British and Global Citizenship Education

The Purpose of Education

The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one

This is a quote by Malcolm Forbes, the former American entrepreneur behind the Forbes institution. This is one of my favourite quotes around education purpose simply because it resonates with my own core philosophy of education. Sadly, my own experience of typical secondary schools is such that, stepping into one , you might be forgiven in believing that the quote ought instead to be

“The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with a full one”

All too often it feels as though schools consider children to be ‘pots to be filled’ (with knowledge) rather than ‘pots to be moulded’. However, you know when you are in a truly outstanding school. In these, I feel that Malcolm’s quote really does come to life. In outstanding schools, developing knowledge and skills (filling the mind) and the qualifications that are then achieved is of course important. However, more important still is the development of an “open mind” in young people. This might be considered as a mind which is alwaysopen for learning‘ – and never closes. This is now where young people leave school as expert, passionate and lifelong learners.

Opening Minds and Hearts

As the Principal of an Avanti school, however, I would be so bold as to perhaps extend the meaning of the quote even further still. A student with an open mind (and I would add open heart) is not only open to learning – (s)he is also open to the minds and hearts of others. Such a person works hard to live by a set of values that embraces the common humanity that makes us all the same at heart, while also celebrating diversity – that which makes us all different and so very interesting in this increasingly joined-up, global community.

We live in an age where technology; the internet and social media in particular are all bringing communities closer together – socially, politically, economically and through work and opportunity. It makes it even more interesting when there are forces at play that seek to divide rather than to unite. As an example of this, those of us who are registered to vote in June are starting now to consider our position over the very future of the European community – a referendum of which many of my generation would not have dreamed.

In our schools, these kinds of ideas of local, regional and international community find their place in the subject of ‘citizenship’; which explores the various communities to which we belong and also considers both the values alongside our rights and our responsibilities within these communities. Our students, the next generation, must consider (probably more than we had to), exactly what it means to the British, European and indeed global citizens of the present and the future. As is ever the case, our votes in June, as adults, will have a greater impact on our children’s futures than they will on our own. There is no simple answer.

At Avanti House, citizenship education is well led by Ms Martini who also oversees the allied programme of personal and social education. Within the programmes of study in citizenship education – particularly at secondary – the idea of what it means to be a British citizen, central to the EU debate, are explored.

Fundamental British Values

Our own Government is very clear what defines ‘Britishness’ and it articulates this publicly in five key themes:

i) Democracy (indeed the birthplace of democracy),

ii) Individual liberty (freedom of expression),

iii) Abiding by the rule of law,

iv) Expressing mutual respect to all and linked to this…

v)  Tolerance for those with different beliefs.

Avanti Values: Educating the Whole Learner

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Schools in the UK are expected to develop these themes – and at Avanti House we do, both in our curriculum and also in our own values which we live and breathe.

Everything about our own six values of gratitude, respect, integrity, courage, empathy and self-discipline aligns perfectly to the above British values. Indeed, in our curriculum and our conversations with children, we DO talk about the above fundamental ‘British’ values but we are also quite clear that we consider these (and our own) to be not just British, but rather universal human values – and hence perfectly acceptable values for a future as global citizens.

Through our work in the citizenship curriculum at Avanti House we do recognise that the world is becoming more global in outlook than ever before and that the speed at which this is occurring is increasing. We must equip our children for a world which is diverse, joined-up, multi-cultural and also transient in nature.

Our youngsters, as young adults are increasingly likely to live in more than one country in their lifetime and even when they do not, they will see so many people from many backgrounds and cultures. We must work with families to embrace the opportunity that this creates for developing in children a global outlook. This is even more important in our own schools (at Avanti) where ethnic and cultural diversity in the schools themselves are not a great as they are elsewhere – even in other Harrow schools.

We must look to this as a challenge as we develop the curriculum and the ways in which we and our children work with our local, regional and global communities. International visits and visitors will assist in this agenda and we have begun to throw open the doors to both of these. To this end, most recently, year 8 enjoyed a day’s workshop with published author and presenter Susan Popoola (Consequences: From Diverse to Mosaic Britain) where children reflected on their own values and their responses to them. Visits abroad – to Europe and beyond are also in the pipeline as are potential links with schools on all the major continents.

The Universal Teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: Inclusive by Default

As an Avanti Schools Trust school – (and the Trust opens its fifth school in Croydon this coming September) – Avant House has, as its faith foundation, the teachings of the 15th century Indian saint Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, considered by those of the faith to be the most recent incarnation of Lord Krishna, was by his own life example the greatest of unifiers.

Throughout His life, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu declared openly that sectarianism was one of the  greatest enemies of human progress.  He resolved himself, to become a citizen of the world – by cutting off His connection with any particular group, caste or creed and He did this when He became a Sannyasi at the age of 24. Chaitanya’s legacy of course is the most profound collection of teachings of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Bhakti tradition of Hinduism. In this tradition all are implored to devote themselves to hearing and to chanting the many names of God – a theme in the Bhagavad Gita as being the most appropriate way to reach the Divine in this dark age of kali – to go beyond even being a global citizen of this Earth – and to become intimate with and embrace our much larger spiritual selves. Such themes, alongside other ways in which both the many faiths and other philosophies explore the ‘awe and wonder’ of our lives – are central to the PRE (philosophy, rekrishna_by_yogeshvara-d4n7y4pligion and ethics) curriculum at Avanti schools. Our aim at Avanti House is to nurture the next generation of global citizens; inheritors of our world. We aim for them to be enterprising and highly qualified, of robust character and with an ethical and philosophical insight which will help them to tackle to biggest of questions that our lives throw at us. Quite a lofty aim!

On this path, effort never goes to waste; and there is no failure.

Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from
the greatest fear.

Bhagavad Gita

 

Ladies Pampering Evening

As I left school on Friday evening, I dropped into the latest Friends of Avanti House (FOAH) event – a pamper event for ladies.

More details will emerge on the FOAH website I am sure but I am told that the event was well attended and a huge success.

Congratulations and thanks once again to FOAH and in particular the Pamper Event organisers, Sheetal Lakhani, Tejal Thakrar and Sheetal Bhudia for pulling this together and for the many volunteers; it bodes well for the organisation of the summer fair ahead of us!

At this event, I picked up my latest ‘read’ – a book by social entrepreneur and fundraising activist, Manoj Kerai. The book is called “The Burning Bride” and is a story based in reality – an exploration of the dowry problem that still exists across India. Earlyindications are that this is a worthwhile (albeit adult) read.

Some photos of the event below:

 

Hare Krishna

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Back to the Future…

Planning Applicationprincipal-MAB-blog-150x150

This week we welcome students back from the half term break – a break that was filled with anticipation surrounding the Planning Committee meeting who responded at last to our planning application for the £25m secondary phase build at Whitchurch.

The Harrow Times reported on Saturday:

Harrow Times (Saturday 20th February 2016)

A new Avanti House School in Stanmore has been given the green light.

Harrow Council’s planning committee unanimously decided to grant planning permission last night for the Hindu secondary school to build a permanent new home.

A three storey school building with detached sports hall and community changing block will now be built on the Whitchurch Playing Fields site in Wemborough Road.

The application drew 652 letters of support and received 125 objections.

Despite the development being contrary to the site’s allocated purpose, Harrow Council ruled there were “compelling” material planning grounds which justified approval of the application.

Supporters of the school, who had campaigned for the success of the application, went to the council chamber to hear the decision.

Objectors concerned about flooding, traffic, noise and residential amenity were present and spoke at the meeting.

Commenting on the grant of planning permission, Navin Shah, London Assembly Member for Harrow, said: “This is great news for the parents and pupils of the current Avanti Primary School in Harrow and a large number of supporters who’ve waited eagerly for this successful outcome.

“This is also great news for Harrow’s education because the school will make a vital contribution to much needed school places.”

He added the school would give “vital choice” to the residents of the multi-faith, multicultural Harrow.

Mr Shah continued: “There are still some serious hurdles to overcome to address the genuine concerns of local residents on the issues like traffic, noise, flood risk, privacy etc. and I urge Harrow Council in partnership with the school management to work hard and expediently to resolve the issues.

“I will be lobbying Transport for London and the Mayor of London to improve the bus routes serving the school area and writing to the mayor to approve the planning application under stage II requirements.”

The application was submitted. with the support of the Education Funding Agency, in a bid to build a permanent new home for the Avanti School – a state-funded Hindu faith school that opened in 2012. Currently, the school’s primary year groups are accommodated at the former Peterborough & St. Margaret’s School site in Common Road, Stanmore. The secondary year groups are temporarily accommodated at Pinner High School.

The planning committee followed Harrow Council’s recommendations in approving the application.

Conditions, including a Section 106 agreement which outlines how the developers must invest in the immediate community, were put in place. The proposed agreement included a contribution of £250,000 to fund junction improvements at Wemborough Road, Whitchurch Lane, Marsh Lane and Honeypot Lane junction.

Also a community use agreement for the school’s new facilities, a green travel plan and an undertaking the school will work with Harrow Council to improve the air quality around the site.

The official press release from the Trust/DfE and our PR team reads as follows:

We are pleased with the outcome of Harrow Council’s Planning Committee meeting yesterday evening.
We welcome the widespread support from across the community for the school and will continue to work with the local community as the plans progress. This decision represents an important step towards providing a permanent home for the secondary phase of Avanti House School.
The team behind plans for a new home for the secondary phase of Avanti House School are discussing next steps and will be sharing these with the community shortly.

Gratitude

Given this response (652 letters of support!) and a considerable and well organised lobby of parents and local community supporters on the evening, I would like to offer my thanks to all who have contributed to the Avanti School Trust’s vision to locate our first all-through school in this part of Harrow. The work of the Friends of Avanti House (FOAH) in particular deserves a special mention. I would also like to thank the organisers of the Avanti House WhatsApp group – allowing myself and many others who were unable to attend on the evening, a minute by minute breakdown of what was being said; right the way through to the final decision.

As we continue to work with the local authority on the detail of both traffic management and community use, we shall update families and friends via the website. I am now working closely with the contractors and the EFA on the fine detail of the build – again details will follow. I am also working closely with the Headteacher designate of Pinner High School to ensure that, if it becomes necessary, we can comfortably co-locate for part of the academic year 2017/18 at our existing, temporary site in Pinner. This is my fourth new build and I know only too well how building projects can become delayed!

Finally, again, I would like to thank all parents and particularly those have been with the school for nearly four years now, for your resilience, dedication and faith in what we are trying to do here.

Intermediate Mathematics Competition

Congratulations to all students who took part in the National Intermediate Mathematics Competition before half-term.

Congratulations to the following who came away with Bronze, Silver and Gold certificates.

Best in Year 10 (Gold Certificate): Joshan Parmar
Silver Certificate: Sunil Vekariya
Bronze Certificates: Nikhil Manikala, Aaryan Kotecha, Dylan Patel, Ronny Vekaria, Devam Savjani

Joshan has also been selected to compete in the next round in mid-March.

Best in Year 9 (Bronze Certificates): Jasmithan Subeesharan, Astha Kothari
Bronze Certificate: Janvi Kotecha

Wishing you a wonderful week!

Hare Krishna…

Whitchurch Planning Committee… :-)

Thanks for all the incredible support – 5:1 support/objection with over 600 separate items of support (emails/comments etc.) and a fantastic turnout – in person and in spirit!

An Official Press Release is due from the Trust/Forty Shillings tomorrow

As students and staff made their way into a well-earned half term break, we were really principal-MAB-blog-150x150pleased with the overwhelming support that has now gathered with regard to our planning application for Whitchurch – being tabled at committee this coming Wednesday 17th February, at the Civic Centre in Harrow.

Becks Darling, Director at Forty Shillings, the group who on behalf of the Department for Education are leading on public relations leading up to and following writes below to all those supporters of the project keen to turn upon the day:

Forty Shillings: Planning Committee – what to expect

The planning committee is taking place on Wednesday 17th February at the Civic Centre, Harrow HA1 2XY. We ask that anyone hoping to attend arrives at approximately 5pm to ensure you can get into the meeting. We suggest that you produce banners so you can show your support outside the entrance as the councillors arrive.

The meeting itself does not start until 6.30pm so please be prepared to wait. The meeting follows a formal process. You will be in the gallery for the meeting. There will not be an opportunity to speak and we ask you to refrain from heckling speakers. However your presence is of huge benefit in demonstrating to the councillors that the school has a great deal of support. It really does make a difference. The meeting should be finished and a decision made by 9pm.

Other activity

 Below are a number of things you can do to demonstrate your support for our proposals:

  • Set up a WhatsApp/closed Facebook supporters group to coordinate the activity for the day of committee
  • Use the #SupportAvantiPlanning on social media in the lead up to committee
  • Make banners, perhaps with your children, to bring along to committee
  • Most importantly be sure to comment in support of the application online here by searching the application number “P/4910/15” [many have done this already – please do join them]
  • Write to local politicians and media outlets in support of Avanti House School.

Issues to be raised

Issues that are likely to be raised at committee include:

  • The local educational need for an already oversubscribed school – (considerable)
  • The suitability of the site for the school – (for very local demand)
  • Community access to the (vastly improved) facilities

Becks Darling: Director – Forty Shillings

 

Parents and the Local Community of Whitchurch A Voice for Avanti House

The Avanti School Trust, the multi academy trust who opened this school in September 2014, alongside staff at the school, have done everything in their power by securing a 125 year lease for this ideal site – for our highly successful, three and a half year old and extremely popular school. A state of the art £20 million+ building with enhanced sports facilities has been designed and is ready to go up.

The Avanti Schools Trust will be represented at the committee hearing – our CEO is registered to speak. Most importantly, however, the planners need now to hear from our parents and carers; existing and future – and the local community – showing your support for the cause by writing and if possible attending the committee meeting – from 5pm this Wednesday 17th February (Civic Offices, Harrow).

If you have any questions in the lead up to committee day please do contact Forty Shillings on info@avantiupdate.co.uk

Alternatively, or in addition, do feel free to get in touch with our PTA, our wonderful Friends of Avanti House (FOAH) who are doing a fantastic job in marshalling support of parents at this critical time. If you would like to support FOAH please contact Yogi or Hemang at  foah.avanti@gmail.com

The school, with over 500 children on roll to date  and with GCSE classes already underway are currently based for the next two years at a former private school in Pinner. We have secure contingency plans should the building at Whitchurch be de
ayed.

We shall keep you up to speed on developments this week via this blog and also in the wider media.

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Parinirvana

This week, we celebrate the entering into parinirvana (final Nirvana) of Buddha – considered in our faith, an Avatar of Lord Vishnu. The noble one preached and practiced Ahimsa (loving kindness and non-violence to all living beings) in similarly dark and violent times, over 2500 years ago; he encouraged us to carve out our own path to goodness.

We wish our families and friends a restful half-term break.
Hare Krishna