The first half of this term has undoubtedly been action-packed. I will report in segments, so as to enable you to pick out your own interests and highlights, but in its entirety, this letter is necessarily selective and synoptic. We try hard to put out as much interesting and useful news as possible, but (inevitably in a school of 1100 boys) many of the fun bits fall outside the headlines, in individual triumphs and often arcane, unexpected, yet brilliant events. With that caveat, I offer the following:
Just under 300 boys went through trial exams in the first half of term, which will inform the coming weeks and months for them individually. In the Fifth Form, IB and A-Level choices are high in the mind, alongside the realisation that GCSEs start very early next term. In the Upper Sixth, the vast majority have received attractive offers from universities (including five boys who received offers from Oxford or Cambridge), and we wish them well with their studies. It is worth all parents knowing that only 16% of pupils nationally actually achieve their predicted grades, so (when I spoke to the Upper Sixth just before half term) I banned them from using the word ‘predictions’ from now on. Predictions do not matter beyond a UCAS form; the boys know this, yet sometimes there can be complacency once predictions are known. There is still very much all to play for; beating this national norm is not easy.
The hockey players made it to the semi-final of the National Indoor Hockey Championships (before losing 5-3 to Whitgift, the eventual winners) and have gone on to win all but one of their 11-a-side games this term, including 8-2 wins over the two largest boarding schools in the country, Eton and Oundle. At the risk of possible (indeed, likely!) schadenfreude, this continues to be a golden period for sport at the school with a large number of sports at the very top of their game – and indeed cricket, rowing and hockey (if the current results continue) will all have had their best seasons for many years in these past 12 months. It is also good to see a young OB, Fraser Dingwall (13-17), captaining the England U20 rugby team and playing regular premiership rugby at Northampton Saints (where he shares his place in the senior squad with three other young OBs: Fraser Strachan (15-17), George Furbank (13-15) and Joe Wallace (13-15)). Elsewhere, individual boys have lit up the sports of fencing, table tennis, cross country running and badminton – it is quite a cross-section. There is still plenty to improve, as ever; but well done to the boys, staff and indeed the parents who put in the miles!
As you will have picked up from recent letters, we have been expanding our repertoire in this area. I will not add to the major summary from my last mailing, except by mentioning one event. May I strongly encourage you to look up this link, which tells a pretty remarkable story…
Citizenship, as you will know, is the name we give to our PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) education programme. Bedford’s provision caught my eye when I started here as unique and forward-looking, and (I hope I can say this as Head Master, as I had nothing to do with its conception!) I continue to be hugely impressed by it. Unlike many schools, whose academic staff (often unwilling) deliver content in a weekly lesson to (often unwilling) pupils, Bedford School collapses its timetable for five days per year to concentrate on important issues which affect the boys as they grow up. Not only does such an approach throw extra kudos on the subject matter (i.e. the school considers Citizenship important enough to collapse five days’ academic teaching for them), but it also enables the school to bring in experts to deliver much of the curriculum in a way that a weekly lesson cannot allow. I consider this a flagship provision, and indeed it is extremely well received: we have reached a position where our school attendance on these days is actually higher than the average for other days in the year! One aspect we have hitherto been a little behind on in this area of school life, arguably, has been our provision for parents; so, this time, Simon Leigh, who spoke to the boys during the day about drugs, also stayed behind to address the parents separately. I have heard anecdotally that this was an excellent session – but do please feel free to contact Mrs Lincoln or me with any of your impressions, if you were there on February 5, as it will help us to consider further such sessions.
I invite you to get involved in the Parents’ Guild in the Upper School. It is a wonderful organisation, which serves to support the school (and specifically, the boys and families of the school) by running the second-hand school shop and putting on events with two purposes in mind (but not always both at the same time) – fun and fundraising. The Guild has started this year low on numbers for the committee and without a President, so we are looking to reinvigorate the organisation with new members and a fresh way forward.
Accordingly, I attach here a link to some more information about the Guild, and how joining or helping can be fun as well as rewarding, and I invite anybody who would like to find out more to come to drinks in the café bar on 6 March at 7.30pm (with a short talk from me at 8pm). I do hope you can join us. You will notice that this is during the event below so you can double up if you like.
The Careers Fair, from 7pm-9pm in the Great Hall on the evening of 6 March, provides a great opportunity for boys to explore what an enormous range of careers there are ‘out there’. This year (and having interviewed all of this year group), we are making it compulsory for all Fifth Formers (parents are welcome, too), but also strongly encourage the Sixth Form, in particular, to attend. There are usually about 80 stands, with representatives from a wide range of professions.
My own philosophy on careers is that, broadly speaking, it is unfair of us to expect boys to know what they want to do for the rest of their life and we should not put any pressure on them to know – after all, how many of us adults know what we want to do, even now? Boys should be allowed to get on with growing up, doing their best in class, experimenting with a broad range of experiences (healthy ones), finding passions, making friends and working hard. However, it is important for us to expose them to a range of options (this, handled in the right way, can take the pressure off, rather than pile it on); to encourage them to keep options open; and to urge them to keep asking questions of adults who have interesting and varied careers. That is what the Careers Fair is about – and I hope they find it interesting and useful.
Change in Term dates – Spring half term 2020
Can I remind you please that the dates for this half-term next year have been changed: it will start after school on Friday 14 February; day boys will return for Monday 24 February (and boarders from the night before).
By way of background, and from long experience, term dates are a lot more difficult to agree than it may seem. One of several principles I take is that all half-term breaks must be aligned with local state schools – many boys have brothers and sisters in these schools, and many staff (academic and support) have children in these schools. Unfortunately, Bedford Borough got it wrong this year (which explains why we are different to many others on our sporting circuit) and, upon review, they have just realised they had it wrong for next year, too. Accordingly, they have rectified next years’ dates and we are following suit; and I do apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.
Following the death of JJ Beale, I have appointed Rebecca Jackson, current Deputy Head (and indeed Interim Head) of Mathematics, as Head of Mathematics, with immediate effect. Miss Jackson beat a strong field of external applicants, and we congratulate her, and wish her well, as she and the department seek to build upon current successes.
Daniel Major and Ben Jones will take up teaching posts in the department from Easter and Autumn 2019 respectively. Mr Major was schooled at Royal Latin School in Buckingham, took a 1st in his four year Masters Maths degree from the University of Bath, and has recently completed his PGCE at Cambridge University. He enjoys badminton and cricket. Mr Jones has a BSc (Hons) in Maths from the University of Nottingham, completed his PGCE at the Bedfordshire SCITT, and has been teaching at Lincroft Academy since 2012. He is Duke of Edinburgh co-ordinator for Silver and Bronze awards, has a passion for skiing, and plays football and table tennis.
Rebecca Quirighetti will join the English Department next term to replace the departing Miss Betterton. Following her English degree at Leeds University, Mrs Quirighetti started out in publishing (with Penguin and then with the Civil Service) before moving into teaching via her PGCE at Cambridge University. She is currently teaching at PHC Hitchin, where she is also a Housemistress. Her interests include running, horse riding and Pilates.
We look forward to welcoming them all to the school in due course.
I hope you have had a good week with the boys and look forward to seeing them all in the coming days.
With kind regards