A co-educational independent through school
Nursery – Prep – Senior – Sixth Form

16th March 2016

The senior production Let Loose last week was fantastic! Every member of Year 7 and 8 performed, and several older pupils took part as musicians and technical crew. The marquee specially erected for the musical was filled with song and laughter as the audience was presented with an account of a disastrous but hilarious school residential trip to ‘Slippery Slopes’ outdoor centre. There is no doubt that all the pupils involved gained a huge amount by taking part. They worked as a team, developed performance skills, grew in confidence—and had plenty of fun in the process.

At Gosfield, we recognise the importance of the performing arts and continue to develop our curriculum and activities programme to give plenty of opportunities to all our young people both to participate in and appreciate music, dance and drama. So it was with particular interest that I listened to a discussion about cultural education in the House of Lords yesterday. I had been invited as a guest of Lord Lexden, the President of the Independent Schools Association, who continues to champion all that our schools are doing in partnership with maintained schools, not least sharing facilities and hosting events that foster talent in and love of the arts. As fears abound about the performing arts getting crowded out of the curriculum, it is good to know that they are alive and well at Gosfield—continuing a tradition that goes back to the wonderful outdoor pageants staged here in the 1930’s.

10th March 2016

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend an educational conference in Wales. One of the keynote speakers was Nicholas Tate CBE, who has had a long and distinguished career in the UK and overseas, including time spent as Headmaster of Winchester College and Director General of the International School of Geneva. His topic was ambitious, to say the least: What is education for? It was refreshing to hear his views, as he is skeptical about following the latest trends in teaching and curriculum planning. He believes that handing knowledge down from one generation to the next should still play an important part in our schools and that we move to an entirely skills-based approach at our peril.

His presentation encouraged me to read his book (which has the same title as his talk), in which he summarises the views on education of philosophers and other great thinkers through the ages. I have so far only had the chance to dip into it, but it is salutary to note how some of their thoughts ring so true even hundreds of years later. Take for example these 18th Century ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau:

Make your pupil attentive to the phenomena of nature. Soon you will make him curious. But to feed his curiosity, never hurry to satisfy it. Put the questions within his reach and leave them to him to resolve.

Encouraging curiosity, appreciation of the world around us and independent learning are all important aspects of what we do here today: I see it happening from the Reception classroom and Forest School to senior science lessons. I hope Rousseau would recognise how we encourage pupils to learn for themselves so they do not become, in his words, ‘the plaything of others’ opinion’ but develop confidence, discernment and understanding.

2nd March 2016

This week, our Year 9 pupils attend their Options Evening with their parents. This is an opportunity for them to think carefully about the GCSE courses they will choose and talk to teachers about what is involved in each. It is not easy to make such decisions but we hope that our pupils feel supported and informed, as the choices they make are important for their future. We explain to all our pupils the importance of a broad and enriching education, encouraging them to continue with a wide range of subjects that will help them build their analytical, communication, practical and creative skills. Whatever they go on to do in the future, these skills will stand them in good stead. They are fortunate at Gosfield to have an extensive extra-curricular programme, too, which can complement and extend their learning and development. We believe in helping them keep doors open so that, as they refine their plans for the future, they can take those next steps with confidence.

25th February 2016

I attended another wonderful Prep School assembly this week: our Reception class presented their recent topic of farming through words, songs and pictures, showing all they had learned and having great fun in the process. Their enthusiasm and confidence were delightful. Seeing our youngest pupils loving learning and achieving so much makes me all the more excited about our new nursery, which opens in April. Extending our educational provision to even younger children enables us to offer them an excellent, teacher-led start to their Gosfield learning journey. We have welcomed a good number of families to visit our nursery rooms at Meadow Court, showing them the fully-equipped indoor and outdoor learning areas and speaking to them about how we will nurture and encourage their children. If you, too, would like to see the nursery, please do contact us.

9th February 2016

This is one of the times of year when I spend a great deal of time in my study reading reports—in this case, of pupils in Year 10 and up. While in some ways I would rather be around the school, spending time with our young people, reading about what they have been studying and achieving, their progress and development, their interests and activities is a real pleasure. One of the joys of leading a small school is that I do know all of our pupils, but reports give me a greater insight into their personalities, attitudes and aspirations as well as their academic achievement. I always say to staff, what parents want from a school report is to know that the teachers really understand their children—warts and all! There is no doubt that frequent grade cards give a useful snapshot of attainment and progress and can flag up any concerns. The written reports go beyond this, though—and that is why we still ensure that a full report is created for each pupil at least once a year.

Parents' evenings are also an important aspect of our reporting, and yesterday we invited our Prep parents to come and discuss all that their children have been learning this term. The Tapestry online system that keeps parents of Reception pupils in touch with their children's activities and progress will also be used in the Nursery when in opens in April.

We believe that the more we communicate with parents, the better it is for our pupils, so we are very pleased that after half term we will be launching our online Parent Portal, allowing all parents secure access to information about their children, including timetables, attendance and both current and historical school reports. More information about this will be sent out to families soon.

As half term approaches, I wish all of our pupils and parents a pleasant and refreshing break.

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