Taunton School Main Building at Dusk

How do we define 'Success' at School?

Posted: 18th October 2018

This year as always, a large part of my Autumn term has been taken up with analysing the results of the summer’s examination results, be they for public exams, or our own internal ones. To help me, Heads of Department are tasked with authoring reports which assess to what extent the teaching and learning strategies deployed last year were successful. These reports are discussed in a formal meeting with the Headmaster and me. House staff have a similar meeting with the Head and Mr Burnett. The School then reports to Governors. A question which underpins all these reports and meetings is: how do we define success for a particular student or cohort?

The trouble is that raw exam results by themselves only tell a fraction of the story of a student’s success. School ‘league tables’ have long been shown to be flawed. Ofsted itself recently announced that it will be putting less weight, in its future school inspections, on exam results. And we all know that, at a school like Taunton School, academic work is but one of many strings which a student may have on his or her bow. Grades are certainly important, but our aim to educate the whole child means that we give oxygen to their many other rich and diverse pursuits, at all ages.

At Wednesday night’s Year 8 to Year 9 transition evening, Mr Burnett spoke sagely about the ‘Success Iceberg.’ If you aren’t familiar with this idea, I recommend you perform a quick search online. The nub of it is that the small portion of the iceberg above the water is the success that other people see, while the hidden nine-tenths represent the various (and sometimes unknowable) factors which contributed to that success. Mr Burnett went on to talk about the delicate balance between success and happiness at school, which is a theme I myself pick up on when talking about subject choices, particularly in Sixth Form.

The truth is that each individual student has to work out their own definition of what success looks like for them. This must be done in enough time for the student to communicate to others (family, friends, tutors, teachers) what their desired outcome is, so that all may support them on their journey to this goal. Where I have seen students struggle in the past, it is because they have not managed to hit upon a clear vision for what they would like to achieve at school, and therefore find it hard to articulate how to help them. So I would encourage all our students, as they unwind over Half Term, to reflect on what they would really like to get out of Taunton School, and return on 5th November ready to have that conversation with their tutors and teachers. Have a great break when it comes, everyone.

Damian Henderson
Deputy Head Academic

Categories: Blog Senior