The new year has got off to an ironic start with many pupils going ‘old school’ in this round-up of recent events from the world of independent education.
2019 has blossomed and it’s out with email and Wii games and in with snail mail and conventional entertainment – to much delight!
Royal Mail Magic
Reception children from St Dunstan’s College, located in Catford, London – not to mention the staff – were delighted to receive a message from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex after sending them handmade cards in December to wish them ‘Happy Christmas’.
The card read: ‘The Duke and Duchess of Sussex thank you for the very kind message you sent for Christmas. This was most thoughtful of you and greatly appreciated by Their Royal Highnesses who send their best wishes for Christmas and for the New Year.’
It was great to receive something back from the palace. The children were excited to receive a message from a real prince and princess.Tamara Shaw, head of St Dunstan’s Pre-Prep
St Dunstan’s College‘s reception class 00P designed their card based on the famous Van Gogh Starry Night painting which they had learnt about recently. Meanwhile, class 00R went for a more traditional festive scene with a Christmas tree on the front.
Exchanging cards at Christmas doesn’t get more exciting than this, and it proves that good old snail mail remains far more magical an experience than a festival email – signed by royals or not!
A cast of 165 Dauntsey’s pupils, supported by 30 more backstage or in the band, delighted sell-out audiences with an energetic and thrilling production of Our House in December. The musical, revolving around the songs of pop band Madness, follows the story of London lad Joe Casey who finds himself facing a tough decision. The plot splits in two and the audience follows the parallel stories of Good Joe and Bad Joe.
Our House explores the themes of love, family values, growing up and dealing with the loss of the people that shape us. The lyrics of the songs are witty and, at times, very moving and make for a challenging production involving a large cast.Rikki Jackson, Director of Drama
The show received standing ovations from audiences totalling 3,000, who watched performances over the five-night run. Backstage, the School’s hi-tech sound and light system, worthy of a West End theatre, brought the musical to life in spectacular fashion, and the band performed one hit number after another with great skill and energy.
One Dauntsey’s parent commented: ‘There is always a special kind of magic on stage when you are watching the December musical… so much joy – exactly what theatre in schools should be about. Well done all.’
With millennials ditching their phones and driving a boardgame resurgence this year, appetite from pupils at Ampleforth College for family favourites such as Chess and Monopoly demonstrate that the games cupboard has a life far beyond that as a Christmas staple.
Last month the World Chess Championship was hosted in London, raising the game’s profile, and cementing it as one of Ampleforth’s 70 extra-curricular activities. To meet demand, the school’s chess team practises weekly, going up against university students to qualify for the National 20/20 final last year.
Pupils at the school in north Yorskshire also find Ampleforth-branded Monopoly sets alongside regular boxes of Draughts, Snakes and Ladders and Cluedo at boarding houses across the campus.
Housemaster Jon Mutton who himself represented England at Chess said, ‘Larger groups of children find it tough to play on a Wii but games like chess and Monopoly are a popular way for pupils to spend time together and learn about healthy competition in their spare time.
‘Social skills such as taking turns, integrity and cause and effect are in play as well as numeracy, strategy and focus, which all help in the classroom too.’Jon Mutton, Housemaster
Since a government-funded study in 2016 found that one in nine children in England had not visited a natural environment – not even a park – in 12 months, the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas has become increasingly concerned about the rise of nature deficit disorder. Lucas recently proposed to introduce a GCSE in Natural History, so that new generations learn to understand, appreciate and enjoy nature, regardless of the environment they grow up in.
St Nicholas Prep is lucky to be able to lead the charge in London as one of the only schools with access to the outdoors, indeed it is literally on their doorstep. Making efforts to ensure time spent using new tech is not at the expense of time spent outdoors is vital to the development of young children, who will likely be the first generation to use AI as adults.
Anyone regularly accompanying children outside sees the intrigue, sense of wonder and excitement that is generated when young people actively engage with their environment. St Nicholas Preparatory School enjoys an unrivalled, unspoiled green spot in the capital; the proud owner of a large two-acre garden, it is also located only a stone’s throw from Hyde Park.
Children use the garden at break times and even during lessons, such as art, as a classroom. Paired with the park, the pupils have enviable opportunities, particularly for such a central London location.
The weekly outdoor learning programme provided, coupled with the outstanding resources, gives children an interaction with the natural world which offers them inimitable experiences. This is further enhanced with the use of Hyde Park, for sports lessons and matches. All this in an era that sees children becoming increasingly alienated from the natural world.