Friday, 28 November 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 28th November 2014

It was shocking to learn of the untimely passing of a young cricketer this week who died as a result of the injuries sustained when he was struck by a ball while batting for South Australia against New South Wales. The tragic incident will have implications for cricket the world over and our thoughts and prayers are with Philip Hughes’ family and friends. With England playing the One Day International (ODI) series in Sri Lanka and the test series about to commence next week between Australia and India, the cricketing world will be pausing for a moment to reflect on this week’s horrible accident - spare a thought too for Sean Abbott, the bowler who delivered the bouncer that hit Hughes.

And whilst England were doing everything they could to overcome Sri Lanka in the 1st of seven ODI matches, Government funding, collaboration with the private sector and the importance of state boarding schools were the topics of debate and discussion at last weekend’s SBSA Conference at Holyport and Eton College. Politicians, government officials and educationalists led a very useful conference which, I am sure, will help further shape the educational landscape as we see it. State boarding schools are the jewel in the state sector’s crown and the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP was not surprised that state boarding schools prove so popular with parents and pupils. As Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit’. And I believe we provide an excellent all-round education for our students – from our Key Stage 3 students producing sculpture with celebrated artist Peter Rush to numerous sporting fixtures – rugby, hockey and table tennis - all this week. Let’s not forget the annual Inter House Cross Country event next Friday – a test of resilience, stamina and character.

It is the most wonderful time of the year - with Christmas decorations nearly up, the Choir in fine form, preparations for the block sporting fixture against Warminster (rugby and hockey) next Saturday, Carol service proof reads and Christmas trees adorned with baubles in various places around the school, the festive spirit has certainly arrived at Sexey’s - and it’s still only November! Thank you to all parents who have contributed gifts for the Senior Citizens’ Christmas Party next week (Weds 3 Dec). That very evening, the Christmas Concert will be taking place at 7pm in the Main Hall and it would be lovely to see you all there to see in the festive season – it will prove to be a most wonderful occasion! This weekend will see our Mo Bros shave off their cultivated upper lips after growing and nurturing them for a month and today students, including Mo Girls sported fake moustaches in support of the campaign to raise awareness about men’s health issues – testicular cancer, prostate cancer and mental health.  I am still trying to grow one…

The boarders are off to Cardiff for Christmas Shopping tomorrow and by my reckoning, there are only 26 shopping days left to Christmas and only a day to the 2ODI in Colombo…

Friday, 21 November 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 21st November 2014

Last week I opened my mail in my study and I was surprised to find a Christmas Card in the middle of November! Firstly, I was surprised at the efficiency of the sender (an Old Sexeian by the way) and secondly, it alerted me to the fact that we are just four Fridays away from Christmas. Is it me, or does Christmas seem to be arriving earlier every year – the John Lewis ad (apparently this signals the start of Christmas), the annual battle of the supermarkets, the Sunday supplements teaching you ‘How to cook the perfect Turkey’ and a message from the Facilities Manager asking about Christmas trees for School and the Boarding Houses. So we are officially in the festive season, even though it is still only November - and this week we have seen a veritable feast of opportunities which have included drama performances from the critically acclaimed Muddy Choir, cracking sporting fixtures against Sherborne and Clayesmore, the Business Breakfast Meeting for our 6th Form students and business leaders in Bruton and the Yr 7 boarders for supper at Walwin. Of course, the Y11s have started their Autumn exams (the Artists completed their exam yesterday) and they all start in earnest next week. And alongside this, our own Christmas prep is underway - I noticed the Christmas decorations coming out the school attic, the boarders are putting up Christmas trees in their boarding houses; preparations are underway for the Senior Citizens’ Christmas Party, the Christmas Concert on Tuesday 5 December, the annual Cross Country event, Christmas Dinner in the KDR, the Christmas Shopping Evening on Bruton High Street, where the PSA will be in full force, as will our Carol Singers, and of course, the Christmas Carol Service on the last day of term at St Mary’s Bruton. This will round off the term and put everyone in the Christmas spirit, though some may already be spreading the Christmas cheer at School.

We have the extended exeat this weekend and this will be an opportunity to rest, relax and reflect, but I fear that I may well be writing Christmas cards…

Monday, 10 November 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 7th November

Welcome back after a splendid half term break where I hope you had the opportunity to relax and recuperate and spend quality time with family and friends; we are now back into the rhythms and routine of school life and concentrating on the core business of teaching and learning at Sexey’s. With Sixth Form assessments having taken place all this week followed by Y11 Michaelmas Exams in a few weeks’ time, the school is a hive of academic learning, as it should be, and I have been impressed with the conscientious approach taken by our Sexeians – I wish all our students the very best in their academic endeavours.

However, I am not writing this edition from the comfort of my study in Bruton (the poppy display outside my study on the front lawn is stunning) but from Ypres in Belgium (and the Somme in France) where I have the privilege and honour of accompanying the School’s WWI Centenary Battlefields Tour this week. As a pupil, I learnt about the war at school but had never visited Ypres, nor the Somme and so I really did not fully appreciate the significance of the sacrifice made by our young men. The Ypres Salient is vast, as are the graves at Langemark and Tyne Cot, where Brutonians and Old Sexeians are honoured at the latter. And as I sit here and reflect having reread John McCrae's ‘From Flanders Field’ and an old letter written by Harold Scott (OS) of an Old Sexeian, Trooper Harry Warr, who lost his life on 13 May 1915 during the Great War, I take on board the enormity of what happened here exactly 100 years ago. It's truly humbling and very powerful indeed, quite overwhelming in fact when you see the number of graves, monuments, memorials and inscriptions about the war. The war poets, Sassoon, Kipling, Owen et al brought home the madness of war in their writings and when I read ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, it still sends a shiver down my spine - 'going over the top' will resonant for a long time to come. We have just come back from an emotional Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate where current Sexeians, Jack Lecerf (9 Kni ACA) and Georgina Bewley (9 Gol DJB) laid a wreath in honour of the Old Sexeian Harry Warr whose name is inscribed on this solemn memorial - a true honour. My wife’s two great uncles are also named on the Gate – the war affected everyone. In total 63 Sexeians lost their lives fighting for our country and the Remembrance Service at St Mary’s, Bruton on Sunday and the School’s service next Tuesday will hold even more poignancy. And I hope our Sexeians gain and learn much from this experience, as I have done, as we look forward to visiting the battle trenches at Sanctuary Wood tomorrow - they are the next generation who I hope will work hard to avoid such conflicts ever happening again and will endeavour to continue to bring peace in our world. We have much to thank the courageous and selfless acts of these young men (some as young as our Y11s) who gave their lives in fighting the Great War so that we could enjoy our freedom today and tomorrow - we will remember them, always.