Florence Nightingale, education & looking for the best in everyone with Cliff Canning, Headmaster of HCS.
**Newsflash: HCS’ next whole school open day is on Saturday 22 September and Sixth Form open evening on Wednesday 26 September.**
You’ve been Head of Hampshire Collegiate School for 18-months now, what changes are you most proud of?
Firstly, I would say our excellence in teaching which has resulted in excellence in learning; the best set of A level results for years and a record number of entrants to Russell Group universities. In essence, we are getting better at being our best.
Over the past 18 months, our students have played an even greater role in the leadership of our school, through School Council (which is modelled on the House of Lords Select Committee and led by our Head Girl and Boy) and our Prefect system. Our Senior School students are active role models across the Prep School – for example, we have a joint initiative with the Royal Institution (RI) which sees Prep School pupils take part in a mathematics programme run jointly by the RI and our A Level students.
OK time for a broad sweeping question: what’s your take on education?
It is essentially about effective relationships, where passionate educators ignite a love of learning in their pupils. It is about children engaging with difficult concepts or those they would not otherwise encounter. It is about opening the door of wonder onto the achievements of humanity and being inspired by that wonder to make a difference to others.
HCS’ base, Embley Park, was once home to Florence Nightingale. Tell us a bit more about that connection; she was a lot more than the “lady with the lamp,” am I right?
Embley Park is where Florence Nightingale grew up, where she was taught by her father and where she is said to have received her call from God to serve. Much has been written about Florence and her role in the professional development of nursing. But Florence’s much less publicised contribution to society was that of scholarship, science and mathematics.
She was a social reformer who approached problems of the day through scientific methods. Reasoned analysis and investigation led to lasting and convincing change, making the lives of soldiers and all those who fell prey to the problems of infection immeasurably better. She was an unsung hero whose myth obscures her true worth. Though not to be ignored, the romantic notion of the lady with the lamp is a useful but incomplete way of capturing her spirit of care and desire to serve others.
I know that you are interested in the work of Millicent Fawcett who founded the Suffragists, a group often over-shadowed by the more militant Suffragettes — can you tell us more about that? And also, your general view on supporting HCS’ female pupils?
My preoccupation here is not exclusively with suffragists v suffragettes, but with the way we allow a media driven perspective to take hold and become the truth of the past or events, when in fact it is only one version of those events.
We support all of our children according to their need, such is the nature of the individualised attention we give our pupils. There is no one size fits all approach to gender, background or disposition. Our pupils are cared for as individuals, we encourage their growth intellectually, socially and emotionally. It has never been more needed.
You talk a lot about encouraging creativity, independence and authenticity. Can you tell us a bit more about the experience you want to create for HCS pupils?
A rich curriculum and co-curriculum offer that allows each student to be stretched academically, to develop the confidence to be themselves through taking appropriate risks and learning to fail well and by affording them opportunities to be compassionate and serve others.
Nowadays, there’s a lot of talk about teen anxiety, exam stress and over-use of tech and social media. How do you help pupils deal with all this?
By encouraging children to be honest and open, by not setting up role models that are impossible to follow and by recognising that talking helps and that everyone on the team is supportive of each pupil being their best. We don’t compare children to norms or to others, we look for the best in everyone.
Sadly, children can be very cruel to each other. What’s your take on preventing bullying and creating a kind community?
Bullying is any moment where the desire or will of one overrides or obscures those of another. It is inevitable that in a community there will be moments of friction, but we hold to a simple standard: do to others what you would have done to you, live authentically. Living honestly in the moment allows pupils to avoid unnecessary anxiety, to be reconciled that they are not always right and capable of causing injury to others which can be overcome through forgiveness.
All of this is created by the messages coming from the staff, but as importantly, perhaps more so, by the lived reality of daily exchanges where we value each individual as worthwhile in themselves.
How do you prepare HCS pupils for the next step in their career?
Initially and through the way teachers engage with their pupils, we inspire, expect and help build confidence and competence as well as encouraging them to consider their ambitions. Through a broad enrichment programme which includes our bespoke Mini MBA Experience, Nightingale Lecture Programme, industry careers evenings and leadership and teambuilding programmes, we help ensure our students have the experience and information at hand to make informed choices about their future careers.
We also have an excellent relationship with UK universities and selected universities overseas, which allows us to place students in institutions where they will thrive.
Any future plans you want to share with us?
All good things come to those who wait, but watch this space…
And finally, can you describe an HCS education in four words?
Competent, confident (and) compassionate individuals
Thanks so much for your time Cliff and good luck with everything.
Want to find out more about Hampshire Collegiate School? The next whole school open day is on Saturday 22 September and Sixth Form open evening on Wednesday 26 September. For more information, visit www.hampshirecs.org.uk or call +44 (0) 1794 512206