Headmaster’s Blog 21.05.2021

24th May 21

In spite of what you might have been led to believe by the icy temperatures, howling gales and torrential rain, this is the ‘summer’ term and it is a reminder of the fact that like the seasons the school year cycles round with unstoppable (and sometimes remorseless) regularity.  Whilst they haven’t left us yet and I will be saying a proper thank you to Monty and this year’s prefects after half term, I am delighted to announce that the Head Boy for next year will be Maxime, ably assisted by Henry and Seb as Deputy Head Boys.  I am very proud of the fact that there was such an enthusiasm and high standard of applications. I know that everyone in the prefect team will make a significant contribution to life at the School.

Talking of contribution to the community, my colleagues and I on the Leadership team were fortunate enough to receive a presentation from a number of Year 10 boys who are the School’s Diana Award anti-bullying ambassadors.  The boys are working through initiatives for the School that encourage all of us to promote and sustain a safe, positive environment in keeping with our values and I salute their industry and drive.  I will share their introductory video in due course but they are committed to making a big impact and I am confident that they will with their excellent ideas.  Other contributions include the School Council’s plans to launch a war on waste and the pupil-led Black Curriculum Focus Group (more on this after half term).

Congratulations to a number of our enterprising Lower Sixth students who took part in the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) BASE National Business and Accounting competition. They formed themselves into teams, prepared and presented on a topic relevant to the “world of business and accountancy” and competed with schools across the country. They are to take part in a virtual work experience programme as part of their prize.

With best wishes for the weekend, David.

Headmaster’s Blog 14.05.21

17th May 21

I am sure that, like me, you are looking forward to the promised freedoms as we pass another milestone on the government’s roadmap out of COVID restrictions on Monday.  For all of us at Wetherby Senior, the most evident change will come in the fact that facemasks will no longer be obligatory when on the campus, in corridors or during lessons from the start of next week.  That said boys should have a mask with them in case it is necessary if they are unable to maintain social distancing, for example.  Boys may continue to wear a mask if they wish to do so until further notice.  All other preventative measures will be in place including hand sanitizing, ventilation, one-way systems and year group bubbles.

Another very welcome feature of the changes is the fact that we can begin to return to a more diverse pattern of games provision and activities.  This means that the Marshall Street swimming baths are now reopening and those boys in Year 7 and 8 can go swimming on Monday afternoons.  Year 9s and Year 10s will intersperse trips to Ealing Trailfinders with local sessions at either the School gym or AMP (a gym in Marylebone) for training sessions.  Year 11 and above will have sessions in the School gym or at AMP added to the options list too.  Before and after school physical activities return with early sessions in the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays for Years 12 and 13 as well as basketball after school.  Years 7 and 8 can sign up for HIIT after school on Tuesdays and Years 9 and 10 for strength and conditioning after school on Wednesday.  There will also be an opportunity for boys in the lower and middle school to try out rowing at Rowbots at Oxford Circus on Wednesday after school.  Fridays see the return of Barbell Society (for the older boys), park run and football at Seymour Leisure Centre after assembly.  I am delighted that we are able to return to something more akin to our regular, pre-COVID provision for the boys.

As part of the ongoing pastoral curriculum, Years 8 and 10 had talks from Natasha Devon earlier today. These will be followed up with a parent talk at 4pm. Natasha is a Body Image and Mental Health Campaigner. She is also the founder of the Mental Health Media Charter, and a trustee of Student Minds. She has worked with young people in schools, colleges and universities for many years, and in 2015 she was awarded an MBE for services to young people. The parent talk will cover ‘communication and mental health’ and provide a broad overview on how to have discussions about wellbeing with children, particularly during the pandemic, along with some self-care tips for adults.

Headmaster’s Blog 07.05.21

10th May 21

On ‘Super Thursday’, I set out before school to vote at my local polling station only to discover it was no longer there. For a moment or two, I was slightly nonplussed before gathering my wits and checking Google.  It had moved from St Vincent’s Primary School to the Marylebone Library in New Cavendish Street.  The more I thought about it the more I felt that this was a very good idea and why it had taken the pandemic to encourage us to realise that to sacrifice a day of schooling for young children was not on.  That is not to say that democracy is not precious and that sacrifices must be made to cherish it, but that principle allied with pragmatism often gets the very best outcome.  What better place than a public library, redolent of the opportunity to read and to think freely as it is, to be the location for the polling station? I was reminded of the importance of an open mind when I sat in on an English class in Year 7 this week.  The boys had the task of defending the actions of the indefensible Lady Macbeth, something they did with aplomb as they expressed their case built on the evidence of the play.  It was fantastic to hear their confidence and reasonableness in giving their speeches.

In the spirit of democratic discussion and fresh ideas, the School Council re-convened this week with the Juniors (Years 7-10) meeting on Wednesday. There was a very mature and constructive discussion of the co-curricular club provision and how to encourage boys to run the clubs as well as how best to establish a system for constructive, student-based feedback on lunch menus.  It is great to hear boys of different ages expressing their ideas and listening to each other to agree recommendations and to represent their tutor groups.  The Seniors (Year 11-13) are due to meet on Monday.

School was awash with colour today as boys took part in the charity mufti day.  Boys were encouraged to wear clothes in the colour of their Trib and seemed to enjoy the break from the routine. Looking ahead, rehearsals are underway for the Lower School Play, Unman, Wittering and Zygo, directed by Mr Hayes, which will premiere at the end of term.  Both Mr Hayes and Miss Twomey have been working very hard to devise ways in which the boys from different bubbles can take part in the play and I am very much looking forward to seeing the finished product.  In the meantime, though, all the best to the boys who have dedicated themselves to the production and are busily learning lines and rehearsing.

I also look forward to the reopening of pre and after-school sports club activities as we have been working hard to secure local facilities and additional games options but I will say more about the detail of that next week.

I hope you enjoy the weekend.

Headmaster’s Blog 30.04.21

3rd May 21

I was struck this week when reading the obituary of the US astronaut, Michael Collins, that he embodied an important message for us all about the nature of selfless service and dedication to the team. With Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin he flew 238,000 miles to the moon in 1969 but his duty was to pilot Columbia as it kept orbit at a distance of 60 miles over the moon whilst he waited for the lunar lander to return.  His was a lonely vigil of vital importance whilst the other two became icons of the modern age with their televised moonwalk.  Collins’ seniority and experience meant he was selected for the least glamorous but most important job of all – getting them home safely.

Service is an important aspect of life at Wetherby Senior.  I have been delighted to read applications and recommendations from boys in Year 12 who aspire to be prefects at the School.  The standard has been fantastic and a reminder of how much those boys – and boys generally – have been contributing to the broader community without expectation of recognition or reward.  Boys have been tutoring younger boys in various curriculum subjects and acting as peer mentors to provide friendly advice and support for younger boys.  Boys are on the youth board of the Votes for Schools current affairs programme, and are Financial Times ambassadors and are increasingly looking to lead clubs and societies.

Another aspect of service involves giving back to the community at large.  There are a number of charity initiatives for boys to support this term. Next Friday, 7th May, is a Mufti Day – where boys can wear home clothes in Trib colours – more details are outlined below. The proceeds will go to the School’s two main charities, chosen through the School council, Steel Warriors and United World Schools (UWS). Wetherby Senior is also supporting the West London Mission’s 5k ‘Run for Heroes’. This will run (no pun intended!) throughout the month of May and again I have asked the boys to join many of the staff in taking part to raise money for a very worthy cause.  West London Mission, based in Marylebone, care for some of the most vulnerable and needy in the neighbourhood. As you know, community is a core value at the School so it is a great opportunity to demonstrate that in practice.

Wishing you all the best for the bank holiday weekend.

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