From the desk of the Head Master 12 January 2018
I hope very much that everyone enjoyed a restful and happy time over Christmas and that the return to school has not been too painful for your sons.
Much as it was a great delight to spend lots of time with our three lovely children over the holiday, by the end I had gained a deeper understanding of a particular lyric in one Christmas classic, ‘and mum and dad can hardly wait for school to start again.’ And so here we are.
The week has gone smoothly, possibly helped by having the U5 and U6 securely contained in the sports hall, taking their trial examinations; perhaps not the most enjoyable start to 2018, but a very important part of their year nonetheless. We received news from Oxford and Cambridge universities midweek and I am very delighted to report that 17 of our boys secured offers; we have Oxbridge records dating back to 1986 and this figure breaks all of them (and one venerable colleague has gone on record to say these are the best results since 914AD). This is stunning and everyone here is very proud. There are however, and inevitably, many who will be disappointed not to have secured offers and will need our support and encouragement in the weeks ahead. But for every boy in that year, and whatever their intentions come September, 2018 needs to see them at their very best. I really want this year's results to be our best ever and, more importantly, to see every boy reach his potential.
Having binge-watched The Crown Series 2 over the break, I shared with our remaining year groups in this week’s assembly, my reflections on how the world has changed since the 1950s and how much it will have changed by the time we arrive at 2050. So, whilst thinking about the past and the future, I was intrigued this week to be sent a parcel from the archive team of the Welsh Railway Research Circle. They had been donated a bundle of documents which, curiously, included a book containing handwritten records of minor disciplinary sanctions meted out to a hapless Warwick School L4th Form (LIVB) in the mid-1960s. It is dog-eared and crumbling, but the contents are just legible and quite captivating.
Warwick School must have been a very different place back then. One gets the sense that the boys were quite naughty and their teachers quite pernickety – an unhappy combination. Teachers were evidently able to consign boys to detention using the one critical word that explained anything and everything; ‘disobedience.’ If things were even more serious, this might worsen to ‘flagrant disobedience’. A boy having ‘dirty hands’ seems to have been a pretty common reason for a detention as well.
Some glorious archaisms that stand out are: forgetfulness, uncontrollable giggling, causing a nuisance, book maltreatment, stupid question (my personal favourite), unnecessary theatre, idle work, yawning too loudly, and there is one boy who seems to have fallen off his chair rather a lot – on purpose one assumes.
But in other ways, the boys whose minor misdemeanours are recorded were not vastly different to their successors today. Any modern day teacher can also tell of the boys who, fairly regularly, ‘forgot to do their homework’, those who ‘left their books at home’ or those who just enjoyed a good chat at the back of the class.
But, just so we are all reassured, one can only come away with the impression that boys are much, much better behaved and teachers far more humane in 2018, thankfully.
Back to The Crown, one person who was of course key to the life of the young Queen was Sir Winston Churchill and many of his words of advice are as true to our current generation of boys as they were in advising her all those years ago; ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’ Let us hope that with good humour and hard work we can all work to making 2018 a vintage year.