Building resilience and helping children understand the centrality of failure are oft-visited topics amongst educationalists. We are all aware of the dangers of wrapping children up in cotton wool and the challenges that lie ahead from those who have been sheltered from the minutest sense of failure.
It is common sense that we all need to fail in order to succeed. Many will know of the example of Thomas Edison, whose most memorable invention, the light bulb, purportedly took 1,000 attempts before he was able to present a successful prototype. ‘How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?’ a reporter once asked him. ‘I didn’t fail 1,000 times’, Edison replied, ‘the light bulb is an invention with 1,000 steps.’
In only a matter of weeks, we will be bidding farewell to our second cohort of Year 6 children who, between them, received offers from some of the highest achieving schools in London (visit our Destination Schools page for a reminder of the 2019 senior school offers). What the children have faced, with the competitive entrance exams to their senior schools, is rather raw potential failure.
Aside from the expert teaching and gradual preparation, placing our knowledge of each of them at the heart of the process, I was curious to hear from the children themselves, what they felt underpinned their success. Some children felt that they had been taught the ability to use and apply knowledge and to have well-honed exam technique through exposure to a variety of practice papers whereas others attributed their success to focus on preparation for the interview process.
All children, however, pinpointed the emphasis that the school places on the development of a growth mindset and the subsequent sense of resilience and confidence which they were able to foster to approach the process with realism and composure.
What we do well at Wandsworth Prep, is encourage children to take considered risks, be gently taken out of their comfort zones and develop a respect for their own and others’ talents. The fact that Wandsworth Prep children view failure as a natural part of the learning process and, as a result, are rarely deterred by challenge, I hope, will give them a slight edge against their peers when September comes; there will never be a more pressing time for them to use these skills.