We chat to the new head at The White House School – the South West London co-education prep – Tony Lewis
You joined the school in September 2017, how’s the journey been so far?
It’s a great school with a wonderful ethos, the children are happy and doing extremely well, so there has been every reason to have enjoyed the journey.
What are you looking to introduce to the school?
We are extremely positive in our management of the children, which encourages them to take risks. Consequently they make mistakes and we enable them to learn from these because of the confidence they gain by having a go. We promote a view of learning that goes well beyond the curriculum, and it’s exactly what you would wish of an environment in which children can and do learn effectively. My ambition is to build on this, and there are specific areas to which we will apply this ethos with greater determination – for example, developing Science into STEM and STEAM. Already we build a car each year and race it, we enjoy Science Week and Science Club, and our ICT is driving forward with coding, so there are some exciting aspects present, but we can do more.
How do you ensure every pupil achieves their full potential?
Our teachers are excellent and they care deeply – teachers really do make a difference. Our curriculum is designed to stretch, challenge and stimulate, and we monitor this on a day-to-day basis (having small classes helps enormously) and with more formal assessments each half term. Our children view our assessments as a challenge because they know they help us to help them, which re-enforces the idea of learning from mistakes, and our children feel fully encouraged to have a go!
Does The White House School offer any extra-curricular activities?
Clubs before and after school, and at lunchtime (including my chess club and a new yoga and mindfulness experience) extend our vibrant arts, music, drama and sports programmes, which are as important to us as our academics. We want to offer children the best opportunities to develop their interests, as well as discover new passions.
How do you nurture the transition from your Kindergarten to Prep?
Most of our Reception children move up naturally from our two nurseries and there is a healthy blend with children new to the school. We have a wonderful family feel and we encourage our children to behave in this way so, regardless of any formal introductions, the attitude is incredibly supportive of those new to the school. In the summer we run a trip combining our Pre-Reception with our Reception, which further enhances the transition. We have opportunities before starting where new children and their parents are invited to spend time in their new environment and this helps to mellow any anxieties. Often these experiences serve to excite children about their new situation, too – they love the more ‘grown-up’ feel.
What’s in the pipeline for the rest of the year?
Outward-bound residentials, a trip to Normandy, school plays, music competitions, swimming galas, building and racing a car for Goodwood, spring assembly in our local church, Science Week, Sports Day, Easter egg hunts – the list goes on, all liberally punctuated with some seriously enjoyable learning!