A progressive approach to education transcends the school years and aims to prepare each child for their future, both along whatever path they may choose but also as part of society as a whole. Students are asked to be active participants in their learning, challenging themselves and taking risks. They're asked to question and explore - to develop as individuals, as part of our school community and as engaged citizens of the wider world.
OUR TEACHING & LEARNING
We pride ourselves on looking at the whole child. Body, mind and spirit. Every child has potential. Not just a narrow potential to do well in academic tests or behave in a classroom, but each has their own potential far wider than this. An amazing imagination. A keen eye for colour or ear for rhythm. A passion for the environment, for numbers, for human rights, for literature. A natural grace on stage or one that’s still developing. We can miss the mark hugely if we judge children with easy to tick boxes when they undoubtedly have so much more to offer.
And so, we offer them a very broad curriculum to let each child follow their own path towards fulfilling their unique potential. Until the end of Year 9, all students will explore a diverse timetable made up of mathematical and scientific, creative and performing, linguistic and literary, physical and technological, moral and spiritual, social and human subjects. All held in equal importance. Our GCSEs and A Levels are equally broad allowing students to create a tailor-made curriculum supporting their passions, strengths and goals.
Within the classroom, life is just as diverse. Teachers are supported to be brave and innovative with their teaching. Classes are small allowing topics, activities and discussions to be modified, flexible, adaptable to the students involved. Teachers can break the mould, are encouraged to break the mould. If something’s not working, if interest or understanding is failing, they can stop and discuss. How can we make this interesting for you? How can we make this work? And together they can find that spark that has them all engaged, involved and really learning.
Non-competitive classrooms allow the shyest to be more bold and the loudest to be more gentle, more considerate – valuable lessons in their own right. It creates a refreshing place to learn and teach.
We talk a lot about relationships at Frensham. To be very honest, and it’s probably clear, we are very proud of the relationships that develop here - they form one of our core values. Not just the schoolmates who go on to be lifelong friends and actually not just the relationships between people. At Frensham, really special relationships grow between teachers and students and from that between students and the subjects they become passionate about during their time here.
With a more informal setting and smaller classes, the teachers and students really get to know each other. Literally on a first-name basis. This is important because we ask our students to step up and be more responsible and self-motivated than they may need to be elsewhere. We don’t micro-manage, we do support, but ultimately it’s down to each child to take control of their learning. Teachers learn each child’s strengths and weaknesses. They reinforce where needed and push where they can, but most importantly, they are a friendly face. They genuinely want to help, not to intimidate or belittle.
Our teachers love the subjects they teach and they really want to pass that on. Their enthusiasm, interest and passion overflows into their students, particularly those that find they love those subjects too. That genuine shared enthusiasm breaks down barriers to learning. There’s no stigma attached. You can love maths and chat equations with your tutor at break. You can sing your heart out in the corridor on the way to class. No one will judge. You can be really academic or truly creative or both. The support you see here between students, between friends, really can bring tears to your eyes.
As long as you do your best, take a few risks, step out of your comfort zone now and then, Frensham can support you with whatever your dreams may be.
Academic is a funny word and one that is often associated with high pressured environments. However, my understanding of the word stems from its Latin roots, academicus, from the Athenian Academy where Plato taught.
Plato was someone who encouraged critical and creative thinking. He established the Academy to bring together like-minded thinkers who wanted to engage in discussions about the world and reflect on the truths of reality. The Academy was more informal than a traditional educational institute as it encouraged dialogue between teachers and students over lectures or seminars and incorporated more than simply academic study: it was considered just as important to have social spaces, exercise and access to outdoor spaces.
Plato was revolutionary in encouraging doctrinal diversity as he inspired his students to learn how to think rather than what to think. I hope you will join me in embracing this understanding of what it means to be academic.
- Laura Griffiths, Deputy Head (Academic)
We are committed to offering a modern education which prepares our students for a future we can't yet know. With this as a focus, our new role of Head of Frensham Pathways is responsible for exploring an alternative, innovative curriculum that will be focused on relevant skills as the world continues its journey towards a more sustainable economic model with human service at its heart. Working alongside our Head of Careers, our Head of Frensham Pathways ensures that each student receives the support, advice and bespoke education relevant to their future higher education or career aspirations.
In many ways, on first glance, our classrooms won’t look so different from anywhere else, but on second glance, you might notice that the teacher probably isn’t standing at the front. They’re more likely to be mingled in amongst the students. You might start to notice that the volume is a bit higher, it’s not just the teacher talking, the students – in all year groups – will be discussing and taking part too. Some classes might have gone outside, some might be using the tarmac as a giant blackboard or the woods as a setting for some creative writing. In all cases there will be a flexibility at work allowing the lessons to be moulded to keep everyone’s interest high.
In every lesson what will stand out is the genuine relationships between the teachers and students. This develops both from our small class sizes and our more informal approach - our first name basis and sense of equality and mutual respect. This creates a learning environment that is not often found in an academic setting - a positive and safe academic learning environment where students and teachers can be brave and not afraid to take risks or make mistakes.
Creativity at Frensham is not limited to the creative subjects. It also sits at the heart of our academics. We strive for creativity of thought in every academic pursuit – to look at things differently, to consider a different approach - this forms one of our core values. We hope each student can find their own way to be engaged, that teachers can find a way to get everyone excited. Beyond that, developing a strong practice of creative thinking is imperative for life after Frensham. We aim to develop each student into a questioning and socially conscious young person. Someone who isn’t scared to challenge the norm, to question and speak up, someone who will make a difference whilst at Frensham and beyond.
Students are set homework if it is meaningful and adds something to their learning. We don't set homework just for the sake of it and sometimes giving students time to simply reflect on their learning can be a powerful tool. However, homework does give students the opportunity to work on essential life skills like organisation, time management and self discipline. It can also provide opportunities to consolidate learning and engage in a topic or independent research.
Homework can be extremely valuable but never at the expense of student wellbeing. Our priority is about striking the balance between homework providing academic support but also not becoming overwhelming. We want our students to be able to have time out of school to be children - to rest and play. If we strike the balance right, these are not mutually exclusive.
We are committed to meeting the academic needs of all of our students and to also give them the tools and opportunities to take responsibility for their own learning. One way we do this is through regular drop-in study clinics. They run throughout the academic year and are held during lunch times and after school.
Classes in the Junior School may be set in certain subjects if the needs of the class group require this, however for the most part the children are taught in mixed ability sets.
In Year 7, we set for Maths and Modern Foreign Languages, if appropriate to the class group. In Year 8, we also set for English and in Year 9 for Science as well. All other subjects are taught in mixed ability groups.
SUPPORT FOR LEARNING
We have an excellent Support for Learning team and we are able to offer support to children with mild learning difficulties. Through our entrance process, we will assess whether we can meet the needs of each child - this is to ensure that all students can flourish and thrive during their time at Frensham. We are unable to provide dedicated teaching assistants or one-to-one support in class. We are also unable to support children with moderate or severe learning needs.