A child only has one chance of childhood, so it is vital that we get these formative years right for them. They do not have the perspective of adulthood, so we must engage with them as children, seeing the world through their eyes. What motivates them? What disheartens them? What builds up their self-esteem? What makes them run and skip into school each day, eager for new challenges and successes?
Our philosophy of education is that there must be no "glass ceilings" for our children. There is an ethos of every child doing everything, whether it is a challenging mathematics investigation, performing on stage, playing competitive sport or creating a work of art. We remove the "glass ceiling" by knowing our children so well that, no matter what their innate ability, they will have personal targets that are just beyond their current level of working. A child who is always "top of the class" may learn to fear failure and loss of face, and so stop taking chances, but a child who is encouraged to pursue their next goal and ask lots of questions en route sees wrong answers as opportunities to investigate and learn more deeply.
Our staff engage in rigorous continual assessment behind the scenes, modifying their lessons and planning individual work for pupils in the light of their learning outcomes. They are then set personal targets, so pit themselves against their own previous best and not against each other, hence eliminating the feeling of hopelessness that being in the "bottom few" might otherwise engender. We also give the children national "benchmarking" tests each year to mark their progress against national norms.
Our formal assessment of progress goes right across the board and art, music, sport and drama are taught and assessed with the same degree of importance as academic subjects.This way the children learn that everything in school matters, which contributes to an ethos of hard work and determination to succeed in every aspect of school life. Success is celebrated in assemblies at every level, from the certificate for the first 5m swim unaided to the gold medal at County level; from the recorder performance using just 3 notes to the Grade 5 with Distinction in piano. Recognition and encouragement are great motivators for children.
This all adds up to pupils who are excellent "all - rounders" and have the confidence to try anything. Without limits to learning many of our Year 6 girls are already working at Year 7 or 8 level in those areas that particularly interest them, or for which they show increased aptitude. The outcome of this is the excellent successes they have in their senior school entrance exams, gaining places there without having compromised their childhoods through too narrow a focus in the curriculum, but rather with the world-view that education is fun, challenging and satisfying in equal measure.