Thank you for a letter of appreciation.

Teachers generally entered the profession to support children. Sometimes this means looking beyond their academic achievements.

Teachers generally entered the profession to support children. Sometimes this means looking beyond their academic achievements.

I always find it heartening to read about teachers who stand by their principles, especially when this is in support of their students. Teachers often work in a pressured situation where the agenda for schools is set by politicians and the expectations upon children are framed in terms that, in some cases can be intimidating or seem beyond their reach. Yet there remains a strong commitment within the teaching profession to maintain a focus upon the needs of individual learners and to celebrate their achievements and individuality.

A few days ago on this blog I wrote about three lads from a local school who had spoken to me in gloomy terms about their impending school reports and examination results (It’s a school report – not a crystal ball! – July 8th). I had tried to be positive and reassure them that there was more to life than end of year reports, but unfortunately it seemed almost impossible to shift their negative outlook. At this time of year, when there is an expectation from parents, teachers, pupils and inspectors that schools will laud their academic achievements, it is all too easy to lose sight of the other ways in which children can demonstrate their learning. This is why I was delighted to hear of a head teacher from a school in the north of England who has taken an initiative to demonstrate how much she values a holistic approach to learning in her pupils.

Rachel Tomlinson is the head teacher at Barrowford Primary School in Nelson, Lancashire, who as the school academic year is drawing to a close decided to send a letter to her pupils who had recently completed formal assessments . I reproduce it here in its entirety as I think it should be read by every exhausted teacher, anxious parent or concerned student facing the end of year results.



Barrowford Primary School has just over 300 children on roll, and it seems to me that being part of a school managed by a head teacher who takes such an initiative must be a terrific learning experience. The school has adopted a motto which states – “Learn to love, love to learn”. Such sentiments can often be tokenistic, but here we clearly have, in Rachel Tomlinson, a head teacher determined to live up to this ideal.

In recent years teachers in schools in England have often worked in a state of anxiety, in the knowledge that at any moment inspectors may descend upon the school and pass judgement upon the quality of their work and the attainment of children. The perception, one that has been sadly perpetuated by some head teachers, is that the only achievements that matter are those related to academic standards. To stand against this regime and celbrate the learning and broader achievements of  children has demanded courage on the part of teachers, such as that demonstated by Rachel Tomlinson and her colleagues.

This letter certainly made my day, and hopefully had the same impact upon those children, teachers and parents who make up the Barrowford School community. It says so much about the values of the staff who work in the school and issues a challenge to those who fail to see children beyond the end of year results which schools are obliged to issue and report upon.

As the end of term approaches I do hope that Rachel Tomlinson and her staff enjoy a relaxing well-earned holiday. They should do so secure in the knowledge that their commitment to recognising and celebrating the achievements of every child at Barrowford Primary School is appreciated well beyond the boundaries of Nelson in Lancashire.

Do please vist the school website, available through the link below.

4 thoughts on “Thank you for a letter of appreciation.

  1. Hi Richard – A wonderful letter. As educators we really need to continue to stand up against these high stakes tests that do little, if anything, to foster better learning. I wonder what would happen if teachers, as a group (because the repercussions for individuals would, I imagine, be draconian), just refused to cooperate?

  2. Hi Tim,
    Yes I was really moved by the letter. It is so sad that teachers should feel fearful of standing up for their principles. Perhaps this letter should serve as a catalyst for further action by others. Interesting that you can relate to this in Canada – what have we done to the teaching profession internationally?

  3. Beautifully said… I hope many more will stand up to speak about the meaninglessness of standardised tests, or the value placed on tests that measure a persons ability at a mere moment in time..

  4. This will take a partnership between schools and parents if anything is to be achieved. Unfortunately parents are informed about schools that are “successful” based entirely on test and examination results. Turning back the tide of apathy towards genuine learning will be a hard fought battle I fear,

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