By Geoffrey Stanford, Headmaster of Newcastle Royal Grammar School
The Royal Grammar School is arguably best known for our students’ consistently outstanding academic results, some of the best in the region.
We were equally thrilled to recently achieve the accolade of overall national Independent School of the Year, chosen amongst hundreds of other well-known Independent Schools across the country. Visitors are often keen to understand our pedagogy and curriculum, as well as our approach to intellectual enquiry, which surely sits behind these high achievements.
Yet, whilst we are unapologetically a highly academic school, I constantly reiterate that stellar results of the RGS are the consequence, not the purpose of our outstanding education. As such, you will find in RGS that we talk as much – if not more – about character, as we do curriculum. Our character education, like invisible but indelible fingerprints, covers everything that we do and is firmly rooted in our values.
In our Junior School, we refer to our values as Superpowers, introduced by our effervescent Junior School Head, James Miller, are lived and breathed in daily Junior School life. We even have an RGS Superpower ‘Code’, a set of characteristics which the Junior School students and parents pledge to align behind, with these qualities constantly celebrated. As such our Junior School students grow, believing that they are ABLE to be responsible and curious about the world, STRONG enough to show their individuality and to embrace failure in pursuit of progress, having the CALM needed to pause before reacting and to compare themselves only to themselves, and above all, a KIND, caring compassion towards themselves and others.
The students’ loyalty and motivation to live their school-life by this code is a sight to behold, and fundamental to our happy and cohesive Junior School community.
In the Senior School, while the vernacular is more mature, the sentiment is consistent and woven, like golden threads, into everything we do.
SENSE OF BELONGING combines kinship in the school community with our heritage on Newcastle soil, where we took root almost five hundred years ago. We are place and people. In our school we respect those around us, are open-minded and nonjudgmental. Bonds formed at RGS last a lifetime but we are of the global age; borders and boundaries are transcended as our community connects like other families spread across the world.??
LOVE FOR LEARNING seems self-evident in a school built on our formidable academic reputation. We communicate unashamedly how passionate we are: about what we have been told, what we have found out and what we want to discover. We encourage everyone to enjoy school: the journey, not just the destination. Teaching happens in the most surprising and diverse ways and the best learning often happens by stealth, when it is least expected, in the nooks and crannies of the curriculum. Thirst for knowledge and freedom to explore can help that love of learning grow. We support self-expression, critical thinking and creativity in both teaching and learning – for academic success but also to make better people. Challenge and difficulty, frustration and confusion: these are the hallmarks of learning.
We love the process and love the challenge while knowing that support is always on hand for everyone.
BELIEF IN EACH OTHER is RGS’s value of trust. When self-belief seems in short supply, the belief of others changes the focus, makes us see differently. We understand how believing in others can bolster confidence, make someone glow and foster their faith in themselves once again. There are few limits to achievement with tenacity, sheer graft and people you trust at your back. We allow ourselves to be guided by those we believe in. We catch when others fall but, most importantly, we help them get back up again. Well-being is at the heart of this value. We work hard and believe that others will do the same – we are in this together, whatever it may be.?
AMBITION TO SUCCEED is to push forwards, move and innovate. This is the thread that ties our other values together. We tell our students we must never stand still, unless it is to reflect on what we have done and how we might do it differently next time. We have the intellectual freedom to explore and take risks – so we can push boundaries in and out of the classroom. We can be brave with teaching methods and co-curricular opportunities, encouraging that first small spark of ambition to flare. Ambitions can be quiet, yet ferocious; successes can be small but lifechanging. With our strong support network, we recognize and celebrate these many guises.?
One of the proudest moments I have experienced in my time at RGS so far, was our inaugural RGS Festival this summer, where we awarded prizes to students for each of the above Superpowers and Values, the recipients all nominated by their peers. In doing so, the students reflected on the transformative positive characteristics they saw in others, and the prizes were awarded not on grades or lofty academic achievement but on the qualities which make our community the industrious, welcoming, ambitious and inclusive school that we experience daily. The culture which enables every child to find and polish their own values and superpowers, whatever they may be.