It was a pleasure to accompany our Senior School ski trip to Aprica in northern Italy during the first week of the Easter holidays. 57 varieties of boys from Years 7 to 11 – our largest group yet on the School’s fifth biennial ski trip.
Before we left, a number of parents offered staff and me their sympathy - only partly in jest - that we would be spending a week in the close company of a large group of teenage boys dually charged by the excitement of being away with their friends and the adrenaline of skiing.
Having been on a good number of such trips – at NSB and previous schools – and without wishing to appear immodest of the challenges, like many teachers, it’s something I enjoy.
A couple of events in the past week or so have caused me to reflect upon and refute the recent open letter from the Sport Collision Injury Collective – not all of whom were arguing from a medical perspective - advocating a ban of contact rugby in schools.
Last week, I was pleased to attend with our Director of Sport, Mr Hogarth, the Sport Newcastle annual awards dinner. Ruaridh Dawson, who completed his schooling at NSB last summer, was nominated as one of Sport Newcastle’s rising stars. Called into the Scotland Under 20 squad that day, Ruaridh was unable to collect his prize in person. This made him a dual international having last season represented England Counties at Under 18 level.
Mr Hogarth, the coach who did so much to develop Ruaridh’s ability as a scrum half to a level where he has been able to secure a professional playing contract with Newcastle Falcons, was rightly proud to pick up the award on behalf of his protege. You can watch Ruaridh’s nomination here
It is always a highlight of my week to attend our youngest boys’ assembly at North Avenue. Each Friday, and similarly for juniors at West Avenue on Thursday mornings, boys’ progress and successes are celebrated. It is not uncommon among the prizes and certificates for achievement in reading, writing, Maths, drama, sport and other areas to see acts of kindness and care rewarded and celebrated by teachers and pupils.
One of the aims of education should be to help pupils find and explore what it is that they are passionate about. Whenever we host visitors who are speaking to the boys, I often think it’s as much about the boys being exposed to the commitment and energy of an ‘expert’ as it is about their particular specialism.
There have been some grimly pessimistic headlines this weekend about the future for independent schools following comments made last week by the publisher of The Good Schools Guide.
Without citing any particular evidence, the Guide asserted that better standards in state schools - attributed to improved ambition and discipline - and allied with economic downturn and rising fees threaten the future of hundreds of independent schools. Sunderland High School was quoted in my newspaper as a recent example.
If the observations of The Good Schools Guide about state school educational standards can be substantiated, then this is to be celebrated. It is clearly good for children, good for schools and good for the nation.
And if they ever did, independent schools can no longer base their existence on a presumption of flawed state school provision. Competition raises standards and challenges complacency.