23rd February 2018

Having heard Director Ridley Scott speak at the BAFTA awards about his school experience, which only just allowed him to graduate to art school, my ear was drawn to his comment about an influential teacher who saw the potential in him. This tallied with the three Winter Olympic athletes –  Lizzy Yarnold, Laura Deas and Dom Parsons – who all gained medals in the skeleton event. As a school pupil, Yarnold wanted to be a modern pentathlete, Deas had an equestrian background and Parsons was a 400m runner. All three were identified by astute talent spotters who, for one reason or another, believed they could become elite sliders. It struck me that very often our futures are shaped by wise people who see more in us than we do in ourselves. During assembly, I also welcomed Fergus Y to Form 4.
Our very privileged boarders are organised by someone with a very clear sense of direction and purpose, in Mrs Rawson. This was wonderfully illustrated by the boarders dinner dance, run by the boarding team on Tuesday evening. 70 pupils were treated to a three-course meal of the highest cordon bleu standard, before reeling the night away in the Morrison Hall. Half of our boarding community had the opportunity to stay overnight, whilst some were collected by parents, who have since fed back their gratitude on behalf of their children for the warm hospitality extended to all our boarders.
We had some super fixtures on Wednesday that included wins and losses, but all played in a positive spirit. 
Meanwhile, the AGM and a Board of Governors meeting allowed me to highlight the great progress made over the last year, and to elaborate on exciting plans for the school going forward. 
Returning to the theme of inspirational people, Thursday would have been the 100th Birthday of Robert Baden Powell, the Founder of the Scouting Movement. To mark this event, pupils involved in local Scouts, Cubs, Guides, and Brownies were invited to wear their uniform to school. This was an understated way of paying tribute to a man who founded the movement that has served hundreds and thousands of young people, who in turn have served their community.
Meanwhile, we welcomed Miss McDonnell, Head of Classics at Fettes who came to meet our Form 8 pupils and to spend time with the inspirational Linda Simpson. Also on Thursday, Mr Mike Fraser of the RSPB visited Forms 3, 4 and 5 and talked about his passion for wildlife conservation in general and birds in particular. We were very grateful to receive the RSPB’s bronze, silver and gold Wild Challenge Awards for the school’s contribution toward protecting bird life.  This is a further example of the excellent work Mr Rawson is doing as part of the school’s popular outdoor learning programme. 
This morning we were treated to an assembly from Mrs Bell and Mrs Hutchison who explained to the school, and to any newcomers within our number, what Squad Day consists of. This event takes place on the last Thursday of term. It involves leadership and teamwork challenges that test pupils’ creativity, enterprise, confidence, and sense of belonging, amongst many other skills.
The assembly served as an appropriate precursor to this afternoon’s squad cross country that will test pupils’ resilience, courage, and perhaps most importantly, loyalty to their squad.
Mrs Bell and Mrs Hutchison’s assembly was particularly poignant as they brought with them the Pavilion Quaich, awarded to the winning squad on Squad Day. This Quaich was presented to the school by John and Esther Crawford, who have provided St. Mary’s with pupils in the form of sons and grandchildren for the last 40+ years. The Crawfords continue to be loyal supporters of St. Mary’s, and following the sad death of John recently, I wrote to Esther and the family to offer the school’s deepest sympathy. Knowing John a little, he would be insistent that getting on with the business of doing one’s best at all times must remain at the forefront of our thinking. I passed that on to our cross-country runners ahead of this afternoon’s competition.
Enjoy your weekend. 

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