31st March 21
29th March 21
The importance of respecting others has been a recurring theme of my assemblies over my time at the School. It was one of the key values that the boys and staff identified when the Values Wheel was designed a couple of years ago and it is something that visitors to the School often commented on. A conversation that began with the first set of anti-bullying ambassadors, the importance of being an ‘upstander’ and speaking out when you see another person being treated with disrespect and unkindness, has grown over the course of this week to make it clear that as a community we should be ‘upstanders’ when we encounter racist or misogynistic behaviours or any other discrimination against minorities and those with protected characteristics.
I mentioned in my newsletter a couple of weeks ago that we had conducted a survey through an organisation called Flair to give us a better understanding of how this important issue impacts on our community, to help us identify the areas of this complex issue that the boys need our help to understand, and what we can do to ensure we are not just a community that is tolerant and accepting of others, but is anti-racist and actively working to challenge these views. I was very pleased when we received the results of the survey. Not only did we have one of the highest returns that the organisation had seen, strongly suggesting that the boys and staff want to engage actively with this issue, but also that the community embraces its diversity, that the vast majority of our non-white British students do not feel that their ethnicity makes them feel less included at school and that students across the year groups feel confident talking about issues surrounding race. It also identified that boys need help understanding micro-aggression and need strategies to help them challenge racist behaviour.
Those of you who regularly read the newsletter will know about the work that the School has done with Beyond Equality (formerly Great Men) as part of our vision to help the boys face the challenges of being a young man in the 21st century. What began with workshops has grown into a project that has seen them working with us on the PSHE programme, complemented by the Great Men Lecture Series coordinated by Miss Eaves. The recent tragic murder of Sarah Everard, the testimony of former female pupils of many other schools, has meant that we as a School are bringing this same approach as we are with racism to sexism and misogyny. The School’s stance on disrespectful unkind behaviour has, I hope, always been clear but I am pleased that we are going to be working with the boys to give them the confidence to be anti-bullying, anti-racist and anti-sexist and feel ready to make a positive influence on the School community and more widely. I hope you will join us in challenging these views and tackling the difficult questions that your sons may have.
I hope that you have a good weekend.
22nd March 21
As I said last week, I have been very impressed with the manner in which Year 11 and Year 13 have approached their work and I was delighted to be informed that Year 11 have managed an outstanding week – no late preps and no red notes. I am so pleased that they have responded to this difficult situation by taking responsibility and recognising that they still need to work hard to provide us with the evidence that shows they are eligible for the top grades. The School is alert to updates from Ofqual and please be reassured that the focus throughout will be doing the best that we can for the boys in those year groups. Equally, as we saw with last year’s GCSE and A Level sets, the boys should not make assumptions about grades that will be given and should continue to work through to the end of the course.
Something I have enjoyed seeing as the School has matured is the number of boys who are prepared to take on responsibility for improving the school and its community. Following on from the success of our first anti-bullying ambassadors, who had the challenge of promoting an anti-bullying stance via Teams, seven Year 10 boys attended online training yesterday provided by the Diana Award. Miss Murray remarked that they were great representatives for the School; the trainer was very impressed by their understanding of bullying behaviours and their articulate and sensitive answers. I know that she was very proud of them! They are setting a wonderful example of leadership and promoting a sense of community.
They will be working over the year to implement strategies and ideas for anti-bullying behaviours in School. They have already come up with some great ideas including training teachers about cyber-bullying, Feel-good Fridays, Ambassador working lunches, videos to highlight bullying behaviours and creating a student-friendly anti-bullying policy. Watch this space!
The sensitivity and the positive engagement that these boys showed with the issue of bullying has also been in evidence in the discussions that have taken place this week around the difficult topic of violence against women and how we can find solutions. All boys in Years 7 to 13 have had age appropriate lessons on this topic and the tutors have been very impressed with sensible suggestions and the mature approach they have shown.
I am very pleased with the way all the boys have returned to school and that on our return the key threads of the School’s vision – that they make the most of the opportunities to grow academically and as people – are still central to what the boys are doing here.
Have a good weekend
15th March 21
There has been such a positive atmosphere in the School this week and we have enjoyed welcoming the boys and staff back. The good humour of the boys as we settle back in has almost erased the memory of the last few weeks of lockdown. A particular mention goes to the Year 11 and 13 who have returned to assessments to help build the evidence we need for the summer. There have been many comments about the professional and serious way they have approached them and I am very impressed by their positive response to the unusual circumstances. All in all, it is good to be back.
Of course, whilst in almost every way the School has settled back to normal this week, we have continued to test in the new location of the drama studio. The boys have become old hands at it and it has continued to work smoothly. This is in no small part down to the squad of parent volunteers who have processed swabs and recorded results with enthusiasm. I am so grateful to them all for giving up their time to help with this. It has given the staff the chance to focus on settling the boys and delivering the lessons which is so important after their time away. Thank you all – not every Head and school are so fortunate.
In spite of the challenges of finishing their school career in such unusual circumstances I am pleased that the UCAS offers continue to come in. Since we returned Year 13 pupils have received offers from Bath, UCL, Durham and Queen Mary, including the second medicine offer in the School’s history. That the boys are picking up offers from such competitive institutions in such a challenging year is a testament to them.
We have marked International Woman’s Day in assembly today. In recent weeks Year 10 and 11 have had workshops from Beyond Equality (formerly known as The Great Men Initiative) and several boys from those year groups chose young female role models whom they admire and presented about them to the School. Before the end of term, the boys will have a talk from a positive male role model, Willem Marx, a foreign correspondent for NBC News, as part of the Great Men Lecture Series that was cut off after one session by the pandemic. Actively challenging bias and stereotypes will be something I return to as we have recently received the results of the survey the School carried out to reveal the community’s understanding of the issues that surround race. The survey results underscore the strength and understanding that has grown in our multi-cultural community and has identified ways in which we can help boys respond to racism when they encounter it and understand the nuances of this important topic.
8th March 21
Another unusual week in the life of the School with a COVID testing centre set up in Hannah House hall. Thanks to the planning of Mr Lawrence and his team and the hard work of staff and parent volunteers, all boys who opted for one have had a lateral flow test and I am pleased to announce that none have been positive. All agreed it was good to see boys back in the school again, even if it was only for around half an hour, and we are looking forward to welcoming all back to school on Monday morning. When not teaching or testing the staff have been busy this week sprucing up the School ready for the boys’ return – staple guns and backing paper have become highly prized possessions!
We will be following the same procedures as we did in the Autumn Term with boys working in their bubbles for the most part, the exception being classes that require specialist facilities. They will also be required to wear face masks in classrooms and as they move around the School. We will ensure that all classrooms and communal areas are well-ventilated and that hand sanitiser is available throughout the School. The boys will also be given a reminder about social distancing and the importance of following our procedures on Monday morning.
I am very pleased that we will have a musical accompaniment to our return. On Tuesday evening you will be able to view the Spring concert on YouTube. This will be combination of the Brass Bash and the Spring Recital. The programme will consist of solo and ensemble performances, including the Brass Band, SuperBrass (the Year 7 Brass Band), the Year 7 String Quartet, the Guitar Ensemble and many more outstanding musical performances by the boys. All performances including the brass band were put together virtually.
With best wishes, Seth
1st March 21
I am sure you are pleased, as I am, that the boys will be returning to School in the week beginning 8th March. We appreciate that lockdown life is challenging for families and learning online can be difficult for the boys but, as we approach the end, thank you again for all you have done to support the boys and the school during this time. Your help following up work, encouragement of your sons and the kind emails you have sent are much appreciated and we look forward to getting back to work under the new normal in the next couple of weeks.
Whilst the focus in the media is on the logistical challenges, we must remember that the return to School is about so much more than those things that we have to do over the next few weeks. I have spoken to the boys this afternoon about the importance of rekindling the things that make Wetherby such a warm and welcoming community even though the way in which we have to operate puts barriers in the way of some of our usual interactions. Even with the testing that will need to continue in the first and second week of our return, I hope we can quickly start to move towards the warm, collegiate school that is a big part of who we are.
I hope that you enjoy the weekend.
With best wishes, Seth
Dear parents, I am sure you are pleased, as I...