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Message from the Head
June 14, 2024

Message from the Head

It’s my eleventh year as Headmaster of St James Senior Boys’ School, and my nineteenth year as Head over all. It is also 32 years as a teacher – the noblest profession according to Plato.

 

I mention Plato because St James is a philosophical school, founded in 1975 by Leon McLaren, the son of the Liberal MP Andrew McLaren. Leon’s father was an enthusiast of the American Economist and Philosopher, Henry George. Leon embarked on a philosophical journey that led him to the Beatles Guru as I mentioned in the last article and finally India and meditation.

 

The modern St James schools retains this philosophical core and has grown over the forty plus years into a holistic school that offers an inside-out- eduction that develops the true whole child.

 

Academic excellence with a wide curriculum that offers the classics as well as the latest technological based subjects and at the heart of the education offered is stillness and silence that addresses all aspects of a young’s man’s being. Meditation practice is still offered and the school is part of the Mindfulness in School’s Project. Each lesson begins and ends with a mindful pause that allows an embodied moment of stillness and rest, it also allows a break from what has come before. All staff are trained in mindful techniques and this allows them to meet each pupil in fresh way each morning without pre judgement. This is also wonderful for mental health and well being.

 

All pupils at St James benefit from a philosophy lesson each week. I teach the Years 7 classes; in the Autumn Term we start with .B Mindfulness course that teaches all the mindful techniques and develops each boys practice. In Spring we look at ‘Bone, Blood and Skin Memory’ which explores each boys’ family trees and hereditary, we find out who made sacrifices in the past that has enabled each of us to be here today. This years Year 7 have delivered some amazing presentations on there heritage and relatives: we have heard how one pupil is related to ‘Dracula’ Author Bram Stoker; how Aubrey’s grandparents were famous actors, Ben is related to Piers Morgan; Aurush gave us a thirty-five minute talk that encompassed partition, migration and even confused one member of the class who thought Arusha’s Grandfather was Mahatma Gandhi (a confusion we soon cleared up). I could go on.

 

After half term we will, look at the nature of wisdom, the concept of unity, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle and ‘The Ship of Theseus’. I have just developed an ethics lessons that asks the question: Why doesn’t Batman kill the Joker? This leads into the ‘Trolley Problem’, Utilitarianism (Jeremy Bentham) and ultimately decision making. The year ends with an Desert Island scenario that looks at political theory. There is an emphasis on presentation skills and the power of language, as we say at St James, ‘If you can speak you can lead, if you cannot speak then you must follow.’

 

Such a programme runs throughout all year groups which I will not detail here, however I did want to mention the Traditional Story Telling in Year 9. I came under the spell of mythologist and storyteller Dr Martin Shaw during lockdown and used the free time to complete his mythical storyteller online course. Every few weeks pupils enter our Harmony Room and if the candle is lit know it is ‘story time’.

 

The first story I tell from memory and imagination is ‘Ivan and the Fire-Bird’. The excitement generated from these lessons is quite a tonic to teenage apathy and the stories allow us to explore in a safe narrative structure issues like gender, coming of age and toxic masculinity. These lessons are alive and in the moment, connecting back to our mindful pedagogy. The story lessons alternate with lessons exploring the 3 Principles of Mind, Thought and Consciousness.

 

Teachers are busy organising the Harmony Project which has a ten place this week , an education initiative that our new King, Charles, initiated some years ago with the publication of his book, ‘Harmony’ that addresses a new approach to education linking ecology to innate wisdom in the natural world through mathematics, science and traditional crafts. St James is the leading Senior school for this initiative. This links our inner ethos to ecology and harmonic intelligence. It is a blessing to have this link with our new King.

 

Harmony, Unity, Consciousness, Awareness, Imagination and Kindness are our watchwords at St James, it really is an education that sets each pupil up for a life well lived. It was this philosophy programme that helped create those excellent comments in the Inspection Report – a boys’ school that creates self reflective young man and encourages spiritual development – really?

 

Who would have thought this was possible in our materialistic world!