Welcome back to all pupils, parents and staff as we start 2018 with the positive approach that is so important to making the most of each day at school. While the Senior School can seem a little quieter with the ski trip away, lessons continue apace and staff are making sure every lesson counts. Senior School assembly yesterday brought with it the realisation that, for Year 11, 2018 marks their final year at St Joseph’s.
Quite a thought as it seems no time since I first met many of them as Year 7s in my English class, well before I was fortunate enough to be appointed as Headteacher.
Their journey through the school has seen them develop as individuals and as a collective, and has brought with it trials and triumphs, and seen them mature into young people of whom we are very proud. While they are now focused on the grades they will achieve at the end of Year 11, the new year made me think of the wider education they have received while at St Joseph’s, and of their development as young people ready for the challenges of the wider world, and the resilience they have been taught and have developed along the way.
I have long been interested in Dr Carol Dweck’s approach to the idea of growth mindset, that “telling children they are smart encourages a fixed mindset, whereas praising hard work and effort cultivates a growth mindset. When students have a growth mindset, they take on challenges and learn from them, therefore increasing their abilities and achievement.” Praise for effort is so important for every child, and we must make sure they do not develop the ‘fixed mindset’ that their ability, and therefore performance and attainment, are ‘set,’ that they ‘cannot’ do something – with the right encouragement, with belief in what they put their minds to achieve, they ‘can.’
And so, while examination success is a very important part of preparation for the wider world, as we start the new term I want to focus on the wider benefits we can bring to the children here at St Joseph’s, their development as individuals with the strength, personality, humility and personal integrity to take their places in the world they will discover after Year 11.
I can see this clearly in the strength of character shown by our wonderful Head Students and their Deputies when they read their lessons so well at the Service of Lessons and Carols at St Mary’s in December, and it is evident in each member of our Y11 cohort as they prepare for the tests the summer will bring.
Throughout the school, I see the development of resilience, the development of autonomy and independence in our pupils to face difficulties and to overcome them. William Henley wrote in Invictus that “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul,” and it is this sense of an ability to persevere and succeed, despite the inevitable difficulties pupils can face either at school or in wider life, that is so important in the development of our young people from Reception to Year 11.
As we welcome pupils back throughout the school, and welcome the 5 new pupils who join us this week, I am looking forward to the challenges of the next term, and to celebrating the efforts of each child. Every individual can achieve, and by getting them to see just what they are capable of we can unlock that potential and help them to reach heights they may never have thought possible.