Assembly: Attainment And Setting Goals

Tuesday 15th September 2015

On Tuesday 18 September, Mrs Little, Director of Teaching and Learning, led the morning assembly and spoke to the girls about attainment and setting goals. Please find below for the assembly in full:

Attainment and Setting Goals

In Mrs Harrington’s first assembly this academic year, the aim was to encourage girls to think about goal setting by asking:

“Where are you now? Where do you want to be? and How will you get there?”

GoalDay to day goals give our lives a sense of structure, purpose and direction – we also gain a sense of satisfaction as they are quite easy to achieve and mostly well within our reach.

To help me set my daily goals, I use a ‘to-do’ list – there is nothing more satisfying than ticking items off the list when I have accomplished them. In fact, I am indebted to this man, Arthur Fry, can anybody think why? Yes, he was the inventor of the Post-It note. I don’t know what I would do without the little yellow stickers; my desk is covered in them and I was delighted to discover that there is also an electronic sticky note that I can also use to jot down tasks.

One of the great things about setting goals is that we can reward ourselves when we have achieved them. For me, I reward myself with a nice cup of coffee when I have finished marking a set of books or I go to the gym in the evening when I have achieved the goals that I have set myself that day.Post it

Goals become more daunting when they are longer term and they require persistence, resilience and challenge us beyond our comfort zone.

Some of the longer term goals that you will face have been set by others for you, they are part of the milestones of your life – for example GCSE and A Level examinations – you, however, will be the person that will decide most of your other longer term goals.

New beginnings such as the beginning of a new school year or the beginning of a new calendar year are obvious times to resolve to challenge ourselves and set goals. It is a fresh start that we can use as a baseline from which we can measure our progress towards our goals.

JanusNew Year’s resolutions stem back from Roman times: January gets its name from Janus, the two-faced god who looks backwards into the old year and forwards into the new. The custom of setting “New Year’s resolutions” began in Rome approximately two thousand years ago. On New Year’s Day, people were encouraged to spend the day reflecting on the year past and contemplating the year to come – by making resolutions.

Most of us will have set ourselves a New Year’s resolution but many will have failed to achieve them.

The failure to achieve goals can be explained by neuroscience which shows that the brain works in a protective way, resistant to change. Therefore, any goals that require substantial behavioural change, or thinking-pattern change, will automatically be resisted. The brain is wired to seek rewards and avoid pain or discomfort, including fear. When fear of failure creeps into your mind, it becomes a “de-motivator,” with a desire to return to known comfortable behaviour and thought patterns.

For those of you that have not tried to set a New Year’s resolution, you might trivialize the tradition but probably you fear failure or do not feel sufficiently driven about a specific goal.

As it is the beginning of a new school year, we want to encourage you all to challenge yourselves and set yourself new goals that you would like to aspire towards – don’t let fear of failure get in your way. You will all have academic goals that you have in mind for this year. I hope that you have already spent some productive time with your tutor to set yourself SMART targets that will help you work towards these goals. As a reminder, the acronym SMART stands for:


Being SMART means that your targets should be challenging but within your reach.

We urge you to make the most of the opportunities to review your progress and set targets, as it gives you a focus, allows you to measure your progress, and helps to motivate you. By sharing these goals with your tutor, your tutor will be able to help monitor your progress and give you guidance and encouragement along the way.

Reaching Goals

It goes without saying that our aim is for you all to reach your full potential. It is wonderful to see girls on A Level and GCSE results days glowing with pride due to their level of achievement. The success has to be attributed to a number of factors; in particular, the part that we play as a school and the part that you play in terms of your drive and determination.

As a school we pride ourselves on ‘adding value’ as we understand that pupils have a growth mindset in which your potential is not pre-determined genetically but can be developed through teaching methods that can grow your brain’s capacity to learn and solve problems. This is why we are involved in the neuroscience research projects with a number of universities to help us to further understand the ways in which the adolescent brain works and how we, as teachers, can best tap into the outcomes of this research in our teaching methods to enable you all to make good progress and achieve highly.

However, what you actually achieve is ultimately related to your mental toughness or grit and resilience.  Talent or intelligence only account for 30% of your achievement – therefore by far the biggest impact on your achievement is your mental toughness. This is good news as you can do a lot to develop your mental toughness by the setting of goals and the dedication to regular practice that will enable you to stick to your schedule. In fact, elite performers in various disciplines albeit sport, music, dance or academia have achieved their success, not through natural talent but through hours of practice. The raising of standards is not because people are genetically becoming more talented, but people are practising longer, harder and smarter.

Although we might be born with different levels of mental toughness we can all do a lot to develop our own toughness by practising smart and challenging ourselves by putting ourselves out of our comfort zones so that we can develop our own coping strategies. As many of you know, I did this last year when I conquered my fear and challenged myself to run a marathon. Running has been my form of relaxation for many years; however, I always considered that running a marathon was well beyond my means or my aspirations. Until last year I had only run a half marathon, a distance of 13.1 miles, which frankly was quite exhausting, so the thought of doubling the distance to run a full marathon of 26.2 miles was daunting. Having set myself the challenge, in October last year, I submitted my online entry for the Paris Marathon and instantaneously the challenge became a reality.

The date of the marathon was 12 April so I felt that I had plenty of time to train. Having read various articles about marathon training I realised that I was going to have to follow a schedule and slowly increase my mileage. As with any goal, I had a number of set-backs including injury and illness, in fact in early January, my longest run was only 15 miles and I began to think that the goal was well beyond my means. However, with some adjustments to my schedule I got back on track and little by little I slowly increased my mileage, in doing so I was increasing my mental toughness and self believe.

I also used a number of coping strategies, in particular, the use of visualisation by breaking the distance of each training run into many small parts. As the 12 of April approached, my fear was building as my longest run in the training schedule was only 21 miles, after which I was utterly exhausted so I couldn’t contemplate how on earth I would manage to run the additional  5.2 miles needed to complete the marathon . When the morning of the marathon finally arrived I was so nervous, in fact I shed a few tears, as I hadn’t practised those last few miles and felt that they would be beyond my means. With the support of my husband I got myself to the starting line at the top of the Champs Elysee and before I knew it, I was off! I was able to use all of the experience of my training runs to ensure that I was keeping a sensible pace and I was re-hydrating and re-fuelling myself appropriately. My spirits were high and I became absorbed in the atmosphere, with the crowds cheering us on.

Mrs LittleAll was going well until mile 12 when I began to experience some pain in my left knee which quickly became more acute, in fact, I was in agony by mile 13 and I still had half of the marathon to run! This is when my mental toughness set in; having trained for this event and having experienced various pains and injuries throughout my training, I didn’t even contemplate giving in so I continued to hobble along in agony and resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t achieve my sub 4 hour target time. I was unsure how I was going to get to the finish, but amazingly at mile 19 the pain seemed to subside and the final miles, that I had been dreading, were in fact not so bad. Below is a video clip of me finishing the marathon. As you can see, I was elated to have completed the marathon and fulfil my goal, although annoyingly I did just miss my target time by 5 minutes! Afterwards I discovered that my achievement was even more amazing as the pain in my left knee was in fact a stress fracture, so I had run the second half of the marathon with a fractured knee! This was a real measure of my mental strength (or perhaps stupidity!) as I didn’t allow myself to stop running despite the agony.  Little did I realise at the time but at mile 19 when I thought that the pain had subsided I had in fact run through the Pain Barrier as I had ignored the pain signals from my brain for so long that it gave up trying to protect me.

So I can happily say that I have proven my mental toughness and achieved a significant goal.

I challenge you all to be ambitious with your goal setting this year; use the afore mentioned strategies to develop your mental strength, don’t be afraid of knock-backs as they will inevitably happen. There is nothing more satisfying than achieving a goal when you are aware of the sacrifices, effort and dedication that has gone in to it.

I look forward to hearing of your many successes this year.


Assembly given by Mrs Gill Little