One of the pleasures of Friday evening, at the moment, is hearing the (to me) well-known tunes of Guys and Dolls being rehearsed in Big School (well-known, by the way, too, to HM St Dunstan’s College, OW and star of Mr Wilson’s 1980s production, who will be attending a performance as a guest). Another has been the series of Prism talks, which I’ve mentioned before. Last Friday also had water polo and basketball – both victorious – which reminds me that one parent in last week’s interviews said to me that ‘the boys find their own Whitgift’. That is, the range of opportunities on offer leads Whitgiftians to discover their particular place, niche, identity.
Well, that sounds like a good prospect. As part of a series of meetings reviewing what we do and why, the senior team last week spent some time looking at co-curricular activities. For the First Form Whitgiftian, that must represent astonishing breadth, and rightly so. As he goes through the School, what does our Whitgiftian navigate? Some compulsion, to be truthful (we currently believe in some activities being ones for all to try – whether fencing, a musical instrument or the CCF); some choice, loads of inspiration. Then, for the older boys, complex questions might arise, of clash, commitment, priority and depth, questions which after all will be life questions. We believe that working them through in the safe environment of school helps Whitgiftians appreciate those balances in later life.
Which brings me to an article one of my senior colleagues brought to me last week from The Times. I know our boys are lucky, and I know they have access to astonishing opportunities, opportunities most wouldn’t be able to enjoy. Parents reading this presumably know that too. We all, I take it, agree that the key is making the best of those opportunities, and one of the functions of Whitgift is to make that a reality.
What, I think, outsiders never quite get, is how passionately we feel about these opportunities. Talk to Mr Miller or any of his team, and you will get how much there is to gain by thinking beyond lessons. Introduced to Mr Krammer, you could not fail to be inspired by basketball; Mr Webb is the same with water polo, and Dr Stagno with hockey. I could name fifty, probably a hundred others. This is not just us, as an independent school, going the extra mile; this is educators putting their passions in the path of boys, and offering them opportunities.
In some ways, so little has changed. My own parents chose a well-known south coast HMC school for me many years ago, on the prospectus of lots of opportunity (and at pretty devastating financial cost, by the way, even then) – which I got. Good luck to those who make similar choices today.