EducationPosted on Feb 4, 2020
This is taken from an address by the headmaster of Shrewsbury School to Third Form entrants in September 2019:
WB Yeats’ definition of education always rings true with me: “Education is not the filling of buckets but the lighting of fires”. Of course, we want our pupils to learn interesting things; to develop remarkable skills; to nurture their own individual gifts and talents. We want them to become the best possible version of themselves.
But there is a deeper project here.
Schools are not about dispensing truths unthinkingly. Schools are about empowering the young to seek truths for themselves; to pursue lives of meaning and purpose; to grow in character. And, in quiet moments, to seek the deeper truths of the spirit.
The dynamics of the modern world make trust, truth and meaning increasingly elusive. Rapid change is the only real certainty. As well as navigating the turbulence and change of adolescence, our children need to equip themselves with the wisdom and skills to thrive; and the virtues and values to be a force for good.
The Shrewsbury School motto captures the deeper project of education: Intus Si Recte Ne Labora – If all is right within, trouble not.
We want our pupils to learn, and to learn deeply in an atmosphere of serious fun. We want them to develop the virtues that allow them to lead lives of meaning, active compassion, generosity, purpose and truth.
The fires we aim to light are the true fires, the torchlights, that guide us through life’s choices; those fires that cast light into dark places; those fires that light the way to truth.
MeaslesPosted on May 23, 2019
Public Health England have issued an alert (May 2019) highlighting a “significant increase” in cases of measles in primary schools in Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, and City of Westminster. Information about measles can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/measles/. Parents are very strongly advised to become familiar with the symptoms of measles, and to ensure up-to-date vaccinations to protect their children.
Helicopter parentingPosted on Jun 20, 2018
Children whose parents are over-controlling “helicopter parents” when they are toddlers, are less able to control their emotions and impulses as they get older apparently leading to more problems with school, new research suggests.
The study looked at to what degree mothers of toddlers dominated playtime and showed their child what to do, and then studied how their children behaved over the following eight years, revealing that controlling parenting is linked to a number of problems as a child grows up.
“Parents who are over-controlling are most often very well-intentioned and are trying to support and be there for their children,” said Dr Nicole Perry of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, who co-authored the research.
“However, to foster emotional and behavioural skills parents should allow children to experience a range of emotions and give them space to practice and try managing these emotions independently and then guide and assist children when [or] if the task becomes too great.”
Writing in the journal Developmental Psychology, Perry and colleagues in the US and Switzerland describe how they examined the parenting and behaviour of 422 children at the age of two by inviting mother and child into the laboratory and asking them to play with an array of toys for four minutes, then put them away over the next two minutes. The sessions were recorded and researchers rated to what degree the mother tried to take over the task.
At the age of five the team looked at the children’s response to an unfair share of sweets, and their ability to think carefully about a puzzle under time pressure.
When the children were aged five and 10, the researchers asked teachers to rate problems such as depression, anxiety or loneliness in the children, the children’s academic performance, and their views of the children’s social skills. At 10 years the children were quizzed on their attitudes to school and teachers as well as emotional issues.
The team found that once factors including the child’s age, behaviour as a toddler and socioeconomic status were taken into account, more controlling behaviour by mothers was linked both to their children having less control over their own emotions and less control over their impulses by the age of five.
What’s more, five-year olds with poorer control over emotions were linked to worse social skills at the age of 10, while lower levels of control over emotions and behaviour were both linked to poorer academic performance, even after taking into account such behaviours at the age of five. They were also linked to more emotional problems and a poorer attitude to school, as reported by the children at age 10.
However, the study only looked at the mothers’ behaviour at one point in time, and did not take into account changes in parenting or the child’s physical health.
Dieter Wolke, professor of developmental psychology and individual differences at the University of Warwick, noted the team did not look at whether the mothers had an anxiety disorder, but said that said the study was supported by previous research showing lack of self-regulation in early childhood is related to later problems.
“The problem here really is that if you don’t learn skills to self-regulate, how can you self-regulate when you leave the home, like [when] you go to school or you go to university? In a way it is a form of abusiveness – taking this opportunity away from children,” he said, although he noted over-controlling parenting was usually done with the best of intentions.
But Dr Janet Goodall from the University of Bath urged caution, noting that it is difficult to say how much parental control is “too much”, and that cultural factors such how dangerous a child’s environment is should be considered when looking at parental behaviour.
“While the study shows a connection between what they call over-controlling parenting and later issues, it doesn’t say that this is the cause of later issues, it says it goes along with it – and they only observed parents for six minutes,” she said.
Goodall added parents should not be made to feel guilty or judged: “What is really important is that [parents] care about their children, and what their children are doing and what their children are learning.”
Post OfficePosted on Jan 26, 2018
The sun is shining (yes, really) and Sean is busy, fussing over his post office, writing all sorts of important stuff. A customer (Miss Felicity) approaches
“Please may I buy a money order?”
“Yes, of course”
“How much will it be?”
Startled, but fully aware that she is talking to a master of the universe in the making, Miss Felicity tells Sean that she has to go to the school’s ATM to draw some cash. She returns and, under Sean’s watchful eye, counts out five £10 notes to make £50. Sean hands over the money order and says:
“Would you like anything else?”
“Yes, please. I’d like some stamps.”
“How many stamps?” Sean is nothing if not patient.
Miss Felicity tells Sean how many stamps she needs and he carefully counts them out for her.
“How much do I owe you?”
“One hundred and eighty five pounds!”
“Goodness, that’s so much money. How am I going to pay you?”
“You must give me money with £185 on it”
There not being such a thing as a £185 note (nor any notes, seeing as Miss Felicity is currently £50 lighter on account of the money order), Miss Felicity and Sean decide to embark on a bit of quantitative easing. They use as their inspiration a poster, pinned to the garden shed, of Australian dollar banknotes (the reader need not be concerned that we appear to have moved countries. Children at Victoria Road frequent countries, and continents, at their pleasure, and Sean has been much taken by Australia during the term’s theme of The Continents).
While they are easing away, and making an excellent job of recreating the faces on the notes too, Miss Felicity, who has learnt a thing or two over the years, starts telling Sean about the two faces on the $20 note: Mary Reiber and John Flynn.
Mary Rieber was a child convict, transported, aged fourteen, to Australia before making a considerable success of herself. At the end of Miss Felicity’s peroration, Sean knows a lot about transportation; possibly, he is left with the impression that the way on to an Australian banknote is to steal a horse first…
John Flynn created the flying doctor service and Miss Felicity is no less loquacious in her description of the importance, given the vast and inhospitable terrain that is most of Australia of this essential, and life-saving, facility.
Suitably nurtured, and having finished the necessary banknote production, Miss Felicity enquires again as to the price of the stamps:
“One thousand eight hundred and fifty pounds”, says Sean!! Miss Felicity is tempted to ask Sean for his views on the Weimar Republic’s inflationary period but thinks better of it.
“Sean, to count that amount of money we are going to need some help!” Miss Felicity and Sean go back into the classroom and emerge with the Golden Bead, which, together, they use to re-create the massive numeral of one thousand eight hundred and fifty, and its quantity, laid out in exquisite glass beads! I know many readers will be in urgent need of a full explanation of the Golden Bead. Well, tough. All you need to know is that it is to Montessori maths what Mozart is to music.
So, what has Sean done? Personal, social and emotional development by interacting with teachers and peers as the postmaster; maths by selling (successfully) money orders and diamond-studded stamps, geography by visiting Australia, history by learning the wisdom of being a horse thief and a doctor with a pilot’s licence; art by creating, drawing and colouring banknotes. What will Sean take home in his bag? Nothing, because learning like that does not get written down. But Sean knows, and we know, and now you know too.
Bringing up children is an art not a science – Adam GopnikPosted on Jan 26, 2018
If you have a spare 10 minutes, listen to this excellent “Point of View” from Adam Gopnik.