Before planting seeds in a garden, a gardener will ensure that the soil is carefully turned, weeds are picked and stones discarded, irrigation is plentiful, and the conditions, once the precious seeds are planted, are conducive to growth. Seeds scattered on hard and stony ground are unlikely to prosper; some may take root and whittle their way below the surface, most will struggle but many, will die.
Planting knowledge in the minds of children is rather like the work of a gardener, it requires careful planning and pristine preparation of the ground. Scattering knowledge in to young, not necessarily interested, minds, is like throwing seeds on hard soil. Some may take root, few may even flourish, but most, will be wasted, lost and forgotten.
At Wandsworth Prep, we believe that, in order to give knowledge the best chance of being acquired, we need to engage our children, capture their imagination, and give them the opportunity to think. By jumping in too early or beginning by telling them what to think, before their minds are focused, we make learning too easy; and learning should not be easy. Quality learning requires the flexing of cognitive muscles, problem-solving and creativity. Learning that does not challenge or, quite simply, is too uninteresting will not penetrate the mind, just as seeds thrown on to hard soil will not penetrate hard ground.
Throughout the school, we place great emphasis in our teaching and learning, on thinking. We structure our curriculum to provide open-ended activities, which focus on personal and intellectual qualities such as risk-taking, reflection and initiative, where there may be no ‘right answer’. Children in our Reception class are currently working together to help a pirate locate his treasure chest after his ship ran aground in a violent storm. Aiming to piece together a torn and weather-beaten map, which holds the clues to the exact location of the pirate’s treasured possessions, children have been writing letters, leaving messages in bottles and responding to coded messages to salvage Jim Lad’s career. What better way might there be to get children reading, writing or adding up?
In an ever-evolving world, it is vital that children are able to retain, source and apply newly acquired knowledge in interesting and creative ways. Motivated, creative and confident young people who can solve problems, collaborate and communicate effectively are highly sought after in all areas of life. These are the qualities we seek to encourage and develop.
Bridget Saul - Headteacher