Senior Headmaster’s Blog: Thank You!

I am delighted to be able to invite you to participate in two very important end of term events today.  First, this evening sees the release of the Autumn Concert.  The Music Department has worked incredibly hard this term to enable our musicians to continue lessons, play in concerts, perform in ensembles, and prepare for music exams, and this concert is a real highlight to end the term.  I hope that you enjoy listening to The Autumn Concert.

Second, we would have been welcoming many of you to our Carol Service this week, which we are not able to do, but instead, it is available for everyone to watch and I would encourage all of you to take a seat, enjoy the music, and join us in celebrating the story of the first Christmas. Click here to view 

It seems extraordinary that we have (almost) reached the end of this term.  I think that it is appropriate for me to use this message to give some thanks to many of the people who have worked so hard to make it possible.  Our cleaning teams have worked tirelessly, and without complaint, going back to when they turned around boarding houses to use for trainee paramedics back in April, to looking after pupils, and keeping us as safe as possible.  The catering team has worked under incredible pressure, but managed to keep us all fed and happy (largely!), culminating in some fabulous house Christmas dinners.  The grounds teams have kept the school in excellent condition, responding to cricket and tennis in October, and preparing our pitches, even if we aren't able to play against other schools.  The works department have to access every building on site, keep the heating on (even when the windows have to be open for ventilation), and keep the school running.  Stewards, car park attendants, security, receptionists, administrators and PAs often go unnoticed, but in the current climate all have had their work increased, and the demands on them have been significant, with the pressure for rapid (and changing) communication has increased.  Our OF team have also worked hard to keep us in contact with OFs around the world.
Our admissions team has had to operate in a virtual recruitment market, but has remained calm, responsive and highly efficient, while our marketing team has become expert at video editing and online events management.  The IT team has never been under quite so much pressure, but we have not only stayed afloat, but also hugely improved our skills across the school during this time.  Our shops have had to change their operation, the coffee shop became takeaway, the archivists have kept records of the impact of the pandemic, and we have had to triple check all of our health and safety and compliance, as the rules have changed during lockdowns and different tiers.  Our lettings and summer school teams have had to switch to online summer school, and helping boarders to stay on site over holidays and half terms.  The HR department has been flat out with recruitment needs during this time, as we have had to adapt to support staff needs.  Meanwhile, our pastoral care, chaplaincy and wellbeing have continued to offer an outstanding level of support, during a very challenging time for many people.
I would also like to thank all the staff who have continued to deliver our co-curricular programme, run our houses, carried out tutorials, the technicians supporting the departments, and of course the teachers.  It has been a tough term, but it has been so refreshing to walk around the school, and see our teachers doing what they really enjoy in the classrooms, in the practice rooms, or out on the fields.  As a parent, I am hugely grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to keep things going, and as Head, I am immensely proud of the way that everyone has pulled together to make this happen.
A huge thank you also to the pupils, who have largely just got on with things, and put their all into what they are doing, and of course, a massive thanks to the parents who have been supportive throughout, even if facing personal uncertainty, or unsure of whether the school has been following the right course.  I have no doubt that we have made quite a few mistakes, but I hope that all of them have been made with the right intention, and that overall we have achieved a great deal.
My final thanks goes to our medical team.  I cannot give enough praise to the calm and professional way in which our nurses have helped us through Covid since February.  They are knowledgeable, patient and always wanting to help, despite the challenges, and several even went to help the NHS when the school was in lockdown back in the spring.  Thank you.
Chris Townsend