“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” Bob Hope

I spoke to a group of colleagues a week ago who seemed to sum up my own feelings about this term; so much good has happened over the last few months at Wyedean School that we don’t want the term to end but at the same time staff and students are exhausted and cannot wait for the break for Christmas to re-charge batteries ready for January 2017. Both the Year 6 and Year 11 Open Evenings this term have been opportunities to again show off Wyedean School at its best to our local communities both sides of the river Wye. The huge increase in student applications is testament to the excellent teaching, the educational opportunities and the nurturing/caring learning environment at Wyedean School. This was validated completely with the Challenge Partners Review visit over 3 days in November as they looked at all aspects of the school. My English and Latin colleague, Julie Smith, contributed a significant article in December to the Times Educational Supplement (TES) on the development and approach of ongoing teacher training here at Wyedean. Baroness Royall, the former leader of the House of Lords, came to speak to students a few weeks ago and complimented them for being “confident, articulate and could challenge in a good way”. This incredible model of developing student leadership has been evident in a range of ways this term from the BTEC students who have set up and are running a commercial café in 6th Form, to the students who took part in creating the study/learning garden at the start of December to the critical thinking students who have debated Brexit, Syria and Trump with students in schools around the World over Skype and sat in Windsor Castle alongside eminent business and academics for the day in October debating a positive narrative for their generation.

The various Wyedean Warriors sports teams have enjoyed considerable success this term and you can read more in the school’s Dec 2016 newsletter on the website. The Music Dept has been heavily involved in the community supporting a range of concerts and events with their choirs and bands. I sat and watched them in St Mary’s Chepstow this week and was just amazed at the depth of talent and confidence our young people of this school have. Hearing John Denver’s “Country Road”, a particular family favourite of mine, being performed beautifully on the harp in that beautiful church will carry me through the cold and winter gloom of the January and February days when we return in 2017.

I know a lot of people who will be glad to see the back of 2016 for various reasons, a few reasons already referenced above. The national education picture both in England and Wales is probably one of the worst I can remember as an educator in terms of the funding crisis, PISA results in Wales and the recent green paper on education for England to name but a few. But I only have to walk around the school and see the energy and optimism of the staff and students. I know that the focus will continue in 2017 to be on giving these young people in our care the best educational environment to support and nurture their development to take their place in the World with hope and confidence. I invite you to see some of the things that your children have been doing this term in the December 2016 newsletter to see what I mean. We also post on Twitter, Facebook, school website etc daily the learning and enrichment that together with the curriculum makes Wyedean a beacon of educational excellence. In early January I have been invited to a special meeting with the National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, to talk about the experience of Wyedean and at the end of January I have the huge honour of being asked to speak in London at the invite of the British Council at the Education World Forum which is the world’s largest gathering of Education Ministers and policy makers. There will be plenty to talk about at both. We all need a positive narrative for 2017.

I wish you and your families a restful, enjoyable Christmas and a hopeful 2017.

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