Friday, 23rd February 2018
I heard yesterday that President Trump has decided that teachers should be armed. For various reasons, I have decided not to follow his advice, but it does bring into focus the importance of safety. Safety is of course something we do have to attend to – and it is something we take very seriously. I was reflecting with some parents on our new parking arrangements – how much safer our playground is now that there are far fewer cars and how much more our pupils play on it. Thank you so much for your care and adaptability in making the system work.
Once again we have had a hugely successful year in terms of scholarships and gaining places in our most competitive schools. The number of boys gaining places at MCS and Abingdon, schools which are really difficult to get into, has been remarkable and I want to thank publicly our teaching staff for their diligence and care to ensure that our boys make the most of their abilities. Of course I'm so proud of all the boys who gain places at the schools they are aiming for but I know that particular efforts have to go into gaining places at our most competitive schools and I think it is worth a mention.
Though it's something which doesn't necessarily affect everyone, I thought you might be interested to know that tomorrow we are having voice trials for the Cathedral choir following a very successful Chorister for a Day last month. Dr Darlington and Ms Biddell will be listening to 16 boys who are interested in joining the choir. This really is tremendous news. You may know that most Cathedrals are finding it difficult to recruit choristers these days, particularly those where there is boarding involved, but I am extremely happy that we are able to recruit so successfully. I am convinced that the English choral tradition is one of the nation's greatest treasures and one which must be fought for tooth and nail. I am thrilled that our school is contributing so healthily towards this.
Next Friday, March 2nd, we are hosting a Stay and Play for prospective Nursery and Reception children. Do please spread the word. I had a lovely time today at Pre-Prep assembly when the boys were showing off some of their work. One young man had built a carefully camouflaged hedgehog house while Form 1 had been trying to work out what to do if a polar bear visited Oxford. Apparently, they had come up with many intriguing plans as to how to house and entertain this arctic animal. I told them that I would be delighted if the hedgehog population of Oxford was to increase but I was less keen on meeting a polar bear on Brewer Street. I asked them whether, if a polar bear were to appear, they would protect me. Opinion was distinctly divided.
I hope that many of you will be attending the PA Chess event this evening. FIDE chess Master and parent David Zakarian, one of the best players in England, will be taking on all participants simultaneously. I wonder if, given the many boards he will be playing on, he will make a slip and thereby be beaten. All humans are fallible – will today be the day? I know there are some of our keen players who are hoping so. I am so thrilled by the interest in chess in this school. My eight-year-old son, Henry, used a deft move called "the lawnmower" to finish me off recently. I wonder if any of you have had this experience. If so, how do I deal with it?
One of the loveliest aspects, from my point of view, of the new drop off arrangements is that I am able to stand on Brewer Street most mornings. I am very struck by people's daily routines. Someone comes past every morning from the gym, a spring in their step despite their tremendous efforts, and I have come to recognise a number of delivery van drivers who now, when they appear, don't blast their horns at people being dropped off as they did initially, instead giving a hearty deliveryman type wave. Then there is the vicar of St Aldate's, Charlie Cleverly, a truly lovely man, who always stops, beams from ear to ear, and then shows interest in some aspect of what I'm doing, which is normally standing on the pavement. But best of all are the different reactions of the pupils who arrive. A few walk past without a flicker of recognition, no doubt caught up in the contemplation of higher things; most say "Hello," in as cheery a sort of way as a morning arrival at school warrants. It was Shakespeare, no less, who in the most famous speech in As You Like It talked of "the whining school boy with his satchel (for this, read elegant branded school bag) and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school". Actually, there are very few boys of this category at CCCS and indeed there are a few whose arrival is accompanied with great fanfare. There is one charming boy who always insists on shaking my hand, looking me straight in the eye and saying, with great seriousness, "Good morning Mr Murray!". If his right hand is full of bags, he will simply extend, with great panache, his left hand. And then there is another boy who, though he is entitled to drive into the playground because he is in Nursery, insists on his mother parking elsewhere so he can arrive by foot and thereby greet me personally. As he approaches down Brewer Street a smile appears on his face which becomes more and more pronounced as he comes closer. When he arrives at his destination, namely standing right in front of me, he looks straight at me and beams. He then says "Hello!", laughs gently and carries on his merry way. What more could one ask for at the beginning of the day?