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Principal’s Blog: Timeless – the dawn of a new decade

After all the freedom and joy associated with a school holiday, we are already back into the throes of the school day, lessons, activities and even exams for some.

If you celebrated Christmas, I wonder how many gave or received a book as a gift? I received 5 this year, which is far more than in a long while.  And I have been a recent convert to a Kindle as well!

Books have the power to disappoint, inspire, frustrate or excite.  You may enjoy a particular genre of fiction – romance, comedy, horror, adventure or science fiction perhaps. Some of us enjoy factual books (the Guinness Book of World Records has been a regular stocking filler for decades) or especially popular as gifts, more recently the autobiography.  Celebrity biographies and autobiographies are top sellers nowadays whether ghost written or not, with leading sports stars, media personalities and politicians topping the sales charts at Christmas.

I began the holiday re-reading Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ having heard so many Year 11’s talk about it as their set text for their English Literature GCSE. I am currently part way through Michelle Obama’s autobiography but progress will slow down now that the holiday is over and term has re-started.

The theme of ‘A Christmas Carol’ is that we bless both ourselves and the world when we live in a generous, compassionate and openhearted way. As the novel opens, we meet Scrooge, who has shut down his positive emotions. He experiences no joy and no empathy towards his fellow man.

Although Scrooge doesn’t get along with anybody around him, the main conflict he faces is within himself. The  different ‘visitations’ of Jacob Marley, the Christmas spirits of the past, present and finally the ghost of Christmas future, where Scrooge visits the site of his own grave, shake his very core. He begins a new life of charity rather than greed, and the story ends happily, as Scrooge becomes a benefactor rather than a miser.  Truly, a timeless story of self-realisation that is as relatable in our new 2020 decade as it was in the early 19th century – to me it still resonated and had impact, even though I know the story so well.

And as for the 21st century autobiography…. iconic Michelle Obama is undoubtedly a true modern role model.  She grew up on the south side of Chicago with high levels of deprivation, crime and racial discrimination.  She became the manifestation of the American Dream – where anyone can make it regardless of their background, if they work hard. Her motivation, resilience and drive are impressive.  However, I am also drawn by her own self-awareness of her own failings and weaknesses – such qualities lay the foundations of a successful, fulfilled and balanced person.  Being able to recognise your foibles helps to ensure careful thought about your actions and enables us to learn from our mistakes.

So as we embark on the new term, New Year and new decade we can reflect upon the challenges we face and decide how we will confront them best.  We may not be visited by ghostly apparitions nor confront open discrimination but the attributes we use to succeed, to thrive and to grow are just as important. We need resilience, empathy, humility, drive, compassion and tenacity to help us overcome all obstacles in our way and to help us become better human beings.

Lynne M Horner

Principal

January 2020

Decisions, decisions

It’s that time of year when up and down the country parents are visiting school Open Days making decisions about the next steps for their child.  In my experience, having worked in many different schools, one size doesn’t fit all when making that such an important choice of the best school for a child. Like…

A New Chapter

Last weekend we managed to take all of our new Year 7 pupils off to a residential 2 day camp for outdoor and team building activities after only a couple of weeks in school. This has been an ambition of mine for a few years and I am delighted it finally happened – and what…

Peace Within

As the end of term draws near, there are so many events and projects at Westholme that feel uplifting, often involving collaboration between students, colleagues and parents. These bonds and experiences are such an important part of our community and culture here. Chicago, Sports Day, Prizegiving, Leavers’ assemblies, and Student and Staff entertainment all provide…

Taking Care of Young Minds

  There is much focus on mental health in the media currently and especially in relation to adolescent health. In school it is absolutely essential that we are not only alert to the warning signs of difficulty, but also proactive in promoting positive mental health in the same way we advocate physical activity to keep…

This year I will…..

As 2019 has arrived with talk of ‘Veganuary’ and many other lifestyle changes for better health, at school this is of course our second New Year.  Our first in September always gives our pupils the chance to start afresh and embark upon the new academic year with gusto.  I wonder if New Year resolutions of…

The Gift of Freedom

This weekend past has seen three days of Remembrance as we reached the centenary of the end of the Great War.  When the Prime Minister David Lloyd George addressed Parliament after the Armistice in November 1918 he said, ‘I hope we may say that this morning marks the end of the war to end all…

Back to School

‘Mum I don’t want to go to school today’. Come on now, it’s not that bad ‘It is, the work’s too hard, I never know what I’m doing, no one likes me. I don’t have any friends.’ That isn’t true ‘Yes it is. People keep calling me names and saying things behind my back, the…

A Community of Hope for the Future

As we move towards a Royal wedding there will undoubtedly be a proliferation of red, white and blue and union flags fluttering amidst that quintessential Britishness surrounding such an occasion. Hopefully this may be underpinned by a warm sense of bonhomie celebrating the Royal nuptials. Amidst the usual Brexiteering we have been shocked by the…

New Year – New you?

As the New Year is well and truly underway we have reached that awkward point when we can no longer say ‘Happy New Year’ as a greeting, even if we are meeting someone for the first time since 2017 passed. In schools, colleges and universities it is always refreshing to have two opportunities a year…

‘Joy to the World’

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” (Maya Angelou)  As we embark upon the Christmas countdown I enjoyed giving an advent calendar to every class across all three sites on Friday 1st December.  I…

Westholme Magic – Putting the sparkle into education!

Across the country this is the time of year for Open Days and Information events for parents and children of all ages. At Westholme we too have been busy with Open Day on all our sites and a forthcoming Sixth Form Information Evening; on such occasions I never cease to be amazed by our staff…

Success and Change

It is that time of year when students and teachers nervously await public examination results and see the outcome of hard work all round. On Thursday it is the turn of Year 11’s as they receive their GCSE results, but last week it was AS and the all-important A Levels. For Sixth Formers it is…

The Final Curtain?

As the cast took their plaudits for the final performance of West Side Story it marked the final few days of this term and the academic year. It has undoubtedly been a whirlwind year and we certainly finished on a high note. It seems a perfect analogy for our school reflection. Three Sports’ Days in…

Back to the Future

The iconic film ‘Back to the Future’ marked a worldwide cultural phenomenon and was the highest-grossing film of 1985; it launched one of the most successful series in Universal’s cinematic history. In the modern franchise age of the Marvel Superheroes, Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean, Michael J Fox and the DeLorean car may…

Spring Forwards…Fall Back?

We have reached that time of year when the clocks have moved forward an hour and the days are longer. Summer is just around the corner and everyone enjoys the apparent normality of travelling to and from school in daylight hours. Springtime is always regarded as a time of renewal and hope from the farmers’…

Lighting Fires…

Next week I will attend the Society of Heads’ Annual Conference. This is an opportunity to meet with fellow independent school Heads from all over the country, to hear inspirational speakers at the forefront of their field and attend practical workshops. The theme this year of “Lighting Fires, Not Filling Buckets” has been set by…

New Year – A Digital Detox?

2017 has arrived and, as always in school, we have a second opportunity to renew and refresh body, mind and soul. The Christmas holiday is always a busy one for families – usually enjoyable but rarely restful. However we have now passed the shortest day and we will soon race towards the new green shoots…

Remember Remember or Remembrance

It is November and the time of year when we reflect and mark two very different times in our British history. On 5th November we celebrate and remember the foiled attempt of the Gunpowder Plotters in 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliament. On 11th November we mark Armistice Day and then commemorate the…