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A student’s perspective on success.

July 4, 2014

Here is a story from the Guardian earlier in the week:

A primary school in Lancashire has been overwhelmed with support after the head sent a tender and unusual letter to pupils following their exam results.
Children at Barrowford school in Nelson, near Burnley, were told that the school was “very proud” of their effort in the Key Stage 2 (KS2) tests, but went on: “We are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique.

The Daily Mail had a slightly different spin on it:


This is the actual letter sent by Headteacher Ms Tomlinson:

The letter has gone viral.

Toby Young (@toadmeister) has written a response (or a “hyper-over-interpretation” -thanks @informed_edu) in the Telegraph You can read it here. The article ends by suggesting the new Secretary of State for education should read the letter and encourage the LEA to sack Ms Tomlinson.

We had our school prom on Tuesday July 1st. It was a fantastic event. There were 6 tables of staff and around 160 pupils. Behaviour was impeccable (as expected). I always enjoy school proms. What always strikes me is how proud I am of the people that they have become. During the evening our Head Boy (Joseff) gave a quick speech to the year group. It was partly in response to the constant (incessant) message about the importance of their GCSEs that the year group had received throughout Year 11 ( including lots of mentions of the previous year group’s record breaking results).
This is what he said:
“School is something that you complete, but life is something you experience.
I fully agree with the teachers, that GCSEs are very important, and that we should have worked really hard for them – but don’t worry about the results you get in August, or about success, because success is defined in so many different ways in which people can no longer grade you.
Success comes from your own internal sense of achievement, not by what a piece of paper with grades says.
Keep working hard, and remember that only you can say that you’ve been truly successful in life; not your parents; not the government; not the teachers – only you.
Have a good evening.”

Incredible perspective. As a pupil he is a talented academic. He contributed hugely to the life of the school through the choir and school productions. Perhaps he gained this perspective last summer volunteering in an orphanage in Africa.
Perhaps I wouldn’t agree with every word of the speech he made to his peers. But I agree that while examinations results are HUGELY important, other things are important too.
I don’t know if Toby Young would agree. But I do.


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  1. Spot on. I remember asking a Year 7 once to have a look at the new NQT teacher standards that I’d been asked to review. He stopped after a few minutes and said in a perplexed voice, “Why doesn’t it say that you have to be kind to us? Or at least care about us?” Always thought there was an important lesson in that.

  2. Absolutely; and saying it *after* the SATS and before the summer break is a really important thing to have done, I think, so that they can go into Y7 with the feeling that all their qualities are valued.

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