'Giving learning a new meaning at St Anthony's Boys Prep'

St Anthony's Boys School, Hampstead

Boys at St Anthony's are encouraged to take risks - Credit: St Anthony's Boys School, Hampstead

One of the most exciting changes in the last decade or so is the way teachers approach teaching and learning.

At St Anthony’s  we rely on several different methodologies. For instance,  one way in which we approach retention of knowledge is by improving working memory.  We train boys to memorise information especially in numeracy and literacy, because of their foundational importance across  learning specific disciplines such as geography, history and science.

There is a proven  link between memory and exam success of course although the methodology puts love of learning – that is to say the joy of knowing things – ahead of exam cramming. 

Another principle in place is to introduce topics in a clear way to children, even quite difficult concepts which are intrinsic to studying fact or number heavy topics like history, politics or economics. The art of effective teaching is to present ideas which captures children’s attention and imagination. And  younger children can be surprisingly more receptive than the teenagers.

Richard Berlie, St Anthony's Boys School

Richard Berlie celebrates the 'joy of knowing things' - Credit: St Anthony's Boys School

Even if a pupil finds a concept impenetrable when it is first introduced, when  they first hear it  there is still a very good likelihood that it remains as a point of reference – something that can be revisited and unlocked when the time is right. At St Anthony’s our teachers encourage pupils to take risks, to think creatively and to not be afraid to make mistakes.

Our boys are taught from reception to Year 8 that often being fallible and recognising where they went wrong so that a mistake (be it in a curricular activity or in a social situation) can be corrected,  is fundamental  to understanding how to improve and get it right the next time.  This understanding is key to ensuring that our philosophy of being a greenhouse and not a hothouse not only stands firm but also reaps just rewards as evidenced by our results last year.  

The main point I am making is that teachers can and should expect more of children. Imbuing children with a love of expansive, explorative learning has shown us, at St Anthony’s that when done right, a child’s natural curiosity and insightful thoughts can often not only astound us but also push us to impart with deeper levels of teaching than we first anticipated.  

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In the new academic year 2022-23, the school will host Lord (Robert) Winston. Professor Michael Scott (classics at Warwick), Professor Carl Watkins (Cambridge medievalist) and Professor Tarun Ramadorai (economics and business at Imperial College). In addition the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn will be coming in, to discuss with boys her role and how they can participate in the democratic process (in due course!) 

I think it is important to recognise that sometimes the seeds sown amongst minds may not come to fruition until they are much older. ‘Seeing through the glass darkly’ now is still better than not seeing through it at all; understanding learning as a life-long attitude is perhaps the most academic lessons we can teach the pupils. 

Richard Berlie is headmaster of St Anthony's School for Boys, Hampstead.