Nick Holloway took up his position as Head at Swanbourne House Prep School in September 2023. Here, he discusses the outlook and approach to learning at the school, from Pre-Reception (Nursery) through to Year 8.
In an era marked by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, we need to ensure our approach to learning is forward- thinking and gives children the knowledge and skill set to thrive in this ever-evolving world. Independence, communication, collaboration, resilience, reflection and leadership are not mere buzzwords; they are the building blocks of success and key to our Pre-Senior Baccalaureate (PSB) curriculum in Year 7 and 8.
Assessment in the PSB is designed to build self-awareness and self-esteem alongside the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Senior schools are looking not only for evidence of academic achievement but also want to know about character. Soft skills are integral to PSB at Swanbourne House and intertwine with the strong academic foundations of the curriculum.
As pupils study Maths, English, French, Science, History, Geography, Classics, Religion and Ethics, Art, Design and Technology, Computing, Music and Drama, they are not merely absorbing facts but developing intellectual curiosity, stretching their critical thinking abilities and learning problem solving skills. The PSB helps to develop the connection between knowledge and skills.
In Science, an example of the impact of the PSB can be seen in the inaugural project in Year 7 – the creation of cell models. Pupils are tasked with designing and constructing a specialised cell model, labelling each component and articulating the adaptations that align with its function. This project sees a fusion of academic rigour, creativity and practical application. The pupils choose the medium for their model, and we will see a huge range of designs, from elaborately baked and decorated cakes labelled to describe cellular functions, to computer generated graphics depicting a nerve cell.
The PSB uses innovative initiatives to convey fundamental theories. In Geography, the exploration of the theory of tectonics is brought to life through hands-on learning with modelling clay, with pupils tasked to create physical representations of plate boundaries. Once the models are created, the pupils move into the evaluation phase, where groups engage in peer assessments, scoring each other based on a success criteria. This method both reinforces theoretical understanding and also cultivates teamwork, creativity and critical analysis.
The cultivation of these essential skills starts with our youngest learners in the Early Years where our unique Swanbot characters illustrate the different pillars of PSB learning. Take, for instance, Sparky the Creative Learner Swanbot, a champion of creativity; or Buddy the Team Player, encouraging exceptional teamwork, Rubble the Swanbot celebrates resilience – an acknowledgment of the tenacity required to overcome challenges. Each Swanbot has a vibrant symbol that represents a specific trait, and as pupils exhibit these skills, they are recognised and rewarded with stickers and certificates. Giving a real sense of accomplishment, these friendly characters serve as tangible markers of progress.
This innovative approach helps associate these invaluable learning traits with the fun Swanbot characters and equips children with the vocabulary to articulate the skills which will help them learn successfully as they progress through the school.
As part of our membership of The Stowe Group, Swanbourne House pupils also take part in regular Change Maker days at Stowe. These days look to build pupil skills, experience and character in a range of Change Maker attributes, such as Analytical Thinking, Creativity & Innovation, Leadership & Social Literacy and Emotional Intelligence. An example recently saw pupils taking part in art, photography, music and science workshops as part of the Gaia project (a six-metre floating sculpture of the earth hung in the Marble Hall at Stowe).
Swanbourne House is an independent day and boarding prep school for children aged three to 13 years in Buckinghamshire, around 20 minutes from Central Milton Keynes that feeds to leading Senior Schools across the country, recently including Stowe, Rugby, Wycombe Abbey, Uppingham, Harrow and Eton.
Membership of The Stowe Group also gives Swanbourne pupils access to a combined site of over 800 acres with unrivalled educa- tional and co-curricular facilities. These include Stowe’s Worsley Science Centre, the Roxburgh Theatre, the Chung Music School, state-of-the-art gym, an eight-lane athletics track, equestrian centre, six-lane competition swimming pool, clay pigeon shooting range and golf course.
Swanbourne has also received significant recent investment as part of the Group, with a refurbished Boarding House, new AstroTurf and new play structure – The Fort – in the lower school. Swanbourne families receive a 10% discount on the boarding fees or 5% discount on the day fees at Stowe if their child chooses it as their senior school.