Welcome back to readers of Headmaster's Headlines! It was a great pleasure and privilege to see the School swinging into action as boarders and day pupils returned. I really hope that all members of the Merchiston family have enjoyed some quality time together over the Easter Break. Other parts of the Merchiston operation have been busy over the course of the holiday. The world renowned International Harp Festival was held at Merchiston again recently and many of you may have read reviews of world famous musicians playing at this Festival. Equally, other 'lets' have occupied the School, and we have run our own multi-sports and cricket camps. However, the School always feels so much better and like a real School when the people who really matter, namely the boys and the staff, are back in harness! With regards to the staff, we have enjoyed three days of In-service training, and enjoyed is the apt word! This is significant, for on each day we have sung Happy Birthday to one member of staff before commencing on a variety of activities, two of the most significant being members of staff reporting back to us on academic papers from the International Boys' Schools Coalition. The first paper is Locating Significance in the Lives of Boys and the second paper is entitled Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys. This is what we are all about.
At the beginning of every term, we have a School Gathering which involves both the religious and the secular. In the Headmaster's portion of this Assembly, I welcomed Mrs Robertson as a new member of staff who will be helping us in the Geography Department. I also welcomed three new pupils to the School, namely James; Jamie and Hamish. I also welcomed the variety of short-term pupils joining us throughout the term, namely, Ignacio; Christoph; Louis; Antoine; David; Alfonso; Javier; Nathan and Andrés. I also welcomed Kabir from the Doon School, India. Kabir is going to be with us over the course of the term. The Doon School is widely regarded as the 'Eton of the East'. I will be returning to the issue of India later in this entry.
I also reminded the School of the huge number of activities that took place in the holidays, namely: the School skiing trip to Austria; the History Department trip to Berlin; the 1VII trip to the National Rosslyn Park VIIs, London; the Rugby Fives National Championship, London; the Pipe Band tour to France; and the Duke of Edinburgh Silver and Gold Award training. Co-curricular trips are an extremely important part of the Merchiston way of life. They teach young people valuable life skills and I am indebted to the staff for taking these trips during the holidays.
I also thought it was extremely important this morning to spend some time talking about the composition of Merchiston. We have 112 students in total from the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Brunei, China and Hong Kong, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Macao, Mexico, Mozambique, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tibet, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and the USA. Of course, Merchiston also educates both British students living abroad as well as some international students residing within the United Kingdom; these figures may not be exact but give a good indication of the multicultural Merchiston.
At the end of last term Mrs Hunter and myself, in addition to Mr Rider, the Director of Development, visited Hong Kong and Dubai. This is Mrs Hunter's and my third visit to Hong Kong and our first visit to Dubai. Yet again, we were staggered by the incredibly warm welcome we were given. We have always felt that it was important to visit as many different parts of Scotland, the United Kingdom, Europe, and indeed the world as possible to see the home countries from where boys travel to Merchiston to be pupils. It is interesting to note that Mrs Hunter and I made these journeys ourselves, as Mrs Hunter was born in Uganda, and travelled to and from the UK for senior school, and I was born in Kenya, and also travelled to and from the UK in a similar arrangement. So, amidst the Merchiston community, there will be many who have flown in recently; we appreciate how these students and their parents must feel. However, there is another benefit to Merchiston having so many different parts of the world represented within our community. It is my firm belief that in future years, many of the boys within the present Merchiston will be working outside of the UK and could well be working in the developing work economies of: Brazil; Russia; India; China; South Africa; the Far East or the Middle East. There is an acronym being used down south, namely HAM (Hindi, Arabic, Mandarin). The point of this acronym is that we are all being encouraged to be aware of the potential importance of the HAM countries. Every boy attending Merchiston needs to understand that is a smaller world now, and as young men, they have to be 'flexible, adaptable, and re-trainable'. Conversely, I also said to the School that those boys who enrich us by coming to Merchiston from all over the UK and the world must understand that they are attending a British boarding school; a Scottish School with a difference! In this vein, The Doon School, India has offered Merchiston the opportunity for a Merchiston boy to go on exchange to this fine school. I am also interested in Merchiston boys finding out more about India, as it would be extremely wise to do so.
The Chaplain, Reverend Blair, in his short discussion, also spoke about the Titanic and the role of a Merchistonian, Robert Norman on the ship's last journey. Robert Norman was a Merchistonian and a Scot going 'outwards'. I really recommend reading this article which was published during the holiday in the Scotsman.
Turning to another topic, it is always helpful producing for the boys in the School a 'Landscape of the Term' so that they can see the next few steps ahead of them. This term will be succinct and swift! This link to the Landscape proves this.
It is extremely important in schools to keep reminding boys and staff of what we are all trying to achieve together. It is important that these beliefs go up and down, down and up, left and right, right and left of the whole School. I took the opportunity to remind the School of our Mission Statement and the School's aims and vision. The boys and staff will both know that two of my favourite clichés are "Do what you do do well" and "Walk tall, walk straight, and look the world right in the eye". All of the readers of Headmaster's Headlines will remember that these are the titles of famous songs. Accordingly, these rhetorical questions spell it out so simply for the boys.
I requested that the Triumvirate and the Heads of Houses (Angus, Rupert, Angus, Edward, Philip, Richard, Chris and Nick) go through these points with the School; these young men are one of the many types of role models we try to provide to inspire other boys. Likewise, I always think that it is important to give boys simple 'anchor points'. Boys will know of my three core anchor points, namely "Try your hardest; make the most of your talents; look after each other". We started this morning's gathering by not only practising the School's song "Ready, Ay Ready" (in itself an anchor point) but the famous hymn "Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?" We concluded the morning with handshaking, an important symbol of welcoming each other back for the new term. We are well and truly under way!