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If you don’t aim high, you will never improve

I heard or read somewhere that the secret of thriller writing, like the secret of political cartoons, is to put completely different events together. That, at its best, is what school is like too, and it was one of the awfulnesses of lockdown (and there were so many that it is hard not to devote all my blogs to them) that life became monochrome. Now that we are ‘back’, and as Head at Whitgift, still the best job in the world, I’ve had a week which has included, amongst other things: discussion of the MCC Spirit of Cricket Lecture, Oxbridge interviews, the Junior Literary Festival, our own Governors Meeting, site planning, end of term concerts and carol service planning. What can anyone say which makes sense of all of that? Meanwhile, most boys are simply getting on with work, sport, societies, applications, activities, life. 

Well, the first thing to say is that Stephen Fry’s Spirit of Cricket lecture is a gem. One of our governors left our Governors Meeting early to attend it. I think he might have made a good decision. Fry talks about changes to institutions, and of course UK independent schools are institutions where change has been at times slow, but I think genuine. He also makes the very good point that a game (cricket) which thrives most when it is international, should surely embrace internationalism, respect for other cultures – global citizenship, in short, though he doesn’t call it that.

What does that all have to do with last week? Well, the Junior Literary Festival, organised as ever by the brilliant Ms Glanz, should get our First Formers to think from many perspectives. In Oxbridge (mock) interviews, we try to encourage students to take risks, to think the unusual. In planning our site, we have to be imaginative: what do students need, in terms of teaching and learning? Why, space surely, to carry on discussions, explore ideas.

I’m well aware as I write this that to anyone not involved in a school like Whitgift, these concerns may appear a luxury. Simply getting some GCSEs or a qualification of some sort – indeed, simply learning the basics - is enough for many. But – as our partnership work tries to show – if you don’t aim high, you will never improve. And nurturing young lives does indeed involve the kind of values Fry espouses, the kind of extension and challenge our Oxbridge and LitFest aim for, the kind of planning we should as leaders be doing and the kind of celebrations we plan.

And incidentally, to be back at the Fairfield Halls and Minster is more than a pleasure: these are symbols, that we believe in hope and in the future.

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