I am immensely proud to be the Headmaster of a school in which expectations of students from 3-18 are exceptionally high both inside and outside the classroom. Where expectation is high, achievement follows and whilst academic excellence is at the heart of what we offer, I want Dixie students to become well-rounded people as well as achieving their potential in academic studies. The positive influences students have on each other sets the Dixie apart – their common aspiration and those of their parents to be the very best they can in all areas of life is infectious and undoubtedly contributes to the ‘Dixie Difference’.
We are small by design and this is fundamental to our outstanding pastoral care. All schools advertise a knowledge of each individual child but at the Dixie it really is the case that all are known by all. Friendships blossom within and across year groups and crucially, our impressive Sixth Form know and are known by our youngest – their influence and example makes them the most impressive role models.
Academic Excellence and Challenge
Happy students learn most effectively – and we strive for all students at the Dixie to be happy. One criticism of education from employers is that with a curriculum based strongly on an exam system, school children are too often given answers to remember, rather than problems to solve. The difference between school and life is that in school you are taught a lesson and then given a test; in life you are given a test that teaches you a lesson. The Dixie gives children challenges so that they may learn from them. These challenges are within a caring, supporting and guiding environment, where personal and group success is hugely celebrated and where the ratio of adults to children is ideally suited to support individual need.
Exam Results and Academic Selection
The most important statistic for me and parents of the Upper Sixth is our success at getting students to the university of their choice. This year all but four of our students went to their first choice university – the remaining went to their second choice. We have a relentless focus on ensuring that every individual is stretched to achieve their potential, and our value added data suggests that we add huge amounts of ‘value’ – in 2019, after taking ability into account, on average, our students achieved two thirds of a grade higher in every single exam they sat than they would have elsewhere.
The Dixie has a very different ethos to other schools in the area and has a holistic and more rounded view of achievement. Not everyone will achieve a full set of As and A*s at GCSE and nor should success be measured purely in that way. At the Dixie provision is made for everyone to reach their full potential. We have a wider range of abilities than in some schools, and we do not ‘weed out’ or remove our worst performing students – we work with students from 3-18 and understand that individuals develop at different rates. We understand that at different stages all students can struggle. Some local schools remove students at all ages if it is felt they will not hit academic heights – local state schools too are increasingly imposing barriers to the final year of A level study to help inflate their own data – you may have seen this reported in the news recently. The Dixie prioritises the development of each individual student – we take more care over individuals than we do the school’s external data. At the Dixie we understand that active involvement outside the classroom, and the effect this can have on confidence, can transform achievement inside the classroom.
We have a long tradition of sending our most able to the most selective universities and to the most competitive courses on offer. Last year a student went to Oxford to study Chinese – having spoken his first word of Chinese aged 10 in the Junior School. Crucially, the most able in our community flourish and exceed even ours and their highest expectations. We are proud of all our students, not just the ones heading for Russell Group universities, but this year you will have noticed that we have several with straight A and A* grades – one with 3 A* grades heading off to study theoretical physics, one heading off to take her place on a hugely competitive medicine degree, and another going on to study dentistry.
We are just as proud of those whose academic potential is ‘lower’: one of last year’s Upper Sixth students who has been at the school since Reception class epitomises the values the school holds dear – he is an outstanding young man, whose confidence and sense of self-worth have grown steadily and surely over his time here. Whilst not an academic high flyer, through an impressive application and interview he was offered a place at a first rate university to study the course of his choice. In some cases, as with his, our numerically least impressive results, are amongst those of which we are most proud.
Activities Outside the Classroom
However sedentary or energetic, practical or intellectual, creative or scientific, there is an activity at the Dixie to suit all. Staff and students in the Senior School run over 50 clubs and societies each week: everything from Astronaut training to knitting, STEM club to Dixie Diggers. Manners, employability and leadership skills, initiative, confidence without arrogance, loyalty, persistence, resilience, honesty and self-assurance are given equal value to the academic. Our focus on these personal skills alongside the academic does not stifle our students’ academic achievement – quite the opposite.
There is much in the press concerning the mental health and well-being of our young people and whilst we have always and will continue to strive to achieve the best possible results for all our students, we do this firmly within a context of concern and care for the individual. As a parent myself, I completely understand that you want the very best for your children – I do for my two daughters. My youngest is in Year 9 and my oldest daughter in the Upper Sixth this coming year and having looked at all local schools on our arrival, I have absolutely no doubt that they are in the best place to achieve their potential and become happy and successful adults.
The international is another key thread to what our parents call the Dixie Difference. Through our relationships with schools abroad, our students have outstanding opportunities for travel. 2019 has already seen our students involved in German and Hungarian exchanges, trips to France, Colorado and China, and a 4 week trek through Madagascar. We advertise these opportunities a long time in advance – we expect our students to fundraise rather than simply pay a visit to the bank of Mum and Dad!
We strive for the highest standards in all we do – our latest ISI inspection report – far more rigorous than Ofsted – gave us the highest possible grade for every single aspect of school life – including teaching – a rare accolade and a rating not enjoyed by many schools.
We are very proud of our impressive students: their thirst for life, willingness to accept challenge and their high standards. They are the best advert for the school and I would encourage you to visit to see for yourself the ‘Dixie Difference’.
Richard Lynn, Headmaster