Learning Should Be Magical – Chris Calvey, Headmaster Great Walstead School

09 Nov 2018

Great Walstead independent school West SussexChris Calvey, Headmaster of Great Walstead School, West Sussex, talks about the importance of creating an engaging and stimulating learning environment which ensures young children maintain a genuine love of learning which will stay with them in adulthood.

Children intrinsically have a curiosity and desire to explore their world. They have a need to discover what they can do, how things work and how they push the boundaries of reality. Our schooling system runs the danger of restricting children’s natural ability to learn and discover as it focuses too much on the need to retain information rather than using, questioning and applying learning. If children are not given the opportunity to develop their natural curiosity, they become passive learners who accept everything they are told. They will fail to understand the potential of what they are learning. In time this will lead to a closed mind-set where children feel restricted by their cognitive ability. The ‘I can’ attitude is suffocated and the desire to explore is lost.

At Great Walstead School, we place great importance on developing a child’s positive approach to learning through our Learning Powers: Learning Lion (confidence to make mistakes), Persevering Panda (commitment and application), Curious Cat (curiosity and questioning), Respectful Rhino (collaborative learning), Creative Chameleon (creative problem solving) and Be Better Bee (craftsmanship and taking pride). Teachers offer their children many opportunities to develop these skills through well planned lessons. The pupils are recognised for displaying examples of the different attitudes and can gain stickers corresponding to each Learning Power. Though this approach, no child is restricted because of their cognitive ability: all have the opportunity to excel.

Since focusing on the Learning Powers, we have seen children become far more engaged in their learning process, taking responsibility and, as a result, making impressive levels of academic progress where they not only know things, but genuinely understand them – there is a distinct difference.  Children only get one chance at their schooling and I believe it is so important that we look to develop the whole person – not just focus on attainment and a knowledge based curriculum. These attitudes prepare them for an ever changing world, where an academic certificate is no longer enough to guarantee success and happiness in life.

Great Walstead School, West Sussex