EDUCATION – How important are traditions in shaping a school’s ethos?

Article from FOCUS Magazine – Spring 16 issue.

Swimming at Cranmore School

CRANMORE SCHOOL  Epsom Road  West Horsley  Surrey KT24 6AT
T: 01483 280340  E:  W:

Several plays have been written about life in a school but perhaps one of the most enduring has been Rattigan’s The Browning Version which was first performed in 1948. It was subsequently adapted for cinema, television and radio which has given it such a  high profile. The central character is a retiring Classics Master, Crocker-Harris, who is not particularly popular with his pupils or, indeed, colleagues. He is denied a pension from the school and, adding insult to injury, the Headmaster tries to break with tradition by not allowing Crocker-Harris to make his farewell speech at the final Prize-Giving ceremony in the customary manner.

Many schools are hierarchical institutions and their traditions can sometimes be used to reinforce the pecking order. As a young teacher in the 1980s, I can well remember my first whole school photo in which staff were seated in the front row in order of length of service with the old-timers very close to the Headmaster in the centre. Today, most schools regard traditions as ways of retaining their unique DNA rather than simply as a tool to preserve customs and practices from a bygone era.

At Cranmore School, like elsewhere, we have several strands which have been part of the culture since its foundation in 1968. There has always been a high regard for learning and achievement. However, there is no big end of year prize-giving in which pupils vie with each other to walk off with the silver trophies. Rather, presentations for achievement in various aspects – academic, sport, music, drama or art – are made every week of the year in the regular school assemblies. This tradition has ensured that pupils’ successes are properly celebrated throughout the year instead of it being a one-off event each July. A corollary is that our pupils often address the whole school in these assemblies which certainly boosts their confidence and skills in public speaking.

Music is an integral part of life at Cranmore with many pupils learning more than one instrument. The large team of almost 20 visiting music staff caters for all interests: from strings, woodwind, brass or even drumming. The school has a strong tradition in giving pupils opportunities to perform with a live audience, whether it is parents or grandparents in a school concert or under the eyes of judges in external music competitions and festivals. Another highlight is ‘Cranmore Live’ in which professional musicians are invited to run a workshop in the afternoon with pupils and then do a joint evening concert. The most recent one was given by Tenebrae, the distinguished choir, described by Classic FM as “Choral music doesn’t get more magnificent than this.”

Cranmore has always been renowned for its sport. In addition to popular activities such as football, rugby, swimming, cricket and tennis, the school has a thriving rowing club and a very successful ski club. Pupils are encouraged to enjoy sport at every level and the school’s reputation for performances in tournaments and competitions has been a key feature over the decades.

Whilst schools ought to have a certain loyalty to their traditions, it is vital that they can develop too. Cranmore was founded as a boys’ school but has recently embarked upon a programme to achieve full co-education for every year group. No doubt the girls can look forward to matching the boys in producing high achievements in all aspects of school life.

As to the overall ethos, perhaps that is best described by the view from the Good Schools Guide: “Cranmore is genuinely an all round school, maintaining academic standards, terrific sports and much-praised music. Parents feel ‘it’s very balanced between academics, sport and music’ and ‘ticks boxes in lots of different areas’.”

Mr Michael Connolly, Headmaster

Cranleigh School Heads

CRANLEIGH SCHOOL  Horseshoe Lane  Cranleigh  Surrey GU6 8QQ
T: 01483 273666  E:  W:

Our anniversary is a time to reflect on the heritage of the School’s first 150 years as well as look to the future, and our motto is central to understanding both past and future here. The phrase at the heart of the School when it was founded in 1865, Ex Cultu Robur (from culture comes strength), informs a robust education ethic and a heartfelt belief in the holistic development of young people

The very first Headmaster, Joseph Merriman, did not believe the School had a duty to prepare boys for university, neither were the boys entered for external examinations but assessed by examiners who came to the School. Nevertheless he was a pioneering educationalist, beginning science teaching, and introducing boys to practical pastimes, introducing carpentry, building new workshops, and appointing a metalwork teacher. He ended his office in 1892, by which time Cranleigh was established as a ‘new’ school that was certainly here to stay.

The School has grown over the years, adding a Preparatory School, a sister School in Abu Dhabi and a sponsored School in Kitwe, Zambia. Now this whole Cranleigh family shares our original motto, which still informs the core of life at Cranleigh.

Our day is built around a strong academic timetable that also prioritises time for sports, music, drama and the creative arts, enabling every child’s talent to flourish. Old Cranleighans – our celebrated academics, politicians and business leaders, our national standard athletes, our musicians, artists and actors – are testament to its success.

Over the years Cranleigh has stuck by Ex Cultu Robur and strengthened this core ethos. Under the aims to provide young people with the strength to succeed; the wisdom to make informed choices; resilience in the face of failure or difficulty; and the insight to recognise their privilege and to shape the future culture of the world through lives of service and leadership.

Arising from the School’s Christian heritage and cultural background, at the heart of a Cranleigh education are four central values of Service, Relationships, Leadership and Excellence. Along with the motto and the core holistic educational ethos, these principles are what make the Cranleigh community special.

A service of dedication and thanksgiving at King Edward’s Witley

KING EDWARD’S WITLEY  Godalming  Surrey  GU8 5SG
T: 01428 686700  E:  W:

The ethos of a School represents the essential  heartbeat of the community that is housed within  the educational establishment. For King Edward’s Witley, one of the overriding founding principles is the provision of an inspiring, inclusive, supportive environment where pupils from a wide range of intellectual, social, economic and cultural backgrounds converge to maximise their academic, as well as non academic, potential. The School reflects the makeup and needs of the real world, encouraging independent thinking and a spirit of respect and understanding for others. This results in a mature and well rounded outlook on life and a commitment to upholding the strongest moral values and demonstrating respect and kindness.

The School’s parent foundation, Bridewell Royal Hospital, was originally founded in 1553 on the banks of the Thames as a place for the training and education of poor children and was later renamed King Edward’s School. King Edward’s remains proud of its historic charitable roots and continues to work with the City of London to provide assistance to families where boarding or the King Edward’s style of education is a particular need.

A number of time-honoured traditions resonate throughout school life at King Edward’s, many of which relate to the School’s proud links with the City of London. Annually, Bridewell Day remembers its foundation via a service of dedication and thanksgiving in London. Held on the second Tuesday of March at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, the service is hosted by the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor of the City of London, with the Alderman and Sheriff, the Sheriff, the City Marshal, the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Swordbearer also in attendance. Pupils from the 2nd, 4th and Upper Sixth forms (and the School Choir) attend this prestigious event to witness the presentation of the Bridewell Mace – the symbol of authority for the School’s ‘ancient, royal and religious foundation’. Nobody witnessing the pageantry involved can fail to be impressed by the history and commitment of the School and the City to its founding mission.

Another unusual formal event is the Admissions Ceremony which takes place in October, where newly recruited pupils seek admission to Bridewell Royal Hospital by agreeing to abide by the rules of the School. Pupils are asked to place at least part of one foot on the mat featuring the School Shield to indicate taking the first step on a journey with King Edward’s Witley. After being “voted in” by assembled Governors, each boy or girl shakes the hand of the Treasurer, over the 17th Century Bridewell Mace, to symbolise the support and strength that will accompany the pupil on their journey.

At the other end of that journey, Leavers’ Day is another important function in the School calendar, attended by Alderman Peter Estlin, Treasurer of the Court of Bridewell and Chairman of Governors. Members of the Upper Sixth are named in prayers and each receive the charge never to forget what the School has done for them, and to give back to society whatever they can, and shake hands with the Headmaster and the Treasurer.

But while traditions and a strong ethos remain intrinsic to King Edward’s success, there is an innate belief that    the School should continue to progress and evolve in line with the changing world that we live in. The result is a unique environment where heritage, history and customs sit comfortably alongside state of the art facilities, innovative thinking and a thoroughly modern outlook on the educational skills and personal development required to be an achiever in today’s society.