16 October 2015

The thinks you can think

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try”. 
Dr Seuss

Creativity is something you have to work at in a school because, according to a great many successfully active creative thinkers and doers, schools and the very process of growing up are pretty good at beating out the spark rather than fostering its subtle flames. Picasso famously observed that every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up. I think all parents would instinctively agree with what he says in terms of watching their own children’s self-confidence about expression when in primary school and how things change with the self-consciousness of adolescence.

It’s also a big ask to tell a child or adolescent “Be creative!” What does that even mean? Where do you start? I think it’s important therefore to build creative thinking and the opportunity for creative doing into all aspects of a school curriculum, wherever and whenever you can. I don’t pretend that this is always easy (being creative about the gerundive of obligation can defeat you on a damp Friday afternoon) but I do think it’s the critical aim of all teaching and learning. Open wide the windows and let in the air. To quote Vinegar Joe’s certainly very creative use of the gerundive of obligation, non illigitimis carborundum.

The advantages of retaining the childhood spark of creativity into self-conscious adolescence and then professional adulthood are, in my view, too obvious for words. I don’t see that these need rehearsing or defending (but if you do, look at anything Ken Robinson or Bill Gates say). The bit that I think matters and does need asserting loud and clear is that after a decade or more of measuring the pig (through league tables of schools, through examination and assessment change, et cetera…) we should have learned how arid and useless that activity is in terms of creating well-rounded, happy, successful, creative, contributive young men and women. And frankly I don’t think education has any other purpose than producing just that.

Time to stop treating children as widgets, figures, statistics. By all means ensure all children receive an equal opportunity to enrich their lives through learning. It’s about time we did. But define education as an active, creative, two-way engagement, not as some dead hand of what must be learned. Stop encouraging only a focus on core curriculum; stop telling children what they can’t do, what they are no good at.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try”……

2 October 2015

British values

This week we welcome Second Master, Peter Hardy, who looks at what British values are and how they are embodied at Bryanston.
Peter Hardy

For many the idea of a boarding school typifies British traditions, values and culture. Bryanston has always taken what it believes to be the best of these traditions and values and combined them with new ideas and thinking – et nova et vetera in action.

All schools in the UK are now required to ‘promote fundamental British values’ rather than simply respecting them, as previous government guidance stipulated. This change in language from respecting British values to actively promoting them is one that has resulted in a close inspection of how we promote these values at Bryanston across the school, whether in the classroom or simply through our daily interactions with each other.

The government outlines the fundamental British values as:
  • Democracy 
  • The rule of law 
  • Individual liberty 
  • Mutual respect and tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs.

As far as the rule of law is concerned, this is regularly emphasised. Pupils are taught about rules, regulations and expectations and this is underpinned by our own Rules and Regulations, Behaviour Policy and associated documents. The teaching of this is set in the context of the rule of law in the country as a whole and within the context of living together successfully in a full boarding school.

Pupils are also taught about the importance of making choices in the knowledge that they are living in a safe, secure and supportive environment at Bryanston. Individual liberty and personal freedom are emphasised, as are the risks that may apply. Underpinning this, boundaries and consequences are clearly laid out so that pupils are able to make their own sound judgements and informed decisions, as well as learning from their mistakes.

Respect for and knowledge of other faiths is welcomed, and is delivered regularly through both assemblies and also through the PSRE curriculum. In Chapel each week with D pupils the Chaplain promotes tolerance and a healthy respect for difference.

Underpinning all of this is the central role of democracy, which is also regularly promulgated in school assemblies and explored in various aspects of the curriculum and ECAs, including a Model UN and mock elections.

At Bryanston these values have been central to our ethos since our early days, even if we haven’t always labelled them as specifically “British”. Indeed, one could argue that these values are not unique to our own culture, either as a school or as a country. However one views them, it is clear that Bryanston pupils are exposed to the importance and significance of our shared British values and expected to live by them and be guided by them both in school and beyond.