This academic year is the first in which I have delegated the responsibility for conducting prospective parental tours in the Senior School to our upper Sixth. Invariably our guests comment on their maturity, articulacy, independence of mind and the extent to which they are proud of their school. Visitors always comment how struck they are by the maturity of those in our Sixth Form; I must admit, they are hugely impressive.

The youngest in our community – our Pippins – just starting on their 3-18 journey will become the 2034 Upper Sixth and will be just as impressive as our 2020 cohort, I have no doubt. Our Upper Sixth did not develop these qualities all at once in their final year, nor were they developed by chance. Students at the Dixie are drip-fed independence and responsibility from 3 to 18 to ensure they leave fully equipped with the discipline and resilience they need to successfully tackle the challenges ahead.

Education at the Dixie has been carefully designed – we have thought long and hard about our programme and we continue to challenge ourselves to ensure it matches the needs of students. In particular, we believe that allowing young people the space to make mistakes is a crucial ingredient in ensuring they develop these qualities. Consequently we:

  1. Don’t have CCTV cameras around school. The Dixie is not a prison and Senior School students are not watched constantly, but we do expect them to act responsibly whether or not a teacher is present. As they progress through the years from Year 1 to the Upper Sixth, we increasingly expect students to look out for and take responsibility for those younger than them.
  2. We advise and support parents to not ban children’s use of social media, but rather to control its use. Ultimately, we want students at the Dixie to be able to self-regulate their screen time – not possible if all access is banned.  We have a zero tolerance policy on the recreational use of mobile phones in school, except in the Sixth Form house, by which time we expect students to have mastered the management of their own screen time and their own decisions online.
  3. The many weekly academic revision sessions are well-advertised but are not compulsory. We expect Year 10 and 11 students to be able to manage their own learning outside the classroom and to seek help when it is needed.
  4. We encourage healthy eating, but we would not manage this effectively through the removal of all less nutritious options.
  5. Study time is not supervised in our Sixth Form. We would not equip our students for the academic rigours and freedom of university by removing all freedom; the development of self-regulation during free time is vital in the Sixth Form. That said, our Sixth Form are very closely monitored as the final freedoms associated with the last two years in school are drip-fed to them.

Our Forest School, DOSE, Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, co-curricular programme and World Challenge expeditions are central pillars in the development of these so called ‘soft skills’ of discipline, self-control and resilience and many more. At whatever age, the freedoms Dixie students enjoy come with responsibility, which in turn ensures they develop the skills necessary for the next stage in their education.

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