Kate Cowling: College Deputy: Academics and Culture

I have been incredibly privileged to have worked at Bridge House on and off over the last 18 years, and during this time, I have often been asked what makes Bridge House unique; why do I keep coming back? My first response is that we know our students and the excellent relationships between teachers and students, but there is much more to Bridge House than that.

Several Independent schools can boast excellent IEB Matric results at the end of each year, so our results make us competitive but not unique. When you follow the lives of our past pupils, you start to understand what makes us exceptional. I love hearing about their diverse achievements, be it an outstanding PhD thesis, business success, medical breakthrough or running community projects. Our past pupils know the importance of positively impacting the world. So how do we “produce” young adults of such a high calibre?

For us, the curriculum is simply the foundation for our student’s education. We could focus purely on the curriculum, and by doing so, we may increase the overrated metric of the number of A’s per candidate in Matric, but instead, we prefer to instil a love for learning. Through our numerous academic enrichment programmes, right from the moment our children nervously enter Grade 000 to when they confidently complete Grade 12, our students have been given opportunities to explore the world around them and find their passion. The number of camps, guest speakers, elective courses, outings, excursions, round square conferences, community service projects, exchanges, sports tours, interact activities, performance opportunities, and leadership opportunities (I am sure I have left a few things off this list), is unparalleled. To offer all these learning opportunities, our teachers have to be able and willing to extend themselves far beyond what is expected at most schools. I hope that students realise how fortunate they are to experience this level of holistic education.

In my mind, there are three steps to success. The first is finding your passion, and through the diverse offering detailed above, every child should find something that excites them and sparks their curiosity. Once this has been achieved, the next step is instilling self-discipline, including a good work ethic and time management skills. To help our students achieve this, we provide the tools and structure to thrive and then gradually reduce the support as they mature. By the time they leave school, they are independent learners taking responsibility for their success. We often receive criticism for making demanding examination sessions or insisting that deadlines be met. However, it is through difficult times that students learn perseverance and determination. Knowing their strengths and capabilities and succeeding in stressful situations is vitally important. Having said this, our exceptional Educational Support Unit is always there to assist students, should they need additional help and guidance at any stage.

Finally, the last step to success is to have a good moral compass. Success should never be at the expense of others. Here I loop back to my initial comment about what makes Bridge House unique. Professional and nurturing teacher-student relationships are forged through our pastoral system. In this system, students have a safe space to discuss complex issues and learn to understand that we all come with unique backgrounds and perspectives, and that empathy and inclusion are essential for a happy learning environment. The system also allows individual or group interventions to facilitate behavioural change if necessary. At Bridge House, change is not enacted by harsh rules but by dialogue, understanding the consequences of actions, and negotiation. Through these various discussions, students learn that they have a voice and that, if used wisely, it can make positive change.

I hope I have managed to explain what makes Bridge House unique, and I am sure I will continue to feel proud every time I hear of our past pupils’ successes and the positive impact they have on the world.

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