Looking through our ‘future telescope’ as parents, we sometimes struggle to focus beyond the next stage, and for many of you at this time of year, this means the move up to secondary education. Last year I blogged about the process of choosing a school, but I wonder if perhaps a useful exercise is to train our telescopes on the end product.
Good results? Check. Great facilities? Check. Impressive reputation? Check? If you’ve done all the tours, dutifully attended the Open Days, undertaken extensive website research and you are still not sure which school is right for your child, why not take the long view when choosing a school and ask yourself, “Who do I want my child to be when they grow up?”
This, then, is my own list of what constitutes the outcomes of a successful education, to be considered when choosing a school. I began with a wish list for my own children, but then had to go back and remove items like tidying their rooms, appreciating the cost of baking ingredients and being aware that petrol is not a free commodity. Actually, this list was compiled simply by spending the last few days watching our Cheadle Hulme School Student Ambassadors in action during our 11+ interview process.
I think a great school produces young adults who are….
- Grounded, with an understanding that they have been privileged to attend an outstanding school and given opportunities not available to all.
- Altruistic, having been actively encouraged to get involved in a wide range of community service.
- Comfortable with who they are, have a strong sense of their own worth and a healthy self-image.
- Confident communicators who can talk to adults in a formal setting and are able to transfer these skills to the workplace.
- Socially active, having learned the value of friendship.
- Unruffled and intellectually stimulated by the presence of the opposite sex.
- Resilient and brave enough try new, daunting experiences even knowing they might fail.
- Equipped with a sense of humour.
- Tolerant of people who are different to them, and strong enough to challenge intolerance in others.
- Great company and able to have fun.
Over this last week we have been holding our 11+ interviews. This can be an anxious time for prospective students (and their parents!) who are in the process of choosing a school, so I draft-in some of our current students (our Ambassadors – a role which they apply for!) to help out. So, what did I see when I watched our Ambassadors as they reassured slightly nervous 10 year-olds before their interviews? What did I note as these young people chatted to prospective parents about their experiences of Cheadle Hulme School? Confidence to talk engagingly to a range of people; pride in their School and in being a Waconian;, enthusiasm for their futures and, above all other things, genuinely engaging, polite individuals. It made me proud. My proudest moment was observing the metamorphosis of an anxious, rather reticent Year 8, first-time Ambassador (“Help! Why did I volunteer?”) being mentored by her more experienced older fellow Ambassadors (“I did it…and I loved it!”).
If these are some of the ingredients of success and happiness, you could do worse than look for these qualities in the students and alumni of the institutions that are currently on your radar when choosing a school. If you are served by a lovely, helpful young person in a local restaurant or shop, ask them which school they went to. If you admire the adult children of friends, find out where they were educated. If you come across young people in a social setting, ask them to tell you about their school experiences.
Describing schools as factories with an end product, is, of course, an over-simplification, but we do, perhaps more like plant nurseries, provide the soil in which saplings grow to maturity and what nutrients we provide really do make a difference to the strength, health and growth potential of the young people who leave at the end of their time with us.
Assistant Head (Admissions), Mrs Sally Petrie