14th December 20
As I sat at my desk this week writing the end of term letter, I was reminded that this will also be my last blog of 2020 – a year which presented us all with the most unexpected challenges. Reflecting on this term, I was struck by the boy’s resilience, patience, kindness and impressed by their continuing hard work. They have maintained the customary Wetherby good humour in spite of bubbles and constraints in how we could all move around the School. I am also very proud of our wonderful teaching staff who have risen to the challenges they’ve faced while continuing to offer great clubs and activities for the boys.
There was much to enjoy at the end of term with the Sixth Form play, a topical monologue by David Hare about his own experience of contracting COVID-19, the Christmas Concert, an excellent showcase of the music at the School (both are still available on YouTube) and finally the traditional Staff Panto, with the lucky Year 7 boys enjoying the live performance.
Both the boys and the PTA have been actively fundraising over the last few weeks and I greatly enjoyed the raffle draw live on Instagram yesterday afternoon. In total the raffle raised an impressive £5,760, which when combined with the sale of wreaths and the pledged donations rises to £6,720. When this is put alongside the very generous donations made directly to the Gold Standard Charitable Trust, the parents have raised in the region of £16,000 for the bursary fund. Thank you so much to those people that donated items for the raffle, bought tokens or made donations to the bursary fund.
The boys have also been fundraising by selling and wearing Christmas jumpers and this morning, the Christmas shoeboxes were delivered to West London Mission. The taxi was so full it took Mr Underwood and his helpers 25 minutes to unload. Again, thank you to all of you who have supported this very worthwhile cause.
After assembly today, I was pleased to meet a number of boys from various year groups who have all achieved 25 Gold Notes or more over the course of this term. This is a real achievement as Gold Notes are often hard won, and I enjoyed talking to them about their work this term and the areas in which they had been awarded these notes. Another great example of the Wetherby spirit!
I hope that you all enjoy a restful Christmas break and wish you all the best for 2021.
11th December 20
7th December 20
And so we stand on the cusp of the final week, which for many pupils is an exciting week as they look forward to the holidays and the different events that take place. This time of the year is also when those boys who have applied to Oxford and Cambridge attend interviews. As with everything else this year, it is all taking place online. This year two boys have been “invited” to Oxford or Cambridge for Geography and Psychological & Behavioural Science. I am also pleased that two boys who have applied for some of the most competitive and challenging courses, Veterinary Science and Medicine, have received invitations to interview at the Royal Veterinary College and the University of Glasgow respectively. I wish them all luck over the next week and hope that others who have applied for Oxbridge and medicine will get good news shortly.
But for the rest of the boys, there is much for them to enjoy this week. On Monday evening at 6.30pm, David Hare’s response to the pandemic, Beat the Devil, will premiere on the School’s YouTube channel (https://youtu.be/g2ja_E_0nTw). The play, a monologue, has been divided between a number of Year 12 and 13 boys who rehearsed and filmed their sections apart from the others. I have no doubt that the need to physically distance (I am trying not to use the phrase socially distanced any more, we are still a community) has removed some of the camaraderie that goes with putting on a play but I am grateful to the boys, Miss Twomey and Mr Tibbles, for all their hard work in pulling it together. It is not the approach the Drama department would have liked to take, but the end result will be another example of the versatility of the School’s actors and directors.
On Tuesday evening, the Christmas concert will also be shown via our YouTube channel (link to follow). Mr Martin and Mr Repa have spliced together performances by ensembles and individuals as well as a number of readings by Year 11 pupils. It will be sad not to have the atmosphere of the Hinde Street Chapel but I hope that, nevertheless, it will start to get us all feeling a little bit more Christmassy.
On Thursday, we will have our Christmas lunch followed by the boys taking part in different charitable activities and the Staff panto, Rich Whittingdon, will also be recorded to share with the boys on Friday morning (no matter how much anyone might ask, it will not be on the YouTube channel!).
With best wishes for the weekend,
30th November 20
One highlight in a busy week was meeting with some Year 9 boys who took me through a presentation they had prepared for Astronomy Club on the Doppler effect, how it changes the light from distant stars and how Star Trek didn’t pay attention to the physics and Star Wars did in their special effects. It was an engaging presentation and one that they tell me will be followed up by others. It is always impressive when the boys choose to go beyond that which is expected of them and I congratulate them.
The focus of this afternoon’s assembly is charity and it has been put together by Mr Underwood. In our annual tradition, we donate shoeboxes of goods to our chosen charity, West London Mission, to support the homeless during the Christmas period. We kindly ask pupils to donate items in a shoebox so that these can be delivered to those individuals who are supported by the charity. Given the current circumstances, these items are in greater need and we would like to be in a position to help. Any boxed goods can be brought in to your form tutor until the end of term. The Christmas jumper sale is also back; hopefully they will have my size! Also, the PTA will also be raffling hampers at the end of term to raise money for the School’s bursary fund.
Have a lovely weekend
Best wishes, Seth
23rd November 20
We follow last week’s news about the ISA’s film competition with more good news from the ISA awards. Each year they award the Whitbread Memorial Prize. Schools are invited to submit two pupils who have performed outstandingly in their GCSEs and also made a significant and sustained contribution to the wider life of the school community. We have had boys recognised for the last two years but this year’s entrants have done exceptionally well. Max Hashem was announced as the winner and our other entrant came second. Both have contributed a great deal to the School since they joined us and I am delighted this has been recognised by the judges. When pandemic restrictions allow, there will be an invitation to the House of Lords from Lord Lexden, the President of the Independent Schools Association, to celebrate their success.
Thank you to the anti-bullying ambassadors for an excellent assembly and also for a great week of resources. They have spent the Autumn term planning how the School could celebrate and fundraise for Anti-Bullying Week, although unfortunately the bubble restrictions put a stop to a few ideas the Ambassadors wanted to do (colour-runs through Regent’s Park and a school bake sale). The Ambassadors chose two boys from each year group to represent them in the sale of Anti-Bullying wristbands and stickers for their respective year groups. Odd Socks Day turned into an Odd Socks Week after its initial success and boys have worn very bright and odd socks each day. Boys have also been learning about the importance of being an Upstander to bullying rather than a Bystander; a key message of their assembly this week.
I hope that you all have a good weekend,
16th November 20
Next week is anti-bullying week and the Year 11 anti-bullying ambassadors who were trained jointly with Queen’s College pupils last year on the course offered by the Diana Award are leading the week. Their plans last year were cut short by lockdown but the team are still in place and working together. It has been launched in this afternoon’s PSHE lesson and next week the boys will provide resources for each morning’s registration and will finish by leading the assembly on Teams next Friday afternoon. They are an interesting bunch with a variety of talents and interests and what I am most pleased about is that the training brought together ten boys who knew each other, but weren’t necessarily friends, into an effective team. I am very much looking forward to what they will be doing next week. It starts with odd socks day on Monday 16th November in support of the anti-bullying alliance. All boys are encouraged to wear odd socks and make a donation of £1 to the anti-bullying alliance.
Cyber-bullying and online safety was the focus of the talk Karl Hopwood delivered to the Year 7 earlier this week. Karl is a regular speaker at the School and I am glad that we have been able to draw on his knowledge even though he could not visit in person. I have picked up the theme of sensible use of online resources for my assembly this afternoon, focussing on the impact social media and the internet has on our ability to pay attention to other things and asking the question of what might have been lost with the growth of our online lives.
Finally, as we approach the Christmas concert and the Senior Play, which will take place online, I am also pleased to announce that casting has begun for the Staff Panto. The popularity of this performance, and the size of the Drama studio meant that we had to disappoint a few boys. This year, it will be recorded and shared with all boys on the final day of term. I know that some staff are already lobbying for a larger role (and some for a smaller one) but as ever it will be fun way to end this challenging term.
With best wishes for the weekend,
9th November 20
It started two years ago with The Penguin, it continued last year with The Adventures of Lobsterman and Oscar Tracey has made it a hat trick of victories in the Independent Schools Association Short Film Awards with Sleep. His co-star and co-director Isaac Evans has been involved in two of the three wins and I congratulate them both. The judge’s comments were very complimentary: “This is a truly outstanding piece of work; the filmmakers should be very proud indeed. Razor-sharp editing, atmospheric lighting, fantastic performances, and some effective jump-scares (especially the ghostly hand over the sleeping boy) made this a gruelling pleasure to watch. I am really interested to see what this group does next. Excellent!”
In spite of the challenges facing many undergraduates and universities at the moment (first-hand accounts from our first set of leavers suggest it has been far from easy), the Year 13 are still excited about planning for the next stage of their education. The boys who have submitted applications are already picking up offers from some top universities: Queen Mary, Manchester, Exeter and Bristol so far. Receiving offers is both a source of relief for the boys and also a great motivator.
We marked Remembrance Day this afternoon in our online assembly with all boys observing the silence and the Last Post being played over Teams. I have remarked to the boys in previous years that it is unusual, but I think positive, to mark Remembrance in a school that doesn’t have a memorial to fallen former pupils and it has allowed us to take a different approach to other schools I have worked in. Over the years that has seen personal reflections from a member of staff who was a former serviceman, one from a pupil about his grandfather’s involvement in conflict and last year was a historical reflection from Mr Warner. This year we are focussing on the large numbers of non-Europeans who joined up to serve in a variety of roles and who are not always at the forefront of our minds when we think about those who gave their lives in the Great War.
17th October 20
12th October 20
The Sixth Form lecture series has been running for a few weeks now – the speaker either visits us or Francis Holland – and the lecture is filmed to be shared with those that can’t be there in person. The Drama Studio hosted something a little different for the Year 12 on Monday. Harry Baker, a Bristol Maths & German graduate and the youngest ever World Slam Poetry Champion, talked to the boys about his love of language, shared some of his poetry including the first poem inspired by an idea he had on his paper round, and the poem he wrote on his favourite prime number (59).
The School has today focussed on mental health and wellbeing as it is World Mental Health Day tomorrow. It was the focus for this afternoon’s PSHE session and also for this afternoon’s assembly which was done by Section so that age appropriate advice and information could be shared. The Year 13 have also produced a video on their techniques for coping with pressure. It is impressive that they have found the time to do this at a point in the year when they are juggling competing academic demands.
The Year 13 are focussed on their applications to university at the moment and for some the application deadline is the end of next week. Those applying to Oxbridge or for medicine and dentistry are pulling the final pieces together. The medics have all recently sat the UCAT and there are tests coming up in early November for Oxbridge. It is a challenging time for them, and with such competitive applications there are more challenges to come but I congratulate them on all they have done so far.
5th October 20
Throughout lockdown the LAMDA teaching continued online and I am very pleased that so many of the boys managed to sit the exam over the summer. The results that we have received so far have been excellent. 7 boys passed with Merit and 3 with Distinction, one in Grade 8 and two in Grade 5, which is a great achievement as only around 10% of entrants receive this grade. These qualifications help build confidence with public speaking and communication skills so are well worth pursuing as they build important skills for later life.
One teacher has also had something to celebrate. Mr Astbury-Palmer, the Head of Maths, has been selected for an Outstanding Educator Award by the University of Chicago. The award has been running for the last three decades. Each year new undergraduates are asked to “to nominate an educator whose guidance has helped them along the path toward intellectual growth”. Mr Astbury-Palmer was nominated by one of our students who left us at the end of last academic year. I am sure you will join me in congratulating him.
I am pleased that Miss Twomey and Mr Tibbles have started rehearsals for the Sixth Form play. As those who have been here for some time will know, the Drama department have moved easily between genres – from promenade and physical theatre to horror and farce – and have chosen an interesting piece and approach for this term’s production. Beat the Devil, a monologue written by David Hare about his experiences in lockdown, will be divided between a number of boys and will be streamed in early December. We look forward to seeing it!
Throughout lockdown the LAMDA teaching continued online and I am...
As I sat at my desk this week writing the...
As I sat at my desk this week writing the...
As I sat at my desk this week writing the...