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:
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.
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:
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:
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.