Hirch is on Holiday this week!

Posted: 11th July, 2016. Topics:

Hirch is Abbotsholme's Blog Dog

Hirch is on Holiday this week recovering from Summer Gathering! He will be back next week!

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Round Square … and Brexit.

Posted: 5th July, 2016. Topics:

It is nearly two weeks since the country decided on Brexit.

As a Round Square School, committed to an International outlook, the School overwhelmingly voted to ‘Remain’ by 69%.

The founder of Round Square, Kurt Hahn took many of his ideals from Abbotsholme, and the school along with 13 other schools around the UK, work to continue his ethos in their international outlook.

The IDEALS that Kurt Hahn espoused were those of Internationalism, Democracy, Environment, Adventure, Leadership and Service, and as an international school welcoming a variety of pupils from all over the world we will continue to do that as Britains exit for the EU starts to happen.

Abbotsholme – like every Round Square school in the UK and the world – encourages its pupils to live these ideals everyday for pupils to work towards a more inclusive, tolerant and fair future for everyone throughout the world.

Brexit has shown to cause real disruption not just because of the passion displayed by both sides of the vote, but also because of the close nature of the vote and one side feeling very hard done by. Additionally, the upheaval within our political system and the ‘political shenanigans’ that have gone on since, really make a grown person look in sheer disbelief at the people that run this country! I sometimes think our pupils could do a better job!

Thankfully, Abbotsholme like many other Independent Schools, are working to ensure our overseas agents, partners, families and alumni know they are always welcome whatever the political situation. Kurt Hahn wanted young people to discover and embrace the similarities and differences between cultures and nationalities in ways that promote meaningful and lasting understanding, tolerance and respect. Uniting the younger generation through these six ideals and compassion was central to his thinking. Click here to read more.

As Round Square says on its website: At Round Square we care passionately about what happens in the future to our world and to the fascinating variety of cultures and communities it supports. We want those communities to thrive and prosper and care about each other in mutual cooperation.That’s quite a challenge. As educators we believe that we have a responsibility to shape the way in which the next generation of business, political and community leaders understand, prepare for, and respond to, this challenge. What an amazing ideal for the future!

So it is up to the next generation to make internationalism work for everyone. Round Square schools need to pave the way to show how partnership can really work well. Brexit is sure to happen, but the younger generation must work hard to ensure both sides work together for a better future with our European and World partners.

Hirch – the dog that blogs!


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GCSE Exams are finished … so what next?

Posted: 27th June, 2016. Topics:

So you have done all the revision and the exams have finished. Hooray!!!!!!!

A whole nine weeks stretches in front of you for partying, sleeping, going on holiday, seeing friends, playing on the IBOX, sunbathing (praying for sun!), and more sleeping!

Now the above in moderation can be a fantastic way to let off steam, and have some down time after months of revising and studying because you have certainly earnt it!

However, the early bird catches the worm, and if your worm is to get a great job in the job sector you are interested in, be successful within your sector, and enjoy a full and happy life, a little preparation can go a long way.

Preparation for what? Preparation for the next step in the road to happiness and success whatever you determine that to be. Now if you determine happiness and success through doing nothing, working as little as possible, and waiting for things to come to you, then I suggest you save yourself some time and stop reading this blog now.

However, if you want to get ahead in life, and know that hard work is at the core of this (because only by hard work, persistence and performing well in liufe) can you achieve , then read my top six tips below of things you can do to aid this process:

1. Summer Reading: Get ahead in your courses by asking the admissions team or a member of staff within the School of the Sixth Form you are joining or moving on to, to recommend some books from each of the subjects you are taking to start the learning process early and get ahead;

2. Course information and teachers: Familiarise yourself with the A Level / BTEC course information for the two years, and do some research around the various topics. Ask for the relevant emails of teachers who you can email to ask about work that you can look at over the holidays that you can do to help with your learning. This will also familiarise you with the teachers who will be teaching you – another unknown now a known;

3. Create a Curriculum Vitae (CV): A good CV is vital. This should include your profile, any professional experience (work or otherwise that you feel is important to mention should go here in a summary format), key achievements both in any work experience you have had to date, a list of jobs / work experience gained, education and qualifications (which could include Duke of Edinburgh, Sports, Music, Drama or other awards), Voluntary work and Hobbies. You can use this as a base for gaining work experience if you need it too.

4. Work Experience: Whether you have an idea or not about what career you want to go into, work experience of any kind is incredibly important for employers to see on your CV. If you have not been able to add work experience to your CV this is the time to consider doing some and adding this on. Employers do not just want to see academic achievements and awards, they want to see practical experience in the work place, that you have been able to get out of bed, get dressed, get into work on time, do a job for a week at least, get on with people and show commitment. A reference from the HR Manager of the work experience place would be a great addition to support this experience and for use with your CV.

5. Friends: If you are joining a school and are nervous about going into the Sixth Form where most people will have been friends for years, contact the admissions department that you have been dealing with and they will buddy you up with a pupil to help you start to make friends over the holiday so that you do not feel you are going into a new School not knowing anyone. This is particularly important if you are starting to board for the first time too. Additionally, you should be sent a map of the School Campus to familiarise yourself with where everything is. Do not be afraid to contact the admissions team – who usually work throughout the summer holidays –  to ask to pop in during the holidays for a wander around the facilities of your new school and get to know where everything is if you need to, or if you have not been able to get to the school for many taster days.

6. Social Media: Join the schools social media platforms to find out what’s going on. These days most schools are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and You Tube. There should be lots of videos to look at to find out more and immerse yourself in the school, as well as keeping up to date with what is going on via the other social media platforms!

Balance is key. If you can do all of the above during 2-3 days per week, and then having 3-4 days off after all your hard work during the exam period, you will have the best of both worlds, a good rest, and a great sense of achievement too, not just during the holidays, but when you start your course and you are ahead, when you write your UCAS statement and you have all the bits in place to make it brilliant, and when you are looking for a job, you will already have some work experience under your belt to make you more employable!

Hirch – the Dog that Blogs!







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Boarding … don’t take my word for how brilliant it is – read about it from our boarders!

Posted: 20th June, 2016. Topics:

I loved my boarding days. I only boarded in the Sixth Form – and wished I had done more boarding, but my two years gave me the chance to focus on my school work (with teachers being around if necessary to help) sports and music and be around my friends more, as well as enjoy trips to town for coffee and shopping during the week and then eighteenth birthday parties in the local pubs too. Weekends were quiet,  but because we did not have trips at all  we did not feel we were missing out on anything. I loved the fact that as a Sixth Former we could come down to the dining room at breakfast on the weekends in pj’s at any time of the morning and collect our breakfast box to have food in the common room whenever we wanted it. I loved my room and the view looking out onto the sports pitches. I loved the weekends popping into to town and meeting up with friends, or playing in a hockey match and then going home. I loved the chance to spend hours playing the piano to my hearts content at school in one of the many practice rooms dotted everywhere and not just in the music department. I loved Sunday nights when everyone would be back together and we would all watch whatever programme – Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth is my greatest memory – on a Sunday night before the start of the week and catch up from the weekend.

Boarding was a fantastic experience, and my parents only lived five minutes away from school so I did not need to be a boarder. But it gave me the chance to focus on studies, be responsible for my own space, do my own washing, organise myself, get on with a lot of different people in close proximity – a very important lesson for life, really allow me to , and enjoy spending more time with friends and be independent in preparation for life after school. The best days of my life in fact.

Twenty years on what is it like now? Here’s what some of our boarders say:

“I have boarded for seven years. My father is the in the forces, and boarding was the best option for a more stable schooling for me. At first, it was the most terrifying thing I have ever done, leaving family and friends for a new experience and not having them around. When I arrived, the homely nature of the boarding house – making cakes, watching films, playing games – helped to make me feel at home within this strange new world, and making new friends was the icing on the cake. Seven years later, I absolutely love it! It’s the best thing ever because I have grown up with all the people I first met with and as a Senior Boarder we have a lot more freedom including going out for birthdays, enjoying less restrictions in the house and there are so many trips to enjoy like paint balling and quad biking. My advice to a new boarder: it may be hard in the beginning, but it gets a lot better. Just hang in there!” Lauren Amy, aged 17.










“Boarding is great. I have been a boarder for over three years at Abbotsholme now, and before that a boarder in my previous school too. When I began here as a boarder, it was a hard to begin with but I got used to it and now boarding is amazing. We have a stag of the week award (for good behaviour and kind deeds), birthday treats, movie night and cool trips. The house parents are fab, and the mega new TV and games room is awesome. I like it more than home sometimes cos there are no arguments as long as you follow the rules but the rules aren’t too much of a nightmare and the boys house is quite a cool place to be. Next year we are getting a brand new loft space with bar (for soft drinks and popcorn), mixing decks and a cool space to socialise with the girls. We will have disco nights and share movie nights and the new 65 inch TV will be awesome for this. Seb, aged 15

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Next week is National Boarding week…

Posted: 14th June, 2016. Topics:

… and Schools around the country are doing lots of things in celebration of this week and the fact that the BSA is fifty years old!

Abbotsholme like many schools will be getting involved to promote this unique part of our Independent School experience and education.

We start the week of celebrations with a boarding BBQ on Sunday and end the week with some shopping in Liverpool!

Monday is dress in green day for Barnardos, and Tuesday is a Bake Off! Wednesday boarders are burying a time capsule of boarding memories and Thursday a special trip is planned in celebration.

Boarding is very different to twenty years ago when some of my colleagues experienced boarding. They only have fond memories of boarding at their schools but do say that the provision, care, activities and boarding accommodation is so much better than it was. Weekends back in the day had very few organised trips. One colleague recounts a weekend which included breakfast, prep, lunch, shopping in town, supper and tv, breakfast, church, lunch, nothing and then prep! Very different to the Abbotsholme weekends and boarding school weekends around the country which are jam packed with activities, trips, games and events!

Tune in next week to hear more about boarding…

Hirch – the dog that blogs

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Independent Education: exclusive or inclusive?

Posted: 7th June, 2016. Topics:

This morning, my daily Independent School Council email summarising the key sector news popped up on my email, and the first story I read with my morning brew and dog treats was about 12 Heads of leading Independent Sector defending our education from that old chestnut ….. an education for the privileged only!

Click here to read all about it!

I blogged a few weeks ago on how the majority of our media seems to have it in for our sector at every opportunity it has.

I agree with the Heads of the letter who state that the sector is committed to accessibility. I wrote in the afore-mentioned blog that Independent Schools support almost 40,000 children through means tested bursaries which costs £300 million annually. Additionally, schools offer their premises and facilities for local schools to use for free. For example, Abbotsholme offers free visits to our farm every lambing season for local primary school pupils to enjoy.

The Independent Sector offers a great education for 7% of the country’s children. And yes, for the most part, you have to be able to afford to send your children to these schools to obtain this education. The last time I looked the UK was not trying to be the next Animal Farm (although I am sure dogs would rule!).

It is interesting that only the UK seems to suffer from this issue. Other countries have private schools, but from what I can gather, rising to the top and being able to afford to send your child to the best schools is to be celebrated. People celebrate success and achievement in these countries. In the UK, even though the sector has a mix of ‘Tim nice but Dim’s’ and ‘Considerably richer than You’ types, as well as parents who work incredibly hard – something two or three jobs – to ensure their child gets the best education – the perception is of a privileged sector through and through. Some people work hard just to pay for their child’s education, some people can afford that and nice cars and holidays, and some people cannot. This is just life.

I think we have to ignore people who blast the sector, or do it down, and continue to provide an outstanding education.

On a side note, I was looking for images to represent both sides. It was easy to find images for the ‘privileged’ camp with bowler hats and silver spoons, but every time we came up with a picture idea for the ‘under-privileged’ camp we felt it discriminatory and patronising. There is certainly no level playing field with these two words and if you type ‘under-privileged kids’ into Google it brings up children in the third world!

Hirch – the dog that blogs!

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Hirch is on Holiday this week…

Posted: 30th May, 2016. Topics:

… enjoying a nice long walk with lots of lovely meals as well as treats in between to keep his energy up, comfy kennels to stay at each night, and rabbits to chase over fields and mountains!

He will be back next week to continue to update you and blog on all the key issues of the day in the independent sector.

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Headteachers: academic leaders or business leaders?

Posted: 9th May, 2016. Topics:

This week in the TES, one of the top stories centres around ‘teaching’ heads being replaced by ‘business’ heads.

In the independent sector this is becoming more of the norm, as schools are realising that they are not just educators anymore but sellers of a product. Back in the day the relationship was one of parent and school, now it is buyer and seller.

Competition to recruit pupils is fierce in the tough market which sees fees continue to rise which is also commented on by a former Head of Eton saying parents are being priced out of the market.

A colleague was at an alumni reunion event over the weekend at her old school and the friends she met up with 20 years ago were all talking about how it is now impossible for them to send their children to said school.

Schools are now businesses as well as educators. Bursars ensure that all costs are covered with both lets, alumni fundraising and pupils supporting this. Gone are the days of the bursars role centering on sending out the bills and giving stern looks to parents who have not paid the bill to ensure a speedy bill paying action by said parent. And Marketing teams are now the norm to ensure numbers are sufficient for a sustainable operation without diluting the ethos of the school – a very tricky juggling act. Schools are having to ensure excellent customer service to recruit and retain – the hallmark of the commercial sector.

So I think Independent Schools are right to consider looking at headteachers with business experience. This is always balanced by an academic deputy too. From my experience, these ‘business’ people are definitely not scared of children or obsessed by spreadsheets. They are in fact the opposite.

They relish the challenge to keep each school and the ethos of that school alive too so that the children – with whom for many is what it is all about –  in the school can continue to benefit from the continuing education that the independent sector provides in the UK, and that parents – who have spent hours deciding and deliberating on the perfect school for their child – have chosen for the children.

And as the customer – in fact both pupil and parent as the customer – the customer is what the commercial sector focuses on, and that is what Independent Schools are realising they have to focus on to ensure a sustainable operation.

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The SATS Uproar – what is it all about?

Posted: 2nd May, 2016. Topics:

SATS – and no … in this case SATS does not stand for Standard Army Training System or Small Applications Technology Satelite; it stands for Standard Assessment Tests for Schools that at the moment many parents are querying for their six and seven year olds. Click here to read all about it!; and five year olds: Click here to read this story.

Here’s what the Huffington Post says about it all - click here to read their blog.

It was all highlighted to me last week when my LinkedIn account popped up with the image above, and a parent had only that day emailed me about this story and the LetOurKidsBeKids campaign saying, “This campaign is gathering momentum.  The fact that Abbotsholme gives parents the chance to opt out of all the negative things this campaign deplores is great and is the reason our boys came to Abbotsholme in the first place.”

According to reports, the new SATs exams mean children as young as five are now being tested on material such as punctuation, times tables and fractions – two years earlier than before.

The campaign, started by a small group of parents, is planning a national boycott on May 3rd 2016 – urging parents to keep their children off school for a day of fun-learning activities as a show of support.

So what are SATS in a nutshell? Since their inception in 1991 for seven, 11, 14 and 16 year olds, they have caused controversy from all quarters: unions, teachers, and now parents. Fewer than half of children reach the targeted grade in 1995, four years after it began, although in 1999 results started to improve. In the early 00′s teachers admit correcting papers in a number of schools, and claims are made about the stress it puts pupils under. In 2002, schools fail to meet the expected level four pass rate of 80% and although there was an improvement in 2004 the controversy continues.

LetOurKidsbeKids campaign run by Year 2 parents against SATS label them as ‘…endless testing by an OFSTED driven, dull, dry curriculum aimed solely at passing National Curriculum Tests.’ They want education to go back to ‘… the creativity and fun…’ They go on to say ‘…outdoor learning has decreased, childhood anxiety has increased, games have been replaced with grammar, playing with punctuation.’

In response to this, we at Abbotsholme believe that education should be about balance. Schools should not be exam factories churning out rows and rows of pupils who know how to pass exams for exams sake. Where is the life lesson in that? How many people can put their paw up with me and say that getting on in life is not just about passing exams and academic excellence? It’s about team playing, communication, working with people as well as academics. Its about the balance – just as with everything in life.

School should be about academic learning AND sports, outdoor learning, music, arts, drama, camping, kayaking, den-making, helping sheep give birth to lambs, climbing, hiking, team games, riding, gaming, coding, financial management, the seven habits of highly effective people etc. It should be about real life.

I have always thought – and it has been pointed out to me on many an occasion and is written in our white information book –  that our unique education for life begins with allowing children to be children first.

Hirch – the Dog that Blogs!

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Pastoral Care – what does it mean?

Posted: 25th April, 2016. Topics:

Well, we know that Independent School’s can really be a tricky minefield to negotiate: admissions processes, open days, forms, variety of choice, taster days, uniform purchasing etc, but none so than the incessant jargon that goes with Independent Schools.

Sometimes I think that schools forget that there are two very different markets looking at Independent Schooling for their child/ren: families have had had generations in independent schools (and are a dying breed), and first time buyers – the new target market. As a recent Independent School reporting summarised, the sector has gone from parents who were ‘Tim Nice but Dim’, to ‘Loads a Money!’

Unfortunately, schools themselves have not embraced these market changes as tight lipped, pearl-wearing admissions ladies (generally the Heads PA), continue as they always have in terms of their language and cold welcome (“….because in my day, cold showers and no heating was what it was all about…”)

So I am going to untangle the jargon starting with the number one jargon topping phase – Pastoral Care (Huuuuhhhhh?). What does it mean?

Google says, ‘Pastoral care is an ancient model of emotional and spiritual support that can be found in all cultures and traditions.’

ISBI says, “ To look after pupils personal needs, rather than their education. Making sure they are happy, comfortable, well-fed and have clean laundry, etc.”

Mumsnet users have also tried to debunk this jargon with the following: ‘emotional support and guidance’, ‘looking after the welfare of the child rather than just their academic side,’ and ‘When talking about a school it means things like, do they notice a pupil who is unhappy and would they know what to do about it, do they clamp down on bullying and help pupils to resolve their differences, do they have procedures in place to support a pupil who is struggling due to problems at home/illness/bereavement/etc.’

I think Mumsnet users have it right. Independent Schools do more than provide counsellors, they have a system of tutors, Heads of Year and boarding teams that care for the whole person – academic and emotional. Schools recognize that pupils could be having difficulties with academic work because of issues at home, or bullying from other pupils or a myriad of reasons. Independent Schools are about the whole person in many cases, so for a child to be successful and achieve, you have to consider all the various contacts that a child has both in school and at home. As Daniel Goleman put it in his bestseller Emotional Intelligence, “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand… then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

Other jargon topping phrases:

Assignments – Homework

Absence – from school, morning or afternoon

Boarding (Full/weekly/flexi) – Boarders are pupils who stay at the school overnight. This could be one, two, or three nights a week which is considered as flexi boarding; weekly boarding is pupils who stay at the school overnight from Sunday or Monday through to Friday, and then full boarding is staying overnight at the school for the full week.

Bursary - Some independent schools provide bursaries, which are grants from the school to help pay school fees and may be means tested. They differ from scholarships, which are usually dependent on the pupil’s ability (eg: academic, music, sport, or art primarily).

CCF – Combined Cadet Force. The tradition of cadet units in schools goes back 150 years to 1860 and ever since it was formed in 1948, the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) has been recognised as a first class, extra curricula activity for the development of young people, and particularly to provide cadets with an exciting opportunity for teenaged cadets to exercise responsibility and leadership in a disciplined environment.

Co-ed – co-educational education whereby both boys and girls are educated at the school

Common Entrance - Common entrance examinations are sometimes required to be taken by pupils for admission to an independent school and is geenrally held at age 13+.

Common Room – This is generally referred as another collective noun for the academic staff in an independent school; or pupils may have a common room whetre they can meet in year groups during break times.

DofE – Duke of Edinburgh Award

Dormitories – These are boarders’/pupils’ bedrooms, usually shared by several pupils. This is becoming less and less the norm now, and certainly older pupils may have single study bedrooms.

Exeat - For many Independent Schools, exeat weekends are set weekends during the term (usually two – one per half term) where all boarding pupils go home or in the case of International pupils to a guardian. Generally these are the only weekends boarders can go home to see  their parents, and it also gives boarding staff some time off during the term time from their continual boarding duties.

ISC – Independent Schools Council, represents over 1200 Independent Schools in the UK, with the aim to promote the sector.

ISI – The Independent Schools Inspectorate is the body responsible for the inspection of schools in membership of the Associations that make up the Independent Schools Council.

Lent Term/Half – Easter Term or Spring Term / Easter Half Term or Spring Half Term

Michaelmas Term/Half - Christmas Term or Autumn Term / Christmas Half Term or Autumn Half Term

Mufti – Schools have mufti days which consists of pupils coming to school in their own clothes, as opposed to uniform. Mufti is also used for boarders own clothes which they wear in many cased in the evenings and weekends at school rather than the uniform.

OEd – Outdoor Education

Pre-Prep - Independent schools preparing children up to the age of seven for entry into fee-paying, preparatory independent schools, which may also be known as public or private schools. Abbotsholme is different because we have a Prep School for pupils aged between 4-11, we have decided to call our School for pupils aged 3-4 the Pre-Prep (the school before Prep.)

Prep – another word for homework; another word for Junior School usually for pupils aged between seven and 11. It is a shortened form of the word Preparatory.

Public School - Schools which are self-governing and funded independently of the state

Private School - Schools which are self-governing and funded independently of the state

The San – Health centre; shortened from the word Sanatorium

Tuck - Snacks and sweets, either brought from home or bought from the school tuck shop


So there you go – debunking the jargon within our sector. If you have any more, please add your jargon and
comment to this post.

Hirch – the Dog that Blogs



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