Welcome back; I hope you and your families have had a good break and had a chance to celebrate the arrival of 2023 with loved ones.
The start of a new year is always a time for reflection and renewal which fits our character strength of self-awareness for this half-term.
I continue to be inspired by the images coming from the James Webb Space Telescope, now a year into its mission. The pictures of galaxies millions of light years away certainly put things into perspective: a reminder of our place in the universe, an awareness of how precious and exceptional our lives can be.
It is another example of the incredible achievements possible from an inspired community. A telescope that both looks back into the distant past but points to the future.
I had the pleasure of travelling to Japan over the break and made my way down to Hiroshima, a city with a tragic past but a bright future. The story of the atomic bomb is one we often speak of at school, highlighting the imagination, respect, courage and collaboration needed for scientific achievement. But we also speak about the personal challenges the scientists faced in realising what they had made. The awareness they had of how their actions would affect others. Leo Szilard, the scientist who worked out the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction in 1933 and then in 1939 persuaded Einstein to write to the US president to urge them to build an atomic weapon, spent the subsequent years consumed by anxiety at what he had started and campaigned endlessly to stop the bomb from being dropped.
Hiroshima city is full of poignant reminders and memorials to the impossible choices people faced at that time and how important it is to pause and reflect on such events; to learn from them, to consider how actions can affect others.
This term in school is a chance for us to pause and reflect on our progress we have made so far this year and continue to be aware of how our actions can impact others. Those in the Junior School might think about what areas of language they want to work on and develop; senior school students might find their thoughts turning to public examinations. How much progress have I made? What do I want to achieve by the end of the year? What sort of student do I want to be known as? What sort of person do I want to be?
This moment of reflection is there for the staff as well. At the very start of the year we are having training for teachers on using coaching methods to encourage everyone to continue to develop and refine their practice; to help students learn and achieve more.
We are also finalising our plans to refurbish the Prep school over the summer break through July and August. Bringing more light and space into the classrooms and corridors and creating a range of new spaces for learning.
There are also plans to develop more facilities for both music and drama in the space that was the old Sixth Form centre: expanding the range of opportunities we can offer and looking forward to the knowledge and skills we want our students to have in the future.
As ever the beginning of a new year brings with it awareness. There are lots of opportunities in the term ahead from Senior school residentials through to magicians and fashion shows in the Junior school: a whole host of opportunities for everyone in the school community to learn from and enjoy. I look forward to celebrating them all with you in the weeks and months ahead.