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Trust in the benefits of failure

Published on 01/03/19

For many, faith is synonymous with the trust and conviction with which we conduct our daily interactions and, arguably, this exists in no greater form than in the relationship between parents and schools.

In education, we have the privilege of helping to guide and develop children as they journey towards adult life. Our parents have chosen to place their trust in us as educators with the expectation that we will fulfil our School’s vision, to help our pupils achieve ‘more than they believe possible’. For the most part, this faith-based relationship is untested: Claremont Fan Court is a happy school where children flourish, both as rounded individuals and in terms of academic success.

However, a significant part of school life for young people is that school offers a safe environment in which to make mistakes. When delivering a recent commencement address  at Harvard, J K Rowling famously said: ‘It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.’ If this sentiment is embraced, one must also accept the likelihood of some mistakes along the way. At school, as in wider life, mistakes tend to attract consequences. Reassuringly, at school, consequences are designed to provide the opportunity for reflection on the setback, as well as immediate encouragement to do better, alongside the belief that time and determination will overcome these setbacks. Nonetheless, it is at moments such as these that the faith in the relationship between school and parent can be tested.

At such times, it is important to reflect upon the hopes that parents and schools share – that is that the children for whom we jointly care will become young adults with a strong moral compass, willing and able to take responsibility for their own lives and positively influence those of others. Thus, we sometimes have to ask our parents to put faith in the benefits of failure and the judgement of the school as we together support their children in the difficult process of accepting and growing from the consequences of mistakes.

Mrs Helen Hutton-Attenborough
Head of Preparatory School