Three Pillars

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

Your playing small does not serve the world.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.

(Marianne Williamson – US political activist)

After the foundations are set right, the education then needs to be built strong and firm, so that our young people leave us with all the skills necessary to succeed in the future.

We succeed, as an educational establishment, if our young people leave us ready to succeed themselves, wherever they find themselves.

To that end, therefore, we have created the concept of the three pillars. These three pillars represent the three aspects of what it means to be human. They are:

  • Our Mental / Academic side
  • Our Physical side
  • Our Emotional side

Some schools focus on the academic to the exclusion of all other; the ‘hothouses’ that prize exam success, producing young people ripe for burn-out when they go to university, or completely unskilled at dealing with ‘failure’ because they have only experienced ‘success’.

Others prize the ‘Adonis’, the football / hockey / basketball ace who helps the school team win prize after prize. The sporting hero, who thinks the world should owe them a living.

And few schools today do more than pay lip service to the emotional and mental health side of the modern young person. There is no doubt that the world is a much more complex place to grow up in than it ever was, and yet so many schools take the ‘school of hard knocks’ approach to supporting young people through these vital years in their growth, with the result that young people leave school not just unprepared to cope with the pressures of modern life, but more often than not leave schools with bruises and scars deep inside themselves, that hamper their development throughout their lives.

The Myddelton College Pedagogy challenges this and states that all three aspects of ourselves are equally important and all three are vital to the genuine and long-term success and development of our young people.

The Mental Pillar

It is a truism that, as a school, we need to ensure that all our students achieve the best the possibly can, academically, in national / internationally recognised examinations. But there are more routes to this end than the obvious one taken by most educational establishments.

First of all, academic achievement is a journey, not a goal; it is important to know where a young person starts from, in order to ensure that they can succeed. This is so often ignored, in the race of league tables and the all-important headline figures, where young people are treated more as a statistic than an individual. Lev Vygotsky, the 20th Century Soviet Psychologist, coined the phrase “Zone of Proximal Development” (Vygotsky, 1987); The ZPD defines the academic area which is just beyond a person’s understanding, but not so far beyond that they have no understanding of how to assimilate the new knowledge into their mental framework. Vygotsky was the first to understand that the starting point is just as important as the goal in terms of helping a young person grow and develop.

So a truly solid mental pillar takes account of each individual’s starting point, then builds the journey so that they can achieve success, growing in their understanding of the world, without ever being made to feel stupid.

The Physical Pillar

This is so much more than sporting excellence. As already outlined in Dimension 1 (Marzano, 1992), if a student’s physical self is not secure, then they will not be in the best state to learn and grow. According to Maslow (1948), the Physiological needs (Food, water, sleep, etc.) are the most basic.

So at Myddelton, the Physical Pillar includes care and attention to the details of everyday life; Helping our young people have high quality sleep (by trying to persuade them to turn off devices at a healthy hour…), drinking enough water throughout the day, etc.

Also, ensuring that our catering partners fully understand our commitment to the health of our young people; food menus prepared in consultation with a nutritionist & planned, throughout the year, to compliment the college calendar, with different foods highlighted at different times of the year & local suppliers preferred, ensuring that the food entering the bodies of our young people is as healthy as it can possibly be – another truism is that we are, quite literally, what we eat!

We mustn’t forget the physical exercise aspects, however. Physical literacy, helping young people understand themselves as physical beings and helping them extend themselves physically as well as mentally, has to be a priority of any well-rounded education. The Myddelton Outdoor Learning programme is designed to ensure that every student has the chance of success, building on the same principles as the mental pillar & Vygotsky’s ZPD. Whilst bulk team sports, such as Football, Rugby, Netball and Hockey are, indeed, worthy sports, it must be remembered that they are popular in schools simply because they serve to occupy a large number of students at the same time, with minimal input. For every student who enjoys such sports, there is one who wishes the position ‘Right Back’ meant right back in the warmth of the changing room. It is also worth noting that school sports are failing to address a growing crisis of youth obesity and inactivity; if these school sports encouraged young people to be more healthy, there would be team sports groups growing in abundance and more people would be outside participating than sit in darkened rooms cheering on their particular colour tribe in that day’s fixture.

Physical sport should encourage a young person to extend themselves and see themself as a physical being – by building a programme that includes climbing, caving, orienteering and triathlon sports, young people have a wider exposure to what they are capable of. By adding in leadership opportunities and skills such as First Aid, the Myddelton Outdoor Learning programme provides a strong thread to this pillar.

The Emotional Pillar

It has been calculated that a week’s worth of any major newspaper contains more new information than Shakespeare encountered in his entire life span. We are living in increasingly complex times, with more and more pressures on us every day. For young people, this is even truer, with the internet, social media and the cult of celebrity impacting on their psyche every day.

There are trendy terms, such as developing ‘Grit’, or resilience, applied to school programmes that attempt to address this, but it is far too often a bolt-on to existing structures, and as such tends to only pay lip service to what is a vital component of a young person’s education. This is why it is the third pillar in our pedagogy; without embedding an understanding of and sympathetic systems to support the development of the individual as am emotional being, the structure is unstable and can easily be toppled.

From Maslow’s perspective, once the physical side has been addressed, the entire hierarchy builds on the emotional strength of the individual.

From the basic safety aspect, with young people feeling safe from harm (physical or emotional) in school, through the important sense of belonging, through to developing self-esteem, respect (for others and self) & self-confidence, emotional strengths are integral aspects of a comprehensive education and these aspects need embedding in every structure within the school.

 

References

Marzano, R. J. (1992). A different kind of classroom: Teaching with dimensions of learning. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1250 North Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Maslow, A. H. (1948). “Higher” and “lower” needs. The journal of psychology, 25(2), 433-436.

Vygotsky, L. (1987). Zone of Proximal Development. In Mind in Society: The development of higher psychological processes, 5291

Three Pillars

Dimensions of Learning – Part 2

Learning as a habit.

Following our aim to be a great school, we have had to explore what we mean by this and what our ‘output’ should be.

Lots of schools have focussed on exam results as their ‘measurable’, boasting about how many students gained some arbitrary  measure of ‘success’. Others boast about preparing students for careers, completely missing the point that students need to be able to re-create themselves many times over in the modern workplace.

For us, we want our students to leave with the skills necessary for continued, sustainable and real life-long learning. A huge part of this is the development of deep learning tools, or as Art Costa described them, effective ‘Habits of Mind’.

habits-of-mind-poster

 

The most effective learners have developed powerful habits of mind that enable them to think critically, think creatively, and regulate their behaviour. These mental habits are:

 

Critical thinking:

  • Be accurate and seek accuracy
  • Be clear and seek clarity
  • Maintain an open mind
  • Restrain impulsivity
  • Take a position when the situation warrants it
  • Respond appropriately to others’ feelings and level of knowledge

Creative thinking:

  • Persevere
  • Push the limits of your knowledge and abilities
  • Generate, trust, and maintain your own standards of evaluation
  • Generate new ways of viewing a situation that are outside the boundaries of standard conventions

Self-regulated thinking:

  • Monitor your own thinking
  • Plan appropriately
  • Identify and use necessary resources
  • Respond appropriately to feedback
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your actions

With the overlay of 21st Century Skill development, alongside the Marzano Dimensions of learning, we have prepared a true, modern foundation on which to create our unique pedagogy, which I will explore further in future posts.

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 14.16.25

(Picture courtesy of Tamara Sullivan, Dean of e-learning, Ormiston College, Brisbane, Australia)

Dimensions of Learning – Part 2

Dimensions of Learning – Part 1

More than just an education

Being a great school requires more than just providing the best possible education, or at least it requires a different view of what education is.

With the 21st Century Learning Design (21CLD) skills as the foundation for everything we are about, we then need to ensure we fully re-think the how, what and why of what education is about. The quote above comes from our college ethos statement and is, in summary, exactly what we are about; providing ‘great’ education by looking differently at what education actually is.

There’s a plethora of educational initiatives out there & each year one seems become the trendy ‘go to’ theory that’s going to revolutionise learning; they never do … Primarily because they have been watered down in translation through government committees, or because they have been mis-translated by enthusiastic trainers looking for a new angle to sell professional development courses to schools. Whether it’s ‘VAK’ or the more current ‘grit’, these fads do all have some basis in academic research ; it’s just that they miss the point when they reach the classroom.

One way to avoid fads is to base the whole pedagogy on a single, thorough, lasting model. Alongside the 21st Century Learning Skills foundation, we have taken on the work of Robert Marzano (Marzano, 1992), where he describes 5 ‘Dimensions’ of leaning, and embracing the effective ‘Habits of Mind’, described by Costa & Kallick (2000).

The Dimensions of Learning provide an entire description of effective learning that can be used to ensure that have, as our introduction to our ethos states, a different view of what education is.

The dimensions fit perfectly into short term planning, and provide further structure to embed the 21CLD skills. They also provide (if needed) a formal justification for putting student wellbeing at the heart of the school.

There are 5 Dimensions, as described by Marzano which together provide an entire framework for a 21st Century school:

Dimension 1: Attitudes and Perceptions

Attitudes and perceptions affect students’ ability to learn. For example, if students view the classroom as an unsafe and disorderly place, they will likely learn little there. Similarly, if students have negative attitudes about classroom tasks, they will probably put little effort into those tasks. A key element of effective instruction, then, is helping students to establish positive attitudes and perceptions about the classroom and about learning.

This, then, provides a modern justification, also, of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1948) – Without ensuring that a student feels safe, secure and cared for (Maslow’s three ‘lower’ needs), then they will not be receptive to any effective learning.

Therefore classroom layout, pastoral structures, teacher-student interaction, all of this is essential in getting the first part of being a great establishment right.

So, in our classrooms, we are installing 2 flat screen TVs, in place of the now endemic ‘smart’ board and projector. The TVs have higher quality displays, higher contrast and are easier to see in bright light (so there’s no need to have students sitting in darkness as if they were vampires off the set of a Twilight movie).

With teacher and student all having a touch-screen windows 10 device in front of them, and all material delivered through collaborative OneNote notebooks, the classroom becomes a much more dynamic environment. This, then, encourages effective and real use of ICT (one of the 21CLD skills)

And our classrooms are, therefore, bright, light and airy, with tables in ‘clusters’, to encourage collaborative learning.

Staff are expected to treat all students with the same level of respect they would expect & the environment encourages the attitude of collaborative learning (the first 21CLD skill) & self-regulation (another 21CLD skill!).

And even in simple interactions; an Australian Principal & School Leadership Expert, recently posted on the Microsoft Showcase School Leaders Yammer group a challenge to think twice about even the simple questions you ask when walking down a corridor. Rather than asking the standard ‘How’s it going?’ style of question, why not ask a ‘real’ question, such as:

“I’ve been thinking about … what do you think?” – making real connections and valuing people in the organisation, wherever you meet them. (Read the full quote here)

Dimensions 2, 3 & 4: Knowledge

The core 4 dimensions, then, outline the different levels and types of learning, with knowledge acquisition, extension and use being the focus of what the classroom engagement is all about…

Dimension 2: Acquire and Integrate Knowledge

Helping students acquire and integrate new knowledge is another important aspect of learning. When students are learning new information, they must be guided in relating the new knowledge to what they already know, organising that information, and then making it part of their long-term memory. When students are acquiring new skills and processes, they must learn a model (or set of steps), then shape the skill or process to make it efficient and effective for them, and, finally, internalise or practice the skill or process so they can perform it easily.

Dimension 3: Extend and Refine Knowledge

Learning does not stop with acquiring and integrating knowledge. Learners develop in-depth understanding through the process of extending and refining their knowledge (e.g., by making new distinctions, clearing up misconceptions, and reaching conclusions.) They rigorously analyse what they have learned by applying reasoning processes that will help them extend and refine the information. This is another of the key 21CLD skills.

Dimension 4: Use Knowledge Meaningfully

The most effective learning occurs when we use knowledge to perform meaningful tasks. For example, we might initially learn about tennis racquets by talking to a friend or reading a magazine article about them. We really learn about them, however, when we are trying to decide what kind of tennis racquet to buy. Making sure that students have the opportunity to use knowledge meaningfully is one of the most important parts of planning a unit of instruction. This is, in the 211CLD skills, the application of knowledge to real-world problem solving.

Dimension 5: Productive Habits of Mind

The most effective learners have developed powerful habits of mind that enable them to think critically, think creatively, and regulate their behaviour. Developing these habits of mind is, effectively, the over-arching goal, as when a student has effective habits of mind, they are then in a state where learning becomes second nature and they will learn throughout their lives. I will explore Habits of Mind more fully in a separate post.


References:

Costa, A. L., & Kallick, B. (2000). Discovering & Exploring Habits of Mind. A Developmental Series, Book 1. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1703 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311-1714

Marzano, R. J. (1992). A different kind of classroom: Teaching with dimensions of learning. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1250 North Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Maslow, A. H. (1948). “Higher” and “lower” needs. The journal of psychology, 25(2), 433-436.

Dimensions of Learning – Part 1

More than just an education – building a school fit for the 21st Century

At our last open day, in May, I talked about the underlying theories we are building our curriculum on. Over the next few posts, I will go into more detail about the various elements of our curriculum, explaining how it all fits together. 

Today: 

Part 1 – starting with the foundations.

A school committed to preparing young people for the future needs to rethink it’s very foundations on which it’s very purpose is prepared. The old foundations of the ‘Three R’s’ (Reading, Writing, Arithmetic) are fine, and still valid, but go nowhere near far enough in providing the skills needed for modern life. The three R’s come from an era where it was only necessary to prepare the bulk of school leavers to be sufficiently educated enough to follow instructions on the factory floor . . . 

Our students deserve to hope for much more than that and so need a much greater set of skills to enable them to succeed! Following global research, sponsored by Microsoft, we have placed a set of 6 skills as the foundations on which everything we believe in is built. These 21CLD skills, then, form our foundations and everything we are building rests on them.

These 6 skills from the heart of the 21st Century Learning Design programme and are:

Collaboration

The need to collaborate in the modern world is much more essential than ever before. Tasks are more complex than ever beforehand jobs today require teamwork and collaboration to be at the heart of our daily working pattern. The days of putting competition inside the classroom are long gone and schools that still see academic achievement as a competition between students is one still basing its practice in the 18th century! There is a healthy place for competition in schools (which is why we’re having traditional ‘houses’, with students competing to gain points for their house in various ways), but not in the classroom – learning is best done together, learning off and with each other in a collaborative environment. 

Knowledge Construction

This is a whole article in its own right, but simply, there’s three ‘levels’ to knowledge – factual acquisition, where we learn new facts, is the simplest. Young children learn facts very quickly, as any parent will testify when their 6 year old can recite the names of every dinosaur that ever lived!! This is the most basic level of knowledge, however (although it happens to be the most easily assessed and so forms the heart of western exam systems). 

Learning shouldn’t stop here, however & according to Costa (Costa, A., & Kallick, B. (2000). Habits of mind: A developmental series. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.), knowledge is better when it’s integrated into a student’s existing framework of understanding – when it’s ‘owned’ by them. This is, to a lesser extent still part of the examination system and so is sometimes focussed on by schools.

However, the highest level of knowledge is the creation of new structures, where the student is using the acquired knowledge to create new concepts in their mind; when they are extending and refining their understanding of the world around them. This is knowledge construction and happens to be almost impossible to examine in current systems (making it something that too many schools simply ignore). 

Self-Regulation

In order to collaborate effectively, a person needs to be in control of themselves first and foremost. Self-regulation, the ability to understand and control one’s own emotions and motivations, is a crucial ‘modern’ skill that our students need to learn. This is one of a broad umbrella of ‘soft’ skills that are frequently ignored, with the assumption that students will learn it through the process of growing up. This clearly isn’t the case for a significant number of young people.

Real World Problem Solving

The best educators always try to ensure that new knowledge is framed within ‘real life’, but for knowledge to be fully integrated into a person’s mind, it must be applied to something in the physical, real world. I can, for example, learn all about playing tennis from a book & watching it on the TV. I can even learn how to play using, for example, a hand controller on a console. I can compare it to playing other racquet sports I have played, but until I stand on a tennis court and play a real opponent, I have not fully learnt how to play tennis.

Effective use of ICT

I have said it before, but will say it again; Technology alone cannot change anything, but without it, we will not have lasting change. 

ICT alone will not transform learning, but learning will not be transformed without it.

Technology is an integral part of our world, our society, and we need to embrace it and use it in the most effective way possible. This is through embedding it’s use into the daily practice of school life, so that our young people learn how to use it to make their lives easier. 

We fall into the trap far too easily of assuming that all young people are experts in technology – in fact this is spread through concepts of ‘digital natives’ vs. ‘digital immigrants’. The truth is much more complex & our young people need as much help and support in navigating the technological world as they do navigating a new city. Whilst they may be the experts in using social media streams, they are no more confident or capable of using technology to enhance their lives as we are. We need to explicitly help and support them in this journey as much as any other.

Skilled Communication

With the world being so much more connected, the art of communication is another crucial ‘soft’ skill that our young people need now more than ever before. Whether it’s standing in front of an audience delivering a speech (Secret ambition – my lifelong ambition is to deliver a TED talk at their annual conference in Vancouver!), or ‘selling yourself at a job interview, the art of delivering a powerful talk, with passion and skill, is one that can enhance every young person and should be taught in school.

More than just an education – building a school fit for the 21st Century

Persistence, Excellence and Truth

We recently held our scholarships assessment days & January drop-in open days, which were a great success. During the days, I gave a talk about what makes us special – please find below the text from these to give you a feel for what we are about here. To find out more, or to have a talk about how we can help, please do get in touch with our admissions team.

Persistence, Excellence, Truth

Only a few short months have passed since we officially launched Myddelton College in October, but there has been so much growth and development! Today we host our scholarship assessments for students and open our doors for prospective families again – welcome! 

I want to briefly talk around 3 themes, as an introduction to today and a review of what we stand for:

  • Persistence
  • Excellence
  • Truth


Persistence:

In the tower room, by the main entrance, there is an impressive portrait of a bishop, with the label stating that this imposing figure is the Bishop of Wales. Why is he here? He actually has that pride of place because he is, effectively, responsible for the school being here as it stands today. Let me tell you a brief story … 

So Thomas Howell, the Welsh merchant, died in the 16th Century, leaving in his will money to found schools in the hands of the Drapers guild. 300 years later, a new bishop was appointed in St Asaph, and he noticed that there was reference to a school, founded by the Drapers, in Thomas’ legacy, but no sign of this … This is where we first see true persistence – this bishop doggedly pursued the trail, eventually gaining an act of parliament to get the school built. 

Persistent indeed! 

And here we are, bringing these buildings back to life. We, too, need persistence now. And persistence is shown in the act of faith our directors have, investing in the venture to bring life back to this amazing school.

When we held our official opening back in October, there was a lot to be done and standing here, we can see that lots has been done already – painting and refurbishment of these core areas has been completed, with refurbishment continuing throughout the rest of the teaching spaces as we speak. Work is about to begin on refurbishing the first boarding house and we can see that the driveway has been re-tarmacked – I can say that all of us who work here are grateful for that one! 

Alongside these obvious signs, there are also other less obvious signs of growth – we have now appointed some significant positions; a Head of Academic, Head of Science, Head of English and Head of Technology to work with me in building the detail into the curriculum structures. And we are recruiting additional staff, moving forwards – a Head of Outdoor Learning, and a Head of Boarding are being recruited as we speak, whilst we are shortly going to be recruiting for core teaching staff too. The volume and quality of interest in the applicants we received has been amazing; it has made the process of shortlisting and selecting the best ‘fit’ harder, but this has been something that has given us confidence that the team we are building truly will be a team to deliver excellence. And so to my second word:
Excellence:

Henry Thoreau, the 19th century America philosopher, is famously quoted roof saying that 

“most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to their graves with their song unsung. Here, we are about helping young people sing their song.”

I have been in education for over a quarter of a century and have had the privilege to teach in a wide range of different settings. From world renowned famous schools, at the top of the league tables, through to those working with young people from the most deprived housing estates. One thing has been the constant throughout every school I have worked in and that has been the inherent potential in the young people. It doesn’t matter whether the young person comes from a family that owns half of Yorkshire, or from one that relies on foodbanks to feed itself – all young people have hopes and dreams.

The Thoreau quote is so powerful on so many different levels and gives me tingles down my spine every time I think about it. Education is a complex thing, with many different levels; first of all, we have to see the potential in every individual young person – we have to help them identify their song. Then we have to give them the skills to achieve their potential – we have to help them sing their song. But most importantly of all, we also need to give them the confidence to stand tall and proud and sing their own song loud and strong. The whole point of singing a song is to sing it to others and to not be afraid to do so, even if it’s a different song to others. 

So, in a nutshell, my entire passion for education, why I do what I do and what Myddelton College is all about can be summed up in the one simple phrase: 

We will help each and every student here sing their own song.

It’s not about us being an independent school, although that gives us freedoms to do things differently, but it is about our passion for education, for helping young people aspire to be the very best they can be and then providing the opportunities for them to achieve that. There is freedom in being an independent school and it is a shame that too many independent schools are, in fact, bound by bonds stronger than steel, stopping them from innovating and supporting their students achieve the best they can be. These bonds are the bonds of tradition; yes, tradition is important – that is why the British education system is still the world class system it is today, but to be bound to tradition for tradition’s sake is a trap all to easily caught in. Too many independent schools are delivering the education the parents grew into, rather than the education their children need to grow into. 

Our school motto is – More than just an education – and that is what I outlined in detail back in October. I do not intend to go into depth here on this, but in summary, Myddelton is about preparing young people with a first rate academic record, but not just this. By employing excellent staff, with great track records, we can ensure this is a given. Beyond this, however, there is also our sporting and extra-curricular activities, designed to help our young people explore their physical limits as well. Using the amazing surroundings and our extensive facilities, we are designing a co-curricular offer that will set our young people up for their future, with leadership skills and experiences in sports that they may well continue into adult life. 

And then there’s the need, in today’s world, to see our position, as members of a global village and prepare people for this. Being set in this most glorious corner of North Wales, with the very best countryside the world can present, we are still preparing students to be fully engaged members of their global community. By being technologically innovative, as a Microsoft Associate Showcase School, our students will develop the skills to engage on a global arena, but the gem in our global view is our China campus, our Qingdao branch, Myddelton-YinHai College, where every student will have the opportunity, each year, to spend 2 – 3 weeks living and studying alongside a Chinese colleague. 

And finally, on the topic of Excellence, we need to be mindful of what schools are, in actuality, about. With government interference over decades, schools have become tied to the falsehood that it’s all about the exam results and league tables. The true measure of our excellence will be in the success of Myddelton College students when they go out into the world. And so we are building systems to ensure that every student has a clear view of their path beyond school – intensive university guidance and support will ensure that each individual is helped to achieve their best university placement, whether that’s a UK university, or one of the great European universities or even the Ivy League establishments over the ‘pond’. 

So Persistence and Excellence – two great characteristics, essential to what we believe, but they are nothing, I feel, without the last:


Truthfulness:

Now, by this, I mean much more than just not lying, I mean being true to your inner song. For over a quarter of a century I have passionately believed in the intrinsic power of young people & throughout all my experiences, I have always seen the life force in young people shine brightly. 

Here, we are striving to be true to the history of this building, by ensuring that we celebrate it’s strength and persistence over time. Having recently led a school where we built a brand new building, it was a shock to me that the builders and architects casually stated that the lifetime of the building was only 25 years! These buildings we now occupy are over 150 years old and show no signs of falling down any time soon!!

We strive to be true to the vision of our investors & directors, in creating a great school here, not following, necessarily, the model of how it’s been done before, for centuries, but ensuring that we have here an education fit for today’s young people, preparing them for tomorrow and their futures. It is a privilege to be leading this school for them and striving to create their vision into reality.

But most importantly of all we strive to be true to those futures, by ensuring that the education here is great, is more than just what happens in classrooms, and most importantly is what they need to succeed.

We are dedicated to helping each and every individual who comes here develop their own song, learn to sing it, be proud to sing it loud and to always be true to their own song, regardless of what life throws at them. 

That is what, in my opinion, makes a great school and why, here at Myddelton, we are about more than just an education.

Thank you.

Persistence, Excellence and Truth

Opening Ceremony Headmasters Speech

Good morning and welcome to Myddelton College! It is a huge honour to be standing here saying that; this amazing building, steeped in history and tradition, is being brought back to life again, with a fresh and innovative approach to education.

Our motto is:

More Than Just an Education

and it is our firm belief that this is a necessity in today’s world – schools evolve, but change slowly and so cannot often keep up with the rapidly changing nature of society. By starting completely new, we are able to build a modern education system, fit for purpose, so our students can go out into the world prepared to engage fully with the society they find themselves part of.  That is our ambition.

First of all, let me outline what we are.

Myddelton College is a co-educational day and boarding school.  Our core day runs from 8:50am through to 4pm, with activities and enrichment extending the school day to 6pm. Our boarding houses, being upgraded to the best of standards, with Stanley’s house, for example, being refurbished this year to include en suite shower rooms in each bedroom. The boarding houses are designed to provide a safe and secure family environment, with live-in house parents and visiting assistant house parents on site at all times. Every student, whether day or boarding, will be assigned to a boarding house and participate in house competitions as well as be able to participate in all other house activities and trips. For day students, the option to stay beyond activities, take tea with their friends and complete their homework in college is also available. There are also flexible schemes, called flexi-day, whereby a day student can even stay overnight if necessary. There will also be a comprehensive system of pick-up minibuses that will collect day students from a wide area, and drop them back home again after activities. Please talk to any of my team here today about the details of this, or look in our prospectus, where we outline the specifics of the day to day life of the College, but let me just say that it is our intention to provide a world-class education experience, encompassing the whole person – education does not just occur in the classroom!

We are aiming to be a great school. And being a great school requires more than just providing the best possible education. Or at least it requires a different view of what that education is. At Myddelton College, we take the broadest possible view of education and our students, whether boarders or day students, will be exposed to a wide range of activities that encompass the whole experience of what it means to be human. Yes, there’s the academic , with high standards and even higher expectations of success (because that is a basic necessity in today’s global market place), but beyond that, a Myddelton College student will be expected to develop interests in sporting, creative, aesthetic and cultural areas. I believe that each and every individual holds within them a talent that shapes their passion and their persona, and it is our passion to help each student find, shape and develop theirs. But alongside that there is the need for breadth and balance, which is why the education provided at Myddelton includes the extra activities and why every student is expected to be involved in all aspects of college life.

The British Education system is still held as the gold standard around the world and every Myddelton College student will be expected to achieve strong results in this system – the GCSEs & A-levels offered are designed to ensure that our students achieve the best they are capable of, with a strong academic support system in place to ensure that they do this.

Alongside this, and complementing it, we have a unique set of elements that provide so much more for our students.

First of all, with modern technology such an integral part of every aspect of society, Myddelton College students are expected to engage with the internet – lessons are delivered electronically, through Cloud technology, utilising the Microsoft Office 365 ecosystem; the backbone of so many businesses and industries around the world. Communication will be through this system, with emails, shared folders and calendar invitations replacing traditional school communication channels. Lessons will be delivered in a ‘flipped’ learning model, with all learning content available online, with the student expected to review work before the next lesson. Every student will receive a Microsoft Surface device on joining the College, and will be taught how to use it fully. Myddelton College is proud to have already been awarded the global accolade of being a Microsoft Associate Showcase School in recognition of our innovative approach to integrating technology.

In a completely different arena, the physical, we are also re-shaping the nature of sport and physical activity at Myddelton College. It is essential that our students experience the physical environment, but this does not need to be in the traditional way that we all here probably remember from school. The emphasis, at Myddelton College, is on developing an understanding of their physical nature, through the physical environment. Called our Leadership through the Outdoors programme, our students will undertake a wide range of activities designed to help them develop the leadership skills that collaboration and teamwork in the physical environment provide. In place of a traditional PE curriculum, Myddelton College students will participate in a wide range of alternative activities; whether that’s through joining our Cadet Force, or the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme, or training with our Triathlon team, or learning golf, our students will learn skills that will see them through their lives. With such amazing facilities in our grounds, with the climbing wall, the caving centre, the ropes courses and archery area, the tennis courts, swimming pool and equestrian centre, the dance studio, recording studio, art and science facilities, there is quite literally something for everyone! We are also forging links with world-class groups, such as Gloucester Rugby Club, to ensure that our students are exposed to the very best in each and every aspect of the physical environment.

And beyond the classroom, with a very firm eye on the need to develop a global perspective, we have also developed, as a core part of our curriculum, the Myddelton Academic Exchange Programme.

Through this programme, as part of our inclusive offer, every student will have the opportunity to spend 2 – 3 weeks, each year, at a Myddelton College Branch Campus in China – our Qingdao branch, Myddelton-YinHai College opens next month & we welcome Madame Tang and colleagues from Qingdao today.  Myddelton College students will quite literally experience an international education by spending time at our international branches.

And going beyond this, when it comes to leaving College and moving onto the next phase, our advice and guidance prepares them for this important step. Our University preparation course begins when a student joins us because we know that access to the world’s best universities is tightly fought and extended advice and preparation are essential to ensure that every student gets into the best university for them. With so many of the world’s best universities in the USA, our programme ensures that Myddelton College students know, understand and can succeed at the highly competitive entry and scholarship system in the US university market.

Last but not least, Myddelton College is also about providing a pastoral care structure that goes well beyond simple welfare; at Myddelton, we focus on developing and maturing the individual, both emotionally and intellectually. With a welfare department as a separate entity, with nursing staff, welfare support and even student counsellors on site, we believe that we will have a support system in place that is second to none when it comes to helping young people navigate the turbulent waters that is their life between the ages of 11 – 18.

We believe that what we are offering is truly a world class education, providing much, much more than just a set of exams, providing our students with a skill set that will enable them to go out and be leaders, wherever in the world they find themselves.

And it is our intention that this is accessible to all. The college has a sensitive and comprehensive scholarship and bursary system in place, to provide financial assistance to families who may think they can’t afford to send their child here. If you are thinking that this is beyond you,  I would say; can you afford not to find out what we can do to support you? We have, for example, Key Worker bursaries, for the children of parents who work in the support services – nurses, firemen & women and police – those who dedicate themselves to helping others – we want to reciprocate and help them. Amanda Hand, my head of Admissions, will be more than happy to discuss the wide range of options available.

Thank you for listening and please do ask any of our team if you have any questions about what you have heard or what we offer. And once again, welcome to Myddelton College!

Opening Ceremony Headmasters Speech

More than just an education

As a first post for this new Myddelton College blog, I thought I’d go through the process that led to the College motto.

More Than Just An Education

More than Just an Education is a bold statement, but should be at the heart of any school, in my opinion. Yes, we plan to educate the students who come to Denbigh, and educate them well, but school (& in particular, a boarding school) should be much, much more than that.

And starting from scratch, being able to stand back and take a look at what we want Myddelton College to stand for, is a real opportunity to make sure we do live up to our motto.

We are starting from a great base, too; the 37 Acres and listed buildings in the heart of Denbigh, with views out over the Welsh countryside, are both inspirational and relaxing at the same time. The atmosphere of the buildings is steeped in tradition, with over 150 years of education having occurred in the place. Myddelton College really does provide a unique location for a young person’s education.

So we have a great location and amazing buildings. We will be recruiting top quality staff, people who are passionate about making a difference and who are determined to provide a first class education. Starting from scratch, we have the benefit of building a system based on the best research and most current thinking around what makes for excellent education. And this is one of our biggest strengths.

Life is such a precious thing and young people are not young for long – it is our imperative to ensure they get the best possible preparation for their future and planning Myddelton’s provision without any pre-conceptions or existing systems allows us to provide this. In the modern world, it is important that young people gain qualifications – no-one would challenge this. But this is no longer sufficient. Although I’m going to sound like an old man saying this, but … when I left school, only 8% of my peers went to University, whereas now almost half of all school leavers attend Higher Education! So we do need to ensure that our students are achieving the very best they can, and obtaining the best qualifications they can.

When a good set of qualifications used to guarantee a good job / career, this is, however, no longer the case. Study after study and report after report shows that the major international companies are struggling to recruit high calibre staff, despite there being so many highly qualified individuals.

And this is where our motto comes in.

At Myddelton, we work from the basis that our young people are the masters of their own destiny & they have control over their own future. We act as guides, helping them shape their success. This is based on three discrete areas

Technology:-

There is no doubt that technology is now an essential aspect of society and an integral part of young people’s lives. We need to ensure that young people leave school with the necessary skills to be successful in a highly technological environment. And this does not necessarily mean being good on a computer, but developing a skills set suited to the way our work patterns are evolving. These skills can be listed as:

  • Collaboration
  • Knowledge construction
  • Self-regulation
  • Real world problem solving and innovation
  • Use of ICT for learning
  • Skilled communication
University preparation:-

With grade inflation, we will assume that every student at Myddelton College is aspiring to some form of Higher or Further Education when they leave us and in a global community, the opportunities are almost unlimited. Therefore, we will be providing a programme during which they will be exposed to experiences that help them develop a more focussed sense of their ‘self’, their identity. This will be in parallel with structured schemes designed to support the individual in making choices about their future early and then planning & implementing the elements required to achieve these goals. This involves development of the following skills:

  • Behaviour modification / awareness
  • A personal understanding of wellbeing / wellness and how to look after themselves
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Personal profiling, to identify personal strengths

All of this will help us target the best future institution for them as an individual, whether this is a UK-based, top ranking university, or a US, Ivy League College, or a university anywhere in the world – it is about finding the best fit for each individual.

Whole Person Leadership Development

And last, but by no means least, Myddelton College students are expected to participate in a wide range of activities that would not normally be considered as curricular subjects. These activities, the college extended curriculum, are designed to ensure that every individual is helped to develop all their personal attributes and celebrate the whole person, rather than merely focussing on academic achievement. The Myddelton Extended Curriculum will be formed from the following areas:

Outdoor experiences

The outdoors provides opportunities for every individual to extend themselves and develop additional skills, whether these be resilience and resourcefulness, by participating in Outdoor Pursuits activities, or personal achievement, leadership and teamwork be participating in formal competition sports (whether team or solo).

With the College in the heart of one of the most beautiful parts on the country, with stunning countryside literally on the doorstep, students will have the opportunity to gain extra qualifications in a variety of areas, from the Basic Expedition Leadership Award, through to the full, internationally acknowledged British Mountaineering Club ‘Mountain Leader’ award & the climbing equivalent, Single Pitch Supervisors Award.

Community responsibility

No man is an island, as the saying goes, and at Myddelton College, we are committed to ensuring that the students are fully aware of (& actively engage in activities that support communities, whether local, national or international. College students will be expected to take on supportive and leadership roles within the local community, whether this is helping out with the local U9 football team, supporting the uniformed organisations or assisting in a home for the elderly.

Innovation and enterprise

And finally, in a world where change and growth occurs at a rate never been seen before, the successful people around the world will be those with an enterprising spirit, able to grasp opportunities and develop initiatives, whether personal, business or social enterprise focussed. Using a wide range of skills, Myddelton College students will be expected to engage in activities that build resilience, perseverance and teamwork, through exploring innovative ideas. Whether this is growing and developing the College radio station, forming a small business, or working on charitable activities to support others who, through whatever reason, are struggling, innovation and enterprise are highly regarded personal qualities all students will develop.

All this, along with a fully immersive boarding ethos, with day students also expected to participate in house-based activities and the close support, guidance and encouragement the college staff provide, clearly give Myddelton College a ‘holistic’ experience that most certainly is

More than Just an Education

More than just an education