On the Eve of Lent Term | King's College Taunton

On the eve of the return to work I look back on the last few weeks of the Michaelmas Term, and on the extraordinary Christmas break, with real pleasure. The school musical, Grease, was a roaring success. I had been sceptical – past experiences of the show had suggested that it is not really my cup of tea – but was blown away by the energy and conviction of the cast and the professionalism of the crew.

The final week of the Michaelmas Term was a blur of Christmas-themed events: Christmas jumpers were de rigeur throughout, we enjoyed an excellent and rousing concert in the theatre, two sumptuous carol services and a marvellous school Christmas supper. As always, the senior management team served the meal to the school - my own forte is brussels sprouts; my aim to persuade every pupil to have at least one.

My family and I enjoyed one week of peace and preparation at the start of the holidays before The Visitation. The clan arrived en masse from all corners of the world and in a few days there were 16 of us in the Headmaster’s House. The Canadians revelled in the relative balminess of the weather – anything above 0oC is positively tropical for them – and the South Africans shivered, having recently left behind a gloriously sunny Cape summer. The Brummies took it all in their stride. It’s quite an undertaking to cater for more than a dozen people for two weeks, but extraordinary how soon you get used to it. Toast, cereal, soup, stews, large pies and spag bol are the answer. And Sainsbury’s cheapest wine becomes drinkable with practice. And what to show to the visitors? Wells Cathedral, obviously, and Glastonbury for the new-agey types (it must be the town with the most crystal shops per square yard than any other in the world). Dunster and Exmoor (a race up Dunkery Beacon helped to clear the Christmas cobwebs); but the highlight, perhaps, was a barbecue on Kilve Beach. The South Africans muttered that sitting on rocks, collars turned up against a biting sea breeze while coaxing enough warmth out of a small charcoal barbecue to render a few sausages more or less edible was not really their idea of a braai. Taunton itself came up trumps – our visitors found it pleasant, bustling, friendly and, believe it or not, quite charming. A visit to the museum went down well.

The twin peaks of Christmas and New Year were safely and cheerfully climbed. My office doubled as a dormitory for some of the younger visitors. Sore heads were nursed and brisk walks were at least loudly discussed, and in some cases actually undertaken.

With all but my father now returned to their homes, things suddenly seem eerily quiet. We can now turn our minds to the term ahead. There is much to crack on with. We have some staff in new roles and one or two new policies to bed in. We are going to have a go at not allowing mobile phones for the younger age groups around the school, and I’m very interested to see what effect that has. Our Fifth Form come straight back into trial exams and we need to turn those around as fast as we can so that their benefit is maximised. Ditto for the Upper Sixth straight after half term. I have various meetings and conferences to go to around the country, not least the Woodard Heads conference next week in Leamington Spa. That is usually rather good fun, with colleagues from the full educational spectrum meeting up for thought-provoking discussion and mutual commiseration. We have, too, to consider how King’s Schools are going to manage the very large increase in pension costs now almost certain to come into effect in September. Luckily, and unlike some, especially smaller, independent schools, we are in a relatively strong financial position and will be able to weather the buffeting, but not without serious head scratching and careful planning. Oh, and there’s the small matter of Brexit. Who knows what the situation will be at the end of the term. As I keep telling the pupils in my Current Affairs classes: we live in interesting times!

I wish all readers of this blog a happy and successful 2019.

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