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Round Square

22nd February 2017

Humanities Forum Tackles Current Affairs

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20th February 2017

Making the Most of an Education

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A brief history of Round Square

The existence of Round Square is a result of a gradual evolution rather than a definitive date upon which the organisation was founded. At the centre of Round Square is the educational philosophy of Kurt Hahn and the importance of the organisation as a network; the idea that much more can be achieved together is fundamental to the success of Round Square.

The beginnings of today’s Round Square organisation can be traced as far back as 1920, when educationalist Kurt Hahn opened his first school, Schule Shloss Salem in Germany, based on his philosophies of experiential education.

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.

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.

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) came to represent the conference – 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 in 1971 our first Headmistress, Brenda Hancock, was invited to a Round Square meeting as an observer. Our second Headmistress, Jill Hanson, was invited to join Round Square not long after and Cobham Hall became the first all-girls school to be associated with Round Square. Cobham hosted its first Round Square International Conference a few years later in 1974.