What makes for a ‘happy school’?

What makes for a happy School?

Last Thursday night we held our School’s annual prizegiving ceremony and we were very honoured to be joined by Sir Michael Parkinson, the eminent broadcaster. He gave us a fantastic address which was humorous but also left us with plenty to think about when he relayed the story of his interview with a lady dying from AIDS, his most difficult interview ever.
In his closing comments, he said a number of lovely things about the School and our pupils. The one though I was most proud of was when he described us as a “happy school.” This got me thinking and inspired this post. Just what does make for a “happy school?”
I believe at the heart of this lies the strength of relationships between the pupils and the staff. We have good discipline at the heart of our school but this comes about through mutual respect between boys and staff and this comfortable, genuine working atmosphere allows pupils to enjoy their learning. These relationships are developed further through a wide range of extra-curricular activities from which the boys gain so much. This view of education in the round with both academic success and extra-curricular involvement means that we get the best out of individuals and this too makes for a ‘happy school’. Our games programme plays a big part in this. We all know that people feel better if they are fully active and take regular exercise. I believe too that boys thrive on elements of competition both in the classroom and on the games field and this too promotes happiness.
A further factor which I believe promotes happiness in the School is that we try to do things with a smile on our faces. Even on a formal occasion like Speech Day there is room for some humour and indeed some banter. This is not to say that we disrespect the tradition of such events but we do need to enjoy the events as well. So, when a corny phrase drew some ironic comment from the audience it was again a sign of a ‘happy school’. Similarly the pleasure that was palpable when boys in the Big Band performed so brilliantly was infectious and was another sign of a ‘happy school’.
Thus, at the heart of all this is the spirit which is evident in a ‘happy school’. It is this spirit which inspires individuals to excel and which lies behind why so many staff are prepared to give freely of their time to take trips, organise sports fixtures and put on plays and concerts. We like to encourage all to share in the success of each other and this is a common feature in our assemblies. Our vertical tutor system means that boys mix with others of all ages and this too helps boys not only to develop in confidence but it helps pupils to support each other.
It was very heart-warming that all this was apparent to our eminent visitor last week and long may we remain a ‘happy school.’