Imagine my surprise when the girls of Year 5 presented via Santa the postman the Christmas card you see me holding here in the picture. “To Mr Wilding” it said. I have never, ever (forgive a failing mind, by the way) ever been presented with a card like this. As I opened it up, the hairs on the back of my neck bristled, as every child in the class had written a personal message wishing Mr Wilding a Happy Christmas or similar. Mrs Helen Phipps, our amazing school secretary at College followed up helpfully: “I did ask the girls for which Mr Wilding was the card intended, but they could not answer me”. Ouch. So whilst I am holding the said card in the picture, may I express on behalf of both Mr Wildings how grateful we are for these very kind thoughts, and my brother Hugh, in whose care the card now resides, also sends his thanks.
Throughout the term, the headteachers and the head of nursery lead their respective weekly bulletins with their words of the week. As a general observation, the higher up the school, the less written; all aim to give a particular insight into the age and stage of the pupils for whom they care, and so it can be no surprise that they tailor for their specific audience. Whether their message hits their expected audience is as much of a guess as mine was above. We hope so, but in the end whin knows?
At the same time, many of you are kind enough to click on the Academic Principal’s blog button, and catch up on my wider musings, or switch over to Facebook to view our offerings there, or perhaps jump to @clairescourt and our other Twitter channels to read what the news looks like in short form, or perhaps bounce back to the school’s main website to see the regular and rapidly moving newsfeed on your children’s achievements. Often we appear to have ‘too much’ happening, so you need to be selective in what and where you browse.
That’s where the Court Report comes in, our annual statement of achievements now in its third year. Every family should receive a hard copy of the Court Report with their eldest son or daughter when they come home from school this Friday, together with other end of term glories, such as grade cards, reports and other notices. The Court Report captures almost all of our measurables in easy to read format; you may need to take it gently because there is a lot to digest and I do want you to avoid ‘data indigestion’.
That’s true of us on the other two sides, be we teachers or parents. Everyone of my staff faces information overload, and our pupils need to be very careful that they don’t swap from the real world into the ‘virtual’ world; both can readily lose sight of the important things that need to be done come Monday. Indeed parents, pupils and staff went away at half-term, with a promise to turn off their devices and every intention to digitally detox. I have no doubt that Christmas will be made all the more enjoyable, on the one hand by being able to catch up with all your family and friends wherever they are in the world via Skype, and on the other by switching off the media stream and chilling out with all those near and dear to you at home in person. As a by-line, it’s interesting to note that France is to ban all mobile phones from schools in their entirety from September 2018.
With this in mind, I draw to your attention the important information of a police focus here in the UK on social media and child exploitation. We would like to take this opportunity to remind you that Thames Valley Police continue to investigate explicit videos that are distributed via social media, eg Snapchat, Instagram. If any such video is received by our children or indeed adults, the police must be informed and it must be deleted; if it is shown or passed on it is a criminal offence. Further advice for both children and parents about how to stay safe online is available on the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) command website: https://www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre/
If your child or a child you know has been affected by such a video they are encouraged to speak to parents / teachers / trusted adult /contact ChildLine on 0800 1111 for further support.
One of our amazing school leaders, Andy Giles who runs the Sixth Form, is choosing to lighten his load more than somewhat, by stepping down into retirement at the end of August. His deputy Stephanie Rogers is rising to take charge in his place next September, and further appointments to support this change will be announced in the New Year. We have already announced other leadership developments, with Justin Spanswick joining me to work more corporately and Dean Richards joining us from Hampton Prep School in his stead. Such activity is multiplied manyfold by the wide and diverse nature of the staff professional development undertaken here. With 400 staff, it’s a tall order for us to find the time and place for it all, so almost inevitably we now have substantial amounts of CPD delivered on-line and remotely.
January 2018 heralds other developments for Claires Court, as our new first aid training centre, led by Jane Webster, School Nurse at Junior Boys, builds capacity to cover all of our many First Aid, Sports Aid, even Mental First Aid needs. Our teacher training escalates apace, and familiar faces will be seen in new roles as knowledge, skills and understanding are built further. We will also be in touch for your support behind our longer term plans for our new campus, due for submission shortly and for determination in the first half of 2018.
I close my end of term report with the words written by former pupil, Dr Paul Zeun who joined Claires Court when aged 11 and left Year 13 in 2005 bound for medical school. He wrote to me on Monday, the day it was announced that “the defect that causes the neurodegenerative disease Huntington’s has been corrected in patients for the first time” by a research team at UCL. Paul joined the team in April this year, after 7 years of work culminating as a neurology registrar in Southampton. “Today is a hugely exciting day in our department as for the first time, this drug has been able to reduce the amount of the faulty protein (mutant huntingtin protein) that is known to be the cause of the disease and it has been shown to have been safe so far. This paves way for a larger study that based on the above, has significant promise for being the first drug to effectively treat Huntington’s disease and slow/stop progression. It is an absolute delight and privilege to be a small part in such a brilliant research group at an incredibly exciting time for HD research”.
Paul concluded “I wanted to email you because it reminds me of how fortunate I am that I was afforded such a fantastic start in life at Claires Court and how grateful I am that you and all my teachers gave me the skills and opportunities I needed to have such a rewarding and fulfilling career to date.”
Such messages of thanks from former pupils are among the many things that keep me and so many of my colleagues here keen and motivated to come to work each day. Even more inspirational is the extraordinary support today’s parents and pupils have given us during this last term. As the end of 2017 beckons, let’s remember our good fortune to have been able to share so much – we are indeed fortunate and my brother and I thank our lucky stars each day that we lead this school at a time of such opportunity.
In case my dear readers though that besuited Principals are the only images to be seen, other pictures of my good self at Christmas time are available.
Best wishes one and all.