The start of a new year is always a very exciting time for a school, with over 150 new pupils, and 10 new members of staff starting at Felsted. Perhaps in the past, the school would be waking from the slumber of the summer, but with six weeks of Summer School, the Bunbury Festival, LEAP course, tours of South Africa and Florida, and huge amounts of work going on across the site, the summer is as busy as any other time in the year.
With so many new starters (and of course similar numbers in FPS as well), it is really important to ensure that everyone understands the ethos that underpins everything that we do at Felsted. I spent some time in the first Assembly of the year reinforcing the important and long-standing history of the school, dating back to the time of Elizabeth I, some 455 years ago. We still remain the only school to have educated a British Head of State, and were one of the founder members of the HMC. So, what do we expect from those who are part of the Felsted community? First, to recognise that this community is not just about pupils. It includes parents, teachers, all other staff, governors, former pupils, the village of Felsted, and our many partners and friends both in this country and abroad.
There are expectations of behaviour that are high, and of mindset and aspiration that are equally high, and I expect everyone to do their very best to live up to those aspirations. I expect that everyone will work hard. Success is only achieved through hard work in any area of life, and this applies at whatever level you are working. I expect that everyone will show respect for themselves, and respect for all others. I expect that everyone will take time during their education to reflect on their place in the world, and to consider matters of faith. I expect that everyone will value and embrace difference, showing friendship to others no matter what their background, beliefs or life experiences. In fact, we should all recognise that it is the differences that make each of us special.
As a school, we will seek to help everyone to develop as an individual, as a character, to make a positive difference. We also believe that every single person can improve continually - just a little bit better today than yesterday, trying to make that improvement each and every day. We do not stand by and allow standards to slip, but take responsibility for seeking this constant improvement. In this way, we can ensure that we can all be proud to be a part of Felsted now and into the future.
I thought that I would comment briefly on this summer's exam results. You will have seen the excellent achievements of many of our students celebrated already, and I am so proud of how well many have done. Top grades, top universities, excellent future prospects, and a fabulous example to others as well. However, these are not the whole story, and there are countless examples of students here who have worked incredibly hard to achieve remarkable results that do not necessarily take the headlines. For example, someone achieving a Grade 8 in English Literature GCSE, when their prediction was a 4; a 'U' in the mock turned into an A in the final exam for A Level PE; a student achieving 2 merits at BTEC and a 'C' grade at A Level, for whom sixth form study was never easy.
The reform of the exam system has made GCSEs and A Levels harder than ever before, and if anyone doesn't believe that this generation is working harder than any previous generation in order to try to achieve academic success, they are wrong! It is so easy for the press to talk about falling standards, and lowering pass marks, but these headlines mask the reality of dozens of exams, with ever more material to cover, and ever higher expectations on the individual. Fortunately, we all know that success in exams proves that you are good at exams, and success in life requires a far greater variety of skills. That is why we are fully committed to breadth of education, but within the context that we expect every student to work hard, and aspire to do the best that they can, because this is what will set them up to be successful in life.