View from the classroom


his month, in our popular View from the classroom feature, we hear from Matthew

Harris, Headmaster at Austin Friars School in Carlisle, who offers some fascinating insights into the school’s implementation of the Mental Toughness Test, which helps children develop critical life skills.

Tell us about your school Austin Friars is a co-educational day school, founded by members of the Order of St Augustine in 1951. Its task was to offer a boarding education for Catholic boys in Cumbria and the city of Carlisle. Girls were first admitted in 1986. Boarding came to an end in 1998. St Monica's was established in 1985, on the same site as Austin Friars, as a School for boys and girls of primary age. In 2003, the formal amalgamation of the two

Schools established Austin Friars St Monica's as a single School for students aged 3 – 18. The Pre- School and Junior section caters for the 3 – 11 age range, and the Senior School for the 11 – 18 age group. In September 2015, the School changed its name back to Austin Friars and continues to provide a holistic education from Pre-School through to VI Form, in accordance with its Augustinian principles. The School is very well placed to provide an independent education in the north of Cumbria and south-west Scotland.

You have recently used the Mental Toughness Test to examine life skills development at the school. Can you tell us about this test? Mental Toughness is an aspect of our personality which It describes 'how we think' which is an important determinant on 'how we act' and 'how we feel'. This helps us to understand why we behave the way we do. Published research on secondary school pupils show that mental toughness is a significant factor in attainment, wellbeing, positive behaviour and aspirations. It is sometimes more commonly described as mindset or attitude. The MTQ48, the Mental Toughness

Questionnaire is a high quality psychometric measure, developed initially by Professor Peter

Clough, which assesses the elements of mindset or attitude around a well evidenced framework, called the 4Cs. These are Control, Commitment, Challenge and Confidence. Each has two factors which are assessed. Control embraces Life Control which describes

the sense of “can do” and Emotional Control is self-explanatory. Commitment embraces both Goals Orientation and Achievement Orientation. Not everyone who sets goals does what it takes to achieve them. These two elements effectively describe

Resilience. Challenge describes an individual’s attitude to

stretching themselves as well as their ability to learn from their experiences – including mistakes. Finally, Confidence include Confidence in

Abilities (self-belief) and Interpersonal Confidence - preparedness to engage with others and ask questions. These elements assess the extent to which the

pupil approaches their work in a positive vein. All of the elements are relevant for Life Skills.

The MTQ48 produces a “score” for each of the elements on a scale of 1 – 10 which provides the opportunity to measure something that is rarely measured in this way. Importantly it allows users to identify individual

and group differences (e.g. year group) and it enables measurement before and after intervention to assess what differences have been achieved and where those differences arise. Which helps to indicate where further development might be valuable. The MTQ48 is used in hundreds of schools

around the world (independent and maintained schools), as well as businesses and other areas.

How did you become interested in it? The MTQ48 was used in a major Independent Schools Council study on Life Skills development which examined almost 10,000 pupils in 58 UK schools. The study identified generally where schools

made a difference and usefully also showed that some schools appeared to be more effective than others particularly when looking at gender and progression through a pupils life at a school.

16 November 2018 For instance; generally, it showed that pupil

mental toughness often, but not always, dropped in the second and third years of their time in secondary education. The author of the study, Doug Strycharczyk,

was a former pupil at Austin Friars and drew our attention to the study and its findings as well as its potential application in our school.

Why did you decide to implement it? Why are life skills important? Developing life skills is an integral part of the curriculum at Austin Friars, it’s a key element of the School’s ethos. Parents trust us to develop academic abilities, but most are equally concerned that we help to develop mature young people who can confidently move on and make a success of their lives outside of and beyond school. Indeed, as we can see, it is factor which is rising

in the agenda across all of education. The Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, has said “schools should aim for an ethos that develops pupils’ character, resilience and workplace skills” as he gave his first big speech in the job at the beginning of the year.

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