This blog is intended to give an insight into daily life at Blundell's as seen through the eyes of its Head.
With fortnightly updates on new initiatives, themed days and general observations, it will give current and prospective parents some idea as to what goes on behind the scenes at this thriving co-educational school.
We have just finished our trial exams for Years 11 and 13. There is always much discussion in a school as to the best time for pupils to write these exams; later in the term would ensure that the entirety of the syllabus can be tested but not leave much time for a response, before the Christmas holidays means pupils can go into the break with a clear idea of their progress, but they are very tired at that point. We choose to have ours now as, although it makes it tough on pupils that they have to study through the Christmas holidays, the advantage is that all of them have early revision ‘in the bank’ and there is plenty of time to build on, and learn from, the experience.
Inevitably, there will be pupils who come out of these trial exams having performed below their expectations. Particularly for our A-Level pupils with ambitious offers in place for their chosen University, this can lead to anxiety. Anxiety and the consequential stress this causes is something of which the media makes a great deal. Although it is good that attention is drawn to the dangers of stress and the unhealthy behaviour often associated with it, we do need to exercise some caution in not labelling all stress as being negative or destructive, or something to fear. Stress is an absolute requirement for survival.
This Harvard Medical School article describes the physiological response to stress very neatly and it also discusses the necessity of the physical and psychological reactions to our ‘fight-or-flight’ instinct.
A pupil with a disappointing set of grades can respond to their stress in one of two ways: they can stay in bed and avoid work hoping that in one way or another the problem will go away or resolve itself (it won’t!), or they can ‘fight’. They can pick themselves up, engage with their work, seek help and advice from teachers, set out a clear course of action, and get back into good and healthy work and exercise routines. I think you can guess which path the school would advise.
I have written about stress before and I am a firm believer that not all stress is bad stress. Stress can be of great assistance in initiating a constructive response to challenging circumstances. At school we do everything we can to ensure that stress remains a constructive aspect of the learning process and not a destructive one.
We feel teaching pupils to deal with stress is a vital part of our role as a school, and over the next few weeks my blog will set out what a coherent action plan might look like for exam-writing pupils between now and the summer. I will also explain the strategies the school uses to support pupils who all will be experiencing exam related anxiety in the coming months.