Category: The Headmaster’s Blog

I can’t believe that it has been nearly a month since my last post – nor can I believe that we’ve had the longest day of the year. The nights are closing in now and it will soon be Christmas!!

In the meantime, let us dwell on a few events that have not been spoiled by the inclement weather. Since I last wrote, we have had great success at the West Surrey Athletics, with 2 boys qualifying for the Nationals in Birmingham on Monday 2nd July.

The Common Entrance candidates have all passed very comfortably into their next schools and so we maintain our 100% success rate in this area. The Honours board has now also been updated with the names of the four recipients of awards this year.

Last weekend began with the Juniors Barbecue and continued on Saturday with matches against Sunningdale. We were handsomely beaten in the 1st XI and U9 matches but won the 2nd and 3rd XI games and both Colts fixtures too.

The Leavers felt that it was too cold for them to camp on Saturday night and so I lit the Wood-Fired Pizza Oven and cooked 14 pizzas for them instead. What a magnificent piece of kit – it took about an hour to get the fire hot enough, but once the oven was ready it was churning out mushroom, pepper, pancetta and pepperoni pizzas at a rate of 1 every 2 minutes. Once the gannets had been fed, I even managed one for myself – delicious!

On Sunday the Leavers breakfasted either with Mr. Lyddon or Mr. Paterson and then DP took the Under 11 6-a-side team to a tournament at Wellington where they won the Bowl. I took 2 pairs to the Knight Frank Tennis Tournament at Charters where we were defending our title but this year, in a much larger tournament, lost out in the semi-final on a tie break. The standard of tennis was incredibly high and the boys should be very proud of themselves indeed.

EL took a trip to Brighton – mackerel fishing – but although the boys were keen, the skipper was not willing to take them out on the choppy seas. They had to make do with a day trip to the Palace pier instead, but they seemed to enjoy this just as much. We then finished Sunday evening with Leavers’ Evensong and drinks on the lawn afterwards.

This week we have witnessed an excellent evening T20 against Papplewick; the Juniors have been to see the Queen at Royal Ascot and we have had two days of Athletics finals in preparation for Speech Day tomorrow.

I hope to be able to report back of a beautiful sunny day on which we were able to celebrate all that is so good about Woodcote. Judging by the amount of sunshine we’ve had this term though, I’m not holding my breath….

That is all.

Good Morning! I’m sorry to have been so uncommunicative over the last two weeks, but there has been very little to report. I seem to have spent the first part of this term cancelling everything due to the poor weather. There has been very little cricket – the first XI have had two fixtures, thumping St. George’s (as did the Colts A) and losing narrowly to a very strong Sunningdale side. My thanks go to them for allowing us to come and play on their very soggy wicket in the pouring rain – I hope that not too much damage has been caused to it for the remainder of the season. Apart from that, none of the other sides have had an outing, or really any ‘middle’ practice, but we are hoping that six sides will be able to test their mettle against Brockhurst (great egg sandwiches) this afternoon.

Talking of food, we did manage to squeeze in some year group barbecues in between the downpours, but sadly the pizza oven is still a bit of a building site as we wait for a break in the weather to complete the task. It will be magnificent when it is done. Sadly though there has been no camping yet but I am planning to reschedule the camping nights for those who have missed out, later in the term – when it WILL warm up and dry out.

Sadly I have no photos of the ‘Zorbing’ that took place two Sundays ago, but the boys loved it and it will become a regular fixture in the calendar of Boarders’ entertainment. This Sunday all the boarders will be outside learning some bushcraft skills – presumably how to keep warm and dry during an English Summer.

The main event, since my last blog, has obviously been Music in the Garden. This was a tremendous occasion, very well-attended and amazingly the sun shone throughout. My thanks must go to AGM and the committee for organising the whole thing. It was very slick and although it did get a little chilly towards the end of the evening, a good time was most certainly had by all. Once the bursar has crunched the numbers, I will be able to give you a final figure on what we raised to help send Jack Ostler to America for his operation. Any further donations would of course be greatly appreciated….

This week the 5th form have been out to Cadbury’s World on a geography/gastronomic field trip. The 6th form have a Barbecue on Friday and then both year groups are off to St. Mary’s on Saturday night for some African Drumming and Natural Disasters! We also hope to have a full set of matches against Sunningdale on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday the 5th form are off on their Battlefield Tour to the Somme and Ypres, returning on Tuesday evening.

EL took some great pictures of Music in the Garden and I will post them shortly.

That is all.

Well, it is 4:25 pm and I’ve just finished the staff meeting, which signals the end of term. Just 100 HM reports to write, a letter to parents to compose and several public school references to send. Hope to be finished by Tuesday evening and then I too can be officially on holiday.

The last ten days have been absolutely hectic. Since my last blog I have taken the Colts 7s side to Brockhurst to watch them win the tournament; victorious in all 6 matches and scoring 24 tries during the course of the afternoon.

Theo scores another try...

The victorious team and their coach...

I have witnessed the Captain Snow Trophy, where our U8s didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory but it was good to see so many schools here competing for the cup.

I have acted as a judge on Woodcote’s got the X Factor – a pretty tough assignment as it is difficult to be critical of any of the acts as I can’t play a note or sing…and they were all very good indeed. The judges were remarkably complimentary and there is no doubt that the right act won – well done, FX!

I have hosted the Scholarship morning – 25 boys hoping to start at Woodcote in September. There was some real talent again this year and several offers have been made.

I have watched our Senior 7s team not only play in the Holman Trophy but win the tournament for the first time since 2003 with a hugely impressive victory over Ludgrove. The WHS team went on to the IAPS small schools tournament at Oundle the following day and reached the last 8.

I have been present at the inaugural 4Five Go Live drama production at Woodcote. It is always good to get the boys up on stage and I am always delighted to see new talent emerging – especially from the least expected quarters. Well done to all involved!

I have enjoyed a round of staff and boys golf – it was held over 2 days with 8 members of staff and 32 boys involved on each day. Chaotic but tremendous fun.

I have organised an Easter Egg Hunt for the boys with over 8kg of Easter Eggs dispersed over the 35 acres of grounds – it took the boys just 27 minutes to find every single one!

I have taken part in the Staff Revue – a pantomime of sorts with no real script but some terrific costumes, most notably Buttons and Jack’s Mother, although the Cow played by Mrs. Knight at one end and Mrs. Lyddon at the other was terrifyingly real.

And finally I am here at my desk in the office with an empty school and a stack of paperwork. On with the reports…..

Have a very Happy Easter.

That is all.

Morning All – I do hope you enjoyed a peaceful and sunny Exeat. Spring is most definitely in the air and the 7s season is upon us – more on that later. I cannot believe that we are entering the last 10 days of term, and that these will fly by as there is so much going on between now and next Thursday.

Let us stop for a minute then and review the week just gone….

Two more scholarships in the bag this week, this time for Bob and Henry to Sherborne – one Academic and one Sport. They should both be immensely proud of themselves – we certainly are!

The rest of the 6th form (minus the Eton and Harrow scholars) got stuck into Mock CE and there were some very promising results. It all bodes well for the Summer. On Wednesday the 1st XV and Colts A recorded good wins against St. George’s and wrapped up very fine seasons – the 1st XV losing just 3 games and the Colts only 1! The Under 8s also had a fine game against Papplewick drawing 6-6. They have really come on as a team and will look to build on this next year.

On Thursday Mr. Turvey took the V form down to the Arboretum in Windlesham to see if the bird boxes that they had built in CDT and donated to the charity last year were ‘occupied’. It was good to see that several of the boxes were, even more impressive as they had been put in quite late in the season. It is a very worthwhile organisation – it was initially set up to stop Windlesham, Lightwater and Bagshot becoming one sprawling conurbation – and we hope to do more to support their work. We have already volunteered a working party to go and help down at the Arboretum in the Summer.

V Form boys checking the Boxes

This week the V Form are off to the Imperial War Museum as part of their studies leading up to their Battlefield Tour to France and Belgium in May and the IV Form are visiting Hampton Court Palace to learn how to play Real Tennis. There are Hockey matches against Elstree and Hall Grove, an Under 11 7s tournament at Brockhurst on Wednesday and the Captain Snow Trophy on Friday. On Friday evening we have ‘Woodcote’s got the X Factor’ which promises to be enormous fun (!?)

Saturday morning is Scholarship morning and then we are hosting the annual Holman Cup in the afternoon – the Woodcote 7s tournament. EL is then taking the squad off to Oundle for the IAPS 7s tournament on Sunday. I think they will be a good side this year and we wish them every possible success.

Sunday is Mothering Sunday – there will be Chapel at 10am and then those who wish to go out for lunch with their mummy afterwards may do so. Please let Wendy know by Wednesday if you would like to do this.

Next week is even busier but I shall endeavour to blog again before the term ends.

That is all.

My apologies for the recent radio silence. As we get closer to the end of term, things are starting to get very busy and I am struggling to find the time to keep you posted. Anyway, I have a few moments now so here goes….

Since my last blog all sorts of strange things have happened. Mr Beharrell gave us a very informative lecture on fly-fishing, culminating in him playing and landing a 65lb ‘salmon’ in the shape of a Junior – the weight of the largest ever river caught salmon in the UK. Apparently it takes on average 10 minutes per pound to play a salmon but this boy was landed within about 5 minutes, after a good fight!

CB in his fishing gear....

CB reels in the 'salmon'....

The following day saw the return fixtures against Sunningdale. I took the Colts A over there, as a guest coach, and thankfully (it’s rather like looking after someone else’s pet whilst they are away) they were comfortably victorious. One could not fail to notice though the titanic struggle that was happening on the main pitch with the hosts running out as victors in what was a terrific game by all accounts.

In the evening we took the 6th and 5th Forms to supper and a dance at Heathfield. There was much excitement (and preening) beforehand, and the evening was a great success, with one boy proclaiming it as the ‘most awesome night of my life’. We hope to arrange a return fixture in the early part of the Summer term.

This week I have mostly been acting as the school chauffeur, taking boys to Monkton Combe and Sherborne. On Friday evening there was another excellent lecture, this time on the plight of Orang Utans!

Chapel on Saturday morning was a huge success with a congregation of over 150 and a very good sermon from Colin Holman. Pre-lunch drinks were served in the HM’s study and it was good to see so many parents staying for lunch and matches. On Sunday DP took a group to the Ski Centre in Hemel Hempstead in preparation for the Ski Trip in April and Mrs. Woodall took a trip to the Cinema.

This week the boys in the 6th Form have their trial CE exams and there are the final matches of term (excluding 7s) against St. George’s. This has been a very successful season for all the main teams so let us hope that we can finish on a high.

The final Exeat of term starts at 12/ 12:30pm on Friday and there is a 6th form Parents’ evening when the boys return on Sunday evening.

That is all.

Morning All – apologies for the ‘radio silence’ over the last two weeks. I meant to post a blog at the end of the first half of term, but the call of the family kept me away from the office and then there was the 40th Birthday trip to Berlin with the Lyddons…..Anyway, I do hope that you all enjoyed a restful break.

Due to the inclement weather in the week leading up to half term, the matches against Horris Hill and the Cross Country at Lambrook were all cancelled. However, I did have a meeting with the company who who are going to come and build an outdoor wood-fired Pizza Oven in the grounds – a gift from the 2011 Leavers – and hope that this will be built and ready to go for the beginning of next term.

The concert at the beginning of half term was an absolute triumph – a different style of musical entertainment to that which has gone before, but it meant that we could all get smartly away for the break!

On our return, the Shell immediately settled down to their mock scholarship exams – Harrow is next week and Sherborne is the week after, but the two Etonians have to wait until May. We wish them all every possible success and hope that we can add to the music exhibition won by William D to Harrow.

On Tuesday the chef made over 300 pancakes for the boys! Apparently he had 6 pans on the go at once, but his labours were greatly appreciated by the boys – so much so that at the Food Committee meeting the boys asked if they could have pancakes once a week – the colour drained from the chef’s face but he did agree to produce them again later in the term.

We beat Sunningdale at Squash on Tuesday evening and then had a mixed bag of results against Ludgrove on Wednesday. Both the 1st XV and Colts A’s unbeaten seasons came to an end, although by all accounts they were hard fought, competitive contests. The Bs lost with honour against Ludgrove’s Bs and our 2nd XII and Under 9s both recorded famous home victories. There is a Judo Match against Horris Hill this afternoon.

Tomorrow evening Mr. Beharrell is giving a lecture called ‘The Complete Tangler’ which promises to be a fascinating romp through the world of fishing and then on Saturday we have return fixtures against the old enemy, where the 1s and As will be looking to get their seasons back on track.

On Saturday evening DP, EL, CB and I are taking the 6th and 5th Forms to a ‘Social’ at St. Mary’s Heathfield – as you can imagine, there is a frissant of excitement at the prospect…from the boys rather than the staff! I shall report back in full detail, with photos, next week.

On Sunday we have a visiting preacher – Peter Marshall – who taught here in the 1950s. We then have Chess and Pingers against Sunningdale; we are sending some boys off to join a drama group at St. Mary’s – for a production at the end of this term on 20th March. Finally AGM is taking the Woodcote House Turf Club to Fontwell Park for an afternoon’s racing. They will also be meeting a senior jockey who is going to talk to them about life in the saddle. It promises to be a great day out.

Finally, I am delighted that two parents have told me that they enjoy reading the blog. If you are not one of those two and you are reading this, please do let me know what you think and what you’d like to see.

That is all.

There have been many highlights this week. In no particular order, the arrival of the ‘Landy’ on Wednesday was certainly one. I took the train up to Huddersfield on Tuesday morning to collect the newest addition to the Woodcote fleet – a 2003 Land Rover Defender G4. I had arranged for it to be liveried in school colours with the crest on the bonnet, ‘Woodcote House School’ down the sides and the website address on the rear tyre cover. Arriving back at Woodcote after dark, I parked it on the front lawn and let the boys discover it for themselves on Wednesday morning on their way to chapel!

Here it is….

Three boys have been off to sit scholarships this week – William went to Harrow for his Music Scholarship, James to Charterhouse for Art and Felix to Oakham for Sports – we are keeping our fingers crossed for all of them….

On Wednesday the 1st XV and Under 9s took on Papplewick and the Colts As played Dorset House at home. The Colts added to their tally of victories with another impressive win, but the accolade must go to the 1st XV who took on a side far bigger and with some very impressive scalps to their name. Three quick tries in the first half shocked the visitors into gear and the second half belonged to Papplewick. They went 17-15 up with 4 minutes left, even after relentless defence and fearless tackling from everyone on the Woodcote team. However, in what turned out to be the final play of the game, Alfonso went over in the corner and Woodcote were victorious, 20-17. What a game!

On Thursday the Junior End was transformed into a World War II classroom in the morning and then all the boys were ‘evacuated’ to a 1940s village in the afternoon, as part of their History syllabus. I took some prospective parents down to have a look, to find the boys being ‘caned’ for having dirty fingernails and having to wash their mouths out with soap and water – all very authentic! Mrs. Woodall spent the afternoon dressed in period costume and Mr. Nick was a German spy! The boys loved it and learnt an enormous amount. In the afternoon our senior and junior Cross-Country teams went over to Sunningdale for the annual fixture against Sunningdale, Hall Grove and St. George’s. I am delighted to report that both teams were victorious and I was thrilled to be able to present the boys with their medals and the trophy at assembly the following morning.

Last night we had a lecture entitled ‘What on Earth’ by Christopher Lloyd. This was one of the best lectures we have ever had, as Christopher went through his 20 most important moments in the history of the world, from it’s creation 40 billion years ago right up to the present day. He wore ‘a coat of many pockets’ – each pocket containing an item related to his top 20 moments which he allowed the boys to ‘pickpocket’ throughout the evening. This lecture was exactly an hour long and he kept all the boys spellbound for the entire time – no mean feat. Their answers to his questions were very impressive indeed and I learnt an enormous amount.

Sadly today there are no matches, but the boys are all looking forward to settling down to the Internationals later. Tomorrow there is Chapel (weather permitting) followed by Chess and Pingers versus Sunningdale and I am taking the boys Ten Pin Bowling at Pine Ridge.

I can’t believe that half term is less than a week away….so much to do and so little time.

That is all.


Ok…I promise not to go on about it too much more, but the highlight of the week remains James Wallis’s Art Prize which was splashed all over yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph (p. 15) So not only a bag of cash but some fantastic publicity for the school – we are thinking of renaming the Art Room, ‘The Wallis Collection’!

Whilst we were all away in London, the Pingers Team went over to Papplewick and notched up their first victory of the term – no cash prize, but huge congratulations all round nonetheless for winning a very tough match.

Wednesday heralded the arrival of Bishopsgate for some Rugby fixtures, with Woodcote victorious in three out of four.The Firsts and Colts A piled on massive scores and were both looking for their first real test of the season – hopefully against Sunningdale on Saturday, but more on that shortly.

On Friday evening the Boarders and a few Day Boys were treated to another evening of Bingo, hosted by our regular caller, Mr. Lyddon – great value entertainment and great fun.

Saturday saw the first leg of matches against the ‘Dale. Sunningdale brought their Firsts and Colts A here and we took the 2s, Bs and U9s to them. I was lucky enough to watch most of the 1st XV game which was won comfortably in the end by Woodcote, although Sunningdale rallied strongly in the second half. The return fixture promises to be a cracker. There were good wins for both Woodcote Colts teams and the U9s, with Sunningdale coming out on top in a hard-fought 2s game. All the boys are looking forward to the second leg in a month’s time.

In the early part of Saturday evening the boys were entertained by a chap who came to teach them how to play the African Drums. Everybody got involved and the noise emanating from the gym was tremendous. We shall certainly have another session of this in the future!

African Drums - Session 1

Mr. Beharrell has a go

On Sunday afternoon, the squash team took on Horris Hill at Wellington and beat them 6-4 but were back in time to take their turn on the Formula One Racing Simulators. These were a huge hit with the boys as they raced against each other on various circuits around the world. The simulators had been hand built by the guys who brought them over and were incredibly authentic – right down to vibrating ferociously every time the boys skidded off the track or crashed into the safety barriers, which seemed like most of the time from where I was watching! It turns out that this company also have go-karts which they can bring on site, so we may well book them for a Boarders’ Grand Prix on Dominies one Sunday in the latter part of the Summer term.

The F1 Simulators

High Excitement!!

The Gamers....

This week is a little quieter as it is an Exeat weekend, but there are matches for the U8s and U9s on Tuesday against Dorset House (good to renew fixtures with them) and the senior teams (1s, 2s, As, Bs) play Hall Grove on Wednesday.

Just a reminder that there is a Parents’ evening for all parents with boys in Juniors 1 and 2 on Sunday evening at 6:30pm in the gym. I look forward to seeing you there.

Have a great Exeat Weekend.

That is all.

OMG! as I believe the young would have it. What a night! Yesterday evening, various members of staff escorted James W up to London to a private view of the 20 finalists in the Daily Telegraph School Art Prize at the Saatchi Gallery. These 20 were chosen out of 12,000 entries from around the world, so to have his picture hanging in the gallery was an incredible achievement in itself.

James with his painting at the Saatchi Gallery

I am a philistine when it comes to art and wouldn’t recognise a good picture or some nifty artwork at any distance, but looking around the room, I didn’t think James had a prayer. He was, after all, competing against 17 and 18 year old finalists, some already at art college.

After an hour of wandering around the collection, trying to work out why someone would want, or need, to paint a pig’s head on top of a snowball, the Editor of the Sunday Telegraph took the floor to introduce the Big Cheese from Deutsche Bank whose job it was to hand over the cash to the winners.

Well, you won’t believe what happened next.

1st runner up…..James! Second place out of 12,000 entries!! CHARTERHOUSE SIT UP AND TAKE NOTE! The boy wonder is an artisitic genius. As the announcement was made, the place erupted. Mrs. Lyddon dissolved. Mrs. Rees started dancing; the Saatchi gallery had never seen anything like it before. James’s parents were there, as was his granny who had come all the way up from Wales to be there for the evening. It was perfect….

Once order had been restored, a couple of other prizes were awarded to the winner and second runner up, but James could not stop smiling – he said that he had never smiled so much and that it was actually beginning to hurt! I’d imagine that he’s still smiling now.

Once James had been congratulated by all the judges and most of the assembled crowd, the staff left him with his parents and granny, and slipped quietly away for a celebratory pizza.

We are all so proud of him….

Prize? Oh yes, I nearly forgot….

James’s picture won 5 large for the Woodcote Art Department and he also pocketed a grand for himself!

Not bad for a day’s work.

That is all.

Good evening all – here is my first blog of the new term. I should probably have wrapped up the end of the Michaelmas term with a final blog letting you know how wonderful the end of term was, especially the carol services which I thought were the best yet, but as so many of you came to them, I didn’t really see the need!

This term has started well, if perhaps a little quietly, but there are already a few events to report. On Friday we were very fortunate to welcome Ed Chamberlin, the presenter of ‘Super Sunday’ and ‘Monday Night Football’ on Sky Sports. He spoke to the boys about how to get into journalism and what it takes to put his programmes together. He also displayed an encyclopaedic knowledge of football, perhaps not surprisingly, and admitted to being a life-long Southampton fan…come on the Saints! The boys were totally engrossed by his talk and I have never seen so many hands-up when he opened the floor to questions. Thee were some pretty good ones too, and one boy even had the audacity to ask how much he got paid, as he wanted to know whether it would be worth his while applying for such a job in the future!

Ed Chamberlin with the boys on Friday night

Saturday saw the opening fixtures of the rugby season. I was concerned about the state of the pitches after a reasonably hard frost on Friday night, but Holman was on hand to inform me that the frost would thaw by 11:30am which it duly did – almost to the minute. No one knows the grounds like him! Milbourne Lodge arrived, and our 1st XV and Colts A both recorded comfortable wins to set their seasons in motion. Our Under Nines went away to Milbourne but returned with a less happy outcome. They will undoubtedly come across weaker opposition in the matches ahead. Sadly the 2s and Bs missed out on their fixtures, but they are geared up for Bishopsgate on Wednesday.

On Sunday the boarders were entertained by a Circus performer who spent the afternoon teaching them the skills of plate-spinning, stilt-walking, juggling, diabolo, and feather-balancing to name but a few. It was great fun and we shall definitely have him back for more in the future.



Practising Circus skills....

This week we are off to see one of the boys’ pictures which is currently hanging in the Saatchi gallery in London, as he is down to the final 20 out of 10,000 entrants in the Daily Telegraph school art competition…there is a £10,000 prize for the winning entry – fingers crossed! Friday night is Bingo Night and then Saturday sees the first leg of matches against Sunningdale. There will be a Ski Sale afterwards and then there is an African Drums workshop in the afternoon / evening. On Sunday there will be a Formula One Racing simulator at Woodcote for the boarders to enjoy.

It should be a great week – especially if we win 10 grand!

That is all.

Woodcote House School