“January is like the Monday of the months” “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year” Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s not even close to the supposedly worst day of the year, Blue Monday, which takes place on the third Monday of January. Personally I have never had too many issues with the month of January and the first day back after the break students and staff seemed fine with being back in school and picking up where we left off just before Christmas. Year 11s have just completed their Sixth Form taster days in school and Year 12s are beginning their formal mocks. This term sees a lot of reporting and follow up consultation evenings and it is a great opportunity to meet and discuss with parents the progress of their child as well as what we can all do work together to further support students.

I was invited to a meeting in Bristol on Friday with a small number of principals and CEOs across the South West to talk with the National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, and the SW Regional Schools Commissioner, Rebecca Clarke. Sir David is an astonishing educator not just because of his work at Cabot Learning Federation or as the RSC for the SW but the work he has done at a national level on school improvement. Someone told me recently that Sir David was “the smartest person in the room”. As I listened to him make sense of current education policy in a very honest but positive way on Friday I thought to myself he is probably the smartest person in every room. It was a real pleasure and privilege for Wyedean School to be invited to this round table dialogue. As I left the busy Friday afternoon city centre and drove home up the M32 to North Bristol the thoughts in my head from the dialogue kept echoing around how much we are doing on the right things at Wyedean to improve education and life chances for all of our students.

My colleagues in the Music department were phenomenally busy throughout December participating in events throughout the community and this week they are involved in a special ten week masterclass course for Year 8s through the music hub initiative based in Gloucester. It is sad to hear of schools where the curriculum has been reduced really to a set of basic skills and no real breadth of curriculum in exciting and creative subjects because they no longer exist for that school. Students need all sorts of intellectual challenges and wider curriculum exposure and I am proud to say that Wyedean School has been asked to speak about its global education and learning at the World Education Conference in London on the 26th January. This is the largest gathering of education ministers and policy makers from around the World at a special event sponsored by the British Council. On the 1st Feb we will be speaking at a Classics/Latin conference at the University of Bristol about the development of the subjects in the curriculum at Wyedean School – not a normal thing for a state school and my colleagues, students and parents know the enrichment and intellectual curiosity this has brought since we started the initiative. On Saturday 7th January Y12 student Joshua Hicks competed in ‘Champions of Tomorrow 2017’, a national Latin and Ballroom championships in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens. Year 12 student, Joshua Hicks, and his new partner, Sophie Hayward, competed in the U35 Novice Latin and Ballroom championships – winning both. To win both disciplines at national championships is a huge achievement – something that hasn’t been achieved for a decade. Joshua and Sophie were the youngest competitors in the U35 category, aged just 16, and from score sheets they were unanimously the judge’s champions. As a result of their achievements Joshua and Sophie are now part of Latin and Ballroom history – Roll of Honours. To add to this triumphant achievement Joshua and Sophie, who are part of the Dance Associations National League (NL) are currently top U35 Ballroom and Latin dancers in the league. Due to this Joshua and Sophie will compete in the National League Championships in July, hoping to take the NL title. This is by invite only – top 12 in the country will compete.

I have Spanish friends from a school I work with in Barcelona who have a tradition as the clock strikes midnight on the 31st December to eat as many grapes (or olives) as possible within the bongs to gain as many wishes for the coming year. I was very tempted to try this one out this New Year’s Eve looking at the prospect of 2017. My wife nearly bought “I survived 2016” t shirts. The long walk with the dog, family and German visitors on the first day of the year made me think though more about what I hoped and wanted for from 2017. Trump and Brexit are two things that we are going to live with and get used to so I have decided not to dwell too much on this. It was the words of Michelle Obama that gave me hope as an educator in her last public speech as First Lady when she said:

“Lead by example, with hope not fear” and she urged young people to work hard and get a good education. Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt, add another to the Pantheon. Over to you Ivanka.

I know education funding will get worse, not better and that education policy will continue to be confusing as schools and educators try to see the strategy around MATs, academies and grammar schools. I hope we really do see the development of a “shared society” as the UK goes forward. But leading with hope and not fear means continuing our day to day education in this small corner of the borders that challenges and equips our young people effectively to deal with their ever changing complex World. That’s my 2017 resolution. Have a great year ahead.


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