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It’s good to fail! – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 30th March 2016 – Ballard School

April 6, 2016

It’s good to fail!

None of us likes to fail. We will all have heard someone say (and perhaps used the expression ourselves): ‘I feel such a failure’. We often associate failure with lack of success, inadequacies and something to feel embarrassed and ashamed about. This seems to be the natural response but, as so many ultimately successful people have proved, ‘if you’re not failing, you’re not growing’.

“Defeat is not the worst of failures”

It was with this thought in mind that I was especially struck by what one school has been doing lately to help pupils realise that ‘defeat is not the worst of failures – not to have tried is the true failure’ (anon). Wimbledon High School is teaching girls what to do when their intense teenage friendships go awry. The school brought in a consultant to discuss “failing friendships” with pupils aged 13 to 15 as part of its “fail better” week, in which girls are encouraged to take risks without fearing failure. Headteacher Jane Lunnon said for teenage girls friendships can be as intense as romantic relationships, and they must learn what to do when they fail: “We recognise that what you teach them about failure in academics is also relevant to the way they manage their social relationships. They are learning there will be disappointments as part of friendships and that’s okay,” she added.

Learning from failure in relationships

At schools we spend a great deal of time trying to help young people overcome errors, mistakes and shortcomings in their academic work, on the games’ field and in performing arts (for example) so that the next time they take something on they will be that much better. The Wimbledon High approach is all the more commendable, therefore, as it is to do with learning from failure in relationships. Every day teachers deal with pupils who have fallen out with one another – and, sadly, occasionally have to deal with parents who also fall out with each other because their children have had an argument, a tussle or a name calling with another child. (Children usually bounce back into friendships whilst parents who fall out struggle to restore relationships long after the reasons which caused their respective children to quarrel have been forgotten by the children themselves.)

Following in Dyson’s footsteps

By -, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Entrepreneurs are risk takers – Dyson ‘failed’ thousands of times before coming up with his successful ‘vacuum cleaner’ – and we expect this in business. How much more should we expect this in relationships – and then learn from the experience? The poet John Keats wrote:

‘Don’t be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true.’

We may not enjoy failure but let’s risk it and let our children fail and let them experience the challenge and the growth associated with coming through the ‘failure’ rather than parachuting in and rescuing them every time. ‘It’s good to fail’ – at least some of the time!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

Ballard School is private independent school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

Image: By http://www.dyson.com, CC BY-SA 3.0,



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