Last Friday we were proud to host our first Conference for Heads, in which representatives from 50 different schools – both prep and senior – joined us for a day discussing issues that are pertinent to the sector. There was a particular emphasis on Year 7 and 8, including a focus on enquiry-based curriculums and the transition from prep to senior school.
There were some strong views expressed that enquiry-based curriculums offer pupils a more relevant and lasting education: that they provide genuine skills for life by fostering independent learning, creativity and encourage risk-taking. By contrast, Common Entrance was seen as an exercise in merely testing a child’s ability to recall knowledge, which senior school Heads felt was a less effective method of assessing a pupil’s potential.
There were presentations from Benenden, Newton Prep in London and Holmewood House School in Kent, all of which have introduced enquiry-based curriculums in whole or in part. There was enormous interest from other schools in working with us to develop their own likeminded programmes. We are more than happy to help other schools to take innovative approaches in whatever way we can.There was then a discussion about the best method for managing prep pupils’ entry to senior school. A panel discussion was held, in which heads of prep and senior schools outlined their varying positions on pupils’ entry and an open and honest debate ensued about how the system could be improved.
The afternoon drew to a close with a very well-received session on partnership working, with Benenden and The John Wallis Church of England Academy discussing how our partnership brings enormous benefits to pupils from both schools.The event concluded with wine tasting, delightful performances from some of our Fourth and Upper Fourth musicians and dinner, followed by a talk from former Education Select Committee Chairman Neil Carmichael.Overall we were delighted with the response from Heads and felt the turnout on the day reflected both the importance of the topics on the agenda and a genuine enthusiasm among prep schools to work more closely with Benenden. On both counts the Conference was an enormous success. Benenden is proud to take a lead on industry-wide issues and we look forward to holding similar events in future.