OPINION: Schools need to focus on the individual

BY SIMON CRANE - SEPTEMBER 1, 2016

It's not an easy thing to do. After all, at the basic level we set our school's foundations in a system that makes our pupils equal. For example we require that our pupils wear uniform to school in order to make them all the same. They need to be equal and the purpose of a uniform is not only to indicate that someone belongs to and represents a specific school, but it also ensures that the pupils are seen as equals. No one is favoured or prejudiced. Each pupil has equal value.

And yet, as we know people are all inherently different. We are not the same and making us equal perhaps diminishes us.

I volunteered at a small primary school in the UK some years ago and we ran a Sports' Day in which there were no place judges for the running races. Why? Because the school felt that having one winner was counterproductive. I was aghast.

There has never been another you. There never will be another you. You are unique and precious and vital and anything that places you in a box with everyone else and which takes away from that individuality that makes you you, curtails the potential that lies within.

The difficulty at schools is to maintain the fact that pupils are of equal value while still recognizing that each pupil is an individual person, with specific skills, specific fears and with specific hopes and dreams for their future.

As Headmaster of Woodridge College and Preparatory School my passion is to spend my time building confidence in the pupils at our school. The biggest inhibitor to success is a lack of self-confidence. As educators and parents we need to value each and every single child and we need to grow the confidence base that lies at the heart of each individual.

At our annual Prize-Giving ceremony I encourage the prize-winners to be both proud of themselves and their achievements while maintaining a strong sense of humility. How does one do this? How is it possible to be both proud and humble at the same time? How can schools recognize and celebrate the individual while maintaining the core foundation that ensures that all pupils realize that they are neither at the risk of favour nor prejudice?

It s a tough balance to get right.

Being a teacher is hard work. Being a Headmaster is hard work. Being a parent is hard work.

There is a responsibility on parents and teachers that can be overwhelming if one takes the time to look at the full picture.

And that is why I am a firm believer in the importance of a partnership between schools and parents. After all, we all want the same thing. We are all looking for the children in our care to flourish and achieve to the best of their abilities. In order to achieve this, we need to work together.

Simon Crane is the Headmaster at Woodridge College and Preparatory School, which is based at Thornhill, halfway between Jeffrey's Bay and Port Elizabeth.