Had it not been for the ‘games and a bowl of stew night’ at a friend’s house, we might never have heard of the name ‘Brymore’. But comparing Cluedo tactics with prior Brymore parents that night proved to be the trigger to the most important turning point in our eldest son’s life … so far!
Having suffered the indignity of the local ‘sausage factory’ secondary school where he discovered that being polite meant being trodden on, and trying hard was ‘un-cool’, the prospect of Brymore’s friendly environment and exciting timetable filled him with hope. And its focus on individual potentials helped quell my fears and guilt at sending him into full-time boarding. Friends counselled against it, and visions of Tom Brown’s Schooldays wormed their way into my head.
I decided to grab the opportunity of taking him on a charity-dash trip to Malawi in the early summer of that year. He was just 13, self-conscious and struggling to find his own identity. From the moment we landed, he was a different person: – he threw himself into play with under 5’s at an orphanage despite a bad case of ‘Malawi belly’; made immediate friends with all the local dodgy traders, and helped me teach a class of 147 ten year old girls, crammed into a single class room (how daunting is that!) with calmness and great self-composure. It reaffirmed for me that away from the shallow influences of his then current school life, he could be confident, self-assured and thoughtful …I knew then that he could handle the 18-bed dorm at Brymore!
… So began this most exciting adventure that has been, and now at the end of Year 10 still is, Brymore.
Although not from a farming background, he has embraced fully the learning and duties on the farm, never yet missing an early morning shift (so he says – and despite moaning about the freezing walk from Cannington House!). He has taken part in many sporting and outside activities, proudly brought home metal- and wood-working creations, and his phone calls with news of his latest achievements have gradually diminished as his self-reliance and commitment to school life have grown.
As a parent, I now watch him grow in stature and strength, in an environment that upholds his individuality, and encourages him to work to his fullest potential. As a student, he has re-appraised his own academic abilities – which had previously gone unrecognised – by working towards the higher grades; he takes part in diverse activities such as caving and skiing; he is motivated to choose to run Chads on a Sunday to try to beat his PB; he works as a valued part of a team in rugby matches, but – even more importantly – he is a part of a peer group and mentoring team who commend and respect him for being himself.
I have no doubts that my son will gain great academic achievements in his final year, which will see him through to the college of his choice, and I am hugely grateful to Brymore for this. But school should be about so much more than academic achievement alone, which is what Brymore does so well: – Its small size, solid rules and amazingly participatory and dedicated staff create the ideal mix of family, camaraderie and role-modelling. Opportunities to shine abound, from the skills and responsibilities needed to work with farm animals and machinery, to the patience and dedication needed to tend a reasonable vegetable plot.
As I concluded, after losing at Cluedo that night: – luck does play a part in life! Our luck was in finding Brymore, and being offered a place. My son now has the confidence and ability to create his own luck.