Friday, 26 June 2015

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 26th June

This last week has seen the departure of two year groups now that their exams have finally finished. On Saturday we celebrated with the U6 at the 6th Form Ball held at the swanky Haynes Motor Museum, whilst on Tuesday we had the Y11 Prom also at the Haynes Motor Museum – a popular choice for discerning students. The U6 have been a formidable year group admirably led by Jack Wingate and Annabel Buckland, and it was wonderful to see the cohort together enjoying themselves as they embark on life beyond Sexey’s. Similarly, the Y11s have done the school proud. The Y11 Leavers’ Assembly and BBQ last Friday was an emotional one with the Head Boy, Ed Deacon giving a rousing speech and the Head Girl, Georgina Chapman leading the prayers. The Heads of House recounted the many trials and tribulations that our Y11s have gone through during their time at Sexey’s and I hope we have built their character and confidence and have taught them essential life skills. The Y11 video made by the students was a work of art and thank you to all colleagues who contributed to it – highly amusing and well executed. Some of our Sexeians will be moving on to pastures new and we thank them for all that they have done for the school. And we will welcome back many to the 6th Form (Induction Day was on Tuesday) where we hope to continue our strong relationship with them.

So how will the Classes of 2015 be remembered? Will it be the success that they have found both in and out of the academic arena – art, music, drama, hockey, cricket, rugby, athletics, football, netball, rounders, horse riding, motor sports, swimming, services to the community …I could go on. Or will the Classes of 2015 be remembered for the qualities of tolerance, respect and kindness that is clearly evident amongst these group of students? I suspect that it will be a combination of both. For example, last week’s End of Year Art show was a fitting tribute to the hard work and sheer effort that our Sexeians put in. The quality of work produced by our artists was simply stunning – all credit to them. Developing such intricate skills and fostering a love of art is something I hope we do well here at Sexey’s. With Hauser & Wirth and now the Bruton Art Factory on our doorstep, Sexeians are very fortunate to be surrounded by such creative and artistic people from which they can learn and draw inspiration. And of course it’s Glastonbury weekend, the festival of contemporary performing arts – our Sexeians are very lucky indeed. A curtain raiser to Glastonbury on our very own stage saw the Summer Instrumental concert take place this week and it was wonderful to watch our talented Sexeians perform and to hear Miss Kate Stevens (in her last concert at Sexey’s) sing ‘Seraphim’ from Handel’s ‘Samson. The school is full of talent.

Speaking of Hauser & Wirth, I will be attending the film premieres of Shaftesbury End (a teenage Wolf Hall) and ‘Exposure’ that our Sexey’s students have been making this past year with renowned director Jack Price – the photos of the shoots have been stunning. Again creativity and opportunity in abundance at Sexey’s. I hope you can join me this evening to celebrate their work.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 19th June

This week we have been fortunate to be part of two important anniversaries – the sealing of the Magna Carta by King John on the 11th of June 1215 and the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th of June 1815 where the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon Bonaparte in Belgium.

The History department have done sterling work this week in raising awareness and celebrating with our students the significance of these two historical events -  the Great Charter which has had a profound influence on eight centuries of history in England, Britain and the English-speaking world and the Battle of Waterloo which emphatically ended Napoleon’s stranglehold over Europe. The Magna Carta is and has been part and parcel of the history syllabus that is studied in British schools up and down the country – it formed the basis of the democracy, liberty and human rights that we live by today. But I was astonished to learn that the history curriculum in our schools barely touches on the Battle of Waterloo – forgive me, but I am only a mere chemist. The First World War is studied in great depth, and quite rightly so at this time of the centenary. The battlefields of Ypres and the Somme which our students have been fortunate to visit and experience, bring this part of history to life. But thereafter, it is all about Nazi Germany, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, particularly Hitler.
Students in schools will have little understanding of 20th-century history and particularly the dictatorships, if they have no idea of literally what happened in the past - Napoleon was the first modern European dictator. I don’t think one cannot understand the modern world without some in-depth knowledge of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. I feel that every school student should be taught about the French Revolution - failing to teach this period is denying our students valuable opportunities to enhance their understanding of the birth of the modern European world – and it is this modern Europe that is now coming under intense scrutiny, from the promised in/out referendum to the austerity measures facing Greece’s very existence in Europe. It is sad that students do not study this rich period in any depth, but I understand the limitations of time and the curriculum. The Battle of Waterloo was one of the most decisive battles of modern history – it was a day of compelling drama where one could not predict the outcome between the warring factions. It is hard to imagine any student not being captivated by the extraordinary events of that day. The battle teaches us about strategy, cooperation and leadership with two of the greatest military commanders in history facing each other: the enigmatic Wellington against the flamboyant Napoleon. Students can learn so much from studying these formidable men. The Battle of Waterloo, and the events leading up to and following it (much like the Magna Carta), warrants study in all schools. It would be a great tragedy if the bicentenary were to pass without this void in our school history provision being filled. I am sure the Duke of Wellington deserves better.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 12th June

The examination season is now in full swing, the sun is shining (after an initial downpour, of course), cricket sweaters and summer dress are de rigueur and Mr Cowley sporting his salmon-pink chinos - summer is finally here. And I hope that the weather continues to be kind to us so that we can enjoy all the summer events that are on for the rest of this Trinity term, from the Junior Shakespeare production, art exhibitions, concerts, sporting fixtures, classic car show and the like. And it’s great to see so many of our students engaged in these activities – Acoustic Night on Wednesday is a perfect example and the support shown in assembly to Fela Sowande in Y9, whose art work has been curated and is being showcased at Bruton Museum this afternoon, was exemplary. The number of volunteers we received to accompany our Chinese visitors at the end of this month (more details below) whilst they visit Sexey’s again highlights the enthusiasm and engagement our students have for all things Sexey’s – they are rightly proud of the school (we celebrate 125 years next year) and show strong camaraderie and an unwavering support for our community - I hope they all continue to stay on TRaK in all that they do over the coming weeks.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 5th June

This time last year we had the sound of samba and bossanova ringing in our ears as we welcomed the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Exactly a year on from that and the organisation, which we have grown to love and trust somewhat, has fallen foul to scandal and corruption. It’s a sad indictment of the world we live in and the recent athletic doping scandal is testimony to this. Sport has come under a lot of scrutiny recently, from match fixing to the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs and rightly so – sport is for all and should be, and please excuse the pun, be played on a level playing field. The global media coverage the FIFA story has received is vast. The question is, should it? You would think all of this is the most important matter facing the world - bigger than climate change, bigger, than the economy, bigger than religious extremism, bigger than world hunger. We have lost some sense of perspective. I know corruption is wrong, I know it should be rooted out, and I know it causes real harm. The perpetrators should be brought to justice. But this corruption is, with all due respect, in the world of sport. It is not something that really matters, or should matter, that much to people. If we were to discover that the World Health Organisation, or HM Treasury, or Google, or even the BBC were systematically corrupt, then, yes, that would matter a great deal, for obvious reasons. Real lives and livelihoods are at stake; real human welfare being perverted for personal gain by some unscrupulous individuals or other. Now I know football is a huge global business – the sponsorship and obscene salaries in our world-beating Premier league reflects this – but it is all rather irrational. However, we can learn a lot from sport at the fundamental level – the qualities of team work, leadership, endeavour, respect, integrity, winning and losing graciously, fair play – true sportsmanship; this is what we should be concentrating on moving forward. Teaching the next generation how to be good sportsman in every respect, both on and off the pitch is vital. With fixtures this past week against the likes of Millfield, Taunton School and Bruton School for Girls, I hope we are instilling those important qualities and building the character necessary so that our students can compete beyond our school gates. I trust the new custodians of FIFA will do the same too.