Friday, 28 March 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 28th March

The caterwauling persisted and the stench of Victorian London lingered in the room. No, I wasn't conducting a Chemistry experiment with my Y11s but enjoying a night out at the theatre. I was privileged to attend the Theatre Royal in Bath with our Drama students to watch George Bernard Shaw's 'Pygmalion' on Wednesday evening. What an absolute treat and it was a real pleasure to spend some time with our students outside of the busy school day to discuss the finer points of this classic. The play itself was a triumph and true to the original as we watched with intent the tempestuous relationship between 'Enry 'Iggins and Eliza Doolittle developing. Observing the actors treading the floorboards in this period comedy in the surroundings of the opulent Theatre Royal was something quite special and inspiring. It felt one was transported to a different era - a different type of medium too to be entertained by. This was in stark contrast to yesterday's BBC School News Report where the school's media team, led by the charismatic Max Doughty, used a variety of media to broadcast the news. An opportunity for the team to develop journalistic skills from reporting, writing, editing, producing, directing, tweeting, blogging - see the outstanding results of their efforts on the website and for the subsequent launch of Sexey's TV. Watch this space!

Last week I had the Y10s bribing me with sweets to find out if they had been nominated for prefect ship, but yesterday afternoon they burst into my study to inform me that the U15 Netball team had won the area finals and were now through to the County Finals - they were so excited and talked me through every game, every pass and every basket until the final whistle was blown when they were crowned area champions. Just listening to their enthusiasm, passion and modesty as they re-enacted the final in my study is one of the privileges of being a Head Master. I wish them well in next week's final and more details can be found on the school'ssports website, including the U15 Girls’ Rugby team’s success in the South West finals and all the other sporting fixtures that have occurred during the week.

I think I spoke too soon last week about the arrival of the glorious Spring weather, it didn't last that long and it’s still raining…. but fear not, next week's St Cecilia's Spring Concert (St Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians) will certainly brighten up Bruton - I look forward to seeing you there. And don't forget the clocks also spring forward this weekend...

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 21st March

It has been said that Manchester United were the Goliath of football and then along came David…and until Wednesday night David Moyes’ job was under considerable pressure. Another glorious night in Europe was notched up by the Reds as they comprehensively beat the Greek champions, Olympiakos, 3-0 (all three goals coming from ex-Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie) having been 2-0 down. The team were fluid and worked well together and produced a performance that could go on to win the most coveted prize in European football. Let’s not get carried away, however, but it is still possible for Manchester Utd to win, though they have to overcome the might of the current champions, Bayern Munich who they meet in the quarter final. So perhaps Moyes has had a stay of execution? If the team have indeed found their groove and can channel their energies then who knows – the footballing season is certainly going to produce a thrilling climax. And if you can’t wait that long, then we have a two tantalising fixtures tomorrow morning where the 1st and 2nd XI will be taking on Warminster School. Kick-off is at 1030 on the football fields – I look forward to seeing you there supporting the boys. Full details are on the sports section<> of the school website where information on all sporting fixtures, including results can be found – football (65 fixtures this term), rugby (boys and girls), netball, swimming and indeed all other sports the school offers. Speaking of other sports, with the F1 season having started in Malaysia last week, the Sexey’s Motor Sports Team have seized their opportunity and have qualified for the South Western Regional finals in April and their qualifying and racing times suggest that they have a realistic chance of reaching the national finals. We will, no doubt watch with baited breath as the team take on the numerous chicanes and pit stops at the fiendishly difficult Thruxton Circuit near Andover.

Flight MH370 was on our minds this week as we contemplated in assembly its disappearance – there is still no definitive news on its whereabouts even after 12 days and I cannot imagine what the family and friends of the passengers must be going through. We all know in our hearts that we will eventually find the answer, and we all suspect that the eventual answer will be of little consolation to those grieving. But in the meantime, I take something positive from the sheer volume of global speculation – because it tells me that we as a species are still full of hope and care. This is one of the first times I can remember when the whole human race has seemed at one in their sympathy and their concern for others. As the story of MH370 unfolds and is followed around the world we are seeing how the internet and 24-hour news are turning the 200 nations of the earth into a single global public, in a way we have never seen before. As a school community we paused for a couple of minutes to reflect and be still (mindfulness) to give us the opportunity to think about this awful incident and to hopefully find some peace in our stressed out, multi-tasking lives. I hope this period of mindfulness will bring benefits to us – taking time out to think, to reflect can only be a good thing. Our Italian friends certainly found it enlightening and I hope they gained an insight into English culture in our traditional but modern boarding school.

As the sun beams through the windows of my study (a far cry from the hail and rain of a few weeks ago) I watch the boys playing ‘Squares’ and I think about our community and how we all strive to make it a better place for all of us. The Y10s are at my study door bribing me with sweets, itching to find out if they have been selected to become prefects and how they will contribute to the community. I had better go and make my selection…

Monday, 17 March 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 14th March

I was looking at the school's website and our social media feeds trying to keep with all that is going on in and around school and I noticed a comment from the Good Schools Guide, particularly the last line, on the front page - Lots of good teaching here and a genuine sense of community".  And it struck me why we are such a close knit community at Sexey's. There have been numerous examples of community spirit here at school but one recent event particularly highlighted this - last weekend's Big Yellow Friday. This was a community event in every sense of the word masterminded by our very own Mr Hill which not only brought together students, their parents and staff, but also people from the local community and beyond - friends of the school, Old Sexeians, local community groups, local businesses, the fire service (there were no fires I hasten to add!), Olympians, bishops and the list goes on. It was humbling to see so many people take part (over 300 cyclists), how much people genuinely care and how we look out for each other in this special community of ours at this fine institution. The event has already raised a staggering £7,500 (and this figure is increasing every day) for the Children's Liver Disease Foundation and it is great to hear that Tilly is doing well after her transplant - we look forward to seeing her at Sexey's in the not too distant future.

Over the extended exeat this Saturday, the school is taking part in another community event - the Bruton Coffee morning in the Community Hall -  if you are around do drop in for a slice of cake and a cup of tea, it would be lovely to see you. And next Friday the school has been invited to take part in the 'Bruton Community Spring Clean' community event organised by The Mill on the Brue to give Bruton a real clean up now that spring (fingers crossed) has finally arrived. The 'Bruton the Way Forward' consultation afternoon took place not so long ago and from a town perspective it was interesting to see the community taking an active role in suggesting ideas and strategies to ensure that the town continues to develop for the benefit of the local and wider community - a real sense of community spirit which can only be a good thing. I'll keep you posted on developments here as the school (being one of, if not the largest employer in the town) will have a considerable interest in this initiative.

Closer to the home, we have had numerous rugby, football and netball fixtures; the rugby 7s ventured into deepest Wales (buoyed by last Saturday's 6 Nation victory) to take part in the prestigious Llandovery 7s - a tough competition in all respects and the U16s travelled to Berkshire to compete in the Independent Schools Association 7s competition - they managed to win their quarter- final match which is a tremendous effort. Not to be outdone, the Girls' U15 rugby team had excellent victories against Huish Episcopi and St Dunstans in the area tournament and progress to Burnham  next week - exciting stuff. The U13 netball teams also celebrated successes against King Arthur's and The Gryphon and the Motor Sports Team raced in the qualifying stages for the British Schools Karting Championship at Cheddar yesterday - Sexey's has a proud history in this prestigious national competition (founded by Old Sexeian Will Tew) reaching the National Finals in four of the past six years and finishing 5th nationally (out of 800 competing schools) in 2013; sport this term is going from strength to strength despite the poor weather and I'm grateful to colleagues for providing these valuable opportunities to our students to allow them to flex their sporting muscles in a variety of competitions. It’s wonderful to see so much participation, engagement and support - important life skills such as resilience, teamwork and leadership and are constantly being developed and it is my privilege as a Head to watch our students grow and flourish in these areas from the safety of the sidelines...

On the academic side, colleagues from Sexey's and schools from all over Somerset are coming together today as a learning community to share best practice and to learn from one another what works best in the classroom - over 1000 teachers in over 40 schools are working closely together for the benefit of the next generation. Community on a bigger scale and good to be part of. Also, it’s not every day that you receive a letter from the Queen acknowledging and thanking the students for the work they have done - Sexey's is now even being talked about  in the corridors of Buckingham Palace - thank you to Mr Manning for taking the time to write to Her Majesty.

So as the exeat beckons, I will be watching the climax of the Six Nations with the local community in Bruton with intent - will England win the spoils against Italy or will the talismanic Brian O'Driscoll have a fairy tale ending to his glittering international rugby career. There's nothing like a good game to bring the local, national and international communities together.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 7th March

So what are your thoughts on the badger culling and would you like to be Prime Minister? These and many other questions where posed to The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, the Secretary of State for Education, who visited the school last Friday (just before I was due to go to Bath for the Literature Festival – that’s another story!). The students seized the opportunity to question the Education Minister on topics as diverse as Basque separatism, behaviour in Prime Minister's Questions, flood defences in Somerset, his educational reforms and Scottish Independence. I was impressed at the way the students handled the occasion (and Mr Gove) and the way they articulated themselves to their conversations with him. The students also met with the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for Somerton and Frome, David Warburton, that afternoon and also put him through his paces! The full story is on the website.

Next week we have the prospective Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Somerton and Frome, Sarah Yong (OS) coming into school to meet with students for a similar grilling and to tell us about her political journey. And we have also contacted Mr Tristam Hunt MP, the shadow Education Minister , inviting him to Sexey’s to meet and speak with our students in due course. Providing students with a range of political, cultural and social views is important so that they can make informed choices based on their own judgments, which is one of the main reasons why we decided to get involved with the Bath Literature Festival. Myself and Mrs Latif hotfooted it over to Bath last Friday to meet the Artistic Director, Viv Groskop (herself a Brutonian) at the Launch Party and we were also fortunate to meet the editor of the Independent, Amol Rajan who hopefully will be visiting the school – he is very intrigued about state boarding…

Today, a group of Sexeians met with the Mayor of Bath and had a private audience with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Revd Dr Rowan Williams. Again, our Sexeians were very impressive and asked Dr Williams a number of searching questions from the comfort of the Mayor’s Parlour ranging from gay marriage, the conflict in Ukraine, women bishops, secularism and the works of Tolstoy. Dr Williams is an eminent theologian and it was a true honour to meet him and for us to have a conversation with him. For our students to meet such dignitaries is a privilege and we are very fortunate that we can provide such opportunities for them in order to broaden their horizons and access knowledge of this quality.
To say it’s been a busy week is an understatement – the PSA Spring Dinner Dance took place last Saturday and was a roaring success thanks to the legion of parents (next year’s date has already been confirmed (Saturday 7th March 2015 so put it in your diary now!); the Equestrian Team took part in the Taunton School Show Jumping competition last Sunday, while some of the boarders went skiing and played golf; the Teaching and Learning Review took place all this week where we monitored the quality of Teaching and Learning in the school; The Annual Centenary Lecture (I heard it went with a bang!) was given to local feeder schools during the day and governors, staff, parents and guests in the evening where Sexey’s ice cream was unveiled for the first time; the Sexey’s U15 Rugby 7s competition (we won the plate final beating Hampshire Collegiate 21-14), netball matches, football matches, Big Yellow Friday (it’s happening while you read this and Kate Allenby MBE who delivered our keynote address on Speech Day has asked me to ride with her this evening!) and meeting the wonderful Dr Rowan Williams.
I now need to find my cycling shorts so must dash!