It’s not unusual to see parents sitting on campus at Grayston Preparatory School, in Johannesburg, South Africa. “We try to include parents as much as possible,” says Headmaster Mark Hayter, “particularly so they can see how their children use technology, and support them. Things have changed so much since they were at school.”
Around 40 per cent of teaching is done using technology. Grayston follows the Google Apps for Education programme and, from Grade 5, children bring their iPads to the classroom and run their own email addresses, submit work online and create movies that are then used to teach their peers. “We find that they have better retention of knowledge from learning through technology than from writing a test,” says Hayter.
With 640 pupils aged from three to 13, Grayston began its life in the 1960s as a government school. In 1994, when South Africa’s first democratic elections were held, parents were given the option to buy back top performing schools. It then became a private, fee-paying school.
A wide spectrum
Diversity and multiculturalism have always been important at Grayston. “Unusually, even prior to 1994, we took children of all races,” says Hayter. “Today, we have children from all over the world – 62 countries at the last count. Because we are just two kilometres from central Sandton, where the Stock Exchange and major banks are, we serve many of the people contracted here. The children have a wide spectrum of beliefs. We run on values, not religion.”
Those values are centred on nurturing the individual child, from top academic performers – a third of those leaving the year win scholarships to high school – to those with disabilities. “Our motto is ‘holding the hand that holds the future’,” says Hayter. “We develop the holistic child, who doesn’t just have one string to their bow. We like children to have academic success but also to play a variety of sports on a participatory basis, and to be involved in cultural activities such as music and theatre.”
The school’s alumni have achieved success in many fields, from law and medicine to sport. One former pupil represented South Africa at the Rio Olympics, reaching the rowing finals. “Grayston really is a home away from home,” says Hayter. “Our children are stretched to achieve their personal potential rather than simply to achieve a grade average.”