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The importance of decorum

The last two weeks at school have been full of success. If you’ll allow me to go back to Saturday 7 May, I returned from a (successful!) cricket match and popped down to the main pitches on my way home. 

Both the Colts A and 1st XI cricket teams were in the midst of enjoying nail-biting last over wins; the 1st XI’s over Moulsford, one of the stronger sporting Prep schools in the south of England.  Exciting stuff and brilliant to see our two premier teams being so successful.

Last Wednesday saw the first of the academic scholarship results come through, with Jun W winning the top scholarship to Tonbridge. Not long after this news came in, a group of nervous Pilgrims’ boys gathered round the board in the Porters' Lodge to find out the result of the Winchester College Election process.  Six Pilgrims' boys were listed on Roll: four Elected to College (full academic scholarships in usual parlance) - Nye BRory DOliver K and Matteo L – and two academic Exhibitions - Archie C and Nikheel D. The week was topped off late on Friday when we found out that Alex Q had been awarded a King’s Scholarship to Eton.  This week we have also learned that all of our Winchester Entrance boys have passed their papers, and with some very impressive grades too. Finally, results from the Junior Maths Challenge are in, and 21 boys were awarded Gold Certificates, with 5 invited through to the Junior Olympiad (only around 1,200 of the very highest performers from all over the world).  Superb success.  Well done to all the boys; we are very proud of them.

However, what will really stick in my mind from the last two weeks is something that happened outside the Porters' Lodge on that momentous Wednesday, as we scanned the results. It was clear as soon as the list was posted that the boys had done very well.  There was much excitement spreading through the group. One of the successful boys turned with a look of delight on his face, but within seconds I noticed a furrow cross his brow; I moved in to offer my congratulations and see if something was wrong, and he whispered to me: 'but what about X, who didn’t get an award?'. In that moment of triumph, to think of others and how they would be feeling, was a classy thing to do.  It showed an incredible degree of decency.

I have spoken to the boys in assembly recently about the concept of ‘Common Decency’.  This is the idea that there is a generally accepted 'polite' way of dealing with each other.  One dictionary definition defines it as: 'Common, everyday courtesy, respect, and politeness that is expected and assumed by social convention.' Another defines it as an approach characterised by ‘politeness, morality and decorum’. I like those words. Decorum is a particular favourite of mine; it means ‘dignity, propriety, morality’.

We should all try to act with decorum. That scholar outside the Porters' Lodge showed decorum, and decorum dictates that I will never reveal who it was that I had that conversation with; I am sure that he knows, and besides, the comment was not meant for gaining laurels, it was made out of a desire to look after his friend.

Success is important, and Pilgrims’ has been lucky enough to celebrate a large dollop of it these last couple of weeks. However, we have a responsibility not only to teach our children how to be successful, but also how to handle being successful. Common decency dictates that we enjoy success with a due degree of decorum.

And if a boy can do that, he is set up for a lifetime of success.

Alistair Duncan
Deputy Head & Second Master

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