20 November 2015
All of a sudden it's started to get cold. We have a rule in our house that central heating is not switched on until half term but it has taken until this week before firing up the boiler once again. A plea then for boys to travel to and from school with an outer garment; there have been some Prep and Senior boys inadequately dressed for the conditions this week and it is only in their best interests that we nag them on your behalf.
A week of sporting success for both Schools: Romeo Beckham 7th (out of 400) in the Knole Run at Sevenoaks School, good victories against Westminster Under, Farleigh and WCCS (we passed the 150 fixtures mark for the term this week too) and landmark, inaugural wins against UCS and Holland Park for the Senior School. They've been improving all season and the two victories were just what the Senior boys deserved after all their efforts since September. I really haven't been very good, in recent years, in my match attendance but vow to change this and have promised Mr Sullivan that I will come down to watch the senior boys before the term is out. I will also get to Bradfield this weekend to support the Prep 1st team in the National IAPS Soccer Sixes at Bradfield. Go #teamwetherby!
Sporting success of a more poignant nature for me and my son Patrick on Tuesday, as I took him and his friends to the England v France game at Wembley. After Friday's tragic events there was no question that we would not attend the fixture, an opinion shared by his fellow classmates and their dads. Great attitude, comradeship and determination from all those in the stadium that night. It was a privilege to be there.
Have a good weekend,
6 November 2015
For many years, we have debated the advantages and disadvantages of a two-week half term break. Long-standing Wetherby parents will know that we have, traditionally, had a week and a half, so this was something of a departure for us. Staff were relatively ambivalent: some for, some against but most didn’t mind and there was no strong feeling on the part of parents, that I was aware of. It has been, though, an unequivocal success. Staff feel fully restored, the children appear calm and ready to learn (important in what is the longest term of the year) and everyone seems to have taken full advantage of their two week break. We will do the same next year and for all future autumn terms. For reference ‘Term Dates 2016-2017’ are on the school website under the ‘Parents’ Area’ tab.
You might have seen a rather disturbing news item, over half term, suggesting that there are prep schools out there ready to disallow a pupil’s return should they sit and fail entrance exams to another school, when that pupil’s departure would mean they’re not completing ‘full time’ at their current choice. I haven’t heard of this and find it hard to imagine it to be true but I do know that colleagues in some schools take a dim and somewhat unsupportive view of parents who pursue this option. I don’t understand this stance at all.
For me, success breeds success and, last year, we supported, encouraged and celebrated our boys who entered King’s Wimbledon at 9+ and City at 10+ or 12+, every bit as much as we celebrated the successes of those who left at 13+ to join their senior schools. It could be argued that that is easy for me to say as we have such a long list of parents wanting to send their boys to us at all age groups, a point I would concede. But then again, maybe the reason for that waiting list is that we have such an open and transparent relationship with our parents. A school’s first priority is, of course, its children but, irrespective of whether it is a State or independent school, it may be wise to remember that we are, in essence, a service industry and that all parents will, quite rightly, seek the very best for their children. Choice and supporting choice, so it seems to me, are fundamental and to the benefit of all.
And finally, a picture, not of my children, but one of my village on a perfect, autumnal day, an image (and I can’t take credit for its photographic artistry – it was taken by my neighbour) that is quintessentially the English countryside and everything that is beautiful about it.
Have a good weekend…
16 October 2016
Where did that half of term go?! I can’t believe we are now a sixth of the year through, a feeling echoed at what has been a week of Parents’ Evenings for me. On Monday and Wednesday, the Year 9 Parents’ Evenings at the Senior School, Tuesday and Thursday, Year 6 Parents’ Evening at the Prep and, additionally for me, Parents’ Evening for my two boys, Patrick and Joseph, on Tuesday. Those parents interested in the progress of P and J will be delighted to hear that they are both doing very well. Patrick has increased in confidence this term, particularly in Maths, and I was delighted to hear that, based on the ongoing unit tests, he is 3rd in the year in Geography, though he does need to pay more attention to his colouring in of coastlines and maps in general. Joseph is more of a late developer (at least that’s what I tell myself) and has yet to truly show the extent of his intellect or academic potential. He does have a very wide vocabulary (don’t I know it) but doesn’t necessarily commit it to paper that often. They are both, though, extremely well behaved (the main thing) and “obedient learners” – a phrase I hadn’t heard before, yet was very pleased to and will subsequently use when describing boys at Wetherby! Parents’ Evenings – an education for all!
A very busy half of term then. Great to meet all the new boys and parents and to receive such positive feedback on all things Wetherby. You’re well and truly one of us now and, hopefully, feeling part of the family. Lots of exciting things to look forward to after Half Term, with the run up to Christmas, but please ensure the boys have a good rest over the next two weeks. This is a busy school and, as we always say to new staff and parents, the school will ‘hit you like a train’ in the nicest way possible. I will indeed be resting in between sorting a few things at both schools and attending what is now an annual pilgrimage to Strictly Come Dancing with my mum. I won’t be dancing but will be trying to clap in time and cheer at all the right moments. If I was judging the last half of term I would give a solid 8 – not being mean or negative there, just an old teacher trick to set something for everyone to aspire to as we culminate to a perfect ‘10’ at the end of July.
Have a great Half Term break!
9 October 2016
Wow! What a privilege, and what fun to spend the day as Headmaster of Wetherby Prep.
The day started with breakfast and the morning staff meeting. I was immediately struck by the sense of joy and enthusiasm and the real thought and debate that are given to the nominations and selection of both the Citizen and Sportsman of the Week.
Then to assembly, at the Church of Annunciation, which was quite special. It was very uplifting to see the boys so excited and proud of their individual achievements but the biggest cheers were saved for the house point update. Congratulations to Dawson who are in first place!
Then on to a PE session and really interesting to see the boys being challenged not just around the physicality of movement but a lot of group discussion on the technical aspects, and then the daily staff meeting where the logistics of looking after 320+ boys become more than fully apparent. From there to the hall with the year 8 boys debating whether they thought religion and science were in conflict or not. The boys from both sides put forward some persuasive and convincing arguments and a real pleasure to see all of them confidently putting forward their case.
But the key takeaway for me today was witnessing the school operating at first hand. All of us have our own individual reasons as to why we have chosen Wetherby Prep to look after and educate our precious cargo, but the overriding element we all wish for is that they are nurtured in a supportive and happy environment which allows them to grow and challenge themselves without fear of failure. The energy inside the school is reflective of both the staff and the boys’ enthusiasm and one I wish there was more of in my own industry.
Incidentally, speaking about the positivity of youth, I should mention the game that took place last Friday evening at the Wetherby Sports Ground between the teachers and the parents. The teachers reclaimed the cup with a well-deserved 3-0 victory. Special mention should go to Mr Meyer who had an outstanding game but the teachers’ ‘Man of the Match’ award goes to Mr Redmond for a well taken hat- trick. The parents put up a brave fight although age did take its toll, with the team suffering from a number of pulls and strains. There were some very kind emails afterwards on the goalie’s efforts to keep the score respectable but the parents’ ‘Man of the Match’ was clearly Stephen Robertson who defended doughtily as well as taking all of my goal kicks. He was superb, and we would undoubtedly have been looking at a cricket score without his efforts. We are all looking forward to a rematch in the spring.
Finally, for those who were not in assembly, today is “Quote of the Day”. I read out my favourites this morning and the boys have been coming at me thick and fast in search of house points.
The best ones so far are “Always be humble in victory and gracious in defeat,” and “Better to be an hour early than a minute late,” (Mrs A please take note!).
In closing, I thoroughly recommend the experience of being part of this school for the day. I trust that this tradition will continue and that next year’s lucky parent has as much fun and insight as I have had.
Have a great weekend!
Steven Ashley (Headmaster for the Day)
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…