Friday, 27 June 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 27th June

And it seems this month is a wash out, and not only am I referring to the weather (will we see the summer this year?) but to the summer of sport which promised so much. It hasn’t been a great week for British sport – England were eliminated from the world Cup – play two, lost two and drew one , thus finishing bottom of the group with one consolatory point. It seems that England added nothing to Brazil 2014 – the campaign was most similar to USA ’94 when England weren’t actually there to be humiliated and we turned our support to Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland who did manage to get through to the knock out stage. Today we see the likes of Algeria and Greece qualify for the KO stage – it does beg the question ‘Where is English football going?’ Next up, was England’s rugby players who completed a 3-0 series loss to New Zealand. Although the first two tests were closely contested they still will go down in the history books as losses and Stuart Lancaster, like Roy Hodgson, needs some serious thinking to do. I personally think that English sporting teams don’t travel too well – the recent dreaded Ashes tour to Australia springs to mind. Closer to home, Cpt Alistair Cook is coming under pressure after losing the test series to a rampant Sri Lankan team. He now has to get ready for the Indians next month – at least this is on home soil. And of course, we have Wimbledon this week and a number of Brits have already fallen by the wayside and we haven’t even got to round three! And so it goes on. It’s been a terrible week and you wonder why we bother. And yet we do bother because sport has that power – it has that unique capacity for hope, for belief, for endurance and for suffering. Already we are thinking of Ashes revenge next summer, the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and the Euros in 2016. There is an irrational belief that no matter how bad things are, they will improve. There is always the next time. My summer is pinned on the 1st XV RUGBY tour to Sweden
which leaves next Monday for a series of matches culminating in Sexey’s playing the U18 National side – I do hope we travel well and I wish the tour party the very best in their endeavours next week. Do follow their international campaign on Twitter @SexeysSchool.

It’s the end of June and it’s still raining which can only mean two things  – Wimbledon and Glastonbury. This small corner of Somerset is now under the global media spotlight and having watched it in the comfort of my dry home in London I don’t think I have quite appreciated just how big this event is. The biggest music festival in the world and its right on our doorstep and like sport, Glastonbury too wields a lot of power and influence - so much so the school is closed Friday through to Monday (extended three quarter term) to allow students and their families to attend and enjoy the festival. We are keen to support such cultural events and I hope it doesn’t rain too much or I will have to get my wellies out for Sunday as I wade through the mud at Worthy Farm!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 20th June

The Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle said that ‘Educating the mind without educating the soul is no kind of education at all’ and this week in particular we have seen the creativity and talent that is so abundant at Sexey’s feeding our souls. The recent Inter House Music competition and Acoustic Night heralded in the summer season of music and it was wonderful to see the students perform both competitively and for the masses – the Acoustic Night in particular, with the Staff Rock Band performing Ruby by the Kaiser Chiefs, showcased the variety of talent we have at the school. The End of Year GCSE and A-level Art Exhibition also took place this week and my two daughters (aged 6 and 4) were inspired by the quality of work that was on display (they were kicking and screaming when I decided it was time to leave)  from intricate drawings, to lavish paintings through to innovative sculptures and textile designs. One painting struck in particular struck me which depicted Battersea Power Station (not too far from where I grew up) in the background with Constable’s Hay Wain in the foreground – pretty profound to say the least and it’s a good thing that art can provoke such a reaction – emotional or otherwise. The Y10 art work for  their summer exams was also in display and from what I can see it bodes well for the future. And I will be off soon to watch ‘A Night of Comedy’ by the Y10 GCSE dramatists which should prove to be very amusing indeed and the perfect start to the weekend with the  6th Form Prom later on this evening.

So with the World Cup in Brazil still in full flow and the samba beat still ringing in my ears, we could get the violins out to accompany England’s tale of sorrow. What they do need is to go back to the drawing board, paint a different picture and learn how to be more artistic and creative in the final third.  

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 13th June

For the next five weeks the sound of samba and bossa nova will be ringing in our ears as the World Cup kicked off in Brazil last night. With the favourites beating Croatia in the opening match 3-1, the protests surrounding the ‘greatest show on Earth’ by the anti-world cup lobby in Brazil and the furore about Qatar 2022 were momentarily forgotten. Does sport wield such power and influence in bringing communities together? It is certainly powerful and the tournament heralded the start of a glorious summer of sport – with the US Open Golf championships, Test cricket against Sri Lanka and India, England vs New Zealand in rugby, the climax of the F1 racing season, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and Wimbledon just around the corner, it’s going to be a busy time for us arm chair sportsman and the remote control. Even though Brazil may go on to make history and win the coveted FIFA trophy for an unprecedented sixth time, we at Sexey’s may well have made history with our very own Tommy Stewart (Y8) who will probably be immortalised in Wisden, for smashing all bowling records  – see the sports update below. Sport certainly is powerful and as I hear the final preparations being made for the Race for Life event which starts in a few minutes, we are fortunate that we have the opportunity to play, enjoy and witness sport at all levels.

As I settled down to watch the opening game of the World Cup, and over the next month or so follow with intent the progress of England (managed by the former English teacher Roy Hodgson), I and the whole of Brazil, I think was stunned by that Brazilian own- goal in the 11th minute. There was a stony silence that was heard the world over. I recognised that silence. The sense of impending doom. All England fans recognise it. After 48 years of hope, is this going to be England’s year?

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 6th June

At Tuesday’s assembly, I addressed the Lower School on the importance and significance of today, the 6th of June. Today, the world will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day - the largest seaborne invasion in history; an invasion that changed the world. One of the wonders of history is to stand on a spot of grass and to try to imagine the things that have happened there, to conjure up the memories that have become part of the soil. Watching the D-Day ceremonies taking place in Normandy and in Portsmouth, I am struck by how serene and clean the beaches look. Seventy years ago, they were the site of chaos and bloodshed - of fathers and sons dying, of men pushing on against the guns with smoke and sand in their eyes. It might have seemed like the end of the world then. A final confrontation between good and evil where as many as 4,413 Allied troops died on ‘The Longest Day’. 

As I watch the grand commemorations taking place attended by the Queen, Barack Obama, David Cameron, Fran├žois Hollande - and even Vladimir Putin - it is all too easy to be distracted by the scale of the events and the pageantry on display. But although the fly-pasts, wreath-laying, solemn services and banquets are sincere and appropriate, there are more intimate and perhaps more meaningful ways in which we as individuals can mark the event. We can learn so much by talking to elderly people about the past, especially those who took part in such conflicts but it is not something that either we or our children do much of.  It also occurs to me that our children will be the last generation who will be able to meet those who had participated in an event that really did change the course of history. With today’s commemorations, it will be too easy to think of the invasion in purely historical terms.

However, the events of June 1944 are still within living memory – but only just. When one thinks of the horror, scale and consequences of D-Day, it is humbling to consider that some of the men who were there are still with us. Just as with me, you may not notice them at first. After all, they do not wear berets and medals every day. A D-Day veteran could be the old boy at the bus stop, or the chap you see through his front window doing a jigsaw puzzle. These men will tell you that they are ordinary, and in a way, they will be right. However, what they achieved on the 6th June 1944 was extraordinary, and it certainly needs commemorating. But a greater way to commemorate is to listen while we still can, to hear the words, and to reflect on how lucky we are to be able to shake the hands of the men who gave us our freedom.