Great Schools

School’s out!  Hooray!

‘You don’t usually have the radio on’ said lovely man as I sang along on Thursday night whilst enjoying making tea ‘what’s changed?’. ‘ I’m on holiday’ I replied singing along to The Summer of 69.

At cinema night, Tara, who’d also seen me on Monday night said; ‘your energy is really different tonight – what’s going on?’. ‘Schools out’ I replied and had a pimms.

During term time after all the noise and demands of the school day I can’t face the radio, I resent cooking when I’m tired and I rarely drink as I can’t be doing with the side effects that even one glass seems to have on my sleep.

But school, is out and it’s been great to have time to do what I want, when I want and to not be rushing from one place to the next with the kids (obviously, I may well be feeling differently at the end of 6 weeks summer holiday!)

Eldest son left his primary school for secondary on Friday and so we’ve had proms, cinema night, leavers services and tears.  He has loved Llansanffraid Primary School, we all have.

Llansanffraid Primary School

So what is it that made us all sad? What makes this school so great:

  •  A Head who laughs with and teases the kids, who spends hours of his own time making the most amazing movies with drama club, and who knows all of us parents and the kids as individuals.  A head who has a broad view of education, where he talks about happiness and belonging rather than levels and targets.
  • Staff who attend every fund raiser in the evening, who spend Friday nights running the talent show, who spend a week at a time in London or Brecon on residential visits with years 5 and 6. Staff who write personalized reports and really know our kids, not just what they are like to teach, but what they are like as people, what interests them, how they feel, who their friends are.  Also they let the kids know about them; even at risk of being teased for supporting the ‘wrong’ football team.
  • A school which is central to the community. We have a farmers market, the Snails Races and Bingo are open to all the village and the football pitch is shared by the school, the football teams, the club house, the local youth, the dog walkers and the village fete. A school which visits the old people’s home to sing carols and which links to the local shops for fund raising events. A school which  is up to date and sends us texts to remind us what we need, which tweets when our kids are on trips and uses Facebook to share and celebrate the pupils.
  • Learning which is broad and which isn’t confined to the class room but which happens around the village, in the shops, the church yard, the hills and fields.  Mini-business which pays for the end of term trip – the the beach – just because it’s fun – no other education outcomes needed.  They go on at least one trip a term and the kids love them because not only do they go to new places but they get to know each other and the staff better.
  • An ethos which is about community, caring, confidence and celebrating individuals and their uniqueness rather than their compliance.  It has seemed to me over the years that the staff are leaders who the kids want to follow rather than dictators who the kids have to obey.  The staff seem to like each other and like being at the school and so do the children.

I feel very lucky to have been able to send my boys to such a great school and I wish all children had access to the same.  Because all children, not just village children, not just young children, not just my children, but all children need to know they belong, that they are cared for, that they are known, that they are supported and that they are welcome.

Yes Gove has gone, but the policies remain and I’m actually not that interested in the rhetoric they all spin.  This Head does what he does within the dogma and rhetoric.  It takes courage and clarity of vision to know what you believe in and to live it within the constraints he has.

  • What do you believe in?
  • How do you think education should be?
  • How can we all make sure our children get the education they all need?

I’m always curious about radical schools and here are some you might like:

The Blue School in New York: ‘What if, they ask, a school could speak up rather than down to the intellects of children? What if a school’s curriculum could be built from children’s questions and wonderings about the world, built on our human and natural desire to create and do?’

‘Our Vision –  Communities of creative, joyful, compassionate learners who use courageous and innovative thinking to build a harmonious and sustainable world.

Our mission –  To develop and share an inquiry-based approach to education that fosters creativity, promotes academic excellence, nurtures human relationships and inspires a growing passion for learning.’

 

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The Green School in Bali:

Green School, Bali

Our Vision

Our vision is of a natural, holistic,student-centered learning environment that empowers and inspires our students to be creative, innovative, green leaders.

Our Mission

The Mission of Green School contributes to our Vision by educating young leaders in global citizenship. Our purpose is to champion a new model of learning that connects the timeless lessons from nature to a relevant and effective preparation for a fast-changing future.

Our Values

We believe in three simple rules underlying every decision: be local; let your environment be your guide; and envisage how your grandchildren will be affected by your actions. The eight Green School Respect Values that guide us are: Integrity; Responsibility; Empathy; Sustainability; Peace; Equality; Community; Trust.’

Wellington College UK who focus on the 8 Aptitudes: ‘At Wellington, we do not ask: “how intelligent is this child”, but rather, in what ways is this child intelligent? For all children are intelligent and they are intelligent in many different ways. We believe that everyone possesses eight intelligences or aptitudes: Moral, Spiritual, Logical, Linguistic, Physical, Cultural, Social and Personal 

Brockwood Park, UK

A Brockwood education goes beyond more traditional kinds of learning. Not exclusively academic, it integrates academic excellence in its mission to help students learn the art of living, and brings together aspects of learning, sensitivity, open-mindedness, and self-reflection that are too often ignored. We do this by engaging students to hold five insights in creative relation

‘This is the function of all education. We need to bring about a good society in which all human beings can live happily in peace, without violence, with security. As a student you are responsible for this.’  Krishnamurti, Letters to the Schools’

The Intentions

‘The intentions of Brockwood Park School, stated in Krishnamurti’s many public talks and books, can be summarised as follows:

  • To educate the whole human being
  • To explore what freedom and responsibility are in relationship with others and in modern society
  • To see the possibility of being free from self-centred action and inner conflict
  • To discover one’s own talent and what right livelihood means
  • To encourage excellence in academic studies
  • To learn the proper care, use and exercise of the body
  • To appreciate the natural world, seeing our place in it and responsibility for it
  • To find the clarity that may come from having a sense of order and valuing silence’

 

I would so love my kids to go to secondary schools like that.

Of course, it will come as no surprise that all of the schools above are independents.

  • How can all of use teachers, childminders, trainers, school leaders and lecturers who read this blog make sure we do our bit to make sure the young people in our care get at least some of what the schools above offer?
  • How can all us parents make sure we find education which fits our children, rather than fitting our children into the educational box?
  • What can we do to change any of it?

I have loads of reply emails to my last few blogs (I must be getting better!) so I’d like to invite you to join a closed Facebook group so you can all share your thoughts on there as there is so much wisdom that I feel a little guilty keeping it all to myself. So if you’d like me to add you to the group then just hit reply and tell me and then we can all chat on there.

Thank you to Sarah who shared her experience of raising boys in response to the  ‘F word’ blog

‘Hi Julie,
Like you I have two boys both of whom have grown into good men. I’ve been thinking hard about your e mail, I’m not sure I separated out how to treat women. I brought them up to love and respect their surroundings, animals each other. 
I think if they have respect for any other living thing, environment they will grow into people who just have respect.’.
Thanks Sarah.
Also thanks to Anne from Wales for getting in touch and  to Sonia from New Zealand for her comments on the Nice Girl Blog : ‘ I am doing a presentation on feminism in  Queenstown tomorrow and I am talking about where we are now and where we go. It’s for a women’s circle we hold each month’ . The more people who talk about it the more change can happen – thanks Sonia.
Finally thanks Nick for your thoughts on Money.  Your response made me realise that when we are short of money and worrying about it, we are forgetting that the the thing that generates money is US, not the job or the employer. It is us that they pay, because of who we are. And because we are who we are, we will get paid. The value lies within us and not outside us and as such we can never be without it. Sure we might be without work for a while, or without money, but the generating capacity for money lies firmly within each of us.
So, you see what I mean, there is such wisdom in all of you who read this so I’d love you to get to know each other and share what you know and keep the conversations going so hit reply and email me back so I can add you to the closed group so we have a safe space to keep on talking.
Good night y’all.
Julie

 

At Wellington, we do not ask: “how intelligent is this child”, but rather, in what ways is this child intelligent? For all children are intelligent and they are intelligent in many different ways. We believe that everyone possesses eight intelligences or aptitudes: Moral, Spiritual, Logical, Linguistic, Physical, Cultural, Social and Personal. – See more at: http://www.wellingtoncollege.org.uk/2165/our-vision/eight-aptitudes#sthash.YfYBvako.dpuf
At Wellington, we do not ask: “how intelligent is this child”, but rather, in what ways is this child intelligent? For all children are intelligent and they are intelligent in many different ways. We believe that everyone possesses eight intelligences or aptitudes: Moral, Spiritual, Logical, Linguistic, Physical, Cultural, Social and Personal. – See more at: http://www.wellingtoncollege.org.uk/2165/our-vision/eight-aptitudes#sthash.YfYBvako.dpuf
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