One of the questions I like to provoke boys (and staff) gently with at the start of the new school year is - are you pleased to be back? I particularly enjoy watching some boys – especially when surrounded by their peers - wrestle with an honest answer and what they think they should say to the Headmaster. Perhaps a useful little challenge for future situations where they may need to think on their feet to say or do the right thing?
I was a little horrified to calculate this as my 23rd start to a new school year as a teacher - not forgetting the 16 or so I experienced at school and university. I have always enjoyed the cycle of the academic year and the opportunity it affords for renewal for boys and staff. Fresh starts can be particularly useful for some pupils. Teenage boys spring to mind.
Service is one of the key development themes of the School’s ten-year vision announced last year. The boys and young men of excellent character that we develop should recognise the privileges and benefits they enjoy. They should also recognise the positive difference they can make to the lives of others and their responsibility to do so. This doesn’t need to be done under duress and sufferance. It can and should be done in way that is developmental, enriching and enjoyable for the boys themselves as well as genuinely beneficial to communities and the lives of others. A win-win, if you like.
Genuine service is active, committed and requires a degree of personal sacrifice – not simply a diversion of funds. As our service programme unfolds, it will see boys giving – amongst other things – their time and energy – not just their parents’ cash. In return, their own lives and their understanding of others’ should be enriched and developed.
I am delighted that the School has this week achieved the Guinness world record for the most selfies taken inside three minutes. This challenge which was also a lot of fun involved boys from the School’s entire age range of 3 to 18 and raised funds for the Alan Shearer Foundation – a specialist, disability, respite, residential and social provision for people with complex disabilities and acute sensory impairments. We are extremely grateful to Alan Shearer giving up his time to join the boys in achieving the record attempt. Whilst this was Newcastle School for Boys first world record (to date), it was Alan Shearer’s fourth.
In my own small way, I am challenging my own commitment and fitness by taking on a cycling challenge that will also raise funds for one of our Senior School nominated charities, Maggie’s Newcastle. This Sunday, I will ride the rather hilly 100 kilometre Maserati Tour de Yorkshire sportive.
I’m aiming to raise over £500 for the charity that our Senior School boys have chosen to support. Maggie’s centres across the country provide free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their families and friends.
It’s all serving a very good cause and if you would like to support Maggie’s Newcastle and make a difference to the lives of others, you can sponsor me here.
One of our school aims is to develop boys and young men of excellent character. The other is to challenge and support each boy to achieve the highest levels of academic progress.
Newcastle School for Boys’ character compass points to the six key virtues we promote in our boys’ personal development. Captured in the compass and in the mnemonic ‘CIRCLE’, the first C is for community. As a school, we appreciate the benefits we derive from our relationships in the local community as well as recognising our obligations to serve that community. We seek to develop those same senses of appreciation and duty in our pupils.
Education isn’t just about exam results. Neither a pupil nor a school can ever be entirely captured in even the most sophisticated performance measures.
Developing young men of excellent character is one of Newcastle School for Boys’ aims. A worthy or lofty ambition you might think. Visit the School and you will see it and feel it. But it’s certainly hard to measure.
We define character in the virtues contained in our character compass with their half-termly focus across the school: community, integrity, resilience, courage, leadership and empathy.
The focus for the first half of this spring term is resilience – a theme I introduced in my Senior School assembly last week and will develop further in the coming weeks. It links, of course, to the very real concern about the increase in mental illness in young people.
The following blog is an adapted version of my opening remarks at Newcastle School for Boys’ eighth annual sports presentation evening sponsored by Oddballs and held at the Newcastle Marriott Hotel Gosforth Park on Wednesday 12th October 2016. The evening celebrated our boys’ individual and collective achievements and participation in the preceding year of school sport and PE. We were honoured to welcome our special guest for the evening: Newcastle Falcons and Scotland international rugby player, Ally Hogg.
School sport means everything. Not as an overwhelming priority detrimental to academic progress but in a wider, more inclusive sense. It complements the academic curriculum and provides a wide range of benefits and opportunities: from preparation for a professional playing career to the health and social benefits of recreational sport and exercise.
In considering what school sport means to our boys, I’ve tried to project myself into their minds in two ways. Firstly, by testing my own long term memory to recall my own experience of school sport and secondly and more relevantly by asking some of the boys themselves.