Preparing pupils for the next steps and beyond

Andy V's picture
by Andy V
Contrary to the recent assertions (sound bites) from Tristram Hunt and Michael Gove, contributors to LSN already recognise that schools have always - wittingly or unwittingly - imparted resilience, courage and determination to pupils.

It was then a wonderful breath of fresh air to listen to Heather Hanbury, Head Teacher at Wimbledon High School, speaking about teaching failure on Radio 4 this afternoon:

Please note Mr Hunt it is not necessary to teach character, courage, determination or resilience in our schools. Rather it is far more effective to interweave these traits into the expectation culture of our schools and encourage children to grow into this mindset. After all, isn't there an example embedded in British history from Robert the Bruce, 1314, 'If at first you don't succeed try, try and try again'

It was refreshing to hear Ms Hanbury make explicit the link between understanding and working with failure and skills attitude employers value and seek.
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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 06/03/2014 - 15:56

Thanks, Andy - the programme was well worth listening to. It's only 15 minutes long but unfortunately it's only available for another six days.

The head was adamant that "failing well" was essential for building resilience and tenacity.

She criticised the current emphasis in education on becoming "higher, bigger, better" - more GCSEs, more A*s and so on. But politicians of all hues have been fixated on schools getting these "higher, bigger, better" results even if this has negative effects (eg gaming, teaching to the test etc).

Loved the physics lesson - building a "car" to keep an egg safe and then shoving it down a ramp to see how the safety measures worked. Great stuff.

And I heard girls talking - but isn't that what Gove and ex-schools minister Gibb dismiss as "chat"?

Andy V's picture
Thu, 06/03/2014 - 17:19

I'm pleased you found it interesting and useful. Ms Hanbury certainly hit more nails on the head than Dr Seldon's shallow, patronising, and insultingly il-informed advice to state schools.

I also commend the rest of the series on Radio 4, which is packed with ideas that can be harvested for use in schools.

Barry Wise's picture
Fri, 07/03/2014 - 08:50

Let's not forget though that Wimbledon High School sends 13% of its students to Oxbridge. In that context 'failure' could mean only getting into Oriel rather than Balliol, or whatever.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 07/03/2014 - 10:01

Barry - I guess you haven't listened to the programme. Yes, Ms Hanbury is head of an independent girls' school with high-flying pupils but she spoke a lot of sense.

Her definition of failure was not, as you say, failing to get into Oxbridge. It was failing at something you've tried whatever that was. But lessons can be learnt from failure, Hanbury said.

Hanbury's advice was a long way from Seldon's and Adonis's patronising view that state schools need private schools' "DNA" in order to succeed.

That's not to say Hanbury's views re failure aren't found in the state sector. Failure is part of learning. The best schools encourage risk taking whether state or private - it's a pity that league tables encourage schools to play safe.

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