And so another Michaelmas term comes hurtling to an end and I have always defined the arrival of the end of this term by the completion of reports (and Christmas cards) and this year it has certainly come early … then I remember that the majority of the world does not break up for a week yet, at least, and that I should pipe down a little - it is after all Friday the 11th.
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 will have attended four carol services, attended three nativities, had the Christmas playlist in Reception on repeat, 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 (Sainsbury’s and John Lewis as Mr Richard Kelley referred to in his Christmas Lesson) almost as soon as the previous year stopped (or so it seems). But the festive spirit eventually holds sway as it always does: fuelled by images for example of the Annual House Cross Country, Christmas Lunch, the Christmas Concert, Secret Santa and of course, Feast Night - a Sexey's tradition, where the boarding community put on their best bib and tucker, have a sumptuous meal and then celebrate the end of term in their houses with a disco, air hockey and lashings of hot chocolate! I had the honour of attending Macmillan House’s Masquerade Ball last night, expertly organised by Ms Janie Budd, and it was a magnificent occasion, where even Santa made a guest appearance, which further demonstrates how strong (and fun) 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 Mr Kelley, the Sexey's Choral Society (Adam Wagstaff’s ‘Once in Royal David City’ solo was stunning) and our readers in particular for leading that. With 650 odd people in attendance, there was literally standing room only – thank you for attending this years’ service and to Fr Justin who soldiered on, despite his sore throat. We also gave valetes to Mr Paul Reddick, who takes up the Headship of Crispin School in the New Year and to Mr and Mrs Hinks who leave Lisbury House after seven years to take up positions in construction and Sherborne Girls’ respectively. Mrs Hinks has actually served the school for over 20 years in various roles and responsibilities and, as you read this, will be on her way to Montgenèvre with the ski trip. We wish them well in their new adventures. The Parent Staff Association (PSA) were in full force in the Main Hall afterwards (and incidentally at the Bruton High Street Christmas Event on Wednesday evening – do they ever stop?) with their fetching aprons bringing festive cheer (and more mince pies) to what has been, in my opinion, a very successful term. In Tuesday's Assembly the School Song was sung with great gusto and passion - a real sense of pride could be felt around the Hall and I would like to take this opportunity to thank my staff (and Governors) for all their commitment, hard work and dedication in ensuring that Sexey’s remains at the top of its game, both pastorally and academically (the Raiseonline Government figures released this week are testimony to that with the school being placed in the top 1% nationally for attainment and progress; last year we were in the top 10%...) and of course our exceptional examination results this summer - I am indebted to their professionalism and work ethic; a fine common room and Governing Body on all accounts.
Highlights of the term? There are far too many too list, but I’ll give it a go – the Remembrance Service, the Christmas Concert, Acoustic Night, Sexey’s Choir, Macbeth, Jazz Group, Strings, Sixth Form Assemblies, UCAS success, House Cross Country, Sky Sports, PSA Barn Dance, Lancaster Castle, Y11 Trial exams, Philosophy Conference, Mr Roger Saul, Speech Day, Girls’ Hockey County Finals, Y7 Rugby triumph, the Equestrian Team, Winter Cricket Nets, Wells Literature Festival, Open Evenings, St Mary’s Sunday Services, Hauser & Wirth, Oxbridge interviews (good luck to all our candidates), Ski Trip to France (best of luck to our skiers who have already departed), KDR lunches, Christmas Lunch, Feast Night, Y7 Head Master’s Suppers, The Independent School Show, Macmillan Coffee Morning, Charities Committee, Christmas Carol Service….and I've only just scratched the surface!
After all, in the midst of all that goes on in this fine institution of ours (and I hope my ruminations have kept you up to date with all that goes on at Sexey’s throughout this term), 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 from the refugee crisis to the Paris attacks, those core values of tolerance, respect and kindness which underpin all that we do, 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.