I suppose the biggest point that has struck me, having now visited four secondary schools in the Federation, is how widely the schools vary in their philosophy and approaches to education whilst at the same time providing their students with the opportunities essential for success. For example, at Verulam the whole approach (from lesson structure through to behaviour management techniques) is geared towards the school’s understanding of how boys can be engaged in their learning. It was interesting to see the same techniques employed during a boys only PE lesson at Marlborough School. I am looking forward to my visit to STAGS, to see how their understanding of girls’ learning affects their policies and approaches to teaching. The interesting extrapolation will then be the extent to which gender-led techniques are streamed into mixed gender schools.
The most interesting systemic approach, unique so far in my experience, is St George’s vertical house system. The House is the core organisational and motivational unit through which all facets of non-teaching school life are channelled: behavioural; pastoral; student leadership; and competitive activities. One consequence and major difference from other schools is that there are no Heads of Years – these functions fuse into the Head of House. Fascinating, but at this stage I don’t know enough to weigh the pros and cons of this.
Turning to Beaumont, I want to thank all of the staff, who have been very welcoming and supportive and ready to provide me with opportunities to develop my understanding of the practicalities of day to day teaching. Being able to observe subjects outside of my own speciality has allowed me to see a variety of approaches and methods, and gain insights as to how some can be translated successfully into the music environment. The music lessons I have observed are far and away the most interesting and entertaining I have ever experienced! The sense of enjoyment and humour that pervade classes of any age combined with the practical focus in the lessons themselves create enthusiasm for experimentation, self- expression and recognition of the pleasure available from music even for students who would not otherwise enjoy it. The challenge for me, which I face with a mixture of relish and apprehension, is finding out if I can deliver anything remotely akin to this when eventually I get in front of a class.
By Jonathan Burrett