It’s been an amazing week, what with my 48 hour trip out to Kenya and the surreal experience of being back at Pembroke House as a Guest of Honour. We can look back on all our end of term events with tremendous satisfaction and a good deal of pride. Saying goodbye to our top year was very sad but I was very touched by the sincerity of their thank you messages.
It’s extremely exciting to have launched the Windlesham Foundation on Saturday at Open Day. It has been very well received and there has been much interest expressed.
I am going to share various extracts from my recent speeches which hopefully will be of interest and indeed informative!
Pembroke House, Kenya:
I’m passionate about giving a child an all-round education. Of course, academic excellence must be a top ingredient and, in this day and age, private schools simply have to deliver on this front. The standard of teaching has got to be not ‘just good’ but ‘outstanding’. The ingredient that is also totally essential is common sense.
We want children to succeed and to grow in confidence, we want them to have the courage to try new things out but we also want them to fail. There are many blessings to living and working in the UK but it is extremely challenging to constantly be on your guard about health and safety, risk assessments and litigation.
Most schools in the UK are afraid of failure and remove all possibilities of children not succeeding in everything they do. We must allow children to take risks, to get things wrong and to learn from their mistakes.
If we are not careful, we will end up with a society that cannot cope with getting things wrong or children and young adults who fall apart the very first time they fail. The knock on to this state of affairs is that there is a blame culture sweeping through modern British society. Dare I say that there is a now a tendency in modern parenting to make excuses at almost any cost for their child’s mistake or failure. Spoiling young people has always been a common mistake made by adults. Never admitting that a child may have got something wrong or really is not good enough at something, is a nasty virus that makes educating young children as once we could, almost impossible. I like to hope and think that this virus I have just alluded to has not spread to Kenya and certainly not to Pembroke. I urge you all to do everything in your power to protect yourselves or should I say, your children.
Open Day at Windlesham:
We say goodbye to The Ones who deserve applause, especially for gaining more scholarships than any year before them and particularly, when you also acknowledge that the academic scholarships have been to schools whose academic status is of the highest in the land.
We are sending our Ones to no fewer than 32 different senior schools which is very much the norm. I think that it says much about the diversity of Windlesham. We really do take every child for what they are and very, very rarely do I ever feel that someone has not reached their full potential by the time that they leave. This year’s Ones have, if anything, exceeded our hopes and expectations. They and their parents deserve your applause.
Moving forward, I like to think that my recent appointment to be the IAPS representative on the BSA (Boarding Schools’ Association) will give me the opportunity to give Prep School boarding more gravitas than it currently enjoys.
I recently asked a current parent and a past parent to try and identify what they most valued about Windlesham’s ethos – I share a few of their responses with you.
- Windlesham is about educating the whole child, whatever his or her background, whatever his or her skill set.
- Windlesham fosters an ethos of bringing the best out of each child in a manner that helps to encourage and secure their talents whatever they may be – music, sport, art, drama and, indeed, all academic subjects.
- At Windlesham, a child’s background is almost irrelevant to their future in the school. Through inspirational teaching and excellent facilities, we have been blown away by the incredible positive difference it has made on our children. Windlesham has created a springboard for future success.
- Windlesham fosters tolerance and empathy amongst the children whether it is with regard to different cultures, religions or a child’s personal attributes. Children are not singled out as different; there is an inclusiveness which is very special.
- Happy, fulfilled and confident children is Windlesham’s U.S.P. and it cannot get better than that.
One of my big concerns in educating children these days is that as each year goes by, they seem to be worse at listening. Maybe it is because we teachers and parents are not communicating as well as we used to – I don’t think so. I believe it is largely all down to children using modern technological devices and thinking that they can concentrate, at the same time as people are talking to them. If you do nothing else over this long holiday, please try to develop your children’s listening skills.
Keeping with technology, Windlesham has long been ahead of the game and we have no intention of not staying that way. I am pleased to tell you that the Governors have approved just over £100,000 expenditure on a complete overhaul of our server system over the summer holiday. We will be upgrading our entire networking infrastructure this summer, replacing our 9 servers with a virtualised environment, giving us more security, safety and speed. Along with this, we will be updating our Internet Content Management system with internet safety and education for our children very much at the front of our minds. This gives us a hugely solid basis to grow our ICT over the next few years with particular emphasis on extending our provision of resources across the internet and with a view to introducing more mobile technology (ipads) within the classroom, but not before we have the infrastructure to manage this.
This is the 175th year in Windlesham’s history; the Pre-Prep is 15 years old in September, it is my 5th year as the Headmaster and my 28th as a Headmaster. We should really be making something of our 175th Anniversary. Well, we are. Apart from embracing it with such a successful year, we have two significant initiatives to announce.
At the beginning of this academic year we launched The Windlesham Award. The Windlesham Award is a personal development initiative, designed to build a stronger community here at Windlesham and beyond. The course is for the Twos and has taken place over the academic year. The children have developed a wide range of skills throughout the course of the programme. It is designed to give the opportunity to work and challenge each child over the course of the year, involving a range of activities, pursuits and projects. It is a prestigious award, which will both extend and reward each child. The children have completed many core events including a working bee day, mostly based up in the woods, working on the Bushcraft area, putting up fences, sawing logs and clearing areas. They have also completed a first aid and personal survival training session. The final major hurdle was the Twos’ camping weekend.
The awards include Bronze, Silver and Gold for the varying degrees of commitment shown over the course of the year and also the Malden Award, presented to the most outstanding candidate in the year. The recipient of the first ever Malden Award was announced in Final Assembly but I thought it would be rather special if one of the Malden Daughters, Grace Moody-Stuart, presented the winner, Ellie Whiteside, with the Certificate. Now the baton will be passed on to the new Twos in September.
It is very fitting that, in the year when the school celebrates being in existence for 175 years, the Governors have agreed with my proposal that we launch the Windlesham Foundation.
This Foundation will comprise of three funds: a bursary fund, a hardship fund and a capital development fund. Donations can be given at any time and will, we trust, be gift aided. Donors will be asked if they wish their donations to be restricted or unrestricted, the latter meaning that the funds can be used at the Head’s and Governors’ discretion, the former that the funds can only be used specifically.
We have architect plans in hand to build a new 25 metre Indoor Swimming Pool and a Purpose Built Sports Hall. Planning permission is all but guaranteed according to the architects. All we need now is to raise a substantial sum of money in order to give the Governors the confidence to go ahead.
Windlesham does need to move forward with this development plan and the knock-on effect will mean further new facilities can be created in the current swimming pool area. This would therefore also mean that the theatre can have a facelift and be dedicated solely to the performing arts rather than the multi-purpose use it currently endures.
I would love to see some of the current children benefit from this and it will provide a legacy for future generations. Several parents and friends of Windlesham have expressed an interest in supporting one or other of these funds and this year has given us a very good reason to ensure there is provision to help families who have to face up to a tragedy. We need to raise a substantial amount and quickly.
We are not entering into this impulsively. Last year I talked about exciting Capital Development Plans – these are still there and it is now time to ensure that they come to fruition and as soon as possible. We are a lucky generation and your children are possibly even luckier, given the quality of teaching and the all-round education that a private education of this standard provides.
I also want to uphold the legacy of the Malden’s – that no child should be short changed and if it is appropriate to make a difference to a child’s life, we should do all within our power to make that provision.
We have given several children that opportunity in the past and there is an obvious and shining example of someone in the Ones’ production who has had her life and that of her younger sister transformed. Nobody wants to be involved in charity tokenism. That is ill-founded, badly conceived and often poorly executed to satisfy the Charity Commission.
We don’t need to be pioneers. The private schools have a brilliant role model in the Arnold Foundation at Rugby School.
I am experienced enough to know that the Windlesham Foundation will only gather momentum when there is clear evidence that donations are forthcoming. I have had several pledges already and am very happy to discuss this in more detail, privately. Quite rightly donors like to know that other people are prepared to match their generosity – people even want to engage in a dialogue with one another. Please let’s make this happen.
On a lighter note, I wanted to share with you a few classic remarks made by children which I have noted down over the last few months.
One boy who shall be nameless asked one of our teachers the other day, “Can I be punished for something I haven’t done?” “Of course not”, replied the teacher. “That’s good”, replied the boy, “because I haven’t done yesterday’s prep!”
I saw one of the children, clearly late for a lesson and walking at a stroll (which he is prone to do!). I called out to him, “Late again”. He waved and called back, “Oh, bad luck Mr. Foster, so am I”.
How about these from exams or this term’s exercise books:
Asked to write an essay on what they would like to do when they grew up, the opening line of one of the Threes was: ‘I very much enjoy being a child but I am looking forward to adultery’!
In a Junior Science lesson, a child had copied this down from a Science text book: ‘The first three minutes of a person’s life are three of the most dangerous.’ Underneath, the same child wrote: ‘The last three are pretty dodgy too!’
I especially like the response to one of our Science teachers who told me about a recent Fours’ Science lesson. On being told that a single rabbit could reproduce itself a hundred times in a year, somebody piped up, “My word, I wonder what a married rabbit could do!”
More reflections of the academic year will follow over the summer holiday.