Happy New Year 2018
Friday, January 12, 2018 by Richard Biggs
If a week is a long time in politics, then half a term is an absolute age in a school’s life. So much happened in the second half of the Michaelmas Term that I can’t possibly describe it all (and my memory isn’t quite what it was either). Needless to say the final few days were glorious, as usual. We do Christmas in style at King’s. The choir were on excellent form for the two carol services and it was good to hear the whole school belting out their old favourites during the school service on the final Thursday afternoon. The Prefects’ nativity play in the final assembly was really quite polished and clever this year (it isn’t always…) and management’s decision to allow Christmas jumpers in the final week added to the sense of occasion.
The holidays themselves were relatively quiet for the Biggs family. Henry returned from his first term at Durham just in time to make the second carol service. He seems to be thriving at university. That is a common theme: our alumni do well at university. They have the confidence, the resilience and the social skills to get on and make the most of their student lives. Hearing Henry’s tales of Durham life makes me extremely jealous – wouldn’t you love to be a student again? The only downside, apparently, is that Durham is very, very cold.
And talking of universities, we heard yesterday that one former and two current King’s pupils have received offers from Oxford and Cambridge. Each year we get students into Oxbridge and we are proud of that record. It is a bit of a lottery, it seems to us, in the sense that outstanding candidates are sometimes unsuccessful, but nonetheless it is a confirmation of our academic credentials that our leavers get places at these and other world-class universities. And, as I say, we know that they go on to thrive when they get there, due in no small part to the grounding they have at King’s.
This has been a disrupted first week back. The governors held a two-day strategy workshop in Cornwall, at the Trevose Golf Club – an absolutely glorious place. The weather was sublime, and the sight of the course stretching away from our flipcharts and felt-tips down to the sea was tantalising to say the least. Still, we had work to do and the future to sort out. Which I think we managed pretty well, though at times we did get a little bogged down in wording: do we say “joyous” or “happy”? We did come away feeling confident about how things are going and our plans for the future. And we were allowed out for one hour for a walk down to the beach, so that was good. What a stunning part of the world.
The disruption continues: I’m off to Kenya tomorrow, to meet current and prospective parents and to visit prep schools in the Rift Valley and Nairobi. I believe I am attending a pool party and braai on Sunday…hard to imagine sitting here with the radiators on full blast and gritters doing their thing around the school. After an indulgent Christmas, I fear I may not be quite pool-ready and must make sure I pack a large and floaty shirt so as not to frighten the locals. I always enjoy myself in Kenya. Perhaps I’ve spouted on about this before – but I wonder whether there isn’t in each of us some sort of genetic memory of East Africa. It does feel like coming home. Or perhaps Africa has just always been under my skin. I find the people warm and generous and the country achingly beautiful and I am very much looking forward to my (shortish) trip, even if it does mean a 5am departure tomorrow morning. It will certainly be lovely to have a break from the cold.
Between strategy workshops and trips to Africa there is a bit of time for proper work. Today we received a presentation from an architect of a design for a new girls’ boarding house. We want to replace the existing Taylor House with a slightly larger version, extending out the back of Hareston (where the Taylor Housemistress lives). The designs are very attractive, and provide for lots of space and light (although we did disagree over whether girls should have balconies! I won’t say who said what…). If and when the new house is built we will then have the existing Taylor building to use in creative ways. Altogether a very exciting prospect. There is of course the small question of finance to consider. Do please get in touch with me if you want to pay for it! I even have a cardboard model of the new house in my office if you want to see it.
This is always a busy term. We squeeze as much into this short Lent Term as we do in any other, so it can feel quite frantic. Two year groups “enjoy” trial exams and we have 13+ scholarship exams after half term. We believe we are going to be inspected by ISI soon; the time has come and we are expecting a call any day now. So there’s plenty to keep pupils and staff on their toes. Yesterday we hired a skip. A free service to all staff: a chance to get rid of junk! I suspect it will fill quickly. That should be a cathartic experience – a very early spring clean.
I wish all blog readers a happy and successful 2018.