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Friday, 2 February 2018

Headmaster's Blog Spring Term 2018 - Week 3

As Vic, who was cutting my hair yesterday, observed as we ruminated on the weather, we have forgotten what winters are like. The last four years have lulled us into a false sense of security; warm, no snow, not too many storms, and the rainy patches did not seem to last all that long. Well, as Vic and I concluded, this year things have returned to a more traditional style: it has been cold, wet, snowy and very windy too. What is more, it seems to be dragging on a long time. It is still January and although the days did seem to be getting longer, last week that palliative seemed to go on hold. What is more the poor weather is going hand in hand with some nasty bugs, and when I say nasty I mean ones that make you feel rotten and linger for more than a day or two. I can remember one year that I was a student in Manchester when it seemed to rain almost every day for several months solidly; a shockingly soggy year, 1991-2, I think. These days I could probably find out if my memory is right given the power of the internet.

Well, things are not as bad as all that, and we have had bursts of bright sunshine in amongst the blasts of cold and wet, but it has been a bit old school on the winter weather front. Let’s hope that Spring insists on making its presence felt. However, one particular ray of sunshine and optimism that has shone through this week has been the launch of the school’s new video. It is on our Facebook page and now has a link on the school website. Every time I need a bit of a lift and a reminder of what makes Abberley great, I watch it; please have a look yourselves if you haven’t yet.

Also the imminence of the inaugural Patrol Music Competition was felt last week, and the prospect of an external judge and parents in the audience is putting the pressure on. Emergency diversion of chunks of time in order to allow for more rehearsing is just one sign of the rising anxiety. It is going to be a fun event, I have no doubt, and in our first year we will try not to get too hung up on quality and focus instead competitive exuberance…but nevertheless it is a performance.

Sport has suffered as a result of the poor weather conditions; the astro has meant that we were able to play some football matches, though it is an unforgiving surface, but the girls netball fixtures were abandoned last Wednesday. One effect of playing several matches on the astro, and one I should have noticed more quickly, as this is what the girls do throughout the autumn, is the rolling match tea, particularly for the adults. If your game comes late in the afternoon don’t hold out too much hope for there being any egg sandwiches or cake left by the time you reach the Front Hall.

Mind you, from listening to some of my fellow heads in the Oxford Group last week – we met up for our annual gathering – the institution of match tea is under severe pressure in the more intense regions of Britain in the Home Counties and Thames Valley; fixtures in the morning, track-suits, packed lunches, on and off the coach all in a rush. The tradition of sausage, beans and chips is on the retreat.

Anthony Seldon came to talk to us, nominally about his new book and the possible impact of Artificial Intelligence on education. What he really talked about, at least, what I took out of what he said, was a reminder to focus on what education should really be about: not exams, not skills, not getting into the right senior school, but learning to be more human, more civilized, more capable of appreciating and enacting those values that make life worth living.

The 100s Parents Meeting launched us into the exeat and a happy collapse. And if learning to appreciate that time relaxing and spent with one’s family is not important, I don’t know what is.

Will Lockett, Headmaster

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