This time last week staff were concluding two days of inset in preparation for the academic year ahead. This gave me the opportunity to introduce Mr Johnathan Key, who is teaching Form 7 and Form 8B Latin, and new gap student and former St. Mary’s pupil, Stefan Rooney. The sense of anticipation for the year ahead was palpable amongst the 40+ employees gathered for our two-day preparation. 
It was a pleasure to welcome so many new pupils on Monday morning, and all 20 settled into their seats amongst their form-mates as I addressed the school in assembly later that morning. I spoke of Miss Simpson’s wonderful initiative, the Accelerated Reader Scheme, and how the library will play a more significant part in school routines this year. I talked of the many adults who assist with the running of the school, outside of classrooms, and how they are as important as anyone else in the staff team, and then I asked Form 8 to consider what impact they would like to make to the school, and how last year’s leavers had made such a success of their final year.
To focus their minds, I chose to read out the final paragraph of Mrs Althea Dundas Bekker’s wonderful Prize Giving speech in July.
“and so tomorrow Form 8 are moving on from the care and fine standards of this school and we wish them God speed for in not all that many years they will be the generation shaping the world to become the one they will want their children to grow up in. We wish them peace in their time and we trust they will be the best of their generation”. After such lovely words, it seemed appropriate for me to give very simple and clear advice to all pupils on how to make a success of this year: be kind and work hard, it is as simple as that.
As the week has proceeded, the pupils have been getting used to some changes. A facility for parents to complete prep with their youngest children, whilst waiting for older children to finish, is now provided in the former boarders’ common room, at the foot of the stairs in the main house. This room has been kitted out with desks and chairs as an alternative to the now very busy school library. There has certainly been a constant flow of pupils coming and going from the immaculately tidy reading space in the Hamilton Building.
Whilst the new timetable has settled down with the occasional and inevitable minor hitch, staff have reported how pleased they are with the work ethic of the pupils. In Tuesday’s staff meeting there were many positive comments about individual pupils. Throughout the week, both boarding houses have been very busy, and the boys have been enjoying their new common room on the dorm floor. They have fully embraced Mr and Mrs Rawson’s ‘tip of the hat’ to St. Mary’s of the past by renaming dorms as commonwealth countries in the world.
Looking to the week ahead, I remind parents to check that syllabus evenings take place next week, and that next Friday, Mrs McKendrick from Downe House will be visiting St. Mary’s for the first time and making a presentation in assembly. As I conclude my pleasing report at the end of week one, I am required to remind parents of a couple of housekeeping matters. Please do not walk across the car park. It is imperative that pupils understand the designated walkways are there for their safety and for your safety. As you will see from the blue calendar that you receive in today’s brown envelopes, we publish our term dates over a year in advance. This is to avoid term-time absences caused by family holidays or optional days out of school. If you require your son or daughter to attend a significant family event, authorisation of such absence will only be considered if put in writing to me.
Congratulations to Adam Leighton, former pupil, who continues to shine on the national athletics circuit. Adam appeared on ITV Border News speaking of his progress, and highlighted his recent successes. His new personal best in high jump of 1m78 matches his own height of 5ft10”: all the more impressive given he has only just turned 15 years of age.
Finally, Ms McRae conducted the all-important squad singing song draw this morning.  This popular event, to be held on the evening of Thursday 12th October, is preceded by today’s key stage, during which all pupils and staff are on the edge of their seats. Four Form 8 squad representatives drew their envelopes, and this year’s competition will see the following songs performed by the squads:
Douglas         – Walking on Sunshine
Home             – Uptown Girl
Percy              – I Say A Little Prayer
Scott               – St. Elmo’s Fire
Have a good weekend.

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