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….

I am sitting here with my 6th form as they complete some final English work for me in the run-up to Common Entrance, which begins on Monday. Over the course of this week, they will have had the opportunity to complete their revision programmes under the watchful eyes of those who teach them. That is not to say that parents are incapable of leading the revision process; it is simply that we feel it is our responsibility to do so.

Whilst I am sure that it would be easier for parents to have all their children on holiday together, anyone who has taken a public exam will know the stress that it can create – I’m not sure that taking a 13 year old boy away on a family holiday in the week leading up to CE is necessarily going to be all peace and harmony. From my own experience as a teenager, I can honestly say that taking any 13 year old on holiday is likely to be fraught with emotion, regardless of looming exams….although that may just have been me.

As a school, we have always thought it more practical to keep the boys here through until the end of CE exam week, culminating in Speech Day on the Saturday and a well-earned week of half term afterwards, unencumbered by bank holiday weekends and the rest of the known world descending on Polzeath beach. I would suggest more prep schools do it but, selfishly and in all honesty, that would disturb the peace and relative solitude of a late break. Sorry.

The powers that be have decided to move Common Entrance next year so that it begins on Tuesday rather than Monday; this will give those who take the normal half term a whole day (!) to get back into school mode before the first exam begins. It will also mean though that the results are not available until the back end of the following week, which is a bore. For some schools, this is a catalyst to change the dates of half term; others (mostly the traditional, proprietorial schools) are sticking firmly to their guns. It will be up to DP to decide how he wants this to play out next year and beyond.

One final reason for having a later half term is to keep the Leavers’ programme to a sensible length of time. These chaps have worked hard and deserve the opportunity to enjoy their final few weeks at Woodcote. However, the rest of the school are still working hard and cannot afford to lose focus, so we aim to get the Leavers off-site or out in the grounds as much as possible, to allow the other boys to concentrate on their exams. This is manageable over a three week period but four weeks of this would be hard to fill.

To give you some idea, here is some of what the Leavers have lined up post – half term: waterskiing, horse racing, a day in London, a trip to Thorpe Park, film-making, a self-defence course, a Leavers Barbecue at Dominies, a Masterchef competition and the Formal Leavers’ Dinner; there will also be swimming sports, the sports and school photographs and of course the Leavers’ photos. This year, we are taking them on a Leavers’ trip to Cornwall where they will learn to surf, go coasteering (jumping off cliffs into the sea), sea-kayaking and visit Adrenalin Quarry to do one of the longest zip wires in the UK. There will also be a whole-school barbecue and Summer Games on the last night of term; not a bad way for them to spend their final three weeks at Woodcote! I, for one, am looking forward to it immensely!

That is all.