The noodle-surfing champion

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The day-to-day grit and determination of caretakers, office staff, teaching assistants, teachers and heads to give of their best goes unreported once the exam result headlines are dry.

Well, the media circus about exams is over for another year. The number of requests for information seems to increase year-on-year with different news agencies requiring different data and then publishing some and not others.

Given that it can be confusing for those of us in the business, what real help do the myriad of tables in the newspapers provide for parents and students and do they reflect the essence of what makes a great school?

Despite these usual gripes, the first forays back into school life began well as we returned from holiday refreshed, looking healthier and several pounds heavier!

I was glowing following the discovery of a hitherto unknown skill and having been crowned the “noodle-surfing champion of 2013”.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the aim is to balance and then move across the deep end of the pool on a metre long tubular piece of foam – the noodle. 

I had it tapped, with graceful turns at the end of the length much to the amazement of my competitors, who at nine and six-years-old thought that this was really quite something. 

Mind you, the adults around figured that excess weight had something to do with my ability to keep the thing in the water.

So flushed with my success, I returned back to school in readiness for results days for A level and GCSE.

The exams team worked like a well-oiled machine as they downloaded the results ready for analysis. I stayed out of their way and tried to make myself useful by making teas and coffees. 

A level results were up, particularly at the highest grades which was pleasing as that had been a specific focus for us.

These were the first results for our recently appointed director of post-16 who has had a significant impact on the students and staff so it was all smiles from him, despite the challenge of a seven per cent improvement next year. We had very few issues to deal with in relation to students as all bar two of 140 got what they wanted and most knew they had been accepted before they arrived to pick up actual results. So far so good. 

One week later we were back for GCSEs. Same processes but this time much more caution and concern, especially given the uncertainty about English. 

As it turned out we maintained last year’s overall performance even with gains in some areas which was good for this cohort. 

The relief was indescribable. I felt that a huge weight that I didn’t even know about had been removed and we could now get on with the rest of the job.

This is how it is now; I’m not even sure that people know about the massive implications of just two digits. The media are all over it, this school up and that school down or slipped, heads choosing the various stats to quote, radio and television reporting live as students open the envelopes.

In some ways, nothing has changed over the 30-odd years I’ve been in education – students with good families who work with good teachers get good results. Schools can compensate for the family deficits if the students work with them. 

Some schools continue to make amazing differences to youngsters’ prospects but one week on from the media circus around exam results, where are the follow-up stories of how hard schools are working?

The day-to-day grit and determination of caretakers, office staff, teaching assistants, teachers and heads to give of their best goes unreported once the headlines are dry.

  • Diary of a headteacher is written in rotation by three practising headteachers from secondary schools across the country.


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