As we embark on a new term, it is a pleasure to welcome the boys back and I hope you all enjoyed the Easter holiday. We dream of sunny days and warm weather to enjoy the cricket, tennis and athletic season. Before we get going though, a chance to reflect on a fulfilling spring term, which saw some notable highlights.
TRIPS AND EVENTS
As always, it was a busy term, and one only needs to look through the list of trips and other extra-curricular events on offer to realise quite how busy the boys, staff and parents were, and how many opportunities the boys enjoyed. Most recently, we ran three trips over the Easter holiday. Y3 to Y5 boys were accompanied by parents to Austria for skiing and other Tyrolean pursuits. A group of just under 40 boys went on a Spanish and Art trip to Barcelona, taking in cultural and sporting sites, including a tour of the Nou Camp, Barcelona’s stadium, some sun and sea at the beach and a visit to the amazing Dali museum at Figueres. Thirty-two boys travelled to Germany, and the Rhein in particular, taking in the Lindt chocolate factory, a mechanical music museum, Cologne cathedral and a boat trip along the Rhein.
During the term, boys enjoyed trips closer to home: to Whipsnade Zoo, Mountfitchet Castle, the Big Bang Science Fair, a sleepover in the Science Museum and Y3 and Y4 each enjoyed a day at Bedford Girls’ School taking part in a Science morning and Drama and Music morning respectively. Onsite, events included a trip to the planetarium and observatory for Y7, Harry Potter Day, an English Civil War talk, dressing up for World Book Day and welcoming local boy and author Steve Cole, a very high-quality Y7 public speaking competition, Hungry Boys Club, and self-esteem workshops. And, our Quiz team came first in the area heat of the National Quiz competition.
One of the most enjoyable events of the term occurred on the penultimate day, when the boys enjoyed a curriculum collapse day. The Prep School band had been awarded a very expensive cup from winning their section at the Bedfordshire Festival. On the day before, the cup was presented in assembly and put in the display cabinet for all to see. However, overnight, someone had stolen the cup! We had to enlist all the boys’ support to solve the crime. The curriculum collapse day was spent participating in activities which earned clues to find who had committed the crime. You will be glad to know that the culprit was apprehended and normal order restored. An excellent day, and many thanks to Mr Affleck for organising it.
It was a strong term for Bedford Prep School sports teams. Rugby Sevens built throughout the term to finish with a very strong performance at the most prestigious competition, the Rosslyn Park Sevens, with only a narrow loss to Taunton Prep tarnishing an otherwise unblemished record.
Hockey teams performed well in patches, with the 6th, U11B and U11D teams performing the strongest in terms of win rates, only losing a game each, and the U9A hockey team played superb hockey to win the Felsted tournament. Football is our second sport this term, and we are often playing against schools who don’t play hockey, therefore football is their main sport, so three teams, the U10D and U8A and U8F teams should get a special mention for going unbeaten. The U9A and U9B only lost one game apiece in a very competitive fixture list. For the statisticians amongst us, Prep School boys enjoyed 136 hockey matches across 27 teams, 69 football fixtures across 22 teams, 8 cross-country events, 10 rugby sevens matches, 8 badminton fixtures and several swimming galas. Performances of particular note include the cross country runners, especially in the Maidwell Chase, with notable performances from Tom Deardon who came third in the U13 competition – impressive for an U12 boy – and Edward Dagg who came first in the U11 competition – even more impressive for an U10 boy! In swimming, Eamon Bradley won two gold medals at the County Championships on 8th January, swimming for the City of Milton Keynes Swimming Club. His gold medals were in the U12 200m Freestyle and the 200m Medley relays. Badminton, again, stole the limelight, with Josha Mital and Joshua Stewart winning the National IAPS championships, beating our B team in the final. Josha also played for the U14 team which made the National Finals. Y6 boys enjoyed an excellent tour to Jersey.
Details of other school sports competitions can be seen on the school’s sports website.
Another successful term for the music department saw many outstanding events. House Singing is my personal favourite because it brings the whole community together in such an impressive way, and a huge ‘well done’ should go to all the Houses, especially to the joint unison winners Howard and Bunyan, and the part song and overall winner, Whitbread. All houses sang beautifully and were directed masterfully by the conductors. Thank you once again to our music staff and house staff for their tireless commitment, and Mr Roberts for steering us through proceedings with aplomb. If you want to relive the competition, or didn’t manage to make it, you might like to view it here.
The Composition Competition also took place this term. I am always impressed at how seriously the boys take the competition, and how good the music sounds. Adjudicator, Andrew O’Brien, Director of Music at Haileybury, said that he had visited a number of Prep Schools to judge such events, and was stunned by the standard. It is a great competition: all the boys in the school work in groups of three to five, composing original music; the best were selected for the final. The competition also helps develop skills we think are vital for learning, and for success later in life, such as teamwork, independence and creativity.
Boys and staff of the Prep School joined Upper School boys, Bedford Girls’ School girls, teachers and members of the Eagle Choir to perform a wonderful Choral Society concert with a superb programme which included Five Mystical Songs by Vaughan Williams, Songs by Finzi and Faure’s Requiem. Informal concerts surprised and delighted in equal measure, with Brooklyn Fu in Y5 demonstrating why he plays in the school’s first orchestra with his sublime violin skills. The Chapel Choir managed to record Christmas Carols (one for the Christmas present list for next year!). We look forward to the Summer Concert and Baba Yaga, a musical written by Mr Groom, which will be performed next term.
Finally with regard to music, mention must go to the Celebration Concert for Guy Bennett’s life on 4th February. It was amazing to hear OBs, current boys and staff play so beautifully, especially the school band’s rendition of Mars and Jupiter from Holst’s Planet Suite, directed by Mr Malcolm Green. A fitting tribute to Guy and a reminder of the strength and quality of his legacy.
We had another great term of drama, with 160 boys performing in the Bedfordshire Festival. I was lucky enough to catch a few of the performances and was very impressed by the boys I saw. Many of the boys were placed in the top three. Congratulations to all, and particularly to the 73 who were placed in the top three. See here for a full list of the winners. Special congratulations to Brooklyn Fu and old Prep School boys Jonathan Hosking and Silas Sanders, who were selected for the final Gala Concert, and, in particular, Logan Jones who won the award for the best overall Speech and Drama performance from the thousands at the Festival.
The Quarry Theatre staged a performance of James Rushbrooke’s dystopian thriller, Tomcat, with Mr Hooley in one of the lead roles. Mr Hooley also directed the Prep School’s main play of the term, a dramatic and atmospheric retelling of Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf. It was a fascinating piece in which boys showed incredible energy, commitment and teamwork using physical theatre to bring the play to life. Next term we have two plays to look forward to, Baba Yaga in the second week of term in the Erskine May Hall, and James and the Giant Peach towards the end of term.
The term also witnessed a host of House Competitions which were keenly contested. We have already heard about House Singing, and Houses also competed in swimming, water polo, badminton, squash, hockey and football. On the last day of term, just before final assembly, we repeated the successful House Tug of War from last year (a wet weather version in the Sports Hall because of a slippery surface courtesy of a quick rain shower). Finally, Howard House staged a sponsored dance to raise money for their charity. More charity events to come from other Houses in the summer term. Congratulations to all the Houses for the excellent spirit they approached all competitions, and particularly Whitbread House, the spring term winners of the House Term Cup.
Most of the boys’ time at school is, of course, spent in the classroom, and Final Assembly was one of many chances throughout the term to award silver and gold certificates for academic merits. Most impressively, we have already awarded a fair number of platinum certificates, which means amassing 75 merits or more – no mean feat! Congratulations then to Josh Lincoln, Aryan Sohanpal and Prejeev Suhitharan in Y3, Sam Barnes, Dylan French, Fraser Morgan and David Shirley in Y4, and Nikolai Sorokin, David Adeyemi, Michael McCormack and Arun Nanda in Y8.
The Accelerated Reader programme, which we introduced successfully to Y3 and Y4 in the autumn term, has now been rolled out to Y5 and Y6 and we are looking forward to bringing it to Y7 and Y8 in the summer term. It has had amazing results so far, although, is of course, dependent on boys making time in busy schedules to do the reading. To check a book’s level and the number of points available, please click here. Quizzes are completed in school, but it is possible to source books that can be quizzed on elsewhere. I hope boys have managed to enjoy catching up on their reading over the Easter holidays. Reading will get an even bigger boost, we hope, with the refurbishment of the Inky Library over the summer holiday.
We also trialled an appointment system for Y5 Parents’ Evening, after considerable feedback on parental surveys, and we felt that it ran smoothly and have had only positive feedback from parents. We will look to use this system for all parents’ evenings next year.
The Y3 and Y4 Topic has also gone down well and has seen a rise in work that has been initiated by the boys. The Y3 topic of Extreme Earth was given a boost by a talk from Debby Horsman entitled ‘Missing in the Antarctic’. Debby is a relation of Arnold Spencer-Smith, the photographer and Padre who joined the Ross Sea Party on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition from 1914-1917. Debby has recommended that boys interested in the topic look at the Scott Polar Research Institute for further information.
Enrichment sessions given by sixth formers continued last term, as well as opportunities provided by teachers extra to the regular, weekly, academic enrichment activities. For example, as part of Science Week, the Y8 members of our Deep Thinkers Club headed to Oxford to join Satellite Applications Catapult for an enriching day learning all about the use of artificial satellites. Their first session involved building a mini satellite from components similar to those used to produce real mini-satellites launched from the International Space Station. In the second session, the boys learned about the use and future uses of satellites (including being able to monitor the health of individual members of a herd of cattle from the distance they walk each day!). In the last session, the boys used graphical data from an actual orbiting satellite to calculate its speed and temperature changes during its orbit. The Deep Thinkers also had the opportunity to exhibit their work inspired by the project ‘Beauty in my Backyard’, which took the shape of poems, essays and art created in response to a series of lectures on the history of the National Trust, the English landscape and social and economic developments in England since the Industrial Revolution. The exhibition took place in the Quarry Theatre bar.
All boys had the opportunity to attend our Enrichment talks, the latest one was given by our art teacher and forest school leader, Mrs Russell, about her life in Namibia.
I must say a word about the inspection. Whilst the ISI inspection team came in November, it wasn’t until the spring term that we received the feedback. Although we were made to wait, the result was definitely worth it, as the report was glowing (please click here to see the full report). The whole community should take credit for their part in ensuring such a positive inspection. We were awarded excellent in all categories. Generally, ISI reports are not the most exciting to read, but I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one and I hope you did too. I had already written elsewhere that when the Reporting Inspector gave the verbal feedback, he was even more glowing, apologising for the dry language and commenting on the ‘wall to wall excellence’ his team had witnessed in the school.
In the last Whinchat newsletter, I reported on Phase One of the outdoor classroom to go outside the Tisdall’s building. The second phase is now complete and planters and seating have been added. The garden will be in use in the summer term as a bookable space for outdoor lessons, as well as a quiet(er) reading area during breaks and lunches. The garden will be given its name at a naming ceremony shortly.
The Prep Guild Ball takes place on the 17th June in the Great Hall, and is sure to be a cracking evening.
Over the past year and a half, we have talked to the boys in assemblies about the importance of having a ‘growth mindset’: in other words, the belief that characteristics such as intelligence, personality and creativity are not fixed, but can be developed through effort and dedication. This is a common sense approach and, as teachers, we implicitly understand that boys who work hard will achieve their potential and will achieve success in the end. So, to repeat a thought for the week I gave earlier in the term, based on this important principle which, together with parents, we hope to embed in the boys: ‘Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try’.
In the press quite frequently of late is the deplorable state of children’s mental health. I attended an excellent talk recently on the issue of Mental Health. The idea of the talk was that mental health is important for us all, in the same way that physical health is. We take this seriously in school because we are collectively responsible, with parents, family and friends, for the mental health of the boys in our school. We were told that there are a few key attributes displayed by those who are mentally healthy, and I was encouraged to see that the attributes listed are ones we strive to promote in the Prep School. The ability to build positive, open and honest relationships with others, the ability to overcome difficult moments and be strengthened by them, the ability to be open about feelings (and be listened to!), and the ability to be positive, about life in general, but also, crucially, about other people. As I said, these are all things we strive to promote in school, and will continue to do so. Prep Staff are attending a seminar on this before the boys come back this term.
On this theme, it was, once again, a pleasure to recognise the kindness of our boys with the Headmaster’s Kindness Awards which were given in Final Assembly. It has, yet again, been difficult to pick out the winners as there are so many boys who show such impressive support and kindness to others. The award is for those who are particularly good citizens, always kind and thoughtful to others, without worrying how they might look, something that we as staff hold in high regard. This term, Heads of Year chose the following winners: Alfred Williams in Y3, Stanley Breed in Y4, Harry Clifton in Y5, Tom Cameron-Fraser in Y6, Joshua Cooke in Y7 and Ellison Hendry in Y8.
As you can see, a great deal has happened, and much more to come next term. I hope you have all had a tremendous Easter and don’t have too much chocolate to work off at the gym! I hope to see you at sports fixtures, plays, concerts and speech day later on in the term.