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Mr Pickering’s Blog

This week has been, for me, amongst the busiest this year. Taking up a lot of my time and attention has been preparation for the Sixth Form Scholarship examinations which take place tomorrow (Saturday). There has been a strong interest from the pupil body, both from those within and outside the school, and I am looking forward to reading the candidates’ ideas as I assess their answers to the General paper. Every year I am impressed by some candidates’ ability to think deeply and to arrive at coherent conclusions after following a line of reasoning. But what is a “scholar”?

Looking at a dictionary I found “someone who is intelligent or good at learning by studying” but, thinking about the word more deeply, I think that there is much more which distinguishes strong and promising scholars. A strong scholar has a sharp focus as well as what could be called academic poise; she is naturally inquisitive about the world in and around her chosen academic discipline and immerses herself in the literature around her subject. A strong scholar is also articulate about her area of inquiry and can speak with authority and clarity about what it is she learns. She also shows a dogged determination to ‘get to the bottom of things’, a resoluteness in seeking deep explanations for events, a persistence despite possible repeated cul-de-sacs in the course of investigation. A strong scholar is passionate, and seen to be passionate, about what she studies. The topic or focus of investigation excites and enthuses her and explains her persistence in pursuing complex problems or concerns. She is easily recognised among her peers as a bright, up-and-coming academic and, as such, acts as a role model for those around her.

It occurs to me that these attributes are those that Croydon High School seeks to foster not just in those who have a title of “scholar” but in every single girl who walks through the gates. The wealth of opportunities to engage in scholarly activity is a very tangible part of our aim to provide for “Every Girl, Every Day” and is manifest in lessons where the love of knowledge for its own sake is paramount and the importance of independent enquiry is central to the academic development of all our pupils.

In addition, we have an extensive scholarship programme which provides opportunities outside the classroom. These start in the Junior School where the Altitudo programme has been specifically designed to stretch our most able girls to think and act beyond the curriculum. The evidence of their endeavours (and the enjoyment they gain from the programme) is hugely impressive and it is clear that we are building strong foundations for scholarly pursuit at a very early stage.

Continuing into the Senior School our programmes are called Sapientia (Years 7 – 10) and Consilium (Years 11 – 13). These occur on Thursdays after school and provide a valuable additional encouragement to engage with academic material that lies outside of the main school curriculum, where the joy of discovering something new is given pride of place. I would encourage all girls, not just the scholars, to dip into this programme from time to time. Personally, I am looking forward to talking to the Consilium group in a couple of weeks’ time about one of my passions – Film Noir – and exploring how this cinematic genre fitted with the political, socio-economic and cultural history of the mid twentieth century.

Recently the World Economic Forum published a report which listed the ten most important skills that they believe will be needed for a successful career in the next decade. The top three are creativity, critical thinking and complex problem solving – all of these are developed in pupils who seek to nurture their scholarship beyond that which is necessary for the passing of examinations. We will continue to strive to encourage such curiosity and joy of learning both in the classroom and beyond as this is the true meaning of scholarship.

Mark Pickering
Assistant Head

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