Rough Notes – March 2018

Woodroffe looks wonderful in the snow. Less so when the snow begins to melt. Much less so when we are trying to decide whether to close the school or not. This year, fortunately, the snow fell thick and fast making the decision for us. We were still left with all sorts of issues to deal with when the school re-opened: meetings to re-schedule, a drama production to re-book, and, above all, work missed in lessons to catch up on. With the new exam specifications, there is now much more content to be delivered and a day missed can have quite an impact not only on a teacher’s planning but student progress. We are now back on track, however, and heading towards the summer examinations with renewed vigour, thanks to a couple of days in front of the fire.

As expected, Year 11 are making good progress toward their GCSEs and we are expecting another year of strong results. Last year we topped the Dorset league tables in every category and we are hoping to do the same this year. I am pleased to say that the vast majority of students in Year 11 are working hard and are fully committed to doing their best, which is all we can ask. Similarly, there is a new air of seriousness in the Sixth Form as they prepare for AS and A Level exams, with most seeking to gain the grades they need to secure the university places they have been offered.

A lot of thought goes into choosing the right courses at A Level; much more so when deciding upon a degree course. Our students are fully supported through the process so that they get to choose the courses that are right for them. I have been disturbed recently, however, by media coverage of the plan to rank university courses on their employment prospects. If students start choosing courses solely on the grounds of employability, I genuinely fear for the system. Learning is about so much more than simply getting a qualification to tick a box and that is something we try to instil here at Woodroffe. There is something supremely valuable in choosing a course simply for the sake of learning. Moreover, some of the courses which don’t immediately seem oriented to career prospects turn out to produce the most employable graduates. A student who has spent three years fascinated by a subject, fully involved with it and keen to learn is infinitely more employable than one who has dragged his or her way through a vocational course because it has a higher employment rating.

There is nothing more dispiriting for a teacher to hear than the question, ‘Will this be in the exam?’ as if nothing is important unless it relates directly to the examination specifications.
With constant interference from politicians, it is hard to stick to the essentials but, at Woodroffe, we aim to ensure that students leave here with a love of learning and a real understanding of the importance of learning which stretches way beyond examinations and employability scores.

As always, the term ends on a high, with a week of celebratory events. First, the Spring concert, which showcases the musical talents of Woodroffe; then the Senior Awards evening, where we celebrate the hard work and achievements of the upper school; and finally, the whole school assembly in the sports hall – a unique event where over a thousand students and over a hundred staff gather together as the Woodroffe community.

Have a good Easter break.

Dr Steward