Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Sheer Poetry!

Sheer Poetry!

 

No, I’m not talking about the English football team last night. Nor even the delightful performances by the Junior School of Treasure Isalnd on Wednesday and Thursday evenings!  

My day started today with the Junior School’s Poetry Reading Competition. Well, it wasn’t really reading, because all the competitors (one from each house in each of Years 3 to 6) recited from memory. Moreover, three of them had written their own poems.  

What a delight it was to see 16 seven-to-eleven year-olds performing their poems (and I mean perform) to the whole of the Junior School, all of whom listened in truly rapt attention, both affording the competitors respect and enjoying what they were doing.  

Judging was an invidious job! It was hard to distinguish between such excellent performances: but I did what I had to do, because it’s no use sitting on the fence. I did tell the boys and girls that they were all free to disagree with my decisions, but on this occasion mine were the ones that counted!

Would you believe, they missed teaching period 2 because the competition couldn’t fit into an ordinary assembly slot. That’s something I love about the Junior School. It’s small enough and flexible enough to do that kind of thing: and it’s also imaginative and visionary enough to understand that it’s important to. Indeed, I often joke to Junior School parents that the boys and girls hardly seem to be in school, because they are always out involved in sporting competitions of one sort or another.  

I can’t resist mentioning that fact, mischievously, because as I write this the boss of OFSTED, Sir Michael Wilshaw, is in combatant stance at the Wellington Festival of Education talking about sport in state schools. It’s not a question of money or resources, he says, but state of mind that makes us independents give so much attention and energy to sport. He’s right.  

I’m not at the conference, so I can’t comment in detail: but since all such speeches are leaked to the Press beforehand, and Twitter has been informing me as he speaks, I can report that he’s claiming, “Schools who do well on the pitch do well academically”. Amen to that. I think he’s even paying us a compliment, a rare event in the independent sector’s dealings with that personage.  

It’s not just a matter of mens sana in corpore sano: a healthy mind in a healthy body. It’s about balance. We always say at the RGS that those who achieve most highly in the classroom (and the exam hall) are the most involved in extra-curricular activities as well: excellence in all things; challenge in the whole of their school lives; immensely rich experiences; and a lot of fun.  

It is the RGS recipe – and, to be fair, the recipe for most of the independent sector. It’s nice that, just for one, Sir Michael appears to be recognising that.  

Bernard Trafford

Headmaster