"Stickability" | Portsmouth High School


Our chief Executive, Helen Fraser, described herself as mildly obsessed about the “grit scale” and I wondered if you had heard of it? It was discovered by Angela Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania and what she believes is that an individual’s ability to stick at something determinates how successful an individual is in later life. It is a psychological category and you can, if you feel so inclined, take the grit test to see where on the scale you are in terms of your ability for self-control.

Perhaps on the back of this a book recently published called How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough, has received quite a bit of media interest. Tough claims that noncognitive skills, like persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence, are more crucial than sheer brainpower to achieving success. He links his experience as a journalist reporting on deprived and under achieving children in the USA with the 1960s marshmallow test—where children have a marshmallow placed in front of them and are told if they don’t eat it in a set time they will then get two marshmallows—the self control they exhibit in being able to resist the marshmallow he argues makes them more successful adults. There is an expectation in society that everyone will receive a prize and that more importantly everyone deserves a prize.

Whilst the unpleasant side of TV programmes such as X Factor seem cruel in the way that the contestants are publicly criticised and their talent scrutinised—it may make the individual more determined to succeed—to prove them wrong. It is apparent that children need to have character building experiences—perhaps it is the knocks in

life that make you stronger and more able to cope with what lies ahead. If children are wrapped in a protective bubble then they won’t have the chance to have to deal with situations that are unpleasant or uncomfortable. Of course innate intelligence forms part of the success picture along with family environment. However, there is no doubt that hard work and resistance, persistence, perseverance, and stick-to-itiveness play a major part in success. The grit test is worth considering, and encouraging children to stick with it, whatever time it takes, is worth it in the end.

The ability of girls to stick at it and persevere to good end was certainly apparent last week from the smallest to the biggest. We took part in the GDST’s attempt to enter the Guinness book of Records for the largest experiment; girls in years 6-9 participated led by Mrs Williams who explored with them the influence of gravity. We also took part in the Schools’ Shakespeare Festival with our own interpretation of Richard III as an underworld of bugs. Mrs Farnhill and Year 11 Phoebe Ruttle directed girls from Years 8 and 9 in this magnificent performance. The Gala Concert on Wednesday night again was an opportunity for girls to display their incredible musical talent as a great tribute to Miss Blackwell. The chamber choir from Dovercourt and the High School Dance Company also got the chance to perform in Palmerston Road and show off their agile moves and angel voices in the ceremony for switching on the Christmas lights. It is these opportunities that help develop their talents and “True Grit”.