Personal Mastery Programme
|Y7||Creating own code of conduct - autonomy and accountability Teamworking and challenge:|
Oxfordshire residential and Lake
|.b 11-week mindfulness course |
“Who am I?” - discussion of identity
Healthy lifestyle - sports and eating
Preparing for exams
|Y8||Widening your circle of compassion|
|Happiness and balance|
Ancient Greece trip
|Getting organised and prepared
Choosing GCSE options
|Y9||Personal Endeavour Project|
Adaptability and resilience: Camino de Santiago and followup workshops
|.b 11-week mindfulness course|
Male initiation rituals
Love, relationships, sexuality
Three Principles of Consciousness
|Peer pressure and differences
Diversity - religions, ethnicity
Work/careers (joint with girls’ school)
|Y10||Developing a resilient mindset |
Leading others: Florence/Lucca leadership retreat and follow-up workshops
|Ethics and philosophy of justice|
Stories of Christianity (linked to art history from Florence trip)
Saints and gurus
|Alcohol and drugs
Depression and anxiety
Self-esteem: identifying strengths and weaknesses
|Y11||“Putting on the suit” – becoming|
the man you want to be
|Tour of Western philosophy: Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Augustine, Boethius, Aquinas, Ficino, Descartes Pascal, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel/Marx, Nietzsche||Personal finance and risk
University-style study week
Ficino Society philosophy lectures
Trip to Auschwitz
|The Good, the True and the Beautiful (taught by Valentin Gerlier, Cambridge University)||Leadership: academic mentoring, buddy system, prefects
|Y13||Legacy: so what?|
UCAS - next steps in education
Ficino Society philosophy lectures
|Mindfulness training with James Gibbs||Leadership: academic mentoring, buddy system, prefects
Co-Curricular Highlights for each Year Group
For boys going through adolescence, freedom of choice is critical to developing a healthy self-identity. The updated behaviour policy which we launched under the Personal Mastery approach to education reflects this: pupils are given opportunities to choose the right behaviour. This is taught through explicit PSHE teaching, alongside workshops to develop self-knowledge and philosophy lessons which connect the boys with the spiritual.
At St James, with our new Personal Mastery Programme, we decided to channel adolescent boys’ desire for autonomy from the first day of school: new Year 7 pupils develop their own code of conduct. This encourages the boys to take responsibility for their behaviour. Alongside this, we equip these boys with tools to reflect on their actions with an extended 11-week .b mindfulness course. Four teachers are certified to deliver this, and every teacher at St James is offered the opportunity to train in mindfulness. This is coupled with a team building residential trip in the first half term and then a full activity based week to the Lake District in their second term.
In Year 8, the boys head to Greece for an intellectually rich week away, where they discover the spiritual sanctuary of Delphi, meet the heroes of ancient Greek literature at Mycenae, and visit the Acropolis in Athens. At the end of the year, the boys “graduate” from the Lower School, a transition which is marked by the symbolic changing of their wool blazer to a smart jacket. They also decide on their GCSE subject choices to start in Year 9.
For many years the Year 9 pupils have completed a 120km stretch of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. Under the Personal Mastery Programme, we implemented a series of follow-up workshops, which helped the boys use their experiences to develop personal, emotional and social knowledge.
This follows the boys into Year 10, where they discuss how best to develop resilience in a practical sense. Mindfulness trainer James Gibbs delivers courses on de-escalation and non-violent communication, which we have evidence of boys using to self-manage their frustration when the learning gets difficult. These boys spend a week on a leadership retreat in Florence and Lucca, discovering noted cultural sites.
The overarching aim of the programme is “to develop Renaissance men for the modern age”. In a non selective school with a mixed-ability intake, this requires many boys to develop inner strength to really motivate themselves to study. We challenge the Year 11 boys to put their self-knowledge to work, and take responsibility for their learning with a university-style study week before their exams. Compulsory philosophy lessons anchor the boys’ experiences into a historic context, providing an introduction to the ideas of thinkers from Plato to Nietzsche.
Our A Level value added score at the end of last academic year was 0.34, the highest for any single-sex boys’ independent school in the United Kingdom. This is clear proof of the beneficial effect on outcomes of developing pupils’ self-mastery from a young age.
Articulating the school’s educational aims in terms of Personal Mastery has guided the leadership team, who have aligned whole-school improvement planning to always try to improve boys’ mental health.