Friday, 14th September 2018
On Wednesday, Mrs Fisher, Mr Waltho and I will be talking through the process for gaining entry into future schools. This is an extremely important evening and I hope that as many of you as possible who have not been to this annual event before will come. Indeed, if you have been before you’re still very welcome. For those parents in Form 5 in particular, it is very important. Getting into English senior schools is a very complex business and it is difficult to negotiate. Fortunately, that is one of the main purposes of a prep school. Despite their complexity, English independent schools are, as a group, the finest collection of schools anywhere in the world and their education unparalleled. There are schools appropriate for every single pupil in our school and one of the fundamental responsibilities of CCCS is to ensure that your son goes to the right school for him. Without giving away too much of what I’ll be saying on Wednesday, perhaps the most important thing is that there is no best school in England but there is almost certainly a best school for your son. We will help you to find this school. We have very good relationships with these institutions and know them well. Do please let Mrs Lagden know that you will be coming and we will initiate the process of your finding the right school for your son.
Last night I attended the service in the Cathedral. The new organist, Steven Grahl, was conducting the choir for the first time; the last time a new organist conducted the choir for the first time at Christ Church happened in September 1985 so it was an event worth witnessing. The choir sang with great elegance and fluency and were in tremendous form given that there were six Probationers singing for the first time and last year’s most senior boys no longer there; for a group of only 16 boys, that is quite a transformation. It bodes very well for the quality of the singing this year. It was also the first time that I had seen the new Succentor, The Revd Philippa White, taking the service. She is also, therefore, our new school chaplain. It did strike me that in the Church of England, the first time that women priests were ordained was in March 1994 in Bristol Cathedral. In the 2000 year history of Christianity, this is not a long time. In 2014 32% of the clergy of the Church of England were female and since 2010, more women have been ordained than men. This is, of course, a fundamental change to a very long tradition and one that has occurred very quickly indeed. It is another example of the way in which the world that your children are entering is a very rapidly changing one. I am convinced that one of the most important roles of a school such as ours is to prepare people for a world which will change very rapidly. Obviously therefore we must prepare our pupils to be adaptable, to be able to deal with change; otherwise they will get left behind. Therefore they should be ready to embrace things done differently. But I feel that what lies at the heart of being able to deal with change is confidence – if one is confident in oneself then if one’s surrounding world alters, one is able to deal with the shifting sands which this implies with greater assurance. We aim both to ensure that our pupils are adaptable and that they are truly self-confident.
I am so intrigued by the way in which September and the new school year brings with it mornings which are palpably different from those experienced during the summer. Setting out from home to walk to school over the past few mornings I have been very aware of the lovely autumnal quality to the air; a sense of damp which I find so intoxicating. There are lines of poetry that somehow seem to capture precisely a situation and Keats’ famous opening lines from his Ode to Autumn, written after a walk down the incomparable River Itchen at Winchester, seem to capture the season perfectly to me: “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, / Close-bosom friend of the maturing sun;”. Extraordinary to think that those perfect lines were written by someone who died so young that he was only able to experience 25 autumns. I have now experienced almost double the number of autumns Keats did but will never be able to write about it so well. Not only does this remind me of the importance of making the most of all our opportunities – who knows how long we might have to take advantage of them - but also I was struck again, as I went over to our playing fields to watch the house matches, by the good fortune that our pupils have in being able to play sports in such a place at such a bewitching time of year. No wonder they played so well! I hope that as many of you as possible will come to watch matches this term. There are few more enjoyable afternoons than spending time over on our pitches. See you there!