I have been a teacher for 25 years, a Headteacher for 10 years and, at the age of 49, this much I know about what Year 7 pupils’ parents really worry about (and why your keepy-uppy skills really matter!).
I am convinced that the best pastoral care for students from socio-economically deprived backgrounds is a good set of examination results. I thought I’d state that clearly at the outset just in case I get attacked for being blobby and soft and someone seriously suggests that I should be sacked for writing what follows.
You can only be as happy as your unhappiest child. This ubiquitous mantra may have become a cliché, but if you do have children you will know it possesses more than a grain of truth. We worry about our children’s happiness endlessly.
When my sons went to secondary school above everything else I just wanted them to have a few good friends. I believed that academic success would only follow once they were emotionally secure at school. Don’t get me wrong – my sons’ academic success matters hugely to me, but only in the context that academic success will give them greater choice in life and so, perhaps, greater chance of being happy.
When reshaping the curriculum in these times of tumultuous change, you must begin with the type of education you want for your students. Next year all our Year 10s will be taught our new Happiness course for one hour a week. It has been conceived by our Religion, Philosophy and Ethics teacher Robin Parmiter, one half of @DiscoMisterUK, and was developed last autumn when Robin enjoyed a two-days a week sabbatical at the Farmington Institute. Students will learn about how some of the world’s greatest thinkers – including my favourites, The Stoics – have wrestled with the concept of happiness. They will then reflect upon what they want from life in order to be happy in preparation for the most important examinations of their lives.
Our school’s core purpose is to inspire confident leaners who will thrive in a changing world. I received this email on Friday which confirmed two things for me: firstly, that we are getting ever closer to fulfilling our core purpose and secondly that students feeling safe and happy is the bedrock of an academically successful school.

From: Peter Smith’s mum*

Sent: 18 July 2014 11:20

To: Mail

Subject: END OF YEAR

Dear Mr Tomsett

My son, Peter Smith will today finish his first year at Huntington School.

I am a very anxious mother, Peter being my oldest boy of three.

I imagined he would miss the bus, he would forget his sports kit, he would not know his way round the school.

None of these things happened – quite the opposite.

I am extremely proud of his first year with you, his progression in his education, his aptitude for taking on new subjects and ideas, his enthusiasm in areas I never imagined.

I feel content and enthused every day he comes to school, knowing he is safe, he is happy and he is growing into a (rather hormonal) confident young man.

As parents, we are quick to pick up on faults – I feel it is important to also share thanks.

So thank you Mr Tomsett, thank your staff and how jealous I am that you can do so many keepy uppies in your work shoes…… Peter has a whole new level of respect for you. (I coach football and can only manage 11 keepy uppies)**

Enjoy the summer.

Mrs Smith

*Names have been changed

**When I was on lunch duty the other day, a student’s football broke to me and, unable to resist the ever-present inner-child, I did a few faultless keepy-ups and thumped the ball left-footed forcing a great save from the keeper.


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This post has 11 Comments

  1. I had a couple of very bad years bullying-wise when I was a kid, but still got excellent academic results. It can be done, and it helped that my parents and the school were sympathetic (plus I had a decent social network outside of school), but I don’t think it’s sustainable in the long run. Anything more than a few years and you will break down eventually. Sensibly, I quit full-time schooling aged 13 and never went back.

  2. Yes. Yes. Yes. I always thought the ultimate end product of a comp was the piece of paper a student leaves with on GCSE results day. But it’s not. The ultimate end product is the pupil walking out with the GCSE results. What is on the paper is crucial. But the type of person they have become, how happy they are in their skin, how ready they are for the next step; these are critical too. Can schools impact on character? I know the answer is yes. We are not exam factories. We work with human beings. Bravo John.

  3. Only as happy as your unhappiest child eh? Love it. Holidays have just started and we’re already making plans of the next school year. Dedication.

  4. Funny how it is the little things that endear us to our students. Keepie-Uppie….or my amazing impression of a Tyrannosaurus Rex trying to drink from a water bottle. The things outside the classroom affect how we are seen in the classroom, just as the relationships that kids have with their peers affects their learning in the classroom
    Excellent post and enjoy your summer holiday!

  5. We tend to forget that the students see us as their parent on the side. Like potato salad they can munch on us and absorb some good calories, or ignore us for a later day. But we do count and reflect on them.

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