The Whole Story…

To Be Happy

John Lennon – a fairly famous musician from Liverpool and a favourite of mine, wprincipal-MAB-blog-150x150as quoted in an interview once saying:

“When I was five years old, my mum told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked the class what we wanted  to be when we grew up. I wrote down “happy”. The teacher told me that I didn’t understand the question” – John Lennon

At a basic level, I think, happiness is what we all seek, all of the time. The psychologist, Maslow, of course writes about a hierarchy of ‘needs’ that drive us in our lives – starting with the most important needs; physical/physiological (food, air, warmth…), then safety & security, followed by love, then self-esteem and finally self-actualisation (creativity/purpose…). When you strip all of these right back, though, it boils down to our doing everything we can to create causes and the conditions to be happy (and to bring happiness into the lives of others – something (almost) uniquely human). I sometimes sit and wonder what it is about our education systems that are about creating the conditions for young people to be happy and to find happiness in their lives and I struggle with this – it’s not on the National Curriculum! However, I think, at Avanti House, in a fairly explicit way, we actually do this. At Avanti House we educate the whole child – to nurture confidence, creativity and character; so that our students become happy and fulfilled – more likely to achieve and we do this, through our curriculum and ethos, in a really joined-up way, I think this approach is what makes the vision for the schools of the Avanti Schools Trust compelling and quite unique.

An Avanti education really  is about the whole child; it is the whole story. We set about putting a curriculum in place – from 4 – 19 which ensures that all learners make excellent academic progress. At the same time, our emphasis on the six values leads to our students developing a sound character. Our faith activities; a bespoke PRE curriculum, collective worship, meditation, yoga and a daily shared, vegetarian meal complete the three pillars of our school vision. Many people visit the school, almost on a daily basis; parents of prospective students, members of the local community, consultants, other heads and teachers. They frequently reflect and comment on how happy the children in our school clearly are.

Co-location at Pinner

Now our secondary phase is settled at Pinner, for the next two years, our attention turns to managing the sharing of the site in 2016/17 – and our working with the Heads of the two schools involved. One or two parents have been asking about the logistics of this and although they have not entirely been bottomed out, our shared plans are as follows:

From January until July 2016,  the DfE have arranged some of the staff and students from the Jubilee Academy will be co-located on the Pinner site – whilst part of their own building undergoes some significant building work.  Jubilee and Avanti House students will not come into contact with each other at all. At the former Heathfield site, there is a primary wing, including a laboratory, art space and a hall. Coupled with their own self-contained outside area for play as well as security doors (fob-activated) between the main part of the building (Avanti House) and the Jubilee section, our schools will operate entirely independently of each other for the short time Jubilee are on the site. If the school look to make use of the sports hall, this will obviously be negotiated and movements supervised. The start of our day (7.30am for 8.00am) is considerably earlier than the majority of schools, including Jubilee – we now have to talk about the end of the school day to ensure the two schools leave the site at different times, if possible. At the same time, over the coming months, I look forward to working with the incoming Headteacher of Pinner High School, Chris Woolf – on similar plans for co-location when they join us in September 2016.

Planning for the permanent, £25 million build on Whitchurch fields is moving forward at a pace now, with discussions between the DfE and the Council around community use of the playing fields now getting into the detail. With considerable support from the community consultation, (74% of community respondents were very positive about the new school), finally, our planning application is imminent for an August 2017 delivery of the new build. I look forward to keeping family and friends of the school up to speed on this blog.

Eternal Happiness


One of the teachers who made a lasting impact on the aforementioned musician (John Lennon) was of course His Divine Grace Srila A.C.Bhaktivedanta Praphupada  – back in the late 1960s – shortly after Srila Praphupada had made the long journey from India to the USA and established ISKCON in a shop front on the East coast. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of that event which I am sure will be marked at ISKCON centres worldwide, including of course the one closet to home – at Bhaktivedanta Manor. The Manor is of course another venue known for bringing great happiness and spiritual insight and fulfilment into the lives of thousands of families and the opportunity, through the practice of bhakti (devotional) yoga, the most eternal happiness of all.

As Krishna declares to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 18, verses 36-39

“…now please hear from Me about the three kinds of happiness which the conditioned soul enjoys, and by which he sometimes comes to the end of all distress.

That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.”

That happiness which is derived from contact of the senses with their objects and which appears like nectar at first but poison at the end is said to be of the nature of passion.

And that happiness which is blind to self-realization, which is delusion from beginning to end and which arises from sleep, laziness and illusion is said to be of the nature of ignorance.”

May we rest in the mode of goodness (sattva) and find a deeper happiness.

Have a lovely week


8 thoughts on “The Whole Story…

  1. As a parent of two happy children in reception and primary at AHS I am keen on understanding the developments with regards to Whitchurch.

    Whilst there are plans for August 2017 – what are the next key milestone dates we need to look out for to understand progress/approval from the council?

    I am not quite sure if planning permission has already been granted, or are there further local resident consultations to be had? If so, i assume they could put a stop to things? Are there alternatives to Whitchurch being looked at for a worse-case scenario?


    1. Thanks for the feedback Vish and also for raising the question. The consultation period for local residents ended earlier in the year and the feedback survey, conducted on behalf of the Trust/DfE, with a large number of respondents, was 74% positive (which in my experience, is very high). Extensive discussions have recently been had and continue between the DfE and the local council regarding the lease with a focus on the community use of the site and the fields in particular. A Planning Consultant is on board, pre-planning meetings have been held and the intention is for a planning application to go in within the next few weeks. The next milestone would probably be a January planning committee. This is an 18 month build so we are in a good position to complete on time as we speak. Building projects can of course be subject to delays and all involved in the current, hosted arrangements at Pinner clearly understand that and it is for the DfE and the Trust to plan for contingency in the event of such delays. At this point of course, it is the plan that we she leave the former Heathfield site no later than August 2017 and take up occupancy in our new build.


  2. Dear Mark,

    What wonderful words you have shared, thank you for such an insight into happiness.

    Also thank you for keeping us updated about the new build.

    It’s such a joy reading your blog.

    Regards Alka


      1. As a parent looking at this message I bit concerned in regards to dates which are posted and where we are so far .. So far I have not seen any solid message to give me a feeling that any progress has been made to start the build process.
        Now does this mean we are looking at date of build completing in Aug 2018 !!!!!


      2. Dear Purohit – many thanks for your question. Behind the scenes there is a lot going on – all planning permission is secure, without question and contracts drawn up. The contractors should be on site within weeks now and the timeline takes the school to a handover of June 2018 for opening in September 2018. This has been the reality for many months now and features in quite a few of my more recent blog entries.


  3. Mark ,
    Thanks for the respond, so from what I am reading the school build is now 1 year behind the original plan completion date and that is subject to change. So in the event the date continues to slip what if any plans are in place for the shared school at Beaulieu Drive. Are the plans to move again to another location ? and if so will this not impact the children study.


    1. No, Purohit – although it is not expected at all – the delivery of the new building is planned for June 2018 for a September 2018 opening – contingencies will be in place, if absolutely necessary, for a short period of further site-sharing at Pinner. This is already being discussed by all parties – just in case.


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