jump to navigation

International Baccalaureate: ‘My students walk the road less travelled’ February 25, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education.
add a comment

The following is the beginning of an article from Wednesday’s Independent. Click here for the full story…

The International Baccalaureate is being billed as a new gold standard of learning. But while it is ideal for some pupils, its broad approach doesn’t suit everyone – and nor should it, argues headmaster Martin Priestly.

So the Royal Society has joined the debate regarding A-levels and alternative courses of pre-university study, such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma (“No A-level physics at 16 per cent of schools”, The Independent, 15 February 2011).

As Headmaster of a school that has, for the past five years, offered its sixth formers the choice between A-levels and the International Baccalaureate Diploma, I feel well placed to judge the differences and relative merits of the two programmes. We try to be even-handed in our advice. We recognise that neither route is “better”: rather, we look to match the student to the programme – or vice-versa. To illustrate the point, our lower sixth has opted for the two programmes in roughly equal numbers.

Even though the IBD is hardly the new kid on the block, having been created in Geneva in 1968, it is still the road less travelled – so its structure, limitations and benefits require greater explanation to parents and prospective students than the better-known A-level route. That is changing of course but in the meantime I would argue that the great strengths of the IBD programme can be summarised in the concepts of breadth, independence, internationalism and stretch. Studying six subjects instead of four gives breadth. Many young people are not ready, at the age of 16, to specialise. The IBD, with its requirement of maths, a science, a humanities subject, a foreign language, one’s own native language and one other elective subject, provides a highly respected but broad liberal arts education.

The IBD’s independence over the past 40 years from the meddling of national governments of different hues has secured it from the buffeting of adversarial politics and also from the diminution of credibility that ensues from grade inflation. Not only does it provide an international academic passport that is widely accepted across the globe, but the culture of internationalism pervades the teaching of subjects to the benefit of its students.

Click here for the rest of the story from the Independent website…

Round Square International Schools February 24, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education, New releases.
add a comment

We have just begun the process of putting together the 2011/12 edition of The John Catt Guide to International Schools. It will be the 9th edition of the book, which is a comprehensive overview of international education around the world.

It contains directory information of over 2000 international schools; profiles of some of the leading schools; editorial by leading figures; curriculum, examination and accreditation information; and info on the biggest membership associations. The 2011/12 edition will also, for the first time, also be available as an eBook, meaning distribution will be comprehensive.

In last year’s edition we carried a feature written by Round Square executive director Brian Dawson, about the work the organisation do around the world: an extract is reproduced below…

Educators internationally understand the need to prepare young men and women for an ever changing world. They recognise that academic pursuit, whilst vital, is no longer sufficient to prepare the youth of today to be the adults of tomorrow. This is not a new notion and there have been volumes written on this subject. Indeed it is from such a challenge that the Round Square Schools Organisation has its origins. The search for a common understanding and approach to this situation is no without difficulty. If one were to compare schools on a global scale, one would discover as many differences as similarities and uniting such diverse communities into a common purpose would be challenging indeed. However, Round Square as an organisation actively addresses this issue through a philosophy of international understanding, democracy, environmental stewardship, adventure, leadership and service.

Round Square has its foundation in the theories of the experiential educational philosopher Kurt Hahn who believed that schools should have a greater purpose beyond preparing young people for college and university. Hahn believed that it was crucial for students to prepare for life by having them face it head on and experience it in ways that would demand courage, generosity, imagination, principle and resolution. As a result, he felt that young people would become empowered and develop the skills and abilities to be the leaders and guardians of tomorrow’s world. He believed that, given the appropriate set of circumstances and the correct attitude, young men and women could discover their own inner strength and an understanding of the physical and social world around them.

Currently there are more than 70 global member schools, and 20 regional member schools worldwide who actively subscribe to Hahn’s philosophy, believing that the pillars of his insight are the ideals on which our future is built.

These broad fundamentals cover a wide spectrum of social, political and economic environments and are:
• an international understanding and tolerance of others,
• democratic governance and justice,
• environmental stewardship,
• self discovery through adventure,
• leadership and
• service to others.

The implementation of the Round Square ideals occurs through a number of planned activities that occurs on many different levels. Such activities occur within member schools, between member schools and across domestic and international aboundaries. They include local and international student exchanges; Round Square International Service Projects that change the lives of underprivileged communities or assist threatened environments; regional projects that are smaller scale international projects; and conferences that are presented both nationally and internationally that allow student delegates to meet from many dissimilar localities and share cultural differences.

Round Square is a global association of schools that share a commitment, beyond academic merit, to personal growth and responsibility through service, challenge, adventure and international understanding, which ultimately seeks to empower students to become leaders and guardians of tomorrow’s world. Recently, the organisation has embarked on a programme of measured growth and inclusion, which will afford many more schools and communities access to the opportunities that it initiates.

For more details on Round Square, visit: http://www.roundsquare.org/

SHMIS Annual Conference, Telford February 21, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Conferences.
add a comment

John Catt Educational will be exhibiting at the Society of Heads of Independent Schools (SHMIS) Annual Conference at the Telford Hotel, Sutton Heights from Monday February 28th to March 2.

SHMIS is an organisation of just over 100 well-established Independent schools and is one of the constituent organisations of the Independent Schools Council. SHMIS was formed in 1961 and has since has grown substantially in size, reputation and effectiveness, now representing schools of all sizes throughout the country with a small number of valued overseas members.

If you are also attending the conference, do visit our stand where managing editor Alex will be happy to talk you through our past, present and future publications.

Celebrating creativity at Tonbridge School February 16, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in New releases.
add a comment

Spring 2011 will see John Catt Educational publish an exciting new book by Jonathan Smith, The Following Game. The book succeeds The Learning Game, Jonathan’s  critically-acclaimed 2002 book about the personal journey from his first days as a pupil through to the challenges of his professional and private life as a teacher on the other side of the desk.

Jonathan was, for many years, head of English at Tonbridge School. On Thursday 17th February, he has organised an An evening with some of the creative stars of the school, past and present, including: Benjamin Whitrow (actor in BBC’s Pride & Prejudice); Anthony Seldon (Tony Blair’s biographer); Christopher Reid (Costa Book Award Winner); Peter Carpenter (Poetry Society Chair); Dan Stevens (actor in ITV’s Downton Abbey); and Ed Smith (writer and journalist).

For more details, visit: http://www.tonbridge-school.co.uk/calendar/category/theatre/future/

Is the Common Entrance exam outdated? February 16, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education.
add a comment

A group of Heads of UK independent schools –including KCS Wimbledon, Haileybury, St Edward’s Oxford and Wellington College – met this week to see if they can come up with an alternative to the Common Entrance exam.

First introduced in 1904, Common Entrance is taken by children applying to independent secondary schools at age 11 and 13. Pupils are entered for the exam if they have been offered a place at a school, subject to passing it. The exam is then marked by the relevant school.

Two of our publications recently featured editorial from professionals discussing the current system. One is in favour of introducing a newer, more relevant system; the second sees merit in Common Entrance, providing it is updated and reviewed to ensure it remains relevant.

The first, from an extract from an article in the spring 2011 issue of Prep School magazine, is from Paul Baker. Paul taught for taught for 38 years in both prep and senior independent schools before retiring from teaching in 2008. He is now professional tutor for the staff at New College School, Oxford; an ISI inspector; and PGCE tutor for the University of Buckingham.

“The Common Entrance examination remains firmly focused, in many cases, on learning facts. This contrasts with the current Key Stage 3 curriculum which emphasises the development of a child’s personal, thinking and learning skills in six specific areas: independent enquiry, creative thinking, reflective learning, teamwork, self-ma

nagement and effective participation. While mastery of a subject will always be important, it should be clear that it is excellence in these skills that will help our children thrive in a changing world.

“If we encourage serious, joined-up thinking amongst the stakeholders in our preparatory and senior schools, I think we can create a new framework that will take our students from Year 7 to the end of Year 9 without the imp

ediment of the Common Entrance examination. I believe that Common Entrance restricts the education currently being delivered in Years 7 and 8. Worse, it is often the case that even in Year 9, when the pupils have moved on to senior schools, there is an uneasy mixture of the old and the new. Pupils and teachers try to establish some p

rogression but, in many cases, work is repeated and pupils fail to advance skills, knowledge or understanding.

“There will be those who argue that Common Entrance is a convenient ‘setting’ exercise for the senior schools but we need to remember that many of the schools will have pretested children at 10- or 11-years-old. Indeed, if Headmasters, parents and teachers all communicate efficiently, no child should fail Common Entrance. What an indictment on our system that we have to use an oldfashioned examination for setting, and that the curriculum has to be planned for this.”

This second extract is taken from the our forthcoming Preparatory Schools 2011 guidebook (due for publicationnext week), and is written by Chris Calvey, Head of Ardingley College.

“Prep School, in essence, should be enchanting.  Children should be captivated by a love of learning; a desire to want to find out more. Their natural curiosity should be something we use to guide them through their subjects.  In my view, the broad curriculum of Common Entrance will allow most children to build on that curiosity, strengthening their knowledge and their comprehension, as well as their ability to demonstrate that understanding.  For these children, Common Entrance, its curriculum and, of course, those final exams are highly beneficial. The CE prepares pupils for GCSEs, A Level or IB exams, whilst also keeping alive and building on their ability and love of learning.

“For other children, the pace and demanding nature of the curriculum may be so great that it erodes that love of learning and curiosity, turning school into a place that is anything but enchanting.  For such pupils, the standard Common Entrance is not ideal. However, that does not mean we should reject it. After all, CE caters for everyone because of the option of differentiated papers that means pupils can go at their own pace.”

Just two of many different opinions on Common Entrance. Feel free to share yours…

Body and Soul: the work-life balance of a Head… February 9, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Magazines.
add a comment

John Newton is Head at Taunton School, Somerset. Below is an extract from the excellent article he contributed to the spring 2011 issue of Conference & Common Room magazine, the official magazine of the leading independent schools in the UK, on the many roles of the modern Head.

It is a remarkable job that Heads do. Little did I think when I started my career in 1989 that by 2010 I would have to understand UK visa requirements, library square meterages, planning permission, pension schemes, gang mowers, analysis of local traffic flow and balance sheets.

You could all add to the list of arcane areas in which you find yourself battling as a non-expert to grasp the essence of an issue as it is explained by some besuited and besotted zealot.

The butterfly mind of a dilettante is a crucial asset as we do our jobs day by day, but I am sure that this was not always the case. Heads used to handle the curricular and the non-curricular sides to school life and we had bursars to deal with the vulgar stuff like budgets and building regulations. Then came the 1992 recession and those three dreaded letters began to drop their cold dead hands onto our job descriptions: CEO.

I confess that when asked what I do, I am still adamant that I am a Headmaster, but one with many guises.  Your staff want you to be Gordon of Khartoum, your governors prefer you to act like Gordon Ramsey. We are already seeing the next iteration of Headship – the American model of being totally given over to fundraising and alumni work, wowing audiences across the globe with tales of school success in order to rake in the shekels. Flash Gordon, too, then.

I have to say that my blood turned cold when we were asked whether we should be seeking to get into bed with the National College of School Leadership and evolve a qualification for Headship. Fine if it is optional, but disastrous if obligatory. Good Heads, Heads who stay the course, who can still inspire in the twilight years, Heads who can care for their wayward charges even when their own parent is ill or a personal issue is niggling – such folk are not made, but born.

We are ultimately, as we tell our pupils to be, rounded individuals with spiritual, physical, cultural and social needs. We are a whole collection of principles that get us through, armed with touchstones and bons mots that we refer to or quote when the chips are down. Mine come mainly from The Godfather: “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer” is, I think, my favourite.

And what other books sit on the bedside table? At a recent meeting of Heads, we opened proceedings with a word from everyone about what they had read over the previous vacation. It was a moment of sanity.

But back to the tedium. How does the working day run? Are you a night owl or an early bird? Do you handle the same piece of paper more than once or are you a desk clearer? Do you have a study or an office? Are you technophobe or technophile? Do you have a PA or a secretary? Or several? Given the choice do you walk, drive, cycle or scooter to work? And then there is the time away. Is it crash out in Corfu or nourish the mind in Madrid? Is it downhill skiing or a fairway in the Algarve?

If you have read this far, you clearly either have very little to do or are very much on top of your brief. My fear about C&CR articles is that they can be a little lengthy, so I am going to stop provoking you and go back to our pensions policy. If the Editor permits (He does! Ed.), I may return with something from someone out there about how they deal with life at the top. It will be apt for the twitter generation (pithy will be in, wordy out) and provide a few personal reflections for the benefit of the other inmates in our delightful asylum.

Conference & Common Room is published by John Catt Educational on behalf of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) and is the magazine of leading independent schools in the UK. It is available as a two-year subscription for £25 (postage included) or single copies can be viewed via eZine.

the gap-year guidebook: now available on the move! February 8, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in New releases, the gap-year guidebook.
add a comment

the gap-year guidebook 2011 is now available to buy as a PDF eBook, meaning you can access 11 chapters of unbiased and informative gap-year and career break advice on a wide variety of new platforms.

The new digital edition of our popular guidebook can now be read in full colour on eBook readers, PCs, Apple products, mobile phones and tablet devices. Visit our bookshop for more details.

And that’s not the only piece of good news for potential gappers: a report released recently suggested that a gap-year can be even more important than a degree when it comes to getting your dream job.

Management Today magazine says that a survey of UK managers said that 56% of recruiters believe a gap-year was more important than a university degree and 7% actually think that a gap-year is even more useful than three years at university.

The HR, transport and healthcare sectors are the most likely to consider gap-years as worth more than a degree – although those in engineering are most likely to take the opposite view.

New! John Catt Bookstore – the world at your fingertips! February 7, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Marketing.
add a comment

The Joys of Gardening February 4, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, Magazines.
add a comment

Pupils at Barfield School enjoying the fruits of their labours

In this extract from an article from the spring 2011 issue of Prep School magazine, Christina Tupper, science teacher at Barfield School, shares the view that the importance of encouraging children to participate in ‘hands-on learning’ is undeniable…

A garden presents countless opportunities for children of all ages to do just that. Surely, all children should experience the process of preparing a window box, a raised bed or a patch of land to grow plants. Not only is it good physical activity, albeit potentially messy, but also there are aspects of the whole experience that transcend the ever-present learning objectives to which we teachers have to attend.

Great determination is required to push a hand-trowel into hard soil, especially when trying to dig to the very bottom of that frustratingly deep dandelion root. Physical strength and co-ordination are involved in simply getting a fork fully into the ground (hopefully without going through someone’s foot: another excellent health and safety learning opportunity).

It is to be celebrated, especially if leaning back on the fork brings forth a clump of soil teeming with worms and various other invertebrates. Then there is the broader learning of awe and wonder: the simple acknowledgement of one of life’s dirtier secrets, that manure means bigger and better plants. This can take some adjustment in young people’s minds when they are so often steered away from such dirty concepts.

Once the beds are prepared, there are negotiations to be done with the children to decide on which seeds to sow. This planning needs input from the teachers as their choices can be ambitious; they may not appreciate the extent to which pumpkins will grow and cover everything, or that many plants neither flower nor produce fruit in line with school terms, so they won’t see ‘the fruits of their labours’.

What a joy it is to see the culmination of the season’s growth, and to see little hands ripping up potato plants and digging furiously through the soil for soon-to-be-potato dishes; mashed, boiled, roast or in a salad with strips of the neighbouring chives. Tomatoes can be so immediate, if they can be turning red as the children come back to school after the summer holidays, as they can pick them, and if brave enough, eat the juicy little ones there and then. As for strawberries, there are few plants with such a wow-factor.

Provided that the slugs and birds have been kept at bay, nothing competes with a fresh, juicy, sweet strawberry. It is at this point however, that, with careful planning and considerable patience and will-power, the harvest can be taken even further. If the children can avoid the temptation of just chomping on a particularly juicy looking strawberry, they can cut off the green bits, wash them, and put them straight away into the freezer.

There, the whole season’s crop can be gathered, to be brought out on a dull autumn day, thawed, then blended into a smoothie, or if you are feeling indulgent, with a block of vanilla ice cream and milk, into a glorious milkshake…

Prep School magazine is the only magazine written by prep and junior school teachers, for prep and junior school teachers. It is published three times a year, at the start of each school term (September, January and May) and available as a two-year subscription or a single issue purchase via eZine.

“Powerful, performable and publishable” February 1, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, Magazines.
add a comment

Stephen Davies teaches English and other things at Kitebrook House. In this article from the recent spring 2011 issue of Prep School magazine he shares his passion for poetry and makes the case for living and breathing real poetry, not just analysing it in an exam!

As the organiser (but not the judge) of the annual satips poetry competition I get to sample more than 750 poems from children aged 7-13. It is rarely boring.

In 2010 our judge was Professor David Morley of Warwick University, who in his report was enthusiastic in his praise of the winning poems (“They are powerful, performable and publishable”) and he congratulated the outstanding teachers for enabling such writing to flourish. Here is one of the winning poems, which speaks for itself, I think:

Twilight White Owl
First Prize, Years 5 and 6 Category
James Coto, Lanesborough School

To see the twilight white owl wavering over the dew-mist
Startles my heart, a mouse in its house,
Remembering a dim past
When we were only the weight of shrews, maybe, and everything ate us
In a steaming, echoing jungle, of night-flying alligators
And the dawn-chorus shook the swamps, like a booming orchestra
Where Brontosaurs were merely the flutes and land-whales beat on the drum of the ear
It has all sunk into the fern-fringed forest pool of the owl’s eye,
But it reaches over the farm like a claw in the owl’s haunting cry.
The owl sways, weighing the silent world, his huge gaze dry and light
Flying with a sense of immortality and never coming down from the dew-mist sky.
“Hoot! Hoot”, dawn is approaching,
The twilight owl makes his way down to the ground into a fresh beech tree,
Spins his head round, checking his surroundings and going to sleep
Waiting for the next twilight to fall.

Wow! So, children are the most natural of poets: they have the ability to observe, to see things as if for the first time, to invent new language, to play with sounds and rhythms. (There are plenty of older poets who have had to re-teach themselves these skills.)

But it can also be argued (and perhaps this was truer in the past) that if we, as pressurised teachers preparing for such events as Common Entrance, are not careful , we will create children who only ever read poems in examinations. Poems written by strange beings called ‘poets’ become like algebra – a problem to be solved, a code you have to crack. The same children who write so freely can, by the time they get to senior school, say that they ‘don’t like poetry’.

This, of course, is very unfair. Imagine someone saying they didn’t like music – they just like different sorts. So poetry can suffer, and has suffered, from a bad press. Rather like the recent RSC appeal to teachers of Shakespeare (‘Do it on your feet’; ‘See it live’; ‘Start it earlier’) there’s a case for a review. I think getting your children reading poetry out loud (on their feet), meeting writers and poets (see it live) and doing it regularly and from an early age has immeasurable benefits – of course it does. But – and here’s where the satips poetry competition comes in – best of all is to get the children writing for themselves…

For more information on the satips poetry competition, visit the satips website or email sdavies@kitebrookhouse.com