How to achieve your goals

As a Headmaster, something which naturally weighs on my mind is pupils’ futures, both at Bethany and elsewhere.  We all wonder where this generation’s future lies and I think we can probably agree that the answer is that nobody knows.  I think it’s part of the cycle of life that each generation despairs of the next and yet somehow we all made it.  My parents for example worried about my generation.

However, I came across an article recently on ‘10 tips to achieve anything you want in life’ by Olympic athlete Inga Stasiulionyte and it struck me that while technology moves at a faster and faster pace, and our children are starting to speak a language we don’t always understand, some stalwarts of life remain.  If you want to be successful in life, however that looks for each individual person, perhaps see how many of Ms Stasiulionyte’s tips you already do and how many others you could consider embracing.

  1. Focus on commitment, not motivation.

Just how committed are you to your goal? How important is it for you, and what are you willing to sacrifice in order to achieve it? If you find yourself fully committed, the motivation will follow.

  1. Seek knowledge, not results.

If you focus on the excitement of discovery, improving, exploring and experimenting, your motivation will always be fuelled. If you focus only on results, your motivation will vary.  It will be good when you get good results and not so good when you get poor results. So the key is to focus on the journey, not the destination. Keep thinking about what you are learning along the way and what you can improve.  Success in life is a process of continuous improvement.

  1. Make the journey fun.

Life is too short to be miserable.  Yes, working is serious but there is humour everywhere.  The trouble with taking things too seriously is that it will start to be like carrying a heavy emotional weight and you will lose perspective and become demotivated, inward-looking and ultimately unhappy.

  1. Get rid of negative thoughts.

Thoughts influence feelings, and feelings determine how you view your work. You have a lot of thoughts in your head, and you always have a choice of which ones to focus on: like fears or doubts or more positive ones that will move you forward (excitement, experimenting, trying new things, stepping out of your comfort zone).  I know that as a Headmaster, if I did not look on the positive side I would be unable to operate as a front-runner.  Furthermore, as a leader even if I do not feel positive about something, I must nonetheless appear to be positive, since that generates confidence in other people.  If I have a positive day at work, I go home with high levels of energy.  If I have a negative day at work, I go home tired; negative energy is tiring.  Every problem is stage one of a solution.

  1. Use your imagination.

The next step after getting rid of negative thoughts is to use your imagination. When things go well, you are full of positive energy, and when you are experiencing difficulties, you need to be even more energetic. Remember that the most important word is ‘yet’.  The expression, ‘I cannot solve this problem’ can be replaced with, ‘I cannot solve this problem, yet.’  That simple three letter word can make the world of difference.

  1. Stop being nice to yourself.

Motivation means action and action brings results. Sometimes your actions fail to bring the results you want. So, you prefer to be nice to yourself and not put yourself in a difficult situation. You wait for the perfect timing, for an ideal opportunity. Get out there, challenge yourself, do something that you want to do even if you are afraid.  Remember we have all got to take responsibility for our own actions.  We receive praise when we do things well and criticism when things do not go so well.  If you fall off the bike get back up and start cycling again.

  1. Get rid of distractions.

Meaningless distractions will always be in your way, especially those easy, usual things you would rather do instead of focusing on new challenging and meaningful projects. Learn to focus on what is the most important. Write a list of things that waste your time and hold yourself accountable to not do them.  That may well mean for example turning your phone off and not using any form of social media while you work.

  1. Don’t rely on others.

You should never expect others to do it for you, not even your best friends who most likely will be busy with their own needs. No one will make you happy or achieve your goals for you. It’s all down to you.  Remind yourself that your goals are for you to own and for you to achieve.

  1. Plan

Know your next three steps forward. You do not need more. Create and stick to a weekly calendar, noting when you will do, what you will do and how you will do. The when-what-how is very important when it comes to planning.  Review how each day went by what you learned and if you need to change things to improve matters then make the necessary changes.

  1. Protect yourself from burnout.

It’s easy to burn out when you are very motivated. Be self-aware and try and recognize any signs of tiredness and take time to rest. Your body and mind rest when you plan relaxation and fun time into your weekly calendar. There is an expression which says that variety is the spice of life so do different tasks, keep switching between something creative and logical, something physical and still, working alone and with a team. Switch locations from time to time if that helps.

You may lack motivation not because you are lazy or don’t have a goal. Even the biggest stars, richest business people or the most accomplished athletes get lost sometimes. What makes them succeed is the curiosity about how much better they can become. So above all, be curious stay curious, believe in yourself, and this will lead you to your goals and success.

Ultimately hard work in a planned and consistent way will bring you much more success than simply talking about doing work or putting off work until tomorrow.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.  Stay focused, motivated, positive, don’t be too nice to yourselves, get rid of unnecessary distractions and plan properly and you will achieve your goals while having a little bit of fun along the way.

Success breeds success..


The importance of effective communication


Communication matters. It’s more than just talking, it’s being on the same page as your colleagues and peers, delivering the correct message and encouraging better understanding from the sender to the receiver.

This is vital within a school environment. The success and happiness of our pupils is of paramount importance and effective communication in Bethany School contributes wholesomely to both.

As children, we learn basic communication skills by observing others and modelling those behaviours based on what we see. As teachers, we encourage our pupils to become good communicators in order to stimulate thinking, within our positive school environment.

Eco SchoolsLast week, our Eco-Schools group delivered a chapel service to the Whole School community. They had worked incredibly hard to plan the session and get the information across to their peers. The Eco “Warriors” conveyed the message to staff and pupils that our environment is depleting and if we don’t do something about it soon, humans could face drastic changes to our planet.

It was heartwarming (no pun intended!) to see the professionalism of the pupils as they worked together to communicate this message to the School community. The American author, Lawrence Clark Powell once said: “write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow” and I think this quote resonates well with the Eco-Schools collective.

Listening is vital for effective communication. Rather than the mere exchanging of information, it’s also about understanding the emotions and intentions of that material. This is important for building relationships with our pupils as it breaks down barriers and helps us convey a clear message.

It has been proven that communicating effectively with parents can contribute to the success of pupils. At the start of the new School year, (having communicated with parents), we implemented a new mobile phone policy in order to reduce screen-time for our pupils, thus resulting in better concentration in class and more interaction with each other face to face during the day.

Constant communication with our parents helps to bridge the gap and enable them to feel more involved in school life. We have a fantastic team in FOBS (Friends of Bethany School) who are able to take on an influential role within the School community and are excellent parental ambassadors for the School.

Communication is not only about understanding and acknowledgement: it involves agreement and commitment from everyone involved. I remain immensely grateful to colleagues, parents and pupils for their unswerving support in helping each and all of us to be appreciated and respected for who we are. This is achieved through honest and sensitive communication on all sides.


Forgive but do not forget

During the Easter holidays, I spent a week in Germany and met many lovely people. Frances and I also visited the Dachau concentration camp memorial site during our visit and this had a most profound effect on both of us.

It made me realise just out cruel people can be to one another in extreme situations. I also started to think about how such acts of savagery could ever be forgiven.

Of course, since then, there has been the indiscriminate murder of the journalist Myra McKee in Northern Ireland and the senseless bombing in Sri Lanka which killed hundreds of people.

These also made me think about forgiveness and how hard it can be to forgive. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain of the relatives involved in such despicable outrages. How can we ever forgive human atrocities?

gus-moretta-371897-unsplashForgiveness can be very difficult. When someone does something wrong to you, it often takes time and effort to get beyond what was done and to forgive.

With the rise of social media and the 24/7 consumption, we are living in a time where personal insults and messages of hate can be glorified and magnified on social media and with this blatant disregard of other people’s feelings, a minority of young people follow suit and see forgiveness as a sign of weakness.

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offences.

Forgiveness is such a vital key to our growth and happiness as human beings. William Shakespeare once said: “to err is human; to forgive, divine”. When we hold on to hurt, pain, resentment, and anger it harms us far more than it harms the offender. When we see other people forgive they grow in our respect.

Forgiveness isn’t something you do for the other person. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself and if it can help you heal, why is it so hard?

The weak can never forgive

There are several reasons: You are filled with thoughts of retribution or revenge; you enjoy feeling superior; you don’t know how to resolve the situation; you’re addicted to the adrenaline that anger provides; you self-identify as a “victim”, or you are afraid that by forgiving you have to re-connect with the aggressor.

Forgiveness requires feeling willing to forgive. You have to be willing to forgive before you can actually forgive. If you forgive and let go of the anger and hurt you are letting go of negative destructive emotions.

Do not let the injustice or unfairness that was done to you in the first place define you. You are better than this. Let it go, lose the unwanted baggage and move on.
If you are the one who has done wrong then remember that mistakes are always forgivable if you have the courage to admit them.

“Darkness can never drive out darkness, only light can drive out darkness. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can drive out hate.”

The stupid neither forgive nor forget, the naive forgive and forget, the wise forgive but do not forget.

It is possible to forgive but not forget. Be the better person and do the right thing.

Teamwork makes the dream work

As we end the Spring term with our annual Sports Awards Dinner, I am able to appreciate the sense of unity, passion and potential we have in one room. Teamwork is vital, not only within sport but across the thriving departments we have here at Bethany School.



I believe promoting teamwork in school stems from a core senior leadership team who practice clear communication, define responsibility, conflict resolution and remaining positive.

There has been a plethora of achievements at the School this term in all aspects of Bethany life – Academic, Performing Arts and Sport – that all required teamworking skills to be successful.

Most recently, Year 7 were off timetable last week to complete their first Project Based Learning (PBL) experience. They were challenged with this question: “How can you improve life for people with a disability?” PBL brings out the best in our pupils; and the staff who led the project were impressed with the high level of engagement and persistence they demonstrated. PBL also encourages our pupils to work in teams as they seek to find solutions to problems and work to tight deadlines.

PicMonkey Collage

Last month, we were delighted to announce that a team from Bethany School won a special award prize at the Big Bang Competition in Birmingham. Three Year 9 and 10 pupils beat thousands of applicants from across the country to win the Protecting the Environment Award for their ‘MAW’ heating solution.

Bethany School

They had to come up with an idea that was simple, cheap and made from readily available materials and they also wanted the heater to be able to be recreated anywhere in the world. The team faced challenges and problems along the way which they had to work together to resolve.

Recently, Bethany School achieved a Wellbeing Award, which is a celebration of the excellent pastoral care offered to the whole School body, pupils and staff alike.


We hosted our annual Sports Dinner last night where we celebrated the wondering sporting achievements of our pupils and their sports teams. The sense of togetherness, camaraderie and unity of purpose which our various sports team displayed in the last 12 months was universally praised and acknowledged.

IMG_4666Our Guest of Honour, Mimi Anderson, who calls herself ‘Marvellous Mimi’ on social media and she certainly lived up to her name. Her truly engaging and inspiring speech captured the audience from start to finish. She spoke about the importance of teamwork and where that can lead you in later life and the obstacles she has overcome.
The Guinness World Record Holder finished her speech with this message: “Believe in yourself and believe in your abilities.” This message resonated wonderfully well with the audience.

With the Government recently announcing that an expert advisory group is going to look at how teachers and school leaders can be better supported, it has never been more important to work together in order to have happy and motivated pupils in the classroom. I’m proud to say that this is something that Bethany does wonderfully well.

There is no “i” in Bethany and there is no “i” in team and Bethany is a collection of outstanding teams both inside and outside the classroom.


Getting sySTEMatic with Science

A successful school does not end at the boundaries of the classroom or at the end of a school day. For the creative and inventive it never ends! It is time for pupils to get their feet wet with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) ideas.

Bethany School

One Bethany School STEM team did exactly that by designing a solar air heater from aluminium cans, and the other team decided to restore a Honda MT-50 motorbike. Both projects reached the national finals at the Big Bang Competition in Birmingham which was a terrific achievement.

At the show, the finalists talked about their design plans, improvements and applied what they have learnt over a period of one year. STEM pupils use simple materials to enjoy hours of fun!

_DSC3551Throughout their STEM journey – that culminates at the Big Bang national competition – pupils learn through interactions with their peers and the diverse questions they must answer from thousands of visitors who visit the pupils’ exhibition stand.

The teacher serves as a facilitator among a collaborative group of innovative pupils. This approach is founded on the principle that innovators and designers are born out of young scientists who are curious about how engineering and science can solve life problems.

The judges scored a project on four key areas: project concept, process, outcomes, and personal skills. Our Bethany participants impressed the judges in these areas.

In STEM, the pupils understand that each person in the collaborative group has different ideas that will solve the problem through their critical and creative thoughts.

The Big Bang competition also inspires young people to think and behave like seasoned scientists and engineers. The pupils explore an area of interest and develop their independent thinking skills. By attending the finals, our pupils had an opportunity to celebrate and share their achievements with the wider community and media. They have had opportunities to network with like-minded peers, members of the industry including STEM employers._DSC3716

One of the Bethany STEM teams won the Protecting the Environment Award for their innovative ‘MAW’ heating solution, along with a cash prize of £500. To win the special prize award, pupils had to design a project that gives the world more productive, energy efficient and sustainable solutions.

Bethany pupils demonstrated an innovative design to solve an environmental problem and deserve to be also rewarded with an experience day at one of Air Products Plants.

Max Brown, co-creator and one-third of MAW, said: “I found it fascinating talking to people of similar age about their incredible projects and talking to many of the big companies that showcase what jobs they have to offer. It allowed me to understand that STEM opens a huge amount of opportunities when it comes to finding a job. During the award ceremony I wasn’t expecting to win anything because I knew that to win just a single award is an incredible achievement because of the many high-quality projects that were exhibited, however I was filled with joy and happiness when I heard that we had won the “Air Products, Protecting the Environment Award”. It was a truly incredible experience that I don’t think I will ever forget, and I will continue to work and create STEM projects in the future.”

The scope of the competition is broad: from technology to the environment. The project can be an invention, an intention, or research work. What matters most is the enthusiasm behind it so well done to our pupils at Bethany School for being some of the very few winners from Kent. STEM works!

Apprenticeships: a growing opportunity

Apprenticeships in this country can be traced back to the guilds of the Middle Ages, when upper-class families would send their children away to learn medieval crafts; an acceptable choice for a well to do family. Since then, the number of apprentices has risen and fallen over the years and after peaking in the 1960s there was a slow decline and in 1995 there were half as many apprentices in employment as there were in 1979.

When I left School, going for an apprenticeship wasn’t a popular option if you were academically able. Things are certainly changing. Since Modern Apprenticeships were introduced in 1993, the scheme has substantially improved, and with more and more A level candidates eyeing the expense of university with some trepidation and scepticism, going down the apprenticeship route can be a sensible and viable alternative.

From 2006, apprenticeships across the country began a journey of popularity and expansion, from only 175,000 vacancies being available then to now over 500,000 programmes at all levels. While the original apprentices were very much ‘hands on’, with young people learning the crafts of the time, these days they are available in many areas of business and industry such as Business & Law, Engineering and Manufacturing and Health & Care Services. Indeed the top apprenticeships are more difficult to secure than an Oxbridge place.

This week is National Apprenticeships Week, which provides a fantastic opportunity for pupils to think about their future careers and the various options available to them after they leave school. The many benefits for young people to work and learn at the same time, gaining real work experience, improving employability and developing skills are undeniable. Arguably, they have significant advantages over those who have gone the university route but have no actual experience of the workplace and in most cases, a large debt which will take them many years to pay off.

Ollie Khan, former Bethany School pupil, is currently completing his Level 4 apprenticeship with Red Carnation Hotels after achieving an A* in Business Studies, B in Finance and a B in Media Studies at A level.

Simon Duff, Head of Careers, said: “Apprenticeships are a growing sector, with many industries embracing them and the opportunities that they present are outstanding. At Bethany, we will always inspire our pupils to love what they learn and in regard to life post-Bethany, we must also encourage them to love the way they learn as well. University isn’t for everyone and we are fully committed to both Level 3 Apprenticeships (post A level) and Level 4 Degree Apprenticeships (where you get a degree as well, with tuition fees paid for).”

This week at Bethany, our Careers department will be supporting NAW by sending out a ‘resource of the day’ to tutees and a ‘webinar of the day’, showing the opportunities of becoming an apprentice. Staff are encouraging conversations with our pupils about their aspirations for the future and I think it can only be a good thing that they have apprenticeships as a good option to consider along with all the other choices young people have today for a successful and happy future in a career they love.

The two keys to success in life

What does success mean to you? Perhaps it’s buying the car of your dreams, receiving a pay rise at work or living in a luxurious house? Sometimes success can often be misconstrued with wealth. When I think of success, I think of achieving a dream or desire which leads to overall happiness.

We are constantly bombarded with social media messages which imply that other people’s lives are much ‘richer’ than our own; glamourised images of what success really means. TV programmes claim to give us all the tips we need to be an overnight success but we must remember that reaching our own personal targets can take a long time.

XiwenSuccess comes in many forms at Bethany School. For example: former pupil, Xiwen Zhang, was included in this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list in Europe for her luxury sunglasses company For Art’s Sake; 15 of our aspiring actors recently received another set of excellent LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) results this term as they all gained distinctions; and our A level academic progress performance at the end of Year 12 in 2018 was the third highest in Kent, beating all other independent secondary schools and colleges with Sixth Form in the county.

A well-known adage, which may come as a surprise to our pupils, is that failure acknowledged is part and parcel of the journey to success. There are many famous examples – we’ve all heard the story of JK Rowling’s manuscripts being rejected time and time again before finally having her first Harry Potter book published.

Our pupils are encouraged to go beyond their comfort zone in order to achieve success. Our activities programme which takes place outside the classroom in the afternoons enriches the independent thinking and interpersonal skills of our pupils.

As we break for half term, some pupils will be embarking on a ski trip to Les Deux Alpes and many of those pupils have not skied before, some have not been away from their parents for such a long period of time, and some are contending with both! However, I have no doubt that they will have a fantastic time and that such trips will help them to becoming well rounded, independent-thinking young people.

I believe there are two personality traits which successful people have and there are independent of race, gender nationality and profession. Successful people work hard and have good people skills.

Therefore, let’s keep life simple work hard (never give up) and get on well with those around you. If you do this, then the sky is the limit.

sky is the limit