Half a week out on the road means I have missed what other heads were describing to me as ‘their favourite day of the school year’ which is World Book Day. One expressed major regret that the IAPS (Prep Schools umbrella body) induction programme for new Heads ran through yesterday and today – because it meant he could not dress up as a pirate and stand at the school gate… I love reading and would happily fall asleep reading historical fiction every night. Getting young people to enjoy stories can help their wellbeing as well as help them academically. As an historian I have always found pupils who might struggle with conceptual recall can hang onto stories and narrative – providing the academic foundation they need to think. At the core of the work we are doing on the pre-prep curriculum (a curriculum is what we teach) has literacy and English skills at the core. Listening to Year 1’s stories that used the ‘Tiger that came to Tea’ as a stimulus showed how a super story can inspire creative thinking and enthusiasm.
Wednesday was spent in Hampshire at the termly Bellevue Heads’s forum and the last two days in Leicestershire with IAPS on the new heads’ induction. What have I learnt? Too much from the radio while on the road regarding the events in the world around us. The human impact of the Ukraine crisis is frankly horrible. As a leadership team we will be considering how we can best act as a school to support charitable activities either locally or nationally for the Ukrainian people. I did listen to some podcasts regarding recent international rugby and the ‘Gathering Storm’ on BBC Sounds to distract. Is it wrong to seek escapism as long as you are aware of the challenges?
The Bellevue day included sessions on its work on instructional coaching, and importantly Bellevue’s strategy 2025 which includes strands on academic innovation, thriving individuals (developing its partnership with Young Minds), and Character Education amongst others!
Shaping the characters of young people is a hugely important part of an independent school pastoral care because we have small classes and the space to work with young people. The world we live in requires young people to leave school as thoughtful global citizens. Encouraging the resourcefulness of Mr Fox, the resilience of Stella (in Awful Auntie), the reflectiveness of Matilda, the reasoning of Danny the Champion of the World, the responsibility of Chloe (in Mr Stink). Taking this forward next year will be important to me but without the literature links!
The afternoon session of the IAPS conference was helped by a post lunch preliminary from a former head (who trained as an actor) supplying some role play of tough conversations! We spent some incredibly valuable time reflecting on how to lead improved academic effort, ambition and outcomes. The morning session had two fantastic key notes on being a new Head. A Kant quotation struck me: ‘from such crooked wood as a human is made can nothing quite straight ever be fashioned’ reminding us all that working with (especially children) is never a linear process.
Thank you for your feedback on the annual Bellevue survey. We value both the positive reassuring feedback and the areas you would like to see us improve. As you can imagine I am hard at work engaging with those, and to reassure you some were already in hand. We will report to you a summary of the feedback soon.
Have a very good weekend.