It is difficult to believe that five weeks have passed since the start of the Summer term. We are well and truly in the examination season and this can be a hugely stressful time for children, teachers and indeed parents too! I know that examinations, testing and assessment can truly divide educational opinion but at present it is the universally accepted measurement of knowledge and attainment in academic subjects.
Examinations however should not just be a test of how well you can revise or learn information; they should also assess the application of knowledge and understanding too. Exams also test hidden skills such as concentration, self-discipline, resilience and commitment – there may be no marks allocated directly to these qualities but they underpin the learning process.
Last week was an emotional time for our Upper Sixth girls as they ‘stood down’ to take their A Level examinations before leaving Saint Martin’s to move on to higher education and the world of work. As we wish them well I would like to thank Niamh, Rosie and Samantha and the Senior Prefect Team for their hard work, loyalty and contribution to school life. I have no doubt that these girls will become successful leaders in the future.
We have just appointed our Head Girl Team and Senior Prefects for next year. Our Head Girl for 2015/2016 is Emma Tegg who will be assisted by her Deputies Sara Western and Amy Wevill. Many congratulations to these young women especially as the field of applicants was large and very strong indeed. All candidates had to write a letter of application and lead an assembly before the staff and sixth form vote. I was so impressed with every candidate and commend their resilience and confidence in applying for these positions. Those appointed act as role models and leaders of Saint Martin’s and I am looking forward to working with them next year.
Many of our younger girls have also displayed commitment, determination, resilience and confidence this term. Girls in Alice House and Junior School entered a competition organized by Jaguar Land Rover to design a vehicle for 2050. Their efforts were rewarded in a special assembly as many of them were awarded certificates and prizes. Our Year 10 “Young Enterprise” team, Aspiro, triumphed at the local heats winning “Best Company Report” and “Best Company”. Their achievements continued in the regional final. Despite facing fierce competition, the girls gave an outstanding presentation to judges. The team were awarded the “Finance” award and Isabella Nicholson was recognised for her fantastic work as Managing Director winning the “MD Recognition” Award.
Election fever was evident in Alice House and Junior School as Year 3 entered into the election spirit presenting their political manifestos which highlighted issues such as health, the environment, animal welfare, poverty and the cost of tuition fees. The girls have gained an invaluable insight into the world of politics and are looking forward to the next but one General Election when they can vote. Congratulations girls and well done to everyone in Year 3 especially “The Blues” who had a resounding victory.
Saint Martin’s girls have shown huge amounts of generosity to our partner school Annal Jyoti in Kathmandu, Nepal. In response to the devastating earthquakes the girls have been raising funds for the International Nepal Fellowship. Year 7 girls have organized a cake sale, Alice House and Junior School girls have worn silly socks and odd shoes to school. Even our Senior School staff are getting involved – if the girls raise enough money we have pledged to come to school dressed in Saint Martin’s uniform. Let’s see if I need to visit the school uniform shop!
Saint Martin’s is proud to support other international charities. As I write, “old” computer equipment should be arriving in Malawi and Zambia. This wonderful charity initiative has been coordinated by our ICT Network Manager, Mr Peter Carlson and the charity “I.T. Schools Africa”.
Returning to the theme of examinations and success, ultimately an individual’s personal success will reflect their effort and endeavour, so therefore we should not be afraid of failing but embrace the challenge with determination. At Saint Martin’s we provide an enabling supportive environment and the educational expertise to facilitate success. During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the idea that “winners and losers” in school was damaging children’s self-esteem became a popular concept that has since been proven wrong. The Canadian author Paul Tough in his book “Whatever it takes” highlights the importance of failure as a key character building tool. In the book he says, “If we do not let our children fail – from the bumps and knocks of the first few years, to losing childhood games and sporting events – they will not develop strong enough “characters” to survive later on in life.”
I would actively encourage staff and parents to allow girls to fail (when appropriate!). I would go as far as to say celebrate when they get it wrong. Praise them for trying and not succeeding. “Losing” can be painful, but it is important to allow girls to express those feelings and work through them. Avoid making excuses for perceived failing. Instead encourage girls to identify what they have learnt from the experience.
When faced with a difficult challenge we should remember the following:
‘Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.’
‘The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: hard work, stick-to-it-iv-ness and common sense. (Thomas A. Edison)
Have a lovely half term holiday!