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May 08th 2017

Headmaster's Blog: Evidence Base

News Article Image   Headmaster's Blog Speak UpLast week I had the privilege of attending the Boarding School Association Head’s Conference in York. This is an annual event when the leaders of boarding schools of all types, state and independent, senior and junior, single sex and coeducational, large and small, all meet to share good practice, debate the issues of the day and listen to invited speakers discuss a range of topics.

One of the matters discussed was an ongoing piece of research into the benefits (if any) of boarding at school headed by Dr Simon Walker. Bearing in mind my contribution to a plea to our politicians to make education policy evidence led that I blogged about recently, I was particularly interested in this debate. Currently a sample of around three thousand day and boarding pupils from a mixture of schools including state schools (the numbers in state boarding schools are growing) have produced some initial results. The sample is intended to be around twenty thousand ultimately.

The initial results show that boarders are 15% more likely to be socially agile and emotionally responsive (i.e., they can get along with all sorts of people and are more able to establish effective working relationships even with people they may not like) and are also 40% more likely to make decisions with others in mind, than day pupils. Fascinating and powerful stuff and my experience of around a quarter of a century working in boarding schools leads me to not be surprised. Such qualities are often seen at Cobham Hall, but of course, much work remains to be done. I will be keeping an eye out for more reports in the future.

The final speaker of the conference actually had some of his comments reported in the national press, not that often the case with educational meetings especially in the run up to a general election. However, the fact that the speaker was the current England football manager Gareth Southgate may have had something to do with it.

He came across as intelligent, eloquent and thoughtful and certainly surprised some in the audience who seemed to initially hold a more stereotypical view of a modern day former professional footballer. Mr Southgate has sent his son to boarding school and happily explained why … he liked the values, manners and attitudes the school instilled into other pupils from the school he had met and wanted the same for his son. He specifically stated that academic results were not the deciding factor, rather the attributes he listed.

Perhaps inevitably he was asked about results and league tables, both football and school. His considered single word view was “dangerous”.

Mr Southgate expanded his view illustrating it with his current role in football where he has overall responsibility for junior and development teams as well as the senior “first eleven”. “I do not mind if they lose four nil if they try and play the way we want to develop. If they ultimately develop the best way of playing, the results tend to take care of themselves”. Incredibly refreshing to hear. He also talked, in response to a question I asked, about removing the fear of failure and instead being willing to try. He said he is trying to instil just that attitude into his youngsters.

You never know, if football management does not work out for him he might try a role in schools.

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