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Student opportunity and achievement in the next phase of the pandemic. 

For over two years, we have all lived, learned, taught, and survived in a series of bubbles of change and uncertainty. In all of us this tends to trigger a drawing in of our personal, learning, and vocational boundaries as we look to stake ourselves to a certainty that we can identify or create. This not only is an understandable response to that feeling of washing back and forth in the waves, but also is a very sensible one in terms of allowing us to manage stress and health.

For adults, one way this has been visible, has been in choices to stay at home rather than leave (even through the periods when we did not have to!). Whether to return to work after lockdown, to attend events, go to the cinema or other activities that would have been ‘day to day’ before the pandemic, at each return from lockdown, adults were statistically less likely to do so.

For students at Tintern we have seen this in the trend of students narrowing and shrinking their educational landscape and the opportunities they take up. Again, this is understandable, as there has been so much disappointment when performances, debates, competitions, have not taken place, and in their return from lockdowns, students have clearly had less appetite for co- and extra-curricular opportunities as a result.

One of the greatest things about Tintern is the breadth of opportunities available for every student. Taking these opportunities, gives each child a chance to try, and learn from each one. They may not continue with it, in fact they may not even find that they enjoy the experience, but they will always learn from it; both about the activity and about themselves. Some will find it becomes an interest, for others it may become their passion, some even their lifelong commitment, and students’ learning and growth resulting from these choices will last much longer.

The other thing to consider is that all achievement and growth (not just academic) is the result of many intersecting factors, that tend to push it forward, particularly in the early years, or early stages of the experience. This personal growth and achievement arise from an inter-dependent, complex, and very individual web of role models, opportunity, encouragement, appetite, support, and work ethic, with a whiff of luck and timing thrown in too. Ultimately though, student achievement is student-determined. As parents, we cannot make it happen, particularly in the adolescent years (as we all know only too well!), and nor can teachers. It is collaborative, but in the end, it is owned and steered by the student.

Why bring this up now? Because now is the time for students to branch out and resume the seeking of opportunities, the taking up of the unfamiliar and the risk-taking that this always entails. We have reached a stage of uneasy equilibrium in the pandemic, and one senses this stage will be with us for a while at least, whilst our young people’s lives need to go on. We know there will no longer be lengthy lockdowns, we can be confident that we will not see the level of disruption to young people’s activities that occurred in 2019 and 2020, so ‘if not now, when?’ needs to be the mantra around this aspect of resumption, at school and at home.

If we are to shepherd our young people back into a ‘normal’ growth trajectory, a ‘new normal’, and they are to resume (or commence) a path towards optimal achievement in their learning and lives, we all need to step out beyond our boundaries of certainty that we have become so entrenched in over the pandemic. There is, particularly now, every reason for School staff and for parents to encourage our young people to reach out for opportunities, to stretch themselves, and to take some (measured) risks in their learning lives.

factis non verbis

Bradley Fry |Principal