Headmaster's Blog - 17th October 2017


We often encourage our youngsters to break out of their comfort zones and it is sometimes useful to sleep in more spartan surroundings.

Grendon's Outdoor Education Centre is not the height of luxury and it has been under financial pressure for some time but it is a wonderful facility with first class staff. A weekend residential for the community gospel choir working with London-based professional voice coaches and musicians was inspiring which more than compensated for any minor inconvenience of paint peeling off bedroom walls. As a natural tenor-baritone who is often challenged on higher notes it was both fascinating and frightening to be summoned in front of a cast of 200 fellow singers as an exhibit as to how to properly use one's diaphragm to achieve a register which had previously been beyond apparent reach. It was also telling that I was left isolated because none of the other tenors who had similar challenges actually put their heads above the parapet. All of this is inconsequential in the greater scheme of things but mirrors so often what happens in school. All of us need to be pushed. All of us need to be honest and realistic.

This last week we have faced a challenge with some of our Year 11 boys. Perhaps as a teenager we ourselves recall that the old fifth form was a time when muscles were flexed, economy with the truth occasionally raised its head, attitude was at its height and truculence often evident. Now that this teenage cocktail is fuelled by social media and the realization that significant examinations are fast-approaching, life is becoming a little fraught and the immediacy of making life-changing decisions and preparing for the first major exams in one's life is indeed evidence of having to move beyond one's comfort zone.

Last week's Sixth Form Evening was well-received yet amidst the positivity we were challenged when numerous matters were thrown up for discussion. One of those was why we allowed private study time in the Sixth Form. Schools should be about a balance. On the one hand we support whilst also allowing new experiences when there will be mistakes. If we micro manage every minute of every day then there is no scope for independence of mind, no ability to organize one's own time, no opportunity to read around one's subject and no chance for teachers to coax and cajole and re-direct when time is wasted. The work place and university demand organisation, self discipline and independence and if those life skills are not exposed in a supportive and nurturing environment then there is a cost.

A welcome Half Term looms on Friday evening because there is some flagging; the brief recharging of batteries will, one hopes for Year 11 and the Upper Sixth in particular, be married with essential consolidation and coursework efforts. We have begun our Year 11 1:1 pupil and parent interviews designed to try to make informed decisions on Sixth Form and A level Choices and these will continue during Half Term.

And finally ......... The break might also provide another opportunity for independent learning and breaking out of a comfort zone as well as practising diaphragm control for some of us!

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