Ernie, earning success and an earnest appeal

Once upon a time I was a young teacher and like many new entrants to the profession I was assigned by my school a more experienced colleague to tell me what I should be doing.  Now it might be called professional mentoring, then it was definitely being told what to do.  Ernie was a wise man and well versed in the art of the classroom.  One particular piece of advice he gave me has stuck in my mind to this day.  During one of our sessions he opined that as teachers we had to do two things; number one, teach and number two, help our pupils pass exams.  It was very clear that to Ernie these were two wholly separate operations.  He firmly believed that whilst exams were there to be passed (and at the highest grades) education was something very different indeed.  Truth be told, I probably agree with him.  But the world turns and at present there is a particular focus on exam grades as a measure of both school and individual academic performance.  I know that to access the best universities and to have a chance at obtaining a fulfilling career that grades are the key to unlocking many doors.  It is therefore with enormous pride that I read of the wonderful grades earned  by last year’s Year 13 and Year 11 pupils in their A level and GCSE examinations respectively.  (See Appendix 1 for full results) As a measure of the dedication, diligence and determination of our pupils these grades tell part of a story.  The fact that 89% of the Sixth Form cohort gained entrance to their preferred university is a credit to them, their teachers and their parents.  But results are only part of a wider narrative.   A student who defines themselves through their grades alone is missing the point of education.  A teacher who focuses on exams and nothing else is not fulfilling their vocation and a parent who over pushes does their child a disservice.   Recent exposure of UK schools excluding pupils following a less than absolutely stellar public exam performance have been found out and their approach rightly challenged.

I am delighted to celebrate what has been achieved by our students, their results do us proud, but it would be seeing only part of the story if we did not also remember their wonderful musical performances, their assured presence in plays and their energy and spirit on the sports field.  They gave of their time to support charity projects, they climbed mountains and they learned valuable lessons about co-existing in a community with many nationalities and cultural influences.  They left the BSP as rounded individuals ready to make a difference in the world. Exam success only is not good education.  I look forward to the academic year with great enthusiasm for seeing our young people grow academically, emotionally and socially through a wide participation in the life of this school, through making the most of the opportunities on offer.  Along the way they should also earn excellent grades.


Nicholas Hammond


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