This has been an extraordinary term by any school’s standards and I hope you do not mind my taking a few minutes of your time to recap on some marvellous achievements before blowing the bugle of retreat and heading back home to the Christmas fireplace (well, it may take a while yet, I guess!).
There are some areas of school life where we can recognise genuinely quantifiable national success and it seems that we have had a glut of these in the past few weeks, some of which will be well known to you all.
National Success in Music
The selection of our Chapel Choir as the only robed choir to perform in front Her Majesty the Queen at the Albert Hall in the Festival of Remembrance proved beyond doubt the outstanding quality of the Bedford School choir and recognised the hours of hard work that goes into their wonderful performances. We were very proud of them appearing on this national (and international) stage.
National Champions at Rugby
Our 1st XV was the fifth Bedford School team in our history to win all of its games. Along the way, it won England Rugby’s Champions Trophy (for 32 of England Rugby’s top rugby schools in the country). This was a great achievement, but made far more satisfying for the way the boys played the games, took victory with grace and humility and sought to pass on the secrets of their success to younger players in the school with genuine magnanimity and modesty.
National Standards in Food
You may well have heard of Sodexo, who manage our catering for us; they are a very large company, managing catering at over 2000 sites across the UK and Ireland and employing 35,000 people. We are delighted that our catering team has won a whole host of awards recently within Sodexo’s operations.
The Bedford School team and our manager Will Dixon firstly won awards as the best team and Star business manager in the whole of Sodexo’s education sector – beating teams from other independent schools, primary schools, academies, secondary schools and universities.
And then our team was awarded the highest accolade in Sodexo – to be the outstanding team of the year on all of Sodexo’s sites and across all of its divisions: education, defence, healthcare, sports and leisure, and corporate. The award is for all round excellence – catering service delivery, client and customer care, compliance with legislation and regulatory standards, and excellent administrative procedures. This is quite some achievement and we are indeed hugely fortunate to have this outstanding team of caterers.
National Quality Careers Advice
We have completely revamped Careers this year under the guidance of Mrs Lincoln and have gone some way to being at the forefront of this field, in terms of profile and (more importantly) quality. Quite apart from a multitude of individual consultations, we have already held (and have planned) several events of national significance.
Over 400 boys and parents attended a lecture on Graduate Employment Prospects, delivered by Martin Birchall, the Managing Director of High Fliers Research Ltd, which has, for the last twenty years, been at the forefront of graduate recruitment research at the UK’s leading universities. He drew on his extensive research used to compile The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers, to present a fascinating insight into boys’ possible job options after university.
We then staged an evening for those considering the “Direct Route” from school into the job market. I suspect this was one of the first such events in our sector, and it included presentations from the BBC, Grant Thornton and Aim Apprenticeships (the “UCAS” of apprenticeships). The vast majority of independent school leavers (including our own) will choose university, but we are very likely to see that balance increasingly shift over the next ten to fifteen years.
In the summer, we have secured the Chief Executive Officer of UCAS, Mary Curnock Cook, to speak to us. Her visit is a major coup and I hope that many will attend.
National Winning Fundraising Team
By raising just under £10,000, the Bedford School Movember team finished once again as the top school in the country for their fundraising efforts and indeed the 18th highest fund-raising team across all national/corporate teams across the UK. Whilst this is a fantastic achievement, what is even more commendable is that they also taught all of the Fifth Form boys about male cancer issues and all of the Sixth Form form boys about mental health issues. Everyone who heard Upper Sixth Formers, Max Williamson and Josh Taylor, speak will remember their messages for very many years.
More generally, our Charities Committee, via a plethora of channels, and through a deep recession, has raised just short of a quarter of a million pounds for Charity since September 2007.
National Nominations for our Theatre
For its architectural quality, The Quarry Theatre has been shortlisted as a Regional Finalist for the prestigious National 2016 Civic Trust Awards. We await more news later in the month.
Breaking Records at Cambridge University
For the second consecutive year, no fewer than four Old Bedfordians played for Cambridge University in the Varsity Match at Twickenham.
The Academic Deputy has mirrored this letter with a letter of his own. It delivers a hugely impressive list of academic achievements this term and I urge you to take the time to read it. I have also linked the final assembly script below.
There is one staff announcement. We have appointed Samuel Mee, who is currently playing National League hockey for Southgate and is teaching PE in London, to succeed Alyn Meredith as Director of Hockey. Mr Mee has been playing National and Euro League hockey since he was 16 and is a Junior Regional Performance Coach for England Hockey. We wish Mr Meredith well for his future career in teaching PE and Maths and thank him for his fine role with hockey and PE in his five excellent years with us. Mr Mee will join us at Easter; in the meantime we have appointed a small group of specialist coaches to boost the ranks for next term.
And finally, and appropriately, back to the boys. Unusually for me, I have not mentioned the 14D player, or the boy who has no idea what he wants to do later in life, or the lad who has never played a musical instrument, or who is struggling with his maths, or feels awkward amongst his peers, or is worried about his exams. I mention them now, because the success detailed above, whilst demonstrating a school in great heart and performing at the highest levels, means nothing if we do not provide the best possible care and education for every child. This is what we aim to do, with compassion, purpose, determination and empathy. I have just finished my 275th report and I can honestly say that the teachers’ comments are of national quality – they are unique to each child and show understanding and depth of care. But please do keep us on our toes in this regard and feel welcome to contact us, usually via tutors in the first instance, whenever you need; and we will endeavour to do the same. In the realms of individual care, we would be foolish to think that we do not have plenty to do.
And on that note, I wish you all, individually and collectively, a happy and restful Christmas.
With best wishes