The stage directions for the opening three scenes in the text of Macbeth are ‘a desert place’, ‘a camp’ and ‘a heath’. If you have been past Big School these last few days, you will have seen … well, I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say it is definitely looking more like outdoors than indoors. Do come and see the production: it promises to be superb.
This meant our Thursday parent drinks party – for Third Form parents – was decanted to the PAC, which worked very well. We have enjoyed these informal, agenda-less meetings, and I hope parents have too. Formal Parents Meetings focus in on academic progress and School events are focussed on what is happening – sport or music or drama. These informal gatherings are a chance to get to know what is on our minds. A lot of the boys will have felt this term that they have been told to work hard – and so they have. They will always tend to feel that school is a place where certain things are allowed and others not (didn’t someone once say the problem with schools was that anything that wasn’t banned was compulsory?). But it’s not actually like that, and it’s good to have a chance to talk more broadly about what we are trying to do.
Take phones. We don’t allow them during the school day around the School. Many parents – I think rightly – get into the habit of parking phones away from the bedroom overnight. It’s not because we are fighting some kind of war against technology. It’s actually about values. The sort of person who needs to check his phone all the time, who panics about status – or, frankly, work – through the night, is not the kind of person we think Whitgiftians are or really want to be. Yes, this is about ‘nudging’ behaviour towards habits we think are better aligned to our values, but it’s primarily because we think those ARE values we all respect. The same applies to bigger matters – bullying, drugs, the really big things: the rules are there to demonstrate the values we believe Whitgiftians actually share. We want to help them all be the kinds of people who don’t need to go in for aggressive behaviour, intolerance or foolish experimentation, because they know who they are and respect who they are.
All that may sound a bit grand. But towards the end of a long term, when the boys have done some amazingly brilliant things, it’s as well to remember that we are all genuinely on the same side.
This last weekend, the choristers were singing Christmas music virtually non-stop: at the Ritz (twice), at the Minster… and there’s more to come. Thank you to Mr Krippner and his team. The Under 16s had a great day of indoor hockey on Sunday. And the week ahead sees more boys leaving for Oxbridge interviews. Oh, and Macbeth. Good luck to all.