Canford School Headmaster Ben Vessey discusses why he believes schools’ role is to prepare young people for a global and more collaborative future

The events of 2020 have illustrated more than ever our need to understand and engage with our world in a more informed and active manner. Schools have a duty to prepare their pupils in creative and relevant ways for the world they will step out into.

At Canford School we have launched a Global Connections Programme based on four core journeys. Our Partnerships Journey explores communities in Argentina, India, Ghana and Cambodia where Lower Sixth Formers work with those whose lives are very different from their own. This is based on a two-way relationship where all have something to give and are ready to receive from each other. We begin creating awareness of these communities – their culture, their way of life and their region – when pupils join us in the Shells (Year 9), and strands of learning develop as pupils move up through the school. 

With so much uncertainty surrounding the future world of work, pupils will need to become ‘career chameleons’, likely to have not one but perhaps three or more careers during their working lives. So, it is important to foster entrepreneurial thinking and we do this through an Enterprise Journey. Similarly, through a Geopolitical Journey, we encourage pupils to analyse and evaluate how countries work (or do not work) together and why and how these relationships have evolved over time. The Model United Nations programme, run for pupils across the UK and internationally, is an excellent means of engaging pupils by offering them the chance to explore different perspectives.

Sagar School Copy
Sagar School in India, one of Canford School’s link schools explored via its International Journey

Our International Journey brings a rich diversity to our school life. Celebrations such as Chinese New Year allow pupils to share their culture and lifestyles and explain the differences and similarities. Advances in technology have been extremely helpful in this respect. Speakers from around the world can now give talks on Zoom or Teams and share their experiences. We have live dialogue between UK and Ghanaian students, and those in link schools in Princeton, USA and Rajasthan, India. Getting pupils working directly with peers in other schools on joint projects builds a connected and harmonious link between young people across borders. Language learning is a high priority at Canford and pupils have the opportunity to study not only the more usual European languages but in recent years also Mandarin, Russian and a range of other options.

“Recreating experiences of other cultures is a useful and interactive way of helping children learn about our world”

Recreating experiences of other cultures is a useful and interactive way of helping children learn about our world. For the past few years, working with an outside charity, our Shell pupils have recreated a typical day learning, living and surviving in a shanty town. We have also introduced cross-curricular projects such as ‘Propaganda Live’, where pupils explore the concept of propaganda, and how it has been used for good or bad over time. They then select a prominent figure and plan and deliver a campaign to promote their aims and ideas. Our fascinating subjects have included Barack Obama, David Attenborough, Marcus Rashford and Nelson Mandela.

Through all these activities, our school mission is to prepare pupils to make a difference in the world – not just to their own lives, but to the lives of others. By fostering a genuine interest in diversity of thought, ideas, cultures and experiences, we aim for young people to be better equipped than any previous generation to build a better and more collaborative world.

Canford School

Further reading: Shrewsbury School on the importance of kindness culture