Return to Summer
Thursday, April 23, 2015 by Richard Biggs
I write this on the eve of the start of the Summer Term. What a glorious day it is. I have just returned from a four-day visit to Hong Kong, to find the country still basking in sunshine and looking at its spring-time best. There is no lovelier country on earth than England in the spring when the sun is shining. The cricketers are practising in the nets, I have spotted tennis players on the courts, boarders are beginning to arrive and the sky is a peerless blue.
The Hong Kong trip was successful and enormous fun. I have now been there every year since 2002, for one reason or another and in one capacity or another while at two different schools. And it never fails to astonish me. The energy of the place takes my breath away. We held a dinner for the Hong Kong Foundation, a charity set up in that city in support of King’s and enthusiastically overseen by a number of loyal OAs. The dinner was in the rather grand surroundings of the Hong Kong Club and a good number of OAs of various vintages attended, along with current and potential King’s families. I spoke about how well things were going and how important the Hong Kong link was to the school. We believe we were one of the first, if not the first, UK school to take in Hong Kong Chinese boarders in the late 1940s, and the connection has stayed strong since then.
There was a social side to the trip too, as there always is in Hong Kong. In fact it is going to take a good few weeks to recover. Amongst the highlights: breakfast in an apartment overlooking Aberdeen Harbour; lunch in a fish restaurant on Lamma Island, steering a vast luxury yacht around the islands, a visit to the Hong Kong Cricket Club, lunch in the Jockey Club, haggling in the night market. Interspersed, of course, with important meetings. My warmest thanks go out to all who looked after us so royally. The “us” in this case being Leisa Lavender, our Development Director, Roger Knight, our Chairman of Governors and his wife Chris, and me. I was delighted that Roger and Chris could join us on their way back to the UK from New Zealand. He went down particularly well at the Cricket Club, as you can imagine.
Earlier in the holiday I took my younger son, Oliver, on a tour of Wales for a week, while older son stayed at home to revise for AS exams. We stayed with friends in mid-Wales and then in a splendid hotel in Beddgelert for two nights. We climbed Mount Snowdon, which has been an ambition of Oliver’s for some time. I say “climb”; it was more of a slog, a very long walk up the Ranger’s Path on a bright and warm day. Luckily the train to the top was not running, which removed that temptation from the equation, but even so the summit was extraordinarily crowded. It does rather diminish the sense of success in conquering a mighty peak when you have to jostle with a crowd of t-shirts and flip flops for selfie space at the top. Nonetheless the views were stunning and the satisfaction of having walked up and hobbled down (the old knees found the down bit a great deal harder) was immense. Now for Scafell Pike…
From a work point of view this is going to be an important term. We have some major decisions to make on curriculum and timetable changes for next year and some exciting innovations to put in place. The changes to GCSEs mean we have to find more teaching time, and how we do that is the topic of much debate, as you can imagine. But more time means more opportunity and we will be able to use the extra periods to do some imaginative things in the third and sixth forms.
I’ve mentioned my fondness for the summer term before, and it is, indeed, a wonderful time of the year. I am determined this year to bring my poor Mirror dinghy out of its retirement and actually go sailing…suggestions for good places or invitations to use private slipways gratefully accepted!
Another big event this term is the election. The developments nationally have been fascinating and the various possible outcomes remain numerous – with some being somewhat more worrying for this Headmaster of an independent school than others. I am not meant to be a publicly political animal and will keep my own views close to my chest, except to say that the thought of a government heavily influenced by a radically left-wing party, wholly elected by and devoted to a relatively small number of people, and presumably fundamentally opposed to the independent sector, is not one that fills me with joy.
I spoke at a lunch for OAs who had left in the 1940s and 1950s at the RAF Club in London on the day we flew to Hong Kong. I asked them to support me, if they had any influence, in arguing for the removal of education from the political scene. Long-term stability and properly considered, well-informed, expert, cant-free policy in education are too important for it to be left to flap in the changing winds of British politics. If they can remove Bank of England policy from political interference, why not education too? All Heads say the same thing: we would love to have even five years (ten would be nirvana) of stability and to be able to settle into one way of doing things and really concentrate on what matters, which is the quality of the teaching and learning, rather than spending our energies coping with constant innovation. It’s a pipe dream, I know.
Just as exciting is the parallel election being held at King’s, in the two constituencies of King’s College East and King’s College West. Candidates have been nominated, posters are up, hustings are due. I think the results could be fascinating,