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Monday, 22 January 2018

Headmaster's Blog Spring Term 2018 - Week 2

A super Chapel Service last Sunday, with Bishop Graham of Dudley presiding was a super way to start the week. The choir and readers, despite not having had much time to rehearse, seemed very far from being rusty – Jim’s solo was spot on. The bishop did a fantastic job of engaging the pupils and struck just the right balance of grabbing our attention, teaching us something new and conveying a spiritual message. As one of our pupils said afterwards “He wasn’t at all what I thought a bishop would be like.” The three girls who spent a good five minutes under the bishop’s cloak being donned by Rachel emerged rather pink-cheeked but smiling broadly, which said it all.

Forecast snow never came to pass on Tuesday, but did arrive, unannounced, on Saturday afternoon, more of which later.

On Wednesday, here at Abberley, the freezing winds were the primary feature of the afternoon, although this was more in the minds of the spectators than the players. The boys in the Colts teams and 4th XI had an excellent afternoon against Packwood, with the younger ones winning two out of three of their fixtures and coming close in the third; the standard of football we are already seeing in the Colts is really quite impressive and has some depth to it. In the away fixtures the 1st XI played a thrilling 3-3 draw, and even if the 2nds and 3rds did not win, apparently spirits were high on the returning coach, with singing aplenty; just as well, as it is a long journey.

The elder girls were at Moor Park and met stiff opposition. Moor Park are really strong in their netball at the top end of the school and fair play to them. These things go in cycles, however, and our U11s have a good deal of sporting talent. A mixed up A/B team gave purpose and educational benefit to their fixture; winning is not what it is all about and an easy win teaches you nothing.

We are introducing a new feature to our Spring Term Calendar, a Patrol music competition. We have, over the last couple of years, been steadily trying to raise the profile of the patrols in the school; Woodies, Owls, Peewits and Cuckoos. I was a Woodie during my time here (but quite wanted to be an Owl, I can admit now, though can’t really remember why). There are patrol matches in all the main sports each term, and of course ‘Boats’, or the patrol swimming competition – I’m having trouble persuading some of my colleagues to bring back the traditional title of this event, though I can’t work out why anyone would object, and at least it is in the Calendar this year. Of course Sports Day is another classic ‘patrol’ moment with the relays and athletics cup.

Patrol leaders have increasing responsibilities: they take it in turns to organize their patrol to fulfil the dining room duties each week, and this has long been the case. However they now have to be creative and lead the plans and running of the Charities Fair afternoon in the autumn, which they have done with great success two years on the trot. We have now instituted their involvement in All-In Weekends in an attempt to capture the input of the children in what happens at weekends as well as provide another opportunity for the patrol to work together and the older ones to give a lead.

Each week in our Ashton Assembly Mr Kennedy reads out which patrol has collectively won the most ‘Show Ups’; a team incentive to try hard is positive on all fronts. And now the patrols are pitching their respective musical talents into the competitive mix too. I think it is marvellous that the pupils see one another’s strengths and skills. Abberley is nothing if not a school that promotes and fosters breadth in all our children. We value those who have ability in any field, be it in the classroom, the debating hall, on the sports fields, on stage, musically and more. The competition is just one more chance to reinforce this message. The preparations began in earnest on Thursday morning with the patrols meeting in four different rooms, with a courageous member of staff aiding the patrol leaders in the process of selecting a ‘Patrol Song’, as well as soloists in the three different categories, both intermediate and advanced. This leaves two more Thursday mornings in which to rehearse… time is short…tensions are rising…parents are invited to the event - Friday 2nd February in the evening. It will be a hoot, there will be bags of talent on show, and it will be lovely to see the patrols working together as a whole from Form 1 to the Top Year. Whatever next? A Patrol General Knowledge Competition…so much to do, so little time.

The scholarship season is in full swing and with interview practice and specialist preparations keeping everyone very busy I wish the candidates much luck. Hopefully I will be able to share good news soon.

Finally, back to the snow. Although Tuesday’s weather warnings proved empty, the snow did start falling today during the Form 2 Parents Meeting. I thought it would just be a flurry and blow on through, but it decided to persist. Girls' matches were cancelled or moved indoors, but the Colts football fixtures stayed on – ‘Abberley never cancels due to the weather’, as one parent reminded me on the way down to the astro. It did have to be on the astro however or the grass pitches would probably be unplayable for another month. As I came down to see what was happening Mr Joyce, Mr Richardson and Mr Bee were scooping snow off the pitch at the far end. They have done a very tidy job and had about half of it cleared, but the snow kept coming and was filling in as quickly as they cleared. A new strategy was required; the clear half of the astro would have to be used for all the matches on a rolling basis. I thought we would not get a big turnout of parents, but quite the contrary, it was packed along the edge of the pitch and some were on the banks watching down. I thought I had wrapped up warm and donned my Guernsey under a warm jacket and hat. My Christmas insoles are now a permanent fixture in my Argyls and I felt confident that I had catered well for the conditions. The first hour or so was fine, but then sensation began to fade in my feet and suddenly my hands felt like blocks of cold granite. Sally’s friend very kindly lent me her sheepskin gloves; if she hadn’t I think I might have had to retreat into the Front Hall, but they kept me going to see the end of a super round of Colts game. No time here for any detail, but a good afternoon despite the conditions and a large slice of cake afterwards.

Will Lockett, Headmaster

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