Our Heritage And Values
We are proud of our heritage and our ethos
We have stayed true to our founding principles of child-centred learning and mutual respect. We have pioneered and grown without compromising what we do or how we do it. We have evolved to reflect the educational needs and realities of our students but we have not had to adapt to or adopt changes to survive.
We have not had to embrace coeducation to fill places – we have welcomed boys and girls equally from the start.
We have not dropped uniforms to compete with sixth form colleges – we have had no uniform for 40 years. We have not introduced a student council to meet a new trend – we have always respected the importance of the student voice.
In fact, so many areas that today are heralded as pioneering in education lie at the heart of what Frensham Heights has stood for since 1925.
We are always ambitious for our students to achieve their potential in whichever area they choose to pursue. Students at Frensham are exposed to a wealth of opportunities where they can discover and identify their talents – talents that, through programmes such as Gifted and Talented, are subsequently nourished and celebrated.
We want our students to aim high but would never want to be just an exam factory. We believe in providing an holistic education – one where young people gain the skills they will need to tackle every challenge and grab every opportunity through the rest of their lives.
We aim to instil in our students their own ambition to experience, to flourish, to succeed and ultimately to give back.
The young people who leave Frensham Heights at the end of their school years clearly demonstrate that our faith in them has been well placed. They are confident, capable, balanced and ambitious to move to the next phase of their lives.
Respect is one of the key foundations of our educational philosophy. Respect cannot be forced – if it is to be honest, it has to be earned. No form of community can be truly successful unless its members have respect for each other and for themselves.
Our teachers do not demand respect. Instead they aim to earn the respect of the students through example because they know that unless they have that respect, they will not be able to teach anything that is truly worth learning.
For their part, our students have to earn the respect of staff through their behaviour, their willingness to learn and how they treat each other.
By giving and earning respect, our staff and students get to know one another incredibly well – because the basis of it all is being genuine so it demands that we do not present anything other than who we really are.
We place great emphasis on equality. From the start, Frensham has welcomed boys and girls as students. Yet equality goes deeper than that. By recognising that each member of our school community has an equal responsibility towards maintaining that community, we create an atmosphere that is relaxed, engaging and tolerant.
Our character is non-hierarchical. We are on first name terms, we do not have uniforms, we do not have prizes and we keep competition to the sports field.
We do not have head boys, head girls or prefects. Instead, we have a democratic School Council where students from Year 4 upwards represent the views of their peers and learn to understand how democracy works.
We also believe that recognition of equality is fundamental to the recognition of individuality. Being called by our first names rather than ‘sir’ or ‘miss’ not only creates a greater sense of relationship and shared purpose with our students but also defines us as individuals with strengths and weaknesses. In other words, it recognises the essence of our humanity.
We have a long tradition of welcoming those who have suffered prejudice and cruelty. This began during and after the Second World War when Frensham became a safe haven for young people fleeing Nazi Germany. Today we continue to refuse to discriminate on the basis of race or religion.
We are completely non-denominational, allowing individuals to articulate their spirituality as an expression of their individuality rather than it being imposed as an institutional requirement. Ours is a tolerant community – one where every individual forms an equal part of the whole and has the right to be regarded and treated as such.
Developing as a young person through all the challenges of growing up is never straightforward. It demands patience, forgiveness and love from parents, teachers and fellow students. It demands a secure environment with some level of agreed routine, structure and values. The whole community has to be ready to help each young person on their journey to self-discovery through the stages of self-doubt and into a world of self-knowledge, confidence and generosity.
Frensham offers young people freedom with responsibility. In keeping with our approach of mutual respect, tolerance and celebrating the individual, we keep the number of hard and fast rules to a minimum. This means that the rules that do exist are there for a reason – to ensure Frensham is a secure place where each person takes responsibility for maintaining that security.
Some of our rules are written, some are traditional, some are permanent and some are temporary – but each one can be justified, each is applied consistently and our students understand that together they form a set of boundaries within which they can and will grow up safer and more confident.
This requires self-discipline, which is so much more effective and lasting than discipline imposed through coercion and fear. The values our students learn, such as awareness of others, open mindedness, rationality and self-belief, will set them in good stead as they navigate the often difficult path to adulthood.
At Frensham, cooperation means every individual, whether staff, parent or student, is encouraged to approach any situation not thinking ‘what will I get out of this?’ but rather ‘what can I contribute?’ Visitors often remark how our students offer support and assistance without prompting and without hesitation.
Teaching and learning are nothing without cooperation – a willingness to take part, get involved and work together to achieve. This applies just as much to the more obvious situations, such as in the classroom, preparing for exams or on the sports field, as to learning simply to be responsible and reliable.
As part of this, we have moved away from the language of detentions and punishments to a system that helps students learn from their mistakes and change. Our discipline is based on discussion, agreement for change and monitoring – and experience has shown that a system based on cooperation, mutual respect and trust brings lasting change far more often than the more traditional and negative forced discipline.
Creativity has many meanings at Frensham and it is found in every aspect of the school, from the classroom to the art studio, from the dance hall to the theatre and from the staff room to the study. Creativity is not confined to the stage or the orchestra.
We are creative in the education we provide – working hard to achieve the right balance between freedom and responsibility, purpose and fun, learning and education.
We aim to give students the tools to succeed and to exceed their own expectations while never losing sight of teaching them the virtues of gentleness, open mindedness, tolerance, rationality and self-belief.
At the same time, we value creativity and innovation in our students. We want them to be inspired and inspiring, interested and interesting. Our rich and diverse selection of extracurricular activities also ensures that every student can enjoy a huge range of artistic, musical, dramatic or dance-related groups – trying new things, meeting new people, expanding horizons.
The fact that we have no uniform and are called by our first names demands much more from the whole community than traditional approaches. Choices, value judgements and recognising the human qualities of each individual on a daily basis are much more demanding than conformity, blind acceptance and feeling powerless.
The Frensham community is one where every child has the right to be themselves and to grow into the kind of person they have it within them to become. The job of everyone in the school is to treat each person individually, help them realise their gifts, encourage them to participate, be tolerant of others and ultimately to make them feel good about themselves. Confidence without arrogance is what our students are known for.
Our students learn to give 100% to whatever they undertake, refuse to accept second best, are sensitive to the needs and dignity of others and they care. As one retiring headmaster remarked: ‘I have never known such mutual support and caring in any other school. A caring school is going to be a meaningful community.’
We couldn’t agree more.