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Votes for all? – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 28th June 2017

June 28, 2017
Ballard votes for all blog

Votes for all?

At a time when general elections are very much the ‘vogue’ I read this in the Times:

A kindergarten in Germany has given three-year-olds the vote. The issues subject to votes at the nursery, in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, include what game to play next or which food to have for lunch. “Young people can and should learn about democracy,” said Kristin Alheit, the Social Democratic Party social affairs minister of Schleswig-Holstein.

I am all for democracy in its place and context but I do wonder what chaos might ensue if we were asked to vote for which food we wanted for lunch each day! We conduct ‘mock elections’ to help our children understand the democratic political process. Most recently our children voted for a Conservatives win with a landslide ahead of the Liberals and then the Greens with Labour in fourth place – so much for mirroring the National vote! These occasions are all very helpful in a school setting to get some idea of what voting is all about – and also to understand something of the limitations of votes.

 

Schools, of course, are not democracies per se: this might make it awkward if pupils voted on which lessons to attend (or if to attend at all) and how long the holidays should be – let alone when to come into school and whether or not to do tests! There are lots of opportunities to express opinions (staff, pupils and parents) and there’s then a process by which these views are considered, sifted and acted upon. We have a very active School Council with elected pupil representatives for each Form across years three through eleven. They bring issues and ideas from their year groups, debate them and make suggestions to the staff leadership team as well as taking ideas to the pupils in their form for discussion

Ballard Pre-Prep British values democracy

With a general election on the horizon here we have Year 2 learning about democracy and British values  – June 2017

Our recent Parents Survey and Parents’ Forum, for example, gave excellent input into current issues and concerns – as well as making proposals for future development – which senior staff now take on to consider and implement as possible and appropriate.

Ballard School prefects

The selection of Head Boy /Girl and their Deputies is also a very democratic process. Senior pupils have to write a full application letter for these positions, be interviewed and make a short speech to their peer group. Their peers then vote (in secret) whilst staff discuss candidates at length (also min confidence, and consider their service, work ethic and involvement across all areas of school life) before the Senior Management Team and myself reach our conclusions – a lengthy, exhaustive and very fair process, I feel.

Votes for all? Certainly – but in time and context and with a judicious amount of education and training!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We tweet from @BallardSchool but follow @BallardSport for a focus on Ballard’s Sporting calendar.

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.

The return of competitive sports’ days? – Headmaster’s Blog – 21st June 2017

June 21, 2017

The return of competitive sports’ days?

I expect many of us will remember our own sports’ days from when we were at school? At my small Scottish prep school we began the afternoon with a whole series of choreographed physical training routines (PT) set to music. I can’t ever hear, ‘An English country garden’ (even though I was at school in Scotland), without finding myself back in my white t-shirt and shorts! After this musical ‘intro’ we then went through a series of ‘heats’ leading up to the finals at the end of the day. Exhausting stuff and deadly serious – and that’s just for the parents! (My parents lived overseas and so hardly ever attended sports’ days and so I didn’t usually have the very enthusiastic parent on the edge of the track egging me on!)

Lower Prep (Y3-5) athletics win

In the news

In a recent Sunday Times there was an article about the return of competitive sports’ days (assuming they ever disappeared in the first place) and some of the issues they can throw up for schools:

Competitive sports days – including running, egg and spoon and sack races – are making a comeback in an attempt to build children’s resilience. Victoria Keen, head of Taxal and Fernilee CofE Primary School in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, said: “When I first joined the school, parents were being asked not to cheer at the non-competitive sports day. It took three years to gradually change things to bring in the kind of competitive sports day I wanted to see.” However she added that once it was reintroduced, “we had tons of crying, because children weren’t used to [losing].” Meanwhile, private schools are trying to rein in competitiveness. “It’s a school sports day – not the Olympics,” said Ben Evans, headmaster of Edge Grove, a preparatory school in Hertfordshire.

Ballard’s answer to Sports’ Days

At Ballard we have moved away from a single afternoon of highly competitive sports. We found that this led to a limited number of pupils competing in several races / field events and thus leaving quite a number of pupils hanging around waiting for one race (perhaps the relays – at the end of the afternoon). We now have separate afternoons for Pre-Prep, Lower Prep, Upper Prep and Seniors (the four sections of our family school) and whilst there are still the ‘blue ribbon’ events (100m, 200m, and so on) we also have many which involve everyone competing for their House.

The tug-of-war is a great spectacle and we now even have one with a four-way ‘tug’! Several relays, including an ‘Olympic’ one, allows us to ensure that all pupils are involved, sometimes over a range of distances to allow for differing abilities, stamina and competitiveness. Where there is enough ‘popular demand’ we also have parent races but these are always handicap events involving planks of wood, obstacles, mixing up shoes or carrying objects. Great fun to take part in – and also to watch!

So, whilst I have a slight hanker after the ‘good old days’ of whole-school competitive sports’ days, I do see the value in the inclusiveness events of today which also allow for competition laced with a large dose of fun and fitness!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We tweet from @BallardSchool but follow @BallardSport for a focus on Ballard’s Sporting calendar.

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.

French Exchange 2017 – June 2017

June 20, 2017

French Exchange 2017

This is the fifteenth year of the French exchange for Ballard and Highcliffe Schools.

Our four Ballard pupils are in Maine-et-Loire where the temperatures have been reaching 35-37°C in the day.

The exchange allows pupils to experience life living with their French exchange students, life within a French school as well as opportunities to explore the town and sites.

Weekend get-togethers

French exchange picnic weekend

Enjoying the hot weather with a picnic – meeting the exchange families

The weekend was spent getting to know their exchange families. One such event organised was a picnic – gladly there was shade as temperatures soared to 34°C! Everyone really enjoyed spending time chatting in the shade.

Monday

On Monday pupils went into French & Physics classes and will also be in classes on Wednesday morning.

Ballard French Exchange France 2017

In front of our partner school on Chôlet

Seeking out treasure despite the heat

On Monday pupils were involved in a Treasure Hunt around Cholet and despite the heat (much sun cream applied and ice-cream consumed) they worked their way around town finding answers to clues. The groups were organised so that two English and one French pupil worked together.

French exchange treasure hunt

Resting in the shade after a Treasure Hunt around the town

Tuesday brings more opportunities

Today our group are off to Saumur with their Exchange partners for a triple visit: a vineyard, the medieval town and castle, and the “village troglodyte” of Roche Meunier, with its caves full of mushrooms and sparkling wine!

Gladly it should be nice and cool, which is ideal in these temperatures! France has declared “Alerte Orange” in 3/4 of the départements, today.

Ballard School French exchange vineyard

Ready to learn about sparkling wine production in the Gratien & Meyer in Saumur vineyard tour

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

Flashback to 2015 with this post!

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.

 

Boost your mood! – Headmaster’s blog – Wednesday 7th June 2017

June 7, 2017

Boost your mood!

As the Headmaster, I am a member of three professional associations which serve the School in many and varied ways: IAPS (representing Prep Schools), ISA (representing over 450 private schools through to the secondary sector) and TISCA (for schools with a Christian foundation and ethos). In each case, their recent conferences / meetings have had the same key note theme: ways of understanding mental health in schools and how we might better boost well-being. The Government has also been sponsoring studies into this area and various charities have been promoting ‘mindfulness’ in schools. It seems that young people (let alone staff in schools) are facing unprecedented levels of mental pressure, and not simply at key exam times.

It was with all this in mind that I was attracted to an article in a recent copy of Women’s Weekly (not, I might add, my normal choice of reading, but definitely full of useful features and advice). The article in question was called, ‘Boost your mood in just one day’ and I share a few suggestions from it – either for your own well-being or even for that of your children. It was written for key moments of the day:

  • 7.00am Let in the light: daylight stimulates our body’s serotonin (the so-called ‘happy hormone’) and thus it’s good to open the curtains early
  • 8.00am Eat yogurt for breakfast: probiotic-rich foods are great but I am also profoundly aware that some of our pupils arrive at school having had little breakfast at all
  • 9.00am Log on and laugh: a great antidote to the backlog of emails awaiting me which I’ll tackle much better once I’ve seen one of the 50 funniest YouTube films
  • 11.00am Catch up with coffee: it’s not just the caffeine which (in moderation) can be helpful but also the stimulus of the oxytocin horm
    one which is released when we bond with friends

2889139947_42eb09916d_z wine and choclate blog

  • 12.30pm 10-minute tidy up: even sorting out a small pile of mail can help create some inner calm and combat the stress hormone cortisol
  • 1.00pm Have a happy meal: ideally not the fast-food variety but a low-carb lunch, again with friends or colleagues to assist bonding
  • 2.30pm Flick through photos: it’s a real mood-booster to look at a few pictures of family and friends
  • 3.00pm Get up against a wall: apparently a 30-second stretch pressed up against a flat surface will enhance our mood
  • 3.30pm Say thank you: my favourite – and see below for an example. Writing one appreciative text, email or letter a week boosts our own satisfaction and happiness levels. Just think what one a day might do!
  • 4.00pm Try speed-thinking: give yourself 30 seconds to list all you can about a loved one or friend. Quick thinking has been proven to improve our mood
  • 4.30pm Cheer up with chocolate: say no more (except it ought to be the dark variety for best results)!
  • 5.00pm Do a good deed: volunteering, giving to charity, doing a random act of kindness – all boosts our mood but also enhances others. A ‘win win’ situation!
2017.3.24 role reversal day (10)

Role-reversal day – an example of our charity fundraising

  • 6.00pm Chop some fruit: see, feel and smell the fruit – another great activity to raise the spirits
  • 7.00pm Have a fish supper: omega-3 rich salmon is apparently best and thus don’t just wait for Friday (or that seaside holiday) for fish
  • 8.00pm Start your wind down: steady breathing, relaxing muscles…you might fall asleep before you know it! Begin to switch off your devices and have a break before bed
  • 10.00pm Go to bed on a kiwi: apparently this fruit is high in serotonin-boosting nutrients and vitamin C…the perfect way to drift off for a happy sleep

 

The thank you note

And so to return to my favourite from the list above – the ‘thank you note’. The following, from a parent who has had three children through Ballard and with the youngest just about to leave, was by all accounts stimulated by one of my earlier blogs. I quote just a few sections here and will let them speak for themselves. Suffice it to say, emails such as these go a long way to boosting my mental health:

Thank you for your latest email about mind sets, I found it very interesting and it was this that prompted me to write to you, yes I know another e mail for you I’m sure you get so many, but I hope this will be a welcome addition…

I have thought long and hard how I can thank you all for having (my children) and helping my husband and myself and all our family to shape them in to the adults that they have become. It is our belief that basic principles, attitudes and morals are so important to teach children from the minute they are able to recognise them and whilst this indeed starts at home, we have always felt that they have been enforced at Ballard alongside the way we would teach them. I could buy wine, chocolates, but to me this seems so impersonal whereas I hope the sentiment in this e mail will stay with you and your colleagues for a little longer than a drink or a box of sweets…

There are so many proud moments that will stay in our memories for ever thanks to Ballard, nothing compares to hearing from teachers that they like and enjoy our children’s company, I know that parents evening are some people’s nightmares but we always looked forward to it as we heard only positive comments, we felt that the teachers really knew and understood our children. It is important to us to teach the children to be kind and considerate to others in life as many other things then tend to fall in to place. The act of kindness week was a fabulous idea it really makes us stop and think that it doesn’t take much to make others happy.

To say that all of you go beyond your duties as teachers is an understatement…thank you to all the teachers and Ballard staff that have been a part of our family for all this time, I truly believe that it takes a very special type of person to be involved with kids learning and wellbeing on a day to day basis and Ballard have managed to get it right on every level.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

For another article from our blog on mental health – see this one from January 2017

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.

Where do you think you’re going? – Headmaster’s Blog – Friday 26th May 2017

May 26, 2017
Ballard School where do you think blog

Where do you think you’re going?

I wonder what careers’ advice you had at school? As far as I can recall (it was the 1970s), we had a lecture once a term from a visiting professional who spoke about his career path after school. I do remember doing an aptitude test at the end of Year 11 which certainly gave me some useful pointers: I wanted to be an airline pilot and then a doctor but it was evident even without an aptitude test that these professions were likely beyond my scientific and mathematical understanding!

Working hard!

I was at a boarding school and I was certainly fortunate in my Housemaster who made good use of my test to point me towards humanities. Moreover, when I said to him that I wanted to teach and that because I had only been in independent schools I felt I should go into a state school, he didn’t put me off (there were many good maintained schools then, as now) but simply posed the question:

‘Where, Reid, do you feel you would be most fulfilled and make the greatest contribution?’

(Schoolmasters always used our surnames then and peers generally used nicknames – never first names!)

The 1970s, sadly, was a decade of disruption in many state schools and fewer extra-curricular opportunities were open to teachers to enthuse about and for me, as now, the essence of education was an holistic approach – and so I headed towards the private sector. The rest, as they say, is history (and, yes, that was my subject at university)!

Why am I mentioning all this?

This past week I have met with every Y8 pupil for a 10 minute one-to-one interview. In advance each pupil had written a ‘personal statement’ setting out their achievements to date, their ambitions for the future and their more immediate goals as they enter the senior school. I really enjoy these times as we explore interests, strengths and opportunities going forward. Most of the current Y8 already have some ideas about a future career path(s) and this was a help as we talked about GCSE options, work experience and further education. Later, in Y10, they will also have the chance to do an aptitude test, attend the Spring Lecture series and have a multitude of visitors through the weekly PSHE programme. Our Head of Careers runs a programme via the Form Tutor periods and will also help with advice over work placements at the end of Y11. There are also a plethora of helpful online resources.

Lecture Series 2 with Sarah Ali Choudhury

So, the question, ‘where are you likely to head off in life?’, may not have any easier response than it did in the 1970s but at least today there is more available and informed advice than ever before – plus an understanding that unlike someone from my generation there are likely to be several career paths ahead for today’s younger generation before they retire (assuming they ever do!).

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.

The Learning Mind, the Healthy Mind and the Relaxing Mind – Wednesday 16th May 2017

May 17, 2017
ISA conference winners London West

The Learning Mind, the Healthy Mind and the Relaxing Mind

Ballard School, New Milton – Headmaster’s Blog

I have just returned from the annual Independent Schools Association (ISA) conference – held this year in York. The structure of the conference itself lent its weight to the theme

The Learning Mind, the Healthy Mind and the Relaxing Mind

and, as with many things in life, it’s important to ‘do’ and not just to ‘say’.

There was a great deal of learning, and not just from the formal sessions. As is often the case when Heads gather, we share concerns, issues and joys from our own settings and, at the same time, explore ways of improving what we are doing. I talked with several Heads who lead schools of a similar structure to ours and our discussions ranged from the ‘shape of the day’ to the length of lessons and the spread of opportunities. It was often, however, in chatting with school leaders of very different establishments – the ISA is a wonderful mix of mainstream, specialist, infant, junior and senior schools – that I seemed to gain most. There were schools experimenting with online learning in order to deliver ‘minority’ subjects at GCSE and others were spending a lot of curriculum time outdoors (the Forest Schools), even on the beach.

The learning mind

Our sessions in the ‘learning mind’ ranged from politics (the likely complexion of education after June 8th) through to the challenges facing our sector as we cope with the digital age.

The healthy mind

The ‘healthy mind’ included a hilarious session on ‘permission to be happy’ in which we were given magic wands (to wave away the ridiculous emails) and ‘stick on’ moustaches (‘take a selfie now and look at it later when you need a lift’) and were encouraged to treat every day as though it was our birthday! Talks then followed on improving outcomes for all students (the 3 As of aspiration, access and achievement – and then a fourth, attainment, thrown in for good measure), character education, brain awareness week and elite leadership.

The relaxing mind

The ‘relaxing mind’ infused the three-day gathering (despite the pace of the programme) by enabling us to have some time to catch up with colleagues over refreshments, to attend a wonderfully uplifting evensong in York Minster, to enjoy a formal dinner in the National Railway Museum – and then another dinner, a black tie event, in the hotel on the final evening. As Twitter aficionados will no doubt have seen, I was also part of the all-conquering London West district of ISA as we lifted the ‘House points cup’ for the conference having gained over 550 points in the form of blue and gold coins for winning quizzes, garden games, a golf competition and, more seriously, time spent with the many exhibitors and sponsors.

I can’t say that I returned from the annual conference rested – there’s just too much to do, a distance to travel and the ever-present emails to keep you imbedded in your ‘day job’ – but I do hope I’ve learnt something about the necessity of balancing learning, health and relaxation in the ‘renewing of my mind’ (in novitate sensus), the school motto!

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.

Making a difference – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 10th May 2017

May 10, 2017
Making a difference Ballard School

Making a difference

Ballard School annual formal dinner for senior prefects

We have just had our annual formal dinner for the Senior Prefects – attended by their Form Tutors and other senior teachers. As ever, the school caterers excelled themselves and produced a three-course meal fit for a top quality restaurant. The pupils dressed smartly and the meal is structured to give them a ‘taste’ of a formal occasion complete with a traditional grace, the Loyal Toast and speeches from the Deputy Head Boy and Girl with a reply by one of the Y11 Form Tutors.

Ballard School senior prefects dinner

Ready for their formal dinner as senior prefects 2016-17.

The speech by Mr Andy Marshall, Senior Teacher and a Y11 Form Tutor, focussed on ‘the hidden curriculum’ which is so important in a school like Ballard. In a world which is going through a population explosion and at the same time exerting pressures on young people like never before, he urged us to hold on to traditional values – the so-called ‘soft skills’ – which not only set our pupils apart from many but which are so important for the wider world.

Mr Marshall urged us all to consider how we can best make a difference in our immediate environments and from there out into the world like ripples on a lake – or, as Mother Theresa once said;

to remember that the ocean is made up of individual drops of water and thus each is invaluable and precious.

‘Soft skills’ include being able to hold a conversation with those who are older than you or whom you have just met. They embrace good manners, clear speech, looking people in the eye and giving a firm handshake. Politeness, respect and taking care over our appearance all can make a positive impact beyond our immediate circle of friends and acquaintances.

We were encouraged, too, not to be afraid of ‘trial and error’, of making a mistake, admitting a wrong doing and then moving on humbler, wiser and more determined than ever to ‘get it right’ next time. Our young people are encouraged to step out of their comfort zone in speaking before an audience (as our Deputies did so well at the dinner), in trying a new activity and in seizing a fresh opportunity. GCSE results are clearly vitally important but they are not an exclusive passport to success and worth in life.

In listening to the speeches at the dinner I was reminded of something written by an unknown monk in 1100 AD:

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realise the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realise that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.

Our dinner ended with the School toast: ‘In novitate sensus’ (the school motto – ‘by the renewing of you mind’) followed by the now familiar declaration: ‘Once a Ballardian, always a Ballardian’! Let’s now go on and make a difference in our family, our locality, our nation – and so on to the world!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

For more information on our PSHE curriculum, do see our blog from May 2016.

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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