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.



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

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