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Happy New Year!

A very, very Happy New Year to one and all! I hope that the Christmas holidays brought a chance for some special time with those you love.

Usually, after holidays, I would hope for people to have had a chance for some rest too, but the more I talk around, the more there seems to be consensus that – of all adjectives – ‘restful’ is not one that comes to mind for the Christmas period! Within a day of the end of term, when most were just easing into the break, the Quiristers were up in Chelsea delivering a wonderful carol concert at St. Luke’s with the college chapel choir. The next day, the Choristers returned to the saddle for their Christmas Choir Time. I must say that they did a superb job throughout, delivering numerous outstanding carol services and concerts, many of which I had the pleasure to be at. But for the school as a whole – distant memory though it may now seem – I really do need to highlight the school Carol Service. What an incredible occasion it was, showcasing the remarkable singing of so many boys, brilliant readers, and what the spirit of the Pilgrims’ community is all about. My thanks to Mr du Plessis and Mr Burton (in his absence), and to all other staff and Pilgrims’ Singers parents (!) who helped to make it what it was. 

At the start of this new term, the boys are abuzz and excited and have made a strong return. As we look ahead, some practical notes initially… 

Returning refreshed – and with a short lead-in to ‘warm up’ – the Years 5, 6 and 7 boys have internal exams next week. For their parents, I would encourage a re-read of my newsletter article of 24th November as conversations around the exams and the results take place. We wish them well, whilst remembering these are generally experience-building affairs, including in terms of learning the importance and practicalities of revision. 

We have two Open Mornings in the weeks ahead: Pre-Prep on Friday 26th January and Whole School on Saturday 26th February. As in so many walks of life, word of mouth is by far and away the strongest influence and if you know of families whose sons would flourish at Pilgrims’ – or have access to locations, communities or organisations that it would worth us getting our name into – do please share the good word! It gives me such pleasure at these Open Mornings to share quotes such as these, which came from last year’s Leavers’ parents at the end of the Summer Term: 

Astonishing. An absolute gem for boys to be themselves whilst flourishing and achieving beyond their potential. 

What a really outstanding place it is – not enough words to describe! We are convinced it has given our son the best start and we could not be happier. 

Staff make enormous efforts to get to know their pupils as individuals… 

Continuing with other areas of news, behind the scenes last term, there has been staff engagement around AI and the drafting of a school policy. A staff working group has formed and Mr Lloyd (Head of Digital Learning and AI) and I will shortly be communicating out for any interested and willing parents whose professional spheres are overlapping with, adjusting due to, or leveraging the potential of AI, to have an early evening discussion meet over drinks later in term. This will be to share ideas and experiences around that which we are preparing the boys for in the years to come. 

A reminder that we start the Walking Bus (see previous parent email for details) from outside the Guildhall on The Broadway on Monday morning (0750 depart prompt) for those parents and boys for whom this will be a useful facility to avoid the congestion of our immediate medieval street layout. 

Talking of our medieval heritage, as a staff we have been in a process of collaboratively defining our values, purpose and vision as a school, much of which stems from our unique location and the community it places us in between city, cathedral, college and country. It is something that helps to make us very special indeed. It also comes with certain incumbent drawbacks, particularly in times of heavy rain, and I thank everyone for their forbearance with issues around our often-medieval drains that run beneath the Yard and their occasional overflow in times of high water volume. (Goodness: from the School Carol Service to the drains… this piece really is covering the sublime to the ridiculous!) 

Finally, a news story caught my eye this morning which provided a nice link as a metaphor for my focus in this week’s start-of-term assembly. The story centred upon the revelation that, due to enormous pressures on local councils, public rights of way are blocked and inaccessible in approximately 32,000 locations around the UK. Not as immediately concerning as last night’s military action against the Houthi rebels perhaps, but symbolically still a battlefront of sorts… I was talking to the boys about the next stage up in the ‘sailboat model’ of human needs (see earlier newsletters). Having covered Safety, Connection and Self-Esteem as the ‘hull’ last term, we are moving on to the sail this term: that which unfurls, captures the wind of opportunity and leads one forward in life’s journey to fulfil your full potential.  

At the base of the sail, opening up once the first three needs are in place, is Exploration. We discussed a sense of intellectual exploration and a certain freedom and openness of mind that is critical to discovery in the sense of knowledge. But also, of course, we talked about physical exploration: of environment; of cultures; of other places, all of which contributes to finding and realising your potential in life. Public rights of way offer a richly intricate working-out of the past’s footfall; a capillaceous network protected by law which I would encourage all, but particularly today’s children to get out and explore. How sad that it is being so neglected. Let us ensure that we always protect our boys’ right to exploration, to journey down different paths (literal and metaphorical) and let us be sure not to close off any possibilities. Who knows where future success and fulfilment of potential may lie? 

Tim Butcher

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