Posted: 12th November, 2013. Topics:

I want to talk about the schools’ Remembrance Service and the Remembrance service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall held yesterday. I have to confess that I look forward to them. I love the words and the music and the sense of history and the seriousness and the poppies and the trumpet and the hymns. They area good, moving, dignified and entirely fitting occasions. As we listened to the names of the School’s war dead, it is right that we should feel moved and, yes, proud. The awe-inspiring list, and Jenny laying the wreath of poppies provide a moving and impressive theatre.

But, is that all it is? Moving theatre?

And do we walk away from the service and later take off our poppies and forget it and move on for another year? So that the war memorials sink back into invisibility again, as do the wars, unless they crop up as part of a history or English course? I have heard it said by some that it is time to forget the wars and look forward and put all that horror behind us. And even from those of us who think that it is right that we meet and remember, isn’t that what we, effectively do? Isn’t that what we do when we leave the theatre of the service and leave the sad performance behind? Put it behind us and forget it?

Well if that’s true of course, then there is a very real danger that this service becomes nothing more than a wallowing in sentiment. And there is a very real danger that those who fought and suffered and died, fought and suffered and died in vain. And that is my question for us all today. Was it all in vain? And do we, really, actively and effectively remember?

A year ago I was in London and I had an experience similar to one that has happened to me on several occasions on Remembrance weekend. At about six o’clock on the busy street, with the shopping crowds thronging, I noticed that among the usual bustle of youngish, casually dressed people, moving noisily past the shops were some people who looked out of place and rather puzzled. These were elderly men, generally in blazers and ties, some with berets on, some with medals. And all with poppies, unlike the vast majority of the people surging past them. These were men, (and there were women there too of course) in the centre of London for the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday Night and, probably, due to march past the Cenotaph at the Sunday Remembrance Service in Whitehall. What did they make of this London, I thought. What did they make of the people around them and the evidence of modern life? And when they remembered their friends who have been dead all these years, having died in our defence, did they wonder at times late on Saturday if it is was worth it? If we are worth it? Or do they think that we have already forgotten?

For me that is the question of the November days of Remembrance. And it is one that needs to be with us much more often than once a year. Are we worthy? And have we learned anything from it all?

One of the most depressing observations I have come across for a long time is one of the German philosopher Hegel, who said that the greatest lesson of history is that human beings learn nothing from history.

And I wonder if that is true. In an age where violence is a continually repeated form of entertainment on our televisions I wonder if we have learned anything.

At a time when the majority of people in many democracies don’t vote, was the battle against fascism a waste? At a time when prison populations are rising, and when the materialistic scramble seems to become more and more manic, and when our media are obsessed with sordid and voyeuristic nonsense, could the old soldiers reasonably wonder if it was worth it?

I think it was. It is too easy to be cynical. I hope we have learned from history. And I hope that the tolerance and liberalism of our society can be seen as a product of our history and of the Second World War. And if the rights and wrongs of the first war are rather more difficult to distinguish one can at least say that the social and cultural changes that came in its wake, though they came at a ghastly price, were profound and in many ways good ones. And after all the horror of the trenches, which our historians were visiting and reflecting on last week, do we at least understand rather better the effects on individuals of mechanized warfare and have we at least rid ourselves of triumphalist notions of the glory of war? I hope so and believe so.

But we are part of the ongoing test. Because if our attitudes and behaviour to each other and the world we are together shaping and will shape in the future, do not live up to the sacrifices of our predecessors then we will have every reason to be ashamed of ourselves.
So when we remove our Poppies and throw them in the bin, let us not throw away their memory.

We must remember them.

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Summer Gathering at Abbotsholme

Posted: 7th July, 2013. Topics:

This is  an amazing three days, full of adventure, full of instruction.

Music was played on Friday evening in a leavers concert. Saturday brought speeches, followed by an, as live, viewing of the historic Lions’ victory; and then Sport’s day, Roseyard plays and finally an open air barn dance.

Today we have a Service for the leavers.

I will write more in future but I defy any school in the world to have a more appropriate end of academic year .



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New GCSE plans

Posted: 4th June, 2013. Topics:

As our Year 11’s are in the midst of GCSE exams on this gloriously sunny day (it’s always the same!), I hear that after a generation of GCSE’s – and I still remember O Levels -  the Government is proposing to change to a numeric form of grading from 1 to 8 with 8 equating to an A*, doing away with all coursework apart from Science, and reducing the incidence of re-sits. The benefits?

I cannot see any benefits when looking at the wealth of individuals we have at Abbotsholme which argument I am sure is mirrored within other schools across the country. Does every pupil thrive on pressure? No. Does every pupil enjoy long drawn out projects? No. Surely the education system should reflect learning for the individual? Would this reversion to exams, be like the driving test – working towards passing the test rather than actually learning to drive, which is all done after the test – as such in life!

In contrast, going back to the O Level style of exams, could be seen to be good. The world is a pressurised place. Interviews are a form of pressure and thinking on your feet, to gain success first time – no option for a re-sit in an interview! To succeed, pressure is always present. Additionally, teachers could go back to concentrating on teaching rather than guiding pupils through coursework. Pupils would benefit from a reduction in the spoon feeding culture that has become the norm.

So its horses for courses as I am sure our friends in the equestrian centre would agree, as well as the sheep and goats in the farm – who probably would agree the new exam might separate them!

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Inspiring Towers

Posted: 11th January, 2013. Topics:

An amazing , inspiring trip to St John’s College, Cambridge, with Oxbridge candidates, made me very envious.

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Happy New Year, mind the GAP

Posted: 8th January, 2013. Topics:

Happy New term. I have just spoken to 4 new GAP students who are about to start a year’s work at Abbotsholme. They will be helping out in classrooms, up mountains, on the farm and on the sports’ fields. Very exciting!

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Happy Christmas

Posted: 17th December, 2012. Topics:

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the break.

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Christmas Bizarre

Posted: 30th November, 2012. Topics:

Last day of Movember, first day of Christmas. The Bazaar , festive, with carols, mulled wine and presents from Santa, promises a great end to the week

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Abbotsholme’ aquatic sport’s centre

Posted: 26th November, 2012. Topics:

Abbotsholme looks to promote a new Olympic sport , Water Rugby.

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Abbotsholme House Band

Posted: 15th November, 2012. Topics:

Abbotsholme House Band plays to a full house tonight. All tickets sold out for musical ” Rockholme”

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Abbotsholme, Remembrance

Posted: 9th November, 2012. Topics:

We will remember them.

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