Friday, 13 December 2013

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 13th December

I have always defined the arrival of the end of the Michaelmas term by the completion of reports (and Christmas cards) and this year it has come early … then I remember that the majority of the world do not break up for a week yet, at least, and that I should pipe down a little - it is after all Friday the 13th.

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 have attended three carol services, had the Christmas playlist on the iPod on repeat and 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 almost as soon as the previous year stopped (or so it seems). But the festive spirit eventually holds sway: fuelled by images for example of colleagues taking part in a superb Staff Christmas Revue - the cameo appearance of Captain Jack Black, aka Mr Trevor Oats - he didn't fluff his line; the dulcet tones of our very own 'Partridge in a Pear Tree', Mr Keith Partridge; Scrooge's wicked sister Debeneezer Holmes (Mrs Debs Holmes), the cast of Harry Potter; the exquisite reading of 'The Twelve Letters of Christmas by Emily to Edward' read with such aplomb by Mrs Wendy Kiddell and Mr Darryl Carpenter and the fairy tale antics of the PE department. And I take my Santa hat off to my staff - in the midst of report writing, marking, effort grades and delivering lessons they have managed to rehearse, write new songs, produce and direct various sketches to a very high standard - truly remarkable and I thank them for all their efforts this term and for the numerous opportunities they provide for our students. At yesterday's Revue, we also said farewell to six colleagues; Sam Armitage, our Aussie Gap; Miss Rachel Davies, Assistant Housemistress in Coombe; Kara Clarke, Assistant Housemistress in Macmillan; Miss Sarah Coombes from the MFL department; Mrs Caroline Cook from the Science department and Mrs Jean Hopegood, the Deputy Head. We wish them well on their onward journeys and hope they will have fond memories of Sexey's - the scarf at least should keep them warm! The Revue set the tone for last night's Feast Night celebrations, a Sexey's tradition, where the boarding community put on their best frocks, have a sumptuous meal and then celebrate the end of term together in the Main Hall with a dance. Some of the dance moves would even have had Len Goodman, one of the judges from Strictly Come Dancing reaching for his score cards!  It was a lovely occasion which further demonstrates how strong 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 Father Justin, the Sexey's Choir and our readers in particular for leading that. The PSA were in full force in the Main Hall afterwards (and incidentally at the Bruton High Street Eventon Wednesday evening) with their fetching aprons bringing festive cheer (and more mince pies) to what has been, in my opinion, a wonderful term. The achievements of our students were celebrated in Tuesday's Achievement Assembly with over 150 students being awarded various accolades for triumphs both in and out of the academic arena - it was a proud occasion for myself and my colleagues and we also paused for a moment as we reflected on the achievements of one Nelson Mandela. Formalities were ended by the School Song being sung with great gusto and passion - a real sense of pride could be felt around the Hall and I do encourage your sons and daughters to learn the song.  And speaking of songs, Acoustic Night on Tuesday showcased the talent that is so abundant in this school, and it was lovely to see a packed Sixth Form Centre with students and parents alike (standing room only) supporting their peers and Sorrell Vince (OS) returning to take to the stage.

Highlights of the term? There are far too many too list (and I have to dash shortly as Mrs Latif and I will be hosting the HM's Staff Christmas Reception at Walwin) – the Remembrance Service, the Ofsted Inspection (is that a highlight?), the Christmas Concert, Jack 'The King of Cool' Wingate and Rosie Perrett at Acoustic Night, Speech Day with Kate Allenby MBE, Sixth Form Assemblies, House Cross Country, The Andrew Marr Show, rugby and hockey fixtures galore, India Gill's hockey triumphs, the Equestrian team, Jemma Jones, badminton, Open Evenings, China, KDR lunches, Y7 HM Suppers, Movember, Charities committee….and I've only just scratched the surface!

After all, in the midst of all that goes on in this fine institution of ours, 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, those values of tolerance, respect and kindness 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. Even for me, the Scrooge begins to fade away.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 6th December

It was with great sadness we learnt yesterday of the passing of President Nelson Mandela, one of the most influential and inspirational leaders of all time. He changed the course of South African history for the better and taught us the values of tolerance, kindness and respect in the face of adversity. The freedom and peace he bought to his country will remain his lasting legacy and I hope countries around the world currently in conflict will pause for a moment and reflect on the remarkable achievements and contributions of this truly great man.

Last weekend the weather was very kind to our Gold DofE Y12 students who were on a practice walking expedition on Dartmoor.  They were accompanied by one of our parents, Lt Col Rich Cantrill (father of Sophie in Y7) who taught the students important navigation skills. My thanks to Mrs Jenny Wilkinson and Mr Ed Southwood for taking the trip and I am sure Mr Cantrill will be joining the DofE team on their next expedition! The support we have from the parent community never ceases to amaze me and I am grateful for all that you do to support the School and the education of our Sexeians. It was hoped that the weather would be slightly more inclement to challenge our students - maybe they should go this weekend…

Sunday saw the First Day of Advent and it was fitting that I was joined by my elves who helped decorate the Main Hall and the School tree. I hasten to add that we took all the necessary health and safety precautions while putting up the decorations and my thanks to all those students, some of whom returned on Monday to further decorate the tree, for giving up their Sunday evening for this Sexey's tradition. A particular thank you to Hannah Petrovic without whom Christmas would not have been possible at Sexeys! Father Christmas also made an appearance at Sexey's this Wednesday at the Senior Citizens' Christmas Party - it was a splendid 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 Hugh Sexey's Hospital and those who served the School. Hearing the old stories over a cup of tea was inspiring and I look forward to welcoming back our friends next year. Our 6th formers were outstanding in looking after our guests and were in fine voice when we sang carols together along with the Choir and the Wind Band. The festive season is well and truly here!

The Christmas Concert that very evening saw fine performances by the Wind Band, the newly formed Folk Band and some individual performances, namely Rebecca Parham who played Ludovico Einaudi’s ‘I Giorni’ (which incidentally was played at mine and Mrs Latif's wedding) and Rosie Carroll's stunning rendition of Keane's ‘Somewhere Only We Know’. We were also given a taster of next year's Drama musical production; ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Company’ which looks very entertaining indeed - remember to bring along your dictionary!
On Thursday afternoon the Y11s received their Mock Examination Results, which are also available for you to download from our eLearning site, Moodle. Strategies will be discussed with the Y11s over the coming week when colleagues go through the exam scripts in class for the students to implement over the coming Christmas break. There is now only 6 months to go and it’s important that the Y11s make good use of their time to prepare effectively for their GCSEs.

I witnessed another Sexey's tradition this Friday when the Annual House Cross Country event took place. The school was awash with students (and a number of colleagues) in their colourful kit and fancy dress running for their Houses and charities such as the Bodies Hodges Foundation (Joe Stewart-Sendell and the Head of School, James Russ were in quite fetching numbers!). Thankfully the weather was kind to us today and the atmosphere by the Coombe was electric. The camaraderie and support shown by the students for each other, and for colleagues was truly humbling. 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, let alone their School. I am very privileged.

The 2nd Ashes test started in earnest this week in Adelaide and I look forward to another set of sleepless nights...