Beneden hosts first conference for heads

Headteachers from some of the leading independent schools have gathered for a conference at Benenden

On Friday March 16, representatives from 50 different schools – both prep and senior – spent the day discussing issues that are pertinent to the sector. There was a particular emphasis on year 7 and 8, including a focus on enquiry-based curriculums and the transition from prep to senior school.

There were some strong views expressed that enquiry-based curriculums offer pupils a more relevant and lasting education: that they provide genuine skills for life by fostering independent learning, creativity and encourage risk-taking. By contrast, Common Entrance was seen as an exercise in merely testing a child’s ability to recall knowledge, which senior school heads felt was a less effective method of assessing a pupil’s potential.

There were presentations from Benenden, Newton Prep in London and Holmewood House School in Kent, all of which have introduced enquiry-based curriculums in whole or in part. There was enormous interest from other schools in working with us to develop their own like-minded programmes.

There was then a positive but robust discussion about the best method for managing prep pupils’ entry to senior school. A panel discussion was held, in which heads of prep and senior schools outlined their varying positions on pupils’ entry and an open and honest debate ensued about how the system could be improved.

We emerged from the session with some tangible action points which Benenden will now take forward with the relevant independent sector bodies.

The afternoon drew to a close with a very well-received session on partnership working, with Benenden and The John Wallis Church of England Academy discussing how the partnership brings enormous benefits to pupils from both schools.

The event concluded with wine tasting, delightful performances from some young musicians and dinner, followed by a talk from former Education Select Committee Chairman Neil Carmichael.

Benenden headmistress Samantha Price said: “Overall we were delighted with the response from Heads and felt the turnout on the day reflected the importance of the topics on the agenda.

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“The Conference was an enormous success. Benenden is proud to take a lead on industry-wide issues and we look forward to holding similar events in future.”

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