We have been very pleased to welcome children back to school, and we are all again enjoying smiling faces and the energetic dynamic of classroom teaching and learning. We have been very impressed by pupils’ ready cooperation with special arrangements and by their efforts to observe good hygiene. They have also settled back to work after the holiday without any fuss!
A mother spoke to me a few days ago about her mixed emotions as her child began at secondary school; she was very proud and excited but also feared she would miss her child’s dependence on her. When our children are young, we make all their decisions for them; they look to us unquestioningly for guidance and they are open with their thoughts and feelings. The teenage years, as we know, can be quite different! You may have heard me say before that one school where I worked held an annual ‘Living with Teenagers’ evening for parents; the children soon asked whether they could have their own equivalent: ‘Living with Parents’!
We still need to impose parameters as parents and have clear expectations of our children, but it is quite natural that we also want them to become more independent, to develop their own views and to begin to find their way in life. This increasingly necessitates making their own decisions and understanding the implications of those choices. It is why we have renamed our PSD programme ‘Life Choices’. With you, it is vital that we equip our children with the information and knowledge to make wise decisions, informed by a moral conscience and a concern for others - because such choices will affect their lives. We have to be adept in schools (especially in the current climate) at making risk assessments, and exposing children to risk within a controlled situation (e.g. Duke of Edinburgh hikes) is another key aspect of their education – as how will they otherwise learn to gauge those risks for themselves?
When I see our youngest pupils, I never want to wish away their senior school years. I want them to love their time at school and, with our guidance, to rise cheerfully to inevitable challenges. For some, the pathway will prove rockier than for others, and it’s then that the support of friends, school and home are so important. I am immensely proud of the well-rounded and generous young adults who leave us at the age of 18 and my highest expectation as their head is not so much of what they can achieve (albeit really important) but primarily of who they become.
So, I hope your child’s passage through those teenage years is both happy and fulfilling; when it isn’t, we are here to listen and to help.
Headmaster and Principal