Happy New Year. I’m never sure whether this really is the right time for new resolutions, but certainly let’s hope our Fifth Form and U6 have started the year with top energy levels, as they get on with their mock exams this week.
We’ve come back pretty early (virtuously gaining some learning time), in part because of our very early entrance exams, and it was terrific to see the School full to the brim, with close on a thousand entrants at 10+ and 11+ here on Thursday. Now of course it’s easy (and misleading) to make that some kind of boast: the process of arriving at our new entrants for September will take many more weeks, and of course it’s about more than the tests.
I’ve written about this before, I know, but I have no trouble myself with setting and requiring entrance exams. We’re an academic school, you have to be bright to thrive, and bright boys should be ready to have a go at exams, however nervous they are. But the exams only give a signpost to something else which is just as important as inborn brains: attitude.
They do signpost attitude in part of course, because determination, preparation and a calm head will make you perform better. But when we interview we’re also looking for stickability, a positive attitude, the ability to try again, application.
There’s been some fascinating research in recent years into this. What gives long, lasting, positive success to people is of course complex, but the part played by mindset is increasingly understood to be central. The Sutton Trust and UCL are amongst those who’ve published on this, as have HMC, and it’s all worth a read, though you’ll quickly conclude I suspect that Whitgift and schools like us have instinctively known this for decades.
And it has of course been instinctively understood for generations by sportsmen, by musicians and by those involved in drama. Individual genius is rare, special and to be celebrated. Most of us gain success, in its broadest sense, by our attitude, by how we use our gifts. By self-understanding, by hard work, by empathy, by reflection. And in that sense the traditional New Year habit of looking back over the last year, thinking about what went well and what we can do better, is perhaps after all the right thing, for all of us. Have a very good January.