Heads’ Connected: by Mrs Kaura

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What are your most meaningful memories of your days at school? Did they include that momentous chemistry lesson when you acquired the knowledge that hydrated copper sulphate crystals are blue? Do you remember this fact because you gained it by rote learning, or was this information integrated within other concepts around molecules, chemical bonding and the periodic table?

Did your lessons expand your capacity to do useful and interesting things? Were you ever challenged with making a paper boat that can carry a stack of coins without sinking or tipping over? At what age were you encouraged to look up the etymology of words by yourself in a dictionary?

And at what point in your school journey did you become aware of yourself as a learner? How old were you when your habits, dispositions, interests, attitudes and values were subjected to self-scrutiny? At what stage in your life did you become aware of your stronger personality traits, acknowledging that you are honest, timid or cheerful?

Learning at each of these levels goes on simultaneously. Whilst learning about a period of world history, you are also honing the skills of listening carefully, imagining vividly and writing coherently. You are cultivating attitudes around your teacher directing or correcting you, or questioning the validity of the authoritative text as your evidence source. 

Gradual, incremental development of such habits of mind are of equal importance as acquiring the knowledge of hydrated copper sulphate crystals – collectively contributing to good examination grades. Our students’ stellar exam success undoubtedly gets them through useful gateways to impressive onward destinations. However, these alone are no guarantee of success on the other side of the portal. For that, they require attitudes to collaborate meaningfully, analyse critically and a deep resolve to be independent and accept responsibility for themselves as learners. Together with curiosity. And a love of reading and continuously learning. 

The earlier these seeds of disposition are sown, the stronger they grow. Our Junior School education bridges home life and a long formative journey through our Senior School, University, Apprenticeships and the working world. Primary education is just one phase of this long game. And instead of being blown passively by shifting political winds, we instil in our school a firm belief that the attitudes and values which we are trying to imbue our students will be what they need most. Self control, sociality and learning are cultivated through curiosity, perseverance and thoughtfulness. The Abbey’s unique Human Intelligence curriculum, underpinned by the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme, reflects the crucial incubator that is primary education. It celebrates curious thinkers, skilled researchers and courageous explorers, whilst prioritising being a good friend, a kind neighbour and a responsible global citizen. These currents run deep in the river of learning in our school, through demanding and sophisticated inquiry. We see our children as confident, capable, articulate, powerful, convivial managers of their own learning, who feel part of an education worthy of the name. This is not learning that is timid or unimaginative, doctrinaire or ill-informed. Rather, it invites uncertainty, building assets for life, creating spaces in our minds to accommodate the ever-changing challenge of today’s world. And through its experience, we offer memories far, far greater than those of hydrated copper sulphate crystals alone.

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