30 August 2022

The Monday Briefing: Was It All Worth It

The Monday Briefing: Was It All Worth It

It’s around this time of year, following the A Level and GCSE results, when everyone involved - staff, students and parents - should collectively ask themselves the question: was it all worth it?

The lessons; the feedback; the revision; the assessments; the mock exams; the homework assignments; the effort - the graft - the endeavour.

Thursday was a truly wonderful day at the College, juxtaposing with the miserable weather, which dampened the clothes - but not the spirits of those arriving at EIC to pick up their GCSE results.

We had a joyous staff body welcoming students, secure in the knowledge that they had given absolutely everything to support the children under their care. 

I had an excellent conversation over the phone with the Head of Science, visiting family in Liverpool, delighted with the results across the combined and triple awards. A complicated decision making process around who would be entered for which respective level had come up trumps - because we know our students so comprehensively.

The Head of MFL’s delight was almost palpable. She had guided a small group of students to reach their very best levels, and, in some cases, perform far beyond expectations. She shared much in common with the Head of Mathematics, and the Head of GCSE himself - who joyously congratulated a student who had scored a grade 9 in his subject. The same student who had been a school refuser before he joined the College.

I was able to converse with several overjoyed parents, a few of the interactions in particular will linger long in the memory. I had a call midway through the morning from the mother of one of our very best GCSE students - someone who, I believe, will likely go on to be one of our very best ever students. Simply, all that she wanted to say was ‘thanks’. To the staff, to me, because we had helped make goals realities.

Then there were a couple of other parents, quite overwhelmed with it all. One with tears in her eyes, possibly thinking back to the day when her son joined the College, having found refuge from his previous school, where bullying had plagued his progress and his self-esteem. ‘I just want him to pass,’ I remember her saying then - well, with several grade 6s now to his name, he has achieved far more than that. More importantly, he has regained his confidence, found a home, forged lasting friendships and developed into the leader which his outgoing and generous character always had the potential to deliver.

Another set of parents followed soon after, quite stunned at how their son had overcome the struggles life had thrown at him over the last two years - depression, anxiety, self doubt - his willingness to proudly stand with his results for a picture standing as a greater marker of his growth than any of the multiple grade 7s he had scored across the full range of his subjects. How had he done this? He had found strength from within, empowered and emboldened by our approach at the College: to place faith in him, and invest, as far as we could, in the relationships which we knew would rebuild his confidence, bit by bit.

And then, of course, there were the many students themselves who tentatively, carefully made their way to the College, unsure of what the future held - but who departed with options galore, knowing that they could approach the next chapter of their lives with vigour and hope.

Amongst the best examples of those students were those who had tasted disappointment on days like this before. Students who, a year or two previously, and in different educational settings, perhaps, could not gain the grades they had set their heart on due to health concerns; or, at that time had not really understood how to get the best from themselves through an inefficient individual academic regime; or who had simply fallen through the cracks in the system - deemed not a priority for extra support in a large class or having to try to find a way to connect with their seventh Maths teacher of the year.

Given a fair chance at EIC, with stable teaching, rigorous academic processes and a nurturing environment, they had transformed their lives.

One simply sat and called her mother and father to explain that the 3s and 4s which used to represent her GCSE output, had been replaced by 8s and 9s. I looked in on her a couple times as she did so in private - each time, she was glowing.

Another, abroad, composed a long and detailed note of thanks to me. I took great pleasure in forwarding it on to each and every one of the staff who had been so integral to the turnaround. I know that they would all highlight her keenness to commit to the expectations we have here - never to settle for ‘good enough’ - to always strive for that extra improvement.

There were others, of course, for whom results were a touch more uneven - a grade or two lower than expected here and there. They were keen to listen, and adopt a solution-based mindset. They may have to retake Mathematics or English next year, but such an inconvenience is not going to derail everything moving forward - and with the support they will receive, it’s inconceivable that they won’t make amends the second time around. We’ve become specialists in helping students remedy such issues.

Days like these are always emotionally draining - and, in a sense, that, for me, is a sign that we are doing it right here. Every single person who comes in and out of the building is a valued member of the College community, and we are all on a journey to success together. It’s absorbing and intense, and it tests physical and mental stamina. A day such as this, where one has been working towards for a significant period of time can loom incredibly large. But the right way to face such challenges is to do so collectively.

And the rewards of such an approach - when it all comes together - as it did on Thursday, can really make one pause, reflect and bask in the shared triumph of it all.

So was it all worth it?

Of course it was!

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