A day at HMC’s university admissions conference, including a memorable contribution from former Whitgift teacher Sir Anthony Seldon, an enjoyable evening at a London prep school and then Remembrance at Whitgift on Friday, was all followed for me by lunch with sports captains and their coaches. And a meeting with an overseas organisation too.
Not forgetting that this week also contained for me a welcome chance to congratulate the winners of the PRISM essay competition - writers who contributed their views of Truth to Mr Miller this last month, and whose names I did promise to mention: Daniel Ortiz, Julian Cheng and Freddie Rawlins, along with runners-up Elise Lim, Arjun Gobiraj and Issac Fung. And ended with Croydon’s formal Remembrance, at which our choristers (notably Xabi Geering) led the singing superbly.
Why do I say this, apart from to remind myself how varied the week was? Of course in part that variety - getting the chance to meet boys and adults from different parts of the age spectrum - is what we Heads like. We wouldn’t do the job if we didn’t. ‘The privilege of nosiness’, a fellow Head called it.
But also because that variety gives us Heads a good insight into what changes and what doesn’t. One of the challenges of school leadership is to respond to change in society - legal changes, social changes, technology, economics, behaviour, attitudes, you know the kind of thing. We’re carefully reviewing our IT usage for example, having spent some time sorting our infrastructure, and if you think we’re moving too slowly on portals and VLEs, all I can say is that we want to get it all right. Bear with us.
Another challenge, though, is standing up for what shouldn’t change. So, standing at the Act of Remembrance on Friday, I found myself thinking ‘this isn’t unlike the ceremonies I stood at when I was at school. Which is good’. And talking to our excellent sports captains, I also reflected that despite different (better, by the way) training regimes and injury care, boys haven’t changed much in their healthy and lively attitudes to sport. And that too is good.
Everything changes, but humans remain full of an appetite for growth and discovery, basically optimistic though also of course flawed, and the job of teaching remains one of unlocking potential. The story of humanity is not linear progress from vice to virtue, but we do what we can to improve the world. One job of schools remains to continue to stand for important values too, such as those represented by Remembrance, and indeed by fair play, and if a Whitgift boy of 2017 thinks back in thirty-plus years and reflects that values such as these haven’t changed, then that’s good.
Quite important to hope that schools will still be playing competitive sport too!