“Initiative is doing the right thing without being told.”
Initiative is one of those character traits that is a challenge to develop in schools. Schools like many institutions are bound by rules and it is sometimes difficult to reimagine them working in different ways. Earlier in the week we had a group of students who went off to complete their practice adventurous journey section of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Silver and Gold Award. This is perhaps one of those parts of school life where it is easy to give opportunities for initiative. During the journey pupils are left to follow a route across wild country with minimal staff supervision. The idea is that by being put in a challenging situation they will develop valuable transferable skills that they can take into other aspects of their lives. Coping with disputes about which way the map should be read, deciding where exactly tents will be pitched and working together when tired are all experiences to be drawn on in later life.
In the Senior School assembly our new prefect team introduced themselves to the rest of the school. This year the prefects have defined their own roles, they stood up in front of their peers to explain what they are setting out to do and have decided that one of the key targets for development is student voice. Elections for student representatives will be held next week and a wide range of pupils are standing for election. The same enthusiasm to contribute to our community is found in the Junior School student council who meet with Mr. Potter to share their points of view regarding school improvements. I look forward to hearing their ideas and discussing school development with them during the year.
Many of our school charity projects spring from pupil initiatives. Last week alone, between both schools, money was raised for gene therapy (720€), Moroccan and Libyan disaster appeals through cake sales and a small charge for the privilege of wearing their own clothes or jeans with school uniform for the day. Over the coming weeks we will have pupils supporting other charities by giving their time and talent rather than by dropping coins in a bucket. This year we will have pupils lending a hand to a variety of local charities, giving concerts in a retirement home, and providing afternoon activities for a local special school. These initiatives are in many ways the most gratifying to see. Proof, if such were needed that our pupils are able to look beyond their own situation and take responsibility for providing for others. Our aim is to ensure that by the end of this year every one of our pupils, no matter what their age have demonstrated capacity for initiative and (hopefully) shown some too.
“It’s all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you’re properly trained.”
Queen Elizabeth II
We were fortunate to have been invited to watch the Tongan rugby team train on Wednesday. In the abstract, going to watch a team train may seem to be far less exciting than watching them play a match. There is, without doubt, a good deal to be learned when we accept that the skill shown on a sports pitch comes from not only a certain level of talent but an awful lot of hard work. Having the opportunity to see this process up close is a lesson in determination and endeavour if ever there was one. It is important that our young people have the chance to see individuals who are competing at the highest level ensuring that they are ready to meet the challenges of match day head on. Each day our pupils are faced with images of people who seemingly enjoy success without really trying, those who live perfect, airbrushed lives. This was an opportunity to see what success really takes, to achieve a chance to understand that high performance comes from hard work.
We were also honoured to attend the welcome ceremony for King Charles and Queen Camilla at the Arc de Triomphe earlier in the week. A magnificent spectacle with rows of marching soldiers, talented military bands and of course a King, Queen and a President. It has been said before that King Charles has spent most of his life in training for his current role and if that is the case, he appeared to know what he was doing. Many will no doubt scratch their head at the seeming irrelevance of something like a State Visit, but if it does nothing else it reinforces the relations that exist between old friends, France and Britain. Relationships are also more successful when we invest time in ensuring that they remain cordial, things tend to go wrong in school when pupils do not consider the impact of their behaviour on others. This visit reminds us that we should strive to remain cordial and that friendships need to be maintained with kindness. Years 7 and 8 enjoyed a vigorous afternoon of team building on Monday. The aim was to develop bonds of trust and improve teamwork. When we put ourselves in more challenging situations we learn a good deal about our character. Experiences like this build confidence, develop understanding and give all a chance to develop strength of character that can be brought to bear on challenges in the classroom later in the year.
All who were able to come to our Welcome Event enjoyed a great opportunity to meet with other BSP families and members of our wider community. Such events don’t happen without an enormous amount of work behind the scenes so a much deserved thank you to our caterers Croc Pizza, the Communications Dept, the Finance Office, teaching and support staff, the indefatigable BSPS and the Prefects who facilitated this enjoyable event.
“A good referee can’t make a bad game good. But a bad referee can make a good game bad.”
Who would be a rugby referee? Now that the first week of the Men’s Rugby World Cup is over, I’m reminded that being the person with the whistle can be an unenviable position. Granted, these days there are video replays and bunker reviews, but the pace of the modern game means that match turning decisions must be made in the blink of an eye. Marginal calls cause big upsets. At the end of the match, no matter how well the referee has officiated there will be one set of fans who think something wasn’t right. Perhaps the one saving grace for rugby is that the referee still receives some sort of respect on the field unlike their round ball counterparts.
This week I was introduced to the concept of sympathy decisions. This is when a referee who has had to make a tight call later in the match attempts to make amends by favouring the “unlucky” side. Understandable as we all, I believe, have an innate sense of fair play. On occasion our young people may well feel aggrieved with decisions that are made, with disappointments that come their way. Not being picked can be crushing. Finishing somewhere other than first can be disappointing. Missing out on an opportunity upsetting. But despite the short-term angst, such disappointment can be turned to productive ends. Resilience and determination can be built.
There is a significant difference between something being disappointing and it being unfair. Staff strive to be fair in what they do, and we seek opportunities for all to take their place as representatives of the school. Be it in music, sport, academia, drama, debate, or art we endeavour to provide opportunities for new experiences to be enjoyed. This year in the Senior School we are offering archery. We’ve volleyball teams which have played their first fixtures this year. These may well provide the opportunity for pupils to show their skills. Where our young people see genuine unfairness, I hope that we are giving them the confidence to speak up and to challenge those who seek to take advantage or whose actions harm the community. If we manage to achieve this, then we will have educated capable and well-rounded individuals who are ready to take their place in the wider world.
Every time I visit our nursery I’m struck by the clarity of their rules. All activities here are governed by simple and easy to understand rules and we would do well to remember them as we move away from the delights of the sandpit. By being kind and thoughtful to each other, and by trying our best in all we do we will have a successful year. The school year is considerably longer than an eighty-minute rugby match, that said, I hope to keep my red cards in my pocket until the final whistle is blown on this year.
“You had better live your best and act your best and think your best today; for today is the sure preparation for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that follow.”
The start of the new school year comes with a heady mix of nerves and excitement. There are new forms, new subjects and new friends. For some it is an experience that has elements of familiarity and for others it is all entirely new. This term we welcome 177 new pupils to our community. Knowing that this is a welcoming community I’m sure that friendships will be forged and all traces of the first week nerves will disappear. Well done to all who have completed their first week and thank you to all pupils who extended a hand of friendship.
Alongside new uniform, nicely sharpened pencils and a colourful set of pristine exercise books, the new school year is a good time to consider what will be different. A time to decide what we will do differently. In short it is a good time to create a resolution (or two). On Monday morning I had the privilege of addressing the Senior School in assembly. I told them the story of Calum’s road . A tale about a man who built a road with nothing more than a pick, shovel and his own determination to help his community. My point was a fairly obvious one, in that we should be a little more like Calum MacLeod. At the start of the school year, we all have the chance to build our own pathway. We have a choice as to the direction in which we will go, and we know we will have obstacles to overcome. We can be confident that if we are steadfast in our endeavour we will negotiate the cliffs and marshes that stand in our way. Unlike Calum we have plentiful support in our task.
I mentioned the school’s character compass and suggested that this compass provides a guide for all of us in this community. When help with direction is needed by ensuring that no one point is out of balance, we can feel sure that we will succeed in our purpose. Similarly, it is important that our pupils move from the areas they feel comfortable and challenge themselves to develop into rounded and useful citizens of the twenty first century by experiencing new and different activities.
On Tuesday we were inspired by ultra runner Jake Barraclough who paid a brief visit to the school. His extraordinary 10 marathons in ten days were in celebration of William Webb Ellis’ “Audacious Run” when by deciding to take a new pathway he inadvertently invented the game of rugby.
I hope that our young people will take inspiration from these two examples of individuals who chose their own path, who decided to discover something about themselves and in doing so brought communities together.
Bonne rentrée. We are right to have high hopes for all that will be learned this year.