The Swaminarayan Preparatory School has been recognised as a ‘Thinking School’ and deemed a ‘Centre of Excellence’ by the University of Exeter’s Cognitive Education Centre. It is currently one of only 23 such schools from over 26,000 primary and secondary schools (for children aged 5 to 16) in the UK to have been accredited with this award. This follows the exceptional GCSE results from older pupils of the School, which was founded by Pramukh Swami Maharaj in 1992.
The Cognitive Education Centre (CEC) was formed in 2006 to explore the growing understanding of cognitive education. A ‘Thinking School’ has been defined by the Centre as “an educational community in which all members share a common commitment to giving regular careful thought to everything that takes place. This will involve both students and staff learning how to think reflectively, critically and creatively, and to employing these skills and techniques in the co-construction of a meaningful curriculum and associated activities.’
Securing this title requires a formal commitment from the entire school and senior management towards cognitive education as a means of school improvement. The rigorous criteria for receiving such an award includes training programmes, regular assessment and evaluation of relevant programmes, and an ethos that conveys a “positive, caring and creative atmosphere for students”.
The School was introduced to Thinking Schools three years ago by the Head of the Preparatory School, Mr Umesh Raja. The programme was deemed “challenging, intriguing, rewarding and – most importantly – beneficial to the education of the pupils.” The first stage was the implementation of Thinking Maps, which involved special training and support for the teachers. But the positive impact on the children was soon discernible. As one school teacher, Mr Andrew Cubbit, noticed, “Children’s writing displayed improved structure due to careful planning using Flow Maps, and pupils’ ability to understand the causes and effects of major historical events improved as the result of careful work using Multi-Flow Maps.”
The second stage began in 2007 with the introduction of Philosophy for Children – a thought-provoking activity for all pupils, promoting the ideas of free speech, respect for all, and open questioning.
The School met the criteria for the award comprehensively, which is elaborated further in the CEC’s Inspection Report. Prof. Robert Burden, Emeritus Professor of Applied Educational Psychology, concludes: “The Swaminarayan Preparatory School clearly meets all the criteria set by the University of Exeter’s Cognitive Education Centre for the recognition as a ‘Thinking School’. It stands as an outstanding example of excellent practice in this domain.”
Mr Raja expressed his “delight” at receiving the award by firstly appreciating the teachers. “It’s an affirmation of the wonderful staff that we have here at the School to go above and beyond providing what is just adequate.” He further added, “More than anything, we are pleased that we are enabling our pupils to grow into well-rounded adults and become lifelong learners, who are lively, imaginative, enquiring and confident.”
For further information about the Cognitive Education Centre and the Thinking School award, please click on the respective links.
To learn more about The Swaminarayan Preparatory School, please visit its website here.
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