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The Croft Preparatory School

Dulce et Forte


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The Art of Conversation

18 January 2016


Day to day family life and family gatherings provide wonderful opportunities for us to talk to each other - a simple and natural practice undertaken by everyone from babbling babies to dear grandparents.


Family life provides the backbone of how we interact with other people, influenced by many factors. Introverts, extroverts, and those in between, learn social interaction and behaviours from all sorts of situations. There are many times I can recall interesting conversations with my own family, and on the odd occasion, some embarrassing ones too!


However, there is a growing trend which I fear may put this age old skill at the back of the queue. The influx of modern technology into our daily lives, whilst necessary, has seen a culture whereby groups of individuals become deeply ensconced in mobile phones or portable devices and they do not look, speak or interact with each other. Often observed in restaurants and social outings, it is a sad sight to see.


I am by no means a technophobe or Luddite when it comes to such devices, and, as a parent, I am fully aware of the challenges that face the modern child and the influences peer groups can have. As in many aspects of life, everything has a place, but in moderation. I have enquired, on a number of occasions, if such devices come with a ‘breathing’ app; such is the frequency that these appear in my teenage son’s hand!


At The Croft, we nurture social skills from Nursery to Year 6. We aim to prepare children for secondary school and the wider world with communication a key skill which is achieved in a number of ways.


We teach pupils basic good manners, social etiquette and respect. We encourage pupils to answer questions in class and contribute to discussions. Pupils read aloud in assemblies, participate in performances and accustom themselves to speaking to an audience. Year 6 Peer Supporters help and support other children in the playground and have to communicate clearly and appropriately. We also maintain the tradition of pupils shaking hands with their teachers to wish them ‘good afternoon’ at the end of the school day.


In addition, Year 6 pupils practise mock interviews with me or the Deputy Headmaster in preparation for their secondary school interviews. Here they learn how to engage physically with good eye contact, positive body language and a firm handshake; how to greet in a friendly, confident manner; and connect with their potential interviewer by talking about relevant subjects with enthusiasm and interest.


Communication skills and confidence can be learnt, so, from shyness to shining, it always pleases me to meet current and former Croft pupils when they greet me or my colleagues in town or out and about. Furthermore, I am always delighted to receive praise from travel companies and airport staff who compliment our pupils on their excellent behaviour when travelling for their ski or French trips, or on other school outings.


We are all ambassadors of The Croft, whether in or out of uniform, and we are proud to represent and talk about our school to everyone who would like to listen - the art of conversation is very much alive in our education!


Marcus Cook