Sarah Wilson, Headmistress of Heathfield School, discusses the importance of ‘attitude’ and its impact on achievement and success

Attitude plays such a crucial role in life and learning – it determines how we react to adversity, overcome challenges and respond to those around us. It influences all our thoughts and actions, so it is crucial that we nurture positive attitudes in our students and that they understand that they can build these for themselves.  

In a school with students from a diverse range of backgrounds, there is a big mix of attitudes that have influence. School is about giving young people the self-belief and confidence to raise their aspirations, to personally determine where in life they wish to go and to grab the opportunities open to them. Some students arrive at school with incredible baseline measures, but unless they have the right attitude their predicted grades cannot be guaranteed. Likewise, those with apparently lower predictions may achieve well beyond what data suggests.

Heathfield School on the importance of attitude
Attitude can be the determining factor in success – more important than the ‘on paper’ measures students arrive with

For example, one Year 8 student was, on paper, middle of the road academically, but she had a fantastic approach. Halfway through the first term she decided she wanted to become a vet and she went for it! She quietly and determinedly got stuck into everything, even if it didn’t come naturally – debating, drama, sport, academic enrichment – she just kept going. As time went on, she started to rise above her peers. She is now studying Veterinary Medicine, having secured a place with A* grades.  More importantly, she is still friends with her school peers and has made the most of all of her opportunities. She’ll go far because she has the right attitude.

Students need to understand that effort and approach are a far greater predictor of success than an IQ measure. A young person who is positive, has a sense of humour, knows when to laugh something off and when to ‘think big’, will go further. School attitude is important here, so choosing a setting that values each individual, finds their aptitudes and supports them in areas in which they need help can make all the difference. All young people need to experience enthusiasm and inspiration at school and have access to positive role models. It’s crucial that they feel valued, value other people and see these positive approaches in action.

“We want students to try a host of new things – even if they don’t think they are going to be successful – failing can be part of the process towards success”

Confidence is vital, but, as we know, it’s not always ‘plain sailing’ – students may face adversity and challenge and need the resilience to keep going. We give our students planned opportunities to develop determination and tenacity. We want them to try a host of new things – even if they don’t think they are going to be successful – and to understand that failing at something can be a part of the process towards success. We encourage them to reflect on their own values – how these fit with those of their friends and community – and to consider how they sit with what they want to do in later life.

School is such an instrumental time for children to find out about themselves, to determine their own personal values and to move on into the big wide world with confidence. We empower our students with a sense of independence. They are in control and responsible for their own actions and attitude. Success is not determined by friends or future employers – it is up to them. Students with the right attitude recognise that if they put in the effort they will go far. It’s vital that we help students understand how responding and viewing things in the right way can positively impact their future and success – not just in exams, but in all areas of life.

Heathfield School

Further reading: More House School on the confidence-building value of creative platforms