Friday, 31 January 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 31st January 2014

It was inevitable that after England’s disastrous Ashes whitewash down under this winter, that there would be casualties. The first is coach Andy Flower, who took England to three Ashes wins, a World Twenty20 title and established England as the top test side in the world. He has stood down as of today. It’s the end of a golden era in England cricket and I think Flower should have stayed at the helm. Is cricket becoming more and more like football, after one disastrous result, it’s out with the manager and in with a new one? Are we going to see a number of coaches in as many tests? That’s a topic of debate for another day but only time will tell if this indeed is the correct decision and I hope that a detailed forensic analysis of the team’s performance is made and the opportunity is used to bring about change to build a new team over the coming years – from grass root levels, to the quality of coaching in schools to the depth and breadth at County level – all of these areas need looking at and addressing with a view of sustainable development and improvement within the sport. I hope to further develop cricket here at Sexey’s giving our pupils the opportunity to play and represent the school in numerous fixtures when the season kicks off in the summer - that’s if we get a summer! The rain has put a slight dampener on the numerous school football and netball matches that were scheduled to take place in and around the County and I hope these are reorganised when the weather clears up. The U13 Girls’ Cricket competition took place at Westfield earlier this week and our team, having beaten Westfield and Sexey’s ‘B’, lost in the final to Millfield Prep – a tremendous effort (and opportunity) for all involved.

Opportunities in life are important to develop experience and to learn new skills, whether it is travelling to Zambia on the exchange this summer to learn about the country’s culture and its people, or attending Maths enrichment lectures (and there have been two in the past week alone) to understand maths and its application in a different context. We strive to provide as many opportunities for our pupils and it’s up to them to seize these opportunities and make the most of what is on offer at School; because once it’s gone, it’s gone. The Air Training Corps (ATC) were recruiting this week in the Main Hall and it provides opportunities for cadets to take part in a number of exciting activities – from flying and gliding, to shooting and archery and, adventure training camps in the UK and Cyprus. The unit is being headed up by a new team of officers bristling with ideas on how to take the Corps forward and I strongly suggest that your son/daughter takes up the opportunity. We were also very fortunate to welcome Jacob Rees-Mogg, the MP for North East Somerset, who gave an impromptu Q&A session in a Government and Politics lesson to our Y12 students this afternoon - it certainly added a new dimension to the lesson and brought politics to life for the Y12s. Again, an opportunity and it was interesting speaking to Jacob, who is a self-confessed Tory rebel, on his views on immigration, UKIP and Europe, the American constitution and the General Election in 2015. The Y12 students were impressed with his openness and honesty and he was equally impressed with their sharpness and their searching questions.  Jacob is also a keen cricketer and an avid supporter of Somerset CCC so I am sure we will find him on our boundary come the summer!

The School Musical ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ takes place next week (Weds 5 – Fri 7 Feb) and we were given a sneak preview in assembly of one of its catchy numbers (‘I Am Not Smart’ – quite ironic to say the least) – it certainly looks a lot of fun and I do urge you to buy your tickets and support the students and staff in their efforts – you may learn a few new words and it’s an opportunity not to be missed! Keeping on the musical theme, the Spiral of Light Festival will be taking place at the iconic Dovecotetomorrow afternoon (4-7pm) and three Sexeians - Rosie Perrett (11 GOL ES), Daniel Higginson (11 KNI RK) and Callum Oliphant (11 GOL DB) will be representing the School and performing their eclectic mix of contemporary and classical music at this wonderful community event. Do come along and hear them play.

As I look out of my study window and see the school flag proudly flying in the force ten gale and with no sign of the torrential rain letting up (my thoughts go out to our neighbours who live on the Somerset Levels), I will be turning my attention to the Six Nations Rugby which kicks off tomorrow with Wales vs Italy and France vs England. Our very own England vs Ireland match takes place on the Elm Field tomorrow at 1030which I hope you will be able to come along and support – do bring along your umbrella and wellies though. We will be hosting a touring U15 Irish side from the Catholic University College in Dublin who will take on our U15s and it will be my personal curtain raiser for the 6 Nations tournament. Let’s hope England can do something with this ball.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 24th January

The Secondary Schools League Tables were published this week and the results are very pleasing indeed. Our scores have been consistent over the years and rivals many of our competitor schools in the county. I cannot take any credit for this achievement and thank the previous administration for their sterling efforts – the new administration has a lot to live up to! There is still plenty of work to do and although the league tables give us an indication of school standards, I feel that they do not paint the whole picture about a school, particularly a special one like ours. Don’t get me wrong, we certainly care about these results, and celebrate the success of our pupils, but not exclusively. I believe education is about more than just grades; the published data doesn’t tell us about the character and quality of our school. Nor do they give a true reflection of the ethos and culture of our school – from the wide range of extra-curricular activities on offer (art, music, drama and sport to name but a few) to growing up in a caring community. Personally, we need to be careful when looking at league tables in judging whether a school is successful or not when in reality a whole range of factors need to be considered before a judgement can be made. We will continue to strive to get the best out of our pupils but at the same time understanding what is important about education.

Remaining with that theme, congratulations to Jenny Paull (OS) and Miles Haines (OS) for completing their expedition (and all the paperwork) in the wilds of Borneo last summer with Camps International and to both Becky Rundle (13 GOL PC) and Harrison Minter (13 HOB PC) for successfully completing their Gold Duke of Edinburgh award. The latter two will be attending an awards ceremony hosted by Prince Philip at St James Palace in February. A tremendous effort by all involved and an experience which all of them will learn and draw from and will remain with them for many years to come. This is education.

I was asked to take a seat at break this morning as I was informed that England were on the brink of their first victory down under since arriving in Australia back in October last year for their Ashes campaign. They did end their losing streak winning by 57 runs. This series has certainly been a test for the England players and I hope they have been learnt much from their experience. Some good news to brighten up a somewhat cold, damp and dreary day. And the dull weather seems to be with us for the next week at least but that hasn’t dampened the spirits here. With fine wins against a strong Sherborne side in football yesterday (the U16 won 6-0) and the netball team going from strength to strength beating The Gryphon, the weather can continue as it is. As I conducted my Learning Walks this morning, in the rain, I was privileged to see students and colleagues in action – from understanding Gaia Theory in Geography, Shackleton’s expedition to the South Pole in Science, measuring wavelengths in Physics and verb conjugation in Spanish. Rehearsals for the School musical next month were also taking place and I do urge to get your tickets! The Sexeian spirit of endeavour and drive are certainly evident in and around school.

And so the weekend beckons and with no let up from the weather in sight, there will be plenty of prep and assignments to complete, governors reports to write and of course the 5th and final ODI cricket match in Adelaide to watch. Thank goodness for small mercies

Friday, 17 January 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 17th January

Howzat! And what a wonderful week it has been for sport at Sexey’s.  Not only have England registered a win down under with the England Ladies Cricket team winning the first Ashes test in Perth, but our U15 Girls’ Cricket have also triumphed. The A team won the South Somerset round of the National U15 Lady Taverner's indoor cricket competition at Stanchester School this week and now progress to the County Finals in Taunton.  The B team came second!  This prestigious competition is organised by Somerset CCC Ladies Coach and Ashes winning former England international Caroline Atkins who has also been in this week supporting and mentoring our girls.  Captain India Gill (9 KNI AB) has showed she is an all-round sports woman dominating at the crease in cricket and last term on the hockey field.  Sport is an integral part of what we do at Sexey’s and the skills and values it develops and encourages should never be underestimated.  Not to be outdone, the U15 Boys beat Millfield 3-0 in an absorbing and entertaining football match and the House Netball competition also started in earnest this week.  I was also privy to the Primary School Competitions that we host here at the School and this week saw the Basketball competition take place for our local partner primary schools and it was great to see the boys and girls from the likes of Evercreech, North Cadbury, and  Ditcheat (amongst others) enjoying the tournament. The Sports Hall was packed and the atmosphere was electric.  We host a number of Primary School competitions throughout the year from rugby, hockey, swimming, football, cricket, athletics, rounders; the list goes on and my thanks to Mrs Davis for organising these – participation and engagement are important and everything we can do as a community to help the next generation of hockey players, cricketers, swimmers is vital.  Even though the weather has been cold and miserable, there is plenty to smile about here.

In assembly this week, Sam Wilson (9 KNI SW) and Ollie Marsh (10 GLY JM) performed some eclectic drum pieces in front of the school and the pupils sang the school song with great gusto and pride.  Mr Kelley, the Head of the Chaplaincy Team, led the assembly and highlighted how we should be thinking of those less fortunate than us in the wake of the excesses of the recent festive season.  We also talked about how we should be keeping those new resolutions that we have made with all good intentions at the beginning of the year.  Making the resolutions is easy, but keeping them is the challenge.  I’m glad to say that I haven’t broken any of my resolutions (yet!) and it has been tough – the food served in the KDR is second to none…

New colleagues have settled in well to life at Sexey’s and Mr Reddick is getting used to the traditions and nuances of the school whilst conducting his numerous learning walks, lesson observations (he watched me today) and meeting the pupils.  The pupils have also settled back into the rhythms and routines of scholarly life and there seems to be an atmosphere of purposefulness and determination, especially with the Y11s who have a Parents’ Meeting this afternoon.  Whilst on lunch duty, I overhead two girls talking about their revision plans and the type of revision they felt worked best for them  – I was impressed that academics was the hot topic of conversation.  I have read through some Shakespeare projects too that the Y8s have completed in English over the Christmas holiday and the quality of work was outstanding.  Rehearsals for the School Musical ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee ’ are also in full swing and last year’s Y13 students (Old Sexeians) returned last week to meet with the current 6th Form and to receive their A-level certificates, before they embarked on the next leg of their academic journeys. Speaking of Old Sexeians, I received a charming letter from a lady whose grandfather was Philip Biggin who was a student at Sexey’s back in 1925 and was taught by the school’s first Head Master, Mr William A Knight MA – Mr Biggin (OS) turned 100 back in December, which I believe makes him the oldest living Sexeian.  From the old to the new, we seem to have started the year with the right attitude and in the correct frame of mind – I only hope that the England Ladies continue to do so too.

I wish you a pleasant and peaceful exeat weekend.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Head Master's Weekly Blog - 10th January

So we lost the Ashes Test in spectacular fashion losing 5-0 to the impressive Australians. I admit, I did not see the final two tests, nor the highlights as I was being constantly updated with the scores by colleagues in Australia who were basking in their Christmas sunshine.  I take my hat off to the Australians who only 6 months ago lost the Ashes and were able to turn things round in a relatively short period of time and taught us a thing or two about the beautiful game. We too can learn much about the England defeat and how they cope now with the tests in Sri Lanka and India looming will be testimony to them. No doubt I will keep you posted about development on the sub-continent. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom over the Christmas holiday - there was some sporting consolation in the fact that Arsenal remained top of the league in 2013 and in 2014 and that Yeovil Town (and not Manchester Utd) have made it through to the 4th round of the FA Cup!

We started back this week (have we really been back only a week?!) on a cold and wet Monday morning (thankfully we had repaired the roof before the onset of the storms so the new Deputy Head did not walk into a flooded study!) with renewed vigour and enthusiasm ready for the challenges of this Lent term. We welcome the following members of staff to Sexey’s - Miss Breeshey Harkin, who joined the Science Department (Miss Harkin is a Biology specialist) and will be with us until Mrs McCarthy’s returns from maternity leave later this term; Mrs Elena Buchanan who joined the MFL department and will teach Spanish and French and Mr Paul Reddick the new Deputy Head –Teaching & Learning, who is a Historian with a keen eye for detail and policy.

Intellectual risk-taking and the detrimental effects of ‘mollycoddling’, was the topic of this week’s assembly to the Sixth Form. They are currently preparing for their Mocks in February and Mr Reddick spoke to them during the assembly about his philosophy on teaching and learning . With the absence of January modules under the current educational reforms, there is more continuity and time devoted to teaching which will hopefully ensure that the students are well prepared to achieve their university offers this summer. Similarly, the Y11 pupils are now embarking on their individual GCSE campaigns in preparation for this summer and hopefully have been using the holiday to take on board the advice given to them by colleagues in light of their Mock performances back in November. You will be able to download their reports this afternoon from Moodle and they are also being posted and we look forward to seeing you at the Y11 Parents’ Meeting which will be taking placenext Friday (17th January) at 4.15pm across the estate.

The Lent term is packed (I wouldn’t have it any other way!) with plenty of activities in and around school – from sport, drama, music, art, charity fund raising, lectures and Open mornings. For a list of this season’s sporting fixtures (Football and Netball) please do check the website which is easily accessed through the school’s website – go to Extra Curricular along the top navigation menu and click on Sport in the drop down menu. Fixtures start in earnest next week and if you can come down for the Home matches it would be wonderful to see you and share post match tea with you. The music and drama department are busy rehearsing for the School musical production ‘Putnam County Spelling Bee’ which takes place on the evenings of Wednesday 5th to Friday 7th of February (we were given a sneak preview at the Christmas Concert and it looks incredibly entertaining) while the Boarding Open Morning takes place the morning after on Saturday 8th February.  

The PSA Quiz Night last term was a resounding success and I thank you for supporting it – there were a record number of parents, staff and friends of the School in attendance and it is great to see the community coming together to enjoy such an occasion.  I still refute the claims that it was a fix - the Head Master’s team won the Quiz fair and square. The PSA are organising a Spring Dinner and Dance this term on the 1st of March and it looks to be another glorious occasion for the school community – do get your tickets quickly (details are on the website) as I expect these will sell out pretty quick – something to look forward to after Christmas!

With regards Charity Fundraising, I have been impressed at the way the school supports such endeavours and the event this term is equally as impressive. The school will be supporting a 24 hour cyclathon in aid of the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation and the event ‘Big Yellow Friday’ will be taking placeon Friday 7th and Saturday 8th of Marchwhere the Bishop of Taunton will be also present. Please do read the flyer attached for more information and if you could support the event in whatever capacity it would be much appreciated. I hear that the 3am slot may still be available…

The new term is already in full swing and it proves to be an exciting one – England are doing well in the First Test of the Women’s Ashes in Perth, Australia.


Irfan H Latif JP
Head Master

Dates for the Diary:

Friday 17th January – Year 11 Parents’ Meeting
5th – 7th February – School Production ‘Putman County Spelling Bee’
Saturday 8th February – Bruton Spiral of Light
Saturday 1st March – PSA Spring Dance
Friday 7th March – Big Yellow Friday
Friday 7th March – Year 9 Parents’ Meeting
Friday 14th March – Inset Day – All Staff In
Friday 4th April, 3.40pm – Monday 21st April – Easter Holiday
Tuesday 22nd April – Inset Day – All Staff In
Tuesday 22nd April, 6.00pm onwards – boarders return all houses
Friday 2nd May, 3.40pm – Monday 5th May, 6.00pm – Quarter Term (Monday 5th May – Bank Holiday)
Friday 23rd May – Sports Day
Friday 27th June – Inset Day
Monday 30th June – Inset Day
Friday 18th July, 3.40pm – End of Term