Old Buckenham Hall School

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Old Buckenham Hall School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.


Headmaster David Griffiths and
The Old Buckenham
Explorers are a key part of
the curriculum
Old Buckenham Hall celebrates its 157th year in 2019,
making it one of the oldest prep schools in the country.
Last year,
recognised it as one of the top five
prep schools in the UK, while the ISI rated it as excellent in both
categories. David Griffiths became headmaster in September
2018, and he tells
The Parliamentary Review
about his plans
to uphold the school’s values and standards for the next
generation of children that walk through its doors.
I recently read a blog where parents were discussing us or a local through-school
as the independent school that they may send their child to. The debate centred
on how traditional we were. What lacked definition was the word traditional, and
this is something worth exploration. We are different from many schools in that all
of our children leave us at 13 years old. Most then go on to some of the big-name
public schools around the UK and we regularly send children to 30 different senior
schools. Our children take advantage of day and boarding places with us, but most
children will either full or transitional board during their time.
Proud traditions
For me traditional is an important word because that is exactly what we are. I see
our traditions as being a school that produces well-rounded, lifelong learners who
want to put more into society than they take. We have outstanding academic
standards and stretch all children in this sense. It matters not whether they are a
high-flier or whether they are a child who has SEND requirements. We nurture
»Headmaster: David Griffiths
»Founded in 1862
»Based in Brettenham, Suffolk
»Type of School: Independent
nursery, pre-prep and
»No. of Pupils: 215
»Member of the IAPS and BSA
Old Buckenham Hall
Highlighting best practice
them, support them and challenge
them and while most of the job
titles they will undertake are not
yet invented, they have the skillset
to adapt, strive and succeed on the
journey that liesahead.
Our success can be seen in improving
baseline data results year-on-year,
and in the scholarship and Common
Entrance results our children are
awarded in their final year with us. It
is not our sole focus, however, and
perhaps not even our main one. We
pride ourselves on providing a family
atmosphere for the children and
encouraging a positive atmosphere
where all can achieve, usually after
learning from failures along the way.
We have sport, music and drama for
all, and our Old Buckenham Explorer
programme is designed to use all
of our 75-acre site for the children
to genuinely learn outdoors and
develop core skills that they can use in
adulthood. It is no mere gimmick.
It is in these areas where our success
really lies as we find the talents in
all children and use the positivity
from each to hook them into a love
of their school and of their learning.
Community is a commonly overused
word when it comes to schools, but in
our case it is true. Most alumni keep in
touch and we celebrate their successes
many years after they have left us.
Many come back to visit year after
Collaboration and funding
As someone who was state educated
and started teaching at comprehensive
schools in Cardiff, I now lead a
school that is very different from
the environment in which I grew up
and where I developed my skills as a
teacher. I know what both state and
independent systems have to offer.
There is no doubt that independent
schools like ours provide children with
Inspiring a love of
Music, sport and drama
for all
We are a school
that produces
lifelong learners
who want to
put more into
society than
they take
an incredibly high platform from which
to establish the patterns for their life,
and by any objective measure we
are extremely successful. All children
deserve the opportunity to access such
an education, but sadly that is not
The challenge, then, is how we as
a country can find a way to create
a better platform for children who
attend state schools. The key is not
to attack independent schools with
threats of VAT on fees or the removal
of charitable status as has been
discussed by both main parties, but
to better fund state schools and to
encourage collaboration between both
sectors to share best practice.
The independent world is far from
perfect and few heads of independent
schools would make this claim.
We can learn from the literacy and
numeracy programmes in place in
state schools and there is little doubt
that a better use of measurable data
would help us focus our teaching and
learning to a higher degree. In turn,
we can share the cultures of positivity
that we create within our schools
and evidence the huge impact of
small class sizes and strong pastoral
According to government figures,
it cost £35,371 to keep a person
in prison for a year in 2016-17,
whereas the planned spend per pupil
in the same year was just £4,432. It
is accepted that one of the causes
of crime and social stagnation is a
lack of education and aspiration. It
seems ludicrous to me that we take a
per capita approach to this problem
that focuses far more on cure than
prevention. Rather than aiming for the
lowest common denominator, it would
be far more productive and positive to
instead attempt to deliver a situation
built on the strengths of both sectors
of the educational landscape.
At the start of this academic year,
I wrote to all the headteachers of
primary schools within a ten-mile radius
and I invited them for coffee and a
discussion of our respective schools.
Only one took me up on this offer but I
am delighted that our conversation has
led to some short, focused collaborative
works between our early years
practitioners that have benefited both
schools. I am hopeful that the future
will be one where our political leaders
place more emphasis on the power
of education so that all children can
benefit from what we offer here.
I am hopeful
that the future
will be one
where our
leaders place
emphasis on
the power of
education so
that all
children can
benefit from
what we offer
A will to win is
important, however
teamspirit and
collaboration are


This article was sponsored by Old Buckenham Hall School. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.