Reddam House Helderfontein’s new Head has plans for a country-style school in the city
Updated: Nov 15, 2021
Taking the classroom outdoors within a city environment is the vision of Graham Bennetts, new head of Reddam House Helderfontein in Fourways, Johannesburg, who is passionate about “experiential learning approaches”. He says, “As a kinaesthetic learner myself, I believe in making learning real and exciting for students, and I know that many youngsters, as I was, can be less engaged in traditional classroom settings. I love bringing the world into my classroom, or alternatively, getting my students out into nature.”
Bennetts’ “free-range students” concept is in line with Inspired Education Group’s global policy to provide beautiful, tranquil, and secure campus environments that enable learning and exploring. It also aligns with growing world-wide recognition of what author Richard Louv (who is credited with helping to inspire an international movement to reintroduce children to nature) describes as ‘nature-deficit disorder’.
Bennetts, who joined Reddam House Helderfontein in April, was inspired by the natural beauty and “country-feel” of the vast Helderfontein Estate on his first visit to the school. “Driving around on the estate’s dirt tracks, I saw the potential for walks and hikes, students exploring nature, reflection and contemplation, al fresco classes, poetry writing, going barefoot, and even for fly fishing lessons as the estate and the school campus have dams that can be stocked with fish. Both teachers and students from pre-school age to matric are enthusiastic about the increased focus on experiencing the natural world.”
Bennetts has been committed to education his entire working life in South Africa and the Middle East. He grew up in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, and while still at school, discovered his calling to teach. “I tutored and coached juniors when I was at school. It was something that I really loved, especially when you see the ‘lights go on’ and a concept you have been working on is grasped.”
He achieved a Higher Diploma in Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a BA degree from UNISA and went on to spend close on two years in Abu Dhabi, UAE, at Al Nahda International Schools. On his return to South Africa, he went from the classroom into school marketing at Maritzburg College, before being promoted to Deputy Headmaster. He was then promoted to Varsity College as Principal in 2017.
With his strong belief in a balanced education, he immersed himself in classroom teaching as well as co-curricular activities serving on the KZN Schools’ Cricket Executive Committee and the SA Schools' Hockey Executive. He has also managed the South African Men’s Hockey team.
Earlier this year, Bennetts’ interest was piqued when he became aware that the position as Head of Reddam House Helderfontein was available. “I conducted a little Facebook research and saw a city school with open spaces, lots of smiles, and I noted the wonderful things that the staff were doing with their students academically, on the sporting front, and culturally – I was impressed.”
The Inspired Group, Reddam House Helderfontein, and Bennetts himself are convinced of his excellent fit into his new position as an all-rounder with a passion for people, education, and working within a driven team. “I love diversity, problem-solving, and leading staff and students successfully through challenges. I am enthusiastic about strategic planning and watching how short-term goals are met as the long-term vision takes form.”
Bennetts’ interests beyond the school environment include taking his 4x4 on off-road tours around the country - camping in the shadow of Rhino Peak in the Southern Drakensberg is a particular favourite. He is also a published author having the 150th anniversary book for Maritzburg College, Brothers for Life. “Researching and writing this book was a highlight as life experiences go. I traversed the country to meet with Old Collegians spanning the ages of 20 to 90, listening as they relayed memories of their school experiences. It took the better part of two years but was well worth it.”
Ravi Nadasen, CEO of Inspired South Africa, extended a warm welcome to Bennetts on behalf of the group as well as the Reddam House Helderfontein team. “Graham’s enthusiasm for effective education, his innovative approaches, his interest in students’ overall wellbeing, and his consummate skills as a teacher and a leader will stand the school, its staff and students in good stead. We look forward to experiencing his impact on the school as it continues to grow.”
About Reddam House Helderfontein
Reddam House Helderfontein, one of Inspired Education Group’s world-class Reddam House schools, is situated in the Helderfontein Estate valley in Johannesburg, surrounded by Dainfern, Fourways, Lonehill and Broadacres suburbs. It accommodates day children from age one to Grade 12 and offers boarding for grades 6 to 12. The school provides an internationally respected curriculum, which includes a wide range of academic, cultural, and sporting activities, in a secure, relaxed and self-disciplined environment from which students can pursue their interests and aspirations.
The school’s facilities include purpose-built classrooms, STEAM labs, studios for art, dance, drama, and music, and a unique and fully equipped sports centre that features an Olympic-size pool for water polo, multipurpose surface arena, cricket nets, and a learn-to-swim child pool.
Join the Reddam Rising Stars
Join our Reddam Rising Stars at Reddam House Waterfall, Bedfordview and Helderfontein in Gauteng; Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard, Constantia, and Durbanville in the Western Cape; Reddam House Umhlanga and Ballito in KZN. We look forward to forging a future in which many future Reddam House matriculants boldly build on this success.
Reddam House is a member of the Inspired Group, a leading global premium schools group educating over 50,000 students across a global network of more than 60 schools on five continents. All Inspired schools are individually developed and designed in response to their environment and location, delivering excellent education to their respective communities. (www.inspirededu.com).