A year of reflection: an interview with Head of the Paragon School Rosie Allen
How have your children managed at school over the past year of disruption? We ask Rosie Allen, who is celebrating her first year as Head of The Paragon School, what are her lasting memories of a year like no other…
How do you look back on your first year at The Paragon?
With so many different emotions and perspectives. It has been an extraordinary year of ups and downs globally, so picking one overriding sentiment to sum up my first year as Head is hard. However, my reflections do keep returning to the incredibly strong sense of community at The Paragon, and the way in which everyone has pulled together for the good of the school and its children.
What have been the main challenges?
Keeping a sense of momentum. Obviously Covid has presented more than its fair share of challenges to everyone in our community. However the main challenge, and one which we have met head on, is ensuring that we have done more than just navigate a pandemic this year. The school has also moved forward, and there are exciting plans for the future. It has been a challenge to remain focussed on continual improvement, but we have done so. There are exciting times ahead!
How will Covid change the way schools approach children’s learning do you think?
With a greater focus on learner behaviours than ever before. At The Paragon, we deliver our curriculum in a way which ensures the children develop habits of mind which will stay with them for life. Characteristics such as perseverance, resilience, independence and curiosity form our ‘Paragon Wheel’ and underpin everything that goes on in classrooms and around the school. The experiences of Covid have served to underline the importance of the way the children learn, furnishing them with these life skills.
How have pupils coped with the different way of learning over the past year?
Utterly brilliantly. Their resilience and, quite frankly, joy through the various ebbs and flows of the pandemic has been nothing short of breathtaking. They have found the fun in everything and worked their socks off under such difficult circumstances. Not only that, but our recent assessments have shown that great progress has been made in their learning. In spite of everything, it has been a successful year for each of them and we are all incredibly proud of their resilience and determination.
Are you looking forward to a time when you can focus more emphatically on the school rather than on protective measures?
To answer yes would be a huge understatement! But the pandemic has also been an opportunity for me to get to know the school very quickly, and so I have been able to progress some plans for the future already.
What are your main plans looking ahead?
To ensure that every child who comes through our school experiences their own journey of limitless discovery, and to further embed our core values in everything we do. The Paragon is an amazing school with many strengths, and our new vision and values will build on these to provide all our pupils with the very best experience of preparatory education. We have plans to significantly extend our outdoor learning programme, to further develop our co-curricular programme so that it provides each child with expansive opportunities, and to build on our already strong community to instil in the children a real sense of global awareness as they grow into adulthood. We will continue to deliver a wonderfully broad and enriched curriculum in the classroom, with an emphasis on keeping alive in every child their natural thirst for learning. I have always said that academic success comes as a bi-product of happy, engaged children and The Paragon has that magical quality which will make this a reality.
What makes The Paragon a special school?
A prospective parent who visited the school recently described it as being like ‘childhood bottled.’ I think this sums it up. Anyone who has visited The Paragon, or indeed knows it by reputation, will understand it when I say there is a magic to the school. It’s not just the setting. It runs deeply through the ways and traditions of the school, in the relationships between pupils, staff and parents and in the wonderful environment which has been created for the children. I very much see my role as stewarding this magic, and ensuring that we keep it alive and thriving.
What is appreciated the most by parents and children?
That our pupils are allowed to be children. There is so much joy, adventure and purpose for them on their educational journey with us, and their time at The Paragon gives them a fully immersive educational experience. They have time and space to develop their skills and talents, to find out who they really are and what they have to offer the world. Ultimately, each child leaves our school as an even better version of themselves, and I think children and parents alike appreciate the natural and individual growth that The Paragon allows.
Can you explain your motto, A Journey of Limitless Discovery?
It’s a journey because our approach embraces an understanding that each lesson, day, week and so on is part of a life experience for each child which begins before they join us and continues long after they have left us. Limitless because the way we teach, learn and interact as a community places no limits on what each of the children has the potential to achieve. And discovery because the children foster curiosity, creativity and a sense of adventure in all they do. Put together, it places a Paragon education at the heart of childhood, creating happy and kind children who have self-belief and an aspiration to play their part in the world.
The Paragon School is an independent, co-educational prep school in Bath, for children aged 3–11; paragonschool.co.uk