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End of the 2019-2020 academic year

I remember using (or maybe mis-using) a T.S. Eliot quote from ‘The Hollow Men’ in an earlier incarnation of this blog – to describe the strange, untimely end to the spring term. The whimper that was school closure all the way back then around the time of the equinox was the curtain-raiser to the whole season of strangeness that has followed. Now, post-solstice, another term is about to close; rather like the tide ebbing across a wide sandy beach rather than the habitual adrenaline-pumping and mildly frenetic last day before the break. Come Friday the laptops will be closed at home and at school, the buildings will slowly empty of a few waifs and strays, the cars will leave and the barrier will drop. BWS will go back into full hibernation; rather than just being filled with a quiet hum the pulse of school will drop until mid-August.

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Black Lives Matter – a follow up

In the past week I have received two further letters on this issue, one from a group of current BWS sixth form BAME students and the other from a much larger group of largely BWS alumni. Both essentially ask the same thing – that we review the current curriculum coverage and that we use opportunities outside the curriculum to educate boys better about racism in the UK, both historical and contemporary. I have replied to both groups confirming the steps that will be taken, and a copy of the text is shown below. We will also be involving current BWS boys and girls in the review process through 2020-2021.

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Reasons to be (more) cheerful

For some reason I found myself reading about ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’, that much reproduced woodblock print by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. The review that I was scanning suggested that the picture was one of hope. I am still not so sure, as to me the massive foaming breaker seems just about to topple onto and smash the group of fishing skiffs. Even Mount Fuji, visible in the far distance seems very small and fragile in comparison to the untamed power of the ocean. You could be forgiven for drawing the analogy with the current situation facing humanity globally; instability and uncertainty seem to be a normal part of life, the waxing and waning threat of the pandemic is here to stay and the ever present spectre of climate change present in the background. Hope, it would appear, is in short supply.

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We’re getting back into business

Last week was the first week back for boys in Years 10 and 12. I had a suspicion that the attendance rates would be high, and certainly higher than was the case for the initial return of the younger pupils to junior schools from 1 June. What happened was that almost every boy turned up as scheduled, the only exceptions being one or two who are either shielding or are part of a family unit with one or more vulnerable member. The same is happening this week, and it lifts the spirits to see youngsters back where they should be. Until around 30 minutes ago there was an impromptu (socially separated) Year 10 picnic in progress on the lawn beneath my office window as the boys in Jewell House consumed their lunches. There’s no mistaking the positivity that they bring with them, and it is also evident that their teachers are really pleased to see them back in action in the flesh too. Online is fine, but face to face means so much more to everyone, and the same is true for the older boys too.

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Black Lives Matter

No-one who has seen that awful piece of film from Minneapolis can have turned away unaffected. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I saw it the first time, and I have not been able to stomach a repeat viewing. It is truly horrible – small wonder then, that in this age of instant recording and lightning-fast broadcast of images, unrest followed. What started as a ‘routine’ arrest outside a food store has rapidly become a world-wide movement for change, essentially uncoordinated, whose theme is racism both contemporary and historical. Even Salisbury has been deeply affected – protesters in the streets and requests for schools to review the content of the curriculum to ensure that due weight is given to the role that slavery and discrimination have played in the history of this country. I have received several letters from alumni asking this same thing, and I would be very surprised if there were not similar feelings amongst current BWS students, irrespective of age. Quite right too.

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Making the most of lockdown 3

As promised, details of our plans for face to face support of boys in Years 10 and 12 were circulated on Friday last, and copies of the details have also been posted on the coronavirus webpage of the school website. Hopefully they make sense, apart from a stray reference to packed lunches in the Year 12 guidance for their afternoon sessions! Even so, there may be method in the madness even here as 17 year old boys generally do need refuelling with alarming regularity; I am sure that socially distanced visits to Greggs/Reeves or similar take-aways will ensue. We have done our best to design a programme of delivery for both year groups which enables boys to meet subject teachers but within the scope of our risk assessment and the relevant guidance from DfE. That is no easy job, as I am sure you can appreciate, but we hope that our plans will enable our boys to build confidence and make progress with their understanding after some time learning remotely.

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Second half of summer term 2020

June arrives tomorrow and lockdown continues through one of the most glorious periods of early summer weather that I can recall, but despite the sunshine I would guess that most of us are still spending a lot of time at the ranch, reading. Everyone will have seen the national discourse concerning easing the current restrictions, the reality of people starting to bend the rules to breaking point and the apparent disagreement between the politicians and the scientists as to what should happen to balance health and economic recovery in the short term. Schools are a central part of the debate and I am sure that you will have seen the government guidance for secondary schools which advocate partial re-opening for Years 10 and 12 from 15 June; if you haven’t then the guidance can all be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/preparing-for-the-wider-opening-of-schools-from-1-june/planning-guide-for-secondary-schools.

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The need to value what we have

I have to confess that I am not a natural Green Day fan, though having children of a certain age I am very familiar with Billy Joe Armstrong’s music. For those of you over the age of 35 that was the band that played on a floating set on the Simpson’s Movie to a rapturous reception until they wanted to ‘talk briefly about The Environment’ – at which point they were pilloried and their pontoon sank into the polluted waters of Lake Springfield. All of which leads me by a roundabout route to a YouTube clip that I watched last week. Have a look and listen via the link below…

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Making the most of lockdown 2

My hope is that most boys are managing their workload well within the time available. No-one should be feeling stressed about whether they can manage their academic diet comfortably, and there should be some flexibility with the use of time through this protracted period where we are all mostly at home. The additional time at home, with family, is a unique opportunity to spend time with those whom you love. I know that very well – there was no way that I was anticipating having such a period shared with three grown up ‘kidults’ at this time in my life, and I am really enjoying and valuing the chance to be with them. Yes, the food bills are astronomical and no, they are not entirely receptive to the strict regime of household chores devised by their father but it is such an unexpected blessing to see more of people that you love, even if the circumstances are grim.

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How might things be different on the other side

There was a very good piece on the BBC website at the end of last week. You may have spotted it – 12 journalists speculating on how life could change after the world emerges from the current trauma. Will it be back to business as usual in their specialist area or could things be different? The questions was asked and some of the responses were predictable, but it made me think both for myself and how my habits might change, but also on a broader canvas. What might be different for us all, for better or for worse…?

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