Friday, 11 December 2015

Head Master's Notes - 11th December 2015

And so another Michaelmas term comes hurtling to an end and I have always defined the arrival of the end of this term by the completion of reports (and Christmas cards) and this year it has certainly come early … then I remember that the majority of the world does not break up for a week yet, at least, and that I should pipe down a little - it is after all Friday the 11th.

It is always an oddity of schools like ours that the Christmas tree goes up at the end of November, the Christmas lunch occurs in the first week of December (this year the 6th), and by the time the month is half over, I will have attended four carol services, attended three nativities, had the Christmas playlist in Reception on repeat, eaten innumerable mince pies and drunk a fair amount of mulled wine. My 'bah humbug' traits can rise to the surface, just as much as they do as Christmas advertising hits our screens (Sainsbury’s and John Lewis as Mr Richard Kelley referred to in his Christmas Lesson) almost as soon as the previous year stopped (or so it seems). But the festive spirit eventually holds sway as it always does: fuelled by images for example of the Annual House Cross Country, Christmas Lunch, the Christmas Concert, Secret Santa and of course, Feast Night - a Sexey's tradition, where the boarding community put on their best bib and tucker, have a sumptuous meal and then celebrate the end of term in their houses with a disco, air hockey and lashings of hot chocolate! I had the honour of attending Macmillan House’s Masquerade Ball last night, expertly organised by Ms Janie Budd, and it was a magnificent occasion, where even Santa made a guest appearance, which further demonstrates how strong (and fun) the boarding community is at Sexey’s.

A true diehard Scrooge would have been hard pressed to avoid a sense of festive occasion at quite a superb Carol Service this afternoon at St Mary's the Virgin in Bruton and my thanks go to Mr Kelley, the Sexey's Choral Society (Adam Wagstaff’s ‘Once in Royal David City’ solo was stunning) and our readers in particular for leading that. With 650 odd people in attendance, there was literally standing room only – thank you for attending this years’ service and to Fr Justin who soldiered on, despite his sore throat. We also gave valetes to Mr Paul Reddick, who takes up the Headship of Crispin School in the New Year and to Mr and Mrs Hinks who leave Lisbury House after seven years to take up positions in construction and Sherborne Girls’ respectively. Mrs Hinks has actually served the school for over 20 years in various roles and responsibilities and, as you read this, will be on her way to Montgenèvre with the ski trip. We wish them well in their new adventures. The Parent Staff Association (PSA) were in full force in the Main Hall afterwards (and incidentally at the Bruton High Street Christmas Event on Wednesday evening – do they ever stop?) with their fetching aprons bringing festive cheer (and more mince pies) to what has been, in my opinion, a very successful term. In Tuesday's Assembly the School Song was sung with great gusto and passion - a real sense of pride could be felt around the Hall and I would like to take this opportunity to thank my staff (and Governors) for all their commitment, hard work and dedication in ensuring that Sexey’s remains at the top of its game, both pastorally and academically (the Raiseonline Government figures released this week are testimony to that with the school being placed in the top 1% nationally for attainment and progress; last year we were in the top 10%...)  and of course our exceptional examination results this summer -  I am indebted to their professionalism and work ethic; a fine common room and Governing Body on all accounts.

Highlights of the term? There are far too many too list, but I’ll give it a go – the Remembrance Service, the Christmas Concert, Acoustic Night, Sexey’s Choir, Macbeth, Jazz Group, Strings, Sixth Form Assemblies, UCAS success, House Cross Country, Sky Sports, PSA Barn Dance, Lancaster Castle, Y11 Trial exams, Philosophy Conference, Mr Roger Saul, Speech Day, Girls’ Hockey County Finals, Y7 Rugby triumph, the Equestrian Team, Winter Cricket Nets, Wells Literature Festival, Open Evenings, St Mary’s Sunday Services, Hauser & Wirth, Oxbridge interviews (good luck to all our candidates), Ski Trip to France (best of luck to our skiers who have already departed), KDR lunches, Christmas Lunch, Feast Night, Y7 Head Master’s Suppers, The Independent School Show, Macmillan Coffee Morning, Charities Committee, Christmas Carol Service….and I've only just scratched the surface!

After all, in the midst of all that goes on in this fine institution of ours (and I hope my ruminations have kept you up to date with all that goes on at Sexey’s throughout this term), it is the community spirit that really matters and the willingness of students and staff to put themselves out on behalf of others, both within and beyond Sexey’s. In a year that has seen real challenges from the refugee crisis to the Paris attacks, those core values of tolerance, respect and kindness which underpin all that we do, have remained paramount and we have seen them in abundance again this term. At this time of year, as we celebrate the Christian festival that sees the sacrifice of God being ‘pleased as man with man to dwell', it seems a good place to pause, and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Head Master's Notes - 4th December 2015

So the Christmas spirit has finally arrived at Sexey’s this week and it certainly feels likes Christmas now, with the Main Hall decorated, the Christmas tree looking splendid and carols playing in school. After all it is December and all we need now is some snow…Wednesday’s traditional Christmas Concert was a wonderful occasion and it was a real pleasure to meet so many friends of the School - Old Sexeians who fondly remembered their time here; residents of Sexey's Hospital and those who served the School. Hearing the old stories over a cup of tea and a mince pie was inspiring and I look forward to seeing them again soon. This year, we were treated to fine performances by the Wind Band, Strings, the Folk Group, Jazz Group and spirited solo performances too – Isabella Birt (Silent Night on the harp), Tom Chapman (Prokofiev’s ‘Troika’ on violin), Adam Wagstaff (Szelenyi’s School Break (only a week to go!) on violin) and Elena Gaffney (Mr Magorium’s Emporium on piano). The festive season is well and truly here!

We have just had an absolutely sumptuous Christmas Lunch by Mr Matt Briatore and his team in the KDR which was preceded by another Sexey's Christmas tradition - the Annual House Cross-Country. The school was awash with students (and a number of colleagues) in their colourful kit and fancy dress running for their Houses and our school partner charity, Macmillan Cancer – from the Sexey’s Express to George Stewart running as Susan Hill’s ‘Woman in Black’ to the ‘Where’s Wally?’ team and the Heads of School, George Tracy and Julia Blackmore running as a Spice Girl and as the balloons from Up – don’t ask! Thankfully the weather was kind to us today (though it was perishing and quite soft underfoot after last night’s downpour) but the atmosphere was very warm (as was the hot chocolate) and at times, electric. The camaraderie and support shown by the students for each other, and for colleagues was truly humbling - the students singing the School Song set the tone for the character building morning. Again, it never ceases to amaze me the sheer talent that is in such abundance here and the fervent pride the students have for their Houses (house hockey and rugby matches will be fiercely contested immediately after the Christmas holidays), let alone their School. And speaking of talent, I would like to wish our nine Oxbridge candidates the very best next week as they travel up to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge having been invited up for interview. They have been preparing feverishly this week and have had tough mock interviews with colleagues who have been putting them through their paces. I am sure this passion for learning both inside and outside of the classroom will continue long into the weekend, when we play our Saturday rugby block fixture against Warminster School and the Equestrian team compete in the NSEA County Qualifier at Kings Sedgemoor. Come along and see for yourself. We are very privileged to be part of this spirited and warm community.