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.