Emerging With Ambition

Posted on: 08/10/2021


A couple of weeks ago I attended the IAPS (Independent Association of Preparatory Schools) Heads' Conference in Bournemouth.  It was the first time in two years that 400 Head Teachers had been able to come together for this annual conference and the theme of the three days was very poignant indeed - ‘Emerging with Ambition’.

As the conference was launched, the CEO of IAPS, Christopher King,  addressed us and shared some of the highlights of good practice which make IAPS schools beacons of excellence. As I sat in the auditorium I was filled with pride watching a promotional video where our Lower School pupils and beautiful facilities were showcased. Chris King then went on to specifically mention St. Helen’s College and how we have been incredibly innovative in our preschool parenting Teddy Talk videos and baby mindfulness classes.  During the tea break, several Heads approached me to discuss how we had managed to do so much during a pandemic. It is evident that St. Helen’s College is not just ‘emerging with ambition’ from a pandemic but that throughout the pandemic we actively were ‘driven with ambition’ or in the words of our aims, written by our pupils, we strive for excellence, help everyone achieve and care for each other.    Our staff work so well together and it is the shared ambition from our whole community that makes us so unique.

The three days of conference were inspiring and I listened to several keynote speakers and participated in several seminars. There was so much to reflect upon but what was particularly gratifying was that much of what was discussed as best practice in some keynotes we are already doing here at St. Helen’s College.  For example, in his session on the future of learning and the future of assessment, Professor Bill Lucas outlined some key findings and recommendations from recent research on rethinking assessment from educational researchers and practice from across the world.  Alternatives to the predominantly summative methods of assessment (test results) are now no longer fit for purpose (an ongoing debate for secondary schools). However, here at St. Helen’s College we are already frontrunners in our approaches; for example -  extended investigations and pupil profiling (where the pupils take ownership of work they are most proud of which they curate over time), our use of learning logs, flipped learning and our reporting of ‘habits of learning’ not ‘achievement’ grades.

We are an ambitious school and always have been, so we do not feel that we are ‘recovering’ from the pandemic and lockdown but merely transitioning and adapting.  Many of the speakers referred to ‘recovery’ and it did annoy me slightly the extent to which doom and gloom were associated with the pandemic. I believe that we need to celebrate all the amazing things which your children achieved during the last 19 months and look forward with continued ambition.  

I would love to give you a synopsis of many of the other speakers I heard over the conference but I will leave you with one speaker’s Ted Talk, whose work is truly inspiring and which I am sure will resonate with you as it did me. James Shone’s work is aligned with one of the St. Helen's College school aims, which is centred on personal growth:

We aim to instil core moral values, inspiring virtue, responsibility, resilience, independence, mindful self-awareness and a desire for continuing self-development.

Please indulge yourself for the 16 minutes of this Ted Talk - I heard him speak for an hour but this is a snippet of what he spoke about to empower the group of Headteachers in front of him at our conference.  Let’s keep inflating the balloons of self belief!

Have a wonderful weekend.

Mrs. Drummond