Brockwood Park School at 35
By Bill Taylor, Director of Administration.
When the first principal, Dorothy Simmons, arrived at Brockwood Park to start the School in 1969, she was faced with an enormous task. Together with her retired husband, Montague, the completely dedicated if mildly eccentric, Doris Pratt, and 2 young students, Dorothy set to work creating what was to be the first (and still the only) Krishnamurti School in Europe. With the support of numerous friends and associates from outside Brockwood, this small and intrepid group embarked on an educational endeavour which is still underway today and which still bears many of the hallmarks of that early quest for a different way of educating and of living.
Brockwood has moved and changed significantly in the intervening 35 years. For the first 17 of these, Krishnamurti was a regular visitor and resident. Brockwood was his European home and base and he 1oved the spacious parkland, the rolling downs and the elegant Georgian manor house. He also loved meeting and discussing with the students and staff as he did on a regular basis. His presence never failed to stir things up as he challenged all those who lived here to consider the deeper intentions of Brockwood's existence, never to get caught in the day-to-day demands and minutia of school life. The School was to be concerned with the whole sphere of living and as he said himself, in so doing, it was "... to bring about a new generation of human beings who are free from self-centred action."
Krishnamurti's death gave Brockwood a new challenge. Without the presence of the charismatic teacher the staff had to learn to take more responsibility for the intentions, to ensure that they were alive and vital. Brockwood had its crises as staff grappled to deepen (and live) their understanding, while dealing with the very real demands of living and working closely with teenagers and with each other. There were difficult years when it looked as though the School might not survive, as student numbers dropped and it struggled to retain good staff.
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The academic year which has just begun in England has seen Brockwood open with a full complement of 61 students, coming from 25 different countries. There is a dedicated and hardworking group of staff, all of whom share a serious interest in Krishnamurti's teachings, and they offer a curriculum which is wide ranging and challenging. This includes classes which all students attend and which look directly at Krishnamurti's teachings.
In a recent survey of students, organised by an independent consultant visiting Brockwood, most students said that they had learnt valuable life skills in the School, the most important being the capacity to establish deep, meaningful and lasting relationships with others. Self confidence, self-discipline, tolerance, a sense of responsibility were further important traits which they felt the School had nurtured in them.
The School is not out of the woods. It still operates with a significant annual deficit that has to be met through fundraising or by dipping into limited reserves. In addition, it provides scholarship assistance for up to one-third of its students annually and also has to find this money. Though it seeks to find and retain good people it is unable to provide good salaries or a pension scheme to staff. And as with other schools in the UK, it faces a significant increase in strictures and workload, due to changing government policies and the social climate.
Despite these problem, Brockwood has reached its mid-30s still true to its fundamental intentions. These have not aged, they remain as fresh as the young students who enter the front door each year. As Krishnamurti put it "These schools are centres of a new generation with a new outlook, with a sense of being citizens of the world, concerned with all living things of this world." Amen to that!