Laurel wreaths for enquiring heads

Competition, we are often told, is a very good thing.  Indeed in a school environment we often use it to develop character, to achieve a better result or to win a match.  A little less often we speak of academic competition, of being the best in a particular subject or activity.  For some reason many people feel this is something that should be hidden, it sometimes is considered “nerdy”.  I hope we celebrate this kind of excellence in our community.  Indeed in a school of this size I believe that we can ill afford to separate off students with such labels, we need all our athletes to be nerds and our musicians and actors to be boffins.  We need students who are ready to be Renaissance women and men, students who will be the measure of all things.  The Ancient Greeks were particularly good on academic and artistic competition and we do right to follow their example and put ourselves forward to use our talents and intellects to compete with other schools.  Interestingly, at this time of year we have the opportunity to celebrate those who have excelled in matters academic or perhaps more importantly those who have taken the very bold step to step up the mark and represent the school in an academic competition.
Our mathematicians are training hard ready to engage in their forthcoming Olympiad, the historians have been debating and passing resolutions in The Hague and poets are sharpening pencils ready for COBIS competitions. They will gain accolades and satisfaction in equal measure. They will learn valuable lessons and they will bring these lessons back to school for the benefit of all.  There is one sort of academic competition that is perhaps even more valuable than those already outlined.  I was in a Year 5 maths lesson this week.  Questions were being thrown out by the teacher and hands were being raised.  Within the class there were some who found the tasks difficult; they had a go, they used their mini whiteboards, they built triangles with matchsticks and they worked on the interactive whiteboard.  Initially tentative, as the lesson progressed their confidence grew.  It was a competition the most challenging of all, that is a competition within themselves.  A fight against that wheedling voice that erodes a young person’s confidence; the one that says “you can’t”.  I am pleased to report that they won this particular battle.  Learning was, as they say in all the best commentaries, “the winner”.

There are academic competitions to be won each day; some come along o
nly once every hundred years.  I heartily recommend you take a look at The Never Such Innocence website to see the competition offer being made the
re.  Many of our pupils have been introduced to the music, art and writing challenges the charity is running this year and I hope that significant numbers will enter for we have the talent to impress their judges.  Others may be tempted by the range of opportunities thrown out by the RAF 100 committee*.  Competitions such as these stimulate and take learning out of the classroom, they impress upon our young people that a creative approach to solvi
ng problems is a valuable skill to learn.  Students also experience the challenges and satisfaction of more independent work. Winners or not, these academic competitions allow our young people to be stretched, challenged and ultimately rewarded.  
Nicholas Hammond

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