Education Blog

Former Headteacher of Francis Holland School Regent’s Park, Vivienne Durham, reflects on looking at education from the other side of the fence

By Mark Kebble, The Resident

 ‘I remember being taught about gravity. I would sit in a lesson, look at the equations, read about the science – and in a lesson today that method of learning would probably take up about eight minutes. Now there’s an interactive video, some piece of kit we never had showing the forces, then onto the Internet to see more diagrams… If I had had that kind of lesson at 12 years of age I probably would be an atomic physicist now!’

Vivienne Durham sits back in her chair and laughs. ‘You do wonder how on earth did we teach without the internet, but teaching is so expert,’ she adds. ‘What often doesn’t get said today is that in many UK schools, both independent and state, there is extraordinarily good teaching. Yes, there are all the resources we have today, but, if anything, the skill and expertise of a teacher has extended even further. At the heart of teaching is communication, and the relationship between the class and teacher.’

The fact we are talking so much about teachers suggests how Enjoy Education, who now count Durham as one of their team, has evolved the concept of tutoring. Into her 12th year as Headteacher of the hugely successful and well respected Francis Holland School Regent’s Park, Enjoy Education’s Managing Director, Kate Shand, tempted Durham to take on a new career move and join the team. ‘I knew the advisory work Enjoy Education was doing and it absolutely needs to be done,’ Durham says. ‘Every Head knows the decision parents are taking for the schooling of their children is fundamentally important. This is all vivienne-the-residentabout the child. This is their education first and foremost, and none of us want to see a child in the wrong school.’

What often doesn’t get said today is that there is extraordinarily good teaching.

Vivienne Durham

Heading up the company’s School Advisory Service, Durham will now be offering guidance to parents about all aspects of the UK schools admission process using her three decades plus experience in the industry. ‘If you happen to not to understand the vocabulary of it all it can be incredibly confusing,’ Durham says of the role. ‘The flipside of that is there are so many amazingly good schools on offer. Every school is aiming to make children happy, successful adults of the future. Whether it’s single sex or co-ed, the best advice for parents is to visit the school – keep your eyes and ears open and trust your instinct. Ask lots of questions. Go round and look at notice boards, how the school is organised, what the pupils are like. Are they proud of their school? There is only so much a school can mandate into teenagers!’

It’s obvious that Durham is enthusiastic about this next stage of her career. Constantly the subject comes back to teachers – when Durham won the Tatler award for Best Head of a Public School last year, her acceptance speech was all about her team – and she’s all too aware, whether it’s via a school or a private tutoring service like Enjoy Education, it’s about inspiring a child to simply love learning. ‘When I left school, computers were practically the world of James Bond,’ she laughs. ‘Equally now for 18-year-olds leaving school, they know life will not slow down and there will be something invented during their adult lives that they will need to engage with and learn how to use. It’s important to give them a broad template of being able to learn in many different ways.’

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