Deeply embedded in articles on what makes a good school you may find a short paragraph on its provision for the ordinary pupil, but that genus deserves further attention. Some of the hardest work a school has to undertake is to care for the pupils who are seen, or perceive themselves, as ‘nothing special’.
Independent schools have been connecting with their local communities and collaborating with state schools for many years, but it is only in recent years that we have begun to collect data which clearly demonstrates this. Thousands of mutually beneficial partnerships now exist between independent and state schools, unlocking new educational experiences for all involved. In addition, independent schools save the taxpayer £3.5 billion every year, boost local economies and support choice and innovation in our diverse education system.
When I was 17, I spent three weeks of my summer holiday planning and delivering a holiday to a group of children from a school in Cheshire who had severe learning difficulties. They travelled annually to my boarding school in North Wales where they experienced their first-ever holiday without their parents. It is one of the strongest memories I have of my school career. In today’s terms this is SMSC (spiritual, moral, social and cultural) education ‘in action’ – the idea that school is far more than learning the curriculum. SMSC is, quite simply, the term used to embrace this broader dimension – not just through Religious Education (RE), PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) education, wellbeing lessons or even through planned projects like the experience I have described.
Awell-rounded education which develops children mentally, physically and socially relies heavily on the strength of a school’s co-curricular programmes. This is particularly important in a boarding environment where enrichment activities provide an essential avenue for expression and personal development.
Young people today need first-class tuition and the finest academic qualifications to succeed, but they also need strength of character and skills such as communication, teamwork and resilience, to build happy, fulfilling and worthwhile lives. A boarding education can provide the building blocks for character and success.