Failure Week

Students Say...

On what I have learnt in failure week

'You have to accept your failures. You can move on and they can even help you to success in the future.'

'Failure will happen – accept it.'

'You’re aiming for the top grades – it’s about knowing if you don’t get them that it’s not the end of the world.'

'If you fail first, but then succeed afterwards, the feeling is amazing.'

 Nick Carter from the Adventure Council, talked to us about failing to reach the peak of Mount Everest.
Nick Carter from the Adventure Council, talked to us about failing to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
Click here for a report from our students.

One of the displays produced by Junior School students as part of Failure week.

On reflection…

'We’ve had Respect Week and Courtesy Week. We could have called this ‘resilience week’ but I guess that wouldn’t be so appealing! Because it’s had the word ‘failure’ in, it’s had more impact with all of us.'

'It’s great the school did it.'

'We just lost in debating this week – we’ve been joking: is that what it’s about??'

On pressure…

‘You feel a lot of pressure if others around you succeed all the time.’

‘It’s good to think and talk about failure when you’re dealing with rejection from your choice of university.’

‘Some parents do pile on the pressure.’

‘I don’t mind failing at things I find difficult, but when I fail at stuff I know I can do, it affects me much more.'


 Parents' Reactions...


 ‘When I look back to my years at university and the career paths that my (predominantly female) friends have subsequently taken, it has often struck me that those who succeeded most were not necessarily the brightest , but those who had confidence in their abilities, were adaptable to change and not frightened to take risks.’

'My daughter (now at university) attended Wimbledon High from Year 7 and was very well taught and in all respects well served by the school. But when she ran into problems in the Year in Industry she had difficulty coping and similarly suddenly at Oxford not being the Best of the Best, as she had been throughout her school career, came as something of a shock.' 

'The more you can do to make you girls realise that all experiences - even bad ones - are learning opportunities, the better.'

'It is really healthy that the girls can share their disappointments and gain support and help from teachers and from friends.'

'It is so important to help the girls to get things in perspective.'

Blue Smartie - with thanks to education specialist Will Ord for the idea...

If you were offered some smarties and told if you pick a blue one you will never fail again, would you do it?

 Contemplating the blue smartie

Some examples of Failure Week in the Media

- CBC News (Canadian News)
  (Pupils ‘Should be Taught How to Fail’)
  (How to Succeed at Life's Toughest Test...
- Evening Standard
- The Herald
- The Independent
- The Mail Online
  (You need to scroll down to view the article)
- The Nonprofit Quarterly
- Sunday Times Online
  (Subscription required)
- Wimbledon Guardian

- BBC Women's Hour
  (Heather Hanbury Interview from 13.10)
- BBC Radio Ulster
  (Heather Hanbury interview 57 minutes in)
- LBC 97.3FM
  (Interview with Heather Hanbury on
   Monday 6 February at 3.15pm. 
   Subscription required)
- Radio London Breakfast Show
  (Heather Hanbury interview from 2:14) 

- Loose Women
  (Clip starts at 5 minutes 20 seconds in)

- Business Zone
- Education News
- The Jane Dough
- Independent Education Today
- India
- The School Run
- SFS Group
- Wimbledon

- The Independent
- The Voice

Here at WHS we strive to instil a sense of resilience in the girls.

They are high achievers who often reach the end of their school career having never ‘failed’ at anything. While this may sound great to some, it might actually mean that they have not taken enough risks with their education and extra-curricular activities. This lack of risk taking means that girls miss out on opportunities that, in the long run, could actually bring them greater success and happiness.

The longer you leave it to ‘fail’ the more crippling it is when it, inevitably, happens. Perhaps not getting that University place or that job wouldn’t be so bad if you knew you had the resilience and strength to bounce back and try again.

The purpose of ‘Failure Week’ has been to encourage girls to take more risks in lessons and to try more things outside of their academic studies. E.g. asking that burning question even though you might feel stupid or putting your hand up to try and answer something even though you aren’t sure you’re right. In terms of extra-curricular activities they are encouraged to try new clubs and societies every lunchtime as well as using the Enrichment programme to broaden their horizons.

Through a positive atmosphere in the school and a conscious effort to encourage girls to try new things and not worry about getting things wrong, we hope to demystify the word ‘failure’ and to foster a more resilient student body. 

Dr Elyse Waites, Head of Year 7 & co-instigator of 'Failure Week'