Friday, 15 December 2017
Headmaster's Blog Autumn Term 2017 - End of Term
Hand up, I have got behind with my blog writing and although there has been masses to write about, that is partly the reason I have not had much time to put it all down on the modern version of paper. Weeks during the term always fly by, but in the last weeks of term we go into hyper-drive when the usual laws of relativity are suspended and most of us are just hanging on relying on the Newtonian force of momentum, which, if you are my weight, can be an advantage (unless you are skiing with little notion of how to do a snowplough, which bracket I also fall into).
So although it seems only a couple of blinks of the eye ago, it is in fact a long while since we had our final exeat of term, since when there has been much fun and games. Moments that stick in the mind are as follows: Children in Need Afternoon (Abberley did their’s several days after the rest of the country). We had a Super hero theme and there was a serious amount of dressing up. I suspect that there is a fair bit of photographic evidence to confirm this, but if not, please take my word for it that most of the staff room, and all the pupils grasped this chance with both super-heroic hands. It gave a festive feel to the whole day, which the fly-by of a Chinook helicopter at break time only added to. However, what I enjoyed most was the way the pupils for a second year running took up the mantle of organising themselves to run a charity fair during Games Time. Splitting into patrols they then competed to attract the tokens of all the pupils by running a huge variety of stalls. What impressed me was the way this was done with virtually no adult involvement – yes there were teachers attending, but the pupils themselves organised and ran everything. They did this with very little preparation and were extremely imaginative at using what was to hand: we had a casino, basketball challenges, Iron Bru Shy, Long Distance Magnetic Darts, and much much more; talk about independent learning/fund-raising.
We had our beautiful Candlelit Advent Service on Sunday evening, always a high point in the Chapel year. I don’t know how many candles light the Chapel, but I would guess about 300. It is a magical scene and is a harbinger of Christmas and the end of term. The service was packed, some later arrivals had to stand in the corridor, I’m afraid, and numbers of people plus the candles kept the internal temperature to tolerable levels. The choir were simply fantastic and sang beautifully, and the advent readings by several pupils were done with great clarity and comprehension. It is always a super way to start the run into the end of term and this year was no exception.
The end of this term is packed full of fun, with lots of opportunities to get into the Christmas spirit: the Top Year boys packed their (new!) bags and headed off to the Isle of Man to be hosted by King William’s College. This is a super, short tour, which the boys love going on every year. King William’s are extremely good hosts and it is exciting to fly over for a two day tournament. The rugby was tough, and although we didn’t win all our matches, the quality of our rugby was high; not just by our own judgement! They boys returned to school on Sunday afternoon, tired but very content.
They returned to an empty school as everyone else had departed on the ‘Optional’ to Merry Hill to stock up on Christmas presents, go to a film and have a meal. The numbers kept building and in the end over fifty pupils signed up. It wouldn’t be my own idea of a fun way to spend a December Sunday, but I am clearly in the minority. So with a very quiet school left behind I could bash on through my report reading and writing.
The weekend had also included time for the boarders to decorate their dorms ‘Christmas’ style, and some really went to town in quite an impressive way. We had Christmas trees, Christmas waste-paper bins, a big range of Advent calendars, lots of lights, tinsel (which seems to have become more complex than it ever used to be), paper chains (the girls went big on this); in short, some dorms went to impressive lengths. Mr B-T took on the challenge of a new display hanging in the stairwell of the boarding house – snowflakes, of course!
We had another super Dramatic Arts Showcase – there is masses of talent coming through in the younger year groups as was so powerfully demonstrated with the Removes play, Treasure Island, last week. I loved every minute of it. It happens to be one of my favourite novels, and includes some excellent characters: Long John Silver is definitely in the top ten of villains in literature – despite being morally destitute, he has charisma and style; Ben Gunn’s fascination with cheese (mainly toasted, of which he dreams while castaway on the island) is one I share, to mention but two. The Removes more than did it justice and this production has some cracking tunes, which they really nailed. It was clear that they loved playing and had had lots of fun rehearsing. There were lots of wonderful costumes: wigs, buckles, tricorne hats, swords, pistols, treasure chests; and the usual extremely high standard of scenery – it looked like Paul Gaugin had dropped in to lend a hand judging by the jungle backdrop on the island.
Not to be outdone the penultimate Friday of term had the annual Christmas Lunchtime Concert. Leo gave a superb turn on the Tuba amongst many other good moments; there are some beautiful singing voices in the Shells and Removes, and the Chapel Choir finished with their usual panache and joie de vivre. If you are not in the mood after that, then you never will be.
I couldn’t attend the Junior Prose Reading competition earlier in the term as it clashed with our Top Year Parents Meeting – my loss. I heard the readers were excellent, and the setting of the Chapel worked well as a venue. So I certainly was not going to miss the Senior competition – finalists from every form in the 100s and Top Year. We were in Ashton and there were strong performances, especially from the 100s; I am glad that I did not have to be the judge. One of the spin offs of this competition is the spur to reading it gives. Coming at roughly the same time as the Book Fair, it is wonderful to see the pupils choosing and buying new books and pillaging them for a strong and dramatic passage. The reading culture continues to be strong in the school, with the boarders reading every evening for half an hour before lights out. Reading sessions in the library once a week also give us an opportunity to stretch our pupils both with regard to what they are reading and the pace they are reading. The English department emphasise the point that reading is absolutely fundamental to one’s education. Not only does it give immense pleasure in itself, but it is the best way to broaden one’s vocabulary and improve the ability to spell accurately, introduce new ideas and forms. In short reading enriches our lives, stimulates our imagination and enables us to perform better in almost all our academic subjects. Christmas is a wonderful time for reading: we have time; sometimes one gets given some great books; or if no-one gives you a good book, there often is something interesting on someone’s present pile… I hope you get to read something fantastic this Christmas.