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130 years and counting…

This Wednesday Nick Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, will be guest speaker for us at our first whole school cathedral service of 2020. It’s great that he is able to be with us, 130 years almost to the day after The Bishop’s School (as it was initially called) started up in the Bishop’s Palace here in the Close. That was more an imperative driven by circumstance than a matter of choice; construction work on Chapel Block was overrunning and presumably the school site was still infested with builders and scaffolding, in somewhat typical British fashion.

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December has arrived

The Year 11 boys are back in class, the prelim exams a thing of the very recent past. The end of term beckons and the last week will, I am sure, slip past in a flash. The Christmas season started for real with the opening carol of the Winter Concert at St Martin’s, and on Tuesday evening the music moves to the somewhat grander setting of the Cathedral where choir and congregation will join together once again. Can’t wait!

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2,000 followers and counting…

@BWordsworth’s just gained its 2,000th follower. I thought that there might be a congratulatory, centrally generated tweet to mark such an e-milestone, but evidently the Silicon Valley Brigade are not quite as sad as I am, so there you go.

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Uplifting conversations

At this point in the academic year there is usually a little time to take a breath before the next onslaught. The start of the autumn term is a frenzy with lots of new boys and some new staff who need to get to know the ropes, new courses to bed in and fresh issues to confront. The combination of planning work, organising assessment, reviewing results and completing priority university applications is an all-consuming one through September and October. By the half-term break everyone should know what they are doing , I have completed all of the staff appraisals and suddenly life seems to have emerged onto an open plain where the horizon is more visible; instead of rushing to keep up, looking at my feet I can start to look ahead and think about what the next few months might bring.

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Remembrance 2019

I have always thought that, given the history of the school and the number of families with Armed Forces connections, we have undersold the Act of Remembrance a little here. Not disastrously so of course – there have been some very moving assemblies and chapel services, and there is always 2 minutes of tranquillity as teachers and students take stock at 11.00am on anniversary day. Nevertheless, for a school which numbers Salisbury’s only VC amongst its alumni and a previous Head who was awarded a DSO at Vimy Ridge we should be doing more to mark those from the school community who have given so much.

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‘That’ World Cup Final…

I arrived back at Heathrow at just after 0600 last Saturday and after a dash down the M3 I was firmly planted on the sofa, fighting the jet lag whilst watching the teams bellow out their respective anthems in the International Stadium in Yokohama. I am not going to even attempt to argue that England should have won the match. Despite their heroics in the semi-final they came off distinctly second best. It wasn’t for lack of effort, or training, or preparation, or passion for that matter. They were just outplayed on the day, but they can emerge from the experience with their heads held high. They have done us all proud but it just didn’t happen for them on the day. That’s sport. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Sam Underhill (England’s No7) was playing Rugby for Sir Thomas Rich’s, Gloucester a very few years ago; he would have taken on some of the best from BWS, as we habitually play STRS annually at the start of the Autumn season. Sam was undoubtedly one of the stars of the England World Cup Team, and there will be BWS boys who would have been on the receiving end of some of that tackling!

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The long shadow of austerity…

…is still with us, though a welcome email from our MP during the week contained welcome news about funding for the future. The promise is for all schools, not just Bishop’s – one of an increase in the National Funding Formula from £4,800 per Year 7-11 pupil to £5,000, together with a commitment to fund the recent increase in employer’s pension contributions for the next three years. Together this represents an encouraging increase in funds of around 4.5% and, if it comes to fruition, will strengthen our budget considerably. The current political uncertainty does not give grounds for confidence at any level however; growth predictions for UK PLC as we exit (or perhaps don’t exit, or think about exiting) the EU vary considerably, and I worry about therefore whether pre-election commitments will turn into post-poll reality. Time will tell.

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Creationtide - first service of the academic year...

…took place last Thursday in the Cathedral. After a swift registration in school, the bells summoned the great phalanx of blue-blazered bodies onto the North Walk and Bishop’s Walk, and the diagonal path across the Green filled rapidly. It is only really on such mornings that I suddenly realise just how many boys there are at our school as they stream towards the North Porch. Once inside Bishop’s Boys decant into the nave and transepts, settling in a chattering mass and changing the dynamics of the medieval building dramatically. That must be how it has happened for over a century and, as I said when I introduced the service, the hand of history on the shoulder is inescapable. We benefited from some rather rare sunshine on Thursday morning which transforms the nave into a work of Art, diagonal shafts of light falling across the space and catching the dust spiraling upwards. Golding wrote of this in ‘The Spire’, and it easy to see why it caught his imagination. We are so privileged to be able to come into such a space so often, and I urged everyone in the service to not take it for granted, to soak up the atmosphere for themselves. It is of such things as these that memories are made.

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