Last week we had two events affecting year 11 students. The first was the first of this school year’s year 11 Eucharists. All the way through secondary school, we place great emphasis on encouraging students to respect this formal and important act of collective worship, which is one of the highlights of what makes us distinctive as a Church of England school. Of course, in the younger years, this respect is relatively easy to attain, as younger children will tend to cooperate – outwardly at least – with what we ask of them. I remember when I took over as head teacher, a colleague asked me whether I seriously intended to continue expecting students in year 10 and 11 to participate in a termly formal Eucharist. I did not have to hesitate: absolutely I did. Aside from the argument that the words and actions of the Eucharist contain something of unfathomable value for all of us, to assume that teenagers in the midst of some of the more turbulent years of growing up should be deemed incapable of participating in a 50 minute act of worship, seems to me to be giving in to all the wrong stereotypes, which then risk becoming self fulfilling prophecies. High expectations apply in all aspects of school life. I am pleased to report that last week’s year 11 Eucharist was superb in every observable respect, and the conduct of the whole year group exemplary. This is now very much the norm for us, though something one can never take for granted.
The second event involving year 11 students was the open evening for prospective sixth formers, which was held last Wednesday. It was wonderful to see year 11 students finding their feet as determiners of their own future for the first time – this moment in many ways is one of the really significant steps into adulthood. We were really proud as a school not only to present the courses and opportunities available here, but also to hear from students now in the sixth form talking with their own pride and confidence about their experiences. And, of course, the real icing on the cake is that our examination outcomes and our record at getting students into good universities is genuinely very good indeed – even more so this year in 2010 than ever before, and with year 12 AS results holding out the promise of even better yet to come. Nothing to hide here, and everything to be proud of.
It is during mid to late November that one often sees, in schools, the effects of a long term since the summer beginning to tell in tiredness amongst both students and staff. I do often wonder if it would be the same if the days were not getting ever shorter, the weather colder, and the common cold ever more prevalent! It is certainly true that warmer countries do not seem to suffer quite as much as we do during the winter – not sure if that is just weather, or overall outlook – or whether weather conditions outlook! Christmas, however much it is dreaded or looked forward to for other reasons, does seem to promise a turning point in our dark and damp winter.
I have long been a fan of the films of Mike Leigh – the gritty and strident social realism of his earlier works very much reflected the spirit of their time. The latest offering, Another Year, which I saw this weekend, is also very much of its time, but is far less hard hitting than some of the earlier ones. It is a more gentle and often amusingly poignant reflection of some of the social trends and divisions so many of us are familiar with. The different fortunes of members of the same extended family are explored, particularly in the light of whether they have been to university or not. These differences manifest themselves in personal taste, attitudes, lifestyle, experiences, and, ultimately, contentedness. In one way the film is the best advertisement possible for going to university. Themes of loneliness, envy of others’ happiness, indifference towards religion, and even north-south divide are also explored in what I thought was a highly perceptive way – at times uncomfortably close to home. I would give it 5 stars!