Group opens flag­ship school in UK

Pro­ject aims to de­liver on com­mit­ment to each child’s hap­pi­ness

Business Day - - INSIGHTS -

THE be­spoke pri­vate school may have been the re­serve of aris­to­cratic Bri­tish dandies for cen­turies, but from the colonies comes a fresh take on in­de­pen­dent ed­u­ca­tion with the ex­pan­sion of Red­dam House to the UK.

Red­dam House, whose de­vel­op­ment in Africa and Aus­tralia has been matched only by its now leg­endary aca­demic achieve­ment, has opened its flag­ship school in the UK this month, at Red­dam House Berk­shire at the mag­nif­i­cent Bear­wood House in Wok­ing­ham, south­east Eng­land.

Founded by Graeme Craw­ford, Red­dam House has as its MD Stephen Spurr, the head­mas­ter who turned Westminster into the UK’s high­est per­form­ing school.

“This is a thrilling pro­ject that en­ables us to bring a fresh, dy­namic op­tion to this coun­try and to de­liver our com­mit­ment to the hap­pi­ness and in­di­vid­u­al­ity of each child, while pur­su­ing ex­cel­lence in ev­ery sphere,” says Craw­ford.

Red­dam House’s phi­los­o­phy has emerged from a pas­sion for ed­u­ca­tion, he says.

“It’s a fam­ily thing.”

Craw­ford’s fa­ther was a head­mas­ter turned school in­spec­tor, four of whose five chil­dren, in­clud­ing Graeme, be­came teach­ers, and the fifth, a de­signer, helps give the schools their con­tem­po­rary look. It was dur­ing 10 years in the class­room that Graeme Craw­ford dis­cov­ered how to in­spire chil­dren to achieve their per­sonal best. “My lessons were chal­leng­ing but fun, so my kids got the best re­sults.”

In 1993 he opened his first school, Craw­ford Col­lege, in Johannesburg. By 1999 there were six highly suc­cess­ful schools across the coun­try. The first Red­dam House was founded in Con­stan­tia, Cape Town in 2000. Suc­cess has inspired Red­dam House schools in Cape Town, Pre­to­ria, Johannesburg and Syd­ney — a suite, now in­clud­ing the UK, of 10.

This rate of ex­pan­sion has only been pos­si­ble be­cause of the strength and con­sis­tency of Craw­ford’s ed­u­ca­tional prin­ci­ples. While public schools are rightly proud of their tra­di­tion, they do not nec­es­sar­ily equip pupils for the mod­ern world. Craw­ford has de­con­structed the sys­tem, ex­am­ined the fit­ness of ev­ery part and re­assem­bled it as a new, su­per­per­form­ing ma­chine.

“Aca­dem­i­cally, our ap­proach is to hand-pick the top teacher for ev­ery sub­ject — the right teacher to in­spire and mo­ti­vate chil­dren, in the class­room, on the sports field or on stage,” says Craw­ford.

Ex­cel­lence is a word that Craw­ford and Spurr use unashamedly. Top re­sults — let alone rounded per­son­al­i­ties — are not achieved by doggedly flog­ging a rigid cur­ricu­lum. “If you’re teach­ing the chil­dren to think, un­der­stand and ap­ply, you can test them in any way and they’ll per­form well.”

This ap­proach has been proven in Aus­tralia with its al­most ob­ses­sive state test­ing, and Red­dam House Syd­ney is con­sid­ered one of the top­most per­form­ing schools in the coun­try. Red­dam House re­gards the life skills of self­con­fi­dence, lead­er­ship and public speak­ing as para­mount. So drama is an in­te­gral part of the cur­ricu­lum for ev­ery­body. This helps the shyest of chil­dren to grow in con­fi­dence, rather than boost­ing the con­fi­dence of those who are al­ready nat­u­ral per­form­ers.

At Red­dam House schools true ex­cel­lence in ed­u­ca­tion in the broad­est sense goes far be­yond teach­ing young peo­ple cog­ni­tive skills. “It talks to core val­ues and vi­tal life skills and how to add value and make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence within one’s ever-ex­pand­ing sphere of in­flu­ence. Your at­ti­tude, self­dis­ci­pline, in­formed choices and ac­tions will ul­ti­mately de­ter­mine your al­ti­tude in life and in­form and im­prove the qual­ity of life around you,” says Craw­ford.

Red­dam House re­gards the life skills of self-con­fi­dence, lead­er­ship and com­mu­ni­ca­tion as es­sen­tial. “These skills are re­quired by top com­pa­nies and in­sti­tu­tions across the globe. Most oc­cu­pa­tions of this gen­er­a­tion of stu­dents will be vastly dif­fer­ent to those held to­day.”

Ev­ery Red­dam House pupil learns an in­stru­ment and per­forms in an ensem­ble. An em­pha­sis on dance has led to some mon­u­men­tal bal­let pro­duc­tions. And any in­sti­tu­tion with a South African and Aus­tralian pedi­gree can be ex­pected to take sport se­ri­ously. Craw­ford be­lieves school should not be weirdly dif­fer­ent from the world out­side. To this end, Red­dam House schools are nat­u­rally co-ed­u­ca­tional, with a flex­i­ble uni­form and a vi­brant cam­pus life.

Red­dam House Berk­shire is a re­stored Vic­to­rian man­sion. Built for a Vic­to­rian pro­pri­etor of The Times news­pa­per, John Wal­ter, it is set in a 120-acre es­tate with woods, lake and sports pitches.

Red­dam House’s UK and Euro­pean ex­pan­sion — backed by Ed­u­cas, the in­vest­ment group founded by Nadim M Nsouli — also now in­cludes Ful­ham Prep, the prep and pre-prep school in Lon­don. It is a move which is set to el­e­vate this pop­u­lar and suc­cess­ful school into the cap­i­tal’s premier rank. Other pre­mium sites in Italy, France and Switzer­land are be­ing con­sid­ered for fu­ture open­ings.

Red­dam House Schools’ code of con­duct is grounded on the foun­da­tional premises of hon­esty, dig­nity and mu­tual re­spect. Build­ing re­spect through open­ness, hon­esty and earn­ing trust forms the ba­sis of an eth­i­cal com­mu­nity and en­vi­ron­ment. Its ap­proach pro­motes tol­er­ance of a di­verse range of view­points, world views, faiths and opin­ions The school’s motto of We Shall Give Back in­di­cates a strong aware­ness of the en­vi­ron­ment and world be­yond the school bound­aries and en­cour­ages com­mu­nity ser­vice and reach­ing out to those less for­tu­nate.

Graeme Craw­ford … a fam­ily thing.

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