Headteacher Rachel Tomlinson explains to her pupils that exams are not everything:
‘The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you – the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do. They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day…’
Headteacher’s tender note to her pupils goes viral
Lancashire primary school tells its children that within its ethos there is much more to each of them than their exam results
Helen Pidd, northern editor
The Guardian, Tuesday 15 July 2014
A primary school in Lancashire has been overwhelmed with support after the head sent a tender and unusual letter to pupils following their exam results.
Children at Barrowford school in Nelson, near Burnley, were told that the school was “very proud” of their effort in the Key Stage 2 (KS2) tests, but went on: “We are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique.”
The letter, from head Rachel Tomlinson along with another member of staff, told children: “The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you – the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do. They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture. They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day.”
Sarah Metcalfe, the head’s PA, told the Guardian the school had been “overwhelmed by how the letter seems to have captured the public’s imagination” after it went viral on Twitter. Another staff member said the school prided itself on having “a very different ethos from almost any other school”. The school’s motto is “Learn to love, love to learn” and it aims to ensure are pupils are “rounded and grounded”, with the “ultimate goal” to “provide individuals with the ability to learn what we need to in whatever circumstances we find ourselves”.
The school trended on Twitter on Tuesday morning, with many users suggesting that Tomlinson should take over as education secretary after Michael Gove was ousted in the reshuffle. Others said it should be the first thing in the in-tray of Gove’s replacement, Nicky Morgan, as she took office.
Barrowford, a larger than average primary school, with 324 pupils on the roll, was rated “good” in its most recent Ofsted inspection in 2012. Inspectors praised the staff at the school for providing “a warm, welcoming environment that builds confidence and supports children to settle very quickly”.
Just over 14% of pupils do not speak English as a first language and 12.3% are eligible for free school meals: both figures under the national average.
The school’s exam results have been slightly below average in recent years: last year 71% of pupils at KS2 managed to achieve Level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths, compared with 75% across England as a whole. This year’s KS2 results have not yet been made public.
As the letter was picked up around the world, some Twitter users pointed out the letter’s similarity to a research paper written by an American teacher and academic, Kimberley A Hurd.
In October last year Hurd wrote on her blog: “There are many more ways to be smart than what many schools are currently allowing. The current testing culture personally drives me crazy. It does not tell students that they matter. Tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each student special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each student the way I do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way the families do. They do not know that some of my students speak two languages. They do not know that they can play a musical instrument or that they can dance or paint a picture. Doesn’t that matter more?”
The school seemed to acknowledge debt to Hurd, retweeting a comment from someone linking to her blog.