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Earned and learned

16/9/16: Be yourself; as the saying goes, everyone else is taken. It sounds easy enough, but being yourself can be a challenge when there is so much pressure to compare yourself to, or conform to the expectations of, others. Being yourself requires, above all, the right sort of confidence. 

Ben Fogle, OB and explorer, spoke recently about this precious commodity and how he found it at Bryanston: “It’s the single most important attribute any child could have. A form of charm, wit, and wisdom. These camouflage any shortcomings in the academic stakes. Boost the country’s confidence and we will solve so many of Britain’s ills.” He was quick to point out that he was not talking about the “media clichéd arrogance of the stately home-owning, blue-blooded toff or of the privileged middle classes, but a value that is attainable by all - but sadly all too often overlooked in the state system.” A value he describes as “earned and learned.”

For all the modern talk of ‘grit’ and ‘resilience’, it is a quality we’ve been seeking to instil at Bryanston since 1928. But not in that dreadful old-fashioned character-forming way, which involved making a child’s life very miserable and telling them they’ll be grateful for it one day. Ben remembers the real thing from his time here in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It’s about our unique tutorial system; about the way we operate our boarding houses; about the one-to-one care. It’s about the quality and range of our sport, music, drama and extra-curricular activities. It’s about the level of responsibility with which we entrust our pupils, and the initiative we encourage from them, from the D Show to the A3 Festival to the A2 Charities Weekend. Our expertise in all of these areas was recognised by the ISI inspection team, which last September rated Bryanston as excellent in every category, including the classroom, for the first time in our history. And it is our strength in all of these areas that helps build that proper and crucial confidence. 

From confidence comes contribution. That feeling of belonging, of knowing we are in the right place, gives us the impetus to get involved, to take part, to give things a try. And yes, there may well be hiccups along the way, but in the words of Albert Einstein, who knew a thing or two, anyone who has never made a mistake never tried anything new.

I am the mother of two OB graduates and they each flourished here. My elder daughter is currently completing her fourth degree, at the end of which she will, for her sins, be a lawyer. She has a wide group of friends, from her time at Bryanston and from all three of the universities she has attended. And she recently observed to me: “My OB friends are doing such a huge and interesting range of things … all my other friends notice how varied and on it and positive the Bry lot is.” It’s true. She has OB friends in PR, law, medicine, teaching, nursing, event management, photography, IT, art and design, personal chef-ing … and they’re all getting paid (except her). It’s a wonderful testament to the confidence forged in the crucible of the abundant life of Bryanston.

Schools, if they are doing their job properly, embrace education in its proper sense: as a process, of growing and discovering. They are not factories for turning different children into the same thing, all suited and booted and marching off to the City like an army of Mr Bankses from Mary Poppins. Bryanston is proud of the fact that OBs have the confidence to go out and do all kinds of different things and to make their mark upon their society in the best ways that they can. We’re proud too of the fact that they do not, in any shape or form, ask that most unattractive of questions: “Do you know who I am?” There is no sense of entitlement. Bryanstonians leave here themselves, ready to stand on their own two feet; ready to make their own way, most of them (but not all) through university; ready to find the best path, the happiest and most fulfilling life, for them. Ready to make their own contribution to their world. Ready, I have no doubt, to make it a better place wherever they can.