Lighting Fires…

Next week I will attend the Society of Heads’ Annual Conference. This is an opportunity to meet with fellow independent school Heads from all over the country, to hear inspirational speakers at the forefront of their field and attend practical workshops. The theme this year of “Lighting Fires, Not Filling Buckets” has been set by the current Chairman, Damian Ettinger from Cokethorpe School. The Irish poet WB Yeats said: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” and never was this sentiment more relevant amidst the seismic changes in the exam system and indeed in wider society.

Sadly, the majority of the world’s educational institutions and Governments responsible for determining education policy, assessment and curricula all too often still seem to be in the business of simply measuring and fact inputting, at the expense of inspiration – filling buckets when they should be lighting fires. Therefore this should be the mission of a school.

I believe that any teacher’s primary purpose should be to find the excellence in every single student….wherever those skills maybe.

For those students who are academic, this is relatively straightforward. It’s fairly easy to observe if a student is good at Maths or Science or English – we can tell by their grades. But what if a student isn’t visibly good or exceptional at any subject? Do they have nothing to offer the world? Of course not!

 Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk (click here to view the video) argued the point that creativity should be valued just as much as literacy. Creativity and other qualities like interpersonal skills or emotional intelligence are harder to spot, especially if students are not encouraged to hone them.

As a teacher and of course as Head of a school, I value and endorse the vital importance of academic excellence and good examination results. However there is, and should be, so much more offered by every school in the best interests of the young people we are privileged to educate.

So, as I head eastward across the country, I will remember the scope, joy and value of the broadest, enriching education for children. We have a responsibility to light fires in the students in our care so they can discover what makes them special or what is most important to them – and we can do this whilst ensuring they achieve the exam results necessary, skills and attributes along the way!

Lynne M Horner

February 2017