Leo Winkley, Headmaster of Shrewsbury School, discusses its recent successes at the Independent School Awards and explains why a culture of kindness is so ingrained among pupils and staff

As the place where Charles Darwin learned his schoolboy science, Shrewsbury School has always looked to evolve to meet the challenges of the times. Founded in 1552, it has a deep heritage and strong sense of tradition, yet it also endeavours to remain light-footed and forward-looking.

Shrewsbury actively works with schools and other education settings, health and social care organisations, community groups and charities, locally in Shrewsbury, across Shropshire and throughout the UK. Our culture of kindness, which has a long history at the school, enables pupils to develop an experienced understanding of social responsibility, leading to lives that positively impact others.

It is the big, traditional, all-in boarding school with a twinkle in its eye. Fully co-educational, with over 800 pupils from the age of 13-18, 80 per cent of whom are full boarders, we champion the individual but also promote a strong sense of social responsibility. Our school motto – “If right within, worry not” – focuses on the internal virtues and character strengths that shape and guide a lifetime. Shrewsbury deals in ‘whole person education’ – an education for life.

To be awarded Independent School of the Year 2020, and be named joint winners in the Community Outreach category, is a tremendous honour and a timely validation of the work we do with our local and wider community. There are over 1,300 independent schools up and down the land, and I know just how much excellent work is done by the independent sector to extend opportunities through community outreach and educational partnerships.

Shrewsbury School on the importance of a kindness culture
Shrewsbury School students are encouraged to lead community initiatives

Delighted as we are to receive these awards, it has only fuelled our collective appetite to do more. This activity is not window-dressing; nor do we carry out this work because people are breathing down our necks. We do it because it is at the heart of our identity as a school that educates children to contribute positively to the world around them.

Community outreach has always been part of our essence and particularly during current times we have worked to share and collaborate with our local community.  Our relationship with The Shewsy, our youth club in Everton, is stronger than ever in its 118th year.  Benefiting the local community is a vital goal, but we also want our pupils to leave school with a deep sense of social responsibility to make change happen.

“There is genuine mutual benefit in the two-way partnerships in which we engage. Our pupils and staff make a difference – and they make connections”

All Salopians are involved in volunteering and community service during their school journey. Supported by school staff and the wider Salopian community they participate in fundraising each academic year, whether individually, in groups or through house or whole-school activities. Aid is provided for a local hospital and care homes, the local food bank and conservation projects. There is also work in local schools with reading and sport, as well as fundraising for several local, national and international charities. Students are encouraged to lead their own initiatives to broaden engagement with our local communities.

These projects are central to what we call our ‘Culture of Kindness’. There is genuine mutual benefit in the two-way partnerships in which we engage. Our pupils and staff make a difference; and they make connections and learn skills that shape our outlook on life. The true purpose of education is not the accumulation of certificates; it is about the development of values to lead a good life in an ever-evolving world. As our motto says: “If right within… “.

Shrewsbury School shrewsbury.org.uk

Further reading: Cranleigh School on the life-skills taught by arts events