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Principal’s Blog: This year I will…..

As 2019 has arrived with talk of ‘Veganuary’ and many other lifestyle changes for better health, at school this is of course our second New Year.  Our first in September always gives our pupils the chance to start afresh and embark upon the new academic year with gusto.  I wonder if New Year resolutions of intent are now outdated.  January always heralds the arrival of second chances and reflects the essential growth and learning process for children.  Even as adults we often learn much more from our mistakes than our successes and this is certainly the case for children who need trial and error to develop their skills from experience.

However, this relationship is not a linear one and the balance varies dependent on the age of the child.  Risk taking and judgement are both fundamental aspects of development through childhood, to adolescence to adulthood.  As toddlers learn to walk they fall over; they hold on to support; they precariously balance and topple; they finally progress from tottering steps, to walking, to running and jumping.  They could not achieve this without trial and error nor without the resilience to be prepared to get up and try again.

Adolescence creates a different set of challenges and, as I heard at a recent conference, the teenager’s brain is hard-wired to take risks. This is not a throwaway remark to explain teenage rebellion; moreover it is an essential part of evolution reflecting the need for offspring to develop the courage and judgement they need to function independently from their parents.  Societal norms in our country mean that most 21st century children do not have independence from their parents until their late teens or early 20’s, but this is a social development that has superseded biological evolution.  Young people need to understand what they can and cannot do safely; they need to understand what is dangerous but also when risks need to be taken.  Parents, nor indeed teachers, are not always there to intervene so this learning is essential…..in the same way that the toddler learns to walk, then run, then jump, maybe moving onto hurdling and cycling.

The advent of a New Year gives everyone the chance to reflect and take stock.  In school, it is the perfect time to review the progress and lessons learned in the Autumn Term with the aim of adapting and adjusting where necessary, for improvement.  We should not be fearful of challenge or errors …. But how we move forward is crucial.  Embracing challenge and opportunity is part of the learning and performance curve that we experience through in to adulthood.  If we can help get the balance and approach right for children, then surely they are more likely to succeed and flourish as adults.  Then perhaps every month, every week or every day can be a ‘new you’ because we are constantly growing, learning and evolving.  Let’s hope so.

‘To err is human; to forgive, divine.’ (Alexander Pope 1711)

Lynne M Horner

The Gift of Freedom

This weekend past has seen three days of Remembrance as we reached the centenary of the end of the Great War.  When the Prime Minister David Lloyd George addressed Parliament after the Armistice in November 1918 he said, ‘I hope we may say that this morning marks the end of the war to end all…

Back to School

‘Mum I don’t want to go to school today’. Come on now, it’s not that bad ‘It is, the work’s too hard, I never know what I’m doing, no one likes me. I don’t have any friends.’ That isn’t true ‘Yes it is. People keep calling me names and saying things behind my back, the…

A Community of Hope for the Future

As we move towards a Royal wedding there will undoubtedly be a proliferation of red, white and blue and union flags fluttering amidst that quintessential Britishness surrounding such an occasion. Hopefully this may be underpinned by a warm sense of bonhomie celebrating the Royal nuptials. Amidst the usual Brexiteering we have been shocked by the…

New Year – New you?

As the New Year is well and truly underway we have reached that awkward point when we can no longer say ‘Happy New Year’ as a greeting, even if we are meeting someone for the first time since 2017 passed. In schools, colleges and universities it is always refreshing to have two opportunities a year…

‘Joy to the World’

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” (Maya Angelou)  As we embark upon the Christmas countdown I enjoyed giving an advent calendar to every class across all three sites on Friday 1st December.  I…

Westholme Magic – Putting the sparkle into education!

Across the country this is the time of year for Open Days and Information events for parents and children of all ages. At Westholme we too have been busy with Open Day on all our sites and a forthcoming Sixth Form Information Evening; on such occasions I never cease to be amazed by our staff…

Success and Change

It is that time of year when students and teachers nervously await public examination results and see the outcome of hard work all round. On Thursday it is the turn of Year 11’s as they receive their GCSE results, but last week it was AS and the all-important A Levels. For Sixth Formers it is…

The Final Curtain?

As the cast took their plaudits for the final performance of West Side Story it marked the final few days of this term and the academic year. It has undoubtedly been a whirlwind year and we certainly finished on a high note. It seems a perfect analogy for our school reflection. Three Sports’ Days in…

Back to the Future

The iconic film ‘Back to the Future’ marked a worldwide cultural phenomenon and was the highest-grossing film of 1985; it launched one of the most successful series in Universal’s cinematic history. In the modern franchise age of the Marvel Superheroes, Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean, Michael J Fox and the DeLorean car may…

Spring Forwards…Fall Back?

We have reached that time of year when the clocks have moved forward an hour and the days are longer. Summer is just around the corner and everyone enjoys the apparent normality of travelling to and from school in daylight hours. Springtime is always regarded as a time of renewal and hope from the farmers’…

Lighting Fires…

Next week I will attend the Society of Heads’ Annual Conference. This is an opportunity to meet with fellow independent school Heads from all over the country, to hear inspirational speakers at the forefront of their field and attend practical workshops. The theme this year of “Lighting Fires, Not Filling Buckets” has been set by…

New Year – A Digital Detox?

2017 has arrived and, as always in school, we have a second opportunity to renew and refresh body, mind and soul. The Christmas holiday is always a busy one for families – usually enjoyable but rarely restful. However we have now passed the shortest day and we will soon race towards the new green shoots…

Remember Remember or Remembrance

It is November and the time of year when we reflect and mark two very different times in our British history. On 5th November we celebrate and remember the foiled attempt of the Gunpowder Plotters in 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliament. On 11th November we mark Armistice Day and then commemorate the…

Health and Happiness

You know you are a teacher when…… ‘The New Year means September – not January like the rest of the country.’ ‘You get excited by a visit to WH Smith and a new range of post-its.’ ‘You keep telling your friends to put their chewing gum in the bin.’ ‘The urge to tell all and…

Community, Compassion and Cohesion

A few weeks ago, accompanied by staff and pupils, I attended the Civic Ceremony marking the installation of the new Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen at Blackburn Cathedral. The service is an annual occasion that follows the political proceedings at the Town Hall some days before, when the Mayor from the previous year hands over…

Be Yourself

‘Be yourself, everyone else is taken’ – Oscar Wilde There is no doubt that young people are under pressure to conform these days undoubtedly due to the explosion of mass communication and subsequent visibility. Websites, television, streaming, chat rooms, social media, CCTV, tablets, smart phones, 24 hour media coverage are all available 24/7. The dynamic…

‘You were lucky…..’

• T S Eliot described April as the cruellest month in his poem The Waste Land.• The third Monday in January – Blue Monday – allegedly the most depressing day of the year.• Winter solstice mid December is the shortest day of the year – least daylight – contributing to seasonal affective disorder. Suggesting that…

www = what, when, why?

As a Headteacher I am bombarded daily with information, circulars, junk mail and speculative chancers hoping to elicit business for their company! The freedom and openness created by the World Wide Web and flexibility of electronic mailing and communication clearly have downsides, as well as advantages. However for our pupils, they are the digital natives…