“What I said to them at half time…”

“What I said to them at half time would be unprintable on the radio…”

Gerry Francis

And the shrill blast of the referee’s whistle goes for half time.

The teams leave the field of play and the frenetic minutes of the match pause. For a short period, there is a degree of calm. Down in the changing rooms there might be ranting, and harsh truths being spoken. There is a moment to discuss tactics and address injuries. More than anything the players have valuable space to catch their breath, to regroup and to be ready for the second half. Those in the stands dissect, analyse, question and celebrate. There is often hope of something better (unless you support Norwich City when the half time chat tends to be about how the Canaries will manage to squander a lead).

We have reached our half time in the term. Seven weeks of hard work, exciting activities, new friendships, and new experiences. Every pupil will have made progress and will have moments of triumph and probably a few frustrations along the way. That is the warp and weft of school life, it is how we grow. Looking at the pupils as they arrive in the morning, some look ready for a rest, our teenage pupils in particular look like they need a bit of a lie in and half term is a moment to regroup. In the coming days all pupils can take stock of their performance, consider what has gone well and identify the places where improvements can be made. A time for some fresh air, exercise, plenty of sleep and of course some reading. They probably won’t require a stern talking to from the coach.

In two weeks, they will start again with a little more energy (hopefully). There is much to anticipate in the second half of term, there will be plenty of exciting lessons, fixtures, some school trips, and a wide range of concerts. The second half of the Autumn Term is a special time, and it is important that all pupils have used the half term break to reflect, recover and reset.

As we break for half term, I believe that we are right to look to one of the world’s great philosophers, Eeyore for inspiration. At the end of a busy half term there can be a tendency to look at that which has not gone well. Eeyore, that famously miserable member of the Hundred Acre Wood community, perhaps surprisingly, reminds us that “It never hurts to keep looking for sunshine.”

And therefore, build on the positive.

I’m sure that our pupils will return to school in November ready to accomplish new achievements and scale new heights. Until then I hope that everyone has a great holiday. I’m off for a slice of orange.

Nicholas Hammond



“Revenge and retaliation…”

“Revenge and retaliation always perpetuate the cycle of anger, fear, and violence.

Coretta Scott King

It has been a busy week in school. It should be, we are in the middle of a busy term and there is much to do and to enjoy. There have been trips, visits, fixtures, events, and excellent charity events.

In our Senior School assembly, I talked about the concept of phronesis or practical wisdom, an idea put forward by Aristotle many years ago. It is a useful concept as it acts as a cross between a pressure valve and a balance. Phronesis allows us to balance courage and caution, self and others, excellence, and empathy. It is a virtue that is meant to develop with age and experience. All our young people will find themselves in situations when they must make difficult decisions about what they are and what they are not going to do. Sometimes they will make good choices and on other occasions they will make less wise decisions. When things go right or wrong, we encourage our young people to reflect and learn from both success and error.

As if the task of growing up was not difficult enough, our young people face a barrage of bad examples to follow and from which to learn. This week we have witnessed scenes of brutality and violence that have been truly shocking. Conflict, it seems, is far from going out of fashion. It is well known that young people will model the behaviour that they see around them. Access to a 24-hour news cycle means that we are faced with images of violence and cruelty in a way that has not been possible before. It is important that our young people understand that this exists, but I would be wary about over exposure to graphic images. Certain social media channels offer an almost unlimited range of violent images and fake news, and it is difficult to escape this grip. Whilst our access to the internet is often a force for good, we should also be wary of becoming so used to seeing these images that we become desensitised or immune to their shock.

Conversation about points of conflict in a calm unbiased way with individuals are far better than relying on the internet to inform. As adults we should encourage these conversations. Our pupils should be aware of what is going on in the world, but we must ensure that they do not normalise what is inhumane and barbaric. They need phronesis if they are to make sense of all that surrounds them. If your child has been upset by the news coverage, then please do let us know. Our thoughts as a community are with all who are victims of conflict.

Our school community is a genuine melting pot of cultures, views, and experiences. It provides a wonderful opportunity for young people to develop and grow despite examples that may be seen elsewhere. Our focus on service and charitable activities is I hope an antidote to what is seen on their screens. We must have confidence in them and provide them with the conditions that they deserve to grow into the wise leaders that the world so desperately needs.

Nicholas Hammond



“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny…”

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

William Shakespeare

It is political party conference time in the UK. A time when politicians speak to the party faithful, and they generally applaud. It’s a time when some politicians try to broach difficult subjects and float big ideas. Last week it was the Liberal Democrats, this week the Conservatives and next the Labour Party.

All the parties have a view on education. It is after all one of the “easier” political footballs to kick – it is something that everyone has a view on as it is something that everyone has had an experience of (good or bad). Politicians being politicians, they aren’t interested in announcing small initiatives, they prefer an eye-catching headline grabber, and that is understandable. This week the Prime Minister has announced that he’d like to reform the exam system, so a greater number of subjects are studied for a longer period. He’d like academic and vocational qualifications to be bundled together, and he’s even borrowed a name for it describing it as a baccalaureate. In making this announcement he wrong-footed a few media pundits and has raised as many questions as he has answered. This, if it even happens, will be (I think) my third session of major reform. Four if you count my own school days where we were moving from O Level and CSE to GCSE. If I were one of Rishi’s policy wonks I think I’d have tried to steer him away from the qualifications side of the debate and asked for a greater focus on what happens to our younger learners. I’d be asking questions outside of the old skills versus knowledge debate and I’d be looking to develop not only academic prowess, but wider personal development. I’d be wanting a system of education that puts character excellence at the heart of all it seeks to do. Such a system would begin to address the mental health crisis our young people face, it would encourage an understanding of community, it would encourage kindness and would also be academically rigorous. Employer demands for effective team workers, problem solvers, creative thinkers and compelling public communicators would also be met. What’s not to like?

All national systems of education have their flaws. There is no one size fits all approach to the education of billions of children. Systems are useful but there must always be flexibility and more to it than simply the grades produced in the exam room. There is so much more to education than that. At a time when the majority of 16-25 year olds feel fearful about their future every day we need to be talking about more than simply the organisation of tests.

At present our tutors are preparing references for our Year 13 university applicants. It is somewhat humbling to read of how accomplished our Year 13s are. Having taken advantage of the opportunities offered they are well rounded, academically able, intellectually curious and prepared for leadership of self and others. Worth remembering that they have another six months to mature and to learn and to develop before they go out on that next great step after which their character will become their qualification.

Nicholas Hammond