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Quakerism: a very 21st century approach to education
In the summer of 1699, in the small hamlet of Sithcott, Headmaster William Jenkins opened the doors of a new Quaker school. Chosen on account of the 'serene and healthy air' of the surrounding area, it stood on the site of the current boys school.
The history of the school has not been without incident. In the eighteenth century it moved for a brief period to nearby Yatton. In 1808, with the support of Quaker meetings around the country, it reopened in the current main building. This time it welcomed both boys and girls, making it one of the first co-educational schools in the UK - although it wasn't until the late 1800s that they were all taught together for the first time.
Sidcot has always been an innovative school. Bevan Lean and Jim Bradley are just two of the pioneering giants on whose shoulders the current school stands.
Bevan Lean was Headmaster in the 19th century. At the time Sidcot was well known for the attention it devoted to the study of science and a number of the staff would deliver regular experimental lectures. Bevan Lean, with his PhD and his taste for showmanship, was particularly popular - not only did he have expert knowledge, but he explained explosions by actually blowing things up.
Bevan Lean also introduced what was, in those days, an unorthodox teaching method, presenting situations as they would have appeared to famous scientists and asking pupils to tell him what to do next. This approach, encouraging students to think critically rather than simply absorb lectures, was also evident in the pioneering work of Jim Bradley, Head of Art from 1954-1983.
The Sidcot 'Bauhaus'
At a time when art in schools was seen by many as a minor activity, Bradley helped Sidcot establish a teaching method that developed children's visual literacy and imagination through practical activity, encouraging them to 'see' in an enlightened and critical way and enabling all pupils to create positive work, whatever their level of ability.
With the involvement of teachers from the arts, sciences and mathematics, Bradley created an art school that had more than a passing resemblance to the Bauhaus, the visionary German art school whose principles had so inspired him. In the new Craft Block, opened in 1967, Bradley designed a space in which art, needlework, cookery and woodwork departments worked together as one unit, in an approach that the school considered 'an important part of creative thinking and the setting for true education'.
Sidcot is in the South West of England only 15 miles from the city of Bristol and within one hour's travel of Bath. Bristol International Airport is only 9 miles away making travel to Europe easy with airlines such as Air France, easyJet, Flybe, KLM and Ryanair.
On the edge of the village of Winscombe, Sidcot benefits from being situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty whilst being within easy access of the two major cultural centres or Bristol and Bath. The coast at Weston-super-Mare is 8 miles away.
What makes a Quaker school different?
Young people in Quaker schools are encouraged to be outward looking and adventurous, to participate fully in the life of the school and to be of service to the community. Learning is a lifelong experience and is a part of living - as well as a preparation for it. Emphasis is placed on the way people lead their everyday lives and how they treat others. Mutual respect and concern for the natural world and the environment are integral to Quaker beliefs.
While the majority of pupils and staff at Sidcot are not Quakers, the whole school community meets together in a morning assembly once a week. This is a time when staff and pupils - of whatever faith, - share a period of quiet reflection, a rare opportunity in today's world.
How will your child benefit from an education in a Quaker school?
By being encouraged to work hard and make the most of opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom
By learning in an atmosphere of friendliness and openness, where relationships are based on trust and on the expectation of sensible, thoughtful behaviour
By having the opportunity to develop academically, personally, social and spiritually
Finding the best in everyone
With the belief that there is 'that of God' in every person, the Quaker philosophy to education aims to ensure that:
Every learner is approached with optimism
Individuals are encouraged to believe in their own 'immense potential'
Learning happens most creatively when relationships are based on mutual respect
Methods of discipline are based on trust, mutual support and a desire to promote the positive
Responsibility is encouraged, as is questioning, exploration, honesty and openness.
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