10 January 2020

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Unlike some other British customs linked to 31st December – first footing, opening the backdoor and then the front door to usher out the old year and to bring in the new, not wearing black to avoid a death – New Year’s resolutions are still commonly made. If you did make a resolution, have you managed to last until the second week of January? Over 50% of people, apparently, fail before they reach today’s date. The most common resolutions tend to be replicated on an annual basis too. In 2019, the 5 identified above were the most popular.

Certain professions often make resolutions too. The Times Education Supplement recently identified a number of resolutions that are specific to teachers.  They included a ban on marking on Sunday evenings, so as to enjoy ‘quality drama’ like Downton Abbey. (From a personal perspective, a set of essays has never been so attractive based upon that alternative). Other teachers referenced the need to tidy classrooms, to throw away old resources (most teachers are terrible hoarders), to slow down in lessons to check student understanding, never mentioning Ofsted and, most importantly, to maintain and develop positive relationships with students and colleagues. Behavioural scientists and psychologists identify that for resolutions to be enacted they need to be habitual. Those who don’t plan will fail, but, as the old saying goes, if you want to make God laugh, make plans. Change is hard to achieve.

A school’s ethos is a reflection of what it hopes its habits to be and long-term development is always better than a short-term fix. Our ethos is long established, but we do have some school resolutions. In essence, they are refinements of what we already believe to be important. Perhaps our key resolution is to make sure that all members of the school community are aware of what we are trying to achieve and why we believe the following to be valuable. Therefore, we resolve:

  1. To think carefully in 2020 about how we can make each student feel a sense of belonging and happiness when at school. (Recent PISA analysis suggests that British children are the least happy in Europe – a terrible indictment).
  2. To encourage students to try new things and take advantage of the opportunities available to them. We want everyone to be an active member of the school community. So, join a club or society, pick up a musical instrument or try a new sport or activity.
  3. To encourage students to find a book that interests them. Reading provides escape, allows imagination to develop and introduces people to new ideas.
  4. To explain why kindness and tolerance are pivotal qualities and why making situations worse than they need to be helps no one.
  5. To keep talking with students about climate change and identifying ways in which we can make a difference and set a good example.
  6. To provide opportunities for students to help others in school, within the local community and both nationally and internationally.
  7. To help our students to challenge prejudice and cruelty and to understand the importance of tolerance and compassion.
  8. To encourage students to think before judging others, or reacting without thought. Life can be very complicated and simplistic or immediate reactions are often wrong.  
  9. To never comment negatively upon other people via social media. It is unpleasant, achieves nothing and creates unnecessary conflict. This is a valid message for everyone associated with the school; students, staff, parents and carers.
  10. To help all students to understand that education and learning can be transformative and can help open doors, both in the short and long term. Education can change your life.

These resolutions are relevant to all schools and are very relevant to us, but won’t develop into good habits unless students and all other members of the school community work together and understand their importance. On a personal note, my main resolution after Tuesday’s Celebrations evening, is to always make sure that I read the names of all those due to receive a prize. Genuine apologies to the family affected.

Mr O’Sullivan