The Head's Blog

Monday 28 September 2015

"Kia Ora."

"Gidday" is the response.

So begins my welcome to rugby players from Sydney Grammar School. We're hosting them for a couple of days during their tour of the UK. Here's a great opportunity to reciprocate that famous Aussie hospitality given to our boys on their tour over the summer to the Antipodes.

At School Council a review of the length of lessons is requested. Council member Mike Temporal Darell, 5th Year, holds his own while promoting the virtues of lessons of 45 minutes. It's interesting to observe other members of Council coming up with lots of the reasons we went for 55 minutes some 5 years ago. No need for me to interfere, the debate runs along very convincingly. It feels to me that we've only just changed the timetable (and let go Saturday morning lessons) but I realise that a change, even if significant, is only a five minute wonder for a bit. It's not long before those coming along afterwards feel the time is ripe to consider a review and this is always refreshing - although 55 minute lessons will remain for the foreseeable future… There was no support when I suggested the time, if we did go to 45 minutes, might be made up on Saturday morning. Stunned silence…

There was also a request for nicer smelling soap in the loos…

Saturday 26 September 2015

World Cup Fever abounds. Goodness – what an outcome Wales v England! Time to remind everyone of the competition waiting in the wings, although the focus of this weekend is really Abingdon v Eton.

Thursday 24 September 2015

I step into the refurbished Amey Theatre for the first time, a far cry from the demolition site of previous weeks. Although the place has had a massive makeover, and this is obvious in the new seating, carpet etc, the real work has gone on behind walls, under floors, and above the perilously sloping ceiling which houses all the lighting. Year 3 parents are here for a social evening with housemaster and tutors. I tell them that the seating is certainly a vast improvement. Previously the textile armrests harboured all sorts of detritus, ancient and modern… it doesn't really bear thinking about. Moving swiftly on, Dr Paul Gooding shapes what life in Middle School looks like before parents set out for their houses.

Each house is very different. There's the house which is known as the "gentleman's house", apparently because of the acres of studded leather sofas, the coffee table with interesting books atop, boys' bags in rows on shelves, nothing out of place. Then there's the house which is a bit of an outpost, tucked out of sight and ever threatened with demolition. Intrepid parents here have moved their party out onto the tiny patch of lawn, apparently eeking out an Indian summer… (it's freezing). The walls of perhaps the most gracious houseroom are adorned with huge portraits of boys on their travels accompanied by a certain mascot who pops up in every photograph. I'm not convinced that there's only one mascot, such is the extent and frequency of the travels, and how come this mascot hasn't managed to go missing in any lost baggage? I search and search for the gathering of one particular house, but the place is in darkness. Not sure where that party ended up. However, I can see that all the gatherings are going well and parents can get a feel for the space in which their sons spend so much time.

Monday 21 September 2015

Up pop recent school leavers, including some about to turn around and return to university in the UK, OAs who've been in Hong Kong in established careers for some years, the parents of boys boarding and prospective parents.

Outside – no typhoon, demonstrations or even worse traffic than usual to thwart the arrangements for our annual reception. OAs sport an array of Abingdon ties and as the evening progresses, the volume of conversation rivals that of the gathering next door being held by another UK boys' school.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Interviews continue downstairs but I'm now up on the 34th floor and hosting brunch for a number of guests, all mothers as it happens. It's a light-hearted and very enjoyable occasion with a backdrop of spectacular views across to Kowloon. Happily, this year we seem to have avoided the annual typhoon but traffic jams continue unabated as a feature of Hong Kong life.

Saturday 19 September 2015

The third floor of the Excelsior Hotel is turned over to Academic Asia. On rows of seats outside large closed doors, rather nervous looking children are seated with equally anxious parents alongside. Immaculately turned out and determined to present themselves at their very best, their turn to be interviewed by Tom Ayling, former Second Master and stalwart of all things Hong Kong, or Graeme May, Deputy Head Academic, soon comes around. But help and reassurance are at hand. Each family is ushered through the door by OAs, or former parent Eileen Yu, to be greeted by Jane Jorgensen, Director of Admissions and Marketing. Graeme and Jane are now well into their second week out and about, having recently touched down in Hong Kong from visits to Shanghai and Beijing. Parents look after us over dinner at the Jockey Club and it is a very happy evening indeed as friendships are renewed.

Friday 18 September 2015

Arrive in Hong Kong on the overnight flight from Heathrow for a three night visit – so fleeting. I mistakenly have breakfast on the plane not remembering that shortly after landing it would be straight on to dinner. It's early evening here but I feel I have the whole day ahead. Dinner is hosted by Academic Asia for the Top Schools event. It's very nice sitting next to Battie Fung who runs the show and interesting seeing which UK schools are here. Lots of familiar faces – the drive to place Hong Kong families with schools in the UK is a huge and serious matter locally. Some five days of interviews are to take place and much will ride on this process if the right school place is to be secured.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

It's good to see so many parents here for the beginning of year reception. Many have patiently worked their way through the Abingdon traffic and managed our change of venue at the last minute to cope with the numbers. The atmosphere is very congenial I think and I later talk about our role as parents, and how we might best make the most of this unique partnership between home and school.

Monday 14 September 2015

A quick turnaround from daily life at Abingdon and up to London for the annual Tatler Good Schools launch and awards. The sound level of the huge gathering of Heads and many other guests rises inexorably to fill the ballroom at the Dorchester. An early release from the rigours of the beginning of term? I hardly recognise the gathering, so many heads of my vintage have already moved on to life beyond school, and many look as though they're only just out of university…

Friday 11 September 2015

For the past three years the Chaplain and I have happily walked together up and down the chapel aisle, but tonight I'm left standing abandoned at the altar! Everything had gone as expected at boarders' chapel; the chaplain gave the blessing, and then off he went at a great pace down the aisle, before realising half way down that he'd forgotten me…

All is reconciled by the time we get to the boarders' welcome dinner. Heads of houses James Taylor, Darren Chow and Michael Mann, along with new boys Adewale Adebutu, Joshua Ooi and Harry Lei take turns with the change of each course to sit with me. I much enjoy the lively conversations.

Earlier, a very special ceremony for our scholars held in the chapel. Each scholar comes up to receive his tie from me, and Dr Burnand (Master of Scholars) says a little about the history of the scholarship (some go back way over the centuries). It's a lovely moment for the parents as each boy steps up for his acknowledgement.

Earlier posts