Results Day – celebrating success for everyone

Easter 2011. Thirty year 10 boys and girls, from half a dozen local secondary schools, go on a three day residential to Oxford. Today, alongside celebrating the success of Bolton School pupils, it is a real joy for me to receive an email from a couple of those students from other schools, telling me about their A level results, university choices and ambitions.


It has been a long journey from an aspirational trip to Oxford to some excellent A level results and heading off to study Physics at University.


First, there was the need to be inspired that an application to a top rate University was possible or even wise. Was it for people like them? Would everyone else be brighter. smarter, better?


Part of the answer to that was the collaboration with Bolton School, realising that our boys and girls come from the same background, have aspiration and believe in themselves. This is a very powerful aspect of independent –state school partnership – it is great for the teachers to meet but so much better for the pupils to understand each other and gain confidence together.


Then there was the need to choose Physics and Maths A levels, confident that they could get the results.


The partnership helped here as well. Joint revision sessions and the Ogden Teacher Fellow employed by Bolton School, working in local secondary schools, using Institute of Physics materials with the teachers to shape how they taught and how the pupils understood their physics all helped build success.


Independent-state school partnerships are not easy – there must be a sharing between professionals, each with something to give, rather than ‘good works’ given to the less well off. The relationship needs to be nurtured and cared for and helped over changes of leadership. To create a collaborative culture for the good of all students in an atmosphere where local state schools may be competing on exam results is challenging. To arrange the logistics of travel, communication, permission takes effort and commitment. None of that would happen without a single focus on the pupils needs and what is good for them, rather than what would be convenient for us. It also takes time – too often educational interventions are changed before they could possibly have an impact in our haste for a quick fix. We learn for a lifetime.


At one local secondary schools some boys who were in a year 8 reading intervention group run by our sixth form will get their GCSE English results next week. I hope and believe we will have made a difference.


50 of the Year 11 boys and girls across the state schools in Bolton were those who attended our very first Saturday morning aspiration raising classes in collaboration with the SHINE charity, all those years ago when they were in Year 5. I know we lit an intellectual fire in some as they joined Bolton School. I am sure we will also have inspired others who went to local state schools to success and belief in their talents.


Independent Schools have a crucial role as agent for aspiration in their local areas. I saw that with the emails today. It takes time, effort and commitment as well as some faith in young people. To share success on results day makes all that we do very worthwhile indeed.


About Philip Britton

Philip Britton is Headmaster of Bolton School Boys’ Division. He was brought up on Tyneside, took a first in physics at Oxford and did teacher training at Cambridge. He worked as physics teacher, Head of Physics and Deputy Head at Leeds Grammar School before moving to Bolton in 2008. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE for services to physics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics where he has been much involved in physics education, encouraging teachers to encourage the next generation of physicists.