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On the eve of the visit of 20 Indian pupils and their three teachers I thought it might be a good idea to get a blog completed…I suspect the next two weeks are going to be busy.

It’s been quite refreshing to spend a whole week in my school for a change. Not that anybody seems to notice; the school charges ahead whether I’m here or not. Two weeks ago I was away inspecting a school further west of us. The new ISI framework for inspection is, on the one hand, much simpler for inspectors in that everything is completed on digital forms on a laptop, but on the other hand it is quite an intensive timetable, with only a day and a half to get everything done. We are now expected to visit up to three classes per period – dashing in and out, tapping away at our computers, gathering evidence frantically. My concern is that it must feel perfunctory to the staff being inspected. The quality of education side of the inspection makes just two overall judgments, rating the pupils’ achievement and their personal development. And that’s it. Still…it is always a privilege to be able to rummage around in somebody else’s school and I picked up lots of ideas to bring back with me.

And the same applies to the annual HMC Conference, which was in Belfast this year. Again. It is a lovely city, and the pubs outside the Europa Hotel are particularly fine and Head friendly. I will confess a dark secret: I did not go to all the talks. I did take time to walk around the city and catch up on sleep. The view from the plane both in and out of Belfast City Airport was stunning, and a reminder that this is one part of the UK that we should explore properly one of these days. As always, the highlight of the conference was chatting to other Heads and gathering ideas to bring back to the home team.

I thoroughly enjoyed a talk from Nicola Morgan, an expert on teenage brain development (look her up on Google – some excellent stuff on her website). Two things struck me in particular: the absolute necessity for children to get plenty of sleep, and the well-proven benefits of reading for pleasure. I was heartened yesterday evening when we had the Carpenter Third Form girls round for supper, to hear that most of them do read for fun. Meynell House has an active reading club going (with their own T shirts!). This is such an important habit to encourage in young people that we will carry on looking at ways to get them reading. Maybe we should do something really radical…take a whole week out of teaching and just read? I know of one or two colleagues who would appreciate the chance, and this particular Headmaster would relish the opportunity to get rid of the pile of half-read books by his bedside.

The pupils and staff from King’s College, India fly in late on Saturday afternoon and will be staying for two weeks, the first as ordinary members of the boarding communities here and at King’s Hall, the second will be during our half term break. My wonderful PA, Fiona Byrne, has worked miracles in planning an exciting programme of trips and activities and I am sure they will have a great time. Most, possibly all, of the children have not been out of India before. I am dying to find out what they make of it all. We’re due a warm snap over the weekend – but will they think this is a terribly cold place? Will they manage the food here?

Thursday next week is Diwali, a major holiday and festival for Indians, akin to our Christmas. The visitors will be putting on a show after chapel on Wednesday and again up at King’s Hall on Thursday, and we’ve laid on fireworks for them on Thursday evening.

As before, I very sadly missed our annual spasm of insanity that is the St Francis Day Service in our Chapel because I was away at HMC Conference. But the photos I’ve seen are glorious. They’re on our website – click on the facebook icon at the top. It is these events that our pupils will remember. I do think it’s important for schools to keep on arranging whacky, different, off-beat, once-in-a-lifetime occasions. All properly risk-assessed of course…

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