In my final blog post of 2012 I thought I would pick out just five of the many, many highlights of the past year and reflect back on what they meant to me:
Royal Visits: I never thought that when I became Headmaster of the High School back in April 2007 that it would give me the opportunity to meet so many interesting and notable people. Amongst the many highlights over this time I have enjoyed meeting with Sir Garfield Sobers, Ken Clarke, Ed Balls, Des Colman and many more besides. However, by any standards, 2012 has been a particularly special year. Last summer both the Queen and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Nottingham. We were asked if they could land their helicopter on our fields and, of course, we agreed. Thus it was that I met all three of them in the course of a very memorable morning. I was joined by all the boys and staff from Lovell House and the Junior School as the spirit of the Jubilee very much came to Valley Road. Given that we were not an official part of the visit they were incredibly generous with their time and the photos we took are a special and lasting memory. I was very much struck by their ability to make people feel at ease and the willingness of the Duke and Duchess to engage with the boys. I very much appreciated how honoured we were to see them all in the space of an hour or two and I know that boys and staff alike enjoyed their visit. Then, in September, as part of the School’s 500th anniversary we hosted a visit by the Duke of York, Prince Andrew, at the School itself. Again this was a very memorable day. I was incredibly proud of the effort put in by so many staff and boys to ensure that this visit went well and I know that our royal visitor really enjoyed the time he spent with us. The attention to detail of all involved in this visit was incredible and whilst I had the privilege of leading him around the School it was an incredible team effort by so many people which was my lasting memory of that particular day.
Exam Results: The academic highlight of 2012 was our exceptional A Level results which were the best in the School’s history. I know that people get very cynical of headmasters announcing record results year after year but these were exceptional in every respect and placed us 32nd in the Times League Table and 10th in the Independent League table. As pleasing as anything though was that these results were achieved by a fantastic Year 13 who had done so much to engage with the School in the time they spent with us and who so deserved to be this successful. So many of them secured places at their first-choice universities as well. Whilst each cohort is different these were special results gained by some fantastic lads and working out the percentages of top grades achieved back on that day in August was a very memorable feeling.
Sunday Times Prep School of the Year: In November we heard that our Junior School had been named as the Sunday Times Prep School of the Year. This was a fantastic piece of news. When I became Headmaster back in April 2007 it was clear that the Junior School needed to be modernised and the work that has gone on ever since that point in time culminated in this fantastic award. This is such a highlight as again it is very much a team effort by all the staff and boys concerned who have worked so hard to enhance our Junior School experience in every way possible. Solid foundations of superb SATS results have helped but at the heart of all of this work has been a great set of staff working together with a passion to improve things and they really did deserve to receive this accolade. I could not have been prouder and this was certainly another memorable highlight of 2012.
Old Boys of the High School: Rarely has a week gone past in 2012 where I have not had the opportunity to meet up with old boys both young and old. I have enjoyed so much listening to the tales of how the School was in their time and in return they have been really interested in how things have altered in more recent times. Their ongoing pride in the High School is very evident and they have all been incredibly grateful for the start that the High School gave them in their often very successful careers. That so many Old Boys have been prepared to come back into school to help with careers events, to speak at Friday Forum, to help launch our Nottinghamians alumni group and so much more besides shows that we are successfully embedding the idea of the School as a community for life and I know that with the 500th anniversary celebrations reaching their peak at Founder’s Day next June we will welcome back even more people over the next six months. It has been a real privilege to meet so many interesting people and without exception they have added a great deal to the ongoing life of the School.
Work with HMC: Finally in my list of highlights of the past year has been the work I have done chairing the Communications committee for the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference. This takes me out of school for a few days each term but I have so enjoyed working with my fellow heads from across the country and have gained so much from my interactions with them. The major part of my work in this respect in the past year has been to help lead the work on rebranding HMC as the organisation for Leading Independent Schools and providing a new website and communications strategy for the organisation. This was never going to be an easy task as each of the 250+ Heads in the organisation is used to running their own schools and I guess it is not surprising that many of them have strong opinions. Much consultation was undertaken but I was delighted that the new branding, website and strategy has been universally welcomed and that we have managed to freshen the image of this important organisation. Of course, the credit for this lies with the Communication Manager for HMC but it has been great fun playing a part in such a major exercise. There are, of course, many, many other things which I could highlight here and it is always going to be difficult to pick out just a few. Indeed, in many respects, even constructing a list like this tends to undermine the value of so much of the everyday work. At the heart of all that we achieve as a school is the fantastic work done by so many – boys and staff alike and their passion and dedication is a central plank of all of our success. I hope that as we continue our 500th anniversary year into 2013 that there will be plenty to look forward to and that 2013 proves to be every bit as memorable as 2012 clearly was.