We must take the blows and return stronger

19th September 2008 at 01:00

There is nothing that dampens the holiday spirit quite like hearing that your exam results are not as you expected them to be. I was on a cruise in the Caribbean when the news arrived (the news was a little delayed because of the difficulties of getting wireless reception on a ship out at sea . and the raging tropical storms). We were expecting great things this year, with a rise in achievement across the board. Sadly, this was not to be.

I am sure the shock of hearing the news left me with the throat and chest infection I carried with me off the ship. I know that every headteacher (and every teacher) who has gone through the same experience will know that sinking feeling on hearing such bad news. All that hard work without the expected outcome.

We pride ourselves on being child centred in our school and our disappointing results are a kick in the teeth. However, they have made us step back and take stock.

Once the news had sunk in, I had to decide what to do. How should I approach this with staff? Should I be blaming individual teachers or individual faculties? Should I blame the children or blame the system? However, our no-blame culture means that the only person I could blame was myself. Such is the mantle of headship. The buck stops here - and so it should.

Once the reality of the situation had sunk in we had to set about assessing the facts of the situation and decide what to do next. When things go wrong the normal reaction is to act quickly and "do stuff". Sometimes that stuff is essential and it makes us feel good (because we are doing something). But sometimes the stuff gets in the way of really drilling down and finding out exactly what went wrong.

If we don't know what the problem is we can't find the solutions we need to fix things and make sure they don't happen again. This is a bit problematic at key stage 3, because we have still not received all our results and our maths papers have not arrived yet and cannot be checked.

The initial analysis of our results had to be done quickly so that I could decide how to pitch things with staff on the first day back. Should I be cross, upset, angry, or all of the above? Should I be dejected and downhearted? Should I throw my hands in the air and give up? Of course not.

It is times like this when we have to pull together and find our way out of the mire and use our energy positively. It is the head's job to lead the staff in this task. This is where that key quality of leadership - resilience - is most needed.

But mustering my reserves of resilience was easier said than done. It is hard to pick yourself (and your colleagues) up after such a disappointment. So much depends on those results and the fall-out will be considerable, but we have to get on with it.

The new term started well and has been as busy as ever. We are taking stock and making sure we fill the gaps that we missed last year. We have a new key stage 4 curriculum in Year 10 (following a review last year) that will address most of the issues.

We must now make sure that we meet pupils' needs in Year 11 so that they achieve their very best. This work is underway already. Life is full of disappointments. Now we have to pick ourselves up and start all over again. And we will.

Kenny Frederick, Headteacher of George Green's Community School in Tower Hamlets, east London.

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