Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Dream teams

Dream teams

I’ve just written an article for an education magazine in response to the Football Association’s announcement that match results for Under-11 players should not be published: in other words, you can put that happy, smiling picture of those young players in the local paper as you always did, but you shouldn’t print the results. This is similar to an RFU pronouncement about Under-11 rugby a year or so ago which encouraged tournaments and competitions where there would not be winners (or losers). Both decisions are understandable and, from one point of view, laudable.

The rationale is that both organisations want to get rid of “win at all costs” mentalities among coaches and clubs (and schools, I guess), promoting instead the sheer enjoyment of the sport and the joy and learning that come from participation.

So far so good. But I often stand up in assemblies here at the RGS and say that youngsters learn quite a lot about resilience from the times when they don’t win, when they have a really tough match and either claw back from a few points down or fail to do so. Within that structured, protected 60, 80 or 90 minutes, they can learn quite a lot about coping with failure, which seems to me equally important to learning about teamwork: squads have to function as a team to be successful.

I don’t think those RFU or FA rules amount to a big deal: but we must not lose the demand for resilience from youth sport. It’s the main purpose of doing it!

This week life in the RGS has been more about teamwork, perhaps, than about resilience. We have enjoyed fantastic drama this week. On Wednesday I loved the GCSE drama group’s 40-minute gothic horror, devised, staged and produced by the students: excellent stuff – and great teamwork to bring it off. 

Teamwork was even more in evidence meanwhile in the Miller Theatre, not least because of the sheer number of students involved. The Year 7-8 production by Mr Gilbert of Seussical the Musical was stunning. It’s a non-stop piece, noisy, rhythmic, brash and “in-yer-face”: the young cast did it proud. This show relied even more than most on ensemble, excellent dancing - every arm and leg in the right place at the right time(!) - and great singing as well. Given the sheer number in the cast, entrances, exits and reactions had to be perfectly timed.   

So that was all about teamwork: it also required fantastic listening. Everyone needed to follow and respond everyone else, as well as keeping with the music (this production, for good reasons, used a soundtrack rather than a live band).

It was triumphant, and outstanding solo performances were enhanced by the excellent interaction between the lead characters (quite a number of them) and the chorus/singers/dancers. So teamwork was the overriding demand here, rather than resilience: although they had worked so hard to get to that level of polish (a level that I’m not sure I’ve seen bettered in a Blue Blazer show) that grit and determination were called for in another way - not necessarily on stage when the adrenalin flowed, but coping with tiredness at the end of a long term, still finding homework to do, the rest of life to encompass and so on.

It was a different set of challenges, then, than will face the Under-12 rugby squad facing some very strong opponents in Belfast next week. But that’s the point. Education is all about challenges of one sort or another: the variety as well as the level of those challenges, always urging them to be the best they can be, is what our boys and girls relish. And they rise to them time after time.

They make me very proud! 

Bernard Trafford

Headmaster