The Hay Festival takes place every summer in the Wye Valley; in and around the market town of Hay-on-Wye. Hay sits on the Welsh border, half an hour’s drive from the Brecon Beacons, nestled in the foot of a wooded valley within an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Hay represents a real escape from the stress and toil of daily life in London, but the real release comes in attending the many talks and events, and meeting the other participants, many of whom have come to exchange ideas and meet like-minded people. It is a rare pleasure to spend time in the company of people who have made the decision to travel from across the country to a festival of ideas.
We try to send a team of staff and tutors to Hay every year, and this year we spent a week at the festival. We provided accommodation for our tutors and staff and covered the cost of transport, tickets and daily expenses. This is a major cost for a small business, but one that we consider vital. It is not enough to provide tutors who turn up and teach a fixed subject, no matter how competently. The real value of tuition, and any one-on-one mentoring relationship, comes from the person the student connects with.
Think of your favourite teacher at school – do you remember the specific rules and lessons they taught you? Or do you remember details of their lives, their mannerisms, character, and the connection they made with you? A truly inspirational tutor will not just bring a textbook to a lesson. They will bring with them their ideas, their love of life, and be ready to discuss the things they have learnt and that have inspired them in the past week.
Every year, we take our tutors and staff to Hay, and every year, they come back inspired and filled with ideas. They want to talk about the authors they have listened to, they want to voice the questions they were not able to ask, and they want to create and make a difference like the authors and thinkers they have witnessed.
This helps the Winterwood staff and tutors make a connection with the students they work with, and to impart something vital which cannot be gleaned from a textbook – a love of learning. A truly successful – and happy – student will want to learn in their own time. Much cutting edge educational research focuses on the concept of learner-led learning, and many teachers foresee our current education system adopting this thinking in the near future. Empowering and inspiring tutors allows them to nurture this love of learning in others – making for a successful and happy student.