A time to draw breath

It always happens in early February, just before the half term holiday. The batches of Christmas and New Year exams for Years 11 and 13 have just disappeared over the horizon, and the next pressure points are not quite on the academic radar. There is the feeling of both students and staff collectively inhaling before the acceleration into the final lap for the senior school. Lots of our Year 13 boys and girls are very excited, having received their offers of places at prestigious universities from across the UK. The Year 12 application deadline has just passed and this year there are 470 applicants for places at Bishop’s – and whatever their current school, all of those aspiring Year 11 students are also looking to see what the future may hold. It is extraordinary to consider that it is just over three years since we welcomed our first girls into the sixth form here; there are currently 230 female applicants for Year 12 in Autumn 2024.

There are other ways that the school is marking this brief period of calm. Friday 9 February sees our Higher Education Day for Year 12, when the Bishop’s Sports Hall is filled once again with stalls from universities, employers, gap year organisations, charities, public and armed services. Our own first year sixth students, together with hundreds from other schools can wander amid the forest of exhibitors and contemplate where next for them. Our Year 9 are on the brink of making their GCSE options choices too, lower octane perhaps but still important for them to get right so that they are both happy and confident with their onward travel through the Middle School. There are plenty of adventures that are happening over this half term too, as our Year 8 and 9 boys are outward bound at Pencelli, historians from Years 10 and 11 head for Berlin, Senior footballers for Holland and our Netball/Rugby Girls head off for their first ever sports tour to Dubai. All really exciting and enriching, all building character, all forging memories that will last a lifetime and all possible because of the hiatus at this time of year.

I can feel the pause too before the pace quickens once more towards the brief summer months after which I will step back and my successor will take over here at Bishop’s. Being briefly becalmed around Valentine’s Day is very useful because I know that when I start back after the half term break time will be pressurised and the demands fairly relentless. The more thinking about and planning for the management of change I can do around now the better. This chance to draw breath is important – before the next chapter begins.