07 November 2022

The Monday Briefing: I Want It All

The Monday Briefing: I Want It All

With Guy Fawkes Night done, and the excruciating media-fuelled run up to Christmas now underway, it’s time to ensure that a simple message is understood by all of the students at Ealing Independent College. 

They should forget about the 25th December for the time being: ignore the advent calendars; bypass the presents; take no notice of Santa and completely disregard all of the festive movies. The really important date for them all is the 12th of December and with it, the commencement of the Christmas Mock Examination period.

Timetables for the exam sessions have been distributed amongst students, signalling the green light with regards to the need for student preparation in earnest.

Our best and brightest had the final week of term in mind from the start. They are the ones who combine a keen sense of organisation and ambition with an understanding of the urgency required to make the very best of themselves.

These are the 20% of students at the College who scored 1.3 or better for their cumulative Months Marks effort grades across their subjects, with 1 being the highest and 4 being the lowest possible. I’ve discussed the Months Marks effort grades before, along with the mystical qualities which they seem to imbue on the majority of the students here.

Having a non-selective intake, it’s no surprise that the average effort grade in the College is around the middle mark - in fact, it is just above at 1.98 - and not every student is as self-motivated and diligent as those in our top 20%. Statistically, we have around 66% of students in the middle to high zone, scoring between 2.5 (room for improvement) to 1.33 (improvement in one subject will have them in the same category as the highest echelon). Most of these students will naturally pick up as the year goes on - as the time before exams becomes more and more short, the penny drops and the top gear which had been elusive suddenly clicks in.

Then we have ‘the 14%’ - those with a score of 2.6 and worse. These students are the ones who we need to work hardest with, the ones who take up most of our time, and, when the end of the year is reached, are those who cause the greatest satisfaction when one sees their improvement across the year. The yearly battle with this cohort of students is just beginning.

For whatever reason, studying does not come easy to them. I could go through a myriad of different contextual circumstances for each student who is in this position, and explain a range of strategies which will have to be employed with each of them - and this is exactly the challenge: there is no silver bullet which solves the issue for one and all. But that does not stop me, and the rest of the staff, in trying to ‘win’ one and all by bringing about in them a change in approach - towards industry, hard work and dedication, yielding, in the end, improved results.

Looking for a common theme is, in itself, not an easy task. Generally, around half of our students who have, since the first Months Marks grades were released, been identified as major or minor concerns have attendance issues. They struggle to put together a consecutive 10 days of actually being in lessons at College. This is the root of their issues, which then leads to a lack of consistent homework assignment submission, gaps in knowledge which never seem to be followed up of their own accord and the lack of a resilient approach with which to set aside one problem and come back stronger.

The other half could be best described as having a frustratingly nonchalant attitude to study. They are the ‘I’ll start to revise in the last few weeks before the exams’ cohort. The ‘I don’t need to try in regular homeworks because they don’t count’ group. The ‘it’s better not to try at all than it is to try your best and then fail crew’, naively thinking that their dignity somehow remains intact having never ‘really’ tested themselves. These are the students who are full of excuses when things don’t meet their expectations. They struggle to reach the required levels of self-awareness to drive themselves forward.

And so, someone has to do it for them…

Hence the first tactic in the war against underperformance being unleashed at the College this week: any student not up to date with work across all of their subjects will be required to stay in College for ‘the five o’clock shift’ on a Monday, Tuesday and Friday with a member of SLT. If they can not successfully establish their own work-ethic adequately, then they will have to increase the duration of their time spent at College in an effort to clear the debt of work they owe.

Attendance at these sessions is compulsory, and there is a strong understanding among staff that we will see the same customers time after time, but the hope is that these individuals will benefit from the increased time in a working environment. A few more excuses will become redundant; their effort grades will rise; their academic performance will improve. They may resent what they see as punishment, but I don’t really care about that - in this sense, the destination (success at the end of the academic year) is more important than the journey (overcoming issues at this point). It is only when they see the improvements that they’ll get the message.

If they choose excuses over this path, then the pressure will really be on, with a ‘three strikes and you are out’ rule which will make the need for a shift in approach stark - mediocrity will not be tolerated. Only full commitment is enough.

It won’t work for all of them, at least not immediately, but it will for some - and that’s the nature of a school. All students learn at different rates; all students enter the gates having experienced a different set of circumstances; all students have different motivations - but that doesn’t mean that we can’t help all of them achieve their potential.

And that’s what I want: I want success for absolutely all of them.

Without such a sentiment driving my day-to-day performance, I’d be in the wrong job.

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