Dear Parents and Guardians
There have been some moments in the last few weeks which point to something special in the school which would be hard to replicate anywhere else. Two such moments involved singing. It is hard to describe, if you have not been there, a Great Hall full of 700 male voices singing a hymn it collectively loves. ‘I vow to thee my country’ at the Remembrance Service (1000 voices in the Great Hall that day) or ‘Of the Father’s heart begotten’ (possibly my favourite of all hymns) today at assembly. These are moments that literally tingle the spine, that cut right through to the soul; they are also the moments that boys will remember for the rest of their lives, no matter whether or not they appreciate it now. Then there was the car journey last weekend when I put on the choir’s latest CD. I almost stopped on the side of the road for half an hour to listen to it – could this really be a school which produced this? If you have not already bought it, do please get to the school shop early next term – it is really wonderful. And what a privilege it is to listen to our wonderful choir every single week of the term – again something which many boys will not appreciate until it is no longer there. The last such moments involved rugby, and most notably the Harrow fixture two weeks ago. The Harrow 1st XV is arguably the best in the country this year (they haven’t lost a game). Midway through the second half, we conceded a try which consigned us to a certain and unavoidable defeat; what happened next was not a picture of dejection, but a team rallying around its captain behind the posts as time seemingly stood still, faces fixed in concentration, urging each other on to ever greater things – so focussed, indeed, that they never heard the whistle to re-start the game (or even better, if they did, they ignored it!). It was a real never say die moment – “It doesn’t matter what the final score is; we are not going down without every last ounce of energy gone.” And they didn’t. It didn’t just happen on the 1st XV pitch either; reportedly on the 4th XV ground, the same thing happened, but this time it was for one last ditch effort to defeat an undefeated Harrow 4th XV (which the boys duly did by two points – a moment I doubt they will ever forget, such was the excitement on their faces after the game). There have, once again, been question marks in the media over rugby this term; but, in my opinion (even as a cricketer), no other sport produces moments like this.
We all have memories from school; and often those memories change over the years. But as teachers, we always try to remember that we are helping to create those memories for today’s children. Indeed, one of our Housemasters said as much to me recently: “We are in the business of creating memories – how important it is that they are great ones”. Watching our choirmaster in the carol service this week, or observing the staff at the Eagle House Christmas Dinner, or seeing the dedication of the Art Department this week as deadlines drew near, just a few examples of many, is to know that this group of people care deeply about the importance of getting childhood right.
Of course, everybody’s experience is unique and, for one reason or another, amongst 1000 boys, there is always likely to be some unhappiness somewhere. I was asked at an open morning what I would like to have achieved in ten years’ time. I think the questioner was expecting something stunning, ground-breaking, innovative; but my answer was simply truthful; – if every single boy leaves here having had a great experience of childhood, then I will be a happy man. Upon reflection, that’s a harder target than he was expecting, I suspect!
The boys have again achieved some wonderful things between them this term. Today’s Final Assembly, gives you a flavour of this term’s activity. Mr Tighe, our Deputy Head (Academic), as ever, will be cataloguing the academic achievements in a separate paper.
Talking of Mr Tighe, we have some comings and goings to report on staff. Mr Tighe himself has just been appointed Head of Wells Cathedral School in Somerset from September 2018. I am sure you will join me in sincerely congratulating him. Our considerable loss is their considerable gain, but we will enjoy another couple of terms with him first. This term sees the departure of Mr Jones (Chemistry, to St Paul’s School) and Ms van Heerden (English and Burnaby, to Zimbabwe); both have been marvellous teachers, colleagues and friends to many and we wish them well. As reported in my last letter, they will be replaced by Mrs Khadeja Begum and Miss Hanna Bassa, whom we look forward to welcoming in January; and also next term, Miss Betterton will start her role in the new post of ‘research lead’.
I have also made two new appointments for next year:
- Mr Stephen Boul has been appointed to teach in the Maths Department from September 2018. Mr Boul was educated at RGS Guildford and Manchester University (where he took a first class degree in Maths and played for England Students at Rugby League), before marrying an American and relocating to the US. They now have four daughters between the ages of 11 and15 years. Stephen has been involved in church and charity work, has taught in secondary schools and is currently employed as a teacher at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he has won a number of awards. He still plays rugby (union) – “Just”!
- Dr Albin Wallace has been appointed to a new role in the school; Director of Digital Learning, from April 2018. As a new post, it will interest you to know that it attracted a very strong field. Dr Wallace spent his formative years as a teacher back home in Melbourne, Australia and he is very excited about returning to the classroom. In recent years, he has been managing large IT and building projects for start-up Academy Trusts, and was Group Director of IT and e-learning for United Learning Trust. He has, amongst other qualifications, a doctorate in Education from Sheffield University, a Masters in Educational Studies from Monash University (Melbourne), and a degree in English Literature from that same establishment. He is a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, is a CEOP ambassador and gives talks all around the world on the effects of social media (and other such). His new book, ‘The Distortion Machine’, comes out in the New Year. Dr Wallace has various charitable interests, is a governor at two local village schools, loves cricket and karate, at which he is training for his black belt, and has 11 year old twins.
We had a large number of boys go off for Oxbridge interviews in the last fortnight or so; I wish them well for results in January – as indeed I wish the best for all of our Sixth Formers as they apply for a range of options after school.
And to the whole community I wish a happy and restful break; and then all best wishes for a happy and successful 2018.