Friday, 29 January 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 29th January 2016

January seems to have galloped away from us (the Equestrian Team are at the NSEA Show Jumping Qualifier at Bicton Arena, Devon this weekend)  and we have also had the first exeat of the year. This week we interviewed a number of candidates for the post of Deputy Head and after a gruelling round of interviews, which included presentations, a number of panel interviews, in-tray exercises and meetings with various colleagues, I am delighted to announce the appointment of Mr Daniel Bull to the post of Deputy Head – Teaching & Learning at Sexey’s School from April 2016.  Mr Bull takes over essentially from Mr Reddick who is now the Head at Crispin School, Street and he has some big shoes to fill.  He is currently Associate Headteacher and Head of the Humanities Faculty at Sexey’s and was educated at Aylesbury Grammar School and the University of Wales, Aberyswyth where he read Geography. He has successfully completed the NCSL Leadership Pathways and is currently studying for the NPQSL at the National College of School Leadership (NCSL). We look forward to welcoming Mr Bull and his family to his new role over the coming months and I am sure you will make them all feel very welcome.
And the dull weather (thankfully its hasn’t snowed here yet) seems to be with us for the next week at least but that hasn’t dampened the spirits here. With fine performances against a strong Dauntsey’s side in yesterday’s 1st XI football fixture and the netball teams going from strength to strength with fine performances against Milton Abbey and other schools, the weather can continue as it is! Congratulations must also go to Caitlin Carnegie who will be representing Sexey’s at the South West Schools’ Cross Country Championships next weekend.
Rehearsals for the School musical next week, Return to the Forbidden Planet, are also taking place (the set is stunning!) and I wish the cast and crew the very best this weekend as dress and technical rehearsals take place; I do urge to get your tickets; the Maths Challenge takes place next week and our Mathematicians will be also be visiting Wellington School to hear the mathematician Simon Singh speak. We also look forward to welcoming David Dein, the former vice-chairman of Arsenal Football Club and former vice-chairman of the Football Association next Thursday. The Sexeian spirit of endeavour, ambition and drive are certainly evident in and around school – long may it continue and the non-arctic weather…

Friday, 22 January 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 22nd January 2016

In the week where we had seen the first British astronaut, Major Tim Peake perform a spacewalk on the International Space Station and the original ‘Starman’, David Bowie’s untimely passing, it was a fitting tribute that we had the eminent astrophysicist and scientist Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell give the inaugural ‘Bell-Burnell Lecture’ at Sexey’s on Monday. Dame Jocelyn who is credited with making the greatest astronomical discovery of the twentieth century - the discovery of radio pulsars whilst doing her PhD at Cambridge, delivered an entertaining and accessible lecture on astrophysics, entitled ‘We are Stardust’. We were truly honoured to have such a distinguished scientist at Sexey’s, inspiring the next generation of students. Such has been Dame Jocelyn’s impact on the world of Physics, we have named one of our science laboratories after her – Bell-Burnell and this series of lectures. My thanks go to Dr Rocio Beeching and Mrs Sarah Stallion for organising the lecture and to you for your support.

The School Performance Tables were published yesterday by the Department for Education and the results were very pleasing indeed. According to the tables we are the best performing non-selective state school in Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon and Cornwall and our results rival many of our competitor schools in the county (and country). I am very proud to be leading such an outstanding institution, but there is still plenty of work to do. 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 students (my congratulations go to two of our U6 students, Holly Austin and Lynsey Whittaker who received offers to read Psychology at Oxford and Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge respectively last week), 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, values 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 and safe 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 both in and out of the academic arena – teaching them to make the right choices  but at the same time understand what is important about education and the intrinsic values that make up a successful community. During 6th form assembly this week, we talked about the values which define us and underpin everything we do here at Sexey’s -Tolerance, Respect and Kindness – in response to Donald Trump’s ill-informed comments about Muslims. We asked the question, should we ban him from coming to Britain? These values are core and if we want the world to be a safer place for our children and their children, then education is the enemy of ignorance and bigotry. And bigotry is the enemy of humanity and the only way we are going to survive as a human race and learn to be tolerant and respect one another is through education.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 15th January 2016

This week’s assembly focussed on the remarkable career of the most influential musician of his era, David Bowie who passed away at 69 having lost his battle with cancer (and that of the wickedly versatile British actor, Alan Rickman who also passed away this week aged 69 from cancer). It was a celebratory occasion where we took time to reflect on how he influenced generation after generation with his music and style and was constantly changing, looking forward and moving forward. His career was defined by his relentless evolution and possibly revolution as he continued to challenge and change attitudes, both socially and culturally. The outpouring over the past few days is testimony of the impact Bowie has had on our lives – he will forever remain a part of British culture and form a part of our national identity. His music formed the soundtrack of many of our lives and we can all draw inspiration from many of them, in particular ‘Changes’, something we can all do to better ourselves and the lives of others and ‘Heroes’, we can all be heroes even if it is just for one day. Making a positive difference to a community and society can only be viewed as a good thing. It was interesting speaking to staff and students after the assembly on how Bowie had affected them and I was impressed at how the students articulated their responses and it was encouraging to see young people developing their own opinions – something I am very keen for them to do here at Sexey’s. Do discuss with your sons and/or daughters what’s going on in the world around them - encourage them to read the newspaper, watch the news, listen to the radio (Radio 4 is a family favourite), take an interest in current affairs and the political debate – those conversations around the dining table are vital in developing their intellectual curiosity and capital and will help them to engage with what is going on beyond the safety of our school gates. We also talked about how we should be keeping those New Year resolutions that we made with all the best intentions at the start of the year. Making 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 if we all endeavour to keep them, then actually we have a chance of creating change.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 8th January 2016

Welcome back to the start of a new Lent term and although the weather is due to turn next week, the sun is currently on form, albeit there is quite a nip in the air. I trust that you all had a restful holiday (seems like such a long time ago) and are now settled into the New Year. Over the festive period, the School was delighted to learn that it has been included for a second year running in this year’s Tatler’s ‘Best State Schools in Britain’ Guide – an accolade which we are very proud of (only 21 state schools made the list) and although this further raises the School’s profile and highlights the outstanding work that colleagues are doing at Sexey’s, our feet are firmly on the ground and we will continue to strive for excellence in all areas of school life. Nevertheless, it is a great way to start the New Year knowing that the fine work we are doing here is being acknowledged nationally. Our congratulations also extend to our Old Sexeians - Lt Col Lucy Giles and Anne- Marie Minty. The former has been appointed to lead New College at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst (the first woman college commander in its illustrious history) and to Anne-Marie Minty who worked as the Property Coordinator on JJ Abrams’s iconic Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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, PSA events and visiting lecturers, including the world famous astronomer, Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell – quite topical since British astronaut, Major Tim Peake blast off into space over the holidays. The music and drama department are busy rehearsing for the School musical production ‘The Return to the Forbidden Planet’ which takes place on the evenings of Wednesday 3rd to Friday 5th February – do please come along and support the students’ efforts. For a list of this season’s sporting fixtures (Football, Netball and Rugby 7s) please do check the website which is easily accessed through the school’s website. Fixtures start in earnest next week against the likes of King’s College, Taunton and Warminster and if you can come down for the Home matches it would be wonderful to see you cheering on the side line. The football season will also see Mr David Dein, former Vic Chairman of Arsenal, a big supporter of Women’s Football and the architect of the Premier League, speaking to our students at school next month. It will undoubtedly prove to be very informative and engaging talk.

The new term is already in full swing and it proves to be a very exciting one – I look forward to seeing many of you at the numerous events that will be happening at School over the coming weeks and months (the much anticipated PSA Quiz is next Friday – more details below). Thank you in advance for your continued support and loyalty and I wish you a very successful and prosperous 2016.