What makes a Hymers education special?
When parents visit Hymers, considering the school for their children, a question they often ask me is, ‘What makes a Hymers education different from an education elsewhere?’ This is a very fair question, but not an easy one to answer, because I believe there is a range of features of a Hymers education which all contribute to making it special. I have tried, in this brief post, to summarise them in a few words.
We are so used to the fact that the academic examination results which our pupils achieve remain excellent that sometimes we almost forget this essential starting point. I was delighted to read an article in the Hull Daily Mail in January which confirmed that A Level results at Hymers are head and shoulders above any local competitor. The article did not go on to emphasise a statistic of which I believe we should be especially proud: a Hymers Sixth Former is four times more likely to get a top grade at A Level than a student at any of the sixth form colleges in the city, including the highest performing one.
See article here:
When I meet former pupils of the school, both recent leavers and those who attended the school long ago, one of the things that they almost inevitably talk about is a particular teacher they remember whose lessons they enjoyed, and who inspired them to learn, so I am confident in identifying our teachers as one of the factors that makes Hymers special. Good teachers change lives by communicating their passion not only for their subject but for the joy of learning itself; they commit themselves wholeheartedly to their teaching and go beyond the basic requirements of their syllabus because they still enjoy exploring ideas, and they transmit this enjoyment to their pupils.
So a special feature of a Hymers education is not just that our students leave with an excellent grounding in their choices of subject, but that they want to continue to learn; something that is ever more necessary in a world which is changing so rapidly all the time. Good teachers also have enthusiasms other than their academic subjects, and an enormous contribution is made to a Hymers education by the wonderful range of co-curricular activities offered to the pupils.
Year after year, our teachers engage a new generation in the activities which will enrich their school and future lives: sport, music, drama, debating, quizzes, chess... And every year, something new comes along too. This year, a group has designed and raced an energy-efficient car, for example, spending hours in the work-shop perfecting it, learning together every minute, and enjoying the thrill of steering it round the track.
Co-curricular activities which take pupils off the school site and perhaps out of their so-called ‘comfort zone’ are of particular value in my opinion. Ever-increasing numbers of Hymers Sixth Formers now regularly visit local primary schools to help younger children with their reading, writing, arithmetic and even physical education.
This is a strand of our education of which I am very proud because it gives something of value to the local community. So many students involved, however, reflect on their experience of it, and say, ‘Actually I think I learned more from doing it than the children I was helping’, and the opportunity to gain this kind of insight is another feature of a Hymers education which I believe makes us special.
I have already mentioned the contribution of our excellent teachers, and I would return to this finally, and mention one further special feature of a Hymers education: our students know with confidence, as they progress through the school, that they are cared for and valued, and I believe this is the final element that makes us special.
Our teachers care and show that they care - in the classroom, on results day, through our programme of careers advice, in co-curricular contexts and through our strong pastoral system.
They celebrate pupils’ successes with them, share their frustrations and disappointments, and help them achieve perspective and the motivation to keep going. This means that pupils know they can always ask for help if they are unsure, talk to someone when facing difficult challenges, and not be afraid of making mistakes.
Schools are where young people start the process of growing up and developing into the citizens they will become. Good grades, a love of learning, a breadth of interests, solid friendships and a sense of belonging to a caring community give our leavers a secure base from which to build their lives, and this, I hope, defines and distinguishes the education we offer.