Independent schools should embrace and exploit their independence. None of us would deny the central importance of a high quality academic education, but teaching to the test does not achieve that. It might create a generation or two of well qualified examinees, but where is their initiative, their creativity, their ability to find imaginative solutions? "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire", I do like that. Schools I enjoy and teachers I admire do not see teaching as an exercise in filling buckets - treating pupils like empty vessels that remain inanimate while someone tops them up - but as a process of lighting fires: sparking the curiosity, inventiveness and expression that fuels genuine, deep-seated learning together with the ability and the confidence to apply the skills and knowledge learnt.
It is at prep school that children are of the age to acquire a set of values and standards that can help them navigate some of the choppy waters that will inevitably come their way. I believe the right school environment can imbue children with a clear understanding of right and wrong, of how to demonstrate respect and tolerance, and how to contribute positively towards establishing and maintaining good relations with peers. We have also adopted a version of the 5Rs, promoting readiness, resourcefulness, resilience, responsibility and reflectiveness. We give children a chance to self-assess themselves in these five areas on a regular basis and we comment on and reward examples of these qualities in their work and in their attitude and behaviour around the school.
We want to enable our children to enjoy the widest possible breadth of experience; to have the chance to discover areas that engage their interest, activities at which they find they have some ability and others that are simply fun. This way children begin to define themselves - an important part of their development. A crucial part of this is to stimulate creativity and to provide a fulfilling programme of physical activities. Music is a well-established strength, our Art is remarkable and brightens vast areas of the school, Dance is very popular and Drama is making the most of our superbly equipped theatre - a cast of 400 in "Lion King"! With well-being quite rightly so high on every school's agenda, we should not ignore the benefits of such a broad range of active involvement.