So, a little round-up of the end of term. Last week was Tallis through the Wardrobe, a magnificent evening in best surreal Tallis style. Dancers, singers, performers of all sorts from the tiniest to the biggest. It was a happy show. I’d been temporarily deprived of hearing so I didn’t get much of the detail, but the atmosphere was lovely. I didn’t have the brass neck to ask them to do it all again, for a third time, just for me, once I’d had my ears washed out, though it would have been nice.
One of the advantages of being at a school for a bit – this is now my sixth year – is that you see the children grow. The little ones who bounced squeakily in 2013 are now loping year 12s who can barely see me from their great height: piping singing boys now beautiful basso profondos. As I write, the gallery next door to me is full of this year’s year 7s taking part in a week-long world peace game. They’re pretty ear-piercing when tackling the arms dealers amongst them but it’s going to be a great long-term memory. One is urgently shouting ‘Charlie, Charlie’, perhaps modelling global leadership on POTUS, or the Queen. Knowing how to solve the world’s problems at 11 is a pretty good training for life, no?
As are the inevitable. I told you about our preparation for mock exams with year 11, yoga, revision timetables and what not. Now the poor souls are staggering towards the end of it and reflecting on what they’ve done and left undone. One leaned on the doorpost this morning and told me he was too busy revising to have written a revision timetable. Poor chap thought I’d believe him, but when he says he’s worried about Computer Science, I believe that. Study Hall (a history classroom) was stowed out yesterday, flash cards from wall to wall, a marked improvement on just gazing into the middle distance in the hope of accidentally remembering something.
You know how we make a mega-production over exam rituals? Meeting in the Bistro, reminding about the structure of the exams, walking quietly upstairs clutching the see-through pencil case, all under the beady eye of senior staff who happen to be free, subject leads, the vast army of invigilators and their Head of Year. Sir and his giant parka arrange the confident, reassure the anxious and hassle the late. I’ve asked it before: what’s the equivalent of a Head of Year in adult life?
Their performances in assemblies this week has been memorable too, cheesy in the extreme. Concealed in the aforementioned wardrobe, elf-behatted HoYs and other ancillary services have been jumping out to sing to the people. Year 7 nearly died of excitement yesterday morning: year 9 were more phlegmatic on Monday.
So, having established that Heads of Year of any size are inherently comical in conical hats, we prohibited any kind of excitement going into assembly as the 270 assemblees had to be threaded through the up-to-270 revisionists to get into the hall. Simple instructions were sufficient, we assume that sporadic reminders instil precise cooperation. Crucial, daily orders were implemented effectively, for which we show our gratitude. Do you see what I did there? 11 words of the week! Impressive or what?
Were I younger, I could be rewarded for such egregious compliance. Certainly M, who visited me three times on Thursday, seems to feel that his devotion should reap points of some kind. He’s got 87 points and is keen to make 100. He may have left it too late.
This afternoon we rest from our labours after our traditional Christmas whole-school assembly, the only time we’re all together as a school. It takes 200% longer than the assembly itself to get everyone in and out, but we think it worth doing just for the spectacle and the experience. This is our school, our village, our home from home for the days and the years and it’s good to be together once a year.
Next door a bell rings for four Prime Ministers and the Secretary General to reflect on their achieving world peace. Compared to the scenes in Parliament yesterday, their noisy excitement is enthusiastic and positive. They know that far-sightedness and cooperation are vital to policy-making and the security of the people.
The originator of the wardrobe, C S Lewis, who I otherwise find irritating, once said:
‘The worst attitude of all would be the professional attitude which regards children in the lump as a sort of raw material which we have to handle.
My hero Eglantyne Jebb wrote ‘Every war is a war against children’, and every policy is a policy for or against children. I’ve watched with despair the BBC’s reports on the effects of Universal Credit and public service cuts in Hartlepool. My first headship was in that community, and they couldn’t afford to get any poorer. Every social decision makes children’s lives easier or harder, now or in the future. Some political party needs to stand for that. I don’t much care about anything else. Here’s to a better 2019.