Friday, 22 May 2015

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 22nd May

It didn’t look too good this morning as I peered through the window of my study and wondered if we were going to call off Sports Day due to the perennial Bank Holiday weather – rain.  However, it had brightened up by break and it was full steam ahead as we heralded in another successful Sexey’s Sports Day on the Elm Field. The Houses were in fine form singing with gusto their various House Hymns building camaraderie and team spirit with staff and parents encouraging our sportsmen and women to achieve to their potential. There is nothing like a good sports day to bring together the whole school community and my thanks go to the PE department for their meticulous organisation, to the Estates team for the finely manicured tracks, House staff (the Hobhouse cupcakes were particularly impressive), the PSA and of course the competitors. The spoils went to Golledge who won the West Midlands Relay Shield, the Macmillan Cancer Support Staff-Student Race (Mr Lawton ran a stunning 100m) and the overall Track & Field Competition. It was a fine way to round off this busy half term and a well-deserved break awaits our colleagues and students alike.

A moving U6 Leavers’ assembly took place yesterday in the 6th Form Centre and it was a fitting tribute to the maturity and diligence of this particular year group. They have been led admirably by Jack Wingate and Annabel Buckland who have encapsulated all the qualities that make a Sexeian – all commented on the friendly nature and warm atmosphere of the school, the life skills they have learnt and the strong relationships they have built which will last for many years to come. Many have been here since Y7, many as boarders and the experiences and opportunities they have gained has been second to none. As Einstein said,  ‘education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learnt at school.’ And boarding can teach students the value of stability in a caring and nurturing environment. The U6 now immerse themselves in public exams after half term and we wish them well in their endeavours as they pursue coveted university places (and gap years) come August. I thank them for the outstanding service they have given to the school – from music, art and drama productions, to a variety of sports teams and to the prefect body for setting the gold standard to the younger members of our community and keeping them on TRaK.

We salute the Class of 2015.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 15th May

The weather (and politics) seem to be the main topics of conversation over the past few days (I believe a tornado was spotted in Bridgwater last night, let alone in Westminster…). However, the weather was very kind to us last Sunday, and long may it continue, when the Head Master's XI took on the mighty 1st XI cricket team. It was a cracking game with plenty of drama and excitement but experience ultimately triumphed over youth. But it’s not all about the winning - it's the taking part that counts which is important and I am grateful to all those who participated and gave up their Sunday afternoon to play, support, umpire and serve teas – a wonderful community event and a great afternoon of cricket. And keeping with the sporting theme, we have seen our girls’ cricket teams triumph against the likes of King Edward’s, Bath and Millfield and our athletics teams competing at the highest level in the English Schools Track & Field Cup at Millfield School. This weekend also see our Equestrian Team take on the might of Stonar School at the Inter Schools One-Day Event and the Duke of Edinburgh expedition to Cranborne Chase with 47 eager adventurers hoping to complete their bronze award (hope the weather stays fine for them!). And of course there is our Boarding Open Morning on Saturday too. Plenty of quality opportunities for our students to get involved in and be challenged by which can only build character and resilience in the long run, qualities employers are always looking for. Personally, I believe that we should be continually challenging ourselves, both mentally and physically. Remaining in our comfort zones is an all too easy option and a culture of complacency could develop as a result.

Many of you will have noticed that whilst I was at the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) Conference last week in London, I took part in an abseil challenge for the charity Springboard which funds places for disadvantaged children in independent and state boarding schools – thank you for all your support in this (I made it down 100ft in one piece!) and to the Headmistress of Bruton School for Girls, Mrs Nicky Botterill – being continually challenged and being out of one’s comfort zone is a good thing. Whilst at the Conference, I had the opportunity to work with Sir Anthony Seldon (Master of Wellington College) in promoting state boarding and I look forward to more collaborations in the future which will undoubtedly provide further opportunities for our students. There is no doubt there are challenges facing the education sector – it’s high on the political agenda, and the conference was no different. But it is the purpose of education that matters more and I hope that we at Sexey's still teach the right values and the importance of both a moral stance and a respect for those who differ. So in hindsight perhaps, the abseil was worthwhile.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 8th May

I have avoided talking about the General Election in my ruminations over the past couple of months as I am not one to speculate, unlike the expert opinion polls, and decided to comment only once the polling booths had closed. As I watched the outcome of the election unfold in the wee hours of the morning, it was becoming apparent that the UK will be waking up to a new Government; not a coalition but a single party majority - quite extraordinary when you consider that this was touted as the most unpredictable elections in recent times. This has been an election which will have more profound consequences than almost any in living memory. Even our own Mock Elections run by the Sixth Form Govt & Politics students produced results that mirrored the remarkable exit polls and reflected the views of modern Britain and a generation who will now engage in political discourse. Only time will tell if the new Government will be successful and I hope, for the sake of our students, that they will make the right decisions when it comes to the important question of education– decisions that will allow us to continue to provide a high quality, all-round holistic education and excellent pastoral care – we cannot afford to compromise on these. We have the Union Jack flying proudly on the front lawn of the school, not to celebrate the new Government, but to commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day, when Winston Churchill announced the end of World War Two and the History Department (they have been busy this week!) marked the occasion with a variety of activities at school. How the world has changed since 1945. We now face a decision about our future in Europe, with an EU referendum almost certain in two years' time and there will also be serious questions about the future of the United Kingdom. It means the future of the Union could yet again be on the political agenda. It is an election which has not just defied all the predictions of the pollsters and the pundits - but which may yet prompt the most fundamental shift of British politics for a generation. Interesting times.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 1st May

Despite man’s astonishing technological progress, there are still certain events which just seem unsurvivable. The slopes of Mt Everest proved that last weekend, after the powerful earthquake that struck Nepal. I was very fortunate whilst I was at Bedford School to have organized and led an expedition to Everest Base Camp in 2012 with an Old Sexeian (that is a story for another time – the word serendipity and karma spring to mind) and 50 gung-ho students. Our adventure of a lifetime to Everest Base Camp in Nepal was both ambitious and fraught with their own difficulties, but nonetheless an experience that I, and the boys, will never forget – from the strong relationships that we forged within the group and with those who trekked with us, the Sherpa communities we worked closely with and Khumjung School in the mountains we fundraised for back in Blighty. Mount Everest is, and will be, the pinnacle of any boys’ (or indeed girls’) adventure and to reach base camp having climbed over 5000m over the course of 10 days was humbling in many ways. The sense of achievement and camaraderie and that spirit of adventure made for a unique and life-changing experience. When we saw the pictures last weekend of the avalanche triggered by the tremors of the devastating earthquake, sweep through Base Camp – traditionally a safe haven for climbers to recuperate before they embarked on the treacherous climb to the summit - there was no escape. It was a case of bad luck and being in the wrong place on the mountain at the wrong time. Others, by contrast, were able, almost miraculously, to tweet instant news of the fact that they were safe from their bivouacs and high-altitude tents on ridges high above the Khumbu icefall. Luck was unfortunately the great decider of fates on Everest. But in the rest of Nepal, where the great majority of the deaths have occurred, the toll was, sadly, nothing to do with luck. As the grim toll rises, and continues to rise over the next few days, it provides at least some small cheer to see an immediate, expert and heartfelt global response to the Himalayan country’s cry for assistance; the woman pulled out after being stuck under rubble for five days without food or water gives us hope. Sexey’s, in a county wide effort with all Somerset schools, of all phases, will be looking to fundraise a considerable amount for Nepal next week – bringing communities together to help those less fortunate than us. I have yet to hear from our friends in Nepal and we can now only pray that they are safe and sound.

However, it is not the actual earthquakes that kill, but it’s the shoddy man-made buildings that kill innocent people – the millions of houses and structures that have crumpled, the ancient temples and towers that have collapsed are now only a mere memory. Proper help in addressing this issue is the real foreign aid that Nepal needs, if the international earthquake relief teams are not to return again and again.