Springing into Spring | King's College Taunton

The fact that I haven’t written a blog since the beginning of term says something. Not just that I’m a lazy Headmaster (though that is possibly very true), but also that this term has a habit of passing by horribly quickly. As is so often the case, I am writing this one as a displacement activity – a ploy to avoid the hundreds of reports that still need writing.

If terms have flavours then the flavour of this one for me has been musical. We’ve had some excellent concerts, but the crowning glory was the first inter-house music competition for many years. The event consisted of three parts: the individual musician of the year competition, house ensembles and the “house shout”. The first round of the musician of the year competition took up pretty much a whole day, and ended with drum solos in the music school. A list of finalists was drawn up and we enjoyed a most impressive concert of solo music last week, adjudicated by a visiting musician. The standard from both seniors and juniors was high. The senior event was won by Will Smale, who joined our Lower Sixth two years ago as a star cricketer. When auditioning for Grease we discovered that Will had a voice. That is such a King’s story. I always tell visiting parents that the great thing about this school is that we do not pigeonhole pupils, a tendency very much more evident in larger schools. Pupils are encouraged to discover and develop their whole being, which is why an international cricketer won our senior musician of the year competition.

The house shout is an acquired taste. It is loud. It is energetic. The quality of the singing is variable. What is not in doubt is that pupils love it and throw themselves into their performances with often frightening gusto. I thought our adjudicator (Cat Stevens – but not that Cat Stevens) was very brave to take it on, but she did a splendid job and was still smiling at the end. As, to be honest, was I.

Another theme for me this term has been leadership. Our Development Director and one of our history teachers have driven a programme for supporting Lower Sixth pupils to develop their leadership skills by taking on and running various projects about the school. And the results have been very evident: I have noticed a growing enthusiasm and a number of new events popping up, led by the pupils. Several charities have been supported, various societies have sprung up, valuable environmental work undertaken, quiz nights arranged. I love it when somebody comes knocking at my door to ask for permission to do something new, and always try to make it possible, even if the idea seems a little left field. If you can negotiate the three obstacles of cost, safety and reputation, you’re on.

We’ve had some lovely chapel services this term, including the confirmation service last Sunday and the memorial Eucharist to our late Provost of Taunton, David Henley, who died last November. We also had our termly sung evensong, this time with a darkly Lenten air about it, a few weeks ago. Father Mark ashed the whole school on Ash Wednesday. I know it’s not everybody’s idea of a fun time, but you can listen to recordings of many of our services via a link on the chapel page of our website.

Last weekend we enjoyed a slightly bonkers Drama Scholars’ Murder Mystery Dinner in the Woodard Room, this year featuring a cast of Disney characters. I did try to follow, but this is not my forte. I’m hopeless when it comes to figuring these mysteries out; it’s hard enough just trying to work out how this school works – 12 years in and much of it still amazes me. The acting was excellent, and the Upper Sixth scholars paid a particularly moving tribute to our Head of Drama, Harriet Agg-Manning, who arrived at King’s at the same time as they did. They’re a talented group and we’ll miss them.

And our sport has gone well. Our senior boys’ hockey teams lost just one regular fixture between them all season. When I wrote and submitted my report for this term’s governors’ meeting I realised, too late, that I had made a mistake in claiming that we had won all but one of our matches against Sherborne. We had not, at the time of writing, played Sherborne; I had confused it with Clifton. Between my writing the report and the actual meeting itself we did play Sherborne … and won all the matches but one. Particularly pleasing this term was the fact that our girls played their first ever full contact rugby matches at both senior and junior levels. Now, apart from netball, every sport is available to both girls and boys at King’s.

So it’s been a seat-of-the-pants whirlwind of a term, as the Lent Term so often is, and it is now crashing to an end. The cricketers have left for Sri Lanka, the artists have left for Madrid. All four Biggses are flying out to the Riviera next week for a spot of living the good life with an old school friend of mine and his family in Grasse. The sun is out, Somerset are playing their first warm-up match. Bring on the Summer Term.

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