It is a great privilege to welcome back all students to the start of the new school year, in particular those who are new to Bennett in year 7, and in other year groups. I wish you all a very happy and profitable career with us.
A very warm welcome also to all new teachers and other staff. Likewise, we welcome you to the school and hope your time with us is profitable.
As many readers will know, I spent a considerable proportion of the last school year engaged in activities around the country as president of the Association of School and College Leaders. While that was a thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating experience from which I learnt a huge amount about the way in which education policy is shaped and its impacts on schools in different contexts, when people have asked me if I mind coming back to my own school at the end of such an exciting and interesting year, my answer is in all honestly, no I don’t mind at all. In fact I am positively relishing it. I am old and experienced enough to know the fabled ‘honeymoon period’ at the start of a school year does not last for ever, but this first full week has been an absolute pleasure in terms of the chance especially to interact with real students again. And who cannot feel a sense of pride at the sight of 230 or so new year 7s arriving so full of expectation at the start of their secondary education?
I will be very busy both in school and more widely this year. At the tail end of last year I was elected onto a new board of academy headteachers who, with a senior government official (the Regional Schools Commissioner) will be overseeing the quality of education provided in all academies and free schools across the South East of England and South London. This is a challenging and interesting role and will enable me to use some of the knowledge acquired last year about the ‘inner workings’ of the system and, indeed, the challenges, faced by many schools.
I was interested to read in the Daily Mail online this morning (I picked up the story from an online news digest, before you wonder!) about an interesting new initiative being led by Wellington College: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2754323/Top-school-provide-lessons-true-grit-34-000-year-college-teach-pupils-deal-setbacks.html . It seems to me that some of the ideas underlying this are what we try to achieve at Bennett. A belief in hard work and perseverance, rather than outdated notions of so-called ability, to achieve outstanding results, needs to be at the core of what we do. For that, we need to develop character and ‘grit’, because there are often going to be times when the challenges we face seem too hard and it would be all too easy to give up. Persevering needs a deep-seated belief in our potential, and, for students, it depends on the extent to which their teachers inspire that belief in them.
These were themes I talked to all students in years 8 to 11 about in assembly last week. I also challenged them to think of some small ways in which they might develop their ‘character’ as an essential complement to good academic qualifications. I suggested that having the confidence to greet teachers, and even me, around the school by name, using for example ‘good morning’, would be a good place to start. Sounds simple, I know, but for a shy or slightly awkward teenager it can still be a step. I have been pleasantly surprised, if not a little overwhelmed, the numbers who have taken me up on it this last week!
Once again, all good wishes to Bennett students for a happy and successful term. Parents should not hesitate, as ever, to contact us if there is any area about which they are uncertain or which they would like to discuss.