Looking back – and looking forward

Prize Giving is always a bit of a glance in the rear-view mirror. As the last academic year dwindles in the memory we take a last, nostalgic look before turning to glance at what is coming up. This year the event felt rather different, as it started at 1530 and was finished well before 5pm. Instead of coming out through the North Porch of the Cathedral into darkness, this year there was a lovely spectacle of families reuniting to celebrate achievement in the autumn sunshine. The sun also played its part in the service itself, as I think that the nave always looks utterly spectacular when the source of light is outside the building.

For the first time that I can remember virtually everyone, both staff and boys, was present – and that is really important I think, as it is these whole school events in Great St Mary’s which are so memorable. As I said to Year 7, this is your chance to ‘get’ Bishop’s, to understand the essence of your new school. I suspect that Prize Giving 2019 will have made a lasting impression on them; the upshot is that the new arrangements are here to stay.

If your eye strays down this page you will see the text of my speech. I have published it for the first time together with the programme copy, partly for the benefit of those who couldn’t attend but mainly because there are some key messages there relating to our move to a coeducational sixth form from September 2020. I took the opportunity to deal with some of the questions that I have been asked over the past 6 months or so since the new Admissions Policy has been in place. Will the BWS Sixth Form grow (yes), will there be places for everyone who gets the entry requirements (yes), will boys lose out (no), will there be adjustments made to suit female students and ensure they are happy (yes, of course) and so on. What is really good is that as far as I can tell everyone concerned seems to be on board with the change, and there is a palpable feeling of excitement as my staff start to visit schools to highlight what we have to offer at Bishop’s. Many schools over-use the term ‘outstanding’ as an adjective to describe their provision and thus erode its potency.

My view is what is on offer with us in the Cathedral Close is very special and unique in ways that are both quantifiable and not, and the only real way to get a feeling for what is here is to do your research and then visit. Once potential sixth form students have done that they cannot fail to be impressed and, in the same way as those Year 7 boys in the Cathedral for the first time, they will quickly understand just how much potential our school offers. In the 11+ last Saturday we had a record number of around 380 sitting the test; in the same way, I am hoping that there will also be a record number of applicants to join Year 12 in 2020, from both young men and women from across the region.