5th February 2016

It is hard to believe that half term is upon us.  However, it is fair to say that the past five weeks have been extremely busy, with our Form 8s working particularly well, and special mention going to our scholars, who are maintaining their momentum towards exams soon after we get back.
On Monday morning we welcomed Thomas E to Form 5.  Thomas is settling in very well.  During assembly, I also felt morally obliged to pay tribute to the wonderful Terry Wogan, who had died the previous day.  I explained to the pupils that, though Terry Wogan would not necessarily be known to them, their parents would most probably, like me and many of the staff here at St. Mary’s, have grown up with his witty and charming broadcasts on Radio 2 playing in the background.  My tribute was as much about the kindness of the man as it was about his ability to entertain.
Throughout the week, Miss McRae and her wonderful cast have been fine-tuning and latterly performing ‘Porridge’ on stage; more about that later.  Rightly, this has been the focus of Forms 3, 4 and 5, whilst the rest of the school have been fully immersed in normal timetable.  Wednesday saw some excellent fixtures, with lessons being learned from one or two heavy defeats, closer matches and pleasing victories.  Please see website for match reports.
We were privileged to be visited by Mrs Fresle and her lovely new baby Annabel yesterday.  Annabel has the longest dark hair you can imagine, and a fine pair of lungs!
This morning, we were treated to an assembly from Matt and Emily, our All Saints GAP students, on the recent history of Australia.  Pupils listened intently as Emily spoke a little about life at All Saints.  Matt gave us an insight into Australian slang, and both educated us on how vast the land mass of Australia is, and how so few people live there in comparison to our cramped little island here in the Northern Hemisphere.  We learned about the indigenous population – Aborigines -  whose land was taken over by European explorers and settlers.  One or two other facts, fascinating and not so fascinating, made for an interesting 15-minute presentation, and thanks go to Emily and Matt for taking the assembly.
I concluded proceedings by congratulating all the cast of ‘Porridge’, not just for their two fabulous stage performances, but also for the way in which they have all conducted themselves behind the scenes.  Their ability to listen, be patient and cooperative has made Miss McRae and her team’s massive project far less onerous than it might have been, and they all deserve the warm applause they received at the end of their two live shows.  As I said in my closing remarks at the end of the show last night, the majority of the cast have arrived at St. Mary’s during my five and a half years as Head, and it is astounding to see several boys and girls in their element on the stage, when so many could barely speak or look me in the eye when their parents first brought them to meet with me.  Such development is difficult to quantify, but you their parents are best placed to witness and enjoy the progress of your children in the performing arts, as we their teachers do.
This afternoon there has been a buzz of activity in the dining room as the every busy Friends of St. Mary’s conducted their cake sale.  I understand a wide variety of goodies were on sale and thank you to the Friends of St. Mary’s for all their hard work in baking and selling their wares.  Finally, I end the half term with the excellent news that Adam L has been awarded a Sports Scholarship to Merchiston Castle School. 
Do enjoy your half term break.

Jules Birdsall, 05/02/2016

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