Happy children are more likely to be successful... | Portsmouth High School

Happy children are more likely to be successful…

Children’s well-being is not a new topic for schools. For a few years we have been aware of the extra pressures facing pupils, whatever their age, and demands upon children alter as they move through school and those stresses also change with new technology.

Last Saturday we entertained well over 100 pupils taking our entrance examination and Portsmouth High School tries very hard to ensure that the candidates feel relaxed and at ease. We firmly believe to get the best out of children they need to feel confident and happy in their environment. That is why we hold an activities afternoon inviting half the children to one day and half to the other as we aim not to overload those unfamiliar with the school with too many new faces all at once. It also gives staff the opportunity to see in smaller groups how the children react to the games we play and the tower building challenge they are set. I don’t interview children who are applying for 11+ entry as in my experience children of this age either feel overwhelmed in such situations and don’t give of their best or speak too rehearsed answers to typical interview questions. We much prefer our approach to assessment and truly believe we get a fair result.


There were some anxious parents in the hall at lunchtime waiting for their offspring to emerge from our examination rooms and I hope they too found the PHS approach reassuring and welcoming. Certainly several parents commented upon our clear instructions before the day and everything we had done to ensure a calm atmosphere.

You may have read in the Saturday Times on the day of our examination an article (yet another) about how to be a better parent criticising those who want to be their child’s best friend. An American GP, Leonard Sax, reported on the lack of authority of parents and what he termed a “lost authority and (parents) would rather be a ‘best friend’ to their children. But Sax maintains that these BFF (best friend forever) parents are actually harming their children by not giving them the security of clear boundaries and rules for life”. There are occasions when parents need to be the decision maker because as an older, more experienced and therefore perhaps wiser adult they may be a better judge of what is best.

All the parents who brought their children to us on Saturday want their children to do well in life and happy children are more likely to be successful – it isn’t always that successful children are happy – which is why we place so much emphasis on the organization of entrance examination day. It is also why we value all aspects of success and it is not just about passing written examinations.