Senior Head's Blog: When is a party not a party?

When is a party not a party?  The question that is on the lips of every Westminster journalist at the moment is also one that can challenge schools, and we often hear the words 'it is only a gathering' (words actually used in the press this morning about events in Downing Street!) when get togethers are planned that could have an impact on school during term time.  It has been excruciating at times to watch this story unfold this week, starting with denial, then lack of clarity, and finally the launch of an investigation and the blaming of 'those responsible'.  It would appear to have been a lesson in how not to communicate, and the more that the excuses have been used, the less credible the whole picture has become.  When you have done something wrong, you have to own that, take responsibility, apologise and ensure that you do it differently next time.  Of course, that might still not be enough, and what has happened might be too serious for immediate forgiveness, but in that case, taking the consequence for the action is also essential before you can move on.  That applies as much to issues at school, or in life in general.


Meanwhile, for many of us, we will be looking closely at what we can or cannot do this Christmas (again).  At school, we are pleased to be able to go ahead with Carol Services, the End of Term Concert this evening, Christmas Dinners and most of what we were hoping to do for the end of the term.  More details will also be sent out separately; we are making a small adjustment to the start of next term, to help those who are coming from abroad, and impacted by the latest travel guidance as well as the Government's requirement for testing of all pupils at the start of the new term. Over the Christmas break, we would ask that you continue to take sensible precautions, carry out testing, and follow any guidelines that are in place.  For the return in the New Year, we would again ask that you do not send children back to school if they are displaying any symptoms, but arrange for a PCR test for them.  Otherwise, of course, I would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas, and hope that it is a time when families are able to be together, even if the big parties might not be possible again.

I started this piece by talking about parties (or gatherings), and it is a good time to come back to these, and talk about how we would want to support families in planning parties for young people while they are at school.  First of all, it is worth making the point that parties continue to have the potential to cause more problems for schools (and young people) than almost anything else.  What happens at parties definitely impacts what happens at school, and for this reason we do ask that there are no parties during the week, and where possible, weekend parties are held on exeats or other breaks.  We would also ask that you share information with us in advance, so that we know who is invited, and can make arrangements with boarding families, if necessary, in good time, as well as sharing our experience.  For example, there may well be pressure to have alcohol at a party, but always think about the age of those attending, ensure that there are soft drinks available, and make sure that other parents know what your plans are, if you will be serving alcohol. There is also a big difference between serving a glass of wine, and leaving spirits unattended.  Adult supervision of parties is another area that can be difficult, but being present and visible is so important.  If you have any questions, please do speak to us sooner rather than later.  We are not wanting to stop young people from enjoying themselves, but we do want to ensure that when they enjoy themselves, they don't wake up in the morning with significant regrets.

With that rather serious thought, I would like to wish you a good week, and look forward to seeing many of you over the last few days of this term.

Chris Townsend