Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 6th november 2020
Welcome back! Although many of our half-term breaks probably weren’t quite so full of travel as we may have liked, I hope that you managed to get a bit of a rest ready for the remainder of Michaelmas. The boys are returning to the part of term we reserve for reviewing the targets that were set at the start of the year – seeing what has gone well and which areas remain for improvement. We have had seven teaching weeks of term now which might not seem like a long time, but it is actually a sizeable chunk of the academic year, and a part of the year when a great deal of curriculum content is delivered. As you will know, our pedagogical approach is not just about top-down delivery (even if there are some times when that is appropriate), but also about making sure that the boys are active participants in that process – taking on board what and how to learn more effectively as they progress through their time here.
That is why one of our housepoint categories is ‘reviewing and improving’, and I can speak from first-hand experience about the joy of being able to give those housepoints when you can identify progress from one lesson to another. There’s as much delight in that – perhaps more – than giving housepoints for just getting the answer right. It’s especially joyous if that progress has come through direct engagement with our marking and our ‘note to self’ system! Indeed, the dialogical approach to education only really works if that conversation does not just go one way. I went through school at a time when most feedback came in the simple ‘tick and turn’ format, with the odd ‘good’ put next to the mark at the end of an exercise. (Even when I went to university and asked for feedback on how I could improve one of my essays, my tutor’s unhelpful response was ‘Oh, you’re one of those are you?’ – I got my revenge by taking about five years to work out which century of French history we’d been ‘learning’ about.) Opinion remains divided about the value of reams of written feedback, but I remain firmly of the view that simple, targeted, discrete targets for further improvement are valuable at the end of a boy’s piece of work – but only if that feedback is read, digested, and acted upon. Hence, indeed, our ‘note to self’ system, and our insistence on these simple, targeted, discrete targets – for the sake of my colleagues’ writing hands and the boys’ own clear development.