The last three weeks have passed in a complete blur. I have spent most of my time with the 6th form during their Leavers’ programme which has included a Rock School, Ride the Hill, Wake-boarding, Self Defence, and a Leadership course; not to mention a memorable performance of Under Milk Wood, rehearsed and produced in just 10 days.
The Leavers’ trip to Liverpool was also pretty memorable. A long drive north culminating in a stay at the International Football Academy (which didn’t actually have a football pitch. Or any goals. And it wasn’t very international either.) The boys had a day in the Lake District, kayaking on Lake Windermere, while Monk and I enjoyed lunch with Julian and Jan Berkeley – it was lovely to see them again and catch up on all their news, whilst filling them in on all that has gone on at Woodcote.
The following day was our day in Liverpool which began with an excellent tour of Anfield, a visit to the Beatles Museum and then supper in the Albert Docks. Our final day was spent at Alton Towers. Monk and I looked at The Smiler and Oblivion but decided against them, plumping for something called RITA, which sounded much more gentle. Not so. 0 – 61 mph in just 2.5 seconds! Never again.
Term finished with usual prize givings and the Leavers’ produced a lip dub to “With a little help from my friends” by The Beatles – well, they were in Liverpool.
The builders moved in to the the school, literally as the boys were moving out. The gym has become the site office and I have attached a few photos so you can see what they have achieved in 5 days….there is no going back now!
I wish you all a very peaceful and relaxing Summer!
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….is underway, with 5 boys currently taking advantage of the daily transport to and from West London. I was there to wave the boys off on their inaugural journey last night. They left Woodcote at 5:25pm and were back in London at 6:10pm, having had a picnic tea ‘en route’. The boys and their driver are keen to name the bus! All suggestions should be sent to me – firstname.lastname@example.org – and there will be a prize for the winner! Good Luck….
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The rain has finally stopped….and just in time too. We’ve lost far too many fixtures to waterlogged pitches this term, so it was great to round off the season with some good wins against Sunningdale on Saturday afternoon. The 1st XV were weakened due to a guest appearance by the HM as Team Coach (Mr. Lyddon being otherwise engaged) but they overcame this handicap with a comprehensive 46-7 win. The Twos and Bs also won comfortably whilst Sunningdale were victorious at As and 9s.
The weekend had begun in earnest on Friday evening with the House Recitation competition (won, quite rightly, by the Browns) followed by the first performance of the Junior Play – On the Verge! It was a hugely successful evening and the Woodcote House Red and White wines were well-received and swiftly despatched during the interval.
On Saturday we had our 10th annual Scholarship Morning. There were 20 candidates, by far the best overall field that we have had and I feel as though we have made some generous awards as a result. The parents were taken on tour by the senior boys and the school was bathed in sunshine – perfection.
On Sunday we had the inaugural Grandparents’ Day. This began with Chapel at 11:30 followed by drinks on the lawn, a tour of the school by the grandchildren and then lunch in the Dining Room. The school and guests were treated to rib of beef and sticky toffee pudding and although we ran out of room (and cutlery) there was plenty of food for 150. Thankfully it was a beautiful day, the best of the year so far, and the boys whose grandparents couldn’t make it had lunch outside in the sunshine. Coffee was also taken in the grounds before the second and final performance of On the Verge! It was indeed a triumph and was followed by tea, again outside, before the grandparents departed. I have had some wonderful letters of thanks and hope to repeat the day again in future.
The sun continues to shine as the 6th form attack their mock CE exams. We have a short Exeat this weekend and then we hurtle headlong towards the end of term busying ourselves with Hockey matches, 7s tournaments (Woodcote, Oundle and possibly Rosslyn Park) a theatre trip, Sport Relief fundraising, CCF camp at Whitgift, House Sports, Staff and Boys’ golf and, of course, the Staff Revue. Spring is definitely in the air……
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Apologies for the radio silence recently – it’s all been a bit hectic, as is the way at this stage of the Michaelmas term. Now where were we….?
We had our final football matches of term against Horris Hill. The results will all have been tweeted immediately afterwards so I won’t bore you again with the results, save to say that the mighty 4th XI drew 1-1, thereby completing an unbeaten season – Played 4; Won 2; Drawn 2; Goals for:4 Goals Against: 2! A slap-up lunch at the GBK awaits these ‘Galacticos’ !
EL and I went to Twickenham to watch the England v. All Blacks. Cracking game, cracking seats – and probably the right result too.
The play weekend was a huge success. There was a small, but perfectly formed, audience on the Friday evening to watch “I’ll ring for more toast…” a hilarious vignette, which did in 35 minutes what Downton Abbey has taken 4 series to do. This was followed by the House music competition. Each house had to provide a drummer, pianist and vocalist to perform a solo – the standard was extraordinarily high, and the individual spoils were shared among the houses.
The Saturday evening began with a Wine Tasting for all the parents, hosted by Tom Gilbey, proprietor of The Vintner, followed by a second performance of the play and then the House Shout, which was impeccably judged by Oliver Paterson. The final outcome was that the Reds, who sang, “Dumb Ways to Die”, were the overall winners, although no one is quite sure how and the judge, fearing for his safety, made a sharp exit. We also launched the new Woodcote House Red and White wines in the interval, and these are available to buy from Tom at The Vintner.
Holman appeared on Sunday to preach to the boys and then we were into Exam week. We all drew breath with a short Exeat and this week has been all about CAT testing but with a few other excitements thrown in: Paul McGinley dropped in with the Ryder Cup and we also had a Junior Christingle service on Tuesday evening.
The 1st XV have just headed off on Rugby Tour to the West Country – they have already beaten Farleigh by 2 tries to 1 and are off to play St. Peter’s Lympstone this afternoon after a morning spent with the Royal Marine Commandos at their training base! Tomorrow they play Perrott Hill on their way home, before attending a Barn Dance at St. Mary’s Ascot. They should be suitably knackered by Sunday.
Next week we have Dormitory Charades on Monday, Carol Services on Wednesday and Thursday and the Christmas lunch and Break-Up supper to send the boys on their way for the holidays – it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas….
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I am delighted to report that after my arduous afternoon tasting wines with a London merchant of some repute, we have selected a new Woodcote House Red and Woodcote House White, which will be launched at a tasting here on Saturday 23rd November – details to follow shortly.
We had our Bonfire Night on Friday and although things looked a bit ‘touch and go’ for a while (the rain at one point was of biblical proportions) we decided to press on. The barbecue took place inside – the eating, not the cooking – and at about 6:30pm the clouds parted and we were able to get the boys out, and down to the bonfire.
The Grounds staff had done a particularly fine job with the construction of the bonfire – it started immediately and burnt beautifully symmetrically, allowing the ‘guy’ to toast gently for a good few minutes before finally being engulfed and toppling from his lofty perch to cheers of delight from the boys. As always, the ‘guy’ was designed and built by the Dominites, although I am not at liberty to tell you who the burning effigy was….
On Saturday AGM and I were at the Independent Schools Show in Battersea. It was a hugely worthwhile event this year and we met many prospective parents, several of whom are very interested in the Woodcote Bus, which will be running in and out of London from April.
We were both unfortunate however to miss a feast of football against Sunningdale on Saturday afternoon, with the four senior games going to Woodcote, both Colts games won by the ‘dale and honours even in the U9s.
I was absolutely delighted with the turnout at Chapel for Remembrance Sunday – thank you to all those parents who rallied to the call. It was packed to the rafters, so much so that the only seat left when I arrived was a Juniors plastic chair in the aisle. No matter, it was a terrific service and as always, I am indebted to Mr. Nick and Mr. Mark for taking it. As I have said, we are incredibly fortunate not only that Mr. Mark is willing to give us his thoughts on Remembrance each year but also that we have such a strong and tangible link with the past – long may it continue.
This week we have our final football fixtures of the term against Horris Hill and then the rugby season begins in earnest after the Exeat….I’m off to Twickenham on Saturday to whet the appetite!
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So the first half ended in style – The House Cross Country, always an eagerly anticipated event , took place, with the spoils this year going to the Blues, followed by the Greens (?!) and then the Reds, with the Browns bringing up the rear.
On the Thursday before half term, I was invited to lunch with the Headmaster of King’s Canterbury, Peter Roberts, who had previously been at Bradfield. It was my first visit to Canterbury and I was hugely impressed not only by the city, but also by the school. It is not one that we have sent boys to for quite some time, but it is now firmly on the radar.
On Friday we had the Half term concert with a very diverse range of performances, including some exquisite piano playing and an excellent recitation of A Subaltern’s Love Song from the scholars. Once again there was the opportunity for all musicians to play, either individually or collectively, regardless of how long they have been learning. Performance is such an important skill and I was immensely proud of all the boys who took part.
Since our return from Half term, the 6th form and Shell have been to Wales for their Geography Field Trip – this freed up a few beds to allow some of the younger boys to trial boarding for up to 3 nights – it was a big success and greatly enjoyed by all. My thanks to the matrons for all their help with the ‘new bugs’.
On Thursday night we had our Halloween Supper – tremendous fun and the dining room looked amazing. You will have to look at the Boarders’ Blog for a full report!
On Friday, Michael Gove came to plant a tree that Mr.Holman had given to the school to celebrate the Golden Jubilee. The Queen’s tree, as it is known, is just outside the 1st XI boundary down by Cricket Lodge. The older boys were given the opportunity to question the Secretary of State for Education on his plans for the new GCSEs – for which they will be guinea pigs in 2017! I think they were as impressed with Mr. Gove as I was (see previous post).
This weekend was an Open weekend. We had a full chapel, twenty five or so parents to lunch and then some excellent and hard-fought house football matches in the afternoon. The Browns won the senior event whilst the Blues hammered the Reds in the final of the Junior competition.
STOP PRESS: Best news of all though was that we managed a 100% record of success with our candidates for Wellington this year. We have found it increasingly difficult to send the right boys to pre-test there over the last couple of years and so I am absolutely delighted that all three boys won places at the school for 2015. They should be very proud of themselves.
Much is happening this week. Perhaps most importantly I am off to London on Tuesday for a private wine-tasting. I’m afraid the merchant that used to supply our Woodcote House Red and White wines is no longer in business, so I have asked an old friend to set up a tasting in order that we might find a new supplier for our school wines.
The things I do for the good of this school! I’ll let you know how I get on….
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Well, we’re now three weeks into the longest stretch of the academic year, the school has got a bit of impetus behind it and we are running, dare I say it, like a well-oiled machine….
I was absolutely delighted with the turnout for Harvest Evensong last Sunday – it was good to see the chapel completely full. Thank you to all those parents who answered the call – it really makes a difference to have you all there. The Proprietor gave an excellent sermon and the evening was rounded off with a very jolly drinks party in the Front Hall.
This week we have had a SAAFA Coffee Morning which raised £1500 in an hour and a half and we were very honoured that the General came to speak to the assembled masses. There was a frisson of excitement as word spread that the General was coming, and he didn’t disappoint.
We won 4 out of 5 matches against Milbourne Lodge, only going down in the Under 9 match, to a very classy side indeed. In fact EL said they were probably the best Under 9 side he has ever seen.
I was delighted to welcome a London pre-prep Head to Woodcote who was tremendously impressed by the school – especially the ‘vast’ grounds and the amount that we pack into the school day, both academically and in terms of extra-curricular activities. She was immensely positive about our decision to start a bus service in April and I hope that she will send a few of her charges our way. It is something that people are increasingly taking an interest in, and I am seriously toying with the idea of buying an old American School Bus, as transport.
On Thursday I went to the Prep / Public School heads conference at Summerfields. Michael Gove had been booked in to address the (what is the collective noun for Headmasters – answers by email; a prize for the best!) crowd and I have to say, I was hugely impressed. One doesn’t necessarily believe everything that the Minister for Education has to say but, goodness me, he certainly has a passion for the subject. He spoke for nearly an hour and a half, including a 40 minute Q&A session with no recourse to notes of any sort – something we HMs can only appreciate!
Yesterday was the annual Charity Golf Day at Foxhills in aid of the Willow foundation. No idea yet how much was raised but it will be another good sum and this year there was a slightly different format, with the golf taking place in the afternoon followed by a dinner and cabaret. Talking of a well-oiled machine, I hear the guests had a wonderful time, although this is only reported second hand as I was at school running a Horse Racing Night for the boarders.
Today there is Chapel, Drinks and Lunch for the parents, followed by matches against Pilgrims. The Juniors are off to London this evening for Dinosnore – a night sleeping with the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum! Rather them than me…..
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So, we are now fully immersed in the longest stretch of term; in fact, I think this is the longest stretch of the whole academic year – just under 4 weeks from Exeat to Half term. Although the boys may not see it this way, this is a good thing as it will finally allow them to get back up to speed on all things scholastic and we will start to make some serious progress as we move towards the half way point.
That is not to say it is all about academic rigour – there is plenty more to keep the boys occupied on a day-to-day basis. Some of the older ones have been off to see their future schools, with visits to Eton, Harrow, Wellington, Bradfield, Sherborne and Charterhouse in the last 10 days. I went to visit Cheltenham for the first time last week and was hugely impressed, not only by the two boys who showed me around (OWs, obviously) but also by the staff and facilities – definitely one to add to the shortlist.
The visit was timed beautifully so that I could peel off the M4 at Hermitage on the way home to watch the Under 11 Bs notch up a famous 1-0 victory over Brockhurst. Sadly, I had to dash back to Woodcote straight afterwards and therefore had to forego the infamous Brockhurst egg sandwiches – one of the great delights of taking a team to play there. Reports back from the staff who travelled there maintained that they were as good as ever.
Friday last week saw 9 teams from London pre-Preps coming to play football in our annual Captain Snow trophy. I was lucky enough to referee on one of the four pitches and was also given the ‘onerous task’ of refereeing the final! It was a beautifully sunny afternoon and we witnessed some fabulous football from all teams. The Final was between Gatehouse and L’Ecole du Battersea, with the French side taking the spoils 1-0. We had a huge match tea in front of the school with boys, parents, team coaches etc. – there must have been 150 people getting stuck in to scones, brownies, cakes, sandwiches and biscuits – before the teams departed for home.
The Captain Snow trophy was just the warm-up act though for the big Saturday fixture (first leg) against Sunningdale. We managed to organise 9 matches with the ‘Dale and I think almost every boy from both schools was involved – a fabulous achievement in itself. At the end of the day, Woodcote had won 7 of the games and lost 2, including an 11-2 win for the 1st XI, with the return fixtures due on Saturday 9th October.
Another busy week this week, culminating in our Harvest Festival on Sunday evening at 6pm – I do hope to see as many of you there as possible.
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We’re only 2 weeks in to the new academic year and already so much has happened. We began the Michaelmas term with 28 new boys – just over a quarter of the school – of which 20 are full boarders. It is only the very little ones who are not doing any boarding yet (although one or two have already been to ask me!) but there is no doubt that they will come to it when they, and their parents, are good and ready!
To this end, I am delighted with the work that Ed has put into his new role as Head of Boarding, not least because he has a Boarding blog on this site, so I won’t need to update you on what the boarders are up to – it is all there for you to see and read in glorious technicolor (US spelling, I presume?). They have certainly had a busy first couple of weeks….I particularly enjoyed our Pizza and Camping night on the first weekend of term.
Speaking of the Pizza Oven, I was showing some prospective parents around the school one day last week and when we arrived at the area around Chapel Field, where the shooting range, low ropes course and pizza oven are, the father offered to send me his recipe for pizza dough – it was only when I got back to the office to do a little research, did I discover that he is a very famous chef! The recipe is on its way and I have no doubt that it will make those wood-fired pizzas even more delicious….
In other news, the Monks, Patersons and Knights headed up to London on Tuesday of last week to attend the annual launch of the Tatler Schools Guide 2013. If you haven’t already bought your copy, there is a full page picture (p.83) of the boys in their cricket kit, climbing all over the school Land Rover and, happily, another tremendous write-up of the school…”boys love the boarding (either part-time or full) and the splendid grounds for tree-climbing and den-building….this is one of the cheeriest schools we’ve visited” and so it goes on, describing us as the very antithesis of the modern pristine boring identi-prep. All good stuff.
Anyway, at the Tatler awards at the Dorchester, we were all happily sipping Laurent Perrier (all in the line of duty, I hasten to add) when the nominations for “The Power behind the Throne” category were announced. I can tell you it came as somewhat of a shock that Mrs. Knight was short-listed for the award, no more so than to her! Sadly, she didn’t quite win, finishing runner-up to Mrs. Fenwick at Hazlegrove but it was a great honour nonetheless, although I’m not sure what it says about my Headship!? Mrs. K was only too delighted that she did not have to make a speech in front of 250 Prep and Public school Heads.
Do please read the Boarding Blog if you haven’t yet. You can find it under the ‘Boarding’ tab at the top of the Home Page…..
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