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13 September 2021

The Monday Briefing: Don't stop 'til you get enough

The Monday Briefing: Dont stop til you get enough

In the range of interviews which I had with new students this summer, I was always very keen to emphasise the importance of having the right mentality towards their studies. There are, of course, several ingredients which need to be combined and applied in order for success to be arrived at: high levels of attendance and punctuality; time taken before learning for preparation and organisation; ensuring high levels of attainment through an enthusiastic attitude in and out of class; full effort; taking pride in the work they submit; being supportive and considerate of others also helps create the right environment for productivity. Above all, however, I believe that students need a relentless streak - an innate desire to improve their approach, to go ‘above and beyond’ to boost their attainment,  and to do it on their own volition.

The above areas provide a blueprint for success at the College, developed by the staff and agreed with the student body at the start of 2019-2020, is our measure of student efficacy here. Our new students will quickly get used to this, as well as the fact that we absolutely abhor wasting time. We get down to business, right from the start. Students have already completed standardised CAT4 tests, which have provided us with indications of what they should be aiming for. The exciting prospect of homework starting to come in from the classes will add layers to our knowledge, and aspirational target grades will soon be set, which all students will be measured against. At the end of every month, starting in September, students will receive an attainment grade for each subject, based on their assessed work, along with an effort grade, ranging from 1-4, with one being the highest, taking into account all of the factors described at the outset of this article.

Students are measured regularly for two key reasons: so they know exactly where they stand and so that their parents do. The College is based on honesty and transparency. Where a student underperforms, we hold a review meeting - not to criticise and condemn but to explore the support strategies which can be implemented to inform a renewed approach. 

Parents are kept fully abreast of the situation. Again, the motivation for this is not to spread negativity but to ensure that realistic expectations are in place, along with a prescribed programme for improvement.

We believe, fundamentally, that all students can succeed here. That success can come in many forms and will not look the same for every one of them, but the more we provide feedback and guidance to all parties, the more we maximise the chances of success.

I’m very excited at the prospect of a new initiative which we are looking to embed in the next few weeks: that of the second half of the blueprint for success. Working with a group of students representing all year groups, and in consultation with all staff, we will look to provide definitions of student expectations of their teachers - and how they feel our efficacy should be measured. In a similar manner to which students receive their monthly ‘effort’ grades, they will conduct surveys which inform teachers on their performance from the most important point of view - that of the student. 

Only by ensuring that both parts of this dialogue are listened to and taken notice of, will we truly encourage student voice to augment the College experience, and drive teaching and learning forward. It is vital that such a culture of constant and continuous improvement is encouraged, whilst a state of contentment becomes impossible, or almost impossible, to achieve.

There are a range of quotes about complacency, and none of them are complementary. My favourite is, perhaps, by Benjamin E Mays, a baptist minister credited with laying the intellectual foundations for the Civil Rights Movement. He sums up, almost perfectly, our approach to students at the College and some sage advice which they should all take on board: “The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.”

Staff will never seek to ‘take it easy’ on my watch, and we will strain every sinew to ensure that they never do too little, or perform below their capabilities without challenge. It is of the utmost importance that overachievement remains our objective - for all who work here: teachers, students and support staff.

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