Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 29th November 2019
Many of you will remember the BT advertisements from the mid-1990s in which Bob Hoskins reminded us that ‘It’s good to talk’. Since then companies like BT have lost ground to mobile phone manufacturers – companies that produce items ostensibly to facilitate oral communication, but which (ironically) actually are more often used to text or email, i.e. to bypass the spoken word. The internet is full of memes on the subject, perhaps the most famous being a picture of a shocked Ozzy Osborne staring bemused at a phone, with the caption ‘When someone tries to call me instead of texting’. I am reliably informed by people who know more about this kind of thing than I do that such people are called ‘textroverts’: people who feel more comfortable talking over text than to your face. Another of the cultural tides against which we need to swim, then, is the one that sidelines open and honest face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) conversation.
It is not a controversial or complex suggestion that – and I apologise for the build-up of clichés – a problem halved is a problem solved. In William Blake’s A Poison Tree, a poem the boys are bound to encounter during their time here, he summarises the importance of open dialogue in a childlike, accessible and memorable way: ‘I was angry with my friend; / I told my wrath, my wrath did end. / I was angry with my foe: / I told it not, my wrath did grow’. For all of these reasons, then, we have at the heart of our wellbeing grid the statement, ‘I know to whom I can talk if I am worried’, and it was excellent to hear Mr Morrison address the subject in assembly on Tuesday. The boys here have a wide network of people to whom they can talk if they have any concerns at all, no matter how small, and assembly was a valuable reminder of all the different people to whom they have access: peers, parents, form tutors, assistant form tutors, the school counsellor, any of my colleagues. And one thing that the architects got right about the 1903 building is that the Head’s study is right in the centre of the school, easily visible and accessible by all constituencies.
There are, of course, many different forms of conversations, from the pleasant idle chatter of breaktime to the more formal structured conversations of committees and debates. Our current affairs and debating activity centres on encouraging the boys to organise and structure their thoughts, to avoid an unconvincing free-for-all and to promote clearly thought-through and articulated ideas. (Would that were the case everywhere.) It was wonderful to see this showcased on Monday when our Year 8s got to show the rest of the prep school an example of structured and respectful back-and-forth debate. Their theme was the wisdom of further space exploration, hence our space-themed person, artwork and word of the week. Can I particularly recommend The Contour of Presence by an artist who goes by the name of ‘Nahum’? It is condensed vapour, launched into the upper atmosphere by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which then freezes into tiny crystals and becomes backlit by sunlight. It’s quite a long way from poster paints; something to which our budding young artists can aspire?!
Have a wonderful and talkative weekend,
Person of the Week: Neil Armstrong
Artwork of the Week: ‘The Contour of Presence’ by ‘Nahum’
Word of the Week: apogee
Sport. As we head towards the end of term the rugby fixtures are still coming thick and fast with all three age groups in action this week. Firstly the U11s were back in action after their recent success against CCCS in the ever popular house matches. Once again two days of fiercely contested games saw some excellent rugby on show with a great number of entertaining tries scored. The results will be announced in the end-of-term assembly. On Tuesday the U8s travelled the short distance over to MCS for the annual year 3 TAG rugby festival. In some wet conditions the boys all played seven games of rugby. There was a mixed bag of results with each team recording wins draws and losses. However a great day was had by all and it was topped off by a most welcome hotdog at the end of the afternoon.
Also this week the U13 teams played The Dragon on Wednesday afternoon in two highly entertaining games. I had the pleasure of taking the 2nd team again and they continued their good work with the ball and tried to move the ball around the backs as much as possible to create the openings and gaps. Despite going 3-0 down inside the first fifteen minutes the boys rallied thanks to an inspirational try by Thomas that he scored after running the length of the pitch on the left wing! Just after the break we managed to get the score back to 3-2 but following ten minutes of NCS pressure we let our hosts off the hook. A final burst of pressure saw NCS score the final try but I’m afraid it was all too late and the final score 6-4 was a fair result but did not reflect the fine attacking play we had shown throughout the game. In the 1st team game the tables were somewhat turned as the NCS team ran in nine unanswered tries including four for Alex who was unstoppable on the wing. Playing in only his third match since his injury he was named player of the match by the opposition coaches thanks to his attacking flair and devastating tackles in defence!
Apart from this fantastic solo effort, the teamwork on show was excellent and the ball was moved through the forward and backs very effectively with the boys creating a number of scoring chances for the fast runners in the centre and on the wings. Jack, William and Fraser all played key roles in a very entertaining and successful match. CB
Well done to the choristers, whose concert season began last Saturday with a trip to Broughton Castle. Never ones to miss an educational opportunity, we particularly enjoyed visiting the room where individuals like John Pym and John Hampden met to plan their resistance to Charles I in the run-up to the civil war – a topic we have just covered in Year 8/8S History. Year 5 enjoyed a day out, too, on Wednesday when they went to see The Prince and The Pauper at the Watermill Theatre. I am reliably informed that ‘a good time was had by all’, and my thanks to all colleagues who organised and supported the trip.