Headmaster's Blog Archive

Democracy and Dads

Monday, May 11, 2015 by Richard Biggs

It has been a momentous week and I write this during a few moments of rare peace and quiet before the next Big Event – the annual prep school athletics festival. Every year we host prep school Heads for lunch in our garden. More often than not it becomes a game of weather chicken: do we continue in a bold British fashion and put up the gazebo, or do we see sense and move the lunch into the warmth and shelter of the Woodard Room? Inevitably we take the British approach and end up in the freezing cold telling each other that we should be grateful it isn’t actually pouring with rain. Today will be no different.

For four days last week I was away inspecting another school. I can’t say which (and indeed I’ll probably be struck off the list just for admitting that I was engaged in inspection-related activity). It’s a long time to be away from one’s own school, which is why, despite being offered plenty of gigs, I restrict my inspection fix to one per year. It is excellent (to use a good ISI word) experience for Heads. The chance to rummage around somebody else’s school is invaluable and I always come away with new ideas and, it must be said, renewed belief that my own school is really in pretty good shape.

Inspecting is hard work, no more so than on the final night when you sit in your hotel room drafting your part of the final report, often well into the early hours. Well, the timing for us could not have been better. It was election night. The extraordinary, rapidly unfolding story kept me awake and then continued to intrigue the inspection team as we snuck quick looks at the results the next morning while we were preparing for the final feedback to the school. On the drive back to Somerset I was amused to hear news reports saying how “unexpected” the election result was, and what a surprise it had been. It was only unexpected and a surprise because the media and pollsters got it spectacularly wrong. Whatever your political persuasion, I am sure you join me in celebrating the fact that, despite constantly being told what to think by the media and the increasing tendency of the press to create rather than report the news, people still matter and are able to think for themselves.

Democracy was very much in the air last week. We held mock elections here at King’s. In both constituencies the Conservatives won easily, which I suppose is not surprising. More important than the results, though, was the fact that all our pupils had been engaged and involved in one way or another in the debate. If we have managed to counter the ridiculous Brandian nihilism and have persuaded them that voting is important then we have done something good and lasting.

I drove back faster along the A303 on Friday (is that giving too much away?) than was entirely appropriate in my sleep-deprived state in order to return in time for my son’s 17 th birthday dinner, in a local Taunton restaurant. It had been a good day for him. He learnt that he had won his King’s College East mock election, turned 17 and enjoyed the rare treat of being taken to a proper restaurant by his stingy parents. Where the restaurant owner very kindly produced a birthday cake with candles, accompanied by lusty singing from the patrons at the other two tables. What more could he want?

But things got even better the next day for eldest son. He plays for the glorious 4th XI cricket team, who sadly have only a handful of fixtures in the term. Not many other schools manage to put out four senior teams. So we organised a parents vs 4 th XI match for yesterday afternoon. The inevitable happened, as though scripted for the corniest soap opera. Having tried, through umpiring for much of our innings and then hiding behind a tree, to avoid going out to bat, a sudden collapse forced me onto the field with two overs to go and several dozen runs to get. I survived two balls of the penultimate over, then stole a quick bye to get to the strikers end with five balls remaining. And was bowled comprehensively, by my own son, with an in-swinging yorker that he had the good grace to claim was the best ball he had ever bowled. General hilarity all round, and a steely determination from the dads that we would return later this season. We believe we’re better than that. There was some proper skill and talent on display, but also a deal of rustiness, which we believe could be overcome in a re-match. We may make a habit of it; possibly get sponsorship for kit. I am sure Ibuprofen would be interested.

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