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Headmaster’s Blog

I have awarded myself the lofty status of ‘guest runner’ in the City rat race this week. The annual IAPS Heads’ Conference this year is taking place in the QEII Centre in London, which has meant that Thursday and Friday have seen me swap my stroll across the Cathedral Green for the delights of the Jubilee Line. I find that the addition of a takeaway coffee (in my reusable flask – my New Year’s resolution is still going strong) and the lure of a free pre-thumbed copy of the Metro does little to offset the frustration of watching an additional 50,000 people try (and succeed) to squeeze into your already-over-stuffed carriage. As a point or order, let it be noted that we who live in Devon are a lucky lot.

The tube always fascinates me. I had a pre-children Sunday singing job in Hampstead for a few years which meant that I became fairly well acquainted with the Northern Line, and I always enjoyed people-watching (or rather, people-wondering): being back on the (heaving, hot and – yesterday – broken-down) tube over the last two days has caused me to ask the same question that I did back then – why do these people put themselves through this (often thoroughly unpleasant) journey each day?

It strikes me that the answer to my question lies within our list of ECS Habits. The tube-goers keep going with their journeys, even when face-to-face with frustration, over-heating, and other people’s armpits, because they are honouring their commitments. They have a job to get to, a meeting to be at, or someone expecting them – each of them has made a commitment and here they are taking the necessary steps (or perhaps the requisite escalators) to honour it.

Honouring your commitments is one of our core ECS Habits and that’s because it’s something we consider to be really important. Our pupils and teachers are busy people and they are pulled in a number of different directions, and it would be easy every now and again to let something slide and to just not bother. But we don’t do that, and that’s because of our joint commitment to do what we say we’re going to do. I’ve written before about the fundamental importance of developing the ‘soft skills’ (much though I object to the terminology) and of a school’s responsibility to teach the whole child and to promote the development of character: instilling in children the need to honour commitments is a key piece in that mission. Honouring our commitments: that’s why some of our rugby boys will be turning out tomorrow to play a touring West Buckland side; that’s why our Choristers arrive early and leave late day-in day-out – including on Easter Day and Christmas Day; that’s why the midnight oil gets burned during report-writing season; that’s why we persuade our tired and grumpy children to get out of bed on a cold November morning and to come to School – because it’s a commitment we’ve made.

When last year’s Head of School Felix W left Year 8 in July, he told me that he was looking forward to going to the Edinburgh Festival for the first time. I explained to him that he would likely be bombarded by leaflets and flyers if he walked the Royal Mile, and flippantly challenged him to collect as many as he could. He replied that he would go one better; that he would get hold of one of every flyer on the mile. Then we went our separate ways and I thought no more about it. Two weeks into this term, Bea W in Year 8 (Felix’s sister) presented me with a heavily-stuffed A4 envelope. When I opened it up, hundreds and hundreds of brightly-coloured A5 flyers cascaded onto my desk along with a note which read: ‘Dear Sir, I collected all of the flyers – I thought I’d post them all to you. I hope you like them.’. Felix had made a commitment and, in honouring it, he also managed to get one over on his old Headmaster – a masterful move, and proof that our ECS Habits live on in our alumni.

For all of the School commitments that you will honour over the term ahead; for all of the times that you will go the extra mile to support ECS; and for the on-going vital partnership between home and School that you will help us to foster – thank you.

27 September 2019
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