Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.

I think we all know that Henry Ford invented the Model T Ford, indeed brought motoring to the masses, 15 million of them to be precise!  What I like about the Henry Ford story is that he was a self-made man; born and brought up on a farm, he was clearly acquainted with hard-work.  His mother died when he was 12, an event which evidently inspired young Henry to live his life as his mother would have wished. During his adolescent years, he used his interest in things mechanical to mend friends’ and neighbours’ watches, though his deeper interest was in developing things mechanical to take the hard-work out of farming using animal labour. At the age of 17 he moved to the nearby city of Detroit to be apprenticed as a mechanic.  15 years later, now married and experienced in both engineering and the ‘new’ electricity, he made his first mechanised quadricycle. For the next 6 years and 2 failed companies, he built and raced his cars to gather sufficient publicity for his enterprise. At the age of 45, he designed and built the Model T Ford, at 50 the mechanised production line that revolutionised manufacture around the world.  He lived to the grand old age of 83, and an icon of the self-made man, an industrialist who continued to care for the common man. Just when you think that his life-story was all good, it must be said his anti-Semitic views were given much publicity by his profound wealth in the 1920s, and will have stoked some of the fires that if nothing else, blinded those Stateside that needed to see the growing threat to Jews across the world, most particularly of course in Nazi Germany.

Let’s be clear about Ford’s success; in the late 19th century, a University education did not lead to manufacturing success. As now, most of the entrepreneurial success stories came from visionary adults who built their craft skills and understanding of the technological breakthroughs of the day to meet humanity’s needs. It’s all very well to think of the ‘market’ as being the driving force behind Ford’s ambitions, but his legacy of hardwork indicates that it was more than fickle opinion that created 15 million reliable motor cars! He married young, built his own farm and barn, clearly had his wife, Clara’s support as his ideas grew and collapsed in financial disarray before he eventually broke through.  You’ll find a similar pattern in Steve Job’s life story, another remarkable American who died last week. His company published this on their website “Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius and the world an amazing human being”.  Amen to that.  You can’t move in this 21st century without being touched by Job’s remarkable inventions, though it’s worth bearing in mind that neither of these men reached the summit without being part of a peer group that worked for that greater good of humanity as well.

And this is where our school comes in to play, as it is one of my jobs as Academic Principal to create and develop an environment within which boys and girls can develop as successful learners.  So that’s not just about creating an academic environment in which great grades can be achieved, but a culture which values diversity within achievement so that others whose strengths lie in the creative or idiosyncratic are also encouraged and supported too. That marks our school out as very different in the Eastern Thames valley, where good schools are synonymous with a selective entry, and a focus on league table position. Now whilst I’ll move heaven and earth to ensure our school is seen to the best in Maidenhead for academic achievement, there is so much more that we strive to achieve in terms of culture and atmosphere. And there is no better example of this happening in our community than the great school events we host, such as last weekend’s Olympic Bonfire night & Fireworks.  Yes Star fireworks are contracted to add their blitz to the blaze, 2010s Firework company of the Year, and well done them. But we would not have had an event without the hardwork of adults coming together voluntarily to put the ‘show’ together, which included super team work from bands, and pupils, and teams and families, without whose efforts we would not have had great guys and amazing pumpkins.

We’re currently processing the pictures taken on the day, but you can get some measure of the success of the show from this simple video I took using a Flip camera –  The music comes from Chariots of Fire (Vangelis) plus John Williams’ Olympic Fanfare. As you watch it, consider too the work of rather better modern day film makers than me, boys I taught at Claires Court, Christian Colson and Toby Hefferman. Christian is best known as the producer of Slumdog Millionaire, for which he received numerous awards including the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and BAFTA Award for best picture. Toby is somewhat younger, just rising to first assistant director on movies such as Pirates of the Carribean; On Stranger Tides and Clash of the Titans 2.  Here’s a snip of Toby talking through his work on a previous title, Quantum of Solace –  Now it’s true to say that Christian was first an academic achiever and then a film maker, but Toby just went straight to film and has worked blisteringly hard ever since.  And like Mr Ford, whose quote I headed this piece with, Toby continues to work hard on all things, which brings him into contact with Claires Court.

As I lead the review of Claires Court’s development plan for the next 5 years, at the heart of our provision must remain the strength of resolve for our pupils for which we are renowned, namely to build confidence and self-esteem, to equip with  a range of  life-skills and to provide a modern relevant education from which develops a love of learning and an understanding of the need for care and consideration for others. And there is nothing more important than the combination of legacy of world greats to inspire us, and the proximity of the talented pupils, both past and present, who know what our school really stands for and causes them to thrive.  I’ll close with a second quotation, this one from Steve Job’s, and a nice one to inspire every young man and women as they come to work in our school.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary”.

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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