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B:M 2021

October is Black History Month – first introduced in the States back in the 1960’s to raise awareness of social issues, there is now a global movement to publicise the contribution of black people. Philosophically, culturally, educationally and geographically, the issues that confront non-whites in Britain today are dealt with on the BHM website through looking at case studies. People who have made remarkable contributions in British society are highlighted, and there is plenty of political discussion examining whether things are getting better or not.

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Prize Giving Speech 2021

Before I launch into my brief address can I welcome our guest speaker, Darryl Cherrett – thanks for taking the time away from the High Court to be here today. There are a number of aspiring lawyers in the audience today I am sure – so if you were able to be around for a few minutes after we are done to talk to them then that would be great. If you are aiming for the spotlight in the courtroom then head Darryl’s way…

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Nationalism deconstructed...

Anyone who watched that final of the US Open Tennis would have been blown away by the event and its aftermath I am sure. The athleticism of both players, the drama and suspense of the final part of the second set, injury and everything, and the grace and good humour of the young women afterwards. Both are superb role models, and I am sure that there will be a significant uptick in the popularity of the game as a consequence. History was made, lives will be changed, a good news story in times where we all need a lift.

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They started as individuals but ended together...

Anyone who took even a cursory look at the news media over the weekend cannot fail to have been captivated by the coverage from New York of the 20th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Centre. It really doesn't matter if you are old enough to remember, or whether the stories and pictures relate to events before you were born. Raw emotion takes time to fade, and two decades are nowhere near long enough for the sense of loss to be dulled, for families to forget the loved ones and for the voids in peoples' lives to be filled. For those of us old enough to see pictures of 9/11 on TV screens the images will be carved on memory for ever. 67 British people were among the nearly 3,000 who died that day in 2001.

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Autumn Starts....

The term started last week though like an aircraft on the runway there has been a good deal of initial taxiing before some speed is gained. Most of this initial inertia is due to the requirement for all students to have two Covid tests at the start of the new session – and the first of those tests must be negative before they can join classes. By the end of today (Monday) we will have completed the first round of nearly 1200 lateral flows; the rest will be completed by Friday and we will be on our way.

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Meetings…and Partings

The recent events for Years 11 and 13, where the boys returned their books to school and a sun-kissed barbeque on No11 lawn (on both occasions!) brought the end of yet another school year into sharper perspective.

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Opening Up is Delayed...

The inevitability of last week's announcement from Downing Street meant that the consequences in school were greeted almost with a metaphorical shrug of the shoulders by those affected. In truth most of what goes on at Bishop's is unaffected, as the delay to the full removal of Covid-related restrictions has no impact on our daily routine; it is 'as you were' for the reminder of the summer term. The special events at this time of year are affected quite seriously though, as information sessions for 11+ applicants and taster days for Year 12 must move online, tours can only be in small groups and the House Suppers for the incoming Year 7 boys and their parents have had to be delayed to the start of the September Term. The news that there are now cases of the 'delta variant' in two local private schools highlights the renewed need for caution and the avoidance of any complacency. Until the vaccination programme has taken a fuller course the danger of infection remains ever present.

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A time to plan...

Inevitably that's what happens at this time every academic year. A somewhat convoluted process starts just before Christmas with the updating of the school's longer term (3-year) Strategic Plan, which spells out at a high level the direction of travel for the whole school. This is contextualised by comments on the political, economic, social and educational climate at the time, and also contains a predictive element too. As is often the case with a long-range weather forecast the big events are easier to foretell than the short-term, and the level of accuracy and reliability wanes the further into the future you look. That's the reason for the annual readjustment, and also the reason why governors approve the plan each year in March.

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The interview game...

This segment of the academic year, between the end of the Easter Term and the 'summer' half term break tends to be interview central. There is the staffing mosaic to complete as the resignation date for teachers floats into view at the end of May, and there is also the small matter of appointing the next batch of senior prefects who will do so much to make the school experience brilliant for everyone over the next 12 months. As the interview season approaches I inevitably feel some trepidation; even given the facts that Bishop's has a draw for teachers due to reputation, amazing students and an enviable working environment recruitment of staff is never easy. The fact that almost all of the teachers here have to be able to deliver their subject across the full age range to A level and beyond can make appointment problematic, and some vacancies are tough to fill. This year there have been quite a few teachers to find, not because many people are leaving but because the school is expanding rapidly; it's a nice problem to have and I will never complain about popularity, but a problem it remains.

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It is always fatal to have music or poetry interrupted...

...or so Will Ladislaw claims in 'Middlemarch' George Eliot's late 19th century study of provincial life, and it's actually quite easy to see why he said it. Get into the flow, the stream of consciousness and an unanticipated pause breaks the train of thought with no guarantee of rejoining. As Coleridge found to his cost, the view of Xanadu is all too easily lost, never to be regained in quite the same way again.

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