goals. It was incredibly helpful that they grouped us according to what A-Levels we were doing so that we had a talking point straight away. We encouraged each other as we went through the uni application process but I had no idea that Ayesha was actually applying to Queen’s so when we found out in August we were incredibly excited. My mum was so shocked by it too and obviously delighted that I would have someone I already knew in my first months at Cambridge. SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 79

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READING RICHES The London Children’s Book Project is redistributing books to families without them A M A N D A C O N S TA N C E


he act of reading changes us. When a child reads for pleasure it alters the way they view themselves and how they view the world,” says Liberty Venn. Anyone who reads books knows how transformative it is for children to grow up surrounded by stories. Yet according to the National Literacy Trust, one in four children across London has fewer than 10 books of their own. Children growing up in ‘book poor’ households are known to be disadvantaged when it comes to language development, emotional and social development and learning outcomes. Venn is a researcher from west London who specialises in literacy-related work. Last summer she launched the London Children’s Book Project following a successful two-year-pilot project at a primary school in North Kensington. Pupils choosing at book at Barlby Primary School

“One in four children in London have fewer than 10 books of their own” The not-for-profit organisation aims to redistribute 30,000 new and ‘gently-used’ children’s books this academic year. There are many such gifting programmes in the US, yet the UK has none, despite significant need. Working with the staff at Barlby Primary School in North Kensington (48% of pupils at Barlby are on free school meals; the national average is 24%) Venn set up a free library in the playground “full of books for kids to take, with no rules about them”. “No surprise, we ran out of books”, says Venn, so she wrote to 10 local private schools such as Bute House, Thomas’s, Norland Place and Notting Hill Prep (where Jane Cameron was “incredible”) to see if they could donate. Norland Place did a book drive. Parents were thrilled to clear their shelves and “by the next day, we had 1,300,” says Venn. Norland Place has now made this book drive an annual event. In summer 2017, Notting Hill Prep gathered 2,400 books for the charity. “I have been amazed by people’s generosity,” says Venn. “At Norland Place a parent said: ‘I’m so sorry, I’ve just given some of our books away so I bought these Harry Potter collections at the Book People instead.’ And they handed over all these brand new books. It was just wonderful! What is amazing is the

unquestioning support of the project. You don’t need to explain to anyone why it’s important, everyone just gets it.” What makes the charity special is the “creative distribution” of the books, says Venn; the project places an emphasis on enjoyment for those both giving and receiving books. Venn has created posters, bunting and stickers for schools to create their own pop-up bookshops. “This puts real value on the selection process,” she says. Teachers have already reported on “the amazing language development in their pupils when they hold discussions afterwards”, says Venn. So what’s the end goal? “I think it’s reasonable to distribute 50,000 books a year,” says Venn. There are 305 primary schools in London where the pupil body is above national average for receipt of the pupil premium – and therefore likely to have a high number of pupils from book-poor homes. “We have pushed 10,000 books into the community in North Kensington,” says Venn. That works out at about 10 books a child on average. As a workable model, “it’s a no-brainer”. “It’s very neat. I want commitment, not money.”

Visit childrensbookproject. or email Liberty@ to get involved. SPRING 2018 | A B S O LU T E LY E D U C AT I O N | 81

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SUPPORT For Success



hildren who struggle with reading and writing often compare their own achievement with those of their peers. They feel less intelligent, isolated and have low self-esteem. At The McLeod Centre for Learning, which has Crested accreditation, children address their learning needs within a nurturing environment, and find their way in the academic world again – or even for the first time.

Before starting, children are assessed by Specialist Teachers and an individual programme is designed. Children enrolled in the Morning School receive English (dyslexia), math (dyscalculia) and touch-typing/ handwriting (dyspraxia) lessons. Groups are no larger than three and often individual. Dependent on needs, children usually attend one to five mornings a week for usually one to three terms. The McLeod centre for Learning runs after-school

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AT MCLEOD CHILDREN ADDRESS THEIR LEARNING NEEDS WITHIN A NURTURING ENVIRONMENT sessions for 5-18 years. A wide range of subjects to A-Level is offered as well as remedial handwriting, touch-typing and tutoring for 4+, 7+, 8+, 11+ and 13+ entry exams. Specialist support for dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia is also available. Their teachers, experienced in selection processes, provide interview practice for independent preparatory and senior schools. The McLeod Centre for Learning’s touch typing classes are after school and at weekends during term time. Intensive courses are run during holidays. Many children, who have already learned during a course, choose to continue to work in spelling whilst building typing speeds. Amanda McLeod is the

author and series editor of the Scholastic Handwriting series (Reception to Year 6). She’s a committee member of the National Handwriting Association, one of their trainers and also their representative in the media. 74 Lupus Street, SW1V 3EL, 020 7630 6970,

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Queen Anne’s School An independent boarding and day school for girls aged 11-18

The right choice for your daughter’s future Open Mornings


‘Excellent’ Independent Schools Inspectorate 2017

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Friday 9 March Saturday 12 May Friday 8 June BOOK ONLINE NOW

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GOOD HABITS The Head of English at Dauntsey’s in Wiltshire on encouraging children to read in their teenage years


can always tell when you’re reading somewhere in the house,” my mother used to say. “There’s a special silence, a reading silence." So opens Francis Spufford’s memoir of a childhood spent reading, The Child That Books Built. It seems an obvious point to make that any child who is able to find that focused and concentrated silence in books at an early age will find focus and concentration on other tasks at later stages more achievable. Study after study has shown that children who grow up with a reading habit – or just with books in their home – are more independent, more articulate, more self-confident, more likely to base opinions on evidence, and ultimately more academically successful, than those who don’t. At secondary level, one of the requests most frequently asked of English teachers is for recommended reading. The story usually goes: “My child used to read all the time, but has stopped recently.” The exact meaning of 'recently' varies. Year Six is a popular stopping point for reading; starting secondary school is another; “When they got their smartphone” another still but we are told that lots of pupils seem to have more or less stopped reading independently for pleasure by around Year Nine. This seems extraordinary. We are living in a golden age of Young Adult (YA) fiction, with series such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Twilight, and authors such as Philip Pullman, Patrick Ness, Frances Hardinge, Marcus Sedgwick, Mal Peet, Gillian Flynn, Meg Rosoff and Malorie Blackman contributing to a boom in book sales for the 11-15 age group that is unprecedented. YA book sales have been rising by between five and seven per cent a year for the last few

“Read anything. It doesn’t have to be Dickens to be good for you”


years and show no sign of falling again. This presents a paradox. Lots more YA books are being bought and borrowed; lots of YAs are not reading. At Dauntsey’s, we believe that reading gives a real pleasure and helps to develop the whole person. The variety of life that can be experienced through literature can be of enormous help to young people as they discover and develop their identities. Reading, by which we mean reading anything at all, helps to encourage a creative, imaginative and empathetic approach to the world, on which we place a high value and which is in danger of being side-lined by the national drive for improved performance in STEM subjects. All is not lost. It is important to note that that empathetic engagement with the world we so value can be developed to an extent by reading a thoughtful report on the latest British Lions game, an editorial about the voting age, or a review of a film. It doesn’t have to be Dickens to be good for you. Teenagers’ reading habits will change as they discover their own enthusiasms and passions, and develop their own adult A B OV E

Dauntsey’s pupils with their favourite books

reading habits. There may be more reading going on than we notice. This is not to say that parents’ perceptions of their children’s reading habits is wrong. Most secondary school children will read less often than most primary school age children and probably less often than most adults. Competition from friends, phones and other pastimes becomes much more intense as the teenage years approach, as it should. What seems to be important is that parents, teachers and librarians do everything that they can to keep the reading flame alive during those years. Teenagers who see books valued in their houses, who are given opportunities to choose their own material to read, who keep a book by their bed for even ten minutes’ reading a night, who spend time with a newspaper every now and again, or with a magazine such as The Week, will be classed as readers, and will hence be getting all of the benefits listed above, not least recognising the benefits of Mrs Spufford’s 'special silence'. As for what to read, the answer that I always give is, “Anything”; it’s the habit that’s most important.

A N D R E W B R OW N Head of English Dauntsey's

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Healing Words A writer and mental health campaigner on how reading poetry can give hope to stressed teenagers R A C H E L K E L LY


hen I published a memoir three years ago about how poetry helped me overcome depression, I never imagined that it would lead to invitations from schools and universities to talk to pupils and students about my experience. The need to do so has only become more pressing in a world in which three children in every classroom has a mental health condition. My first trip a few years ago was to an academy school close to my home in west London to talk to a Year 9 class. The English teacher explained that she wished her pupils on the cusp of adolescence to understand that poetry was not just about the drudgery of rote learning or what assonance or alliteration meant. Actually, poetry could be their friend in times of need, just as it had been for me when afflicted by what Winston Churchill famously called the Black Dog. I chose to talk about how the cadences and evocation of quiet in Yeats’s poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree had helped me get to sleep during anxious nights; of how, trapped in my bedroom when unwell, I imagined the ‘bee-loud glade’ and the ‘lake water lapping’ evoked in the poem, and something of my desperation evaporated. Next time they felt anxious I said, why not stop and learn a poem? They might find it a wonderful stress-reliever too – and more appropriate than medication

with all its side-effects. Doctors are no longer recommending antidepressants for teenagers after a report in January 2016 found that the drugs were linked to suicide and aggression among young people. Since that first visit, I’ve developed a Healing Words workshop in which I explain why poetry can help our mental health and share the six or seven poems which I’ve found can be most helpful to teenagers. As one teacher said to me, poetry’s soothing balm has never been more needed with the spike in teenage mental health problems and an emphasis on exams and academic success RIGHT rather than emotional Apollo: god of poetry wellbeing. as well as medicine I’m far from the first to recognise poetry’s healing ABOVE RIGHT Writer and campaigner, power: Apollo was the God Rachel Kelly of poetry as well of medicine. In 1751 Benjamin Franklin founded the first American hospital, the Pennsylvania Hospital, where reading and creative writing were among the treatments prescribed for mental illness. Freud, Adler, Jung and others recognised the healing power of words, and this led to the 1969 founding of the Association of Poetry the neuroscience department of Liverpool Therapy. University discovered that readers of There’s even some scientific evidence Shakespeare, when they came across that poetry changes the way we think. an unusual but totally comprehensible The arrangement of poetry, even the grammatical construction, would show a clearest, has different conventions to spike in neural activity. continuous prose. This presents enough Even though the readers understood of a challenge to get our brains working what was being said, their brains were differently. Research by Philip Davis and shocked into activity. The requirement to

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concentrate in the moment helps us stop regretting the past and fearing the future in the negative mental spiral characteristic of depression. In this way, poetry can work in a similar way to mindfulness, forcing us into the present. Robert Frost, demonstrating my point perfectly, put it far better when he said a poem can be a ‘momentary stay against confusion’ – and few are more confused and distracted than today’s school children whose attention span and ability to concentrate has been diminished by the rise of social media and the internet. My poem choices move in an arc from dark to light, reflecting my own recovery

from two serious depressive episodes, but also the poems which I’ve found resonate most with young people. Asking pupils to read the poems aloud can be a confidencebooster, and literally help people find a voice. One popular poem is The Guest House by Jalal al-Din Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic. Audiences are astounded to discover that the poem was written over 700 years ago, as it feels very modern in its sentiment of acceptance. The poem says we must welcome whatever befalls us. We are like a guesthouse and we must ‘treat each guest honourably,’ even if we are greeted by a ‘crowd of sorrows’. The most seemingly unprepossessing guest ‘may be clearing you out for some new delight’. Being worried about the future is pointless. What will happen will happen and we need to embrace that uncertaintly. A second popular poem among teenagers is George Herbert’s Love (III) . Herbert brilliantly describes what depression can feel like. It makes one feel ‘guilty of dust and sin’ with a soul that is ‘drawing back’. But in the poem Herbert also gives us a second compassionate voice, that of love. Yes: our souls can draw back. Yes: we all need love to bid us welcome. The poem pinpoints a sense of guilt that we can still at times feel low while blessed with a loving home, youth and seemingly every blessing. Herbert’s words provide a different, gentler more compassionate narrative – that we need to learn to love and forgive ourselves, and ultimately, ‘sit and eat’. Pupils tell me his words make them feel loved and less alone. A third favourite poem is Say not the Struggle Naught Availeth by Arthur Hugh Clough, one of Churchill’s favourite poets who he was fond of quoting in the war. It’s a powerful message of hope for any teenager feeling desperate. The land will once again be bright. Of course, believing in your own ability to recover in turn makes it more likely. Finally, there are poems to deal with devastating loss. I never forget one workshop soon after the case of the death of a much loved 17-year-old pupil, known for being kind, loyal, fun and spirited, who had died suddenly in hospital.

We shared Ben Jonson’s poem, It is Not Growing like a Tree. It is not growing like a tree In bulk doth make Man better be; Or standing long an oak, three hundred year, To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere: A lily of a day Is fairer far in May, Although it fall and die that night— It was the plant and flower of light. In small proportions we just beauties see; And in short measures life may perfect be. I felt profoundly moved when pupils said it had given them solace in the face of tragedy and comfort when they had been speechless. At a time when children are struggling with their mental health, poetry can be a valuable tool in their mental health toolbox. Tough times require tough and beautiful language and that’s exactly what poetry can deliver. Rachel Kelly’s memoir Black Rainbow: How words healed me – my journey through depression is published by Yellow Kite Books, £16.99.


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Where outstanding performing arts meets academic excellence 134x190.pdf




Get in touch to arrange a visit | 020 8987 6600 | Co-educational Day School and Sixth Form | London W4 1LY

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Scholarships for Year 9 and 12



Apply now for entry in September 2018

An outstanding co-educational school for 3 - 18 year olds

Come and visit us

01227 763 231



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For A unique performing arts and academic education For young people with outstanding talent in Acting, Dance, Musical Theatre or Commercial Music Co-educational boarding & day school from ages 8 – 19 Outstanding academic education offering 23 A Level options


1 February - Preps Taster Morning 16 March - Open Day or tel. 01442 824255 Photo: Registered charity no. 1040330

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‘‘Bringing out the best in boys’’

A day in the life of Aldro... come and see for yourself OPEN MORNING • Saturday 3rd March 2018 • 11:00am–12:30pm If you would like to attend an Open Morning, request a prospectus, or arrange an individual tour, please contact the Admissions Office on 01483 813535 or email: Aldro, Lombard Street, Shackleford, Godalming, Surrey GU8 6AS ALDRO.indd 1


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I N D EPEN D EN T DAY S CHO OL FOR G I RL S AG ED 4 TO 18 — Queen’s Gate School offers girls a warm, supportive environment where individuality is nurtured, academic standards are high and a broad-based curriculum ensures a well-rounded education. A range of scholarships and means-tested bursaries are available to assist girls to join us and parents are welcome to visit us throughout the year. For a prospectus or to arrange a visit, please contact the Registrar, Miss Isabel Carey: — · 020 7594 4982

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

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10.00am – 11.30am

9.30am – 11.00am

59 Fulham High Street, London SW6 3JJ

159 Munster Road, London SW6 6DA

Thursday 15th March Friday 16th March Tel 020 7736 9182 Email SINCLAIR.indd 1


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02/01/2018 17:10

This is a school you quickly feel at home in.” The Good Schools Guide, March 2017

A co-educational independent school in Somerset, offering boarding for pupils aged 7-18.

Are you juggling childcare, school runs and clubs with a daily commute to work?


Consider how you and your child could benefit from boarding at Taunton School... • • • •

Extensive co-curricular programme, including sports and music coaching Supervised homework sessions and academic support Experienced, caring and dedicated house staff in comfortable boarding accommodation A few minutes from Taunton Train Station - less than 2 hours from London



Discover Taunton School at one of our Whole School Open Mornings Saturday 3rd February & Monday 7th May, 09:30 - 12:30 TAUNTON.indd 1



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Full, weekly and tailored boarding Weekly London minibus. 11+, 13+ and 16+ Entry Open Day: Saturday 3 February 10.00am - 1.00pm 01483 810551


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Find your inspiration A co-education school in Bath, England Pre Prep | Prep | Senior | 2–18 years Individual thinking. Amazing results.

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LO N D O N ’ S F I R ST ACA D E M I C M E M B E R S C L U B FO R C H I L D R E N O P E N M O N D AY T O S A T U R D AY F U L L T I M E D U R I N G T E R M - T I M E H O L I D AY S Membership includes school pick-up and home drop-off, homework tuition, one-to-one subject specific tuition, Piano and Guitar tuition, and French, Spanish, German, Mandarin lessons. Membership Applications now open. More info


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e l b a tt e g Unf or

St Catherine’s, Bramley GSA Day & Boarding School since 1885 | 4 - 18 years | Guildford GU5 0DF | SCB.inddEducation01 1 Absolute December 2017.indd 1


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Co-educational Boarding and Day (for pupils aged 13 – 18) Outstanding facilities Beautiful location A choice between the IB and A levels in the Sixth Form Open Day Saturday 7th October

+44 (0)1684 581 515 MALVERN.indd 1

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12/01/2018 10:00

Hawkesdown House School

For boys aged 3 - 8 years Endeavour Courage Truth

27 Edge Street, Kensington, London W8 7PN Telephone: 0207 727 9090 Email:

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Alleyn’s School




Co-educational excellence in a caring community for boys and girls aged 11 to 18. Financial assistance is available. @alleyns_school I 020 8557 1500 Townley Road, Dulwich SE22 8SU

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All children can achieve

Lower School Open Day March 8th 2018

The Moat School is an independent SpLD specialist school with an academic focus

Morning Session: 9:00 – 10:45 Afternoon Session: 14:00 – 15:30 The Moat School kindly invites you to join us on a tour and presentation of our Lower School To reserve a place please email office@ or call 0207 6109018 @moatschool MOAT.indd 1


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“One school, two buildings, great teaching, and tip top facilities.” The Good Schools Guide

The Study is a leading prep school situated in the heart of Wimbledon Village. We identify and nurture each girl’s unique academic, creative and sporting skills in a caring and supportive community. For further details and to book a school visit, contact Jane Davis on 020 8947 6969 Registered Charity No. 271012

We welcome enquires about our scheme of assistance with fees for girls aged 7+.

Preparatory School for girls aged four to eleven


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Call Call us us to to arrange arrange aa visit visit Headmaster ’s Tours: Headmaster ’s Tours: Registration Registration for for 4+ 4+ (2018), (2018), 7+ 7+ and and 11+ 11+ Entry Entry

Registration for 4+ (2018), 7+ and 11+ Entry Registration Registration for for 4+ 4+ (2018), (2018), 7+ 7+ and and 11+ 11+ Entry Entry

Headmaster ’s Tours: Headmaster Headmaster ’s ’s Tours: Tours: Call us to arrange a visit Call us to arrange Call us to arrange aa visit visit


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PREPARATORY AND PRE-PREPARATORY SCHOOL 24 Lyndhurst Gardens, Hampstead, London NW3 5NW Telephone: 0207 435 4936 Email:

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Kensington Prep School is an award-winning school in Fulham for girls aged 4-11. We have some of the best facilities of any prep school in London and win praise for our nurturing approach, rich curriculum and outstanding academic results. Register now for 4+ entry for September 2019.

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Catholic independent day and boarding school for boys and girls aged 2 to 13

Open Morning

Saturday 24 February 2018 10.00am – 12.30pm

The quality of the pupils’ achievements and learning is

ISI Inspection Report, May 2015 596 Fulham Road London SW6 5PA Phone: 020 7731 9300 Email:

Shortlisted for Independent Prep School of the Year 2018

Goring Heath, South Oxfordshire, RG8 7SF tel: 0118 984 4511 email: website:


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

a Cotswold childhood…

Open Morning Friday 16th March 2018 9.30-12.00 noon Top achieving independent school in the South West - ranked by 2017 exam results (The Sunday Times Schools Guide 2018, Parent Power, Nov. 2017).


A Leading Independent Boarding & Day School For Girls Aged 11-18


01249 857200

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Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire t: 01453 832072 e: w:

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HANFORD traditionally modern

London coach service at half term and exeats or call Karen on 01258 860219


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seconds with

Marina Gardiner Legge Headmistress of Heathfield School, a girls’ boarding school in Ascot, Berkshire

Tell us about the ethos of Heathfield? Heathfield is an amazing school. Eleanor Wyatt founded Heathfield in 1899 saying that she wanted the girls to ‘see the sky’. Whilst she was talking about the smog of London at the time we take it as a metaphor for every girl at Heathfield to aim for the highest they can achieve both in and out of the classroom. After all, life itself is about being a good friend, a trier and being the best you can be in whatever sphere that is. Confidence and ambition begins with happiness, as happy girls achieve.

they can. I’m want everyone to have the opportunity to grow and that counts as much for our staff as for those in our care.



What’s its USP? All good schools focus on character, have great teaching and caring staff and are ambitious for its pupils. At Heathfield we are no different. The difference is that as we are a smaller school we are able to genuinely focus on every individual so we know each girl really well. This also imbues confidence as the girls have a go at everything whether they’ve done it before or not. Heathfield girls have a real sense of fun and spirit which is exciting. Q


Q How do you prepare Heathfield girls for a very different future? A Is it that different? The jobs that are disappearing and being replaced by artificial intelligence are repetitive skills, logical arithmetical progressions and processes. Robots cannot be empathetic, creative, intuitive, compassionate team players and those soft skills will be needed for a quite a while to come. Heathfield does all that with bells on! Q What are the most popular subjects studied by the girls at school? We have a really strong creative and artistic base here. The girls love the art, photography, textiles, music, dance and drama and several girls go off after Heathfield to art school or drama school. Having opened a new STEM building in 2016, our scientific take up is growing and Annika went off to Oxford to read medicine a year ago and Millie to join the prestigious Master of Engineering at Warwick.

Q What are your personal aims while you are head at Heathfield? A I believe in encouraging every girl to become a strong and capable woman ready for her life ahead. We have seen how the cards are stacked against women in the workplace. Sexual harassment appears to be rife; there remains relatively few women in Parliament; and there are so few women on the boards of FTSE 100 companies. I believe that women need to be strong and stand up for what they believe in, with strength and authenticity: this is who I am and what I stand for. That is my main aim for every girl who comes through our door. The other aim is to develop our staff to be the best


Marina Gardiner Legge

“I want every girl to become a strong and capable woman”

Q What changes have you implemented as head? A I have included challenging targets for everyone, extended the curriculum to add Economics and Film studies, given more responsibility (and accountability) to the prefects to include action plans, reviews and interviews, as well as recruited new staff with new ideas. The other major change is introducing personal acts of service to others such as reading to primary school students and visiting the elderly. Next term we are planning a sleep-out on the streets to raise money for the homeless which I consider vital for the girls to understand the deprivation around them. Q What subjects must Heathfield girls excel in to succeed in the real world? A I would argue that it’s more about skills than subjects and probably always has been. The subject lines are artificial; where does the line between Media and English L iterature fall, for example? I think that it is much more about skills such as being a good listener, able to articulate and communicate effectively, being numerate and having a critical sense to appreciate the difference between ‘real’ news and ‘fake’ news. Q Sum up your leadership style in five words. A That’s hard for me to do so I’ve asked for help from the girls. They’ve said strict, approachable, honest (very!), caring and challenging – in a good way I hope! Q If you became ruler of the world, what’s the first rule you would make? A Everyone should do something for someone else every day.

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Open Morning Invitation For children that love an adventure...

Tuesday 6th February 2018 9:30am start – until 11:30am Call our Registrar on 01444 483528 to book your place, just turn up or visit and click on the Open Morning link to learn more!


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Absolutely Education Spring 2018  
Absolutely Education Spring 2018