What makes a successful education? 4 things parents should know

Students playing outside at Cumnor House School for girls in Surrey, England.

Education is at its finest when children are happy and comfortable. - Credit: Cumnor House School

What makes a successful education? It’s a question that consumes many parents concerned about their child’s future. 

The real answer is one that eludes the surface-level explanation of simply ‘good teaching’ – and while that remains undoubtedly paramount, a child will reach their maximum potential when they are nurtured, both academically and personally. 

“Happy learners fulfil high expectations, so it’s vital we focus on the whole child, allowing them to flourish within a supportive, healthy environment,” says Amanda McShane, headmistress at Cumnor House School in Croydon. 

“Many teach their children to ‘think outside the box’ - at Cumnor House, there is no ‘box’, and that’s what makes learning exciting,” she adds. 

Here, Amanda shares her expertise, and what she knows to be the key to a successful education.

Transferable skills and preparing for the future

At Cumnor House, we encourage conversation and reflection from the age of four – oracy is key. Expression is vital for children to improve and inform their understanding, and a successful education is one that prepares them for the future. We ask our pupils: how can you improve? What would you do better? Accountability and responsibility are transferable skills that become natural to them, as we teach it from the beginning. 

Our pupils use success criteria to aid self-assessment, and they also have opportunities to receive verbal feedback from other students - peer reflection is important, so the girls have marking partners. We provide the tools to enable pupils to self-reflect, refine, improve and make decisions. Our students are actively engaged in their learning process.

Girls in a physical education lesson at Surrey Cumnor House School

"Happy learners fulfil high expectations" - headmistress of Cumnor House School Amanda McShane. - Credit: Cumnor House School

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Establishing personal relationships 

Smaller class sizes allow for more granular teaching and it’s easier to enhance a child’s progress through understanding their needs and giving extra support where needed. At Cumnor House, it’s more than just a small class. Every teacher knows each child from both an academic and personal perspective, for example, the teachers sit with the girls at lunch to chat with them about their life and interests. Making a child feel comfortable and familiar with their learning environment is ultimately the foundation for academic success. 

Integrating parents into the student-teacher relationship is also crucial – our family ethos is strong within our community. As headmistress, I have a blog outlining leadership topics I want parents to engage with. Online teaching is integrated into the curriculum to enhance learning and involve parents. We encourage parents to have discussions with their child and engage with them through reflective learning.

Amanda McShane, headmistress for Cumnor House School for girls in Surrey, England.

Cumnor House School headmistress Amanda McShane. - Credit: Cumnor House School

Extra-curricular endeavours 

The key to learning is broadening the depth of teaching, not constraining it. We educate our girls to become creative thinkers and reflective, innovative individuals, preparing them for the workplace. We offer a breadth of opportunities to develop our pupil’s social skills: ballet lessons are integrated into the curriculum, students swim weekly, and all Year 3 children learn a musical instrument. 

The girls have the opportunity to complete LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) exams, participate in the choir, orchestra, journalism club or our vast array of sports clubs. We provide opportunities that plant the seeds of interest for pupils to pursue later on. 

Our Pupil Leadership team gives all of our pupils a voice and allows them to express their opinions on how we can move the school forward in an engaging and informative way.

Happiness and wellbeing 

Pastoral care truly makes a significant difference to a child’s welfare, which impacts their learning. Children experience anxieties for many reasons and in different ways – whether it concerns school, personal or home issues, we have a wellbeing lead available to provide care and support for our pupils. I’m always happy to talk to parents about how best to support their children. 

I operate an open-door policy, where it’s normal for my girls to come in and showcase their achievements. The school instils pride into its students, and when a child can express themselves with confidence and authority, this ultimately accelerates their ability to learn and progress in an engaging way.

For more information, visit cumnorhouse.com/cumnor-girls-purley. Alternatively, contact 0208 660 3445 or admin@cumnorhouse.com.