13th September, 2017
First, many congratulations to Thomas who celebrated his birthday! Moreover, he awaits his special birthday celebration, because last night Thomas very charmingly accepted an invitation to attend the Chalmers East Gathering with Mrs Hunter and myself!
Well, we have a bumper number of thoughts! It is just as well that all audiences receive the script and slides of Headmaster’s Assembly every week! But first, under the category of “A visitor to School”:
Last week, we had a visitor to Merchiston! Every week, we have many visitors to Merchiston! However, when Mrs Hunter and I were talking to this visitor, who had seen around the whole School, she had some interesting observations on the School. First, she felt that the main entrance to the School exuded a great sense of warmth and personality. But secondly, as she walked around the whole campus, she felt that there was a calm, purposeful nature displayed in the demeanour of all of you. And that is exactly our aspiration.
Secondly, I keep on remembering the Chaplain’s words last week on Building Bridges and how apt a metaphor I think that is for Building the Bridges of Gentleness and Kindness.
We will remember that on the first Sunday of term I spoke about the singular and critical importance of gentleness and kindness. I promised all audiences that I would keep on returning to the topic! And actually since that Sunday, a parent has sent me the following quote and mini poster:
Thirdly, I had already prepared my beginning of the academic year sermon in early August, but on 20 August I read such a pertinent article written by Kevin Pringle in the Sunday Times entitled, “Tolerance for our fellows will light the way forward.” I believe that his words are so, so pertinent and I encouraged the School to join with me in listening to his wonderful article, for the words resonate with us in terms of encouraging us how to behave.
As Mr Pringle writes, “a world based on the values Robert Kennedy talked about in his speech – love and wisdom and compassion toward one another – will achieve different, better outcomes”. Mr Pringle also indicated, “In his peroration, Kennedy quoted the Greek playwright Aeschylus, urging that people dedicate themselves to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.” Tragically, Robert Kennedy was gunned down 62 days after making this speech. But my point for Merchiston is that we have to exude gentleness and kindness to each other.
Fourthly, in many schools, the whole school has been involved in and participated in the School Improvement Plan and the priorities for the academic year. So it was apt that I shared with the School our 2017/18 priorities:
The idea is that these headlines will be remembered by everyone in the School and that we all will be able to articulate them and live them as the vision for the year.Moreover, we will know that Merchiston likes the concept of the safety of the Merchiston house. So, we have another house which epitomises the headlines from our School Improvement Plan for the academic year 2017/18. I hope you enjoy seeing this house and the metaphor therein:
Fifthly, I have spoken a lot about leadership but it’s not about leadership, teamwork and mentoring being splintered activities – they are united activities. So I gave the School two quotes to get us thinking:
“As a part of a team, you’re representing something so much bigger than your own individual ability, you’re representing your teammates, family, friends and country (school) … It’s a powerful thing.”
Danielle Waterman, England XVs Professional Player, member of the Rugby World Cup winning team 2014.
“Being in a team is one of the best things you can experience. You win together, you lose together, and you make friends for life!”
Ellie Simmonds OBE
Paralympic Games Gold Medallist 2008, 2012, 2016
World Championships Gold Medallist 2009, 2010, 2013
Accordingly, it was a great pleasure to move to congratulating numerous young men who are Captains of Sport for the year 2017/18:
Captain of Athletics: Cameron
Captain of Badminton: Stuart
Captain of Basketball: Florian
Co-Captains of Cricket: Tom and John
Captain of Fives: Sean
Captain of Football: Paul
Vice Captain of Football: Andrew
Captain of Golf: Rory
Captain of Hockey: George
Co-Captains of Rugby: Rufus and Tyler
Rugby Leadership Group: Christopher, Matthew, Jamie, Lachlan, Dan and Hamish
Captain of Squash: Thomas
Co-Captains of Swimming: Charlie and Kaixin
Co-Captains of Tennis: Matthew and Jacob
Moreover, I indicated to the School that the relationship between these leaders, team builders and mentoring buddies and their respective guide and sage for that sport really matters. And moving to one which is really important, the Students’ Forum:
Presidents: Paul, Callum and Sean
Officers Elect: Marcus, Charlie and Ben
Then, an important new tradition at Merchiston, now in its third year, is the Pupil Learning Council. Usually, the Academic Leadership Team sets this Pupil Learning Council in place, and the Pupil Learning Council then runs its own meetings and agendas.
Pupil Learning Council
Leaders: Rory, Craig and Fraser
And what’s important about these two bodies is the importance of relevant pupil voice.
Finally in this section, our Pipe Band:
Pipe Major: Rory
Pipe Sergeant: Benjamin
Pipe Corporal: Tom
I then moved to acknowledging pupils who had been awarded scholarships and exhibitions, and this week we concentrated on sports and all-rounder awards. In the coming weeks we will focus on academic awards. So, congratulations to:
Arran Sports Scholarship Pembroke House, Kenya
Lachlan Sports Scholarship St Mary’s, Melrose
Oscar All-Rounder Scholarship Belhaven Hill, Dunbar
And the following have been awarded scholarships on entry to the Lower Sixth Form:
Matthew Sports Scholarship Merchiston
Dan Sports Scholarship Merchiston
Fin All Rounder Scholarship Merchiston
Rorie Sports Exhibition – Hockey Prior Park College, Bath
Moving to the sports round-up, in rugby, all teams had their first conference fixtures against Stewart’s Melville. The 1XV, 3XV, C1s and D1s won. The 2XV drew. The U16As, U16Bs, B1s, B2s, B3s, C2s, C3s and D3s lost. The roll of honour stands as: played 13, lost 8, drew 1 and won 4. This is a good start for our season. Also, the D2s also lost and the F1s drew against George Watson’s.
In golf, well done to Daniel and Juan who made their first appearances for the U13 golf team down at the Radley Putter in London.
And many congratulations to the U13 and U15 tennis teams who won both of their respective Scottish Schools Cup competitions this week. The U13s had a convincing win against Prestwick, while the U15s beat High School of Glasgow, 5-1. Both teams have now qualified for the Northern Regional Finals. Well done to the following boys:
Matthew, Luke, Euan, Lachlan, Forbes
Charlie, Johannus, Marcus, Lachie, Nikos
It is always marvellous establishing the momentum of a new academic year. So, that is my highlight! Last Saturday saw the completion of the first 8 day cycle. Instrumental and music lessons are in full flow; Choir rehearsals have started; our Upper Sixth Formers attended the Edinburgh UCAS Higher Education Exhibition at Ingliston; Drama rehearsals have commenced at both Merchiston and St George’s; and the full programme of social gatherings with Kilgraston and St George’s, our sister schools, started on Friday evening. The hand of friendship was also offered last Wednesday to 180+ pupils who competed in our Prep Schools’ Rugby Festival. There are no trophies for this festival, for we offer this as a pre-season training opportunity for all the prep schools, and indeed, our own Pringle pupils. Our Lower Sixth Form has already been involved in leadership and Child Protection training, so as you can see, we are busy in an effective way. The positivity around the School is remarkable.
My second highlight is that on a two-hour learning walk, I enjoyed walking around the School last Friday, and I saw many English classes in action. I was struck that the key to teaching is relationship between the pupil and his teacher. I saw this in abundance.
And I concluded Headmaster’s Assembly by reminding the School that Mr Thompson will shortly be speaking to all the pupils in Chalmers West upwards about the Arts and Cultural Programme. Merchiston Edinburgh gives our pupils the wonderful opportunity of going to the opera and the theatre. For, of course, we belong to a truly cosmopolitan cultural city, yet on a wonderfully peaceful campus three miles outside the city centre – to my mind the pupils and the staff have the best of both worlds!