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Headmaster’s Blog – remove the boundaries

May 5, 2015


I have just returned from the annual Independent Schools’ Association (ISA) Heads’ conference which was held in areidlowres41Manchester this year. Our theme was based around the title above and featured talks from ‘extreme’ or ultra-marathon runners, mostly coping with significant disabilities, whilst exploring learning styles and habits fit for the 21st Century.

One speaker, Sir Christopher Ball (sometime Warden of Keble College, Oxford), took us through our ABCs as he argued that we should not be content with whatever we feel is our lot in life but we should ‘push the boundaries’. Sir Christopher undertook his first marathon aged 73 and then proceeded to do the ’10 in 10 challenge’ (ten marathons on consecutive days), and so he was well acquainted with pushing his life to the limit! His ‘A’ was for ‘Abundance’: through a series of stories and illustrations, he demonstrated that we have within us untapped abilities and resources. ‘B’ was for ‘Blockage’ – the tyranny of things such as peer pressure, the belief that ‘good enough’ was acceptable (rather than pursuing excellence) and ‘learned helplessness’ (believing we can’t do something and so never try it). Finally, his ‘C’ was for ‘Choice’: he encouraged us to choose our own agendas, to challenge norms, to keep practising new skills (the 10,000 hours ‘rule’ to perfect something new) and so consider co-coaching to hone a colleagues’ or pupils’ new skills, habits and talents alongside our own.

This was one of several inspirational talks and reminded me, amongst much else, not to give up on singing lessons even though I was told as a youngster that I could never sing! Ballard’s receipt of an ISA ‘excellence award’ (of which more in a separate article), encouraged me to feel we were not simply aiming for the ‘good enough’ and are, rather, a school that does not simply say ‘not’ to new challenges and opportunities but more often our response is (and should remain) ‘not yet’. Sir Christopher’s final challenge, however, has given me much pause for thought as we plan ‘what’s next?’ at Ballard: The problem for education is not lack of talent, but our failure to develop it.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

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