Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 8th February 2019
Two interesting pronouncements from central government to reflect upon this week. First, the Education Secretary’s welcome iteration of the five foundations for building character and resilience (sport, creativity, performing, volunteering and membership, and the world of work) and his pledge to help every child in the country access activities contributory to these. And I’m glad we’ve started to do our small bit to support this by sharing some of the activities we do here through our Educational Partnerships programme. Second, the UK’s chief medical officers’ recommendations about children’s use of mobile devices which centred on promoting quality family time and parents’ role in ensuring regular breaks from screen time. (I append the key steps of the guidance below*). Underpinning both these pronouncements, it seems to me, is a strong sense that as a society we’re beginning to recognise that we must re-engage our children in active involvement in the world around them. Otherwise, they are in danger of becoming passive (and possibly physically and mentally unhealthy) recipients of often ill-digested information from a world devoid of the accepted norms of real human contact. Although couched in terms of its time and perhaps quirkily old-fashioned to our ears, I was reading this week an account of singing at King’s, Cambridge which recalled that the “The headmaster [of the School] in the 1930s liked to take the boys skating when the Fens froze over. He wished all boys to become self-reliant, to be able to swim and mend their own bicycles, and he arranged extracurricular woodwork and metalwork lessons, assisting boys to construct canoes and the take them onto the river.” Although these days we might add a range of different activities, the principle is the same and one of which the Education Secretary would presumably approve. I’m sure we all know as parents that, once absorbed in such activities which require a wonderful mixture of doing and thinking, children do not miss their screens.
[*There are several clear steps for parents, which the chief medical officers say will help keep children safe and healthy. These include: not using phones and mobile devices at the dinner table - talking as a family is very important for development. keeping screens out of the bedroom at bedtime. talking as a family about keeping safe online and about cyber-bulling and what children should do if they are worried. not using phones when crossing a road or doing any other activity that requires a person's full attention. making sure children take a break from screens every two hours by getting up and being active. policing their own use too - parents should give their children proper attention and quality family time and never assume they are happy for pictures to be shared.]