Excellence AND Participation

Last week was the final of our school Young Musician final.  Sixteen boys played, representing excellence in each category from both junior and senior sections. In the senior section the quality of playing was at or around Grade 8 standard.  It made of a wonderful evening of music celebrating real talent. In the months leading up to the final, from the first rounds in class to the semi-finals over 400 boys had entered. That is about participation.

Sometimes in education there is some sense that we need to choose between really developing the excellence for some or giving opportunity for participation to many. I feel this is quite wrong. In fact, participation and excellence go very well together – they feed off one another. If there is a culture of getting involved, encouraging participation then everyone can have a go, trying new activities. In some senses this is the only sensible way of discovering your talents. Once that talent is identified there is then the need for the specialist coaching or training or teaching that allows excellence to emerge and be supported.

The same is true in sport just as much as music. One day a few weeks ago some 350 boys took part in sport of some sort during the day, from water polo coaching in the early morning to a swim fixture in the evening; with football, rugby 7’s , hockey and cross country between. Once again this is the chance to participate for many and the chance to pursue excellence for some.

So less of choosing between fostering an elite or letting everyone have a go – it is not excellence or participation it is excellence and participation at Bolton School

About Philip Britton

Philip Britton is Headmaster of Bolton School Boys’ Division. He was brought up on Tyneside, took a first in physics at Oxford and did teacher training at Cambridge. He worked as physics teacher, Head of Physics and Deputy Head at Leeds Grammar School before moving to Bolton in 2008. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE for services to physics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics where he has been much involved in physics education, encouraging teachers to encourage the next generation of physicists.