Yesterday morning in church, I showed a short film to the entire senior school. Entitled ‘Look Up’, it sends a powerful and moving message about the need for all us, adults and children alike, to put down our electronic devices, raise our heads and look into people’s eyes rather than at a screen. Please do watch it here and discuss it with your children. It followed on from Wednesday’s ‘Digital Detox Day’, an initiative we shall certainly repeat.
Unsurprisingly, the term has ended with a packed couple of weeks, the highlight of which was undoubtedly the two performances of Cabaret, a very important event in the school calendar. As all of you in the audience heard me say, I was hugely impressed with the quality of the performances but I was just as delighted by the number of pupils (and staff) involved and the range of ages from Year 6 to Upper Sixth. It was also lovely to see the evident enjoyment and sense of camaraderie on the faces of the boys and girls. No less impressive or enjoyable were the recent Year 3 & 4 performances of ‘Hoodwinked’ and this week’s Prep show for Grandparents' Day. Both were outstanding features of the school community. World Book Day, and the enthusiastic engagement with it by pupils and staff alike, was also an enjoyable whole-school event.
As you may know, the School received a Regulatory Compliance Inspection from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) last week (at our request, all inspections are now as one school, as opposed to prep and senior). I am grateful to all parents who completed the questionnaire. When the report arrives, I will send all parents a link to it. Although the report will be dry and lack any subjective or qualitative opinion, the chief inspector gave me detailed feedback and was effusive in his praise of the pupils and staff he and his team encountered during their stay. He made a point of complimenting the pastoral care and warmth of relationships at the School, both between staff and pupils and between pupils themselves; he also made mention of the ‘friendly, relaxed yet purposeful’ feel to the School. I was understandably very proud and pleased to hear his words and also his praise for the commitment and dedication of the staff.
It was also a pleasure to welcome to the School last week pupils and staff from our partner school in Cognac. Our exchange programmes with schools in both France and Spain (and the plan is to extend it to Germany too) are very important to us and a feature of the education here of which we are very proud. At a time when the press is full of hand-wringing stories bemoaning the impossibility and consequent decline of language exchanges in school, the determination and willingness of the MFL Department to accept a challenge illustrates that nothing is impossible. I am also delighted to inform you that in May we will welcome to the School for three weeks a small group of Chinese pupils and their teachers. More details to follow, but how fortunate our pupils are to have the opportunities for such exposure to cultures, opinions and points of view from all over the world: to my mind, this is a crucial component of a 21st century education.
The Thomas Arnold lecture series continues to be popular and in the last fortnight of term we hosted the author and former soldier Harry Parker, to talk about his novel ‘Anatomy of a Soldier’. Harry lost his legs to an IED in Afghanistan and spoke about that, his views on the war in Afghanistan and the genesis of his book. It was both fascinating and though-provoking to hear him, as it was Peter Nixon earlier this week. Peter is a director of the National Trust with an overview of all the Trust’s land, nature, landscape and related buildings. His talk was entitled ‘Love land and nature, why your life depends on it’ and was equally interesting. The chance to sit and hear high-quality speakers stimulating discussion and debate is another important component of education. As a school, we must teach the pupils how to think but not what to think. Next term, I am pleased to announce that we will welcome one of the world’s leading First World War historians, Professor Gary Sheffield, to the School. Details are below.
Over the holidays there are pupils travelling on school trips to Berlin and Krakow while others are off skiing in Italy. Meanwhile, fifty pupils from a variety of schools are registered for our residential hockey camp and there will be pre-season training for tennis, cricket and athletics.
Next Friday, 31 March, Miss Mugridge will be staffing a stand at the Warminster Health Fair at the Civic Centre, sharing all we do at the School to support the pupils’ physical and emotional health. If you are in town please support her. The event is from 1.30 - 3.30pm and there will be a whole host of advice and information about healthy living and the services in the area.
Open Morning is on Saturday 6 May and attendance is compulsory for all pupils, while Speech Day, also obligatory, is on Saturday 27 May. I am delighted to tell you that the Guest of Honour will be the broadcaster and member of the Test Match Special team, Alison Mitchell.
May I wish all of you (well in advance, I know), a very happy Easter and an enjoyable holiday.