Welcome back (more…)
It has been far too long since the last HM blog, for which I can only offer my profound apologies. I was meaning to write one earlier in the holidays but the effects of the school ski trip, which took place immediately after the end of term, clearly played havoc with my memory. (more…)
It’s difficult to believe that three weeks have passed and we have already enjoyed our first exeat. Our 34 new boys have settled in remarkably well, and it never ceases to amaze me how well they adjust to, in particular those from overseas, a totally different environment. (more…)
Here we are, half way through the term and yet not on half term for another two weeks. Why? Surely it would be far easier to have half term at the same time as everyone else – it would certainly be easier for some Woodcote families with children at different schools. My girls are off this week and they’ve gone on holiday without me – it’s not ideal, but there is a reason behind it…. (more…)
I am delighted to announce the arrival of the two new boys who joined the school at half term. They did have a rather difficult first night getting used to their new surroundings and I am ashamed to report that they both tried to run away at bedtime. It was only when I and the Junior Mistress went to check on them that we realised they were not in bed. A full search was undertaken and they were eventually spotted making a break for freedom across the front lawn. When I arrived with my torch, I found them both hiding in the bushes and no amount of verbal persuasion would shift them. However, as I approached, they shot out of the flower beds and across the front field – with the Junior Mistress and me in hot pursuit! After 10 minutes of charging around in the dark, we finally cornered them and persuaded them to go back to bed. I was concerned that they might try the same trick later so I locked the door and barricaded them in for the night. I was relieved therefore, although not surprised, to see that they were still there the following morning. Since that eventful first evening, I am pleased to say that they have settled very happily into school life and have made many friends amongst the boys and staff. They love being outside, running around and getting dirty, they have huge appetites and, when excited, make a terrific noise – just like all the other Woodcote boys!
May I introduce you to……
Ronnie & Reggie
That is all.
Sadly the weather has been anything but dry recently – let us hope for more normal weather patterns in February. That said, the rain has not affected what has been an excellent start to the year: We began the term with a good number of senior boys (and some less senior ones too) sitting the first part of the Townsend Warner History prize; this was followed by the House General Knowledge quiz (won by the Blues).
Sticking with the cerebral theme, we had our inaugural Assessment Morning on the first Saturday of term. I particularly enjoyed interviewing all the candidates – one chap even managed to shoehorn the word ‘ procrastinate ‘ into his interview!! The rest of that weekend was filled with matches against Horris Hill (work in progress) and a trip for the whole boarding community to Gravity Force (definitely less cerebral).
So far this term we have had a steady stream of boys heading off for their pre-tests to various schools – Marlborough, KGS, Hampton, Sherborne, RGS, Canford etc. One sixth former has just returned from the Art Scholarship at Charterhouse and another is sitting (?) for the Bradfield Sports Scholarship, as I write. Results to follow shortly….
In week 2 we had Pingers against Papplewick but most of the rugby against Milbourne Lodge was cancelled due to the first proper frost – only the U9s got a run. The 6th form went on a Geography Field Trip in the New Forest to do river studies for their CE projects. It was wet.
Week 3 saw matches against Brockhurst which certainly kick-started the season for all teams and then there was the cross country fixture at Sunningdale, where we finished somewhere near the back! The boys have just returned from Exeat and this week there are rugby matches against Sunningdale and Pilgrims as well as a tour match against the Geneva English School on Sunday. Far more importantly though, it is Mr. Mark’s 92nd birthday on Thursday and he will be having his birthday table at supper; cupcakes with candles for every boy in the school!
Finally, the theatre is now almost finished; we will start using it for Fencing, Judo and Archery this week and it will be ready for Music & Drama teaching after half term. The Official Opening & Grand Musical Gala takes place on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th March at which each year group will perform, as will a ‘choir’ of staff and, I believe, there will also be a parental song – any volunteers?!
That is all.
There has been so much packed into the second half of this term, it is only now, as I wait for the first of my two Christmas Lunches today, that I can take stock of it all….
The first weekend back after half term revolved around our Bonfire night; the boys chose, as their ‘Guy’ for this year, Sepp Blatter – beautifully made by the Dominites under the careful guidance of the Art Department. I believe that Marschall Blucher’s head (used for the Waterloo parade in London in the Summer) was recycled for the occasion!
Once again, the Remembrance Sunday service centred around Mr. Mark’s thoughts on the purpose of remembering the fallen in all wars. He served, and had friends who were killed, in the 2nd World War and it makes the whole occasion far more poignant to have him talk to the boys and their parents each year.
Thursday 12th was Spanish theme day – the whole school dressed in Red and Yellow, prayers were said in Spanish, and the chef provided Churros and Hot Chocolate for breakfast; Paella for lunch; and a selection of Tapas for supper – delicious!
The school Cross-Country took place on Tuesday 17th November. However, this year we decided to make it a ‘Race for Life’ in aid of Cancer Research UK. All the boys and (most of the) staff took part – 1 lap for the over 50s; two laps for the over 40s; three laps for everyone else – and we raised just short of £2,500. It was a fantastic effort by all concerned; I promised no pictures but thought those who sponsored us deserved one or two….
The boys knuckled down for the school exams, interspersed with the first rugby fixtures of the season (it’s all looking very promising!) and then went on a short Exeat to recharge the batteries before the final two weeks of term. Since their return, we have had the Juniors’ Christingle service, a Dads’ quiz night at the local pub (I’m afraid I slunk off early – too many senior school references to write!), a Horse-racing night followed by £250 of delivery pizza, and an outing to the Christmas Market at Winchester to buy their presents. If that didn’t make them feel Christmassy enough, this was delivered for them…..
It was so big, we couldn’t actually get it into the school. Needless to say, it was devoured in a matter of minutes!
Prize-Giving is now complete, the boarders are out in the grounds hunting for chocolate (obviously!) and I am about to join the day boys for their Christmas lunch. We then have the first of two Carol Services, followed by the Break-Up supper for the Boarders (Turkey & all the trimmings – Round 2). Tomorrow morning is the Boarders’ Carol Service and then term is really over….I hope!
With my best wishes for a very peaceful and Happy Christmas.
That is all.
Apologies for the late arrival of the first HM’s ‘blog of the new academic year. It has been an extraordinarily busy start to the term. Only the arrival of the Exeat weekend has allowed me to stop and take stock of all that has happened over the last three weeks.
We started the year with 31 new boys (almost one third of the school) and I am delighted to report that they have all settled happily into life at Woodcote, as have the 6 new members of staff – 2 teachers, 2 matrons and the 2 gappers (who are both Woodcote Old Boys!)
The first weekend of term included a lecture on the Rugby World Cup (obviously) delivered by the wonderful Pyemont brothers. This was followed on the Saturday evening with a barbecue and camping in the Headmaster’s garden and on Sunday there was a T20 against three other Proprietorial schools and a trip to ‘Ride the Hill’ – big skateboards, steep hill…you get the idea.
Week two began with the annual Tatler bash at the Dorchester – a great write-up for us, once again, in the magazine and great champagne but sadly no prizes this year. I was hoping that we might win ‘Best Food’, especially as we have just started family service at lunch, but that looks as though it will have to wait until 2016.
We had our first matches of the football season, against Bishopsgate on the Wednesday and Hall Grove on the Saturday, with promising results. In between these fixtures, we took the boys to the Help for Heroes T20 at the Oval – we had great seats in the pavilion stand , enabling the boys to secure the autographs of some of the legends of cricket and also win a cookery course for two at Waitrose!
There was a Boarders’ outing – Paintballing – on the second Sunday of term; it is a brave member of staff who puts his hand up for that excursion – but a great, if slightly painful, time was had by all.
In the week leading up to the Exeat, there were further matches against Brockhurst (best egg sandwiches on the circuit) and I also went to an Oxford group conference at Caldicott on Thursday, where the hot topic of discussion was the current and impending changes in the laws of rugby at schoolboy level – more to follow on that in due course.
The Colts are currently away in Switzerland on a football tour to the Geneva English School – they return on Tuesday evening and we have further fixtures this week for all teams, both on Wednesday and Saturday. There is also the Captain Snow trophy – an annual Under 8s football tournament at Woodcote for several of the London pre-preps; it is always great fun. Our Harvest Festival service is on Saturday and the Boarders are out again on Sunday at Coral Reef.
In the midst of all this action, the new theatre is beginning to take shape – the foundations have been dug, the steel structure is up, the roof is on, and the bricks are now being laid. It is very much hoped that the external work will be finished by the Christmas holidays and the internal fitting can begin in January, with a completion date of early February. It will be sensational when complete! The proprietor an the Head of Music and Drama are already in discussion over the first production….
That is all.
Royal Ascot Week: The home stretch….?
So we return for the final push towards the Summer holidays – now only three weeks away. This academic year has passed in a blur but I am so pleased to be able to report that the boys at the top of the school have remained focused throughout and, as a result, achieved outstanding grades at Common Entrance.
Once again, all boys have passed into their chosen Public schools, with several ‘subject’ and ‘overall’ prizes being won along the way. This, added to our three scholars, has made for another hugely successful year.
I do hope that those of you who came to Speech Day on 6th June enjoyed the day? The weather could not have been more kind and we were treated to some wonderful exhibitions in the morning, followed by a most memorable concert given by the Junior and Senior choirs, singing a medley of Adele, Queen, Coldplay, Journey, Bon Jovi and Bruno Mars – quite an eclectic mix!
The Athletics in the afternoon was a slick affair and the Open 70m hurdle record, one that has stood for some time, was smashed. Jonny Saunders, the housemaster of Faulkners, the Year 9 boarding house at Bradfield, handed out the prizes and gave the address, ensuring that half term began in excellent time!
Now we are at the business end of the term, the calendar is bursting – this week the Leavers are making films about the school for the website, rehearsing for their play “Back to the Future”, attending a Rock School and learning how to perform in a rock band, as well as fitting in matches against Sunningdale on Wednesday and Papplewick on Saturday.
The boys further down the school are preparing intently for their exams in a week’s time, but they are also involved in cricket, athletics and fencing matches as well as a lecture on “Waterloo” given by the Pyemont brothers on Thursday and a procession through London to celebrate the battle, on Sunday. The Juniors are off to Ascot this afternoon to greet the Queen as she arrives for the first day of the Royal Meeting.
We are certainly not ‘winding down’…..
That is all.
As I look out of my study window, across the Front Field and 1st XI cricket square, the rain has just started to fall. This is the first rain for a good few weeks and must therefore signal the onset of the cricket season. Our first match against Pilgrims’ is due to begin at 2:30pm – let us hope for more clement weather this afternoon!
The term has begun with a real sense of purpose – it was great to see all the boarders return mid-afternoon on Wednesday. It meant that we could get their unpacking done and they were out playing cricket and swimming by 4 o’clock. The chef cooked up burgers and chips for their tea and then there was a mixture of football and films before bed – what a great way to start the term.
Looking through the calendar, I see little respite from constant activity. Apart from the usual Summer term business of Common Entrance, school exams, cricket and athletics fixtures, swimming sports, camping and pizza nights, barbecues, a school play, a concert and Speech Day, there are also countless educational visits, a battlefield tour, a parade through London to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, an election night, themed dinners, boarders’ outings, two familiarisation days for the September new boys and the leavers’ programme – to include a four day surfing expedition to Cornwall. We have even managed to squeeze in a couple of staff cricket fixtures against local opposition! We shall all need a rest come the 8th of July!
Amongst all this activity, the two little pigs (although not so little now) continue to flourish. They are being very well fed and cared for by the boys and, like the boys, are enjoying their surroundings immensely. They love company (the pigs and the boys!) so do come and see them when you are next here.
That is all.
Shamed again by the first line of my last post – I do hope you all had a Happy Christmas and that the New Year has begun in prosperous fashion, without the need for a 5:2 diet or a juicer?
We have made a great start to the Lent term and the school is buzzing. The Shell boys are gearing up for their academic scholarships to Harrow, Bradfield, Sherborne and Wellington and those sitting sports awards have just returned from assessment – we shall find out their results before half term. The 1st XV (and Colts B) remain unbeaten and there have been famous victories at every level.
The boarders have been on cinema trips, ice-skating and also had exclusive use of the water park at Woking, one Saturday night. We have had a Bingo night and Greyhound Racing as well as a talk from the Proprietor to the boys about his recent trip to South America – along with a tasting of the wines he and Mrs. Nick discovered along the way (Staff only!).
There have been Ping Pong matches against Papplewick and Archery ‘bouts’ against St. George’s Weybridge, as well as a cross-country fixture at Sunningdale against 5 other schools, which we won for the second year in a row.
The Junior Play has been cast – 35 parts in all – and will be performed on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st March. It is an ‘updated’ version of the ‘70s children’s television programme, “Camberwick Green” – featuring Windy Miller, Peter the Postman, Mickey the Master Baker and, of course, the soldier boys from Pippin Fort. It is not to be missed!
Hopefully, this will be the final play to be performed in the old ‘gym’. The fundraising has proved to be a great success and while we are still a little way short of our goal, we should be able to begin work on the new theatre soon.
On Thursday we had our inaugural drinks party in West London for pre-prep and prep heads and prospective parents. It was a huge success and I am delighted that so many of those who attended have already arranged come and see us at Woodcote, over the next few weeks.
This weekend, we are entertaining 60 Old Boys and their families who are coming to chapel, lunch, watching the matches against Horris Hill this afternoon and then staying for the famous Woodcote tea. It will be great to see some old faces and to meet some of the ‘older’ old boys too!
Tomorrow we have a touring side from Geneva coming to play rugby against our Colts and then in the afternoon there is going to be an ‘Open Fire’ chip competition – something of which the Old Boys would definitely approve!
Over the next couple of weeks the sixth form will begin to prepare for their mock CE exams; the almost daily exodus of fourth and fifth form boys to sit their pre-tests will continue; we have full fixtures against Sunningdale, Pilgrims’ and St. Andrew’s Pangbourne; there is the much-loved, ‘Gameshow Challenge’, a boarders’ outing to see Thriller – Live! at the Lyric theatre, and a Chinese New Year feast!
Plenty then to keep us busy in the run-up to half term….
That is all.
ures against Sunningdale, Pilgrims’ and St. Andrew’s Pangbourne; there is the much-loved, ‘Gameshow Challenge’, a boarders’ outing to see Thriller – Live! at the Lyric theatre, and a Chinese New Year feast!
Plenty then to keep us busy in the run-up to half term….
That is all.
The close of the Michaelmas term each year is signalled by the arrival of Advent. I cannot believe that we are ‘coming towards’ the end of term already, let alone Christmas, but what a term it has been.
Since my last post (Remembrance Sunday), much has happened. Perhaps the highlight has been the Play weekend. This kicked off with a Friday evening performance of ‘Dick Whittington at Strutham’ – a play about a calamitous dress rehearsal. The second performance took place on Saturday afternoon and was followed by some excellent House Music and then the annual House Shout competition, won this year by the Blues.
Over the course of the weekend, every single boy in the school was on the stage at some point – a fabulous achievement. It was, undoubtedly, the most entertaining couple of hours in the ‘Gym’ for quite some time. I look forward to more of the same next year, although hopefully in slightly more comfortable surroundings, once the new theatre has been built.
Sandwiched in between these two performances we hosted an Open morning for prospective parents. It was a pleasure to welcome 20 new families to Woodcote, all of whom were treated to an in-depth guided tour of the school by some of the senior boys, who did a wonderful job as hosts for the morning. The feedback was extremely positive and we look forward to welcoming the boys and their parents back to the Awards morning in March.
We had the final football matches of the term against Horris Hill and also secured a victory against a touring side from Beaudesert, before indulging in a few weeks of rugby training. The 1st XV are about to return from a pre-season tour and have already taken the scalp of Old Buckenham Hall 38-5. I have just heard that they also put thirty points on Brandeston Hall, winning 36-12. This is where James Loveridge, who many of you will remember, now teaches.
This week we have had our school exams – the end of which was celebrated with a ‘Night at the Races’ followed by an obscene amount of pizza, courtesy of Dominos. The boys are now gearing up for the final week of term – a visit to the Christmas Market in Winchester, Dormitory Charades, Prize-Giving, Christmas Lunch, Carol Services and the Break-Up Supper.
It has indeed been a busy term – let us hope for a peaceful Christmas.
That is all.
Apologies again for the relative infrequency of the HM’s blog. I had made the foolish mistake of lulling myself into a false sense of security, convincing myself that the Michaelmas term was going to be a cake walk….and then the inspectors called.
This has been my fifth inspection in six years as Headmaster, so I’m getting pretty used to it now. But it still takes control of your life from the moment the ‘phone call comes in until the moment the inspectors leave 10 days later.
The final report is being sent out to all parents next week and should go online soon after that but, in summary, I am tremendously pleased with the result. For me, the most interesting and, perhaps, most valid feedback during the inspection came via the pupil and parent questionnaires. It was fascinating to see what the boys and the parents really thought of Woodcote, and their experiences of it.
All the boys in Year 5 and above filled in the pupil questionnaire, and I was delighted to see that 100% of them ‘strongly agreed’ that they were making good progress in their work, that there was an excellent range of extra-curricular activities; that their teachers really helped them to learn; that they felt safe; and, that they thought the food was good!
It was really pleasing that so many parents took the time to fill in the questionnaire – nearly 70%. Again, there was a whole raft of statements with which 100% of the parents agreed: that their children are happy at Woodcote; that their children are well looked after; that the school achieves high standards of behaviour; that communication with parents is good; that their children enjoy boarding; that the school keeps their children safe; that boarding helps their children’s development, and so on.
The response to both questionnaires was commented on by the inspectors, who had never seen such positive responses, or in such volume. I cannot tell you how much it means to us all to know how much the boys enjoy and benefit from being here but also the huge level of support that we have from parents.
Inspection aside, the term continues to gather pace. We have celebrated Harvest Festival, enjoyed a Spanish theme day, run the House Cross – Country, taken the Juniors on an overnight stay to Ufton Court and the 6th form and Shell on a Geography Field Trip to the Brecon Beacons, and enjoyed a Halloween Feast and ‘Fright Night’.
The boarders have been on outings Mountain Biking, Go Karting, Rock Climbing, and, this week, to Gravity Force. There has also been a trip to see the Remembrance Poppies at the Tower of London.
We have had matches against St. Andrew’s Pangbourne, Greenfields, Ashdown House, Milbourne Lodge, Pilgrim’s, St. George’s and Sunningdale, with return fixtures against the ‘Dale on Saturday. Almost every boy in the school has had the opportunity to represent the school at one level or another.
We have also had a series of development drinks evenings to show off what we have already achieved and what we propose to do as far as the redevelopment of Red Lane and the gym is concerned. I am enormously grateful for all the pledges that have already come in and we are steadily making our way towards our goal. It is looking increasingly likely that we will be able to begin the building of the new theatre / concert hall in March next year, so that it will be completed ready for the first day of the Michaelmas term 2015.
This weekend is Remembrance weekend, which will begin with a lecture on Saturday given by the grandfather of one of the boys who is a collector of medals and the stories behind them. He is coming to talk to the boys and parents about some of those acts of gallantry.7
On Sunday, we have our Remembrance service and, once again, Mr Mark will talk to the boys in Chapel about ‘Remembrance’, having not only been alive, but actually taken part in the Second World War.
It is a talk not to be missed.
That is all.
I’ve been meaning to ‘blog for a while now but there always seems to be something that takes precedence. I’m afraid to say that I have been shamed into it by the launch of the ‘new’ website, which splashes the last ‘blog all over the front page and it embarrasses me that I have written nothing since the end of the Summer term…..so here goes.
As those of you who have been back to Woodcote since September will have seen, the ‘new’ Red Lane is finally finished. We are absolutely thrilled with it, and with the two new classrooms off it. I do hope that if you haven’t had a chance to visit yet, you soon will.
Phase 2 of our development plan will soon be under way as we are currently fundraising for the building of a new theatre / concert hall on the site of the old ‘gym’. The plans have been posted in the new C classroom and I would be delighted to talk you through them at any time.
The term itself has started brightly, especially due to the continued good weather and we have been able to organise cricket, swimming and a camping evening alongside all of the usual Michaelmas term events.
The weekday evenings have been filled with Fencing, Archery and the newly formed Karate club, as well as cookery and film nights. There have been Science demonstrations, trips Mountain Boarding, Paintballing and to Legoland, Bingo and Game Show nights, a social at St. Mary’s, Ascot and plenty of football.
The Colts have just returned from a three day tour to Geneva, which was a huge success, with the boys hosted in pairs by local families – all of whom were hugely impressed with their manners and behaviour. This is far more important than the outcome of the matches – although we did win both games!
Next Friday, James Shone – an ex-Housemaster at Monkton Combe, who was discovered to have a brain tumour and subsequently lost his sight through two life-saving operations, is coming to share his story and hopes for the future with the boys in the 5th and 6th forms.
It will undoubtedly be a thought-provoking talk and will, I am sure, demonstrate to the boys how lucky and privileged they really are. I very much hope it will inspire them to even greater things, both now and in the future.
That is all.
Well, we made it. Just.
Yesterday 8 members of staff were among 28,000 cyclists who completed the 54 mile London to Brighton bike ride. The preparation amongst the ‘Woodcote Wheelers’ had been sketchy at best – some had put in the hard yards, whilst others (notably the younger bucks) had done almost none, or indeed none at all.
The first task was to get everyone to the start line for a 6:30am departure. This was managed with the help of our dedicated support team. Once final punctures had been repaired, seats readjusted and everyone had been to the loo (nerves, I think), we were off. The first few miles, which I believe wound through South London, although it might as well have been the moon, were very slow indeed due to the volume of traffic.
However as we broke free into Surrey the pace quickened and we started to find our rhythm. The novice cyclists in our ranks began to grow in confidence and all was going well until one of the Wheelers went for a gap that wasn’t there, wheels collided and the mother of all pile-ups ensued. The Wheeler in question was thankfully only moderately damaged but unfortunately the two pro cyclists who, whilst trying to avoid the carnage, crashed into each other before ending up in a hedge of nettles, can only be described as a twisted mass of man and (very expensive) machine. The profanities they used to voice their displeasure are simply unrepeatable…..and highly improbable too.
After this little contretemps, things calmed again and we pedalled on to mile 22 before stopping for bacon rolls. There then followed a long climb up to Turner’s Hill where we all regrouped once more before enjoying a lovely ride through West Susseex to the base of the infamous Ditchling Beacon. A further pause here to take on Jelly Babies and Peanut M&Ms and then, as one, we attacked the monster. Not all were completely successful in their ascent but once at the top the sun broke through the clouds and we were rewarded with the most beautiful views across the Sussex downs and out to sea.
From the top of Ditchling it is down hill all the way in to Brighton. Apart from losing one team member who was following the wrong Headmaster, we all crossed the line together at 1:30pm to rapturous applause from the assembled throng.
Sadly, our second support unit had underestimated the volume of traffic heading into Brighton and so our lunch didn’t arrive until 3:30pm. Nonetheless, we entertained ourselves with tales of our adventures and what we had witnessed on the ride. I think the two chaps who had borrowed Boris Bikes for the day deserve a special mention, as does the man on a 1970s Raleigh Chopper.
It really was a great day out and my thanks to all those who took part – not just the Wheelers, but the support teams and everyone who has donated to our JustGiving Page.
That is all.
Well, as you can see from the photograph, the wisteria has been and gone, the rhododendrons are in full bloom and the sun is shining….surely the Summer is now in full swing? Judging from the past few days, that is simply not the case, and we have lost yet more cricket, most recently against a new ‘oppo’ in Cottesmore. Hopefully we’ll get some football fixtures with them next term.
That said, the weather has not slowed the pace of this term. Although we are still at school whilst the rest of the country heads for a quick fix of sunshine in Tenerife or Mallorca, we are indeed over half way through the term already.
Since my last post, there have been educational visits to Hampton Court, Cadbury World, Lulworth Cove, The Lookout, two local farms, The Somme and Ypres. We have also had the irrepressible Sir Linkalot here doing his spelling workshops.
The weekends have been filled with camping nights (31 boys camping one weekend), wood-fired pizzas, barbecues and outings to Thorpe Park, Horseshoe Lake and this weekend to Twickenham to see England vs The Barbarians. Trips to London Zoo and to Brighton for mackerel fishing follow after half term!
The 6th form are all working hard towards Common Entrance which begins in earnest on Monday. They are as well-prepared as they can be and I hope they will all do themselves justice. The results will be out during half term.
Once the ordeal is over there is a faulous programme of events for the Leavers, culminating in a trip to Liverpool to stay at the International Football Academy. There are visits planned for a tour of Anfield, a visit to the Beatles Museum and, of course, a day at Alton Towers on the way home!
The rest of the school are also working hard towards their end of term exams but there is still so much to cram into these last four weeks – athletics finals, swimming sports, cricket, tennis matches, Speech Day, the school play, barbecues and the Leavers’ dinner to name but a few.
There is also the small matter of the staff ‘London to Brighton’ cycle ride in aid of the British Heart Foundation on Sunday 15th June. 9 members of staff and 3 normal people will be joining thousands of others aiming to raise money for this great cause. The training is well underway but there is still some distance to go! If you would like to support us, do please visit out Just Giving page – we are the Woodcote Wheelers (obviously!)
Let us hope for some better weather in the last few weeks.
That is all.
It seems like only yesterday that the Christmas holidays finished and we returned to school. Where have the last 4 weeks gone?
This is generally the busiest term for ‘prospective’ parents and I have been kept up to the mark with a steady stream of families keen to see what Woodcote has to offer. I always enjoy these meetings and the opportunity to explain exactly what this place is all about. I particularly relish the chance to show off the school, especially the wonderful grounds – although that has not been possible on occasion due to the torrential rain. Let us hope for some fine weather as I always think that the school looks its best in the Spring.
The weather has been causing havoc not only with my ‘tours’ but also with the rugby fixtures. We have managed a few though, both home and away, and the results have been generally in our favour. The groundsmen are going to need to work miracles to prepare cricket squares for the Summer – the first ball is due to be bowled in just over 10 weeks’ time!
There has been an excellent programme of boarders’ events so far this term, which you can read all about in the Boarders’ Blog. The highlight for me though has to be the Chinese New Year Supper but I am hugely looking forward to the Karaoke night tomorrow – always highly entertaining.
We have recently hosted the Geneva English School who came over to play an Under 11 rugby fixture against us (we managed to find a dry patch of ground on which to play) and then the boys stayed the night. The Proprietor regaled them with stories of Captain Snow and his evil deeds as the local ‘highwayman’ so I’m not sure that they got much sleep but they were delightful guests and we very much hope to reciprocate the visit with an U11 tour to Geneva in September, which may (or may not) include a visit to the Hadron Collider!!
On Tuesday 4th February, Woodcote celebrated a momentous occasion – it was Mr. Mark’s 90th Birthday. Mark has been living at the school (apart from his time at Radley and a commission in the army) for almost his entire life, arriving as a 7 year old in 1931, when his father bought the school. Mark was Headmaster here for 31 years, from 1958 – 1989 and he still comes to lunch and to chat to the boys every day. Mrs. Mark had bought 150 cup cakes and so every boy in the school was given one at supper with a lit candle in it. The lights were turned low in the Dining Room, one of the senior boys played Happy Birthday on the piano and the whole school sang with great gusto. Then, on Mark’s command, the candles were all blown out, amid much cheering! To reach 90 is an amazing achievement – many happy returns!
The scholarship season has begun in earnest and, as you may have seen from our ‘tweets’, music awards have already been won at Bradfield (the top scholarship) and King’s Canterbury. We are also currently awaiting news from Cheltenham (Music) and Sherborne, Millfield, Milton Abbey and Wellington (Sport). The academic scholarships are fast approaching and boys are preparing to sit these at Radley, Harrow, Bradfield, King’s Canterbury and Cheltenham – I wish them all the best of luck; they have all worked incredibly hard to get themselves into this position but the outcome lies in the lap of the gods. I will post results as they come in.
Finally, I am off to London tonight to drum up some more business for the bus service which begins in April. Since it was first announced there has been genuine interest from London families and places on the first bus are filling up fast! We just need to livery the Tourneo in the chocolate and gold of Woodcote, and we’ll be ready to roll….
That is all.
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….
That is all.
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…..
That is all.
Well, we finally made it to the end of term. I am sitting at my desk feeling very smug having just finished 108 Headmaster’s reports – the end is in sight, surely? The sun is shining, Cornwall beckons…the Summer holidays are well and truly here.
What a magnificent term this has been, wrapped up in style with some notable events and performances. There was a moving Leaver’s Evensong on the penultimate Sunday of term, celebrating not only their time at Woodcote but also the 60th birthdays of Mr. NIck and Mr, Beharrell. This was followed by a Champagne reception on the lawn and then dinner for a hundred or so in the school Dining Room.
On the following Tuesday the Leavers, plus HK and EL and the dogs – Nellie and Tilly – managed 3 circumnavigations of the lake, some 13 and a half miles. Several of the boys walked far further, not knowing their way (round a lake?!!) and dispersing themselves over a wide area when they got to the Totem Pole – some to Smith’s Lawn, a few to the Valley Gardens and one to Bishopsgate! However they were soon scooped up and we completed the last lap en masse. I’m not sure of the final tally but the boys raised close to £1500 – their donation to the Sunflower Ball.
On Wednesday, while the rest of the school were hard at work in Exams, the Leavers went Mountain Boarding with EL and AGM. This apparently involves an oversized skateboard down a very steep hill – they loved it. I would have gone to but unfortunately I had to go to Wimbledon for the day. Shame…
On Thursday of that week the Leavers went waterskiing – this is the highlight of the year for me. You will only know what I mean if you have been to a waterskiing cable and stood at the first corner. Priceless!
Friday and Saturday were the two nights of the Leavers’ play – Albion. It was a light-hearted romp through the history of the English and it was hilarious. Mr. Beharrell and Mrs. Pringle had done a superb job and the boys were simply tremendous. On Saturday morning the Fathers took on the Leavers at Cricket and went down by just one run. There were barbecues on both Friday and Saturday evenings for the whole school and parents.
On Sunday AGM took a touring cricket side to Suffolk and there was a boarders’ outing to Lords for a T20. Meanwhile EL and I caught the Eurostar to Paris with 23 boys for the Leavers’ Trip to EuroDisney. We had a tremendous 4 days and even managed some culture with a bateau down the Seine. We also took in the sights of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the PSG Official Merchandise shop in the Champs Elysees! They also filmed a lipdub to Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls” which was shown at the Leavers’ Prizegiving!
Whilst we were away, one of our boys who was competing in the National Athletics Finals in Birmingham won the Long Jump final – an astonishing achievement, especially coming only 2 years after our last National Champion, in the 200m. Not bad for a little school like ours….
Sadly there were no swimming sports this year due to a pool malfunction but otherwise we finished the term in the usual way with a Barbecue and silly games until late on Thursday night followed by Prizegiving and chapel on Friday morning. After lunch we had Leavers’ Prizegiving, where I hope I spoke kindly and with some words of advice for each boy. The Leavers’ photos have now been taken and they will adorn the walls of the school as a permanent reminder of their time here – joining what we roughly estimate to be another 1500 old boys, whose pictures line the corridors of the school.
Finally, as if we hadn’t had enough by this point, on Friday night we had the inaugural Sunflower Ball at the Royal Berkshire Hotel, organised by EL and a committee of mothers. There was a fabulous cocktail bar making a cocktail that had been designed specifically for the event, two ‘chicks for tricks’ magicians, an auction of very generously donated prizes plus a blind auction, heads and tails, a lucky dip (I won a Kate Spade Handbag!), a casino and an absolutely brilliant live band led by our ex-Director of Music, Nick Ovenden. It was a simply terrific evening and certainly raised in excess of £10,000 for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research and also for the school. Thank you to all who donated / attended and also to EL, Robin and the Committee for making it such a success.
Oh….and the Reds won the House Cake.
Have a great Summer.
That is all.
Summer is here – well, nearly. We have been lulled into a false sense of security with three beautiful days. Woodcote always looks its best in the sunshine and having the whole school out playing cricket for the last few afternoons has been a delight to watch. Sadly, with the school photograph happening this afternoon, the clouds have come over and the temperature has dropped by 10 degrees – nonetheless, we shall press on regardless.
Weather aside, the term has started smoothly. We have 9 new boys in the school, all of whom have settled very happily and quickly into Woodcote life. We have already had Judo displays, trips to the British Museum and Windsor Castle, the first Archery session, Golf lessons at the Berkshire, and Tennis lessons, along with daily Cricket and Athletics. The first matches of term take place against Pilgrim’s tomorrow so the boys will be able to test their ability against some tough opposition. The swimming pool is still a little on the cold side – 17 degrees when I last checked, so it will need another 10 degrees or so before the boys are prepared to take the plunge.
Tonight the 3rd Form will enjoy the first year group barbeque of term and tomorrow evening the 6th form will be braving the weather for their Camping night. The chef has made the pizza bases and bought in a range of toppings, the firewood is chopped and ready to go for the pizza oven and the groundsmen are currently erecting the 10 man teepee. There are also several 2 man tents available for those who require a little more peace! I have dug out the Dutch Oven for late night Hot Chocolate and Marshmallows over the campfire and the chef has also organised bread, sausages, bacon and eggs so that they boys can make their own breakfast over the fire in the morning. As one of two 6th form tutors, I would love to be there with them but sadly, I have been called away for the weekend. I’m sure EL will be in his element!
Mr. Nick is kindly taking Chapel for me on Sunday and then the boarders are being taken to Thorpe Park by DP and Miss Danielle – again, I am happy to save that excitement for the Leavers’ programme, post-CE. Next week the 3rd Form are off to Cowdray Park Farm, there are matches against St. George’s on Wednesday and then the first Exeat begins on Friday. This is undoubtedly going to be a very busy term and there is so much more to come…..
That is all.
When I last posted we were about to take on the old enemy in the return leg of our football fixtures. There were some splendid matches, with Woodcote victorious in the four senior games, but Sunningdale turned defeat into victory at Colts A and also won both of the Under 9 fixtures, although the margins were much closer this time – some judicious team management on both sides!
The season finished the following Wednesday at Horris Hill. I was privileged enough to escort the 4th XI on their away day and we returned 2-1 victors. The focus though was on the first XI who were unbeaten. Having gone ahead early on they were unfortunate to concede an equaliser. In a tense second half, they simply could not break through a solid and well-manned defence and were nearly caught on the break once or twice. The relief on their faces when the final whistle blew was obvious, although they did feel that they should have won the game. Nonetheless, they are a very, very good side – perhaps the best that DP has coached in the last 20 years and they should be very proud to remain unbeaten, especially considering the size and strength of some of the opposing schools.
Rugby has now begun in earnest and the boys are all really enjoying getting stuck in. The rain hasn’t been conducive to a free-flowing, running game but they have been knocking seven bells out of each other regardless. The 1st XV are off on tour on Wednesday of next week, playing Aysgarth and Cundall Manor – it will be good for them to test their mettle against schools that have been playing rugby all term. I am sure they will learn some valuable lessons!
This weekend was Junior Play weekend. It never ceases to amaze me how much the boys get from performing to an audience – they rose to the occasion magnificently and it was a joy to watch. It was great that the weekend also included the House Music Competition and House Shout – this meant that every single boy in the school was on stage, performing, at some point.
This week is Exam week and then we are off on a short Exeat before the final run-in. Next week, as I said, the senior boys are off on tour and there is also a Bingo Night on Friday and Super Heroes theme night on Saturday. The boarders are off to the Christmas Market in Winchester on Sunday to do their Christmas shopping. In the final week of term, the Juniors are going to the Pantomime in Woking, the choir will be singing carols at Camberley station on Tuesday 11th and then we have the two carol services on Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th. Apparently, I have to sing a solo this year – that should be worth turning up for!!
That is all.
Apologies for the lateness of this blog. I know how much you love reading it and how you cannot wait for the next installment, but it is only now that I find I have a few minutes to spare….so here goes.
The half term concert was a huge success – there was an excellent mixture of classical and modern; some fine playing of that most difficult instrument – the french horn; a ‘Stomp’ tribute; poetry recitals; guitar solos and Max’s band, The Taken – renamed after a conversation with Ed Sheeran’s record producer! The concert was rounded off in fine style by the choir singing Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol – a very proud moment as both a father and Headmaster! All in all, there was something for (almost) everybody.
Since our return from Half Term, the 6th Form have been off on their Geography Field Trip to Wales. They have brought back all sorts of fascinating data and are now busy writing up their CE projects. On Friday we had our Bonfire and Fireworks party. Peter and Ian had constructed a most beautiful bonfire which burnt exactly as it was supposed to and Mr. Beharrell let of barrage after barrage of fireworks – a display which lasted over 20 minutes. The chef provided an outdoor supper for all – burgers, curly fries, fizzy drinks and toffee apples – and the boys had a tremendous time.
On Saturday there were matches against Ashdown House. The Colts A were beaten by the better side and the Bs went down 3-2 away, but the 9s picked up their second victory of the season and the 1st XI’s unbeaten season continued with a 5-0 victory, playing some of the best football that DP has witnessed in his 20 year tenure as 1st team coach! In the evening the boys had a film and popcorn night, managing to devour 3kgs of Popcorn, which is quite a lot when you think about it!
On Sunday after chapel, EL and HE took 28 boys to watch London Welsh take on Bath. Not perhaps the most exciting game until the 79th minute when an intercepted pass handed the victory to London Welsh, but the boarders who went loved it and it has given them the taste for rugby, which we start in just two weeks’ time!
This week there are matches against Ludgrove, the Juniors are off to Brooklands, we have a lecture on ‘The History of Sport’, return matches against the old enemy on Saturday, a Pizza and Film night for the 5th form (I’ll let you know how many kgs of pizza they eat!) and our Remembrance service led by MDKP and NHKP on Sunday. There is also a boarders’ outing to Beaulieu, where the boys will get to see 50 years of James Bond Cars.
Andrew, Wendy and I will all be at the Independent Schools Show in Battersea Park on Saturday and Sunday, so if you are in the area, do pop in and say hello.
That is all.
Good Morning all and welcome back. The Summer holiday is finally over and I am delighted to see the school come back to life once again. That’s not to say that we haven’t been busy here over the Summer – many of you will have seen the totally refurbished Medicine Room – a long overdue job, but one which will further improve both the medical and pastoral care at the school. The redecoration of the Pelicans means that we have completed the refurbishment of the dormitories and the Games Room has also been given an overhaul – we hope to have some new games in there soon too, although I am still saving for a Bar Billiards table.
The term has begun really well and the changes that have been made that I mentioned in my end of term letter seem to be working very well. Mr. Elliot has settled in happily as has Miss Sophia and the two new groundsmen, Nick and Matt.
Mr. Lyddon took some 6th Form boys to the Paralympics yesterday to watch some Rugby – apparently known as ‘Murder Ball’ – perhaps the only time in our lifetime that Woodcote boys will visit a ‘home’ Olympic / Paralympic games. We hope to have some photos on the website soon!
No matches today, but the coaches have been working hard, especially on fitness levels (theirs as well as the boys) and the teams are beginning to take shape. We test our mettle against St. George’s on Wednesday and Elstree on Saturday.
Tomorrow, the boarders are off to Mercedes World and there is also the Proprietory Prep School T20 Cricket at Hall Grove. We must make the most of the sunshine while it lasts!
Next week we have Instrumental demos during assembly each morning. The Royal British Legion are coming to a talk on Woodcote during the War on Monday evening. On Tuesday the Tatler Good Schools Guide 2013 is launched at The Dorchester – if you haven’t read our entry yet, go out and get a copy now! The 5th form are off to Warhorse on Thursday and we have a top music producer coming to talk to the boys on Friday night.
On Saturday evening I am taking to boarders camping in the grounds and hope to get the pizza oven fired up and on Sunday the 6th form are going paintballing and there is also a trip to Marwell Zoo for the younger ones. Sunday 16th is also our first proper Chapel service of term. It starts at 10am and I hope to see as many of you there as possible.
That is all.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Apologies for the lateness of this latest blog. The end of term has rather caught up with me as I sit in my study furiously trying to write Headmaster’s reports before the end of term Carol Services.
Much has happened since I last wrote: The Junior Play passed off without major incident. I thought the House Music competition showcased some pretty impressive talent and it was great that every boy in the school was on stage at some point on the Sunday afternoon, either in the play or House Shout. That the Reds won the competition is still the subject of tremendous debate!
The excitement of that weekend was swiftly dampened by the impending school exams which began the following week, but I am pleased to say that the results were pretty positive and it was a stroke of genius to have them a week earlier than normal, the boys being less tired and also allowing us an extra week to hand them back and iron out any snags.
A short Exeat followed for R&R before the onslaught of the final ten days. Bingo on Friday night was followed by Cinema trips to ‘Arthur Christmas’ and ‘Hugo’ (both highly recommended) and Ice Skating for the choir. We have dormitory charades tonight and then Prize Giving on Wednesday followed by Christmas Lunch and the first of our two Carol Services. There is then the Christmas (Break-Up) Supper – that’ll be two turkeys for me in one day – and finally the second Carol Service on Thursday morning, before the end of term.
Sorry – no pictures today as they take too long to upload and I must get back to my reports. The DVD of the play and House Music are available though. Let me know if you’d like a copy.
That is all.
I do hope that you all enjoyed a peaceful and restful Exeat? Miss Becky, Miss Danielle, Mrs. Knight and Mrs. Monk kindly gave up their time to represent the school at Sunday’s results show of The X Factor….and mixed with the stars!
It has been another busy week here at Woodcote as we move inexorably towards the business end of term. Rugby started in earnest on Tuesday afternoon, much to Mr. Lyddon’s delight. Early signs are that there should be some good sides playing next term. It never ceases to amaze me just how much the boys enjoy knocking seven bells out of each other.
On Tuesday evening we had our first ever Christingle Service, performed by the boys in Juniors 1 and 2. It was good to see so many of the Juniors’ parents in chapel and the service was beautifully sung and very moving in parts. The boys had all decorated their oranges with candles, red ribbon, grapes and of course sweets which they devoured in the Junior End afterwards!
On Thursday I took the boys clay pigeon shooting again at Bisley. Here, I hope (?!), is a video of a boy nailing both clays. I think it’s time for some matches against other schools. According to Mrs. Mark there was once a clay pigeon shooting fixture versus Ludgrove here at Woodcote….National Prep School Polo and Clay Pigeon Champions??!
On returning from Bisley, the afternoon was taken up with the dress rehearsal of the Junior Play. This was the first time that the boys had had a chance to perform in front of an audience and it passed off pretty well, apart from one of the ghosts falling off the front of the stage during his entrance. Without wishing to ‘big them up’ too much, the cast are all superb and this really is a play not to be missed. I do hope that you will come and watch it.
On Friday evening the man who owns the local lizard shop – Global Geckos – came to talk to the boys about the conservation and protection of these creatures. He brought with him a chameleon, gecko, tortoise and the biggest snake I have ever seen. The boys all had the opportunity to touch these reptiles and the best question came from one boy who asked, ” If a man walked into your shop wearing crocodile shoes and a snakeskin belt whilst eating a frog….would you sell him a reptile or tell him to get lost?” Priceless!
I shall report back next week with a review of the weekend’s activities – Junior Play, House Music and House Shout and they will be available on DVD at the end of term, but I do hope that as many of you as possible will be able to watch them live.
Finally, Holey is preaching tomorrow in Chapel for only the second time. If it is anything like as powerful as his first sermon, your attendance would be very worthwhile.
That is all.
Good Morning! Please excuse the previous ‘upload’ as I believe it is called – I was just practising for the new blog and had no idea that it would be going live, otherwise I would have chosen a far more flattering photograph….
Last week was a good week – I went to a conference on the future of Common Entrance, attended by all the top prep and public schools and am delighted to report that all those there were fully supportive of the continuation of CE. Long may it continue.
We had a pretty torrid time against Ludgrove on Wednesday afternoon, although the 1st XI put up a good show and the Colts B had, in the words of their coach, a ‘sensational’ 5 -5 draw!
On Thursday afternoon, I took the boys clay pigeon shooting at Bisley – it really is an amazing place and we are very fortunate to have it on our doorstep – such a shame that the 2012 Olympic shooting is at Woolwich and not there.
This was followed by a rehearsal of the Junior Play, which seems to be coming on well. I do hope that as many of you as possible will be able to make it on either Saturday 26th or Sunday 27th November – it could be unmissable!
On Friday evening, Geordie Stewart, a Ludgrove Old Boy came to give the boys a talk on scaling the 7 summits – the tallest mountain in each continent, culminating in a succesful ascent of Everest in May of this year. Pretty impressive and inspirational stuff from a 22 year old who only took up climbing when he was 17!
There were some great fixtures against Sunningdale on Saturday – the firsts winning their final match of the season 7-0, playing some really skillful football. There were wins also for all three Colts teams and a draw for the mighty thirds, but losses for the twos and under nines. These losses were more than made up for on Sunday when we took on the old enemy again, this time at Chess and Pingers. The visitors were vanquished at both – the first time that we have beaten the ‘dale at Chess for 20 odd years!
On Saturday evening the boarders took part in Woodcote’s got Talent, judged by Mrs. Lyddon, Mrs. Knight, Mrs. Woodall, Miss Chloe and Miss Katie. There were some truly extraordinary acts displaying a wide range of ‘talent’ – including comedy, singing, rapping, drumming, hula-hooping, and Rubik’s cube solving (completed in 2 minutes and 6 seconds!) The winner gave a fabulous rendition of Coldplay’s Fix You and fully deserved his prize as did the pianist and hula-hooper who finished second and third respectively – my congratulations to all who entered. I am looking forward to next term’s “Woodcote’s Got the W Factor” already!
Sunday Morning chapel was our Remembrance Service and once again Mr. Mark spoke to the school and parents about the importance of Remembrance but also the importance of looking to the future. We then all watched the service from the Cenotaph, following the 2 minutes silence at 11am, before normal Sunday activities resumed.
It was perhaps a little ambitious of me to suggest that this blog would be a daily occurence! However, I will endeavour to keep you posted at least once a week.
That is all.
As if I didn’t have enough to do already, I have decided to write a daily (?!) blog to keep you all informed of the exciting events that have happened at Woodcote. Watch this space and I’ll (hopefully) keep you posted….
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