Headmaster’s Blog

‘Confidence is key to success at school’ said the Guardian a few years back.  That’s a phrase I agree with.  ‘Appropriate confidence is key’ is a phrase I agree with even more.  In an age when social (media) pressures on young people are perhaps at an all-time high, and when empathy and emotional intelligence are right at the top of employers’ agendas, schools must do what they can to instil appropriate confidence in their pupils; developing in them an appropriate balance between self-awareness, social-awareness, self-esteem and self-belief.  We take our responsibility to instil this balance in our pupils seriously at ECS: appropriate confidence is a key life-skill, and promoting and coaching it at school feeds into our aim of ‘working with families to help our pupils acquire the right habit for life’.

The terrific Year 5 production of ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ yesterday evening was a fine example of giving opportunities for the development of appropriate confidence in our pupils: every pupil in the year-group had a role in the production, and every pupil had lines to deliver and choreography to follow.  There were of course the leading lights, but there were no ‘plant pot 3s’ or ‘Peasant 7s’ in this production.  Miss Cox and her team worked hard to ensure that all pupils had the opportunity to shine, to take the limelight, and to be applauded.  This will have come more comfortably to some, of course, but the opportunity to take centre-stage and to stand up and speak out is one that will stand even the shiest of performers in good stead.  Knowing that they can, when it comes to the crunch, stand up and perform/present/deliver when they have to certainly plays its part in being appropriately confident.

This is also the week in which every single pupil in the Prep School (from Year 3 to Year 8) has represented the School on the sports field.  Block fixtures with St Peter’s, Lympstone, have seen all pupils aged 7 to 13 being picked for a team in this ‘local derby’.  We had some very strong results in both hockey and netball, but over and above that this week has been a really good example of Mrs Ross’ vision of ‘sport for all’.  Some will go on to great things with their sport (indeed, we’ve heard recently that 13+ sports scholarships have been won to Wellington and to Blundell’s) and others may not be destined for such athletic greatness; but knowing that they have been part of a team, that they have contributed to the team’s success, and that they have been cheered on and applauded by the crowds, helps to instil a confidence that will last a lifetime.

Confidence in the classroom is essential, too: we want our learners to be engaged and inquisitive.  Creating a learning environment in which contributions and questions are valued and championed, and in which pupils can feel comfortable having a go and making mistakes, is absolutely key to the development of appropriate confidence.  Our Open Classroom weeks running this term encourage staff to get out and about into other departments of the School and to share some of the first-rate teaching practices that go on here.  Sharing and celebrating good practice helps to drive a culture of learning and engagement and to further develop a long-standing whole-school commitment to instilling appropriate confidence in our learners.

The above examples all focus on the importance of having the confidence to do; it’s just as crucial that pupils have the confidence to be.  Part of being an appropriately-confident child (or adult) is having the confidence to be with and by yourself, and being comfortable with silence.  Not easy these days (I skimmed through a critical-thinking blog this week about the ‘internet shouting factory’), but it’s so important that time, space and coaching be given over to this key life-skill.  Our daily assemblies in the Cathedral (we are moving to the Quire after half term) provide an ideal time and space in which to be still together, to reflect, and to gather together in a few moments of quiet.  Mrs Fitzpatrick, who is trained in Paws B (mindfulness in schools) is developing opportunities for Mindfulness & Meditation across the 3-13 School, and the mindfulness sessions that she has led with staff as part of our emerging Staff Wellbeing Programme have certainly been well-received.  Developing pupil wellbeing and promoting opportunities for young learners to be at ease in, with, and by themselves is an important part of establishing appropriate self-belief, self-confidence and self-awareness.

Developing appropriately-confident learners and appropriately-confident members of the community really is crucial, and I’m proud of all that we do here to work towards that.

I hope you are all able to enjoy a relaxing and restful half-term break, and I look forward to seeing you when term begins again on Monday 19th February (Sunday 18th 6pm-8pm for our Boarders).  Happy holidays.

James Featherstone

9 February 2018
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