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Unexpected questions – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 23 May 2018

May 23, 2018

Unexpected questions

I return each year from the annual Independent Schools Association (ISA) conference with much to consider and this year was no different. The stand-out speaker for many of us was Dr Barry Hymer of the University of Cumbria. He addressed our conference theme, ‘Taking care’, by urging us to consider how we help children to think – and so care for their whole selves, their opinions, their ideas and their questions.

We’ve taught you that the earth is round,

That red and white make pink,

And something else that matters more –

We’ve taught you how to think

Questions, Questions and more Questions…

Dr Seuss and friends in Hooray for Diffendoffer Day, encourages us to move away from the ‘normal’ teaching approach of IRE (initiate, response, evaluate) towards challenging pupils (and ourselves) to ask questions, questions and more questions – and to be prepared to have our views challenged and reviewed. No more the ‘intrusions’ into pupils’ minds that led Miss Mackay to be criticised in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Instead we need to embrace the approach of John Locke (1690):

‘There’s more to be learned from the unexpected questions of children than the discourse of man’.

Dr Hymer told us about the primary school boy who had come up with the amazing conclusion, at the grand age of 10 years, that time was an illusion, ‘a worldwide theory to organise everyone’.

Now there’s a thought!

Peter Alliss, the well-known golfer and commentator, has urged us not to ‘over coach’ but to leave room for creativity. As another World Cup football competition approaches, let’s see if Alliss’ dictum has been given any room in that sport!

As with much in life, there’s often a balance to be struck. The Dr Seuss quotation above leaves room for teaching some facts, for the discipline of mastering received knowledge and wisdom but the trick is to be open to correction, to be willing to be challenged and to be prepared to alter our opinions. For teachers, under pressure from a results-driven educational system, from parents understandably expecting the best possible exam results and from a desire not to let down the pupils in our care, it takes courage to depart from the script – even occasionally!

Lessons from the school room

I wonder what lessons we most remember from our own school days?

Mine are often focussed on the eccentric teachers: Mr Charles Whittle, my Latin teacher, who had a cavalier approach to time (one lesson ended after ten minutes but it was time for us to guess what was in his ‘Field’ magazine – and then on to a discussion about the countryside, conflict and even warfare!). Then there was Mr David McMurray, my A level English Literature teacher, who rarely let us get away with a sloppy reading of Shakespeare: we were challenged to find out where his iambic pentameters were leading and why some characters, such as MacBeth, delivered his ‘dagger’ soliloquy in a discordant way.

I was pleased to hear Dr Hymer commend the philosophy course we have been following weekly with our Y3-5 pupils – P4C (philosophy for children). Since we introduced this course at Ballard a year ago, teachers have noticed how much more our pupils are inclined to be inquisitive, creative and questioning. I wonder what we might make of the discussion in a recent P4C class where pupils were actively engaged in considering this question: ‘What luxuries would you be prepared to give up to prevent further climate change?’ Philosophy – yes – but with a practical, relevant and crucial application. As Voltaire said,

‘No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking’.

And so, let’s celebrate schools which dare to be a little different – Dr Seuss’ Diffendoffer School, perhaps, and his teacher, Mrs Bonkers – and consider what it might mean to care by giving reflective time and, even occasionally, going off piste in a lesson.

William Blake, poet, painter and printmaker of the Nineteenth Century, wrote:

‘Improvement takes straight roads, but the crooked roads are roads of genius’.

Let’s look for those ‘crooked roads’!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster) with thanks to Dr Barry Hymer and to Dr Seuss

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

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May fun and frolics? – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 16 May 2018

May 16, 2018

May fun and frolics?

As we enter early summer, the month of May has traditionally been a time of high spirits. I suppose this goes back to a sense of Winter truly past, Spring firmly here and warm, sunny days in prospect. The recent glorious weather for the Mayday Bank Holiday appears to have borne this out. It was, thus, with this sense of fun that I read an article in a recent publication of the I newspaper (by Jenny Eclair) which bore the headline:

‘Let Britain’s cone freaks and pranksters have their fun’.

Traffic cones and pranks

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Statue of Wellington, Glasgow with traffic cone

Ms Eclair referred in her article to the regular adorning of some statues, perhaps positioned perilously close to drinking haunts, which sported cones, silly hats and other mischievous embellishments. The most iconic of the traffic-cone wearing statues is one which I saw a few years ago when in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games: the Duke of Wellington sits astride his horse outside the Royal Exchange and both rider and horse normally sport some sort of bizarre head gear. (Apparently the Glasgow city council had a massive sense of humour failure some years back and threatened to double the height of the plinth to prevent such japes. This was ‘shouted down’ by the fun-loving Glaswegians!).

Exam season is upon us

The other reason (apart from the summer season) this article caught my eye is because we are into the exam season at school and before long (about six weeks hence) there will be plans in schools up and down the land for some ‘end of exam festivity’. I do hope that here at least this will be done with its usual good humour and careful regard for sensitivities and mess!

A few years ago we had the best prank ever: our Y11 pupils conspired with the Caretaker and got into the senior staff room. This they filled with balloons up to a depth of shoulder height. What fun staff (and pupils) had the following morning wading through the balloons and then releasing them! This was coupled later in the day by every member of the senior school (pupils and staff) receiving a kindly written personal note wishing them well for the future.

Our Headmaster reflects

Old Model Toy Old Cars Classic Car Vehicle Mini

A mini or a mini car?

I do remember my own end of exam time at boarding school. Our relatively new Housemaster had purchased a bright red car (a mini I recall) shortly before the end of the term. Overnight we managed to push it out of sight (foolishly it wasn’t locked) and replace it with a toy replica car. There was a great deal of merriment the next day as we watched our Housemaster leave his house on the way to boarders’ breakfast only to see his car had shrunk! An even more ambitious prank, also involving a small car, took place at another Scottish boarding school – and this time when I was a teacher. The 1st XV (several of whom went on to represent their country) managed to lift a teacher’s car all the way up two flights of stone stairs and deposit it, suitably adored, inside the ornate dining hall!

Please don’t misunderstand me: I am not condoning or seeking to encourage outlandish pranks! I recognise, however, that there are times when we may wish to ‘have some fun’ to mark a rare but momentous moment. Let’s do it kindly and with thought for the upset it might cause and for any clear up which is then needed. The balloons’ joke has stuck with me as a happy memory and especially so because of the subsequent ‘thank you notes’. Keep pranks simple and appropriate! As Ms Eclair concludes: ‘Life can be very corporate and boring sometimes, so thank you to anyone who occasionally creates a bit of diversion by doing something daft’.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

Spanish Exchange Trip 2018 – Post Four

May 12, 2018

Ballard School’s Spanish Exchange 2018

This year our Spanish Exchange group have traveled to the south of Spain to meet with pupils from ‘The English Centre‘, near Seville.  You can visit their Facebook page here.

View our other posts from our time in Spain – post one, post two and post three.

To read what our exchange school have written about our time there, please click on this link here. There are also lots of photos you can see here too!

Visiting Seville

We had an all day trip to beautiful Seville today (Thursday).

A boat trip in Seville

A boat trip in Seville

Warm sunshine greeted us. Our first visit was to the cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral  in the world. Our group also climbed the tower… for fantastic views.

A visit to Seville cathedral

A visit to Seville cathedral

Climbing the cathedral tower!

Climbing the cathedral tower!

Next we visited Reales Alcazares…the old fort and base for the treasures from the first trips to the Americas.

We love Seville!

We love Seville!

Finally we visited the beautiful Plaza de Espana in Seville where the English took on the  Spanish on the lake boating!

Plaza de Espana - Spanish v English!

Plaza de Espana – Spanish v English!

 

 

For more from our our Modern Foreign Languages department, please visit our MFL page on our website.

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

Spanish Exchange Trip 2018 – Post three

May 11, 2018

Ballard School’s Spanish Exchange 2018

This year our Spanish Exchange group have traveled to the south of Spain to meet with pupils from ‘The English Centre‘, near Seville.  You can visit their Facebook page here.

Our 2018 posts can be viewed here – Post one and Post two.

School time

This morning was first spent in school with the little children.

In school with the little ones

In school with the little ones

After that our pupils got their opportunity to present in assembly their presentations they had prepared.

Presenting in assembly

Presenting in assembly

Cadiz time

The afternoon was spent on a boat trip to Cadiz where we all had a chance to explore this amazing place.

Exploring Cadiz

Exploring Cadiz

Incredible Cadiz

Incredible Cadiz

Mr M remarked – the kids are really growing in confidence…great  to see!

Sightseeing in Cadiz

Sightseeing in Cadiz

 

For more from our our Modern Foreign Languages department, please visit our MFL page on our website.

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

Spanish Exchange Trip 2018 – Post Two

May 9, 2018

Ballard School’s Spanish Exchange 2018

This year our Spanish Exchange group have traveled to the south of Spain to meet with pupils from ‘The English Centre‘, near Seville.  You can visit their Facebook page here.

Visiting Osborne Bodega

Visiting the Bodega

No tasting allowed!

It was another busy day for the Ballard amigos…they visited Osborne Bodega to learn about the 250 year old sherry business…no tasting allowed!!

Having a tour of the Bodega

Listening carefully during the tour of the Bodega

Discussing the produce

Discussing the produce of the Bodega

El Puerto

Taking in the sites

Taking in the sites, including a bull-ring!

After the Bodega they took part in a quiz around El Puerto, learning about the town and lots of new Spanish vocabulary.

In El Puerto

Walking through El Puerto

After eating lunch at school they embarked on exchange partner work, preparing a presentation to an assembly to be delivered on Wednesday.

Preparing for their presentations

Preparing for their presentations

Mr M reports that our Ballard pupils and their exchange partners are getting on really well with each other – good news all round!

For more from our our Modern Foreign Languages department, please visit our MFL page on our website.

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

Spanish Exchange Trip 2018 – Post One

May 7, 2018

Ballard School’s Spanish Exchange 2018

This year our Spanish Exchange group have travelled to the south of Spain to meet with pupils from ‘The English Centre‘, near Seville.  You can visit their Facebook page here.

Setting off to sunny Spain

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The gang arriving at Luton airport

We had some very excited pupils set off to Spain at midday on Sunday.
With a good flight from Luton to Seville (Thanks to Mr C for the lift to the airport), it was about an hour and a half drive to El Puerto and meeting our Spanish hosts.

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Heading off on the plane

Lots of smiles and excitement.

Our first day

Ready for day one!

Good morning – Ready for day one!

This morning we are in school going to lessons and preparing presentations for the younger pupils: Topics include Ballard School, New Forest, Royal family, Sports and music. All of this is a a great learning experience with our exchange partners.

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Working together

Trying our hand at Flamenco!

Trying our hand at Flamenco

Trying our hand at Flamenco!

This afternoon team building and flamenco dancing…not as easy as it looks!

Trust building exercises

Trust building exercises!

Everyone together after day one

Everyone together after day one

For more from our our Modern Foreign Languages department, please visit our MFL page on our website.

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

Blind data? – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 2 May 2018

May 2, 2018

Blind data?

We seem to live in a data-conscious, even obsessive, world. I am amazed when watching premiership football on TV to hear the commentators tell us how many yards someone has run, the number of minutes since a team last scored a goal away from home and at a particular venue and then to give us the percentage shots on goal of each side (and then divided up between strikers). There is a whiff of superstition in some of this: just because a team has had an unbeaten run for so many games and hasn’t achieved this for, let’s say over ten years, there’s almost a sense that this can’t happen again for another ten years – at least not when playing in their away strip in the same week they also had a Cup tie to play and when they were on their third manager of the season.

Data image

Has the world gone data tracking mad?

Has data tracking gone mad?

It’s clearly providing a great number of researchers, timekeepers, mathematicians and even historians – let alone commentators, data crunchers and (possibly) mystics – in work. Don’t get me wrong: I am all for meaningful employment and some interesting statistics and comparisons…but so much of it?

Schools and data…and GDPR

Schools, of course, are also full of data. I am about to attend my seventh GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) meeting in almost as many weeks tomorrow, as we seek to meet the 26th May deadline to come into line with the requirements of the new Act.

Many of us will have been receiving communications from charities, banks and online firms of late asking us to opt in to continue to receive their emails and offers. (If you haven’t been receiving these then either you don’t have many ‘business’ contacts online or, alarmingly, the contacts you have are ignoring the impending deadline and the potential threat of crippling fines!) This is actually a heaven-sent (actually Parliamentary-sent) opportunity to let some persistent business emailers know, politely, that you don’t want their services and that you actually never asked to receive their emails in the first place.

Let’s get away from it all (sometimes)

So, what’s my point?

I am not so naïve as to think we shouldn’t keep some data nor use it, perhaps at national level, to plan road and hospital, school and defence requirements. It’s also quite interesting (at least some of the time) to listen to sports’ pundits tell us how many times Tiger Woods has missed the ‘cut’ in golf or how many years, months and days (even minutes) since England last won the World Cup (in anything) – sorry, in Association Football. However, I do hope that like in some diabolical blind date, we don’t get so obsessed with the next set of statistics, that we become uptight and nervous about stepping out of the door, going online to buy something and end up as quivering wrecks.

Life, it seems to me, is more than the next set of weather stats, stock market report – even inflation figures. It’s also, even in schools, more than the next set of test results, assessment figures or data-driven labels.

Weighing scales

Numbers can be fun!

Numbers can be fun, as my grandson taught me last weekend when he discovered kitchen scales and so needed to weigh jars, packets and tins (he is only 4 years, after all).

Numbers, statistics and data, however, are only so much information which can often be open to a great deal of interpretation. Let’s get out into the countryside / the world nearby and far, ignore the temperature stats or the rainfall percentages on our mobile devices and take life a little less seriously and superstitiously and look for the simple and the serene.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster) – just about to sort out some data for an exam…oh, dear!

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

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