2 October 2015
I was distressed to read, in a national broadsheet last week, that there was a ‘crisis’ at Charterhouse – an excellent school, to which we have sent many boys over the years. There was, so it was reported, a revolt, emanating from an online petition, on the part of parents, governors and boys, which featured selectively explicit criticism of the Headmaster, Richard Pleming, in support of ‘the case against him’. I have met Richard a number of times and never found him to be anything but charming, personable, intelligent and genuinely passionate about education and the institution which he leads. Past Wetherby parents have been very happy with the School and demand for places is now so high that they are joining the increasing number of schools that subscribe to the ISEB common pre-test.
You can’t please all people all of the time, of course, and clearly there is, one can only assume, a minority of disgruntled stakeholders. What is disappointing though is that these individuals chose to use the medium of the internet, rather than the normal complaints or grievance procedures of the school. That, so it seems to me, is courteous, professional and the right way to attempt to sort out problems in private, without the need to engage a wider audience, an act which could potentially have an enormously damaging effect on boys at the school. I expressed my support to Richard and the school last week and encourage all of our parents to ignore such press coverage, keeping the school under consideration as an excellent destination for their son at 13.
We are delighted that so many parents are coming to the first Open Day at our Senior School this Saturday. Please remember that Wetherby Prep parents have an ‘exclusive’ time slot, between 10 and 11am. I really do encourage all of you to come during this time as the numbers for the event are closing in on one thousand attendees. I look forward to seeing you, showing you the building and introducing you to our extremely talented teaching team.
27 September 2015
This week has been about building new friendships. As I said at New Parents’ Evening, the occasion was not only about the boys but also about you, their parents. We always say that being a Wetherby parent is just as important as being a Wetherby boy and I know that all of our parents feel that same strong sense of attachment to our School, as that felt by the boys. This is a sociable school and we actively seek to help parents get to know one another, through a wide range of activities and events, as that strengthens our community, as well as the boys’ education, immeasurably.
This is also true for the staff. Every year, we welcome new colleagues and, in the case of the Senior School, almost everyone is new to one another, yet I have been so delighted with how seamlessly everyone has got along, not just in a professional sense - that could be relied upon from the outset - but also in a social sense; there is always great camaraderie in the Wetherby Staff Room and this year has proven to be no different. Everyone works comfortably with others, in full support of their colleagues, and an underlying sense of good humour is apparent. Teaching can be an intense job at times, requiring an incredible amount of human interactions with a diverse audience every single day. Staff need the solidarity of a good Staff Room and I have often thought how the prevailing mood of that room is an accurate barometer of the harmony of a school. The sunny atmosphere of our own reassures me every day.
The best education is supported by the trusting relationship developed between school, teachers, parent and child. When this works, a purposeful community is forged, something for which Wetherby is renowned and for which I am hugely grateful: #teamwetherby
Have a great weekend!
18 September 2015
“London is unequivocally the education capital of the world," said the city's Mayor, Boris Johnson, this week. With four Universities in the global ‘Top 40’, London is considered to be the top university city in the world. As an alumnus of University College London (7th in the rankings), this makes me very proud (and looks good on the CV) but, as much as I enjoyed my three years at UCL, I never felt that I was a student in a ‘University City’. We all lived miles away from each other - so far in fact that the Union Building was closed at weekends. There were no ‘student nights’ or ‘student discounts’ to take advantage of; we were infamously and shamefully 2nd last only to Sunderland Polytechnic in the league table of rag week fundraising yet, when I visited school friends at other Universities, London life seemed much more ‘grown up’ and mature in comparison with their experiences. When I subsequently went to Newcastle University, to do my PGCE, I realised what being a student in a ‘student city’ was all about. Newcastle upon Tyne had far more of a ‘university’ and ‘student’ identity to it and I loved my time there. Maybe it was the content of the course; maybe the city itself but I felt that the one year I spent in Newcastle was more fulfilling, rewarding and enjoyable than my three at UCL. There was though no suggestion or inclination that I would live, settle and take a position there - I was always coming back to London and have been in and around the capital ever since. There is a magnetic attraction to London that I couldn’t ignore and arguably the best thing about studying at a London University is that most people stay in and around the area, rather than in other cities where, upon graduating, people seem to disperse to all parts of the country and globe. Like it or not, London is a centre of excellence in the UK and it is no surprise that so many of the world’s most talented teachers, lecturers and people want to study here.
But surely the biggest news of the week has to be Watford’s first Premier League win of the season at the weekend - I’m sure all your sons celebrated, as Patrick, Joseph and I did last Saturday. Great win! West London Wetherby boys will note that we are above Chelsea in the league and only Man. City, Man. Utd. and Arsenal have conceded fewer goals. Just saying...
Have a good weekend.
11 September 2015
It was not only building work at Wetherby Senior that occupied my time and held my attention this summer. At our house, the culmination of three years’ work on our next door neighbour’s windmill was the talk of the village. The windmill, which literally sits at the bottom of our garden, has been a local landmark for over a hundred years and has been painstakingly restored by the current owners. With the sails built off site, they were brought to the windmill on several lorries before being attached with the aid of a crane. The whole process took about two days and was a major feat of engineering, craftsmanship and considerable patience! The windmill turns with the wind and the cap will rotate to face the prevailing wind, however it is anchored currently in the position it appears in this picture with my sons, Patrick and Joseph. Just like the Senior School, the project has taken much planning, organisation, skilled workers and considerable investment - and both have certainly been worth the wait!
Have a good weekend!
4 September 2015
Welcome back to the new school year and a particularly warm welcome to all our new parents and their boys starting this week. Whilst the Bakers did get away to Menorca and West Wittering, a lot of my time this holiday was spent overseeing the building work at our new senior school. Everything has gone to plan. It really is a marvelous site and I look forward to showing you around in due course.
Back at the Prep School, there are no major changes to be aware of, although we have changed the Games days for all boys. This has been done to try and ‘fit in’ with the other schools that we play fixtures against and you will see that there is only one occasion, a tournament, that clashes with academic lessons this term. We have also managed to include more fixtures for children of all abilities, not just the A and B teams. A website, dealing specifically with our sporting engagements, is planned which will probably be launched along with the new ‘Wetherby Website’ that goes live in the New Year.
Apart from that, it’s business as usual. We have a number of new staff who complement and develop our existing team here – pictures and profiles below- and they are all looking forward to meeting you and the boys.
An interesting piece of research, I’m sure you will have seen over the holidays, reported that 80% of the Nation’s parents believe that remembering to say please and thank you is the most important life lesson we can teach our children. When my younger son, Joseph, asked the other day if he could have an apple, I replied, “What’s the magic word?” to which he replied, “Abracadabra?” – cue shake of the head, “Expelliarmus?”, nope, “Expecto Patronum, Finite Incantatem, Wingardium Leviosa?” Whilst I admire the dedication of his reading of Harry Potter books,it took some time to get round to a simple, “Please”. Better never stops as far as manners are concerned and, due to popular demand amongst staff, feedback from parents and the PTA, we will re-launch the weekly politeness challenge this term, with a potential prize already planned for the final Assembly if the boys are successful.
As always, lots to look forward to, with another, memorable year coming up. The holidays are too long; let’s all get back to the exciting times at Wetherby Prep!
Have a great term…