Headmaster’s Headlines

Headmaster’s Headlines

13th June, 2018

Welcome back to readers of Headmaster’s Headlines. First, many, many congratulations to Sikai, who celebrated his ninth birthday today! Personally, I wish I was nine again!

Periodically we look at Photos of the Week at Headmaster’s Assembly and it was a pleasure to invite Mrs Ehsan to give us some feedback on a selection of Photos of the Week. This is because we are running up to the Headmaster’s Photography Competition! All Photos of the Week are automatically entered for the competition and one of our best freelance professional photographers nominates the winners!

Merchiston Picture of the weekThis photo of a squirrel, by Felix, is an impressive wildlife shot and captures the playfulness of the squirrel and the bright colours of autumn.








Merchiston Picture of the weekMax has created a sci-fi feel in this eye-catching long exposure shot, highlighting the Rubik’s Cube while the background fades into darkness.






Merchiston Picture of the weekThis low-angle photograph by Rory of the National Monument of Scotland emphasises the strength and power intended by the monument, and cleverly hides its state of incompletion.







We also enjoyed seeing the images of a small selection of other photos which have been submitted to Photo of the Week throughout the year. I also liked the image I received from our Head Groundsman in the Spring!



And the Chaplain gave us a fascinating address at the beginning of Headmaster’s Assembly on a 14-year-old from Texas winning the SCRIPPS National Spelling Bee trophy after correctly spelling “koinonia”! Now all of us will know that “koinonia” is a well-used word in Merchiston.

This spelling bee included a record-breaking 515 contestants aged 8 to 15! I am sure all of our pupils at Merchiston know how to spell koinonia! But the Chaplain reminded us that koinonia, in other words “Teamwork with the Community”, depends on actually living it and doing it for real, which neatly tied into our hymn:

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love.
Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there is despair in life, let me bring hope.
Make me a channel of your peace,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

Merchiston Beating RetreatWe had a bumper Headmaster’s Assembly! First, I thanked and congratulated the pupils from our Pipe Band and the pupils of our CCF who helped to ensure that the Merchiston-hosted Massed Pipes and Drums of the Scottish Combined Cadet Force’s Beating Retreat Ceremony 2018 on the Esplanade, Edinburgh Castle, was such a success. Moreover, on the evening I caught sight of some of our younger pupils who were invited to attend the event to be inspired by it! Thank you for Mr Ogilvie-Jones, the Housemaster of Chalmers West, for buying into my idea. Mind you, the offer of a fish and chip supper for the pupils and Mr Ogilvie-Jones on a badly overspent Headmaster’s budget also helps!
Since I had not spoken to the School in person for two weeks, because they had more important things to concentrate on last week, I did thank members of the School for the work for the Exhibitions of Art and Design, Design Technology, A Scientific Year in Gibson House, let alone the Headmaster’s Commemoration Concert.
Secondly, the concept of Headmaster’s Distinctions. The Headmaster’s Distinction is intended to recognise outstanding academic achievement in a piece of work, and is available to any pupil from Fourth Form upwards. The Headmaster awards a Distinction for a piece of work that has been nominated by a teacher and ratified by the Head of Department. It is then submitted to the Academic Leadership Team who, after discussion, will submit it to the Headmaster for final approval. Given the high standards required, it is anticipated that these awards will be made infrequently. A Distinction can be awarded for a single piece of work which is of a very high standard, and could be published on the school website and in The Screens; it should be something which goes beyond the standard that would be anticipated in a pupil of that age.
So on Tuesday, we honoured and recognised the Lower Sixth pupils who over the course of the year have completed voluntarily the Cecil Stagg Extension Projects – these are impressive studies on a chosen topic of interest and we encourage every Lower Sixth pupil to consider tackling one, to develop individual academic ability and as a way to advertise their unique ability when applying to university at the start of Upper Sixth.
The number of projects this year has been particularly impressive, and I thank the staff for the support of the pupils in their work, and in particular the Cecil Stagg Project supervisors, Mr Newham, Mr Lucas and Dr Mayoh.
11 pupils in total completed quality projects this year, from a starting cohort of 19. These projects addressed an impressively wide range of subject areas.
Six pupils completed projects with a scientific theme. Three of these related to medicine: congratulations to Benjamin who wrote about the Human Heart, Steven who investigated the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence on medicine, and Charles who wrote about challenges facing the NHS. Meanwhile, in the broader scientific field, Ben explored the implications of quantum mechanics for Cyber Security, Jack investigated Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Kaixin undertook a study of aspirin.
Merchiston boysFive pupils undertook studies in a Humanities subject. Riley and Hamish both explored themes of historical military setback – Riley asked why the British struggled in the Boer War; and, in part inspired by his participation in the recent school trip to the country, Hamish explored why the Americans failed to stem the spread of Communism in Vietnam. Charles turned to contemporary politics, addressing a theme with particular resonance at the moment, by investigating the mechanisms by which North Koreans become aware of the outside world. Alex took inspiration from a lecture he attended at the INEAD Summer School last year and looked into the role of context in culture, particularly as a consideration in business management and negotiation; and finally, Rory completed an impressive study of behavioural economics.
So, many congratulations to Benjamin, Steven, Charles, Ben, Jack, Kaixin, Riley, Hamish, Charles, Alex and Rory.
I reminded the School that this Society is not a prescriptive, exclusive society. Yes, it is about stretching the able and talented, but I reminded the School that every single one of us has an ability which can be maximised. Again, this School is all about finding those hidden nuggets of ability, and I urged members of the School that if they wished to be considered, to knock on the doors of Mrs Vaughan and Mr Newham for they will always be listened to.
We then moved to congratulating developing leaders. Many at Merchiston have heard me on so many occasions extol the importance of leadership, teamwork and mentoring. Each one of us has our “L plates” on with regards to this journey. But it was a pleasure to congratulate next year’s Heads of Houses and Deputy Heads of Houses alongside the really important people in this school, namely the Housemasters.

Merchiston boysLaidlaw South
Head of House – Matthew (also Vice-Captain of School) and Deputy Head of House – Rory (also Senior Prefect Academic Liaison).



Merchiston boysLaidlaw North
Head of House – Logan and Deputy Head of House– Timothy.




Merchiston boysEvans
Head of House – Charles and Deputy Head of House – Stuart.




Merchiston boysRogerson
Head of House – Marcus and Deputy Heads of House – Owain and Riley.




Merchiston boysChalmers East
Head of House – Lachlan and Deputy Head of House – Dan.




Merchiston boysChalmers West
Head of HouseChristopher (also Vice-Captain of School) and Deputy Head of House – Fin.




Merchiston boysPringle
Head of House – Daniel (also Co-Leader of International Students’ Forum) and Deputy Head of House – Charlie.




I always think that this is such a fascinating school. And we are passionate about the education of boys. Mrs Hunter and I have loved watching the pupils in action in their learning and teaching, let alone the huge co-curricular programme, and how they develop as people. It is magical. But to be fair, I also think that Merchiston depends on the magic of, to coin a TV programme, the “location, location, location” of Edinburgh, otherwise known as an “attack brand”. Moreover, the links with our sister schools, St George’s and Kilgraston, are mighty important. I urged the pupils to jump on that Merchiston Number 10 Bus of Opportunities to those Kilgraston Sixth Form Society evenings. I believe that some of our pupils are missing a trick. But if we return to “location, location, location”, many a pupil has an individual and specialised talent and this talent can be developed because of the location of Merchiston, Edinburgh. So, here’s one.
You may have heard about the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Junior Conservatoire, Glasgow. A young Merchistonian called Andrew attended the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Junior Conservatoire, Glasgow every Sunday in term time from Chalmers West upwards. Essentially, this means one is at School for seven days a week! Andrew is now at the University of Oxford reading English. James-Lachlan in our Upper Sixth has also attended this Conservatoire every Sunday since James-Lachlan joined us in the Lower Sixth. James-Lachlan has received an unconditional offer from Vancouver Film School, one of the top film schools in the whole world! That is James-Lachlan’s Oxbridge!
Merchiston boysI am delighted that I played a very small part in recommending to one of our developing photographers, Patrick, that he should consider applying to this Conservatoire. He was invited to an audition and the panel was very impressed with Patrick’s audition and gave the following feedback:
“Very passionate about chosen film. It was a bold move not to pick a narrative feature film but you spoke with such clear passion for the topic and the film that it all worked in your favour.”
Many congratulations to Patrick.

Merchiston boysIn cricket, the 1XI has progressed to the final of the T20 Scottish Schools Cup after beating Loretto by 24 runs. Douglas scored 68 off 55 balls, Thomas 43 and Jamie 28 not out off just 12 balls. Robert picked up 3 for 20 in his 4 over spell, in addition to taking 4 wickets on Saturday against Strathallan. The 1XI also won against Strathallan. Co-Captain of Cricket, Tom, scored his maiden century for the 1XI (111 not out) in a 124 run victory. It was a patient and disciplined knock after two early wickets. Well done indeed to Tom and Robert.

There were also wins against Strathallan for the U15As, U15Bs, U14As, U14Bs, Pringle 1XI, U12As and U11As. The U11As and U11Bs lost against Cargilfield. The U9s won against St Mary’s and lost against Ardvreck.

Merchiston boysMoving to athletics, there were some excellent performances at the SSAA Scottish Schools Championships including a number of Personal Bests. This was one of the strongest performances on the track in recent years with a number of pupils reaching finals. This is a very strong competition with Club athletes on show. Many congratulations to Robbie who won two bronze medals in the U14 shot and discus. Robbie has also a broken a record! Robbie threw 12.37m, which has broken the U14 shot-put record which was set in 1997 by B J Dunnett, with a distance of 11.71m. Arran broke the U15 200m time which was set in 1970 by MD Scott with a time of 24.6. MD Scott’s time, which has stood for 48 years was 24.7. So well done indeed for Robbie and Arran.
Merchiston boysMoving to tennis, the U18s were crowned Tennis Scotland Scottish Schools Champions for the eighth time in ten years. They came through a challenging semi-final against Beaconhurst and a final against the High School of Glasgow, and they did this without conceding a tie. Really well done to these pupils, and what we have noticed so often is that other schools treat a fixture against Merchiston as a Cup Final. That’s how it should be! So our pupils now progress to the National Finals later in the summer. So, congratulations to Jacob, Matthew, Johannus, Charlie and Alex.

First, in terms of last week, I really liked it that all of the pupils in our First Form to Shell were doing their internal practice examinations. Metaphorically speaking, they sat alongside our Fifth Form (and chapeau to our Fifth Form who have done so, so well in their long stretch), let alone our Upper Sixth, who started their first week of public examinations. The week had a real sense of “calm purposefulness” or “purposeful calmness”! There is an important process going on now, namely the pupils in the First Form to Shell receiving feedback on their performance. That is an essential part of learning and improving and that’s why we moved the dates of the internal examinations to ensure that this part of the process receives its due attention. And that fits very neatly with one of my favourites, namely, 4Ps, which we can apply to all aspects of life! Practise purposefully! Persist! Perform! And then start all over again! Practise purposefully! Persist! Perform.

Secondly, last Friday when Mrs Hunter and I spent time on the boundary, we were wowed by the demeanour of Merchistonian, Chris Sole, Scotland Cricket, who with his shoulders back, outstretched hand of friendship, and a wonderfully engaging smile, spent 20 minutes talking to us about his fledgling cricket career with Hampshire, bowling at 90mph (that’s rare), let alone the progress of the cricket career of his younger brother, Tom, Merchistonian, with Northamptonshire and Scotland as he develops his off-spin. I reminded the School that how we all come across to each other is so important. And we really enjoyed seeing the Pakistan Cricket Team training here last week, and then many pupils went on the trip to The Grange to watch Scotland Cricket playing England! Chris played his part in the victory, as did Mr Evans, who coaches many pupils here on a weekly basis. As ever, thank you to all the staff who took many pupils to this event over the weekend and for all the other wonderful activities that happen in this school.

We look forward to the final few weeks of term where there are a number of residential and day trips heading off to many different locations, and I am sure that each and every member of the School will have a wonderful time, making the most of the opportunities given to him!

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