From the Headmaster’s Office: Chasing childhood

Pupils at St Nicholas House Prep School and Nursery

Pupils at St Nicholas House Prep School and Nursery - Credit: Archant

Don’t make children hurry through childhood - even if they are chasing Pokémon - says Fred de Falbe, headmaster at Beeston Hall School, West Runton

As a leader of a prep school, I do, at the risk of sounding obvious, focus again and again on that word “preparation” - for a new school and new challenges, aged 13. It includes so much more than simply the features of primary education and gives us all longer to enjoy childhood, as well as prepare for the uncertainties of the next stage. That is the word of the moment: the roar of world-changing news has been so intense in these past few months, anyone could be forgiven for wanting to retreat to the comforts of childhood – something we have, in fact, all been witnessing in the Pokémon Go phenomenon.

As a parent a decade ago, in an attempt to engage with befuddled amusement at my sons’ obsessions with these and similar cards, I came back from a French school trip with T-shirts emblazoned “Attrapez les tous”. I thought that, like bridge or cricket averages, this was just a painless way of identifying numerical patterns and exercising those memory muscles – after all, they both became excellent mathematicians. Now, with our wondrous interactivity, Squirtle and co have come back with a vengeance. Why, we might ask, and what for? Exclamations of horror and delight in equal measure!

While at one of the many treasures of Lyon - its botanical gardens - we recently saw more than just youngsters, phones in hand, gathering around an obvious Pokémon hotspot. It was sociable and benign and maybe a few noticed the amazing floral displays around them; certainly Niantic have trumpeted the exercise regime that Pokémon Go has started. But perhaps more important than this is the way decade-old childhood dreams have been made a reality. Like so many new uncertainties, it represents a tension: the complexities of modern, internet-bound life (gaming) – never mind the industrial scale harvesting of data - alongside a wish for the simplicities of childhood. None of us should be in a hurry to grow up, but neither can we retreat behind the dreams of a screen.

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