What is reflection? In education we tend to use the word as a route into reviewing provision and then suggesting change. This is broadly supported by the Council of International Schools (CIS) framework which allowed us a period of self-study, or reflection, from September 2017 to March 2019. This period produced a number of key ‘reflections’ and in that time we successfully defined what we see High Quality Learning as at Shrewsbury and have begun to work more closely to this definition as well as sharing it with parents across the age ranges. We also identified strategic direction and staffing as key areas where we would need to upgrade our thinking and planning to the next level. Finally we reflected on all the great things we already do, and set about showing this to CIS when they visited us in March.
It is then with great pride that although the final report will not be with us for another six weeks, I can inform the community that CIS commended us with regards Governance, Student Wellbeing and Staffing as well as describing Shrewsbury as a fine school. Across the school, CIS offered 42 different commendations and so we can certainly say that we showed them what we are capable of. Our visitors noted that the caring and supportive atmosphere was ably delivered by professional and motivated staff. CIS thoroughly enjoyed meeting our students and parents and made strong mention of the standard of spoken English across the school, especially in the use of high level vocabulary in everyday speech. As Principal, I am extremely proud of the whole community and delighted that CIS gained a really accurate sense of the great school we are
This term has been another wonderful reflection of all that is great in our community. Our quite wonderful Higher Education team was recognised by winning an International School of the Year Award for Initiatives and Pathways to Colleges and University. This well-deserved reward follows many years of hard work, the establishment of excellent relationships with students and parents, and is testament to Mr Holroyd’s vision to provide the very best pathway to higher education. This vision is continued now and as we seek to continually provide outstanding opportunity for all. This year, six students were offered a place at Cambridge University, and this sits alongside offers from the likes of Harvard, Stanford, Tufts, and the Royal College of Music. The calibre of our students has also been recognised in the form of scholarships to Duke, Illinois Institute of Technology and London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), whilst talent of a sporting kind earns a golf scholarship to UCLA and creative flair earns scholarships to specialist creative institutions, Dressmaker Gakuin in Tokyo, and Parsons the renowned school of design in New York. Exceptional people, showing commitment to the pursuit of outstanding opportunity.
Our residential programme has built a strong reputation for fulfilling its mission of challenging students to experience new ventures. We begin with superbly run trips in the Junior School and develop this theme with the ‘week without walls’ in January for the seniors. Like so many of the successes we see in older children, the genesis is often in the Junior School. Fully Booked Week inspires a love of reading in all through parades, tasks and events beautifully organised by our Library team and literacy coordinators. The brilliant Year 3 and 4 plays, and the newly devised Junior Concert sow the seeds for the performing arts so that the magnificent Choral Concert, and Senior Concert can happen at the extraordinary levels they do. Sporting diversity and opportunity in the Junior School leads to excellence in Year 7 and beyond. This is increasingly evident in the pool as our swim team grows larger and more successful than ever before. New sports such as climbing and Kwik cricket taking hold in the aspirations of junior students, ensure a rich experience for all in the future. Also we see the Y3 Science Fair and the Junior Global Goals Fair that begin the process of thinking deeply, critically and imaginatively that leads us to the marvellously frenetic Y9 Expo and the outstanding quality of FilmFest.
The independence of thought in these events brings the confidence to lead and manage events such as BISJMC, our student-run mathematics challenge for other schools, but also ensures every academic enrichment trip is a joy to be part of as teachers consistently report engaged and aspirant students soaking up all that is on offer across a range of experience from Singapore to KL and further afield.
Despite these clear links and much excellent work around Y6-7 Transition, CIS remained unsure that we articulate the link between Junior and Senior Schools strongly enough with regards the formal curriculum. This feedback will form a strand of our work in the coming years to understand and develop much stronger links at subject level to build upon the strong foundations we have already established in the co-curriculum. Conceptually, this is not a difficult task but as with all ‘reflection’ we should ensure that any change we make is to the benefit of the young people concerned and so will model what we expect of the students at Shrewsbury - careful and critical thinking, leading to well researched and reasoned outcomes.
I have often commented about the strength of our community and on a personal note, I would like to thank you all for the support and kind words I have received through the lead up and then recovery from spinal fusion. I have found some of the messages from students particularly humbling and the advice and support from parents truly uplifting. Now that titanium screws have made me upright again I can really enjoy the various events that Shrewsbury Parents provide. International Food Day was simply brilliant and although I patriotically purchased British sponge cake, I could have gorged myself on almost every stall! The Gatsby Cocktail party was also great fun, and in raising funds through an epic raffle the tone is set and then followed by our superb efforts in the charitable domain - thank you to the Charity Committee and all those who support it.
So plenty of reflections on the busiest of terms. I close by linking back to CIS. Their reflection, and ours is that the time is right for a thorough review of the Mission and Values of Shrewsbury Riverside. In doing so, we will be brought back to the most important reflection of all - why do we do teach? For me that is simply answered; to watch and be part of the progress and development of young people into fulfilled adults, is an overwhelming privilege and the communities that enable this are wonderfully engaging places to be. If our newly formed Mission and Values can carry that message, then our review will have been a successful one.
Lastly my reflection on this term’s events is simple - well done all, thank you for your part in our success, and we all very much look forward to the ongoing strength of our great school.
A brilliant way to end the term - Speech Day and Prize Giving, with a visit from Mr and Mrs Holroyd and Guest of Honour, Leo Winkley (Headmaster, Shrewsbury UK) and his family.