The first week of the second half of the summer term is always the strangest of the year, both for parents and teachers: every boy in the school, except for the Upper Sixth IB boys (who have finished), is involved in exams. Households respond in a variety of ways, but there is usually a mix of nerves, heightened awareness of the little irritations of life, and often (thankfully) some wistful moments where perspective kicks in and the realisation that, whilst important to do one’s absolute best, life is likely to continue to wend its wonderful path no matter what happens in French on Thursday.
I often get asked what the teachers are doing at this point in the year. Well, aside from the rather predictable (yet nevertheless true) response that they are involved in the invigilation and marking of these exams, before feeding back and report writing (both the end of term reports and the initial subject UCAS reports), we also seize the moment for extensive training. This year is more poignant than most, with new A Levels and GCSEs coming for many subjects (requiring many staff to attend national conferences and to feed back to individual departments) and a new Director of Teaching and Learning, who has organised a very full and exciting internal INSET series, delivered by our own experts on site. The idea, in addition to our full school INSET days, is to tailor training to individuals and group needs, responding flexibly to current issues, as well as to paying attention to perennial core areas.
Topics have been wonderfully varied and include:
- Teaching writing at a paragraph level to improve exam performance
- Third Culture Existence
- Using Notability (an iPad app) for recording lesson observations
- Sharing teaching practice: the single best thing that I have done this year
- Managing behaviour in school
- Lessons learnt from other schools
- How to ensure that the Performance Management Process is effective
- Teaching essay writing to improve exam performance
- Videoing your lessons
- Ensuring positive outcomes from conversations with boys
- How can we gain feedback from pupils to further our practice?
- Using Adobe Production Suite
- Firefly, One Drive, designing courses in Firefly and adapting to Windows 10
Learning from other schools (and indeed educational establishments generally) is one current theme: a number of staff members have taken a day to visit interesting schools, whilst we ourselves have hosted two conferences here for IB Maths and IB Economics teachers and leaders.
Finally, of course, the extra-curricular side of the school continues apace, with a Creative Arts Festival to come and sport at full tilt (more below). It is something of a wonder that we will have a school 4th XI out on Saturday – a firm commitment to all-round education if ever there was one; and to the soul generally – at a time when exams could take over completely. I am convinced that this attitude has helped our boys maintain balance and perspective, at a time when pressures are becoming ever more damaging to increasing numbers of teenagers.
So I hope that gives a little insight into what is happening whilst the boys are in exams. The school is wonderfully vibrant and dynamic, even when the boys are not in class!
Careers – National Award
I have mentioned above some of the work of the new Director of Teaching and Learning; I now mention the new careers provision under Mrs Mel Lincoln, because we have just been awarded the Onslow Trust Gold Award for “Education to Employment”. This national recognition has come remarkably quickly on the back of understandable criticism of our provision by current parents when external consultants did a major parental survey under two years ago. As ever, therefore, I thank you for your feedback; in this case (and I hope others) it has led to a very significant change for the better.
Next week we have yet another top quality speaker at the school. Mary Curnock Cook is CEO of UCAS; she is not only the most knowledgeable person you could wish to hear from about university entrance, but also a highly engaging speaker. We are expecting another very large attendance in the Great Hall.
Boarding Open Evening
We are holding a Boarding Open Evening here at school on Thursday 16th June. This is both for prospective parents AND for current parents who might be considering a move for their son(s) from day to boarding, or indeed just interested in what a boarding house might look like and feel like. Please do get in touch with the Director of Admissions, Vanessa Hicks, if you are interested in attending the Open Evening (firstname.lastname@example.org). The evening runs from 7.00pm – 9.00pm, during which time you will have a drink / some nibbles and short talk on boarding, and then the chance to see two boarding houses in action. I need hardly say that summer term boarding for teenage boys on a site like our own is a simply amazing experience – but do come to see and ask the boys for yourself!
As I write, the cricketers are having a very good season. The 1st XI has won eight of its ten games and is in the regional final of the National T20 competition today; at the other end of the school, the 14A, B, C, D have all won all bar one of their games. And, of course, at the other end altogether, Alastair Cook (OB) now has 10,000 Test runs. It would be lovely to think that another Bedfordian might overtake him one day. The rowers had a very successful National Schools Regatta on the Olympic facilities at Dorney. The 14B crew took pride of place (indeed the whole Under 14 squad, four octuples, have had a fine year), when they were crowned National Champions; the J15s and J16s both won silver medals.
Thank you for taking part in this biennial survey earlier in the term. You may be amused to hear that one of the requests of us was to “send fewer surveys”, but we do learn from these, we act upon them and we greatly appreciate the time you take to fill them out.
OB Club / OB Review
One of the hidden gems of this school is the OB Club. It is 125 years old this year. The network is worldwide, talented and varied, and hugely supportive of the school – certainly something for your sons to look forward to post-schooldays. There will be several hundred at Speech Day. Their annual publication, the OB Review, has just been published and is well worth a look when your son brings it home in the coming days.
This is just a reminder that drinks on Speech Day at noon (July 2nd) are for everyone in the school community. I do hope that you will be able to join us to celebrate the year. Everybody is encouraged to bring a picnic and to stay on to enjoy the cricket in the afternoon (Head Master’s XI vs School 1st XI). It is also a wonderful opportunity to informally catch up with staff and fellow parents.
Staff departures this year
On Speech Day, we will be saying goodbye to a number of staff members. Mr Baker, the Vice Master, retires after 37 years; Mr Eadie outstrips even that, retiring after 45 years at the school; Mr Brough retires after 31 years and Mr Davis after 14. Mr Johnson retires for the second time! More recent joiners leave for new adventures: Miss Calleja Rubio; Mr Adams; Mrs Markham; Miss Owens; Miss Garrett. Plenty more will be said in the coming weeks, but we thank them sincerely and wish them all well.
I hope that the second half of term is a happy and successful time for all families.
With best wishes,