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Grove Life – Invest in Independent
I often refer to a parent choosing a school as being the ultimate emotional purchase.
There are two main questions I see in the eyes of parents looking around the school at one of our Autumn Open Mornings; the first is, of course, whether Woodhouse Grove is the right school for their child; the second, especially in the current economic climate, is whether choosing private secondary education is the correct option for their family.
Whether your child has been to a private primary school or is coming from the state sector, committing to 7 years of independent secondary education is a big step for every family and a decision no parent takes lightly.
As headmaster of Woodhouse Grove, I am, obviously, a champion of the private sector. I believe the value added to the lives of Grove pupils and their families is worth the sacrifices many of our families make to give their children a Grove education. I hope that this blog explains why.
An enriched educational experience
The fees paid by Woodhouse Grove parents buy their children an enriched educational experience. Academically, freedom from the National Curriculum allows The Grove a broader outlook in its educational provision. We can adapt more quickly to changes and trends in higher education and post-school options. Our sixth formers enjoy a unique Pathways Programme that incorporates all the benefits of an outstanding and well-respected academic institution with the vocational advantages of a sixth form college. As an independent school, we also have more time and resources to source highly experienced and motivated staff, who are experts in their field. Staff who are supported to stretch and challenge students and are afforded the time give one-to-one support as and when it is required, as well as take pupils to value-adding academic events, such as the Maths Olympiad. We are able to have small class sizes – enabling each pupil to not only have more individual contact with their subject teachers, but also to be known within the school by all our staff. The result is that – whether they arrive in a class at the higher end of the ability range, in the middle, or requiring additional help – no pupil is ignored, allowed to coast or get lost in the system. We have the resources to provide exceptional teaching and learning – and we ensure that this is exactly what every single student at The Grove receives.
As a fee-paying school, we have the advantage of being able to offer our pupils a vast range of co-curricular opportunities. These add a very special dimension to the independent school experience. There really is something for everyone here; every pupil at The Grove can find their niche and develop the myriad of soft skills that a high standard of co-curricular offering facilitates. And the standard here is exceptionally high. Our Sports and Performing Arts teams are highly experienced and dedicated. Pupils are taught by staff who are keen, motivated and filled with the energy and passion that can only be retained from being part of a well-resourced team. We are able to offer pupils of all abilities and experience opportunities to represent themselves and their school across the board. We have numerous sports teams per age group, each with their own, dedicated staff coach who accompanies them to a wide range of fixtures each Saturday. We put on numerous training sessions throughout the week. Performing arts staff go the extra mile to offer children weekly opportunities to perform, as well as numerous clubs, half termly and termly concerts and our bigger productions. Our academic, performing arts and sporting facilities are outstanding.
In short, school fees buy Grove pupils a very special educational experience. And, in turn, this offers them…
A Culture of Success
An enriched educational experience, such as that offered at The Grove, cultivates a very special thing; confidence. Not arrogance – but a simple, straightforward confidence in each pupil that develops from being in an environment where they feel safe to try new things and aspire to new heights, knowing that they will be supported wholeheartedly. The confidence that comes from having the greatest number of options available, to find the one that’s right for them. The confidence that grows from being known and respected, as an individual, in a community where staff have the time and resources to ensure that every pupil’s needs are met.
In the independent sector, we have the privilege of never having to scrimp on Pastoral Care; at The Grove, a dedicated staff team ensure it is given the highest priority. We know that happy students go on to succeed. No one falls through the cracks here.
The very fact that all our parents have invested financially into their children’s education has the knock-on effect that they are also invested emotionally and intellectually – which benefits everyone in the Grove community. Secondary education will always come with some bumps on the way – but, in an independent setting, the greater involvement of all parents means that we have a head start and any issues can be quickly and smoothly dealt with – always with the best interests of the pupil at heart. Grove parents want to help – which results in a better environment for all students.
And the commitment to education, learning and betterment demonstrated by their parents does, of course, filter through to our pupils. A key element of the independent learning environment is that it is cool to do well. There is no social pressure to hide your light at The Grove; our pupils enjoy a culture where the strengths and successes of others are celebrated – an aspirational environment where healthy competition is encouraged, students are keen to excel and are never dragged down but instead strive for the top, to be the best that they can be.
I understand that many people may have preconceptions of the independent school environment and the people it caters to. If this is you, I strongly recommend that you visit The Grove and meet our pupils. The Grove community is made up of individuals from a huge variety of backgrounds; ethnic, economic and cultural. Our boarding community is home to a wide range of nationalities, our bursary system ensures that we offer a Grovian education to as many well-deserving young people as possible and we are a community that embraces cultural and social diversity in all its forms. In fact, dare I suggest that, based on house prices and the lack of ethnic diversity in the limited catchment areas of the more sought-after local state options, your child will be far less in the “bubble” and benefit from meeting a far more diverse range of people if you send them to The Grove!
Another common misconception is that independent education fails to build resilience in young people – that they are handed everything on a plate. I can assure you that, at The Grove, what we offer results in exactly the opposite. To build resilience, you must fail. To fail, it is often necessary to extend yourself beyond your comfort zone. We have built a community in which pupils are encouraged to do just that – and given a multitude of opportunities to do so. As much as I would love it not to be the case, some of those Saturday fixtures result in a loss, performing arts events may include a flat note or a missed line. Grovians understand that there will be other opportunities. They know that they will be given the help to work hard and improve. They build resilience but also, determination. And once they leave Woodhouse Grove, the support continues – our alumni or “Old Grovians” form a close network across the globe. These are young people who will fly when they enter the world outside education – no matter how many times they may stumble along the way.
According to recent figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), there was an 8% real-terms cut in funding for state education – around £10bn – between 2010 and 2019. Although this has begun to rise gradually, it will take 2 years for per-pupil spend to revert to 2010 levels. This is extraordinary in a rapidly evolving world in which learning has never been more important. At a time when education has fallen to the bottom of the list in terms of Government priorities, the role of independent schools becomes increasingly relevant. Your money can buy an enriched educational experience for your child, give them optimum opportunities and introduce them to a culture of success. Yes, the figure for 7 years of secondary education is by no means insignificant – but the confidence, self-assurance, resilience and outlook that comes with it, is invaluable. This is the time to Invest in Independent.
James Lockwood – Headmaster