Headmaster’s Blog 10.09.21

14th September 21

Dear parents,

At the end of our first full week back, there is a real feeling of being back to business. Boys have now had a full week of lessons and a chance to meet their teachers. There have also been a lot of decisions to make for boys as they fill their diaries with clubs and activities for the weeks ahead. Today has seen the re-launch of our Friday afternoon activities programme, with a most impressive 34 different activities on offer. When the after-school activities begin on Monday, the total number of things on offer across the week will be 116! This is an amazing number of different activities for pupils in all the different year groups to take advantage of – it really is an enriching programme on offer to them.

Our full games programme is also now running, and with a much-expanded range of choices, it has been great to know that we are sending pupils to a fantastic variety of activities nearby; competitive football and rugby continue to be offered at the wonderful Ealing facilities. Closer to home, boys have been swimming, climbing, and playing recreational football in Regent’s Park. Here on site, the gym and new spin studio have been very busy indeed. The spin studio is a terrific facility to have on site and is of a quality you would expect to find in a commercial gym. More than one parent has remarked to me this week that they would like to be able to use it!

Last week, I promised to update you on the fixtures taking place this week. On Thursday, the Year 10 footballers travelled to Barnes for a six-a-side tournament. Although they had not played together for some time, Ms Bachmann noted to me how impressed she was with their individual performances and resilience in the face of stiff opposition. At the end of the afternoon, the boys left with a record of: lost two, won one, drawn one. Well done to Jack for his captaincy and all of the rest of the squad.

Having welcomed the boys back last week, it has also been nice to welcome so many of you this week at the events for Year 7 and 9 parents. Both evenings have been a wonderfully normal way to meet you and begin to build relationships with you.

With best wishes for the weekend.

Headmaster’s Blog 02.07.21

5th July 21

Wetherby Senior School has a proud history of film-making.  You may recall that Oscar and latterly Isaac in Year 10 have triumphed in the Independent Schools Association short films competition as national winners for three years in a row.  As proof that our talent pool runs deep, I was delighted to receive the link to the latest film by Max P in Year 10.  Remnant is a moody, tense exploration of post-apocalyptic life with a time-travelling twist.  The plot has a well-conceived structure and is very carefully shot – with technical skill (including CGI) and creativity.  Jake P (in Year 7) gives a powerful performance as a wearied, impassive survivor on a mysterious Groundhog Day quest.  The film’s original score is especially effective in its spare snatches of melodic guitar phrases and open, lugubrious strings.  Congratulations to John A (also in Year 10) for its composition.

Fantastic news that Aidan in Year 12 has gained a place in both the England and GB Ski teams for the 2021/22 Season, his first inclusion as a Senior.  Many of you know that Aidan has been involved in elite skiing throughout his Wetherby career.  In person he is a quiet and unassuming young man but he shows tireless dedication, skill and courage to excel.  I would also highlight that he manages to balance a commitment to the slopes with a fierce determination to succeed in his A Levels and (most recently) in his SATs for potential entry into US universities.  Aidan will represent Great Britain throughout the next season and he is short listed for a place on the National Team competing at the European Youth Olympics which is scheduled for February 2022 in Finland. We wish him all the very best in his coming glacier training camp in Italy.

I will be writing to parents before the end of term but I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the teaching and support staff for their dedication and professionalism throughout a year that has offered plenty of challenges.  I would also like to congratulate the boys on their resilience, creativity and good humour in the face of what have been, on occasion, uncertain and even anxious times.  It is to their very great credit as individuals and collectively that they have come through with such a strong spirit as a community.  To all who are leaving Wetherby Senior, staff and boys alike, I would like to extend my very best wishes for the future and thanks for their contribution to the successful life of the School.  Finally, I would like to thank you all very much for your support this year and especially throughout the course of this term when I have been acting headmaster.  Next term sees the arrival of Mr Joe Silvester and exciting times lie ahead.  Have a relaxing, delightful and well-earned break over the summer and I look forward to seeing you in the new term.

Headmaster’s Blog 25.06.21

28th June 21

I don’t know what you think about golf.  Sadly, I don’t think Mark Twain actually did describe a round as ‘a good walk spoiled’ even though it is a great line and it sounds like the sort of thing he would have said.  I played a bit on a social basis in a former life and to me it was more a reminder of the fact that even in the most charmingly bucolic surroundings there could lurk a threat to one’s patient sanity and pride.  Perhaps it’s a kind of pastime designed to remind us of the fact that et in arcadia ego? Inevitably, after a spot of localised excavation, I would shy the ball into a dense thicket of couch grass from whose close embrace the ball would only emerge after several air shots.  My score card would frequently resemble an eighteen number lottery ticket.

Imagine then my delight on hearing that the Wetherby Senior golf team had won second place on Monday at the Independent Schools Association championship at Worksop College in Nottinghamshire?  A fantastic effort from our team of Jamie M, Oscar C, Santiago E (all in Year 11) and Killian M (in Year 12).  Oscar won the individual silver medal and well done to Killian for stepping in at the last moment.

Good news also came through about the results of the recent British Biology Olympiad entered by boys in Year 12. The BBO is a national post-16 competition that consists of two, 45-minute multiple choice papers taken online under supervised exam conditions. The papers test topics and ideas with which the boys are unfamiliar and are not on their A Level specifications.  They have to compete in the Olympiad with their problem solving skills and understanding of core principles. Congratulations to Sebastian on being awarded a gold medal and to the other Year 12 boys for their silver and bronze medals.

Headmaster’s Blog 18.06.21

21st June 21

One of the things that I am very much looking forward to about next term is the opportunity for year groups to reintegrate into the School community at large.  This is incredibly important in any educational setting but nowhere more so than in a senior school where the maturing effect of seeing (in the case of WSS) older boys at work, in clubs and in positions of leadership helps to shape the attitudes and aspirations of younger boys.  If you cast your mind back to your own experience of being at school – and I am aware that one of the great strengths of the Wetherby Senior community is the rich diversity of backgrounds and experiences – there will be moments that come to mind when you were profoundly impressed by the words or actions of older pupils.  It may be that you recognised at the time that they were role models or it may be that you unconsciously adopted their ways as you become one of the older pupils yourself but their positive influence was there.

The Tribs are a great way of harnessing this potential as they connect boys from different year groups within the School.  They lend an additional focus for belonging, for promoting healthy competition and collective endeavour.  Tribs, named after tributaries of the Thames, are more than just a convenient set plucked from the imagination.  They have a greater symbolic power, as names often do.  They are hidden rivers – unseen and yet power streams that flow independently into the larger whole of the Thames.  They are distinct but collectively join a mighty river.  Smart new Trib boards will soon appear in Hannah House hall, there are Trib prizes at the end of term and, very exciting indeed, there are brand new Trib lapel badges to designs created by none other than our own Ms Bradley.  A highlight of the end of term will be the Trib charity fair for the boys which is a great opportunity for Killian, Himat, Nick, Josh, Jacques and, of course, Henry, to lead the younger boys in what promises to be an afternoon of fun and charity fundraising.

Headmaster’s Blog 11.06.21

14th June 21

I come from a very musical family and grew up in a house where music making was the norm and, it is fair to say, not always quite as harmonious as it might have been.  Cellos, pianos and the treble and bass parts of a huge repertoire of choral music rang through the place, augmented by the diligent and remorseless viola playing of our German student houseguest, Wolfram.  Presiding over everything in spirit, if not always in person, was my maternal grandfather.  I remember the portrait photograph of him in his finery of starched linen surplice and high, ecclesiastical ruff, eyeballing the young me – a rather reluctant pianist – with all the slightly haughty distain of a head chorister (as he was at Lincoln Cathedral directly after the First World War) to the naughtiest and most recalcitrant probationer.  I always knew that I was the least talented of the lot, in truth, but I have always enjoyed music making and I have cherished the gift of appreciating the talent of others.

One of the great things about Wetherby is that we have a really diverse and enthusiastic group of musicians amongst our pupils and we have a very talented and dedicated department of professionals to teach them and to help them nurture their love of music.  Performance is an integral part of the process of learning a musical instrument and I was delighted to hear the impressive range of performances submitted for the Trib music competition.  All in all a fun feast of music and well done to all.

We have more wonderful performances to look forward to as the music department prepares for its next concert – Live Lounge, which showcases a wide variety of contemporary music. It will premiere on Wednesday 23rd June at 6.00pm.

The incoming Prefect Team have begun their duties around school with great enthusiasm and have been a visible presence as they greet pupils each morning at Hannah House. They are wonderful role models for the younger boys with their sense of good humour while taking their responsibilities seriously.

We welcomed a number of guest speakers to the School this week. IE Madrid university admissions officers came into school earlier today to talk to Year 12 pupils about their degree options which include excellent provision in Business/Economics and Law. We also welcomed one of our parents, Maria Como, on Tuesday. Maria spoke to Year 12 about presentation and communication skills in relation to their EPQ presentations which are taking place later this month. We received very positive feedback from the talk, with the boys saying this was one of the most useful talks they’ve had. We are grateful to Maria for generously giving us so much of her time.

Finally some great news from the drama department. Out of 39 boys who recently completed LAMDA exams, 31 passed with Distinction and 8 with Merit. Well done to all.

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.

Barometer Half Term 1

I was struck this week when reading the obituary of...

Headmaster's Blog 26.11.2...

Dear parents, At the end of our first full week...

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