“Tell me about your scholarship programme.”
One of the things that I have learnt in my time in education is the importance of understanding the question before trying to answer it. And this seemingly straightforward request is one that requires a bit of unpicking: there are two very different things that a parent might have in mind.
For some, this is an admissions question: how are scholarships awarded? What kind of scholarships are available? How many are offered? These are, of course, vitally important questions and Alleyn’s is proud to offer a wide range of scholarships, including the six Year 7 scholarships which are generously supported by the Worshipful Company of Saddlers. In conjunction with our extensive Bursary programme, the large number of scholarships which we offer helps us to broaden access to Alleyn’s and to build a vibrant and dynamic student body with academic, artistic and sporting leaders.
But there is another angle to the question of scholarship – and it is this particular angle upon which I would like to encourage our students to focus: what does it mean to be scholarly? What do scholars do? How can we all embrace scholarship within our lives? In most dictionaries, the definition of a scholarship as a financial reward follows the definition of scholarship as the serious pursuit of knowledge and understanding through rigorous inquiry. I would argue that there is a nice poetry and symmetry to this: that the reward of a scholarship should itself follow the endeavour of academic pursuits, rather than being the motivator for or instigator of that endeavour.
At Alleyn’s, we seek to embed the values of scholarship in all of our students. True scholars engage with the world with curiosity. They examine their environment and ask not just ‘what?’ but ‘why?’. We encourage students to develop and to explore their own questions in a variety of ways: for instance, in year 9, every student undertakes an independent research project as part of the Alleyn’s Learners Programme. They are tasked with producing high-quality academic research on a topic relating to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Later in their school journey, our Year 12s are encouraged to submit essays on subjects of their own choosing for the Governor’s Research Project Prize. Last week I had the privilege of reading some of this year’s entries: truly creative works of scholarship on topics as diverse as eating disorders, foreign policy, Formula 1 and artificial intelligence. The strongest six essayists then defended their ideas before our governing body’s Education Committee – a strong outward sign that every member of our school community cares profoundly about promoting scholarship for its own sake. A scholarly community thrives when we all – students, staff, parents and governors – celebrate curiosity and creativity as a core part of an academic life.