Head Master's Beginning of Term Letter Friday, 26 April 2019

Dear Parents and Guardians,

A very warm welcome back to you all. We do hope you have had an enjoyable Easter break and have been able to take the opportunity to enjoy this glorious spell of Spring weather. The Trinity Term at St George's is very special indeed, and we very much look forward to seeing you at various events over the coming weeks. The school is looking fantastic, and my warmest thanks to Bob Wall for all he does to keep our grounds and gardens looking so lovely.

Our Year 6s returned from their trip to France at the start of the holidays having had a superb week. They conducted themselves very well indeed and all had just the right attitude for a residential trip. We have now received most of their diaries from the week, and I look forward to reading these in the coming days. My thanks to Manuela Flieger, Jane Pickering, Cathy Unger and James Wilkinson for all they did to ensure the trip was so happy and successfully run.

Holy Week is a very important and busy time for the Chapel, and therefore for our Choristers and the Pastoral Team. In the four days from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday the choir sang six services, including three in the presence of The Queen and members of the Royal Family. It is an exciting, but demanding schedule for the boys. They were extraordinary and we could not have been prouder of them. Out of Chapel they enjoyed excellent outings and activities, and I would like to extend my gratitude to Jonny and Ally Onions, Carolina Leleu and Katy Mason for all they did. A highlight of the week was the Maundy Thursday service, and a caption from an article the next day caught my eye. It encapsulates their contribution:

Here was the oldest monarch in history, processing through a magnificent place of worship and saluting society's unsung stalwarts to the accompaniment of the most sublime choral music. As the choir reached the crescendo of Handel's coronation anthem, 'Zadok The Priest', I spotted one or two people in tears.

The staff took part in a slightly alternative INSET day on Tuesday. In addition to a design project, my colleagues undertook a sculpture project inspired by the artist, Antony Gormley. To demonstrate our own individuality and personality, but also the strength of being part of a group, the staff have molded their own mini statues which will be fired in the kiln and displayed in our central Atrium. It is the intention of Louise Squire, our Assistant Head (Pastoral) to open this up to the pupils, parents and the wider community of St George's. Whilst this was a fun (and at times hilarious) activity to engage in, its intention is a serious one: we are all individuals and should remain authentic and proud of that. However, together we can unite our own personal strengths to form something great. St George's is about great people - pupils, staff, parents, extended families and the wider community of the Chapel and Castle. We hope this project will demonstrate this notion of togetherness.

We also engaged with an outdoor learning expert on Tuesday, who led a session with the staff based around leadership, teamwork and communication. 'Learning Outside the Classroom' and 'Character Education' are growing forces within learning; both of which will form an important part of developments within our curriculum and approaches to learning and teaching. We will be investing further in outdoor education and, together with our team, are looking at how we can use our site creatively to open up opportunities for this.

As you know, we are focused this term on developing our strategic plan for St George's, and the Governing Body and I have met a number of times to establish our timetable this term, ahead of our presentation to parents on Monday, 8 July 2019. Involvement from the entire community is critically important, and members of the Governing body will be holding 'focus group' discussions with parents over the coming weeks to discuss key areas of the school and gather your views and input. We will be in contact with you next week to provide details. I hope you will be able to give your time to contribute to this exercise and may I thank you for your engagement. Central to it is the celebration of our core values, and I am asking all members of the school to consider those that really matter to them and what they feel drives St George's. A survey will be sent to parents next week for your input, and I would be very grateful if you would reflect on the following values and what you feel is important for your son / daughter. From the following list of seven, we will choose three:

  • Compassion
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Honesty
  • Kindness
  • Loyalty

What makes St George's great? This is a question I have spent the last four months clarifying in my mind. My interactions with the pupils, parents and families, staff and colleagues in Chapel have made this much easier than I thought. St George's isn't simply about buildings, inspection findings, words or procedures. It is about people, and as the Antony Gormley inspired project will illustrate, we have an exceptionally strong community, and it is in the spirit of togetherness and fellowship that we formulate our path ahead.

Turning our attention to this term, I was delighted to introduce our new school Chaplain to the school this morning. The Reverend Jonathan Coore, from hereon known as Padre, joins us from Christ Church, Southwark, where he was the Rector. Jonathan will be splitting his time between the School and Chapel, where he will also assume the role of Minor Canon and Succentor, supporting and leading the daily liturgy. Jonathan spoke so warmly to the school today and gave us an insight into how very lucky we are to have him here. His message, using a banana as a brilliant prop (ask your children!), was simple: the power of giving the very best of ourselves to others. I have no doubt our Padre will provide outstanding pastoral support to us all, and I do hope you will meet him soon. Also on the staffing front, I have appointed Miss Emily Ralfe to the staff from September 2019 as a Key Stage 2 Class Teacher. Emily was the successful candidate from an incredibly strong field of applicants and impressed us with her teaching, track record in education and diversity within education. A graduate of Geography from Exeter University, Emily gained her PGCE at Durham before embarking on her teaching career that has taken her to a number of different settings. She is currently a Year 3 teacher at St Teresa's Preparatory School, Effingham, where she also oversees the 'Eco Award Scheme' and teaches Geography. Emily has won various awards for her teaching and has implemented some exciting initiatives throughout her career. We look forward to welcoming her to St George's.

There is so much for the girls and boys to look forward to this term. Whilst the academics take centre stage, especially in the run up to Common Entrance and our internal school exams, there is much else besides for our pupils to get involved with and give of their best to. Summer is also a time to consolidate all that has been learned this year, both in and out of the classroom, and reflect on the journey every child has taken since January. I am reminded of the poem by Robert Frost, 'The Road Not Taken'. For some, it will have been a fast and direct route up the motorway; for others it might have been a more scenic route, taking in some 'B' roads, perhaps with bumps and detours along the way. What is important, though, is that every child will reach the same destination on Friday, 12 July, and be proud of their achievements, ability to overcome challenges and all they have learned and developed. As I spoke about in Assembly yesterday, it is about developing firm foundations for life that will enable our children to thrive in the challenges and opportunities that await them beyond St George's. For our Year 8s and others from Year 6 and below, this will be their final term here, and I wish them all a very happy final chapter with us.

Do watch the following clip that I showed the children and connect them to the seven core values I have mentioned above.

Catherine and I wish you all a happy and successful Trinity Term, and both look forward to our continued partnership with you.

William Goldsmith

A snapshot of our first week back

Wishing the following a very...

The following pupils will be celebrating their birthday in the coming week: Sofia C, Ella G, Leah H, Jannah H, Grace J, Gabriel R-A.

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