Principal’s Round-up – 5th July 2019

Words. I was reflecting on the multiple meanings of words yesterday. It stemmed from a conversation I was having recently about mission statements and values. Let’s take the value of equality, one of our founding ICA values. What does this mean in a school context? Well, it depends which psychological contract you make with the word. Do we mean equality of opportunity? Equality of responsibility? Or equal outcomes and rewards? All apply. Clearly, only the first is achievable and probably appropriate for us. We know life is not fair and equal, but we can give everyone an opportunity. If they choose to mess it up, that’s their own affair. We cannot be expected to absorb conflicting so called ‘personal freedoms of expression’ if they clearly run against the consensus. It would be too distracting, and self-indulgent to do so. Too much personal introspection leads to self-fulfilling actions.

This fits nicely with the key messages that were offered from Public Health England about mental health and well-being offered from EduCare. We must recognise that there are bio-psycho-social factors that interact to form mental health. Nature (bio) factors reflect what young people are born with and the genetic tendency some people have to poor mental health; nurture (psycho)factors include how attachments are formed in early life, and what people grow up with; and social factors are linked to what happens to young people for example bereavement, friendships and school. School cannot put right what was damaged by parental conflict, domestic abuse, lack of childhood stimulation or genetics. Neither can it be responsible for friendship groups. However, Public Health England advises that school can have a big influence in helping children build resilience. Resilience is one’s capacity to face, overcome and be strengthened by challenge and adversity. It is fundamental to promoting good mental health. It requires us to have high expectations, good and firm discipline, and a culture of safe risk taking which allows for some personal failure that results in growth. This, it is suggested, is as strong, if not stronger, than therapies and counselling. Risk factors to mental health cannot be removed from any of our lives, but we can learn how to deal with them with the right kind of support. EduCare suggest that to build resilience in young people who are showing signs of poor mental health, girls require an absence of over-protection and encouragement to take healthy risks and boys require even greater structure, rules and healthy male role models. This leads ultimately to better attitudes and of course, better academic results. Humans also require a good diet, sleep, good housing and stability as part of their well-being. Sadly, not all young people have access to this outside of school. Barbara will be working on a mental health and well-being policy soon, and input into this from colleagues will be welcome.

We have seen a great deal of positivity, resilience and personal perseverance over the last fortnight both from the staff, and from students. The A level Art exhibition was presented this week. The standard gets better every year. I was amazed by the artistic quality and really feel that this work deserves a better venue than the Octagon. So, if anyone knows of an art gallery willing to display this wonderful work, please let Lewis and Tom know. The Green-power car raced in Newquay yesterday. This was the product of months of co-operation, innovation and hard work for the team. We have also enjoyed two events in St Eustachius Church. One was for Y8 where we celebrated Founders’ Day. This was to give thanks to the great men of Tavistock who donated land and money to create a school in Tavistock over the last 1000 years. We also took great delight in watching Y11 Graduation, where the majority of the year group gathered to celebrate the successful completion of compulsory education. A few were not welcomed, and that is as a result of actions that determined they felt they could take from the school but give nothing back. At both events students excelled and it was a delight to hear readings from the deputy head boy and others in the newly appointed student leadership team. What a standard they set.

In a similar vein, the Anchor group took time to make and serve a very special tea for their parents and carers on Tuesday. They designed the event, made the cakes and constructed the menus. I have had some wonderful feedback about that occasion. Some of these students, alongside others, attended the Devon Ability Games and came back ecstatic with their results. Some pictures are included in this edition.

So to return to the start, all of these young people have had equal opportunities to do well, to be nice people and to learn from failure and get back up again. Well done to them all. They are the role models for the others. As I said recently, you have to be bigger than your excuses. I look forward to the exciting events of the next two weeks, and I am, as always, humbled by the skills of teachers and the enthusiasm of youth to succeed to well.

Have a good weekend