Interview with the Head




There are two main mindsets we can navigate life with: growth and fixed. Understanding the difference, says Sophie Banks, Headmistress at Eton End Prep School, is essential for success; if we help our children develop the right mindset we can actually improve their intelligence.


Sophie, please can you give us some background into what Growth Mindset is and how you discovered it? 


Children’s mindsets have been something that I have been passionate about for a number of years now, having completed a 2 year project looking at the impact developing a culture of Growth mindset in school has on children’s progress and achievements. Prior to joining Eton End, I was approached by a parent who represents Great Britain as a swimmer.  She talked to me about her challenges of returning to racing following the birth of her children and how she had discovered the work of Dr Carol Dweck in the process. Dr Carol Dweck is a psychologist based at Stanford University, who has spent decades researching into how we learn and the power of mindset. She discovered that there are two types of mindset; one which states your ability and qualities are fixed and cannot be changed and the other which states that effort and embracing challenge is the key to developing your ability. The mother whom had instigated this talked about how, in the final moments before racing, her mindset had become her downfall and she had started to question everything she had worked so hard to prepare for.  This then moved me on to thinking about the classroom and how children approach their learning. Children often regularly say “I can’t do it” and with those very words comes the fixed mindset approach that might as well be followed with “so there’s no point trying”! At Eton End, we work hard to encourage the children to add one word to that sentence which changes the whole meaning “I can’t do it….. yet”. Those three letters mean that the children are encouraged to continue trying, believing that effort and challenge are the key to further success and brain growth. Dr Carol Dweck has proven that our implicit beliefs about the nature of our intelligence can have a great impact on our achievement.


Why do you think Growth Mindset is so important for children today? 


Everything is available instantaneously in the world our young children are growing up in today.  They no longer have to wait long for items to be delivered once ordered on line and a plethora of information is available at the click of a button.  However, learning doesn’t necessarily work like that and the element of perseverance that is required to develop yourself as a learner is a skill which needs to be learnt. Alongside this, children need to be resilient; the feedback that they receive to develop their skills and encourage a growth mindset will not be all about the positives but will also look at what they can do to improve their work further. All of this is essential but most important of all is the child’s belief that they are in control of their own progress and achievements.  No-one should be able to put a cap on their learning. 


How do you and your team include Growth Mindset into day to day life at Eton End?


To help the children at Eton End develop these much needed skills, we have created the Eton End ‘High 5!’ These are 5 key skills which we believe the children will need to develop in order to prepare themselves for life in the 21st Century. The skills of collaboration, curiosity, courage, perseverance and resilience cover many of the aspects required to develop our children as successful learners.  We encourage our children to take on a challenge, step out of their comfort zone and grow their brain further than they may have ever felt possible. Collaboration with others is key and at Eton End this occurs both inside and outside of the classroom, from learning activities to den building. These ‘High 5!’ skills are overtly recognised in and by our pupils and an impressive level of self-awareness is ever growing in our Eton Enders.


How pivotal are parents in supporting the Growth Mindset practises that you use at Eton End?


Without the work of our parents this focus on mindset would not be possible, as one of the key aspects of developing children’s mindsets is linked to language. It is essential that children are praised for their effort and not for intelligence. As a proud parent, it is all too easy to say phrases such as “What a clever child you are….”  but such praise sends a message to the child that it is the intelligence that matters most and not the effort that they have put into the work. Intelligence praise is proven to make children fearful of not achieving next time, it makes them less keen to go out of their comfort zone and less willing to work hard to develop new skills. Praising for effort, engagement, perseverance, strategies or improvement encourages motivation, increased effort, greater self-confidence and a higher level of success. I have delivered a number of talks to the Eton End parents regarding this essential aspect of praise to ensure that we are all using the same approach to praising our children.  We have until the age of 10 for a child’s mindset to be developed and therefore the Prep School days are essential.


For parents reading this and wanting to learn more, where would you suggest they go for more information?  


There is so much more to Carol Dweck’s work than I have been able to touch on in this article. If anything I have mentioned is of interest, then please do read her book Mindset: changing the way you think to fulfil your potential.  The idea is simple but undoubtedly ground-breaking. You will read her book and definitely reflect on your own experiences and then hopefully feel empowered to help your own children on a pathway where there are no limits and effort is key.





Sophie Banks


Headmistress, Eton End School