The most common question I am asked as a Headmaster is: What is your vision for the School?
Pass me a crystal ball and call me ‘Mystic Meg’, a name that has already lost most of its popular cultural significance because the world has changed so fast.
I suppose, in moments of vanity, there are few Heads who would not like the adjective visionary applied to their leadership, yet vision is an interesting word in a modern context where everything changes so quickly. I am a little concerned if it imbues a Head with either clairvoyance or omniscience, let alone omnipotence. I am far happier if it implies direction-setting and values.
A child starting at a nursery school in September 2017 will arrive in the Fourth Form at Cranleigh in 2027. He or she will complete leaving qualifications (I hesitate to use A levels – who knows?) in September 2032, so will be either on a gap year, starting employment or at a university in the third decade of the 21st Century. Increasing life expectancy would suggest that those beginning their education now may well be alive in the 22nd Century. My daughter, born in November 1999, could possibly live in three centuries.
So when I am asked a question about my vision, I am being asked to predict how I am going to lead Cranleigh now to receive children who will leave in over 15 years’ time whilst also ensuring that I prepare those in the School for a closer departure. A Cranleigh education must then equip children for adult lives that could last another 80 years after they leave.
However, I am prepared to offer some trends that I think will affect Cranleigh and Cranleighans, in no particular order:
- Demographic change (at both ends!) and an enormous increase in world population
- Continued focus on outcomes
- Changes to the curriculum and revisions to those changes
- Continued personalisation of learning
- Greater understanding of brain function and learning
- Global market place for employment and pupils
- Geopolitical uncertainty, scarcity of resources and migration of populations
- Environmental change and the need for sustainable energy use
- Creation of jobs yet unimagined
- Break-up of the conventional family model
- An increase in mental health issues
- Continued rapid development of new technologies
- Improved investment in the maintained sector
- Changes to pensions and working patterns
So what is my vision for Cranleigh within this context? Its starting point is a vision for Cranleighans first and it is only from that the practical management of their experience and environment stems.
Clearly what is required to thrive in such an uncertain world has as more to do with the qualities of individuals and their ability to learn, think and apply existing knowledge than a narrow focus on preparation for an examination. Ultimately, what I am interested in is ‘individual flourishing’. I want to nurture Cranleighans who are going to leave Cranleigh and wish to make a difference in the world, equipped but ready to serve.
In the words of Auden, inscribed on our War Memorial, itself called ‘Leaving’:
Love one another or die.
I think therefore that the hallmarks of a Cranleigh education can be explained in four central principles, principles which stand for the school and the individuals within it: Service, Relationships Leadership and Excellence.
Service: We will always strive to put pupils first in our decision making. Please be aware that this is a nuanced from a pupil-centred approach for there is sometimes a distinction between what an adult thinks is best for a child and what a child perceives his or her needs are. We serve them best by being prepared to shoulder that responsibility.
We should encourage a service element amongst pupils as an expectation by modelling service ourselves and we should by a school that seeks to put others before ourselves.
Relationships: relationships have always been at the heart of a good education, care and discipline: the classical pedagogue, the master and apprentice, father to son, mother to daughter in early societies. Fostering healthy living and working relationships will continue to be a central principle at Cranleigh.
All members of our community are entitled to be treated with respect, sympathy, understanding and tolerance. The highest standards of courtesy and discipline are an expectation. Pupils should recognise their responsibilities to themselves and the wider world and the consequences of forgetting those responsibilities. In a school which seeks to live up to the Christian calling of its Founders, we should encourage both remorse for the things that go wrong and forgiveness.
Leadership: Honesty, openness and integrity should be evident in all we do –perhaps easier to say than do, but a standard we should pursue for these are the qualities we wish in our leaders. We want to be seen at Cranleigh to be leading in education. Our motto is Ex Cultu Robur, out of culture comes strength. Our aim must be to nurture the the culture-shapers of the future.
Excellence: we should always strive for the highest possible standards in all we do; we should strive for continuous improvement; we should embrace excellence and respect it.
If we pursue these things, I hope, and schools are always places of hope, we will help Cranleighans to flourish and to learn to live lives of love and service now and in the future. I wouldn’t mind that as a legacy for Cranleigh.