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Christmas 2016, the community and the New Year 2017

January 11, 2017

I read in the Times Educational Supplement (TES) just before Christmas about how a Primary School Head in Whitby, Christina Tyler, was moved by the impact of her school choir on the local community. I, too, have been similarly moved this Christmas. This is what this Head teacher wrote:

My heart grew three sizes larger today. I hadn’t realised how small it had become. It took a simple trip out with the school choir to make me see how much the focus on data, Ofsted and unrealistic standards had led me away from what really matters, and ultimately why I came into this job in the first place.

I had just been spending several days working on pre-inspection material and appreciate it is easy to become clouded in one’s outlook, even somewhat sceptical and jaded (despite the season!). This TES article reminded me of our community carol concert in school to which guests from several local care homes came. Some of these elderly visitors hadn’t been outside the walls of their homes for weeks, even months, and it was a real joy to see their faces alight with pleasure as they listened to our young people from Pre-Prep age through to Year 11, singing carols and other Christmas songs. I was reminded, too, of the gratitude expressed by some of those attending the St Thomas’ Oakhaven Hospice carol services in Lymington at which our chamber choir sang and musicians played. The chamber choir also performed a concert at St Aldhelm’s Church in Bournemouth and, of course, we had a super annual Carol Service at the Christchurch Priory which helped everyone’s spirits to sore! Additionally, some ten choristers and three alumni were part of the Bournemouth Symphony Youth Chorus who performed with the BSO at the Lighthouse in Poole for their ‘celebration of carols’ just before Christmas.

As the TES writer went on to say:

Education has changed so much in my career over the past 20 years. I have always prided myself on not losing sight of the whole child, and this is the core of my school ethos. Value a whole child and the contribution they make, not just academic standards. 

All I would add to the above is that I have been teaching some 36 years in several countries and across a wide age range and I still feel the ‘whole child’ emphasis to be valid in all and every setting. I have had a bit of a ‘battle’ towards the end of the Autumn Term with understandably professional staff anxious about missed classes to enable our musicians (and sports’ pupils) to have time out of lessons. Of course there needs to be a balance but I fully concur with the TES writer and leave the closing comments to her as I wish everyone every blessing for 2017:

It is so easy to be drawn into a world of data, where every lesson counts and a missed lesson means catch-up for the teacher. Where there are never enough hours in the day, and the expectations are so high that children can’t afford to miss an afternoon of “learning”. 

But this balance is wrong.  As leaders, my governors and I need to find the balance again. Yes, we need to strive for academic excellence, but we also need to remember the importance of other gifts, too.  And, how we can use these gifts to add value to our community.

My new year’s resolution is to keep my heart at its increased size, and allow my staff to do the same. I sincerely hope that if one day I end up in a home, the education system will still allow children to come and make my Christmas magical.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is a non-selective, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire (on the Dorset/Hampshire border), 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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