Friday, 26 September 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 26th September

As I walked down to the boarding houses on Wednesday evening I could hear the church bells ringing at St Mary’s, Bruton as the sun was setting – a reassuring yet calming sound. And it’s a sound that you don’t often hear if you live in sprawling city and one that I hope continues to ring in our parishes for years to come. The art of bell ringing (campanology) is an important skill and a language in its own right and I am eager to support our two churches in Bruton and Pitcombe by setting up our own Campanology Society; if there are any students interested, please do give me a ring! And speaking of languages, today saw The European Day of Languages being celebrated at the school and the MFL department put on a variety of activities which engaged and enthused not only the students, but the staff too – from a pop up creperie to quizzes and competitions. Acquiring the grammar and linguistic skills to speak and understand another language is so important as it not only helps communication but also develops a deep cultural understanding which nurtures the values of tolerance, respect and kindness – the very values we as a school promote as part of our ethos – studying languages can only be a good thing.  And these values were demonstrated at the Lower School Opening evening this week which saw record numbers of prospective parents from far and wide come through the Sexey’s School gates. Parents commented on the maturity, enthusiasm and exemplary manners of the pupils  and I hope we left them with a good impression. Thank you for promoting the event amongst your friends and our next Open Evening, which will be for Sixth Form, is on Tuesday the 7th of October.

Not only am I proud of our students achievements in a variety of sporting and cultural pursuits, but also those of our staff on their personal achievements – congratulations to Mrs Hosford who completed the Bristol Half Marathon last weekend in a time of 2 hours 16 minutes raising over £300 along the way for Time is Precious - a local charity supporting children and their families during hospital stays. And speaking of success, our Girls’ Hockey teams have caused a riot this week with the U16s winning 5-1 over Holyrood Academy (having come back being 0-1 down) and the U15s and U14s claiming the spoils at Huish Episcopi yesterday winning 3-1 apiece. The U15s enjoyed their hard fought victory and celebrated by singing the School Song with great gusto after the match – passion and enjoyment. I watched the U16s game on the Daisy Field and amongst that game, the U14 Girls and Senior Girls had hockey practices, whilst the U12 and U13 boys had rugby practices. This was whilst the 1st XV and U15s were playing rugby against Wells Cathedral – tremendous to see so much sport going on after school. The U12 Boys’ rugby team had their first match on Thursday against Wells Cathedral School (normally they would play after half term) and they put up a tremendous performance winning narrowly 12-10 to a strong Wells side – commitment and dedication. Our philosophy is to inspire a lifelong interest in sport, promoting fitness, well-being,  team work and most of all, enjoyment and I hope our Sexeians seize upon and enjoy the numerous opportunities on offer to them.

The Macmillan Coffee Mornings are now a national institution and we hosted one today at Walwin House - Douglas Macmillan, the founder of Macmillan Cancer Support was an Old Sexeian (1894-97) and is the School’s partner charity. We were inundated by people at Walwin this morning raising over £300 and my sincere thanks to all those businesses who supported the event – we  even had proper coffee machines and a barista from Bean Shot Coffee with Nick Law serving cappuccinos, espressos and lattes. Plenty of cakes and scones too by the likes of our Catering Department, At the Chapel, Taylors Bakers, Taste Bruton, Somerset Dairies, Godminster Cheese and The Cole Manor Tea Rooms – working with the local community to help and support others.

There are plenty of activities going on this weekend, from a trip to Bristol, a visit to Bath Guildhall to listen to the author Steve Cole speak at the Children’s Bath Literary Festival, the Equestrian team competing at Stonar School to a Mountain Biking expedition. I am off now to Macmillan House, named after our illustrious Old Sexeian, for more coffee and cake as they host another Macmillan Coffee ‘Morning’ at Sexey’s. After all the cake I have had today, I may well have to join Mr Cowley on his mountain biking expedition. Now where are my cycling shorts…

The exeat seems like such a long time ago!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 19th September

Having tried to stay up through the wee hours of this morning, but failing miserably, I was delighted and relieved to learn this morning that our four nations will remain part of the United Kingdom. The union which has been in place for over 300 years will continue for generations to come and although almost half of Scotland wanted independence, the whole referendum process has engaged people in politics in a way the UK has not seen before. It has allowed people to have the conversation – people as young as 16 were given the right to vote and this has been a positive move. With turn outs at the ballot boxes of over 90% in some cases, voter apathy will, I am sure, be a thing of the past. And although voters opted for reform rather than revolution, this referendum has unleashed a process of transformation set to extend far beyond Scotland's border and I hope that the nations will continue to work together to bring out the best in each of them. Working closely with our communities on a national and a local level is a positive thing and will bring about benefits that will affect us all and I look forward in continuing to develop our strong relationships with many of the initiatives in our great community – providing opportunities both in and out of the academic arena for our students. It was wonderful to see the Y6s from our local feeder primary schools, Upton Noble and Bruton Primary, visit us yesterday for a day of challenge where they were engaged in activities which ranged from the creative arts, philosophy and food technology. And we had a splendid time at Walwin House last night with our Y7 boarders who came round for supper with my family - they were an absolute delight and we enjoyed their sparkling company.  The prefects on both occasions were a credit to the school and fitting role models for the younger members of our community - working together to bring out the best in each other.

And as we pause for breath this weekend, like many of us did this morning, I hope that you have a peaceful exeat in the United Kingdom.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 12th September

I have just time to draw breath after a host of events and fixtures this week at Sexey’s – from Girls’ Hockey against Sherborne and Bruton School for Girls, to the Y13 visit to Thomas J Fudge’s to rugby fixtures against Milton Abbey and the Gryphon, Y12 Meet the Tutor evening, The Mahoney Football Trophy competition, the Silver DoE expedition to the Quantocks this weekend, Mandarin Club and the Drama trip to the Theatre Royal in Bath. Has it only been a week? There have also been some other questions this week. Does it really matter if Scotland does become independent? How will it affect us here in the South West? Should we care? Would the previous Head Master of Sexey’s been worried about this potential rift within Great Britain? Why haven’t we been asked whether Scotland should become Independent? This is the story dominating the press and our discussions at school stemming from the whole school assembly we had last Tuesday. I think we should care about this issue and it will affect us, politically, culturally and socially. This union has been the most successful experiment in multiculturalism in history. For over 300 years it has made us wealthier, improved our culture, it has made us better, more tolerant people. And people across the globe marvel at the wonders and riches we have as a nation. It is equally amazing to think of ourselves as a family – Northern Irish, Welsh, English and Scottish – very different in many respects, bickering as families always do but united through wars, through depression and through recession and coming out stronger because we are a family who stick together rather than go it on our own, much like our family at Sexey’s. We have all grown up in a United Kingdom – that is all we know and for the sake of loved ones and friends in Scotland I hope with all my heart that it does not come down to the end of the United Kingdom, the end of Great Britain. At stake is a wonderful union with a successful single market and a shared heritage of artistic, scientific, humanitarian, diplomatic, cultural and military endeavour. If that is lost it will be a historical tragedy. I wait with baited breath for next week’s vote.
News from the Sixth Form
Congratulations to those Y13 students who have been appointed senior prefects this week in assembly – Jack Wingate and Annabel Buckland as Heads of School, Joe Stewart-Sendell and Ziana Azariah as the Deputy Heads of School with Phoebe Hung as Head of Boarding. The following have also been appointed as Senior Prefects – Laura Rossiter, Emily Harrison, Jess Mascall, Hatty Dukes, Jo Barrington, Eleanor Nurse, Zoe Whitcombe, Ellie Davenport, Amanda Lam, Alannah Travers, Harriet Perkins, Will Annetts Burke, Alex Petre-Mears, Ross Hilborne, Chris Gillanders, James Petrovic, Bob Brooker, Peter Clackson, Aaron Hooper. We wish them well in their endeavours this year as they lead the student body and act as positive role models.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 5th September

Welcome back to the start of the new Michaelmas Term and a warm welcome to our new parents whose sons and daughters have joined us this September. I hope my weekly ruminations do not clog up your inbox! So where did the summer go? Where did last year go? It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since we moved to Walwin and we as a family have not looked back. The first week is almost over and I hope that our students have settled back quickly into normal school routines and that our new members to the school community (students and staff) are beginning to understand how we at Sexey’s work and operate. It is a delight to see our new Year 7 pupils enjoying all that Sexey’s has to offer both in and out of the classroom and I hope their energy and enthusiasm continues long into the term.  It was wonderful to see the Head Boy, Jack Wingate and his peers sit with our new Y7s at lunch today and talk to them about school life – it was like older brothers and sisters guiding their younger siblings. And that’s what Sexey’s is about –  family. It was great to hear the School Hymn being belted out at assembly (I missed it over the summer!)  and the Head Boy and Head Girl of the Lower School reading with such aplomb about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and the ALS ice bucket challenge – do talk to them about it over the weekend and the implications for charitable causes. I have been nominated….

As you can imagine, it has been a  busy week for our students and staff – Leadership Training for our Sixth Form, meeting new students as well as new staff, girls’ hockey practices, rugby practice, various clubs and societies at lunchtime and after school, singing practices, learning how to play Squares, the introduction of ‘Show My Homework’, new boarding tutors in all the boarding houses, pre-season rugby training with the likes of The Oratory, Reading and Christ’s College, Brecon, music rehearsals, drama auditions (The Little Shop of Horrors will be making its debut at Sexey’s shortly) and of course lessons! There is so much going on here and I would like to thank my colleagues for making this happen – I am very lucky indeed to have such a dedicated and committed staff and I wish them well for the coming year.

We have had a very positive start to the term buoyed by the excellent exam results the school has achieved at GCSE and A-level over the summer. The outstanding performance at A-level (62% A*-B) is testimony to the hard work and effort by our Y13s and their teachers and our results give many of our competitors (independent and state) a good run for their money. Over 90% of our Y13s have now entered university, many of which are Russell Group. The AS results are equally encouraging and bode well for the future and the new Y13s know exactly what they need to do in order to enjoy the same success as their predecessors – academic discipline, commitment and dedication are all necessary attitudes which they are adopting in order to move forward and secure those coveted places in industry or university. Of course, there needs to be a balance and enjoying life outside the classroom is equally as important and it was wonderful to hear two Y13s after a hard day at school, enthusing about their hockey practice. The new look PE department is certainly moving things forward.

The stunning performance at GCSE by our Y11s achieving the highest results over a three year period are equally impressive and our results, on all accountability measures including the main measure 5A*-C including English and Maths (76%) by which all schools are compared by, are amongst the best in Somerset and possibly the South West. Our students and staff have worked diligently to achieve these excellent results and I am delighted for them. In amongst the headlines, there are numerous individual successes, students who have pulled themselves up to, and beyond, their fullest potential and it is just as exciting to see a student who might have expected a C achieving an A as it is to see those who achieve straight A*s or As. Many of our Y11s have now moved into the Sexey’s Sixth Form and are already knuckling down to the demands of A-level and also look very professional indeed in their smart dress – they are here to work and to lead by example; this can only be good for the school as we move forward.

Please do take a moment to look at the website which will provide you with a wealth of information and do try and support as many of the events that you can – from concerts to plays, from sporting fixtures to exhibitions. Please book the dates in your diaries and join us when you can - you are all very welcome to these. If there is anything you are not sure about, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at School or with your son’s or daughter’s tutor. We are always here to help. Do also follow us on Twitter (@SexeysSchool) and join in the conversation.

It is great to be back and to see our Sexeians getting stuck into business and I can’t believe that the sun is actually shining.  I do hope that our students have used the holidays to recuperate , relax and reflect and are now ready to take on the many challenges they will face over the coming year. We are here to help them face those challenges, but for now, I wish you and them a pleasant and peaceful weekend. I look forward to another successful year both in and out of the academic arena. If I blink, I might miss it all – I hope not.

Irfan H Latif JP
Head Master