It is my pleasure to welcome you to a new communications routine with a letter of my own. You will, from now on, be receiving two weekly communications:
- A Friday afternoon roundup of the news from the week and details of events open to the whole school community in the week ahead.
- A Saturday morning email, to replicate our recent Friday bulletins, which will include letters, forms, and so on.
The former is likely to be a more enjoyable read; the latter a more necessary read (please!); and I will continue to write an e-bulletin a couple of times per term.
We are approaching one of the best times of the year. Radio 4 re-ran Bryan Appleyard’s wonderful polemic against optimism over half term (you can listen here, if you are interested), but even his studied pessimism cannot stem the optimism which one feels as the days start to grow longer, the hockey teams are winning (the 1st XI is undefeated), lots of wonderful university offers are piling in for our Upper Sixth Formers, and the integration of this year’s new boys is showing signs of real success.
You have been kind enough to put up with a number of questionnaires recently (notably the inspection questionnaire and the new parents’ questionnaire) and to give your honest feedback. Next Friday, we will be sending our biennial parents’ questionnaire and I urge you please to complete it; it does help us to set strategic targets and I hope that recent questionnaires have shown that we listen. Improvements have been made directly from your comments to, amongst other things, communication, consistency of tutoring, parents’ evenings, food, academic focus and attainment. None of these, I might add, do we take for granted – and all are targets for consistent further improvement. We do not wish to stand still and genuinely fear complacency.
One area that sometimes comes out in questionnaires involves strategic focus. I aim to address strategic issues via these letters (my last few letters being cases in point), and you can sense, I hope, (from what I write) where I am coming from. However, we also wrote a strategic focus document two years ago which we still very much subscribe to, which revolves around three key strategic foci. It is openly available on the website and I provide the link here for ease of use. It sets out as succinctly as possible what we are trying to do; and we have aimed to link our next questionnaire closely to this document.
I tend not to pick out individual boys in my letters, saving individual mentions for final assemblies and speech days. With 1100 boys at the school, to single someone out in a twice-termly letter is invidious. However, it is not often that a schoolboy is picked for the Commonwealth Games, so I feel that Ethan Vernon (Upper Sixth) is an exceptional case! This year’s Commonwealth Games take place in Brisbane during the Easter holidays: do keep an eye out for Ethan on his bike riding for Wales in the indoor arena. It is an astonishing feat to get there at such a tender age; and I am sure that we will all tune in to wish him luck when the time comes.
More broadly, it is the key part of the year for recruitment of both staff (below) and boys. I am pleased to say that boy recruitment has remained very strong; and, perhaps in contrast to what you may sometimes read in the papers, the two teaching posts advertised so far this term (below) attracted over 60 applicants in total.
I am delighted to announce that Mr Sam Baldock will be joining us in September 2018 as Deputy Head (Academic) to replace Mr Alastair Tighe, who departs to become Head at Wells, Cathedral School. Mr Baldock has an MA in Natural Sciences from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and worked as a Theatre Director with the Footlights and then in recruitment in London before taking up teaching at Westminster School, where he was Head of Biology and in charge of their Oxbridge applicants for Medicine, Psychology and Anthropology. Currently, he in on the senior management team at Mill Hill School as Assistant Head (Teaching and Learning). He is a fellow at the Royal Society of Biology and a member of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour; and has a keen interest in travel and, in particular, trekking. We look forward to welcoming him to our community.
This half of term, we will also be interviewing for a new Housemaster in Redburn House, following Mr Bury’s decision to step down after nine successful years at the helm.
Finally, for now, Mr Fraser Elliott has been appointed to the post of maths teacher at Westminster School from September after three happy years in his first teaching post with us at Bedford.
Strategically, though it is understandably (and rightly) never popular when a good teacher leaves, one hopes for about a 10% turnover annually – a turnover which maintains a good sense of continuity, but which also brings fresh ideas and energy on a regular basis.
This year Speech Day falls on Saturday 7 July. I do hope you will all be able to join us. As in the past three years, there will be a Leavers’ Chapel Service at the start of the day, followed by Prize Giving (for the whole Upper School, with tickets for parents of prize winners), then a drinks reception for the whole community with cricket (Head Master’s XI vs School 1st XI) and music. It should be a fitting (and hopefully sunny) way to end the academic year.
This year’s speaker at Prize Giving will be Mr Bill Kilby (OB – and OBE!).
Bill Kilby (63-74) was awarded an OBE in the recent New Year’s Honours list for his exceptional contribution to international development. Over a thirty-three year career in DFID (Department for International Development), Bill has worked on the management of programmes in Fiji, Tajikistan, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he was the DFID’s Deputy Head of Office. He is currently Head of the Asia Regional Team, working on cross-border issues. In his OBE citation, Bill was praised for working “in fragile states and difficult environments”. The citation stated: “He has consistently gone beyond the remit of his day job to ensure the UK makes the most effective contribution it can to reducing poverty, improving life chances for the most vulnerable, and protecting UK national interests.”
We look forward to welcoming him back to his old school.
Many boys are approaching exams in the summer. We understand this can put pressure on not just individuals, but also families. We work hard to find a good balance between fun and seriousness, between sensible tension and relaxation. Do please remember that Tutors and Housemasters, and indeed all of us, are here to help and that we prefer to hear of issues before they become so large that they are hard to deal with. That said, for the vast majority, experience suggests that this will be a vastly fulfilling period.
I wish you all, therefore, a happy and successful (in that order, as the staff never tire of hearing me say) second half of the school year.
With kind regards,