A well-rounded education: the bigger picture

Posted on 26th Apr 2023 in School News, Curriculum, Extra-curricular, Prep Schools Guide

Tom Le Tissier, North Bridge House Prep School Head, believes that it is the enriching experiences we offer our children that will help them develop fundamental life skills.

Schools often talk about providing a well-rounded education, developing well-rounded individuals, but what exactly does that translate to in terms of transferrable skills and future success? Here at North Bridge House Prep School in Regent’s Park, we look beyond the extensive extra-curricular activities often heard about, combining progressive and traditional methods in our mission to provide not just a broad, balanced education, but a truly enriching life experience.

Indeed, there are endless extra-curricular opportunities at NBH Prep School, with close to 40 creative and sporting activities taking place before or after school every week. As with our broad-ranging curriculum, we are on a journey to find each child’s niche, to home in on it and ensure they fulfil their own unique potential.

From architecture to karate, documentary making to Greek, the school designs its extra-curricular programme to open as many doors to as many passions and interests as possible. Beyond this, however, is a much more traditional and potentially overlooked approach to developing well-rounded individuals.

We sweat the small stuff here. Let’s not forget just how important it is for our future generation to be able to conduct themselves appropriately – to practise good manners, articulate with confidence and make not only a good first impression, but a lasting impression.

Outside the classroom, the school uses passings by in the corridor, interactions at lunchtime and healthy debate to engage children in meaningful conversations with their peers and with staff. Whether it’s holding open a door or discussing the latest Six Nations fixture, children are encouraged to develop relationships built on manners, which in turn breed confidence.

The relationships that our teachers form with the children are so important. Cultural capital is a currency that increases in value day-to-day, particularly with young people, and it is through these rich conversations with their teachers that our children become invested members of society.

Whether it’s the Year 8 children reading to the Reception class, or the pupils’ collaboration with ZSL London Zoo, NBH students are developing habits, skills, and mindsets that build their social, emotional, and academic competence.

It is about immersing children in the bigger picture from the outset of education. Peer mentoring is a powerful tool: in reading to our little ones, the older students identify as role models, develop key social-emotional capacities, and are motivated by a sense of achievement, while the younger children are positively influenced to practice their reading, seeing what it looks like to be fluent. Equally, in talking to experts in zoology, our children gain an understanding of how science is applied in the wider world – beyond the science lab – as well as current perspectives on conservation and ideas as to what more they can do to help preserve our environment.

At the core of what NBH Prep School does is a progressive, knowledge-rich curriculum, designed to help pupils remember what they have been taught and to impart the skills and attitudes that contribute to success. 

Alongside a broad offering of humanities, science, technology, mathematics, foreign languages, arts, health and physical education, at Key Stage 2 (Years 3 and 4), Critical Thinking and Philosophy, Politics and Economics are added to the curriculum. Come Year 5, we include a General Studies course to further broaden pupils’ cultural, political and global awareness, with modules including Film Studies and Art History.

While being explicit about the knowledge that needs to be acquired for our children to achieve, we also prioritise the learning of powerful knowledge, worldly knowledge. Knowledge that not only allows our children to fathom Pythagoras’ theorem, but that allows them to understand and thrive in the society they will be working in when they grow up.

From an understanding of our economy post Brexit to the global political landscape, NBH Prep pupils are prepared for the real world, complete with higher order thinking skills and even practical, problem-solving skills acquired in the great outdoors.

We balance the use of up-to-the-minute tech in class with outdoor learning at Forest School. Our children are learning to navigate the fast-developing digital world into which their future jobs may be born, while understanding the impact of their footprint in the physical world around them and gaining social and emotional enrichment from Mother Nature.

This article appears in the 2023 edition of John Catt's Preparatory Schools, which you can view here: