ESMS was sector leading in the area of education technology, long before the pandemic hit but the last 12 months of distance learning has allowed us to re-imagine our role in the classroom and beyond the school gates. We asked Mr Kane, Head of ESMS Junior School what impact these digital advances will have on the more traditional aspects of the education we offer at ESMS Junior School:
When the ESMS Junior School envisaged a means of articulating ‘what we are about’, we decided upon the concept of a tree. We are big on nature here in the Junior School, so it did seem quite apt.
The idea is that the roots equate to our Values, whilst the three interconnected branches signify our approach to curricular, extra-curricular and pastoral matters. Simple.
Yet in the original design, there was one extra feature which could easily be missed, or worse still, could be deemed ‘unnecessary’ in the eyes of a graphic designer. On each side of the tree trunk there was a word. On the left, ‘Traditional’ and on the right, ‘Modern’.
The ESMS Junior School has long been an advocate of those skills which might now be deemed as traditional in nature. It is a school where we see the importance of good handwriting, and I would venture that we concentrate on that skill more than most. We focus on spelling and grammar. We have a ‘traditional’ view of school uniform and we are not frightened to include the word Respect amongst our 9 Values.
Sometimes I am asked to justify these traditional elements of the school, and when this happens, I give the following answers:
Handwriting is a skill which demands dexterity and coordination and an attention to detail in a world which still expects children to use a pen in national exams. Good spelling and grammar ensure a foundation for confident communication. Our uniform allows focus to be on what is inside rather than what we wear, whilst Respect is for yourself, others and the world around us.
Ultimately, these traditions remain because they refer to skills and qualities which stand up to the test of time. They are the building blocks for the modest confidence which we aim to instil throughout the ESMS journey.
However, none of this prevents ESMS from also being a modern school with a readiness to utilise the latest approaches to support our children. Consequently, there are the new, state of the art buildings to support teaching and learning, drama, music and sport, and a constantly evolving and reflective curriculum. Digital Learning under the supervision of a Head of Junior School ICT and dedicated support staff is offered both in its own right but more importantly, it is also being used through all aspects of the curriculum.
Perhaps best of all, we have a newly invigorated school wherein both staff and children have embraced digital learning and technology. There can be no going back now, and consequently an ambitious programme is in motion to ensure that modern technology will further entwine with the traditional elements that still represent the core of ESMS. There is a new generation of staff with a confidence to use technology in new and exciting ways. The lovely thing is, it has proved contagious, and each Year Group now finds itself with both staff and children, designated to champion new technology and approaches to learning. All of our staff are on board – the pandemic has made sure of that.
As we venture further into the exciting realms of programming, virtual reality and augmenting ‘normal learning’ practices, so we now turn to major decisions about upgrading our network and greater access for our girls and boys. The evolution will be natural, with staff and children on board together. These are exciting times which open possibilities for both the traditional and the modern to have their place – not in contrast, but in partnership.
By combining both aspects, I am confident that our children will have every reason to be the modest, confident, happy and successful adults of the future.