5th June, 2018
Welcome back to readers of Headmaster’s Headlines. I appreciate that all of you as parents work hard but I hope that over the recent Bank Holiday weekend (our half term) that all members of the Merchiston community and family were able to enjoy some quality time together. And wasn’t the weather wonderful! Barbara and I spent three days working in Shenzhen, keeping an eye on this important project. This school is due to open at the end of August, and as I have indicated before, this is an important project for Merchiston in several ways: spreading the kitemark of Merchiston, Edinburgh; anticipating possibilities for pupils and staff from both schools; let alone if Merchiston, Shenzhen is successful, some funding returning to Merchiston, Edinburgh. We are indebted to the investors and especially a former Merchiston parent.
And joy of joys, from the point of view of the staff and the pupils, I cancelled this week’s Headmaster’s Assembly! This week, pupils in our First Form to Shell are doing practice internal examinations and we have our Fifth Form and Upper Sixth continuing public examinations in GCSE and A Levels respectively. It is important that all of our pupils have had the chance to recharge their batteries; let us not forget that some of our pupils sat public examinations under the Scottish system over half-term. The Fifth Formers continue the public examination period and certainly they are in the midst of a very challenging time. But I really hope that they managed to do something different over half term and to keep the revision ticking over. These pupils are doing really well and have completed the first patch. They are nearly there. But they really need to concentrate on this final patch! And for our Upper Sixth, they started their exam period on Monday and we wish each one of these pupils all the very best. Equally, for the rest of the School from the First Form to the Shell, doing practice internal examinations, I hope that they find this a valid exercise. Learning to like learning for learning’s sake is important and then one has to put this into practice in controlled, timed conditions. I have encouraged these pupils not be frightened but equally to take the exercise seriously. Each pupil should endeavour to achieve his Personal Best!
And it crossed my mind that Merchiston audiences may not have seen the update of our document called How Merchiston Nurtures the Learning and Teaching of Boys. We have improved this document and it is now called Empowering Learners. Please follow the link to the document if you would like to peruse it. We hope you find it helpful. We are not an exam factory. Indeed, in my view—and this is reinforced with evidence by the University of Durham CEM system which we participate in every year—data from here suggests that we are in the business of consistently outperforming expectation, and more than anything else this is due to outstanding learning and teaching. It is important in this very busy school that we continue to emphasise the primacy of the classroom and that academic work is at the heart of the total curriculum.
Just before half term we had some wonderful events both within and outwith the School. First, on the Wednesday night, Merchiston had the great pleasure and privilege of hosting the massed Pipes and Drums of the Scottish Combined Force’s Beating Retreat Ceremony 2018 on The Esplanade, Edinburgh Castle. This year was a return to this tradition and Merchiston was invited to host it! It certainly helped that it was an absolutely wonderful evening resplendent with sunshine, although with a chill in the air. Pupils represented Merchiston CCF (Merchiston and St George’s), Dollar Academy, Edinburgh Academy, ESMS, Fettes, George Heriot’s, Glenalmond, Loretto, Morrison’s, Robert Gordon’s, Strathallan and Queen Victoria. A former parent, Captain Tarr OBE, Royal Navy took the salute. Our staff were extraordinary in the preparation for this event and then the actual evening. Thank you to all of you in both the academic and support staff teams. We hosted a reception in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle afterwards, and I insisted that all of our pupils playing, yet also all of our CCF pupils who helped run the evening, were invited to the reception. And what a splendid venue! I am also particularly grateful to the housemaster who “bought into my idea” of taking along 8/9 of our younger pupils to be inspired by the event. Mind you, the offer of a fish and chip supper on an overspent Headmaster’s budget also helps!
Pictures by kind permission: Alan Rennie
On Thursday night, Barbara and I were unable to attend the second Beating Retreat at the Palace of Holyrood. Whilst this is a smaller more intimate event, our pipers and drummers really enjoyed it.
And then on the Thursday night, Barbara and I really enjoyed attending Exhibitions in Art and Design, Design and Technology and A Scientific Year in Gibson House. We enjoyed seeing the variety of work in all three departments and we are most grateful to all members of staff in these departments. Every department is important at Merchiston and we must also offer a variety of subjects in our curriculum for the different ages of our pupils. We do this. We also particularly enjoyed seeing other pupils in the School seeing the work of their friends and peers. Traditionally, it is compulsory for all pupils in the School to visit these Exhibitions.
Then we really enjoyed the Headmaster’s Commemoration Concert. It’s a tough ask crystallising everything that we might wish to listen to in a concert, which is not supposed to last any longer than an hour! There was again a tremendous variety and a depth of performance and quality of performance to the evening both amongst the groups and the soloists. Again, our thanks to all the staff in this important part of the school.
Moreover, thank you to all the parents who joined the School at all of these marvellous events.
And on Saturday afternoon, Barbara and I jumped on the buggy to do an inspection of the whole campus. We jumped off as we saw six pupils in the Electronics Lab working hard on their robot project for next week’s external competition alongside their mentor. We really enjoyed spending time with these pupils and their mentor and listening to the explanations of what they were doing. We were also struck by the House Clan Cricket Sixes involving pupils in Chalmers West and Chalmers East. We really enjoyed talking to the members of staff and the pupils, and indeed, watching the cricket in action. I thought that our pupils were extremely happy. The cricket was both competitive, fair and of a good standard.
And on Sunday morning, we had an experiment with a Voluntary Chapel Service. This spiritual occasion on the theme of “The path less travelled by 17 pupils and 6 members of staff!” saw The Chaplain lead us through a 20 minute service of reflection and candle-lighting of PATH: Praise, Admit, Thanks and Help. And actually, this was an example of the School reacting to the concept of “You said; we did.”
Let’s have a glorious second half of term!