Friday, 28 February 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 28th February

Half term came and went in a flash as did the Winter Olympics, but the foul weather seems to be still here! I watched a lot of sport over the half term - England's tremendous win over Ireland in the 6 Nations, Arsenal's dogged performance against Bayern Munich and the events in Sochi. It was with great admiration and awe that I followed the athletes' exploits at the Winter Olympics. Inspiring stuff to say the least. Watching Somerset's very own Lizzy Yarnold hurtling down the ice on a carbon fibre-tray the size of a biscuit tin lid in the skeleton was exhilarating even from the comfort of one’s armchair and learning about the nuances and intricacies of curling, short track speed skating and the deliciously named slope-style snowboard was a lesson well learnt. The Olympics was sensational (I love my sport!) and the Russians topped the medal table and Mr Putin must be very happy and relieved that they passed without incident.  The games cost an eye watering £30bn to stage - the most expensive ever and as much as all the previous Winter Olympics put together. Has Mr Putin got what he wanted and were the Games worth it? The last games hosted by Russia was back in 1980 and 34 years on we witness thepresident’s drive to return Russia to its historic position as a major player on the world stage.Although the Games are meant to be apolitical, Mr Putin has certainly used them to further his cause of developing a more traditional Russia with conservative values. Just don't mention the ice hockey! So Team GB will now take stock after this games (it had invested some £14m over the past four years) and will now invest even more money in a number of Winter sports to help climb up that medal table in South Korea. Can we expect curling, snowboarding and the skeleton to become part of our curriculum? Harley Jai Morton-Grant (OS 2013) is part of the Great Britain Bobsleigh team and snow is apparently forecast for tomorrow...

The determination and commitment that our athletes have shown in Sochi should be an inspiration to us all. We have come back from our half time talk, eaten all the oranges, tended to any wounds and are ready to take on the second half with renewed vigour and enthusiasm. And we have seen this in abundance this week from our students; from Laurie McMahon winning ‘Weston’s Got Talent (Laurie got through to the finals in September 2013 performing a cover by Jake Bugg. He decided to comprise/write/play and sing his own song last week which resulted in him winning the overall prize) to Captain Adora Woodgate leading the U13 Netball team to a staggering 12-1 win over Stanchester and the U12s also coming away with a 7-1 win. The U15s put in a stunning performance against Huish Episcopi putting some 33 points against them. Football scores against Ansford (U16s 5-0 and U15s 3-1) and Millfield (2nd XI 2-1 loss) have also been encouraging and the U18s hosted seven schools at the 2nd Annual Sexey's 7s competition on the Elm Field yesterday. With sun, rain, wind and hail to contend with, not to mention the might of Wells Cathedral and Warminster, our boys lost in a keenly contested Plate Final to a strong Wellsway School with Marlborough College winning the Cup. The 7s season has started in earnest.

Sarah and I were fortunate to be invited by Bath Rugby Football Club over the half term to watch Bath play Wasps and it was a cracking game at The Rec. It was a privilege to meet Cpt Stuart Hooper and I look forward to working with the club in the future in providing useful opportunities for our students to be coached and mentored by Bath RFC. Talking of opportunities, there were plenty this week in music where pupils had the chance of trying different musical instruments and there were performances throughout the week during lunch. The GCSE Performance took place last night to high acclaim. Music is integral to what we do here at Sexey’s and its important that pupils seize these valuable opportunities to be creative and to be challenged.  Talking of challenges (it all seems to flow!) our Zambia exchange students were outstanding at last night’s presentations at Castle Cary and were a real credit to the school. They did the Bag2Bag collection this week and are off flint picking tomorrow – sterling fundraising efforts in every sense.

So as I get ready to attend the launch night of The Independent Bath Literature Festival (we are sponsoring the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams this year), prepare for the boarding interviews on Saturday morning, try to find my cheque book for the silent auction at tomorrow's PSA Spring Dinner & Dance (only a few tickets left), and work out how to get to Taunton School to support the Equestrian Team in Sunday's Show Jumping competition, I do wonder where the half term break went.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 14th February 2014

And so the half time whistle is about to blow and after we have taken our slice of orange, taken shelter from the rain and wind and had any scrapes and injuries seen to, we huddle together to reflect on how we have performed in the first half. Did we play to our strengths? Did we maximise our chances and did we play together as a team? If we are in a winning position, how do we maintain that and not become too complacent and therefore not take our eye off the ball? How do we continue to work efficiently and effectively while maintaining a sense of balance and perspective? Are there any tactical changes that need to be made? I suppose what I am lamenting about here (Head Master’s prerogative) is that we as a school have also reached half time in our academic year. I am about to blow the metaphorical whistle and I hope the following week will be an opportunity for us all to reflect on the highs (and lows) of the first half and what we have learnt and how we can all move forward to ensure that we achieve our ‘goals’ at the end of the year. Are we in a winning position at this stage? Only time will tell, but I hope that we are, otherwise I would be doing the school a disservice. The changes that have been bought in this year in order to take the school forward in the next half are working through the system and we must continue to forge ahead in the best interests of the pupils and the School. The pupils, themselves, should now take stock of what has happened thus far and should now implement their plans, if they have not already done so, for the second half, whether that be changing one’s work ethic, developing revision strategies, training for the 1st XI or rehearsing for the next concert or play. It is important that we work together as a team to bring the best out of each other. Talking about working as a team, we had the Boarding OpenMorning on Saturday and I was delighted to see how our students worked together as they spoke to prospective parents and showed them around. They took real pride in their duties on Saturday and really did show off the school. The students are our unique selling point and I am very proud of them - they embody all that is good about the school and have its values at their core. Parents were understandably impressed and I have been inundated with letters and emails to that effect.

The Achievement Assembly took place this week (whilst the 6th form were sitting their Mock Exams) and we asked the question what did achievement mean to us? Prizes and awards for House rugby, netball, football, rugby 7s; certificates for music and DoE; recognition for drama and academic work were all achievements that were celebrated as a school community. The House standings are as close as the Barclays Premiership at half time and so it’s anyone’s for the taking at the moment. I am sure Heads of House will be having those all-important half time team talks with their houses and reflect on all of the above.

So as I view the educational playing field and take on board some of the tactical changes that are being made (e.g. educational reform), I look back at the first half and assess the plans going forward for the second. It is, however, worth taking a moment to pause and reflect at this stage, nurse a couple of bruises, pull one’s socks up and have a slice or two of orange.

Have a wonderful holiday and don’t forget your wellies and brollies – the storms are spending half term with us!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 7th February

There has been a lot of drama (in every sense of the word) this week, both in and out of the academic arena. Kevin Pietersen, England’s prolific batsman has been dropped from the national team; Prince Charles has visited our neighbours in the flooded region of the Somerset Levels and has criticised the Government for not making the area safe sooner; and the cast and crew of the school musical production having been practising and performing since the beginning of the week. I really didn't know what to expect especially when it took me some time to decipher the title ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’. But I was impressed when I saw the opening night performance on Wednesday. It was hilarious, witty, moving and full of energy - I also learnt a couple of new words too - syzygy, acouchi and ideate! The final performance takes place tonight (it was mentioned on Classic FM this morning during the School Run!) and so please do book your tickets - you will not be disappointed!

So we had our very own Six Nations Rugby curtain raiser last Saturday with Sexey’s taking on the might of Catholic University School, Dublin and winning 29-17. This was followed by a block football fixture against Milton Abbey up on the football pitches where the weather was, shall we say, different. Wonderful to watch the individual contests and the pride and passion our Sexeians played with. This was followed by the Spiral of Light festival at the foot of the Dovecote - a glorious community event for the town which was enjoyed by all (it didn't rain, thank goodness!) and our Y11 performers really captured the moment as they performed to hundreds of Brutonites and their families under the lights of the Dovecote. I think the event will be slightly bigger next year...

The Six Nations continues to rumble on this weekend with England travelling up to Scotland to contest the coveted Calcutta Cup, having narrowly missed a win against France in their own back yard – we can only continue to hope! Closer to home on Sunday, a local derby brimming with fervor and energy will be taking place in Wincanton when Bruton United Football Club take on Wincanton FC – both teams have a huge Sexey’s representation and the banter is already in full swing! My money is on Bruton Utd and I hope to see the likes of Rob Clackson and Jamal Benzair take on Raymond Allen and Zak Wheeler – friendly rivalry and healthy competition is good for the soul. We have also had a brace of netball fixtures against Huish, Bucklers Mead, The Gryphon and Kings of Wessex and the Sexey’s teams have again triumphed – I was fortunate to have supper with some of the U15 girls’ team on Wednesday eveningwho were so enthusiastic about their recent win (26-5) that they recounted every basket back to me. Wonderful to hear and witness the team spirit and camaraderie which was so evident amongst these girls. Opportunities. And of course talking of team spirit, today sees Team GB at the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and the conditions out there look tremendous – snow powder levels are about 350cm on the upper slopes and the weather forecast is excellent (I wish I could say the same here). The sensation of skiing down these pristine slopes created by nature amongst the imposing mountain ranges must be such an adrenaline rush and I hope it inspires many of you to sign up your son/daughter for the forthcoming school ski trip to Tonale in Italy this December. What an opportunity and a useful life skill to have. Who knows we may well a future Winter Olympian in our midst.

The Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Michael Gove in his key note speech on educational reform on Monday at The London Academy of Excellence, paid tribute to the outstanding state schools working hard to make a difference and providing educational opportunities for our pupils. His aim is for the state sector to resemble the independent sector more closely so that a visitor to any school could not tell whether the school was publicly funded or not. At Sexey’s we have always offered the best of both the state and independent sectors in an inclusive environment and Mr Gove highlighted a handful, including Sexey's, as amongst the best in the world – read the full story on our website<>.  It is  to be recognized in this way on a national level and receive such high praise for the work that we do at our special and unique school. But a school is only as good as its staff, students and parents and we have a group of teaching and non-teaching professionals here who are passionate about what they do and are eager for their charges to do well, whether it be in the Science laboratory, on the archery course or at the Spelling Bee – and our parents work incredibly hard too supporting the school in everything it does for which I am grateful. All the ingredients of a successful school some might say? We will continue to be aspirational and ambitious for our pupils but making sure that at all times, our feet are firmly on the ground. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem though this weekend where the forecast is for more torrential rain on the already muddy Elm Field...