Monday, 15 May 2017
Headmaster’s Blog Summer Term Week 4
What a week last week was!
Although we knew that our time was coming up to be inspected, one never knows when exactly it is going to happen, and one could always do with just one more week to make certain of being ready.
Well, the call came in on Monday morning, bright and early and we knew the inspection team would be with us in 24 hours – this is what we have been waiting for; all systems go.
It must be said that we were impressed by the inspectors, who were open and positive in their outlook from the start. They were all serving heads or had been, with one director of studies, and they clearly understood how schools like Abberley work. Nonetheless it is an intense and rather nerve-wracking time. You hope that they will see all the fantastic work that is done here and that the children will demonstrate the benefits of being educated at Abberley, but you never know…
I hesitate to write too much before the inspection report is published, but from the early feedback I felt reassured that they had recognised quite how much our pupils achieve, and across an extremely broad spectrum, as well as commenting on the extent to which our pupils develop as individuals. As the head I was particularly happy to hear them comment on how independent, caring, mutually supportive and self-aware our children appeared.
I waved them off on Thursday evening and immediately went and packed my sou’wester and wooly hat ready for an early departure with a group of 100s and Shells to go sailing on Gordonstoun’s sailing boat off the west coast of Scotland.
They were an absolute pleasure to be with, from start to finish. It turned out that we were very lucky with the weather, and although we had a real mixture, it allowed us to get in some proper sailing, understand the importance of oil skins, get two reasonable nights’ sleep, and see the glories of the Cullins and Skye with some lovely sunshine.
All of the children really threw themselves into the sailing and impressed the skipper, Iain, and his 1st and 2nd Mates, not to mention the Headmaster of Gordonstoun, Titus Edge, who welcomed us aboard late on Friday evening. They were commended for their hoisting of the mainsail on Saturday morning and never looked back from that point. We were divided into two ‘watches’ and took turns to sail the boat and prepare and clear up meals. There was certainly no shortage of grub and no danger of ‘ship’s biscuit’ running out.
We arrived at night time, which was much more exciting than in day light, and met our hosts at Kyle of Lochalsh. As we waited for them to turn up, we had the added bonus of seeing a pair of sea otters on the edge of the harbour, hunting along with a herron – I have never seen a sea otter before, and it was a special moment. Going aboard Ocean Spirit, being motored across to the mooring with our bags, and seeing jelly fish swimming just off the pier, lit up by our torches, added to the mystery and expectation. Once on board we finished the day with a hot chocolate and a bun for anyone who wanted one, then it was into our sleeping bags on our berths. Despite the unusual surroundings it didn’t take long to drop off!
We did not rush first thing on Saturday, but after a big breakfast and a bacon bap, we had our safety training and then it was on deck. The low winds meant that we had to motor to find the winds off Raasay, but after a lunch of baked spuds, the wind really picked up. Later on this brought some rain with it, but it did not take away from the excitement of travelling at up to 9.7 knots under sail; a mizzen sail, the main sail, and a jib – all hoisted, dropped, packed up neatly at the end of the day by the children. There was plenty of tacking and we found time to learn some knots in the morning: bowline and figure of eight to mention just two.
Time between watches allowed for some shut eye or cards, and it was a contented crew that sat down to lasagne and salad, followed by apple pie for supper.
Although we had a calm night in the shelter of Broadford Bay, the strong winds were still there for our homeward run and we made it back to Plockton in record time with a following wind on a ‘run’.
All in all it was a super trip. Beth and I loved it; the kids were fantastic and quite clearly loved every minute. I hope that it has planted a few seeds that will come to fruition one day in the future, whether as sailors, lovers of Scotland, pupils at Gordonstoun, or intrepid travellers; who knows?