Farnborough Hill has always offered an education that ‘educates the whole person’. Academic success is not the sole focus of the School; while it is an important aspect, the School recognises the need for a more rounded, character education.
The academic curriculum is well established and the results and value added scores attest to the success of the School in this regard. The achievements of pupils, both current and former, illustrate the prowess Farnborough Hill pupils have in a variety of other disciplines, from music to drama to sports. PSHEE and Sixth Form Enrichment have provided an extra dimension to the curriculum, yet it was still felt the School could do more to assist the pupils in realising their ambitions.
When Head of Sixth Form, Craig McCready, was introduced to Ivy House he experienced a lightbulb moment: Farnborough Hill produces tenacious, ambitious young women who are more than capable of leading, but the School did not offer a specific programme to develop their leadership skills. There was lots of focus on teamwork, opportunities for public speaking, running events, mentoring younger pupils, all skills needed to be a good leader, but nothing that focused on the pupils reflecting on their own individual skills, abilities and goals. Here was Ivy House, a company promising to produce ‘extraordinary leaders’.
Craig McCready delved into the Award and found a novel take on developing leadership skills. Ivy House does not offer a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. It does not tell the pupils they need to have x character or y skill to be a good leader. Instead each person’s inner being is explored; to discover what makes them tick, their passions, their drive, their ambitions and weaknesses; in short giving them the tools required to foster their own, authentic leadership style. To borrow a phrase often voiced by Head, Alexandra Neil, it allows each pupil to discover and hone their ‘unique gifts and talents’ to prosper as leaders in their own way, much in the same way that the School develops musical talent, or linguistic gifts.
The Ivy House Award has enhanced the School’s leadership training tenfold. While the pupils may have already had the nascent skills, informally developed through experiences at Farnborough Hill, the Ivy House Award has revolutionised the way in which the pupils think of themselves as leaders. Their inner explorations have developed confidence in who they are – their weaknesses have been laid bare, their strengths have been celebrated and they have come to realise that they all have the characteristics of a leader.