Best Practices in Independent Schools

Bryan Nixon

Bryan Nixon

I want to draw your attention to an article written by Doug Lyons, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools.  In his article Mr. Lyons not only briefly discusses his perception of public versus independent schools, but also highlights some ‘best practices’ that are seen in independent schools.  While I read the article I could not help but reflect on Whitby School.

Key to the practices is the emphasis on relationships and how these are fostered through collaboration and communication. At Whitby we see relationships as key to providing quality learning experiences, retaining quality faculty and informing students and parents of the learning journey.  We communicate frequently not just about school events, but also about your child’s learning. We also invite parental participation in the learning journey through sharing assessments, participating in school events, workshops that provide an insight into our programs and practices, and through parental engagement in student conferences.

Three other key practices mentioned are:

  • An arts program that enjoys the same status as other subject areas
  • An extra-curricular program that is not viewed as ‘extra’ but as an opportunity to experience the real world
  • School assessment instruments that measure what a school values most - that elude simple paper and pencil scoring

As I consider these three aspects I am proud of the journey Whitby has taken over the past two years and longer.  We have considerably strengthened our Visual and Performing Arts programs; we have nearly 1,100 registrations in an extensive co-curricular program that promotes the application of skills, knowledge and understanding to tasks beyond the classroom experience; and we have invested considerable resources and time into ensuring we provide assessment data and information to students and families that incorporates so much more than just a simple pen and paper test. 

The article closes by stating that ‘there is a universal commitment to ensuring that students will care about learning and learn about caring’ and that this will lead to ‘not merely a resume well developed but a life well-lived”.  How apt is this when we consider our new mission statement:

Whitby inspires a passion for learning and empowers each child to take responsibility as an open-minded, principled citizen in a global community.

As we continue to grow and develop, and by the practices outlined in Mr. Lyons’ article, Whitby has much to celebrate.  What an impact our children will have on the global community in the future if we all continue to live by our mission.

Bryan Nixon

Bryan Nixon

Bryan Nixon is now the Head of School at TASIS England, having previously served the Whitby School community for 5 wonderful years. The 'Life of Bryan' continues to be an adventure in many ways. From Belfast to Bavaria and Cardiff to Connecticut, and now onto London, his learning journey has proved to be a source of wonder and exploration through each opportunity and challenge enjoyed. Bryan shares this journey with his family and the school communities that he serves. He draws inspiration from the multiple perspectives provided by students, parents and colleagues that continue to enrich his learning and expand his horizons.