1st June 2018

It seemed an opportune moment on Monday morning to highlight a super article from the Ampleforth College magazine written by one of last year’s leavers, Anna Scott. In the article, Anna shares her experience of joining Ampleforth in Year 9. While Ampleforth provides a unique education, many of Anna’s experiences are typical of pupils leaving prep school to go to full boarding senior schools, therefore I took the opportunity to read the article to the leavers in assembly. Like her fellow leavers from last year, Anna is doing very well.
Our kitchen team has returned to full strength with the addition of Kerry McGurk, who we welcomed to St. Mary’s on Monday. Meanwhile, laden with packed lunches, Form 5 headed off to Bannockburn with Mrs Runciman, Mr Brown, Mrs Lewington, and Maddy. I understand the trip was a great success and the staff were quick to praise the positive involvement from all the members of an extremely appreciative Form 5. At the same time, Forms 3 and 4 had the dubious pleasure of embarking upon their middle school assessments. I had pre-empted this process by reminding the school that assessments are as much a checkpoint for staff on their own performances, as they are to gauge where each pupil is at. There is still a disproportionate amount of angst apparent when assessments come along, and we rely on parents to work with us in helping pupils gain a more realistic sense of perspective.
On Tuesday, Reception class went along to “inspect” Galashiels Fire Station. They were given the opportunity to perform as fire operatives would, when a genuine call out was in progress. This included quickly dressing up in appropriate safety equipment, and rushing to the fire engine whilst alarm bells were sounding. As a reward for providing an acceptable response time, they were treated to snacks of pineapple, cheese, sausage and water. 
A busy programme of fixtures unfolded on Wednesday, whilst the Friends of St. Mary’s organised a SWISH event in the Morrison Hall. This saw many items of clothing swapping hands with the added advantage of soul-cleansing clear-outs from many St. Mary’s people’s wardrobes. 
A dubious forecast created some doubt that Thursday’s whole school photograph could take place, however, our experts from Tempest operate efficiently and skilfully and very much prefer the sun not to be shining but with dry conditions. This turned out to be the case and we look forward to seeing how this year’s photograph turns out. Soon after, we were visited by Mrs Liz Montgomerie, HMIE School Inspector, carrying out our annual engagement process. This involved a detailed discussion with myself and Mrs Bell about how the school is progressing. Mrs Montgomerie makes no secret of the fact that she is a great fan of St. Mary’s, and we value our positive and collaborative relationship with her. She was delighted to hear of the thriving boarding environment in evidence on a nightly basis, with a wide range of activities keeping pupils and staff busy and happy. This week we have seen tennis, biking, bbqs, a visit to the local play park, wide games on the front field, and a wonderfully positive atmosphere, with over 70 pupils boarding at one time or another during the week. 
After a full-on four days, and nearing the completion of week 7 of the term, pupils and staff can be forgiven for appearing a little weary by this stage in the term, having not yet had a half-term holiday. Therefore, this morning’s Reception class assembly provided the ideal lift we all needed. Our 4- and 5-year-olds gave the most wonderful presentation on the life cycle of frogs and butterflies, which incorporated visual aids, page turning of books, and songs in which all the class participated. Mrs Currie and her assistant Dani looked on, beaming with pride and rightly so, as our youngest prep school class produced one of the best assemblies the school has seen in recent times. Well done to all concerned and thank you to parents for coming along to offer their support.
I then took the opportunity to wish Dani, Martina, Simon, and Antonia the very best as they head off back to Germany at the end of today. They have all been a wonderful addition to the school in the two weeks they have been with us. I presented chess certificates to Thomas, Archie Ma, Mac, and Jake for their participation in the Primary School Chess competition held on Tuesday. I then presented Josh with a cricket ball for his five-wicket haul against Belhaven on Wednesday, and wished our senior choir volunteers of 23 pupils the very best of luck and thanked them in advance of their contribution to the Jed Brass Band concert on Saturday evening. They will be accompanied by Miss McRae, Miss Renwick, Mrs Hardie, and Mrs Harvey. I also took the opportunity on behalf of the St. Mary’s community to wish Mrs Scott Aiton all the best as she heads off on maternity leave. She has promised to keep in touch with any news, and I concluded assembly by highlighting that with impending exams for our senior pupils next week, anxiety levels may be peaking. I advised that if that be the case, pupils remind themselves (and their parents) that the Headmaster’s advice is to relax as we have it in hand!
Soon after assembly, Form 5 headed off to the Galashiels Policies on a cycling activities programme. Pictures to follow.


Jules Birdsall, 01/06/2018

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