Friday, 18th January 2019
At the beginning of the week, I spoke to the School about Brexit. I told them that it was an extremely important week coming up in the history of British politics and that they were likely to see one of the most significant debates take place on the floor of the House of Commons, the debate about whether to accept the Prime Minister’s hard won Brexit deal. I told them that they should take an interest in it because it could be a moment of real significance for the country but also because, if the House was to produce a quality debate, this would be the moment. I told them that I had studied Victorian political history and there were various debates and speeches to which one’s attention would be drawn. Would this debate produce feats of oratory which would be remembered in the same way that historians now remember some of the speeches of the past? In the event the boys were given two debates to watch, thanks to Mr Corbyn’s motion of no confidence. What pleased me so much was the way in which the matter of Brexit and confidence in the Prime Minister became really central issues in the minds of the pupils. A number of boys have asked me about what’s going on and what might happen and I have found people discussing the matter in the corridors. One or two lessons were turned over to watching and discussing some of the debate. In all, it has animated the School. To my mind this is so exciting and a vindication of the intellectual atmosphere around the School. I was also shown a video produced by a pupil, sitting rather like Laura Kuenssberg or John Pienaar, in one of the armchairs in the front hall of the School, summing up elegantly the political situation. Our College has produced, in its time, 13 Prime Ministers including Gladstone and Peel, a truly extraordinary total particularly given that Cambridge University as a whole has “only” produced a total of 14; maybe in the future, the School will add to this number? I would be thrilled if you could ask your sons (I know we have girls in Nursery but I suspect even for CCCS pupils it’s a bit much to expect them to be fully engaged at this stage in their lives!) about their thoughts upon this issue or indeed any other political issues - if we ever get time again to discuss anything in Parliament other than Brexit!
If this is all too much for you, may I recommend the Orpheus concert which is on the evening of Saturday 2nd February at 7.30 pm in Oxford Town Hall. If you may remember, the School has a Chorister Outreach programme; the Choristers travel to local primary schools where they talk about their lives and help to encourage the pupils to sing. This is partly sponsored by the Orpheus Choir, a voluntary Oxford choir which puts on a concert every year. I really would like to encourage you to go. Last year the concert was of an excellent quality but this time round, we will be treated to two outstanding soloists, firstly, Sir Thomas Allen, the world-famous baritone and Chancellor of Durham University, whose voice, once heard, will never be forgotten and, alongside him, in the stunningly moving Requiem by Gabriel Fauré, our very own Cathedral Chorister, Alexander Winnifrith. This surely is an unmissable event. Tickets can be obtained at oxfordorpheus.com. I look forward to seeing you there.
The Good Schools Guide is shortly to appear in its final printed version. In the future it will appear only online. As I mentioned a while ago, we received our visitation recently and the writer who came not only loved the School but wrote a very warm description of it. She was struck by its colour and by the fact it was unlike any of the other schools which she had visited. She said that the number of words available to her was not nearly enough to do justice to the place. I was delighted to read that she considered the School “a cosy warren of surprisingly spacious and unsurprisingly characterful classrooms, labs and play areas.” She felt that older boys were excellent at mentoring the younger ones and she picked up a very strong sense that the Parents’ Association was active and welcoming. She also strongly got the impression that the School’s small size meant that the teaching was very personal. Overall she loved the atmosphere and found it a school which was pervaded with kindness. I know that this atmosphere is partly because of the attitude of so many of our parents and I would like to thank you so much for the part you play in ensuring that our School is as it is. The full article will be available on our website soon.
Talking of a warm atmosphere, may I commend to you the Ceilidh organised by the Parents’ Association next Wednesday at 5.30 pm in the Walton Hall. It should be a hugely entertaining event and I hope that as many of you as possible will come (see attached flyer). Highlights include Mrs Green’s band and Ellis’s dancing.