Home' Independence : Independence Vol 33 No 1 May 2008 Contents 54 Independence Volume 33 No. 1
Rabindranath Tagore. In this model we've
said that each child has eight aptitudes in
four sets of pairs: the logical and linguistic,
the social and the personal, the creative
and the physical, and the spiritual and the
moral. And we've said that the job of every
school is to nurture all eight aptitudes and
to do so in a way that opens the heart and
mind of each child.
We now know a lot more about the ingre-
dients for a happy and successful life and
we know much more than ever before
about how you can help children reach
that point. So, the challenge for schools
today is to have the courage to break away
from the bland tyranny of examinations
in favour of teaching all eight aptitudes.
The leaders of many independent schools
in Australia would suggest that they've been
doing that for some time, in generally bal-
ancing academic performance with a range
of different programs.
I think to an extent that's true but in Bri-
tain there are signs of it narrowing. I think
it's quite possible that even in independent
schools the quality of the breadth is nar-
rowing. There are no rewards in league
tables for schools offering breadth. And
within the classroom league tables have
discouraged teachers from teaching broadly
in favour of teaching to the test.
We argue pretty strongly here that bench-
mark testing data should be available to
schools where it can be directed to improve
educational outcomes, but not available
in the public domain where it can be used
to create league table style comparisons.
Isn't the simple solution just to ban the
publication of any sort of league table that
I think that's absolutely the right spirit, but
I also think it's very hard in a democracy
to ban information. And the media will in
any case attempt some form of ranking.
At Wellington College and at your pre-
vious school, Brighton College, you intro-
duced a lot of new ideas relatively quickly.
What can you tell us about the leadership
It was the political theorist and philosopher
Edmund Burke who first pointed out that
if change is to endure it has to be organic,
it has to be going with the grain of the
institution and be true to the institution's
history and tradition.
The difference between a good leader and
a bad leader is that a good leader will not
only have a vision but will ensure that vi-
sion is true to the traditions of that institu-
tion and carry key stakeholders with them.
One has to listen very carefully to discern
what is uniquely true about the institution.
Wellington College is changing very signi-
ficantly. We've gone co-ed, we've started
the International Baccalaureate, we're
starting an independent state school called
Wellington Academy, we are planning to
open schools abroad, we are teaching the
eight aptitudes rather than the traditional
exam-focused model, we're teaching hap-
piness and wellbeing and over half the
teachers are newer than three years. If
these things weren't going to carry the
staff and the parent body, it wouldn't work.
So, you have to be true to the institution,
and you have to run with the market. If
both those things are true, then the oppo-
sition melts away.
That's an interesting combination you've
mentioned -- respect tradition, and run
with the market. When you've got a choice
between tradition and market, what are the
indicators for choice, keeping in mind the
viability and sustainability of the school?
I think many schools in Britain, and it's
probably true in Australia too, are very
conservative. They are essentially 20th
century schools run on the factory model.
You put the children in at one end and
after 13 years in the system they come out
the other end with a Leaving Certificate.
Everyone moves to the rhythm of the clock
and the bell. Everyone has lessons at the
same time. Twenty-first century schools
will not be like that. Digital technology
will allow education to be far broader
than just focusing on the memory part
of the intellect, and learning will become
I think British schools have fallen short by
being obsessed by exams, by being conser-
vative, by letting their fees go up too high
and by not being adventurous enough. If
you're going to be an independent school
you have a duty to be innovative, to act-
ually be independent.
You mentioned that Wellington College
is going to start a 'state' school. Why not
just make Wellington non-selective?
Figures show that up to two-thirds more
people would pay to attend independent
schools if they could afford it, so money's
the biggest selector in the sector. But also,
if a school is very over-subscribed, which
Wellington is, you've got to be able to sel-
ect students on some basis.
Why not simply use a first-come-first-
That's one manner of selection, but that
discriminates against those people who
happen to move into the area, the people
who maybe thought that they couldn't
afford it at the time when they should have
put their child's name on a waiting list but
who now can, and it discriminates against
those people who maybe didn't go to inde-
pendent schools, or who didn't think lat-
erally early enough about it and so on.
So no system is perfect. What we do is
we use the eight aptitude model to try
and ensure we have children representing
Tell us more about why you are setting up
a state school.
I have written in the British press recently
about what I see as a vision for the inde-
pendent sector. It's my view that we should
be advocating that every school become
independent and that we should be active
We should be
every school become
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