As the autumn nights draw in and the days get ever darker, I enjoy taking the time to reminisce about the past year and remind myself of how very fortunate I am to be Head of the Senior School at Highclare. Each new academic year brings with it the promise of great things to come and I never fail to be reminded of how lucky I am to be in this very privileged position. It is a real honour to spend my days working with children and young people and I cannot think of anything more rewarding than watching them grow in confidence, resilience and self-assurance as each year passes.
As teachers, we have the privilege of learning from children every day, as young people see things differently to us and often surprise us by the extent of their wisdom and understanding of the world around them. As an English teacher, I have often been humbled to witness the level of their creativity of thought and their ability to view the texts we study through a different lens. Young people today more than ever have the ability to express themselves confidently and maturely and are never afraid to argue their point when given the chance!
The great Lakeland poet, William Wordsworth in his poem ‘The Rainbow’ relates how ‘The Child is father of the Man’ which I take to mean that, because children become the adults of the future, it is important that the lessons they learn in childhood stand them in good stead for the challenges of the years ahead. Wordsworth describes how seeing a rainbow as a child filled him with an existential joy which remained with him through all the years of his life. In some ways, I liken Wordsworth’s philosophy to that of teaching in that, as educators, we have the privilege of (hopefully) igniting a sense of wonder and awe in the minds of children, enabling them to become the independent and life-long learners of the future that we want them to be. I have been privileged to witness this love of learning grow in the young people that I have taught personally or have observed in other teachers’ lessons throughout my years at Highclare School. I have enjoyed watching them take charge of their learning and I never fail to be amazed by their metamorphosis from hesitant, nervous U3rds to confident and opinionated young scholars in U5th and beyond.
At Highclare, we pride ourselves in the knowledge that our young people not only work hard to achieve academic success, but they also possess the strength of character to care for people less fortunate than themselves. With this in mind, I am proud to say that, during the year, they have continued to work hard to raise funds for our School charities, Young Minds and the local Trussell Trust food bank and never hesitate to get fully and enthusiastically involved in our fundraising events throughout the year.
In October last year, I was privileged to be part of Mrs Cassell’s unforgettable and life-affirming trip to the beautiful beaches and magical rain forests of Costa Rica. It was an amazing experience and one that I am confident in saying that we will never forget. In these dark and somewhat dreary days of autumn, I often reminisce about the sights and sounds of that magical country and feel blessed to have witnessed the joy in the faces of our young people as their eyes (and ours) were opened to the wonders of nature and the joy of simply being in that enchanted land. Each day of the trip was filled with adventures from white water rafting, to zip wiring across the canopy of the rain forest. Each day I was also tested on my ability to keep up with the children and not allow my fear of water and heights to affect their enjoyment! The highlight of the trip was our visit to a remote rainforest village school where we enjoyed playing with the children, reading them stories and seeing their eyes light up when they were presented with the pencil cases and equipment that all the pupils at Highclare – Preparatory and Senior School – made possible through their fundraising efforts.
Senior Prize Giving in November was an incredibly successful and enjoyable event during which our guest speaker and ex-Head Girl, Captain Katie Miller, spoke eloquently about competing in the 2009 original Single Handed Transatlantic yacht race, spending 21 days alone at sea and becoming the youngest ever female finisher. Katie, now an officer in the Royal Military Police based at the Royal Airforce College Cranwell and Leadership Instructor to RAF officers in training, relayed how Highclare, with its focus on aiming high and striving for excellence, equipped her with the determination and resilience needed to achieve these goals and overcome the challenges she faced during those long, lonely days at sea.
The autumn term ended with our annual and much loved Christmas Carol Service at St Michael’s Church in Boldmere. We all look forward to this event as it is wonderful to hear the voices of the children raised in harmony which fills us all with the magic and joy of the Christmas season.
The new year began with lots of exciting events to look forward to , especially the ski trip to Italy during February half-term and the 25th anniversary celebrations of our ‘big move’ to the Abbey building on 27th February which culminated in the digging up of the time capsule which was interred by the children and staff of Highclare all those years ago. Thanks must go to our Business Manager, Mrs Anne McGoldrick, who, thanks to her excellent organisational skills, was instrumental in making the day such a memorable and enjoyable event.
In last year’s Senior School Review, I waxed lyrical about the fact that our ‘Take Charge’ initiative is now fully embedded in the culture of the school. Little did I know then that the resilience of our pupils and staff, was so soon to be challenged because of the rising threat of the Covid-19 pandemic and its resultant effect on the normality of School life. However, I am delighted to report that we rose to the challenge and, despite there being a global pandemic and despite school being closed, lessons were delivered as normal and children continued to be educated and supported throughout those long months of lockdown. I have always been proud of the staff and pupils of Highclare Senior School, but I have been humbled and honoured to witness how well we coped throughout the anxious months of lockdown and how we have pulled together ever since during these unprecedented times.
Finally, it only remains for me to thank our enthusiastic and talented staff; our resilient and hardworking pupils and their proud and supportive parents for all they have done to ensure that Highclare School continues to succeed and triumph in the years ahead.