At the end of last term, Year 7 enjoyed a fascinating tour of The Houses of Parliament. During the tour, they sat in The Strangers’ Gallery in The House of Lords and listened to a live debate led by the Archbishop of Canterbury entitled ‘This House takes note of the role of education in building a flourishing and skilled society’. A smattering of Lords contributed views in a convivial, gentle, slightly sleepy atmosphere.
Some of the children were aware that the topic for debate was relevant to them and afterwards commented on the points raised. It was interesting to have an insight into the impact Parliament has on the workings of the country and good to witness such an important topic being debated. It is one of the great privileges of living in Britain that a member of the public can see the democratic process in action.
It is possible for the public to access papers produced in advance to inform those intending to participate in parliamentary debates and then obtain full transcripts of what is said in the chamber afterwards. My interest was piqued by our brief look at democracy in action and I have since read some of the research behind the debate.
The Archbishop was presenting the case for ‘character education’ in ‘preparing children for all aspects of life’. In his briefing for the debate, he cited a range of evidence to support the case for schools developing the whole child in a system which has, in recent years, placed great emphasis on academic attainment. The two are not mutually exclusive: The House of Commons Health and Safety committees cited evidence that ‘children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social and school wellbeing have higher levels of academic achievement on average’. The previous but one Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, echoed this on 27 November 2014 in her speech ‘Our Plan for Education’ saying the government would ensure that young people ‘would not only grow academically, but also build character, resilience and grit’.
Some of the statistics behind well-being amongst the U.K.’s young are sobering and bring into sharp relief the importance of this debate and its outcomes. A report produced by the Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, in October 2013 noted that ’50% of all mental ill-health starts before the age of 15’.
Schools and families often insufficiently prepare children for their future lives. At Bickley Park, we make it a priority to develop the whole child. This is supported by:
- a great knowledge of the child as an individual and a commitment to helping him develop his skills and passions
- a commitment to working closely with families to support each child’s educational journey
- a pastoral system that seeks to support children who are struggling with their emotional learning through skilled adult interventions by pastoral tutors; designated ‘Listening Ears’ and the school counsellor, but also through supportive pupil ‘Ambassadors’ amongst our senior pupils
- workshops to support awareness amongst staff, parents and pupils in areas that can damage children’s well-being, such as bullying and e safety
- The Four Quadrants of Learning which aim to develop character in children, such as through the performance opportunities the boys experience in the Arts Quadrant, which build confidence, and the ability to communicate; the Community Quadrant which promotes an understanding of how society works most effectively and the Outdoor Education Quadrant which develops resilience through increasingly demanding challenges
- Organising talks for the boys by guest speakers who have overcome terrific obstacles to achieve a goal, such as this week’s visitor: Adventure Traveller Charlie Walker.
Preparedness for the challenges and opportunities that await our boys in their adult lives lies at the heart of a Bickley Park education.