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Headmaster's Blog


This week the Independent Schools Council released the results of their recent research about Soft Skills and Mental Toughness. Measuring the pupils’ attitudes to the 4Cs, they found that independent school pupils had a significantly higher level of mental toughness when compared to state schools. The 4Cs are:


  • Life control - I really believe I can do it. I believe that I am in control of much of what determines my ability to do things.
  • Emotional control - I can manage my emotions and the emotions of others.


  • Goal setting - I promise to do it. I like working to goals and will set goals for myself.
  • Achieving - I'll do what it takes to keep my promises and achieve my goals.


  • Risk taking - I will stretch myself and welcome new situations. I am not frightened of new things.
  • Learning from experience - even setbacks are opportunities for learning and I will try again if I have not succeeded the first time.


  • In abilities - I believe I have the ability to do it, or can acquire the ability. I have less need for validation from others.
  • Interpersonal confidence - I can influence and engage with others. I can stand my ground if needed. I will ask questions of others.

The findings of this research don’t surprise me one bit; I know how much effort we put into developing these soft skills in every area of school life and I believe passionately in the importance of doing this. It is clear to me though that young people who have had the good fortune to have been to an independent school, make successes of their lives not simply because they have scored higher marks in exams but, crucially, because they have developed this character trait of mental toughness which enables them to bounce back from difficulties and rise to the challenges that life will throw at them.

An essential part of the alchemy of a good independent education is our belief in educating the whole person. What happens in the classroom is vitally important and exam marks matter, but to develop this kind of character, we must work hard outside of the classroom too.  So these results are hugely encouraging as they make it clear that we are on the right track…what we are doing is working.

Mental toughness is a state of mind, it defines how a person approaches any given situation. It has nothing to do with physical strength but everything to do with resilience, self-control, determination and confidence. It's all about seizing opportunities, refusing to give up and thriving under pressure or in adversity.  At its best it depends upon high levels of emotional intelligence, and defines our reaction to failure and our ability to improvise and adapt to the changing world around us.

So, far from being the indulgent luxury of an independent education, the huge variety of extra-curricular, sporting and creative activities that we devote time to here at Craigclowan have been proven to be a requisite part of our educational mix. Neglect these and you will produce a young person less able to make their way in the world.

John F Gilmour

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