What is Round Square?

“I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial, and above all, compassion.” – Kurt Hahn

Put simply, Round Square is an approach to education that extends beyond academic excellence, and beyond the classroom, to include personal development and social responsibility.  Achieved by providing an array of different experiences, students of Round Square schools are encouraged to challenge themselves, to try new things, and to consider their place in society – both locally and globally.  The concept of Round Square is based on the educational philosophies of Kurt Hahn: those of learning through experience, real-world learning, and periods of reflection.

The beginnings of today’s Round Square network can be traced as far back as 1920, when Hahn opened his first school, Schule Shloss Salem in Germany.

After fleeing Nazi Germany, Hahn started another school, Gordonstoun in Scotland, where he continued to implement his unique, forward thinking form of education which embraced the idea of learning through challenge, service and adventure.  It was just as his time as Headmaster of Gordonstoun drew to a close in 1953, that events transpired which led to the creation of Round Square as we know it today. A massive earthquake on the Ionian Islands off the coast of Greece caused a group of schools with links to Hahn to form a working party to help rebuild destroyed infrastructure.  A testament to the fundamental idea Round Square works to promote; that much more can be achieved together.

However, it took more than a decade for the organisation to come together into a cohesive whole, under the watchful eye of Jocelin Winthrop Young (co-founder and headmaster of Anavryta School near Athens, set up in 1949 following the ideals and guidelines of Salem and Gordonstoun) whose idea it was to turn Hahn’s philosophies into a multinational association of schools.  An association that now numbers more than 180 schools globally; schools characterised by a shared belief in an approach to education based on six Round Square IDEALS.

The decision to hold a conference between the original schools was reached during a 20-minute meeting at Salem on Hahn’s 80th birthday in 1966. At the first conference, held at Gordonstoun the following year, the term Round Square – the name of the building at Gordonstoun where the meeting took place – was adopted.  Later the term was extended to encompass the association of schools and all they stood for.

Cobham Hall’s association with Round Square began not long after its founding, when our first Headmistress, Brenda Hancock, was invited to a Round Square meeting as an observer. Not long after, Cobham Hall became the first all-girls school to be associated with Round Square. Cobham Hall hosted its first Round Square International Conference a few years later in 1974.