Head's Blog: News & Views from Mr Carson
Welcome to Mr Carson's "Head's Blog", where he will share his news and views about RMS and beyond.
Blog posts are listed below.
Open Day Speech - Sunday 8th October 2017
Ladies and gentlemen, students, it is an absolute pleasure to stand before you today as the Headteacher of RMS for Girls. Thank you for coming along this afternoon to look at our wonderful school and to decide whether or not it might be the best school for your daughter.
During your time with us do please look around each of our academic departments. View our fabulous facilities set within 200 acres of beautiful grounds. Visit our double sports hall, gym, and 4G astroturf for hockey. And be sure to ask the Performing Arts department about our exciting plans for a new state-of-the-art Faculty for the Performing Arts that opens next year. Most of all I would suggest that you make use of today to talk with those who know the school best. They are:
- Our wonderful pupils (a few of whom you will hear from shortly). The RMS pupil tour guides are not given a script and they will answer your questions honestly.
- Our RMS parents, who are happy to speak with you after this talk, both in this Hall and in the Dining Hall
- And do please also chat with our fabulous teachers and boarding staff. A more dedicated team you will not find anywhere. They live for our pupils and the values of RMS. Their work changes lives, and I feel very privileged indeed to work alongside them.
Today is designed to provide all of you with a really good sense of our school, with no intention beyond helping each family to better make an informed choice about this vitally important next step in your daughter’s lives. I am not here to sell our school to you today. I do not need to do that, and truly I would not wish to do so - I always say to all prospective families: all that matters over the coming months is that you find the right school for your daughter.
Our family decided that RMS was the right place for us, and I joined as Head in January of this year, with our two young daughters starting at the same time in Cadogan House, our Prep School. Speaking for a moment as a parent myself, I can say that my wife and I could not be happier with how the school has settled-in and developed our two daughters, who are two very different girls. They are each receiving an exceptional education that goes far beyond the classroom. Their happiness at school is everything we could wish for as parents, and I hope that you too might dream of a future for your daughter and your family as part of the RMS community.
Open Day today is just one of a series of exciting days that we have had at the start of this term. Already there has been our Leadership Development Day when the girls from RMS took on the boys from John Hampden Grammar School in a series of challenges that were designed and judged by military and business leaders. It was of little surprise to me to see that our girls beat the grammar school boys in literally every single challenge they faced that day.
We have also had our annual Focus Day, which this year had the theme of The Great Outdoors, and saw every lesson take place outside the classroom, with RMS girls learning through floating in gravity chambers, through creating land art around our grounds, by building Stone Age dens, codebreaking at Bletchley Park, putting on theatrical shows in a day, snowboarding, skiing and skydiving, to name just a few of over 30 different choices for pupils that day. It was a joyous day for everybody at RMS. Well, joyous for all except for the one dutiful colleague whose job it was to fill in the Risk Assessments ahead of the day!
And, we have also been inspected, just a fortnight ago, by the Independent Schools Inspectorate, for our Quality of Education here at RMS. Now, I’m not allowed to share the outcomes of that Inspection until it is published in 6-7 weeks’ time, but I can tell you that the Inspectors were extremely pleased with the school and that we were really pleased that they understood what a special school RMS is. I am not one prone to hyperbole and exaggeration, and when I said that I could not wish for a more dedicated bunch of teachers or wonderfully talented pupils here at RMS, I meant every word.
Alongside finding the right school for your child, making a successful transition into secondary school is going to be a hugely important part of the coming year for almost every family sat before me. And ensuring that there is a successful transition is something that we put a great deal of thought and time into at RMS. I could talk you through that process from our point of view, but rather than hear from me about the first weeks here I thought it might be more helpful for you to hear from the real stars of our show, our students, the most important people who are on this stage today. We will hear from our Head Girl, Amber, just a little later, but first I would like to introduce you to two girls who twelve months ago were sat just where you all are today. They shared the same hopes, excitement and concerns that some of you will be feeling, and I have asked them to tell you briefly about their journey into RMS. So can I ask you please to welcome two of our new intake of Year 7 pupils, Jhanvi and, firstly, Alexa.
Thank you very much Alexa and Jhanvi. It is lovely for me to hear how you are already embracing so many of the opportunities available at RMS. The fact is that each of you could have taken up places at any school of your choosing, but decided RMS was right for you, and I am so very pleased to hear of your happiness here already.
This time last year I was asked to give this talk to prospective families, and it was a trickier task then as I hadn’t yet arrived at RMS and so was essentially viewing the School from a distance. Ten months into my new role, I can talk to you with far greater confidence about what we stand for as a school and some of our particular areas of strength.
We are a school that is brave enough to do things differently, to only do what is right for the girls, and that will always remain the case. We insist on a healthy learning culture here, and in the midst of a teenage mental health crisis in Britain that is absolutely the right thing to do. We focus on the process of improving as a learner, inside and outside the classroom, on a commitment to self-improvement, and culturally we do not allow our girls to worry about endpoints. “What is next for you?” we ask. “How do you improve from here?”, whether that is improving your swimming technique or with trigonometry. “You can’t do that yet”, we say “but with practise and our teaching we will get you there”. Process over endpoint, every single day at RMS.
Do please ask our pupils about RMS Values, our distinctive values that have been embedded here for over a decade, and that emphasise qualities such as having the courage to challenge yourself, being prepared to fail and then learn from that, the importance of grit and resilience, or learning about yourself as a learner. The girls and teachers all know and live by our values for each month.
And yet there is an irony here. Because by focusing on the process of improving as a learner each day, our examination results take care of themselves. Alongside schools such as St Paul’s and Eton, we choose not to go into examination league tables, because they are just one measure of success and entering them would send the wrong message to our pupils. But had we done so, our A Level results in 2017 - almost half of which were A*-A grades - would have placed us 40th for all girls’ schools in the UK and 66th compared against all co-educational schools.
Now actually you might be asking, and wisely so of any school’s examination results, “But how do we know the children have done this well because of this school?” We know this because like most independent schools and grammar schools across the country, we use the University of Durham value added testing service, the most reputable study nationally, that measures how children perform in relation to their potential. And in Durham University’s results, RMS consistently features at the very top of all schools nationally, beyond the 90th percentile for seven years running, that is we add more value academically than more than nine out of ten schools. And in fact Durham tell us that RMS adds one whole grade per subject beyond that which we might have expected those children to achieve had they gone elsewhere.
The healthy learning culture at RMS is one of the most distinctive and successful points about our school. Last summer students headed off to study Pure Mathematics at Oxford, every RMS medical applicant was successful, and 6 girls with straight A*s who could have studied anywhere chose to head to Durham University together. And yet what I love most about the school is that colleagues are equally proud of the fact that our girls headed to almost fifty different courses at over thirty different universities, because we help them to follow their individual passions.
What is most important when a girl first joins the school and from thereon is that every girl is safe, secure and happy here. Nothing else can follow at a school until that is firmly in place. Pastorally, I can say with absolute confidence that we are a very strong school, and the Inspectorate recognised that too, for all of our girls and for those living in the boarding houses as part of our family. RMS teachers know the girls as individuals, pride themselves on that; our form tutors get forty minutes most days to ensure they know their girls as individuals. And the communication between teachers about the girls’ development is first-rate. Each of my previous schools were excellent in different respects, but none of them walked the walk like RMS in respect of the amount of time that teachers put into knowing what is distinctive about each girl, what is important to each girl, her talents, context and needs at each stage of her education. Our reputation for twenty-first century pastoral care is now growing nationally, with RMS teachers twice in the last six months having been asked to give talks at national teaching conferences about how we do it here at RMS.
Interestingly, ahead of one of those conferences we asked a few sets of girls why in particular is it that when we observe lessons you are always confident to speak up in class, or to get an answer wrong and then learn from that, or to have that courage to always challenge yourselves, and the girls settled firmly on one key reason. “The main reason why this happens”, they told us, “is the absence of boys. It wouldn’t be the same in class if boys were in here”, they said. At RMS we hold the distinction of being one of the oldest girls’ schools in England, founded in 1788, and while we have good links with John Lyon School, John Hampden Grammar, and Merchant Taylors’ School, we remain committed to giving our girls a space for themselves to develop their confidence. A space in which to grow up un-selfconsciously, to simply be themselves, to have fun learning, performing in plays, competing in sport, striving to blow up our new Science lab, all away from the gaze and distraction of boys. The truth is that girls and boys learn differently, because they often mature at different rates and because they can be motivated differently too, particularly in adolescence. I know this from my own previous experience in single-sex schools, and from educational research that supports this viewpoint.
Regarding the co-curricular life of the school, there are an incredible range of activities for your daughter to be involved in. There are more than 50 activities for each year group in any given term in the co-curricular areas at RMS. Sport, drama, creative arts, academic enrichment, music and performing arts - these are all ways through which we find each girl's talents and build confidence. We will allow your daughter to follow her passions, but also to broaden her passions. And that last point is really important because following your passion often means doing more of what you are already good at. And the truth is that some things take longer to get good at than others. If you broaden your passions you can be sure of lots of great learning, and lots of great learning invariably leads to living a great life.
Our commitment to all girls beyond the classroom, of sport and the Arts for all, does not come at the expense of excellence. I could list for a very long time our achievements just in sport, and I will spare you that but will just provide a brief flavour to illustrate my point. RMS teams are County champions and runners up at different age groups in hockey, tennis and netball; they are national finalists in swimming, gymnastics and athletics. RMS girls represent their country as runners, swimmers, climbers, and in golf. Megan plays netball with the Mavericks first team squad, and Cerys has a football contract with Reading.
We are a community that values performing arts to the extent that members of our community have contributed three quarters of a million pounds towards our new Faculty for the Performing Arts, and our Performing Arts programme is so extensive that in the half-term before Easter there was a significant school production or concert every week for five weeks running. The standard of each one of those productions was fabulous, filled with moments to make your heart swell with pride at how RMS inspires our pupils and how the girls always rise to each new challenge.
I would now like to let you hear from another one of our pupils. This time, please can I ask you to welcome our Head Girl, Amber.
Thank you, Amber. Amber is a multi-talented, take-everything-in-your-stride girl who has a full set of top grade GCSEs, already has one A Level, and has her heart set on heading to Durham next year to join the class of RMS from 2017. They will be very fortunate to have you there, Amber.
I mentioned earlier our recent Inspection, the one that I can’t tell you the outcome of but do please check our website once it has been published. The final thing that I am going to share with you today is not those top-secret outcomes, but instead to share just a few sentences from a long list of the qualities that the Inspectors praised in our RMS pupils who are, as I have said before, the stars of the show here – it is all about, and all for, the girls at RMS. The Inspectorate said to us and they will put in writing the following about our pupils: “RMS pupils possess self-confidence and excellent social skills. Each pupil is an individual. They are resilient, and possess a highly-developed set of values. They collaborate extremely well, with older girls giving up free periods willingly to support younger pupils. RMS girls are physically and mentally healthy, with excellent emotional well-being. They respect each other and their teachers. The outcomes for pupils at RMS are…” And of course that’s the bit I can’t yet share!
If the parents will indulge me, I would like to say my final few words to the children in the room. Your parents are about to make (with you) one of the most important decisions that they will ever make as a parent – choosing the right school for you and the next stage in your education. And as a family, you have a choice of fantastic schools in this region, and that is great. Nobody wants and cares more for you than your parents, that’s their job! But in a close second should come your school. We also want you to feel happy and secure, we want you to love learning, and to love coming to school, we want you to make those friends for life that you have heard about, and we want you to feel this is a place where you could be encouraged to grow into accomplished young women, to find your own niche and to excel in it.
It is an exciting time. It will involve much debate in your home. But I wish all of you the very best for your future, wherever it may be. And I also wish to give you my personal pledge, that if you do come to RMS, I will do my very best to ensure that you achieve your potential; your happiness and success is my happiness too. So, very best wishes to you all. Thank you for considering RMS for Girls – and of course, it would be fantastic to see you here next September!
Leadership Development for Sixth Formers - Monday 2nd October 2017
Annual Leadership Challenge 2017
Early on a Saturday morning in late September the Sixth Form student Leadership Teams from RMS and John Hampden Grammar School gathered in the New Mark Hall. They were there to be briefed on the aims and format of this year’s Leadership Development Day. Group Captain Kemsley and his team of military leaders and business executives clarified that the key aim for all of the students was to develop their leadership skills, both individually and collectively.
The format would include: physical challenges requiring determination, the chairing of group discussions, command tasks, and scenario planning exercises. After lunch the two teams of girls and boys would then compete against one another in a ‘Decider’ challenge and also through presenting their School Objectives for the year.
Mr Kemsley restated that the day was most of all about development rather than the girls versus boys competition. I too had stressed this point in assembly the day before – we are a school focused on process rather than outcome. Nevertheless, the inter-school competition inevitably lurked in the background.
Before the day’s challenges commenced, the first session required the students to devise their own list of key leadership skills. They then had to consider which they believed were most important, and which they needed to develop further themselves. Qualities such as ‘Team Player’, ‘Hard Working’, ‘Adaptability’, ‘Empathy’ and ‘Good Listening Skills’ were all rated highly as key strengths by the students.
“Listening is vital”, Captain Kemsley agreed. “You have one mouth and two ears. Use them in those proportions.”
This was advice that both teams were forced to take on board through the subsequent Command Tasks. These included: requiring the students to “Get the sheep in the pen”; a challenging Planning and Questioning exercise that necessitated teams save their Head of Sixth Form from a venomous snake bite; and an orienteering task that we later learnt some RMS girls had been preparing for by going on a series of morning runs in the build up to Leadership Day. Clearly, RMS students think ahead and prepare wonderfully well!
Key skills were certainly developed by all students throughout each of the day’s exercises. Not least of these is a greater degree of trust and teamwork built within each school’s Leadership Team, which will serve them well during the coming year of working together. Over lunch the RMS girls reflected well on their learning, and then all that remained was the ‘Decider’ Event and the School Objectives presentations.
The Decider Event involved a toy car, paper and paper clips, the centre of a kitchen roll, and an elastic band, with the challenge being to see how far the car could be made to travel using only these objects. The time limit for preparation was set at twenty minutes. The RMS Leadership Team quickly constructed a tower using the paper and clips, cut the kitchen roll in half, and experimented with variations on this practical idea. The boys from John Hampden apparently plotted an ambitious idea involving a catapult.
When time was up, the RMS car travelled two metres and thirty-five centimetres on each of its three measured attempts – an impressive consistency arrived at through great teamwork, strong listening skills, and a practical attitude towards learning through trial and error. The boys’ catapult was less successful, and though we were not allowed to view their measured efforts we were later informed that their car was projected backwards and travelled a negative distance. I will resist the temptation to make a comment about gender stereotypes at this point, but do expect you to insert your own.
Both sets of students presented impressive School Objectives for the year. The RMS Leadership Team wished to celebrate the diversity of talent and interests within our pupil body – in part through using the hashtag #ThisRMSGirlCan of which we will hear more.
Over dinner in the evening the winners of each challenge were announced, and it was no surprise to hear that the RMS Leadership Team had been successful in every single one of the challenges. While acknowledging the primacy of focusing on the process of developing their leadership skills, our Head Girl Amber and her team were more than a little pleased with the day’s final outcome.
First week back, settling in at RMS - Tuesday 12th September 2017
First week back, settling in at RMS
“First of all we need to ensure that your daughter is safe, secure, and happy here.” I have used words to this effect at RMS and at previous schools when meeting with parents considering the school for their daughter’s education. Rightly so, too, as until a pupil is happy at school then little else can be done well, and if any of our daughters return home without a smile on their faces then we are naturally not very happy as parents. Our daughters’ happiness, safety and well-being are of utmost importance to us all.
The first days of Michaelmas term are a vitally important time in respect of happily settling all of the girls into their new forms and classes, but especially so for our new arrivals. So how do we do this at RMS? As a relative newbie still to the school myself I have been watching this with interest first time around, and I have to say that I’m really impressed. Increasing familiarity is key for the girls, with the school and with each other, and the Year 7 girls all came in a day early last week to join up with their forms (as they did last July), to meet their tutors and co-tutors again, and to take part in an RMS quiz that involved navigating their way around our corridors and grounds in small groups. It was here that I first saw one of our girls who has come through from Reception in Cadogan House chatting away and giggling with a new Year 7 boarder who has joined RMS from the other side of the world: “I’m telling her all about RMS Values, sir” I was told. “I’m seeing them in action”, I was tempted to reply.
Getting the girls talking together and having fun with one another is of obvious benefit to them all settling in. The Year 7 trip to London Zoo and the Boarders’ ten-pin bowling outing on Saturday all helped girls arrive for school this morning knowing more about their new friends and feeling increasingly comfortable with one another. This type of settling in also happens informally through our fabulous parent community, with new Cadogan House parents telling me at a children’s birthday party this weekend how other RMS parents had set up initial playdates for new girls over summer, invited their daughter to the first birthday parties of the school year, and welcomed new dads and mums through social events and Thursday night parent football. We are all part of the RMS community here, and seeing everybody being made to feel welcome at RMS is wonderful to experience.
I next spotted my two Year 7 girls together in the lunch queue on Thursday, chatting loudly as part of a larger group of animated Year 7 students. I could see as I approached that they were getting on well, and as I passed I asked how the first two days had gone. “Great, Mr Carson. We’re already all best friends” they assured me. It was certainly a good start to seven years together at RMS. Our Year 9 girls will now help Year 7 with the next stage of their integration into school life, with Big Sister training having already commenced for a handpicked team of Year 9 students who will soon go into Year 7 forms to introduce themselves, and will then spend time in the Year 7 Common Room each day playing board games, or cards, and just chatting with the younger girls to help ensure that all are increasing in confidence and getting along socially.
In Hind House, the RMS sixth form, our students are of course older and perhaps more self-assured now that they are the other side of GCSE exams, but settling everybody into RMS is still an extremely important process that the school has evolved well over the years. As with Year 7, there was an induction period the other side of summer, but in Hind House this lasted three days rather than one to allow the Lower Sixth to familiarise themselves not only with one another but also with their new subjects. Then, in the opening days of form-time last week, our new Deputy Head of 6th Form Mrs Roberts had planned a series of ice-breaker activities so that Year 13 and Year 12 students in the same forms all got to relax together socially before the serious business of A Levels commenced. By Friday of last week the Hind House students were already comfortable enough with one another to have turned their Common Room into a photography studio for the day as they worked with Mrs Freeman to produce a series of shots suitable for the next Hind House prospectus. I have yet to see how the photographs turned out, but having heard them all laughing loudly together from The Garth I’m confident that there will be smiling faces.
All RMS girls are now picking their clubs for the term, which brings a further dimension of enjoyment, and of course more new friends. Mrs Sears talked our new parents in both Cadogan and Senior School through the process of logging onto CHQ, our system for tracking co-curricular participation, and this offered the new members of our parent community another chance to get together and to share experiences of their daughter’s first week settling in at RMS. From what I heard late Friday afternoon, our parents were as impressed with the first days as I had been, with stories shared of girls motivated, proud, and having fun. This was reassuring for all of us to hear as joining a new school places a strain on parents every bit as much as on our children. As the last group left the New Mark Hall last week I knew it was not the only thing that our pupils and parents had in common from first week here as the other point of agreement I had heard that afternoon was parents who were confident that all would sleep well in their homes come Friday evening.
Assessment is important, but... - Tuesday 21st March 2017
Assessment is an important part of schools, but great schools do much more than merely assess.
As one might expect, Hilary Term at RMS has been focused in part on assessment of our pupils and preparation for summer examinations. Years 11 and 13 have both sat mocks in Great Hall, and we have just brought to a close a round of assessment for entry into Year 7 in September (which I will touch on further a little later). An appropriate level of focus on assessment and examinations is an important part of every school, our bread and butter if you will, and ongoing formative assessment of pupils’ progress rightly takes place every day in almost every classroom as teachers constantly ask, “What does this student need to know/do next, and how do I help her with that?” That all said, I have long held the view that the best schools must do far more than merely assess, revise, and help students to pass examinations.
As a teacher, I once taught in a girls’ grammar school that at the time was to my mind too narrowly focused on assessment. The outcome of examinations was placed on girls’ minds from Year 7, i.e. from age 11, some of the girls were thinking far too much about attaining 10 A*s at GCSE. It was a “top of the league tables” school for its examination results, but, the odd inspirational drama teacher aside, it felt to me that there was a sterile culture inside the school. It remains the one school that I left for educational reasons as I felt that to different degrees the culture of the school was harmful for the girls: it was too narrowly focused on endpoint, on outcome, on examination results alone.
At RMS we are opposed to such a culture in most every respect; we are a broad, values-driven school and our focus is on developing individuals, on a rounded education that prepares girls for life, and on a commitment to self-improvement from everyone in our community. And yet there is an irony here, because our value added results are the envy of more than nine out of ten schools, and our 2016 A Level results of 83% A*-B are better than most all local competitors. My own view after nine weeks in post as Head is that our success in external examinations is very much linked to our healthy school culture.
First and foremost, the pastoral aspects at RMS are strong, with great knowledge of all pupils as individuals and the School responding in flexible, nuanced ways to their needs. The extra-curricular options are broad, with each girl able to find her niche and thrive: a student may not be a top set mathematician but she could be the leader of Concert Band, or our goal shooter in netball.
Additionally, the learning culture at RMS is resolutely focused on process over endpoint, on the process of being a better learner: our RMS Values focus on qualities such as “the courage to challenge oneself”; the 4 Rs at RMS stress “Resilience, Reflectiveness, Reciprocity, and Resourcefulness”; girls are praised by teachers for their effort, commitment, and for their attitude towards developing as a learner both inside and outside the classroom. By focusing on a healthy school culture and on the process of pupils developing as learners, any endpoints pretty much take care of themselves.
Last Friday in assembly I mentioned to the girls that I suspect they do not quite appreciate just how talented and special they are as a bunch of students. Not wishing to offer cheap and easy praise I offered a little evidence from just the last week or so to support my view.
Academically, one of our Year 10 students, Emma Wei, has been selected to attend the National Mathematics Summer School, a prestigious competition for the most talented young mathematicians in the country. In the Young Enterprise competition that has involved students from over thirty schools starting their own business, our two teams, Baggle and Spectrum, were both selected for the finals at KPMG – a great achievement.
On the sporting front, last weekend at the British Schools Gymnastics Milano Team Nationals not only did we have teams who had reached that stage in all three year groups (a first for RMS), but their achievement in the nationals was outstanding, with the Under 11 girls coming 10th nationally, the Under 13 Girls finishing 11th nationally, and the Under 19 Girls (Miranda Conn, Isabel Peters, Amelia Daley and Rachel Roger-Lund) finishing in 3rd place nationally.
Not to be outdone, on Wednesday evening our Year 10 hockey team added to their success as District champions by winning the County Cup Final, holding their nerve to win both the semi-final and the final on penalty shuffles.
The talent of our performing arts students has also been evident to audiences in recent weeks as first the Spectrum Dance Show and then last week the Cadogan House production of The Lion King entertained all who had the privilege to watch such very special productions. On Friday evening there was also a top-notch Rush Hour Concert featuring some of our most talented classical musicians and singers, and from Tuesday of this week there is the Disney Magic production to continue a fantastic programme of events from the Faculty of Performing Arts this half-term.
To come back to the entrance assessments that Year 6 girls have recently been sitting ahead of joining us in September, I was pleased to learn that at RMS we assess girls’ ability and potential by considering a wide range of factors. Some schools in the area assess only on performance in one test, and when I met with other local Heads recently there were some who confessed to me that they found this quite limiting. At RMS there is a computer test assessing mathematics, vocabulary and reasoning ability, but there are also pieces of creative writing, every girl is interviewed by the Head of Year 7 and myself, and each girl chooses either sport, art or the performing arts as an area of specialism in which we see them interact with their peers.
Most importantly, this process allowed me to meet and chat with every girl so that I could begin to get to know her interests, strengths, and passions. It also meant that I could select future RMS girls for any one of a number of reasons, knowing that every girl who joins us is talented, a close match to our ethos, and wishes to throw herself into the life and healthy culture of our school. In the seven years to come, I can be confident that these girls will develop the most diverse range of talents and that the school will always respond to them. Yes, we will assess our pupils, every day in the classroom, and some girls will attain a full set of the highest possible grades as RMS girls do each year. More importantly, along the way and over seven years I know that the next cohort of RMS girls will be happy and healthy, will be encouraged to follow their own varied passions and interests, and will develop as learners with a broad set of skills and qualities that will help them not only in examinations but also in the twenty-first century global world beyond the exam hall.
A First Week to Remember - Monday 16th January 2017
As I am sure everybody connected with the School would expect, it has been a very busy first week of Hilary Term.
After a well-deserved festive break for pupils and teachers alike, RMS hit the ground running on Tuesday morning as girls brought both energy and purpose to the corridors and school. There is an immense range of activities taking place every single day at RMS, and what follows here is only a handful of highlights from what has been, for me personally, a memorable and pleasurable first week beginning to get to know a wonderful learning community.
Year 11 were possibly the most focused year group this week, with mock GCSEs allowing girls to experience sitting examinations in the Great Hall and also concentrating minds on targets for the remainder of this school year.However, the most fun to be had on Tuesday was definitely taking place in Cadogan House where there was a great mystery to solve as Mr Connors' Christmas presents of chocolates had been stolen by one of eight suspicious characters!
Years 2 to 6 showed forensic powers of deduction as they questioned suspects, studied clues at the crime scene, and viewed CCTV footage before unraveling this fictional mystery. I was over in Cadogan House on Tuesday to see the girls all having a tremendous time, developing their already strong questioning skills, and stimulating their imaginations ahead of a series of writing tasks that followed during the rest of this week.
There was also much creativity evident in Ruspini House this week, including Blue Class creating beautiful flowers using a variety of materials and textures, and the children in Red Class taking their artistic talents a stage further by creating their own fabulous interpretations of Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’ oil canvas. Our new Head of Ruspini House, Mrs Toni Finkel, has spent the week getting to know our youngest RMS pupils and their parents, and I too look forward to meeting parents of Ruspini pupils at the coffee afternoon in Ruspini House on the afternoon of February 10th. Like Mrs Finkel, I have been trying to get to know as much of the School as possible, visiting all sections of it, introducing myself to staff and pupils alike wherever possible, including meeting a number of wonderful Year 6 Cadogan House parents on Wednesday afternoon, and then finally delivering my first assembly to Senior School and Hind House students on Friday.
The different groups of girls that I have sat down with at lunch throughout this first week have all provided me with advice to help me out in assembly – “Be a little bit funny, tell us about yourself, and include a few pictures” being the gist of their tips – so come Friday afternoon, I not only felt extraordinarily privileged to stand before them all, but hopefully I was also well-prepared to meet their initial expectations.
The assembly was intended in part to allow the girls to gain an initial sense of who I am as a person, as it is important that pupils know their Head just as I wish to know each of them as soon as is possible. I am equally looking forward to getting to know our parent community at RMS, and Saturday morning offered another opportunity to do just that as the chilly January air did not prevent a good number from supporting their daughters at an invitational hockey and netball tournament hosted by the School. All of our girls who participated showed great skill and desire to win, but the most inspirational team of the morning was undoubtedly our Year 8 netball team, who not only won the netball tournament, but were also unbeaten in all of their matches. The girls were delighted with their success when I spoke with them afterwards, and in competing against teams mostly a year older than themselves they had definitely demonstrated just as well as one could wish our RMS Value of the Month: “the courage to challenge oneself”.
For me there were so many highlights of my first week officially being a part of the RMS community, but two memories that perhaps most delighted me in exemplifying part of why this is such a wonderful school relate to our Year 13 students. The first was watching a group of girls attending a ‘Cooking for University’ class with Mrs Clivaz teaching them all about healthy cooking, and just enjoying witnessing how at ease with and extremely supportive of each other the girls were as they cooked a series of delightfully appetising dishes.
During the lesson I heard the girls talking about the “Offers Board” in Hind House. I asked about this and was told that in order to support and celebrate their successes as university offers arrived, the Year 13 girls had taken it upon themselves to write down in their Sixth Form Centre a full list of every offer that each girl had achieved. I walked over to Hind House afterwards to witness the “Offers Board” for myself and was quite overwhelmed by what is an extensive and inspiring list of RMS girls who have received multiple offers to study at wonderful institutions across the UK.
The list included all of the most competitive courses and prestigious destinations, of course, but what matters most to me is that each of our leavers studies on the right course at the best university for her, and the variety and range of the courses that our girls have received offers from suggests that this is exactly what is taking place. One could not help but be proud of this celebratory board showing a cohort of RMS students getting ready to spread their wings and take flight as independent young women. University is, for all of our girls who wish it, the initial desired destination following their time at Ruspini, Cadogan, Senior School and Hind House, and for me it was a real highlight of this week to see that for the 2017 RMS Leavers there is clearly so much to look forward to, and a great variety of wonderfully exciting careers lay ahead of them all.