Testing Times


We are well and truly in the examination season and this can be a hugely stressful time for children, teachers and indeed their parents too! I know that examinations, testing and assessment can truly divide educational opinion but at present it is the universally accepted measurement of knowledge and attainment in academic subjects. This is true at all ages although I would certainly subscribe to the view that is against systematic testing of children under the age of 7!

Examinations however should not just be a test of how well you can revise or learn information; they should also assess the application of knowledge and understanding too. Exams also test hidden skills such as concentration, self discipline, resilience and commitment – there may be no marks allocated directly to these qualities but they underpin the learning process. Thomas Edison had to try 10,000 times before he eventually came up with the appropriate material for the filament of his light bulb and never gave up until he had achieved his task. He said later that he was pleased that he had found over 9,000 ways that a light bulb would not work. It is always a good lesson for children to hear that even failure is an effective form of learning and what better example than an internationally acclaimed and successful scientist. We should never be too afraid to give a task or challenge 100% because we are worried we may not succeed.

As Year 6 and Year 2 pupils move towards their final weeks in their part of our school, Upper Sixth Formers ‘stand down’ this week as they take their A Level examinations before leaving Westholme for the next stage of their career. As we wish them well I must thank all the School officers for their contribution and hard work – undoubtedly young leaders of the future. In this context we have also just appointed the new Heads of School for next year:

Head Girl: Olivia Ball Deputies: Megan Holden & Hannah Patel

Many congratulations to these young women especially as the field of applicants was large and very strong indeed. All candidates had to write an application (supported by two staff), go through an interview with the Head of Sixth Form with a staff and Sixth Form vote before being selected for a final interview with me. I was so impressed with every candidate and commend their resilience and confidence in applying for these positions. Those appointed act as role models and leaders of Westholme and I am looking forward to working with them and all the other Captains.

Leadership and teamwork have also been evident as our Junior School Council have been giving feedback to Mrs Laverick and Mr Haworth regarding the positive steps and changes they would like to see as the two schools come together in September. They have presented their ideas thoughtfully and discussed them with classmates, demonstrating admirable maturity and democracy – also qualities that cannot be examined formally but are so important.

One talent that we can measure is performance and Westholme featured significantly in the Blackburn Festival held here over the last few weekends. Our pupils walked away with most of the awards and showed skill and talent in music, drama and performing arts. I am not sure whether the dancing and singing in evidence at the Billinge House disco last week however was of the same standard. Many thanks to the Westholme Association for organising this lively event where the children outshone the teachers both dancing and singing to the ‘cheeky girls’ and ‘gangnam style.’ Infant teachers seem to know all the right moves but not necessarily in the right order!

Many of our pupils are committed to their goals in life. We have in our midst dedicated sportsmen and women, musicians, scientists, actors, mathematicians, artists and those who show great levels of commitment to an interest or activity. Equally, we are fortunate to have a great many pupils who are totally committed to their studies and achieving the best grades they possibly can to build a bright future. Whilst my time of sitting examinations is hopefully over, I do know that if I had my time again, I do wish I had worked that little bit harder.

Ultimately an individual’s personal success will reflect their effort and endeavour, so therefore we should not be afraid of failing but embrace the challenge with determination. At Westholme we provide an enabling supportive environment and the educational expertise to enable success but each individual child must work hard, be dedicated and committed, whatever their age. Examinations are a fact of life and whilst we as a school provide the necessary skills and learning for these assessments I would urge every pupil to prepare as thoroughly as possible and show the tenacity of Thomas Edison to succeed.

‘Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.’

‘The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.

Thomas A. Edison

Lynne M Horner
21 May 2014