Why did you choose Dame Catherine?
I was initially surprised about the quality of the education system in the UK compared to my memories of school growing up.

There seems to be a lot more emphasis on tick boxes and squeezing kids through curriculum stages regardless of whether they are ready for it or not. The focus of schools today seems to be to push kids through an unending series of tests to show “attainments”.

I think that the tests don’t really measure genuine attainment because the curriculum seems to be designed to fill minds up with information for regurgitation at test time, rather than focusing on developing a solid foundation of learning how to learn, and having the confidence to challenge and be challenged without any negative feelings or a sense of inadequacy.

I used to teach English in Japan to students aged 11-23. I observed that cognitive development occurs at different times for each person, and a system of learning x at time y, regardless of whether the student is developmentally ready for it or not, means that the effort is wasted with potentially negative associations towards learning arising from the student. The result of this is someone who didn’t “keep up” and ends up left behind”, although the real problem lies with the way the system treats individuals as the same because of their age. An excellent video about modern education is by Sir Ken Robinson is on Youtube.

For these reasons, I was delighted to find Dame Catherine which offers a real alternative to the unnecessary pressures like continual testing and massive classes. I’m happy to pay the comparatively low fees (offset with work in the school’s shop) because this a small price to pay for providing Thor with an education that will serve him well for life.

What are the best things about the school?
The open, relaxed attitude of the staff and classes. The friendly atmosphere and the way that students have a genuine voice in the way they learn and how the school is run. For example the school council and Golden Time on Fridays where kids choose their own activities and wind down for the weekend. I’m also pleased that swimming is heavily supported so Thor will be a competent confident swimmer.

What do you think about the parental involvement aspect of the school?
As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. The notion of community has changed dramatically in the UK, and so being part of a school community, which is one of the most important aspects of a child’s life, and develop friendships and see your work directly make a difference is very satisfying.

Would you recommend Dame Catherines?
If your child is bored at school, then it’s not your child’s fault! Tests only indicate understanding (or memory) at a particular point in time, but education should support and develop children’s personality, social skills, confidence, and joy of learning. Just passing a test is meaningless.

If you come for a visit to Dame Catherines and talk to the children and staff, I’m sure you’ll see for yourself the wonderful environment that supports all of these educational aims.