“But to go to school in a summer morn,
O! It drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.” William Blake
I’m not sure I would agree with Blake having experienced school enrichment opportunities in these last two weeks but this week in particular the weather has been too hot and it is very noticeable the impact on staff and students. As my Year 8s reminded me in the canteen this morning “I bet it rains when it is the holiday”. The Sixth Form spent the night sleeping out in the school grounds as part of their work with Shelter Cyrmu. They certainly had the right weather for it although lots of bleary eyed and tired Year 12s this morning as I walked past them at 7am. One day starting, theirs beginning with sleep. One of my Year 10s this week said his summer holiday is largely based around sleep. The school has really had a wealth of experiences to enjoy these past two weeks with Sports Days, curriculum enrichment days, Year 10 Work Experience, the annual Fun Run, guest speakers in school, master class workshops, the list goes on. I definitely think Blake was wrong. Well, applied to students at Wyedean anyhow.
A number of parents have asked about ideas to make sure their children don’t get too bored and what they can do over the summer as a way of keeping their learning topped up. As a former Head of History I used to always make sure my students, not just exam classes, had a decent reading list to plough through over the summer. Much easy with say a Kindle these days than a suitcase full of AJP Taylor and Alan Bullock being dragged to the Dordogne. Anyhow, there are some websites below that may be of use. I am not recommending Pokémon Go, largely because I don’t understand the chaos seen say in Central Park in New York last week. My own kids love geocaching and spent last Sunday chasing clues around North Bristol.
25 ideas for students in the summer holidays
In education, in wider politics, we seem to be in more uncertain times as we go into the summer and look ahead to a new academic year. The appointment of Justine Greening by Theresa May as the new Secretary of State for Education was largely welcomed by the profession especially because of her own comprehensive school background. Frankly, I just want an Education Secretary committed to education with the highest aspirations for all students no matter where he or she went to school. Having worked in both the independent and state sectors, wanting the best for students tends to be the same. The reported focus on new grammar schools as a first announcement isn’t the most pressing issue in education right now for many school leaders and teachers. The new Prime Minister did seem to offer a focus on supporting all sections of society in her first speech from the steps of 10 Downing Street. Time will tell. Our kids will still need an education full of skills, values, knowledge and understanding that will allow them to take their place as global citizens in a globalized 21st Century society.
I had a full experience of this on Monday when we took the Year 10 Critical Thinking students to the East End of London to work with Newham North Mosque community and the staff and students of Forest Gate School. My deepest and heartfelt thanks to all those who organised this event and hosted us especially one of our Wyedean parents, Mr Mike Peckham. It was a pure privilege to witness the dialogue and discussions between these two very different communities living in the UK. Days like these make you so glad you are an educator and in the job you do as groups of Gloucestershire/Monmouthshire and East London teenagers deal with the senseless nihilism of say the recent Bastille Day-Nice atrocity or the daily violence in Iraq and Syria. I am so proud of the students and staff of Wyedean School and cannot thank parents and governors enough for their support of what we do to allow days like Monday to happen. This project will continue into next year. Moldova next summer for these students too as we aim to finally visit our partner school in Chisinau.
My first year as Head appears to echo FDR’s famous words and to continue in a nautical theme we also don’t develop ourselves by hugging the coast line afraid of sailing across the sea to discover new worlds. There have been challenges to face in my first year but as I told staff in briefing last Monday, in my twenty second year of teaching this has to be one of the best. I am exhausted but have driven home every day across the Severn to Bristol already looking forward to the next day in school. I work with some extraordinarily talented students and people every day. I have a holiday with my family planned and certainly lots to read over the next few weeks (a biography on Theodore Roosevelt – distant cousin to FDR) but with August exam results, UCAS clamour for places and then the 1st September return I am excited about the new academic year and the promise of what is to come. Have a great summer and see you in the autumn for the new academic year.