I own and lead a full range all-ability school of 1000 pupils, sitting in that part of the eastern Thames Valley known as the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead. I believe the purpose of education is to provide for fully facilitated learning in all we can do. We plan and build confidence and happiness to a set of rules to guide boys and girls to share, forgive, listen, try, be honest, kind and helpful, and treat others as they would wish to be treated. The ‘Golden rules’ wash through everything we do. They form the foundation for each individual, so that they are caring, respectful, loyal, well-balanced, take responsibility and show integrity. Happiness and Self-worth are essential in the lives of both children and adults, and we try to manage that pupils, parents and staff have an exceptional experience of school, which should indeed be the happiest days of their lives.
But dig in further and you’ll find we ‘get’ learning’; it’s not just about knowledge and problem solving, essential though these are as skills. We build confident and resilient learners who also inquire, communicate, create, collaborate, reflect, think critically and take risks. And we can’t do this if all we know are subjects, so we play great sport and go outward bound (from a very young age) on both land and water, locally and in wild country. Classrooms can be anywhere, and we have hands-on in our local community, in the great museums of the country or abroad across the globe (in person or virtually). We compete, sing, act, paint, design, dance, make music, and perform at every age level, and such work does not play ‘second fiddle’ to the exam room.
Our children can graduate from our school at any age for other schools, primary, secondary and 6th Form, and we celebrate those successful departures as openly as we do those that leave having spent their entire lives in our learning establishment, secure in the knowledge that we have always held them as individuals at the core of the choices we helped them make so that they can become their best selves, and often achieving beyond their imaginations.
I have worked at Claires Court for 38 years; it embodies all that I feel it should, a no-blame culture in which children are able to make imaginative and often extraordinary choices. And our past pupils are in the main the most charming, engaging, generous and successful adults you could wish to meet, and few ever worried about whether they were in a league table or measured and deemed unworthy. Sure they learned to fail, but they got back up again, had another go, gained from their mistakes, became comfortable in their skin and stayed learners far longer than one dares to hope for! I engage in the debate of the purpose of education each day I come to work, I know that perhaps my greatest influence has been to articulate that pupose by modelling the best kind of education for children.
This Education is one fit for all, whatever their gender, ability, age or circumstance, and continues to give me ‘#purposedu’ each day, and at the age of 58, I know I am the luckiest man alive.
You can find out more about the Purpos/ed campaign here – http://purposed.org.uk/2012/04/500words-take-2/