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Private Independent Day School for Boys 3 - 13 & Girls 3 - 7, Flexi-Boarding for Boys 8 - 13

Weekly Newsletter - 22nd March 2024

I wrote last week about the inspection which I undertook at another school.

Unfortunately, this meant that I was away for the Science Day at Christ Church. By all accounts, and as suggested by the wonderful photos that we saw in last week’s Newsletter, Science Day was a huge success - with a great number of staff in the School contributing towards making the day the success it was. Mrs Simpkins, Head of Science, had clearly put a huge amount of effort into the day and it showed. Science is alive and well and throughout the School, boys were constructing DNA models, burning substances and undertaking many colourful investigations. As ever, I marvel at the enthusiasm of our pupils; it’s unsurprising that Science is so popular in the School and we are so lucky in the quality of the Science teaching that occurs here. The day was enjoyed by all.

I have been thinking about AI a great deal. It is, of course, something that will be of huge benefit to human beings - and to the world in general. AI has the capacity to be an immensely powerful tool and it will help us to achieve so much in the future. Schools need to adapt themselves to this new world and, increasingly, AI is the subject of discussions held here at school. The first issue concerning AI was the question of how we prevent pupils form passing off the work of AI as their own. This reminded me of the well-known story of Boris Johnson who, while a Classics undergraduate at Balliol College on Broad Street, copied an exercise from a text book. When his tutor pulled him up on it, Boris Johnson apologised, explaining that he had not had time to put the mistakes in!

AI is a danger in this way, but a great deal of focus seems now to be upon how we can use AI to advance learning. Indeed, a recent talk I went to at a senior school suggested that we should teach pupils to use AI to gather material and to advance arguments. Pupils would then assess the material which AI had gathered and adapt accordingly. While this sounds an attractive approach, I can’t help thinking about the example of sat nav. I feel myself fortunate to have good knowledge of local Geography and a real sense about how to read and evaluate a map, but I come from a generation that pre-dates sat nav. Those who don’t have the advantage of being conversant with conventional maps, tend to be at the mercy of the sat nav, unable to assess where it is taking them or whether the route proposed is a good one or not. My fear is that, if we are not careful, AI will remove our ability to assess its products as we will come to rely upon it very quickly to create arguments, or to perform research. I think there is a lot more thinking that needs to be done and my hope is that we will find a way to harness AI’s undoubted strengths, whilst retaining the ability to think and argue for ourselves. As you can imagine, we will be thinking very hard about our relationship with AI, taking part in conversations about it; equally we will continue to teach people how to research, how to reason, how to select material, and how to argue. These are skills which we must not allow to ossify.

I have just had a most engaging experience. A very kind donor, who has endowed three Cathedral Chorister places, came to meet his choristers and to hear them perform. The boys were charming and played beautifully, demonstrating the transformational power of choristership. Towards the end of the session, the door slowly opened and a number of other choristers joined us, curious to meet the donor who takes such an interest in our choristers. We had a delightful afternoon; the boys were most engaging and a great credit to the School and Boarding House. The donor asked Mr Robson if he had anything to play so Mr Robson produced a work by the Russian composer, Scriabin, which had been written for a French pianist of great fame who had lost his right hand in the War. It was, therefore, a piece for the left hand only. Mr Robson played the piece with great sensitivity and dexterity – it was almost impossible to imagine that it had not been played by two hands. We are so fortunate to have so many talented staff.

On Sunday, the Cathedral Choir will be singing in the Palm Sunday Service. This will begin in the Memorial Garden, where the congregation will gather in the company of a donkey, who will then lead us down St Aldates, through Tom Tower, across Tom Quad and then into the Cathedral. The annual appearance of the donkey is a reminder that Holy Week has begun. Between now and Easter Day, there are a large number of services; do come to any of them if you are able. Where the donkey leads we should go!



Mr Murray