From the desk of the Head Master 9 March 2018
Some ideas to help with the final push…The Lent term is the season of Parents’ Evenings, when we all cram into the hall and step in time with the painful ringing of that bell. For two year groups in particular, the Upper Fifth and Upper Sixth, these are especially important events, designed to give a steer and a push into the final straight in these pivotal academic years.
For those boys, however they are getting on, there will have been lots of advice from teachers and parents; much of which probably feels like nagging, but is meant with the very best of intentions. Make a realistic timetable and stick to it, leave electronic devices in a different room, be active and make things rather than just sitting and reading, do lots of practice papers, et cetera. Here are two other thoughts to feed in…
I stood for a few moments the other week on the mezzanine floor of the Sixth Form centre, spying on a handful of boys who were enjoying a ‘Free Period’, relaxing and chatting and generally hanging out. At the other end of the room was another boy who clearly understood that this was a ‘Study Period’; he was sitting up at a table, battling his way through some Economics. I wandered down and had a chat with the more laid-back herd, suggesting that it looked as though there might only be one boy in the room who could be confident of doing well in the summer. ‘But he’s really clever’, came the response, a handy explanation for everything, as if this implied some sort of academic pre-destination. Strange, I thought to myself, how the one dubbed as simply being ‘really clever’ was also the one doing all the work.
The idea of ‘growth mindset’ has probably been the single biggest change in educational thinking in recent years (although deep down, we have probably known this forever). This video is an excellent summary of theory which my friends in the Sixth Form would do well to absorb:
The second idea comes from Gordonstoun, where Prince Charles was a pupil (forgive me another reference to The Crown, Season 2). The school has been running a week-long “boot camp” in the holidays designed to prepare GCSE pupils for their exams. With evidence of a significant increase in academic performance following exercise (and evidence of a similar reduction in stress levels), their version of Sprint Finish prescribes the students 25 hours of study each week, interspersed with bursts of running, team ballgames, yoga and a long walk. Children are fed copious amounts of broccoli and water, to boost brain performance, whilst access to phones and electronic devices is heavily restricted. It sounds quite fun actually.