This is the Headteacher's Blog which was first featured in issue 2 of The Burfordian, published on Friday 6 October 2023.
Burford School is a place of purpose and joyful activity. We are fully up to speed again with the multitude of sporting, artistic and academic clubs and societies. Also, trips have been heading off here, there and everywhere, providing students with opportunities to grow and find out who they want to become. All this is on top of an increased intensity in the classroom and around school this year, with dedicated staff chasing each student to be the best version of themselves academically.
Over the last two weeks, we have enjoyed welcoming two groups of people to the school at different life stages. Former students and staff joined us for the Old Burfordian reunion on Saturday 30 September and on Thursday 21 September we welcomed over 350 families onto our site looking to Burford as their future home of learning. I have written before about the theme of community. I cannot stress enough however how important it is and particularly the shared values that bind a community together. Whether a student from the 1960s, a teacher during the 1990s or a leaver in the 2020s, it is that which unites that we must always come back to. There will be differences of opinion between members of any group, and in a school which is 1500 students strong, experiences outside the school will vary widely. The joy is in the shared history developed within our gates.
Whilst touring former students around the school last Saturday I was struck by the level of pride they had in the school. Whilst keen to reminisce about some of the then rather ramshackle buildings, they were equally as keen to hear about the school today and the trajectory for the students coming in. It mattered to them that young people of the area benefitted from a similarly excellent education to theirs. And so, when touring families the week before, I was thrilled to see the excitement on the faces of year 5 and 6 students at the idea of becoming a Burfordian and joining a very special club in the future.
Earlier this week we held an event for the parents and carers of Year 10 students at the beginning of their GCSE courses. The goal of the event was to offer guidance on how best to support children outside the school in managing the build-up over the next two years. Within the talk, I referred to Natasha Devon who had delivered training to staff at the start of the term about managing wellbeing. Though simplifying somewhat, one of the key pieces of guidance she offered was about separating out what is controllable from what is beyond an individual's control. Focusing on the former is the key. When supporting a young person in managing a challenge it is important to guide them away from obsessing about something about which they have no influence. In the context of exams, it is the exams themselves that a student cannot control, only the preparation. Hoping that exams somehow go away or can be avoided is an unhealthy pursuit.
In a similar fashion, it is impossible to control the attitudes of others and only control your reaction to them. Where there are differences of opinion it is important to find where there is common ground and recognise what binds and not what separates. Whilst not ignoring a difference of opinion, it is vital for well-being to recognise that you cannot control how someone else thinks. I come back to where I began, those who choose Burford School are aligning themselves with a group of values and therefore for the most part there will be plenty of opportunity to find alignment.