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This term is coming to a close and it has been characterised by a great deal of hard work and a great team spirit from so many in our school community.  Students have been working hard all term in their academic studies with year 11 performing really well in their recent mock exams.  But many year 9 students have taken enthusiastically to the challenge of new ways of working and new subjects.  They are a really good year group who have settled in very well and displayed great resolve in applying themselves to academic studies.  Some classes have been spectacularly focused and productive – I know from my own experience teaching a Year 9 English group that they have come a long way in such a short time and seem very eager to get ready for GCSEs and more grown up work.  Observing lessons, talking with students and reviewing books seems to show that this is happening all over the school too.  Well done to all the students in all year groups for working so well this term.  Thank you to all the teachers and support staff who make it all happen so well with such care.   I hope you all get a decent break this Christmas.

Our rugby season comes to a close this term after a highly successful few months.  Without a doubt the highlight of the first XV was the epic victory over Eton College a few weeks back, which meant a lot to all those playing, to which can be added a string of other sound victories and a good showing in the National competition.  Congratulations to all the boys and their coaching team.  But other year groups have done equally well showing their pedigree and their training where it matters, on the pitch.  I’d like to pay particular attention to the U15 squad who have had a terrific season and seem to be going from strength to strength.  One of the reasons for this is the wonderful and highly tangible team spirit that they have. They are so committed to the sport, their school and above all their teammates that they are a force to be reckoned with.  They have been ably supported by some parent coaches who have been amazing and have given so much so willingly.  Rugby is a strong sport within the school and the values of the sport seem to match so perfectly the values of the school – strength with intelligence, fair play, respect and comradeship. On Wednesday in the final assembly of the term we will honour all the rugby players and their coaches with an end of season round up and some awards.

Parents have been a great support to rugby this term, both as coaches and by providing much needed warm drinks and lovely bacon sandwiches on cold and wet Saturday mornings.  But this term our parents have excelled themselves with the world-famous Uno Animo Uno Dinner.  There was a superb turn out of supportive people who attended and joined in generously with the fundraising, but behind that was another layer of parents who organised the event over months and months. Tirelessly and cheerfully pulling it all together, securing sponsors and donors, and making the whole event go smoothly.  Without these committed parents we would be much the poorer as a school, literally and metaphorically.  Thank you to anyone and everyone who made the dinner dance go so well this year.  What would we do without you?  Thank you so much.

Today we had our first whole school rehearsal of the Christmas Carol Service, which went extremely well.  The sixth formers know the drill and managed to belt out a thunderous and sonorous chorus at exactly the right moment.  But what was surprising by the end was just how confidently the year 9 students sang, musically and in the right spirit.  This doesn’t often happen at the first attempt, and so it all bodes well for a really good concert next week.  Mr Manwaring and the orchestra have been rehearsing hard, and the prefect/staff choir have been well prepared. Remember that the main concert is at 12.00 in the Parish Church on Wednesday 19th December, but we now also run a family friendly version of the concert the night before at 7.30pm, which has proved popular with those unable to take time off work to join in.  I look forward to seeing many of you there: we all know that the Christmas holidays truly starts with the last carol and everyone leaving the church with a smile and the warmth of a joyous school community celebration.

Gavin Henderson