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


Head’s Blog 22.01.21

25th January 21

Dear Parents,

I am pleased to hear from staff that the remote learning continues to go well.  We have once again settled into a routine and the boys are responding well.  Staff are giving a large number of gold notes with lots of praise for the boys’ efforts   I am very pleased that they are continuing to approach it so proactively and I am very grateful to the staff for working so hard to engage them.  My advice, perhaps even I would go so far as my plea, this weekend is that everyone, staff and pupils, get away from the screen.  I know it is cold but the weather has brightened today and I hope you will all take the opportunity to get out of your work rooms tomorrow before the rain and sleet return.

That said, I know that a lot of boys have been getting out to take part in the Thames Challenge and we had our winner with two days to spare.  Congratulations to Walbrook who completed the 346km. Well done to all who took part – I hope you will get involved in the next challenge and are also making use of the videos that the PE and Games Department are posting online.  This afternoon the boys will be in their Tribs for their online assembly, a perfect opportunity to celebrate this success, and also for the boys from different year groups to come together, something that has been very hard in our bubbled existence of late.

This week has been about choices: the Year 9 are making their choices for their GCSES in the coming weeks and Year 12 are starting to whittle down their options for higher education over the course of this year. For both year groups, it is an exciting point in their education: for those in Year 9 it is the first time they will make choices which allow them to define how their education will look for the next few years; for the Sixth Form they are making a decision on an area of specialisation (hopefully it is the thing that really fires them), a style of university to go to and also where they are going to be living for at least three years of their life.  In both cases there will be difficult decisions to be made and there will need to be self-reflection about the subjects or universities that are right for them. The School is always here to make sure your sons, and you, feel confident about the decisions they are making.

With best wishes, Seth


Head’s Blog 15.01.21

18th January 21

Dear Parents,

I have been pleased to hear from staff that the boys are settled into the routine of online learning and that they are working well in all year groups. It is great to hear from pupils about their enthusiasm for their learning and how much they are appreciating the teachers’ dedication to keeping their engagement in lessons. Mr Astbury-Palmer’s random name generator keeps all of his mathematicians poised to contribute to his online lessons. Ms Page is using a great online whiteboard app which allows her pupils to write or draw their answers to show their contribution and then show all their answers to each other simultaneously on the screen.

The assemblies this term have moved away from YouTube to Teams.  I know that some of you were tuning in each week but using Teams makes it easier to include other members of the community in the assembly.  Last week Alex, a Senior Prefect, shared the shout outs and there was also an announcement by Harrison, the Prefect that leads Walbrook, announcing the inter-Trib ‘Lockdown Cookbook’ competition.  Recipes should be submitted with a photograph.  To qualify the dish must be a one pot dish, take no more than sixty minutes to prepare and cook and the recipe should be accompanied by an explanation as to why that dish, or the ingredients, are significant to you.  The fourteen best will be included in a special ‘Lockdown Cookbook’ edition of the Barometer.

I am also pleased to let you know that two of our pianists, Edward and Alexei, have both made it to the finals of the Independent Schools Association’s Young Musician of the Year.  They now have a couple of weeks to submit a second video of them performing a piece of their choosing.  They have done very well to make it to the final 8 in their age groups and I wish them luck.  Thank you also to Mr Repa who has supported all the boys who entered this year.

Finally, Mr Montgomery has been into School this week and recorded three workouts for the boys.  Mr Sullivan will be in next week to lead a live session as well as recording some more routines.  I hope the boys will enjoy doing them.

With best wishes, Seth


Head’s Blog 08.01.21

11th January 21

Dear Parents,

To be starting a term in lockdown again brings with it mixed feelings.  I, and all the staff, were keen to be back in School, supporting the boys and offering as close to a pre-pandemic education as we were able and yet I recognise the need to bring the virus back under control and therefore the need for us to stay at home as much as possible.  In the first lockdown, the virus was something that did not have a large impact on the life of my extended family or our friends but the rise of the recent variants has seriously affected people we know and, I know from some of you, that you have also seen the impact over the last few weeks.  I hope, therefore, that the remote learning, the pastoral support and the Trib and co-curricular activities will give your sons a routine, focus and sense of normality for the duration of this lockdown and let us hope that we can return after half term.

We received a very nice letter from the West London Mission.  They are hugely grateful for the 130 or so boxes that we delivered to them at the end of term.  They distributed the boxes at three of their centres that support those with alcoholism, ex-offenders and former servicemen and women, all of whom have suffered from or are at risk of homelessness.  The gifts were clearly a pick-me-up for the recipients at a very difficult time and there were some lovely messages of thanks.  I am so pleased that we are able to continue our partnership with this very worthy charity.  It is at this time of year that charities such as WLM are under the most pressure, and this has been exacerbated by the pandemic.  I greatly enjoyed visiting the charity towards the end of last term for the formal presentation of the money we donated some time ago.  They were looking forward to a return to normality and were keen to involve some of the older boys with their efforts.  That may now be some way off but I hope boys will take the opportunity to help when it comes along.

The other good news that I have been following are the university offers that the boys in Year 13 have been receiving.  They have experienced so much disruption to their time in the Sixth Form that I am delighted they are doing so well in their applications.  We have our first applicants for medicine this year and two of them have already been invited to interviews, as well as our first veterinary science applicant who awaits the result of his interview.  The offers that have come in so far include some of the best universities – Durham, KCL, UCL, Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Manchester among others – and for a range of courses: Business, Biological Science, Computer Science, History, Geography, International Relations, Mathematics and Psychology.  There will I hope be news on our US applicants shortly and I will share it with you.  I am pleased that, even though they may not have A Level exams, they have still have a target to work towards.

I hope you all enjoy your weekend after a week of such change.  We are continuing to monitor all that is going on and will keep you up to date as the situation evolves.

With best wishes, Seth

 


Head’s End of Term Blog

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.



Head’s Blog 04.12.2020

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,

Seth


Barometer Spring Term 2021

And so we stand on the cusp of the final...

Head's Blog 12.02.21

And so we come to the end of the half...

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