​The real-world benefits of a broad education

Posted on 28th Apr 2022 in School News, Curriculum, Prep Schools Guide

Tania Botting, Headmistress at Greenfield School, wants to empower her pupils to achieve great things.

One of the biggest appeals of an independent education is surely the breadth of the curriculum and opportunities on offer. But what does this breadth offer to our children in real terms?

In pursuit of passion

Everyone should have a passion; something that they adore above all else; something they return to as a source of comfort, pleasure and inspiration. At Greenfield School, we are passionate about providing our pupils with as many opportunities as possible, in order for each child to discover what makes them tick. Be it reading a beloved author’s novels, tinkering with mechanical bits and bobs or playing a game that continues to challenge and surprise us, we endeavour to unite each of our pupils with an interest that they will turn to time and time again.


Lots of schools speak of instilling confidence in their pupils, but the root of confidence is found in self-belief and this is something that often has to be nurtured. A school with a broad curriculum offers greater opportunities for cultivating self-belief, particularly in young children. If Art isn’t for you, perhaps you’ll prefer the Sciences? Or if you find words tricky, maybe you’ll feel more secure working with the certainty of number? If numbers make you feel confident then you’ll probably enjoy working from a recipe in cookery lessons, or find that you really fly when you are let loose on a STEAM project. Without variety, children miss out on the chance to really identify their strengths and build their self-belief and confidence.


There is something to be said for recognising that we all encounter things we are less naturally aligned to. Cultivating a genuine sense of humility in the most able children can be a challenge for schools. Recognising that another person has a more natural aptitude or skill for a particular pursuit is an important lesson to learn. An opportunity-focussed education can be academically and intellectually challenging, but it can also help to breed humility amongst children who would otherwise believe themselves to be ‘the best’ at absolutely everything.


Learning in an environment where we are all encouraged to try new things lets each child know that success takes work and that it’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy some subjects more than others. Developing skills such as determination and perseverance, there is a lot to be said for participating in activities that we find challenging in one way or another. One of the most rewarding sights at Greenfield is watching a child who is yet to find their niche, and perhaps finding school quite challenging, discover that they are the most naturally adept at computer programming, or engineering, or dodgeball, or pottery. One lesson where a child feels emboldened can have the most remarkable ripple-effect on their day, their week or even their year and this is why variety and opportunity is so important.

Real-world skills

Maths, English and Science are an essential foundation for us all, regardless of where we end up. Those who excel in these subjects could do very well right through their educational journey, passing through prep, senior, sixth form and onto a Russell Group University. But what then? Exam results are the currency of education, but once we graduate how do these results translate and what will it be that allows us, or our child, to stand out from the crowd? One of the greatest benefits of a broad curriculum is the skill-building and real-world experiences it can offer. At Greenfield, we work hard to translate every activity, project and skill into a real-world benefit to highlight to the children why public speaking competitions are important, how adapting play during a football game will make them more employable and the impact that tucking your shirt in can have on a first impression.

Intellectual challenge

Some may mistakenly believe that a broad curriculum has a negative impact on academic results due to diminished attention and lesson-time dedicated to Maths, English and Science. Greenfield School had a full curriculum overhaul in 2014 and took the decision to focus on breadth and opportunity. In 2022, we are proud to say that results across the board have soared since then and happily debunk the myth that outstanding academic results can only be achieved from behind a school desk. Practical application of mathematical knowledge, opportunities to conduct experiments outside of the lab and use of English language and literature through drama and dance are just some of the ways in which our children broaden their understanding and elevate their thinking, with astonishing results.

Understanding our place in the world

Schools with truly broad curriculums will cover more than just the anticipated subjects such as Art or Drama. Some schools will even go so far as to invent their own subject in order to tackle issues not otherwise covered in great detail. At Greenfield, the subject Understanding the World was created back in 2014 to address a need to develop a greater understanding of global issues, societal norms, historical movements and modern-day politics amongst the children. This subject is universally loved due to the opportunity it provides for open-ended discussions and debates. As a by-product, the subject boosts pupil involvement, improves negotiation, listening and debating skills and allows our most able children to do some very high-order thinking, which in turn has improved their interview skills when applying to senior school.

Greenfield also has a strong Social Responsibility scheme, which further enforces the impact and influence each individual can have on the world around them. Children who are given the opportunity to participate in democratic voting, debating and discussing ethical issues have a much greater understanding of the impact one individual can have. As an example, it was a pupil at Greenfield who wrote to the Headmistress expressing her desire to wear trousers and presenting her argument in a fair and articulate manner. Needless to say, separate boys’ and girls’ uniform is a thing of the past! A group of Year 6 children are petitioning the Head of Sport to increase girls’ football lessons so that they are equal to those for boys and it is these sorts of spontaneous manifestations that evidence the impact of empowering young children. The effects of a broad curriculum are clear to see as these children continue to effectively express their views and get results. What better way to set a person up for a successful future? Surely, that is the true value of an independent education.

This article appears in the 2022 edition of John Catt's Preparatory Schools, which you can view here: