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Snakes and Ladders

29 september 2016

I was playing Snakes and Ladders before breakfast with my son this morning: it was an early start!  He’s five years old and protested loudly when he threw the dice and landed a piece on a snake. It made me think at this early hour that this game would be far more enjoyable if there were no snakes!

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As I was trying to explain to him about the rules of the game, I reflected that this simple game with relatively straightforward rules is actually a reasonable reflection of our lives.  Bear with me and I will explain.

The board could represent our life.  It’s full of opportunities that help us to progress (the ‘ladders’).  Life also has many challenges and failures that are represented by snakes on the board.  For our children at the school, as they grow up, they will make increasingly independent decisions about how they spend their time in academic study, in ECAs, in spending time with friends, in exercising or indeed relaxing. 

They’ll do these things on their own, with us or with friends.  Sometimes the decisions that they make will lead to new opportunities that we celebrate (more ladders), whilst at other times our children will face challenges or experience failure or make decisions that we wish that they hadn’t (more snakes).  But what do we do to help them when they land on a snake, metaphorically speaking?  Well, we do what we can, we listen, we support, we try not to be judgemental and we share our own life experiences to offer reassurance and advice on how to perhaps make a different choice next time.

The rolling of the dice suggests that many things in life are unpredictable, as indeed they are.  Children don’t know when they will face real challenges, so we as a school community must be ready to support them as pupils and this is where our pastoral care systems can help – advice from tutors, and year leaders or other agencies, so that we can work together to support your child to help develop resilience.  The PSHE curriculum is aimed at discussing and sharing life experiences as learners.  We can do the same as parents.

What is important is that we help our children to step back and recognise the progress that they are making – they start at 1 and move towards 100.  The challenges and opportunities that they face may seem to loom large at times and we must help them to reflect on the fact that they keep going (develop their resilience) and enjoy the journey that they are taking.

Needless to say, at six o’clock in the morning, my son was more interested in getting to the ‘top’, but perhaps as he gets older, he’ll be able to enjoy the game even more and recognise that those snakes are merely a part of the game and to be endured.  If our lives were full of ladders, where would the challenge be?

This week draws to a close the first part of this academic term.  Your son or daughter will have now received their first tracker report of the academic year.  Please do sit down with them and read this through with them.  After Golden Week we will be asking students to reflect formally upon their grades with form tutors and subject teachers; to celebrate successes and to follow up on concerns and areas for improvement. This will help them to develop strategies to ensure academic achievement. Students have been given an explanation of what their grades mean in order to help them identify ways of enhancing performance in areas pertaining to classwork and homework, organisation and behaviour for learning.

I hope that you have a very enjoyable holiday and I look forward to welcoming you back to school on Monday 10 October.

Andrew Lancaster, Head of Secondary

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