Head’s Blog 12.02.21

14th February 21

And so we come to the end of the half term.  I very much hope the boys and staff enjoy their week away from their computers.  I have been impressed again by the boys’ resilience and hard work, particularly from the examination years as they have added uncertainty to deal with; Ms Bainbridge has written to Year 11 and 13 parents today with an update but we will not know more until Monday 22nd February.  I am also grateful for the continued commitment of the staff and for your support with keeping the boys focused.

One of the events we are missing this week would have been the second Diversity Day.  The School Council had been planning this event and this afternoon’s assembly would have been based on it.  I was pleased to learn that Faaris and Max from Year 12 have contributed to the conversation on Diversity as part of the Votes for Schools Youth Advisory Board.  Votes for Schools is used in some of our PSHE lessons to structure debate around important issues.  The focus of the meeting was diversity and black history in examinations and internet safety and the results of the conversation are being passed to The Black Curriculum and the National Cyber Security Centre.  It is very impressive that the boys have been selected for this and that they are playing such an active role in these important conversations.

We are very lucky to work in such a diverse community and, as such, we feel it is important not only to be non-racist but anti-racist in our approach.  To that end, we are now working with Flair to gather data from boys and staff to gain a greater understanding of how inclusive we are and what we can do to continue to move forward with this complex issue.

Finally, the latest issue of the Barometer is out today. Boys from all year groups are welcome to submit articles and I encourage them to do so.  Last week I spoke about the importance of reading as a break but penning an article for The Barometer would also be a good use of the half term.  This edition also includes the fourteen best entries from the Lockdown Cooking Competition.  I have been following the posts in the Team over the last few weeks and I am delighted that so many boys chose to take part.  I really enjoyed seeing boys asking each other online where they can buy a particular type of olive oil, reminiscences about cooking with family members and boys trying cooking for the first time.

So for those of you who would like a break from the kitchen this weekend, your sons now have no excuse not to step up!

With best wishes, Seth

Head’s Blog 05.02.21

8th February 21

If you have been following Ms Bainbridge’s tweets (@KEBainbridge1) over the last week of so, you will have seen that there have been several tweets about the importance of reading.  It started last week with her talk on The Literary Canon to the Sixth Form and she spoke yesterday to the Year 7 about their recommended reads.  As her other tweets attest reading at this isolated time is an important distraction for the boys: it can provide an escape (as she puts it “travelling through reading”) and also is important time away from the screen, hence the weekly reading lessons for Years 7, 8 & 9.  If you are looking for something to read (or for something for your son to read), the recommendations from the Year 7 were Winter Holiday, Code Name Bananas, A Series of Unfortunate Events and Lord of the Rings.  The Sixth Form agreed that The Age of Innocence and Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind were essential reading.  I have only read two of this list so have some catching up to do.  I will leave you to guess which ones.

I was greeted by a large parcel of books when I arrived in School this morning, which will be on the library shelves when the boys return.  I am very grateful to Sir John Ritblat for this kind donation as the importance of reading to young people’s academic development cannot be overstated. As Sir John wrote

Donating these books, of both classic and contemporary titles, has been a great pleasure for me. The effects of reading on a child’s development are immense – numerous studies have highlighted its benefits. As an avid reader myself, I hope that these books will be a gateway to new knowledge and cultures and, of course, provide a great deal of pleasure in the process.

We must cultivate a taste for reading in these bright, young minds of today for, to paraphrase Ben Okri, reading is one of the greatest acts of civilisation. It takes the free raw material of the mind and builds castles of possibilities. To this end, I wish our pupils all the very best that life can offer them and hope that these books will provide both amusement and much value at the start of their journeys in life.”

As the School matures, the number of ‘firsts’ we are able to celebrate reduces but I received one in my inbox this morning.  Many congratulations to Eamon O’Keefe in Year 13 who has received the School’s first offer to read medicine from the University of Glasgow.  There is a lot of competition for places on medicine courses and so this is a significant achievement.

I hope that you all enjoy your weekend.

With best wishes, Seth

Head’s Blog 29.01.21

1st February 21

Dear Parents,

I hope that you have all had a good week. It feels that we have now settled into a routine and I congratulate pupils, staff and parents for how well remote learning is going. It is certainly a challenge for all parties and it is nice to hear that both the boys and the teachers are becoming increasingly expert in this medium. Many of the expectations that we have for lessons and work in School are also expectations for online learning.

It is good to see that during this lockdown the clubs and activities have been so well attended but I am particularly excited to hear when boys have taken the initiative and set up a club.  I am also pleased when the focus is supporting other boys in the School.  Well done to two of our Year 12 boys who have started a Maths support club on Monday lunchtime for the younger boys.  One parent described her son’s reaction to the first session as ‘absolutely thrilled’ so well done to both of them.  I am sure it will also be eye opening for them to experience online learning as teacher rather than pupil!

I am very grateful to Ms Mendes for producing a short film this afternoon to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Her personal reflections make for a moving assembly and remind us that, in these difficult times, there is still much for us to be thankful for.  As it is now 76 years since the camps were liberated, the number of remaining survivors sadly reduces each year and so it now falls to us to continue to bear witness.  As Ms Mendes points out, Holocaust Memorial Day, is an act of remembrance for that terrible genocide and those that have sadly followed it in other parts of the world.  This year the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust made the theme of their act of remembrance ‘be the light in the darkness’ an important idea for all of us living in a world that is currently facing so many challenges.

With best wishes, Seth

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