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As we start the long goodbye….

11th May 2018

After a blistering bank holiday we have had a lovely summer’s week at Wychwood with rough croquet on the lawn (although I do need to teach the girls the rules), tennis and much ice cream being consumed in the prep break.

Last Friday the Upper Transits and Shell went to Stratford for a riverside picnic and to watch Macbeth and the reports back where very appreciative. After that everyone went their separate ways for the long weekend and since we have come back for Shell’s last week there has been a palpable focus on examination preparation not just for those taking public exams but also for the younger years. Shell start study leave today and the staff all have a clear eye on 26th June and the last examination when the annual round of marking, feedback and individual meetings to clarify, finalise and encourage will be over for another season. Last year we were encouraged by our English results in the new marking system and this year we will have much more information about how the new system works as those examinations in new specifications that started teaching in September 2016 come to fruition.

Again, on results days, we will be looking for the comparability promised by Ofqual – in other words, pupils capable of getting a particular grade in 2017 in the legacy specifications should get the same grade in 2018 in reformed specifications. You will find in this week’s Wychwood Weekly the Department for Education’s updated guide for parents on the new system if you would like to read through it.

I would like to flag up something for next year’s GCSE and A Level candidates: the Joint Council for Qualifications have announced a contingency date. A contingency date is a day specifically set aside, should sustained national or local disruption arise during the June 2019 examination series. If disruption happens, the GCSE and/or GCE (A Level) examinations would be taken either for the first time or again on that day. One wonders what JCQ knows that we do not, as this is the first time ever I have seen a date set! The contingency date for 2019 is 26th June. The implication I take from this is that girls taking public examinations should not plan to leave Wychwood after A Levels before that date and girls who finish their GCSEs before that date should not plan a holiday or to be at any distance from school before 27th June 2019.

Last night we thoroughly enjoyed Councillors’ Diner, the school’s thank you occasion for the leaving Study II Councillors. Wendy, as always, provided a truly delicious meal and her cold cucumber soul was a revelation – delectable. By the time Study II girls leave Wychwood I hope they have a clear idea that service is one of the really important aspects of life – in life, in exams, in friendships and relationships, the girls get what they give and where they serve others, they gain themselves, often in greater measure. Council also offers the opportunity to develop the ability to lead and I also hope that the girls understand that leading is not all bombast and loud speeches and that the best leadership comes from a number of skills, very few of which involve bossing others around. They learn how to handle other people and problematic situations. They learn how to take difficult decisions and what counts when making those decisions. They learn that having integrity matters more than being popular. They learn that listening is often far more important than speaking. They learn that when something needs to be done, stepping forward and getting it done rather than sloughing it off onto someone else because ‘it’s not my job’ doesn’t count for anything in this world. Taking responsibility does. They gain respect and trust and those are valuable assets.

The evening gives a light hearted view of the Study II Councillors in doggerel that does not dignify even the title of a limerick, but that is what they are intended to be! It moves on to a serious tribute for each girl and we finish with writing messages to the leaving Councillors on the menus as a keep sake. This year, unusually we were also saying farewell to a staff Councillor who has been a rock of Council for some 34 years, Ms Jones. At Wychwood she is much more than an art teacher although she is an excellent art teacher and it is so fitting and right that on Thursday one of her pupils won Young Art Oxford in Ms Jones’ last year of teaching.  I must thank the judges who were kind enough to mention Lal’s service at Young Art Oxford so that she gained some well-deserved recognition for her support of Young Art Oxford ever since it started in 2008.

Ms Jones has demonstrated immense stores of energy and enthusiasm towards the girls at Wychwood in both helping them to achieve their creative capability and providing them with so much support and common sense in times of trouble as the member of the Senior Pastoral team for Key Stage 4. The number of girls she has inspired into artistic careers is phenomenal bearing in mind the small size of the school and she is responsible for many, many girls’ career choices and sense of fulfilment within those careers. She has always demonstrated an absolute dedication to motivating and helping our girls to realise their potential for their future life and her insight and acuity when discussing teenage girls is second to none.

Yet it is her humanity, knowledge, energy and intelligence that have served us all so well. She has been the source of many key ideas and innovations as well as solving situations by taking the initiative whilst others have been standing back; she has been an innovator in so many areas beyond the classroom. But whatever she does – she is always kind and helpful and she always will be. We are going to miss her wise counsel and her presence in Council – she knows so much about what should happen and she makes sure that it does. Next year is going to be a year of small holes in the fabric until we realise that was something Lal always initiated or did.

This morning saw the annual Leavers’ Assembly for Study II that Ms Sherlock does with such style and panache – each year, she spends literally days trawling through photographs of the girls in the picture archive to put together a narrative of each form and each young woman’s time at Wychwood and the results are witty, moving, hilarious at times and full of nostalgia as well as of hope for the future. We bid the Study leavers’ goodbye this morning with a tear in more than one eye.

This evening the Golden Ticket night is in full swing with what sounds like mini elephant herds crashing past my door (and into my door) in search of scavenger hunt clues – what better way to finish the week than with a night in with your friends starting with some serious problem solving?!

Until next time….

Mrs Andrea Johnson