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British values and foreign travel – Headmaster’s Blog – Ballard School

February 25, 2015

Much has been made in the Press in recent months about ‘Fundamental British Values’ and the way these are defined and Kenya party 2013 low reshow they are to be ‘actively promoted’ (following inspection advisory directives). I have written about these before in this ‘blog’ and won’t revisit the arguments here. I do want to promote, however, the additional value of understanding other cultures, traditions, faiths and history within their own environments – something which educational trips of various kinds can facilitate.

Ballard is a school ideally located to enjoy and appreciate much of what’s great about Britain. The New Forest and the Solent are on our doorstep and it doesn’t take long to get to Dorset and the West Country, to explore the Jurassic coastline or to head off in another direction to the ‘ancient’ towns of Salisbury and Winchester. Stonehenge is within easy reach as are many fine National Trust properties and castles.  London is within a relatively short train ride from New Milton station. All of this makes for a geographical location which enables us to sample some of the ‘best of Britain’ – if we choose to move from the relative comfort of Hampshire.

As part of our school curriculum we do make good use of local museums, features and sites through field trips and school excursions. These provide insight into British culture and our environment (amongst much else). I would contest, however, that it’s only in venturing yet further afield that we truly manage to appreciate ‘British values’.  This is by no means to argue that wherever we go Britain will always be best simply by way of contrast with other places. (As someone born in Africa and who spent nearly 20 years based there and, later, a significant number of years in India, I am well minded to see what we can discover and learn outside of the UK.) My contention is that we more fully appreciate the complexity of the influences that have shaped Britain over the centuries, and especially today’s fast moving multi-cultural society, when we go and visit other countries. Family holidays overseas can play a valuable part in this process but there’s also something especially uplifting and informative about being part of a school trip where there are bespoke excursions. During the last year or so our pupils have had opportunities to visit the battlefields of northern Europe, the art galleries of Rome, the concert halls and churches of Austria, the deserts and bazaars of North Africa, the Normandy coastline (in addition to ski trips to Italy and France, sports’ trips to Jersey, and school exchanges in Germany, Spain, France and Italy). On top of all these opportunities some of our seniors have just returned from New York whilst others are preparing to undertake a community-building expedition to Kenya.

‘Fundamental British Values’ have often been shaped and honed through contact with other peoples in their own countries as well as interaction with those from overseas originally who have subsequently settled within the British Isles. It’s super to enjoy the immediate vicinity of Dorset and Hampshire but I hope that we will always ‘lift our eyes’ and look to extend our horizons through trips elsewhere, too.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We tweet @BallardSchool

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