Life is full of challenges. We know this as adults, of course, but even the very youngest children have obstacles to overcome. We begin to learn the skills and strategies that enable us to prevail – courage and resilience, as well as a willingness to recognise our own limitations and the benefits of working with others – as soon as we are able to crawl and explore the world around us. At Vinehall, we understand the importance of allowing children to get things wrong: mistakes are an integral part of the learning process. Children need to fall over so that they learn to pick themselves up again. This is as true inside the classroom – metaphorically at least – as it is outside the classroom.
All children come into the world naturally curious, eager to play and explore, and equally eager to learn. At Vinehall, our aim is to harness this natural curiosity by encouraging children to ask questions. We want our pupils to think and reason for themselves, even the very youngest children, so our teachers are as likely to question answers as they are to answer questions. Small class sizes mean that learning can be tailored to the interests of the children in each class; the day may begin with the children learning about castles, but the unexpected discovery of a bird’s nest might mean they end the day learning about the life cycles of different animals.
Incredible facilities and specialist teachers mean that the children at Vinehall have the opportunity to explore and develop a broad range of interests. From the age of five, the children have weekly swimming and gymnastics lessons, as well as French and Music lessons with subject specialists. The children all sing together in the Pre-Prep Choir and take part in friendly sports tournaments, with mixed teams of girls and boys of different ages playing together. Outdoor learning – as well as outdoor play – is an integral part of life at Vinehall.
As the children progress through the school more opportunities await them. The extra-curricular programme is extensive, with clubs ranging from clay pigeon shooting to debating, from fencing to cryptography. The children continue to sing in various choirs and they also have the opportunity to play in a multitude of ensembles: there are junior and senior orchestras, as well as a string quartet, a swing band and a percussion group, to name just a few. Drama features strongly at Vinehall, with everyone from the two-year-olds in nursery to the thirteen-year-olds in Year 8 having frequent opportunities to perform on stage.
At the heart of our academic curriculum is the same emphasis on nurturing children’s creativity and curiosity. We want the children to be captivated by fantastical stories and to journey to the outer reaches of the solar system or the depths of the ocean in the pages of a book. We want the children to ask what makes a number odd or even and to use colourful cubes, pine cones or pairs of animals making their way onto an ark to make sense of the answer.
The curriculum at Vinehall is designed to encourage independence of thought by embracing an outward-looking, forward-thinking programme of study. We want to provide all children with a relevant and engaging learning experience that gives them a sense of place and a sense of purpose. Above all, we want the children to love learning, to experience the deep satisfaction that comes from making sense of the world around them and to enjoy the tension and triumph of discovery.
After two years of planning, September 2019 sees the introduction of a bespoke programme of study for pupils in Years 7 and 8, focusing on a thematic approach to learning. In our view, the current CE humanities syllabuses do not equip children with the skills they need for the future, with too much emphasis placed on testing and examinations. As part of a rigorous academic curriculum that we hope will give children a more relevant and stimulating learning experience, our focus will be on ensuring that our children have the skills and dispositions that will mean they leave Vinehall as independent, engaged learners.
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