Thoughts: In this week's Headmaster's Assembly, we began by watching a slideshow of the recent School skiing trip, accompanied by the music of Coldplay. We also had several interesting presentations delivered by boys. First, we heard from Patrick and Michael with regard to the recent Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award practice expedition. There is a full account of this trip on the 'News' section of our website, but this trip alone illustrated the best examples of leadership, teamwork and cohesion, especially because one boy had been injured. He nevertheless completed the expedition, with the contents of his rucksack divided amongst the other boys! There is a view, and I think it is a correct one, that one can only be truly educated when one also has an understanding of Outdoor Education. I agree totally with this idea, and this weekend, the whole of Chalmers West will be out practising for their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Expedition.
Secondly, Benn gave a presentation on the success of Angus, Lewis and he, himself, in the recent National Fives Championships in London. It was a pleasure to congratulate them on the stage where they received their medals. I know for a fact that these boys often just go and practise for fun and work on becoming better players. So, I reminded the School of the mantra that it is 'cool to practise'! It is at this point that practice then becomes fun and not a chore. This applies to every activity, such as learning lines for a play, practising a musical instrument everyday, and even practising timed essays…
Congratulations: It was a pleasure to congratulate on the stage boys who participated in the Intermediate Mathematics Challenge 2012. The boys who entered this year's competition gained a total of 36 awards which is in keeping with the high rate of success we have experienced in recent years. Whilst the number of Gold awards was slightly down this time around, at 6, there were a gratifying 19 Silver awards earned, along with 11 Bronze awards. Gold awards were presented to Kirill (who is in Fourth Form, and as such is still eligible for the Junior Challenge); David; Ying; Drummond and Seamus. However, the best in the School was Joshua, whose score of 117 is very impressive. Only Tom Chow, a recent Old Boy (on Headmaster's Headlines last week) and William (currently in the Lower Sixth) have ever done better than this since Merchiston began to participate in the Maths Challenge. The next stage of the competition, the Maths Olympiad and the European Kangaroo, for which Joshua, Kirill, Ying and Drummond all qualified, took place towards the end of last term, and we await the results.
It was also a great pleasure to congratulate Michael on his GB selection in the Modern Pentathlon at U19 over the course of the holiday. The event was held in Sant Boi, Spain. Remember, Pentathlon consists of: fencing, swimming, riding and combined running and shooting! I also highlighted the School Cross Country event that took place at the end of last term. Over 250 boys ran in the event. It was an excellent occasion in which the School spirit was superb, marked by the seniors clapping the Chalmers boys through the final bend and the Chalmers boys clapping the seniors through their first bend. In Chalmers, Kyle came third; Tom second and Benn first. In the seniors, Douglas came third; Gavin second and Antoine came first and in the process set a new School record.
I also congratulated briefly the members of the Senior VII who reached the last 16 of the Rosslyn Park National Sevens Tournament at the beginning of the holiday. I believe in boys setting themselves personal bests on an individual level. It strikes me that one PB and the building up of a greater picture of PBs is the way forwards. However, one cannot win all of the time, or to put it another way, not everyone can win simultaneously! Rosslyn Park is interesting as it is a knockout tournament, and on day one, if one does not win all of one's group matches, effectively that is the 'end of the road'! It is a significant achievement (and one that has occurred before) that the boys reached the second day of the tournament (the last 16) at which stage they lost to Filton College a Bristol Rugby Academy.
Highlights: In addition to everything else that has already been covered in this entry, I have two further highlights. First, on Saturday night, Mrs Lucas in Mount Olympus hosted our first Masterchef competition for senior pupils; Pringle has been leading the way for a considerable time in this area. Fraser and Anton produced a menu of Borsch, Pork Schnitzel, Cucumber Salad and Eton Mess. Ben and Jeff produced a menu of Pancetta-wrapped Asparagus with Chinese Sesame Sauce, Stir Fried Turkey, Peppers and Japanese Noodles with a Soya-bean Milk Desert. However, the deserved winners were Sam and Ben who produced Thai Stir Fried Prawns and Chilli Dipping Sauce, Thai Green Curry and Key Lime Pie. I am so pleased that Mr Contini came and judged the competition as Mr and Mrs Contini run an excellent restaurant in the heart of Edinburgh on George Street called Centotre. Talking about winning, it is important that one wins, and to my knowledge it is the first time that Sam has been congratulated on the platform in his School career at Merchiston I look forward to seeing how these twins continue to fare and whether or not they decide to go into this field of work. I highlighted to the School that all of the boundaries have gone in terms of expectations of males and females! I am fascinated by how many males dominate the world of food on the television and the media, and how many males are successful in the world of fashion and textiles. At the same time, look how many females are outstanding Chief Executive Officers. It has all changed and rightly so! I refer to this aspect of the development of boys at Merchiston a little later. Masterchef has been a great success, and even the cynics in our midst acknowledge that this is not such a hare-brained idea and I genuinely believe that this compulsory component of being in the Upper Sixth at Merchiston will set the boys up better as modern men way after they have left Merchiston. There are other areas which we are also considering, including: budgeting; understanding inflation; understanding ISAs; sewing on a button and ironing a shirt. I know someone who is not particularly proficient at the latter two alone!
Secondly, the boys' Service led by the senior prefects on Sunday entitled "A Good Childhood" was a breath of fresh air. Undoubtedly, the Captain of School Angus yet again showed an interesting transferable skill. He allowed the team to have its say and input, but ultimately, he also led his peers. In my view, this is the most exacting form of leadership. We are aware of the fact that we are not videoing enough events, let alone 'podcasting', and many readers of Headmaster's Headlines follow us from a long way away. We have taken the liberty of scanning in the Service sheet for you, and in addition to this the three addresses by Edward, Nick and Angus. There are some interesting words. It is also important to note that we acknowledged in this Service the passing-away of Dr Karuna Chelliah, the founder of one of the boys' homes that we support in India. This boys' home is primarily for boys incapacitated by polio. We likewise acknowledged the passing away of Merchiston's oldest Merchistonian, Jimmy Allen. It was a great pleasure to welcome parents to drinks in Laidlaw House after the Service.
We have much to look forward to over the course of this week, namely: the Junior Maths Challenge on Thursday; our Upper Sixth Biologists beach field trip; the Upper Sixth Further Maths Rotational Dynamics Field Trip; the visit from an RAF helicopter on Friday; the first boarding-in weekend of the term this weekend and the Pringle Leadership weekend. There any numerous fixtures in cricket, golf and tennis in addition the Fourth Form parents meeting on Saturday.
So, to conclude, I find myself thinking that so much of this week's Headmaster's Assembly was involved with the area of transferable skills. Believe it or not, in Masterchef, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award activities, Sport and the leadership of the Senior Prefects, the skills being used are also used in the classroom and vice versa. Sometimes I think that we, in schools, need to realise the dynamic synergy that can exist between the co-curricular and the 'total curriculum' and the significance of the concept of transferable skills. Talking about the classroom, I urged the School to acknowledge and realise that this is an extremely important term. At the very least, the boys in the Fifth Form, the Lower Sixth and the Upper Sixth are playing for high stakes! In my view, they are entering a much more pressurised world than the world that I entered at their age. This does not mean that they should feel under pressure. However, they should heed the advice of their teachers and housemasters and they should work effectively and efficiently in the Spawforth Library. In time, those practice timed essays in the Spawforth Library will become routinely fun and enjoyable!
Readers of Headmaster's Headlines who live in the UK will have noticed that the weather for the beginning of the Summer term has been inauspicious. There are parts of the UK (not Scotland!) which are going through a drought, but we do hope for a better run of weather for the boys and their development in sport. However, let us look on the bright side of life; the trees in blossom on the campus look stunning.