We come to the end of a difficult and draining week for the School and families alike. Our collective thoughts have been dominated by tragic events and I suspect that it has been difficult for us all to focus on anything other than the perfectly understandable concern we feel for the safety of the children in our care. We grieve with those who have lost loved ones and may be fearful for what the future holds. These are difficult times and we are right to acknowledge them as such. We as a school have done all that we are able to maintain a sense of normality and the School as a whole should feel proud of all it has done. Without the support of parents we would not have achieved all that we have.
Our greatest strength is our community. I was greatly appreciative of parents alerting us to the presence of an unknown journalist in the environs of the School yester-day. Please do not hesitate to contact the School if you have doubts about individuals that are in the vicinity, particularly at drop off and pick-up times. It is important that we as a school, working with parents, ensure that our locale is safe. Whilst it may be contrary to our nature we are right to be wary at this time, vigilance is one of the most important elements of our protection.
I am greatly appreciative of the work being put in by both the staff and the members of the BSPS who are taking a flexible approach to the organisation of Christmas events.
I have no doubt from what I have seen so far that the end of term will be as fun fuelled as ever.
You will find details of rescheduled events in the accompanying letters from Miss Tuckwell and Dr. Batters. As a consequence of limited operating times it will be the case that Parents’ Evenings will be rescheduled. If you have a concern about your son or daughter, it is important that you make contact with us. We are keen to ensure that you remain included in all matters pertaining to academic development. Where concerns arise from a school perspective, teachers will make contact with you directly.
Restrictions on the range and scope of extra-curricular matters mean that the opportunity for academic work increases. I will be urging our students to make the next four weeks of term especially productive. To develop understanding as a consequence of acts of intolerance would seem to me to be a fitting response. I hope that our pupils recognise this. By taking advantage of newly freed time for academic endeavour, our students will gain a greater understanding of the world. This, at least in my eyes, would be a fitting tribute to those who perished.
As I move around the Schools I am constantly impressed with the sensible attitude that our young people exhibit at this time. Their level headed and measured approach has made the management of this situation far easier than might have been expected. They are truly a credit to the School and to their families. When I see them I am given hope for the future.
There have been a lot of poppies in school this week and with them an awful lot of remembering.
The common or Flanders Poppy is thought to be native to the eastern Mediterranean but its delicate petals have be-come a common sight in Northern and Western Europe. It may well be the case that Papaver rhoeas was brought here in seed corn transported from southern climes in prehistoric times. Over the years they have become a welcome feature of the countryside. Long associated with both fertility and death the poppy was adopted after the First World War as a symbol of remembrance. It is certainly the case that John McCrae saw poppies when he looked out of the casualty clearing station at Essex Farm near the Belgian city of Ypres in 1915. His famous poem did much to promote the poppy as a symbol of remembrance in Anglophone countries. In France the cornflower is favoured, in Germany it is the forget-me-not. Whatever the flower chosen, I believe that we as a school community are right to recognise the individual sacrifice made by individuals in war. It is not that we seek to glorify war, or indeed the political will that stimulates it; rather it is the case that we remember those who paid the ultimate price of conflict. Perhaps the poppy is the most appropriate symbol for our remembrance as a community. We, like the poppy, have (in many cases) come from elsewhere in the world and have put our roots down herein French soil.
As an historian and as Headmaster I believe that this annual period of remembrance is vital for our young people. It gives an opportunity for these individuals who will go on to mould the future an opportunity to reflect on what it means to pay the ultimate price. The association of a flower with this sacrifice is an important reminder of the human cost of conflict and perhaps regular revisiting of his loss will eventually persuade individuals to consider alternatives to war. It is oft said that those who fail to learn the lesson of history are condemned to repeat them. Our commemoration of the fallen acknowledges their sacrifice rather than any nationalistic sentiment. In doing so I hope that an important lesson is learned.
This week I was fortunate to be able to accompany the Year 9 historians on a trip to the First World War battlefields. Having seen their reactions to what they saw at Passchendale, Langemarck and on the Somme I believe that, more than ever, we must look to learn the lessons of the consequences of war. As we stood at the Menin Gate and listened to the piper’s lament and the ringing notes of the Last Post our party was undoubtedly moved and I feel sure that they will remember with greater clarity and an enhanced understanding of what happens when nations collide and also our obligations to those who are left behind.
Whilst we were in Belgium and Northern France we saw plenty of poppies, it was also good to see our prefects giving generously of their time to sell poppies at Notre Dame Cathedral on Wednesday before the Royal British Legion’s annual service of commemoration. It is always heartening to see young people working to support those who now endeavour to live on after loss. Such service to others is at the core of what we stand for as a school. It was therefore good to see so many Beavers, Cubs and Scouts being invested at the end of the service of remembrance on Wednesday as service to others is a hallmark of the these groups. We were also delighted to welcome into the Junior School representatives from the British Legion in Paris to talk about the work of this charity on Thurs-day. If you have a moment please do look at the display of ceramic poppies that have sprung up in front of the Senior School art building, rather like last years’ installation at the Tower of London they give a more permanent expression of remembrance.
On Monday the Senior School will end the School’s period of remembrance with a special assembly. Once the notes of the trumpet have faded across the Seine; I hope that our students will use their talents to ensure that the nations of the world will work to avoid war wherever possible; in this the humble poppy will help to remind them.