The Headmaster's Weekly Routh Address

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21 January 2019

Last Updated: 21/01/2019 10:13:58

Headmaster’s Routh Assembly Address
Monday 21st January 2019

Reading: Excerpt from ‘Seasons at Eagle Pond’ by Donald Hall
"They seem tentative and awkward at first, then in a hastening host, a whole brief army falls, white militia paratrooping out of the close sky over various textures, making them one.

Snow is white and gray, part and whole, infinitely various yet infinitely repetitious, soft and hard, frozen and melting, a creaking underfoot and a soundlessness.

But first of all it is the reversion of many into one. It is substance, almost the idea of substance, that turns grass, driveway, hayfield, old garden, log pile, Saab, watering trough, collapsed barn, and stonewall into the one white."

Good morning
The magnificent Bob Dylan once sang “You don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” He was speaking metaphorically, but it is equally true that you don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that snow is in the air this week.

For many of you, that may be a bit of a yawn. Those who come from colder countries may wonder what all the fuss is about. Those like me, who are from warmer climates, might still be delighted when those first flurries settle on the School though.

In the five years I have been here, last Winter was the first and only real snowfall of any note in Bromsgrove. Admittedly, it caused disruption. Some of you who live locally could not get in. Neither could staff nor, perhaps more importantly, food deliveries. Boilers failed, pipes burst, floors got wet, it was hard to get around. And yet.
And yet it was magical. The School was transformed, became a different place than the one with which is usually so familiar. Bromsgrove seemed reinvented. Even the High Street looked pretty.

Those who live in snow all year round may not be so bewitched by it. The Inuit people of the Arctic are reputed to have 52 words for the stuff. For those of us who live where snow comes and then goes though, a big fall is memorable. And symbolic.

In a past life, when I once taught English Literature, I remember teaching the allusions to snow in great writing. Sometimes it is used to symbolise purity and innocence. Shakespeare called Cymbeline “as chaste as unsunned snow.” He also gave us the common phrase “pure as the driven snow.”

Elsewhere though, snow is a signifier of austerity and menace. It heralds danger or a bitter threat ahead. I am possibly the only person on the planet never to have watched an episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ but even I know that dark refrain, uttered by Lord Stark, “Winter is coming.” Michael Gove knows it too; he used it just last week as an ominous warning about Brexit.

In a wonderful novel called ‘Ethan Frome’, Edith Wharton wrote: "But at sunset the clouds gathered again, bringing an earlier night, and the snow began to fall straight and steadily from a sky without wind…..It seemed to be a part of the thickening darkness, to be the winter night itself descending on us layer by layer." Like this morning’s eclipse, snow is darkness. Later in the book, the main character, Zeena, sits outside in the cold: “the pale light reflected from the banks of snow, making her face look more than usually drawn and bloodless.” Snow as a marker for death.

In the novel ‘An American Childhood’, an equally sombre image: “the world outside was dangerously cold, and the big snow held the houses down and the people in.”

So snow can read as purity or as danger, but there is a third symbolism in literature and films; that of deceit. Snow hides reality. It masks the way things really are. The reading you just heard talked about the way that snow covered everything on the ground equally, the collapsed barn, the old garden, the trough. Made it one. Hid the decay and corruption. Snow lulls us into thinking normality no longer exists.

The great American writer, Truman Capote, worked the same theme: “It snowed all week. Wheels and footsteps moved soundlessly on the street, as if the business of living continued secretly behind a pale but impenetrable curtain.” Snow as a pale but impenetrable curtain. Only it is not impenetrable, is it? Because it melts away eventually, and then all is revealed.

I invite you to think on that symbol this week because there is an analogy there that is relevant to your everyday life. Snow creates an anonymity. Or at least, the illusion of anonymity. In the same way as snow falls and hides the real world, hides what is actually still out there, so too, are there places in your lives where you may be deceived into thinking you are anonymous. Thinking that your actions are unnoticed.

Crowds are one. Occasionally, people in crowds get carried away. Do things they would not normally do if they were in a more intimate setting. Maybe you have seen the video that has gone viral in America over the weekend, in which a group of young men your age, on a school trip to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, surround a Native American man who is playing traditional music, then start mocking and humiliating him. It is hard to watch and they are easy to detest. You wonder, are they actually that racist, that bigoted normally? Does their school condone their actions?

The apparent anonymity of the crowd gives one particularly obnoxious boy the courage to physically confront the elderly performer. I wondered, would he have been so bold had he known that his face would soon become the subject of network news bulletins, global disgust and internet memes?

And that is the other realm where the illusion of being anonymous persists, isn’t it? Even today, well into the digital age, even amongst your generation, who are the most tech savvy people that ever lived, there is still a persistent failure to understand that what you do and say online is not private. That you are never, ever anonymous. The veil that seems to protect you on the internet is just like snow – it can always melt away.

I wrote an article a few years ago that got a bit of critical attention in the media, probably because it was entitled “Why I love Text Bullying.”  Possibly not the expected sentiments of a School Head, but I was being slightly sarcastic. My point was that in the past, pre-digital age (there was such a time) as a Deputy Head I used to have to deal with disciplinary incidents that often came down to “he said/she said”. That is, sometimes the only evidence that a pupil had been hurtful or offensive was the word of the victim.

Today though, there is often a digital footprint. The smoking gun of a text or a digital message. There is no arguing about who said what. It is depressing to sit down with an angry parent who is affronted that you would dare accuse their child of something horrible, only to pass a phone or a screenshot across the desk to them. To show them the search history, or that the IP address of their child’s device matches an offensive message.

It’s not just young people of course. Barely a month goes by without a news story involving some suspect in a crime being picked up and having their phone or computer seized, only for Police to find searches for “How to build a meth lab” or “Best place to dispose of a body near me.” Even the fact that the GPS in their smart watch places them at the scene of the crime seems to have escaped their master plan.

I’m not suggesting that you become smart criminals and I certainly would be happier if you simply weren’t nasty to one another, online or anywhere else. What I am saying is that, like a blanket of snow, the illusion that how you conduct yourself online will forever stay hidden is just that – an illusion. Snow melts, the landscape returns. Post something regrettable in the depths of night, in your empty room, to a virtual audience who are invisible, but always remember that the next morning, you will once again walk amongst them. What seems secret behind a “pale but impenetrable curtain” never is.


Following their success in the Senior Mathematics Challenge, Ruby Ngan and Jay Lyu both scored exceptionally well in the Kangaroo and British Mathematical Olympiad challenges. I invite both forward to receive our congratulations and their certificates.

I also have Music examination success to announce. They will receive their certificates in the mail but invite forward for our congratulations:
Hannah Lawson grade 7 flute
Keira Sehdeva   grade 8 violin


Congratulations to members of Brass Group and the Boys Choir, as well as many soloists, who took part in Saturday’s coffee concert at St John’s Church in Bromsgrove to raise money for the church. All performed brilliantly to a good audience of local residents.

Congratulations to the following who have been selected to play representative county cricket for 2019:
U14: Archie Greaves Hall, Jack Warner, Elliot Evans, Fred Hanson.
U15: Olly Davidson, Freddie Fallows, Tom Cosh.
U16: Mo Talukder, Jo Miszkowski, Rhys Evans, Ed Clews, Emily Clarke.
U17: Alex Hinkley, Dan Meredith, Henry Marshall, Awais Mohammed, George Marshall.
Jasper Davidson has been selected for Scotland U19’s.

Midweek Sport

Well done to the U15 Boys team who beat Warwick School 2 – 0 and the 1st XI who beat King Edward Stratford 4 -1 in national cup matches this week.

The 3rd team lost a close encounter against Old Swinford Hospital School’s 1st team.

Well done to the U16A Rugby team who beat King Edward School in the semi-final of the area cup.

Meanwhile in the NatWest national competition, the U15As played Rugby School for a place in the quarter finals. The game brought out determination and character from each of them, but sadly ended in a loss. However, those who have watched you play throughout the season know you have made a great deal of progress gentlemen, and you can be rightly proud of what you have achieved this season.

Our swimming teams competed against Warwick School, Kings High Warwick and Harrow, with the U18, U16 and U14 Girls teams winning their matches.

Cross Country
Our runners competed in a league match at Welbeck and the County Championships, where 6 Bromsgrovians were placed in the top 10.

Saturday Sport

So to the weekend, when over half of you sitting in assembly today represented the School in netball, hockey, badminton, squash and football matches against Rugby School, in a total of 55 fixtures. Both schools won 27 fixtures each with one drawn. A superb afternoon of sport; congratulations to all who played. I am especially pleased to report that both the Girls and Boys Table Tennis teams won their respective zonal competitions.

IB2 mocks finish today, 16+ scholarships examinations and interviews take place this week, and we host the UIVth parents evening on Wednesday.

For those considering playing professional sport or looking at a career within sport, there will be an informal presentation on Wednesday, given by Mr White, who played rugby professionally and now works here. 1.25pm in the Lecture Theatre to hear him speak about his career in sport and what to look for when choosing courses.

Thursday evening at 7.00pm we hold the annual recital given by Fifth and Sixth Form Music Scholars – all are welcome to attend, and no ticket is required; just turn up at Routh and take your seat by 6.55pm.

The latest edition of the pupil's magazine Two Zero One is out now, print copies in House or the library. Remember contributions to the upcoming issue on the theme "Independence" are due to Alia or Vivianne by Friday 1st March.

Please stand as we say the Grace together.

14th January 2019

Last Updated: 14/01/2019 10:28:33

Headmaster’s Routh Assembly Address

Monday 14th January 2019

Excerpt from ‘Embracing Ignorance’ by Eric Robertson:
When I picture ignorance, I think of comedy. I think of Homer Simpson. I think of babies in high chairs slopping their food all over their faces. No one cares. They’re ignorant, and no one cares. What I don’t think of when I think of ignorance are experts and problem solvers. It turns out that might be an ignorant point of view.

On the surface, ignorance is defined as the act of unknowing, of being unaware, of existing in a chronic state of unlearnedness. This may at first seem to be opposed to a state of expertise and advanced problem-solving, and perhaps it is—if we consider ignorance a static state of being. But, ignorance itself may be something to explore, to celebrate perhaps.

The late Dr. Lewis Thomas certainly celebrated ignorance when he coined the quote: “The greatest of all the accomplishments of 20th century science has been the discovery of human ignorance.”

Good morning

If the history of the School over the past few decades is anything to go by, most of you seated in front of me today are University bound. Those seated behind have already been there, the result of which, at least in some part, has been a rewarding career and a deeper understanding of the world. For those of you yet to go, bettering yourself and your prospects if life will no doubt be a significant motivation. Some of you may take a GAP year first of course. Others may enter apprenticeship or training schemes that allow you to earn while you learn. Some may have your courses underwritten by the military, or sponsors or a scholarship. Nevertheless, most of you will go to university at some stage.

For the Upper Sixth, I imagine that prospect is at the front of your minds right now. Your UCAS is complete, your applications are in, you now await offers from the universities that you are hoping for.

Some of you have already had the relief of a response or two. An offer doesn’t mean you are accepted of course; there is still the small matter of actually sitting the exams and getting the required grades.  Nevertheless, you have something tangible upon which to focus.

Those offers should be the cause of real pride, especially those who applied to some of the world’s most prestigious universities. Bromsgrove is a British School and many of you come here seeking a specifically British education, so it is no surprise that we have traditionally held offers to Oxford and Cambridge in high esteem, for they are often considered the pinnacle of academia in the UK.

Yet they are by no means the only great universities in the country, or indeed, in the world. This year, we are delighted at the growing number of Sixth Formers gaining entry to America’s top universities.

So far, those amongst you have had offers from Tufts, Boston, UCLA, Chicago, Cornell and Columbia. Others are in the process of applying to Harvard and CalArts. So too for the leading institutions in many other countries, with offers this year from the universities of Toronto, Maastricht, Bocconi, Madrid and Hong Kong.

Those of you not in Upper Sixth may think this irrelevant to you right now, but I promise you it is not. The journey for today’s Upper Sixth to get into any of more than 200 universities for which they have applied, started long ago. Fourth and Fifth form, you are already walking that path. You would do well to talk to seniors in your House about where they find themselves today. To learn from the things they did or didn’t do, what worked, or didn’t.

No matter how successful this year’s applications have been though, there is one American university to which no Bromsgrovian, today or in the past, has ever applied for or been accepted to.

It is a specialist institution actually, housed in the medical school of the University of Arizona. Known as the Institute of Ignorance. It was set up in the 1990’s by two eminent American surgeons, husband and wife, Charles and Marylis Witte. Both had been teaching at the university’s medical school for many years when they started to become frustrated with the way that young doctors were being taught. The courses were much like those that many of you will experience at university, no matter what you choose to study. Focussed on teaching what we know. The truth. The facts. Our expertise.

The problem for the Witte’s though, was that, as highly experienced specialists at the top of their game, they both knew that there was much, much more that the medical profession didn’t know. And nobody was talking about it. The Witte’s worried that they were giving young doctors a false sense of security by ignoring what they simply did not know. So, they set up the Institute of Ignorance. A place to embrace error and focus on failure.

Just like other universities, the Institute funded Visiting Scholars, but with a difference. Experts from all over the world were invited to lecture, but they were not allowed to talk about their area of expertise. Instead, they could only give classes on what they didn’t know. The things they hadn’t figured out. The things that frustrated them. Their suspicions about what they may be getting wrong. They were known as Distinguished Ignoramii.

Not everyone was happy about this new curriculum. One major donor to the university threatened to withdraw his financial support, saying he wasn’t paying to fund ignorance. But the Witte’s stuck to their guns. They believed that if we don’t embrace our ignorance, don’t openly admit it and seek to shine a light on what we don’t know, we will never get any smarter. I listened to Charles speak once, who at that stage was considered to be one of the top surgeons in America, and he said that he longed for the day that he was made redundant.

He said “I am very skilled with a scalpel, but all I really do, every day, is open people up, cut out things I don’t understand and throw them in a bucket. We are still so ignorant about disease. Once we understand it properly, we will be able to beat it at its own game, using natural biology and chemistry, not the trauma of a sharp knife.”

I have never been to Arizona and I am certainly not a doctor. But I learned a lot from the Witte’s. One thing I still use regularly is their famous ‘Ignorance Map’. You should Google it. It proposes that there are six types of ignorance. The main ones are:
The Known Unknowns – all the things you know you don’t know
The Unknown Unknowns – all the things you don’t know you don’t know
The Unknown Knowns – all the things you don’t know you know.
Errors – all the things you think you know but don’t
There are also:
Taboos - which are dangerous or forbidden things to know, and
Denials - which are things too painful to know, so you chose not to. However, it is those first four that I would suggest are the most helpful to you now.

Helpful in this, the most important academic term. People think that the Summer Term is the most academic, but by that stage, the die is cast. Examinations, especially for Fifth and Sixth Form, are upon you then and all you can do is sit them. Now is the term to be improving your knowledge. Now is when you make the greatest gains in your understanding. Now is the term to confront your own ignorance.

The first step of which is accepting that ignorance alone is not a bad thing. Mind you, it’s not a good thing either. They say that ignorance is bliss, but actually, ignorance is voluntary misfortune. Simply accepting ignorance without challenging it is just you making a personal choice to suffer.

In the Middle Ages, in a time when only the nobility were educated, ignorance may have been your unlucky fate. In the Information Age though, ignorance is a choice, plain and simple. And if you just accept it, claiming that you “can’t do Maths” or “don’t have a science brain”, then it is no more than a dumb choice on your part. No point blaming nature or your DNA. Neuroscience now proves that actually, we all have the same capacity to learn Maths, or speak another language or make art. Scanning the brain has shown the only difference is between ignorance and stupidity. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge. Stupidity is a lack of intellectual capability. And very few of you are actually stupid. Really.

Most of you are ignorant though. About some things. As are we all. And acknowledging your ignorance, shining a light and focussing on it, is the way you become enlightened. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging your ignorance about a subject. Only those who do not know the difference between ignorance and stupidity are ashamed of not knowing something. Ashamed of asking a question, seeking clarification. The only stupid question in a classroom is the one you do not ask.

I said last week that Mock exams were the best gift we could give to many of you this term. They are, because they will draw a map of your ignorance. When you get your papers back, do not see them merely as a reassurance of what you know and can do. Or worse still, a reassurance of what you can’t do. If you simply glance at the mark on the front cover and then consign the paper to the depths of your locker, then you really are stupid.

See your marked papers in any assessment, Mocks, tests, assignments, Prep, as a guide to what you don’t yet know. We all shy away from red crosses on a paper, but actually, they mark the treasure on that map. They signal your Known Unknowns. Saturday morning clinics expose your Unknown Unknowns. The surprise of seeing a few guessed answers were right are your Unknown Knowns. And every error that is identified ensures that you don’t make the same mistake twice, especially when it matters.

So this term, all of you but especially those sitting final public examinations in the Summer, treasure the mistakes you make and don’t be scared to acknowledge what you don’t know or understand. As Confucius said “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”

I am pleased to invite the following forward to receive Music certificates:
Kalea Booth Violin grade 8
Christiana Lloyd Singing grade 8
Isobel Scott Theory of music grade 5
Rose Willetts Singing grade 5
Imogen Vaughan-Hawkins Singing grade 7
Ian Chan Theory of Music grade 5
Archie Batham-Read Trumpet grade 8
Johnson Shi Drum kit grade 5
Daniel Kwok Decant Recorder grade 5
Seb Harrison Theory of Music grade 5


In high quality fixture, the senior team drew 6-6 against Abingdon School.

It was a good start of the season for the football teams, with the School winning 2 and drawing 1 out of the 4 games played against St Edward’s Oxford. The 1st XI played well to win 4-1.


The boys’ hockey teams started their regular season with some very good results against Bloxham. There were draws for the U14C and U16B teams and wins for the U14B, U14A, U15B, U15A, U16A, 2nd XI and 1st XI who won 3-1.

Well done to all of our netball teams, whose opening matches for the Lent Term saw the School wining 12 out of the 14 games played against Cheltenham College.

Vth form mock examinations finish later today and the IB2 Mocks commence this week.

Today, Old Bromsgrovian Ellie Robinson will be talking to students about her apprenticeship with Cushman and Wakefield. Many students want to go to university and for some, there are other options. Ellie applied for this competitive apprenticeship where she is earning and learning at the same time. She will still gain a degree in Chartered Surveying, but she will also be in the world of work gaining a variety of skills. If you would like to hear more, please come to Futures at 1.30pm today for an informal chat.

We wish the Brass group well when they play a coffee concert in St Johns Church next Saturday morning.

Finally, as the second issue of Two Zero One is currently underway, the team asks you to reflect on the theme of independence for the next issue. Specifically, the prompt is "Loneliness: the price of independence?", but unrelated contributions are welcome too. Email them to Alia or Vivianne before Friday 1st March to be featured and feel welcome to come join their meeting on Wednesday lunchtime, 1:20 in the Library.

Please stand as we say the Grace together.

7th January 2019

Last Updated: 09/01/2019 07:47:02

Headmaster’s Routh Assembly Address
Monday 7th January 2019

Good morning and Happy New Year to you all.

I trust that however and wherever you spent Christmas, you managed to rest and relax. Perhaps even considered my final words to you in December about creating, not just consuming, during the break.

I know that, like me, many of you will have left the UK to go home for a while. Others who call England home may also have left the country, maybe for a mid-Winter holiday or visiting friends and family elsewhere. For any of you who did travel overseas, I know we will all have shared a common experience. That of going through Customs. Maybe at Heathrow or Birmingham International, maybe through the port at Dover, and then again on arrival in whichever country you visited.

Different countries have different identities. Different laws, different traditions, different expectations of people, whether they be residents or visitors. Arriving at the border is where we first encounter those differences.

Sometimes that can seem a little intimidating, especially when some stern-looking Customs officer with a face like thunder and a military uniform descend upon you, often with suspicion and a large dog. Determined to enforce rules and expectations. Who may enter, what they may bring with them. At some stage, I am sure you will all have had your bags x-rayed, you passport scrutinised, perhaps questions put to you about your travel plans or family connections. Maybe you have even had things confiscated, or had to pay duty to bring something in. For some, it can be a stressful time, especially if you don’t know or understand the expectations of the country that you are entering. I travel a lot, but still made the mistake of leaving a power pack in my luggage this last trip, which was then seized.

However, as long as you are not actually intent upon breaking local laws, the passage through Customs can also be an illuminating way to get early clues as to what a country values. Customs agencies originated centuries ago and, as the name suggests, were intended to ensure that traditions and protocols, the customs of a country, were respected and adhered to.

Today, it is more about controlling trade and migration, but the focus of each nation’s Customs still says a lot about what is valued there. Thanks to the dubious benefits of reality television, you don’t even have to cross the border in person to know what happens at the frontiers of various countries. Programmes like Border Patrol feature episodes from Canada, America, Australia, NZ, England, Ireland, South Africa, even Columbia.

Each highlighting the priorities of differing nations. At British ports, it appears to be all about not exceeding the allowable limit of cigarettes and alcohol. In Canada, for reasons that escape me, sneaking in large amounts of cash seems to be a big obsession. In South Africa, it is the opposite; they worry about those who are sneaking diamonds out. In Columbia, perhaps unsurprisingly, it is drugs. In America, drugs too but, more often, illegal immigration is their major preoccupation. Perhaps they should consider building a wall to keep people out?

And in Australia and NZ, if every episode of Border Patrol is to be believed, you can bring as many drugs, diamonds, bankrolls or illegal aliens with you as you like, but if we catch you with a piece of fruit in your hand luggage you go to jail and we throw away the key.

I am being flippant of course, but there is a seed of truth in the notion that our first impression of what a country values can colour our perception of the whole nation.

That tendency to generalise is important to be aware of in a community such as ours, where people come from 53 different nations. Important that we celebrate our cultural differences, yet equally important that we don’t stereotype. Easier said than done. Which of your country’s customs are your personal points of pride, badges of honour that you proudly wear? And which generalisations do you find offensive, racist or bigoted?

If I say to you that your country, whether it is Britain or any other nation, is renowned for its hospitality, you will most likely agree that is well-known fact. I know New Zealanders certainly like to think so. If I say that your culture is known for its generosity, or its initiative, or its sporting prowess, you may nod you head and say “Of course.” Whether in England, or Russia or Hong Kong. In your heart, you know that many of your countrymen are anything but kind or helpful or sporty or whatever. But you are intrinsically proud of your heritage and, like all of us, happy to take the accolades for your culture.

However, if I say that your people are known for their intolerance or their greed, you are more likely to accuse me of racism. To say that your culture is marked by selfishness, ignorance or bullying behaviour is likely to see me charged with hate speech and bigotry. Rightly so. It is patently wrong to ascribe an expectation of a certain behaviour or character trait to millions of people simply because they come from the same place.

As an aside, although I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, this was going to the year that I tried a little harder to hide my dislike of the American President. That has lasted exactly one week. Actually, it is not him so much as his spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has upset me already. Speaking on Fox News, that bastion of balanced reporting, just this morning, she made this extraordinary claim. She said that the thing that sets America apart from the other nations of the world is that they value life.

Ponder on that for a moment. Ms Sanders, the official spokesperson for the US President said, and I quote exactly so you don’t accuse me of spreading Fake News, “… that's what sets America apart from every other country; we value life. That is what makes us unique."

Now if you are American, I guess you might go “Yep, that’s us alright.” But if you come from any other nation on the entire planet, you might justifiably be a little aggrieved. You might just think to yourself, “Hang on, my country happens to think life is fairly important too. It’s great that America values life, but it is not unique.”

My point is, there is nothing wrong with national pride. We should all feel proud of the land from which we came and we should all treasure and celebrate the customs that make it distinct. One of Bromsgrove’s greatest strengths is harnessing the richness of those 53 cultures. But no country has an exclusive mortgage on virtue. And no country’s people are entirely one thing or another.

The same holds true for this School. Bromsgrove has a reputation for the measurable outcomes of the education we offer. Strong academic results year on year, sporting prowess at a national level, professional performances and productions, high participation rates in service activities.

Yet we are equally well known for our customs, the inherited aspects of our culture and traditions. We are viewed as a friendly and welcoming community. You have a reputation for being grounded and lacking in pretension. You are viewed as polite, well-mannered, tolerant and engaging young people. That is not to say no other school in the land shares those traits. Rather, that there is a particular blend of virtues that makes us who we are.

So, as we start the New Year, I want to take the opportunity to remind you that it is those less tangible traits that matter most to me. The staff and I work every day to ensure that the measurable outcomes remain high. Your examination marks, your university placements, sporting successes, D of E Gold awards, they are our daily focus.

However, even more important to me is the maintenance of the customs of this School. Values and traditions that have stood for 500 years. Admirable traits like tolerance of all, not just your close mates. Humility in success, no matter how hard modesty can be for some. Resilience in adversity, not seeking to blame others. A positive outlook, gratitude for the all you have been given and the opportunities that lie in front of you, if only you have the eyes to see them. Those are the customs for which Bromsgrovians are known and in which you can all share. Celebrate and nurture them.

Table tennis

I invite Jade Ngan on stage to receive her Worcestershire county badge.

Senior House Rugby (carried over from last term)
In a very tight competition, Elmshurst emerged winners beating Walters in the final.
I invite the Elmshurst captain forward to receive the Llanwrtyd Wells Trophy


Well done to Joshua Osborn-Patel who performed in the National Youth Orchestra’s first concert of the year this past weekend.

Congratulations to the following who represented Worcester Warriors Academy over the holiday period:Ben Turner, Morgan French, Peter Olley, Rufus Hulbert, Lewis Maddox, Ollie Wynn, Ewan Guy, Sebastien Atkinson, Finlay Morgan. Nic Jakobsen also played for the Wasps Academy team.


The Vth Form probably need no reminding that your important mock examinations start today.

We host the national indoor hockey finals in the arena this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Those who seek extra academic challenge and engagement should be attending Marmite Gifted and Talented seminars whenever possible. Although there is no Marmite during the first week back, seminars recommence thereafter and Houseparents will share details for different year levels. If you would like to enter this year’s discussions on the media, multinationals, Artificial Intelligence, minorities, the climate or even Blade Runner 2019, please email Dr Ruben.

House Music Competition

This year's Competition will take place this term on Thursday 7th February. Like last year there are two competitions, an ensemble and a solo competition. The ensemble competition is compulsory for all houses and each House will need a representative. This year the solo competition has two categories; intermediate (Grade 5-6 standard) and advanced (Grade 7+ standard).

Any number of entries can be made for these categories. Auditions for the solo competition will take place week beginning 28th January and you are all encouraged to take part. The deadline for both entries is Friday 18th January. Please contact your House Parent or Miss McCanlis for further information.

Please stand as we say the Grace together.

12 December 2018

Last Updated: 12/12/2018 14:42:48


Mark Reading
Wednesday December 12th 2018

Good morning and welcome to our Mark Reading Ceremony for this Michaelmas Term. Before I announce the GCSE subject prizes and various other awards, let me commend you all on an excellent term. One in which you have laid foundations for the rest of your year, whether it be your first or your last at the School. At 13 weeks, Michaelmas is our longest term you should feel rightly pleased if have persevered with commitment and a positive outlook right to the end, not wasting opportunities or letting themselves or others down along the way.

I note especially those who have joined the School in the Sixth Form this year, proud to have won a place here and quick to establish their academic career. Likewise, particular praise to those newly arrived in the L4th, who have settled so quickly into Senior School life. It seems a while ago now that you all walked the Malvern Hills in pursuit of your Bromsgrove Badge. You were impressive then and have remained so since. You have come to understand the School’s high expectations and most of you are already meeting and exceeding them.

It has also been pleasing to witness so many of you from all year levels continuing to give of your time and talents to the local community as part of Bromsgrove Service. Don’t ever underestimate the power of those good works, or the reward.

Service also from all those committed to the CCF this term and to the Duke of Edinburgh, which has been equally impressive. More of that shortly as we present a number of Gold awards.

As is to be expected at Bromsgrove, our sporting reputation also continued to flourish this term. Expected, but never taken for granted. I congratulate every one of you who has worn the School’s colours and pride this term. There have been many triumphs in the season and I will not risk causing offence by singling out any one team or code. Suffice to say, your successes haves meant that we remain in a number of regional and national competitions that will conclude after Christmas. More importantly perhaps, each of you will have your own proud memories of your favourite matches of the Winter season. Win or lose, sport has made you all stronger in more ways than one.

So too has our Performing Arts reputation continued to grow. We have enjoyed a feast of entertainment since September, from musical recitals to the wonderful success of this year’s House Song. In Music, so too in Drama, where of course, we have ended the term with the spectacle that was GREASE, delivered with professionalism and great energy in Cobham last week. I commend every person in the cast and crew for setting the bar high for future shows.

The indomitable Chicken also made history this term, becoming nothing less than World Champions. And speaking of history, many of you contributed to honouring the School’s proud past in the creative ways during the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice.

In the midst of this wealth of co-curricular commitment, the School has maintained excellent academic performance, as is witnessed in the fine set of grades and reports that have just been issued. AEO grades continue to help identify more precisely your individual areas of excellence and of opportunity for growth. Never forget that, whatever other triumphs we may enjoy as a School, we are first and foremost an academic institution, a fact we will shortly acknowledge with the presentation of GCSE prizes.
For all that, you have still found time for the best of House life. You have competed; in sport, music, debating, soon drama and the inter-House quiz. Your Houses remain the centre of your School experience, no more so than at this festive time of year, when the decoration of your studies and the traditions of your respective Christmas parties are a tribute friendship and comradery.

If then, at the end of all that, you feel a little tired right now, so you should. And if, having played your part in sport and performance and service and academic pursuits and House life, you also feel a bit satisfied, so too, you should. It is such a cliché to say that you get out of life what you put in, but there is just no avoiding the fact that it is true. Those of you who feel most exhausted today, at the end of this long term, will also be those who have most cause to feel proud. Those who do not, should perhaps be asking themselves “What more could I have done?” And more importantly, “How can I squeeze more out of Bromsgrove when I return in January?”

We move to announcing prizes awarded for best performance at GCSE:
English as a Second Language – Kelvin Liu
Classical Civilisation – Katie Burke
Drama – Patricia Blessing
Art – Tina Cai

Textiles – Fleur Parris
German – Alek Florov
Business – Scarlet Bond
Economics – Vivianne Zhang

Physics – Max Campbell
PE – Siena Horton
D&T Graphic Products – Emma Dolan
D & T Resistant Materials – Arun Bahra
Dual Science – Judy (Haohao) Wu

Multiple winners
English Language and Religious Studies – Jamie Cox
English Literature, French and Spanish – Hannah Pover
Mathematics, Geography and Music – Joshua Osborn-Patel
Biology, History, Chemistry and Latin – Georgia Doohan-Smith
Bromsgrove Service
It has been a busy term for Bromsgrove Service and I congratulate all who have served their community so diligently. There are amongst them two pupils who deserve special commendation for their service work, and I invite Ellen Kitchen and Justus Krauel to come forward to receive awards.

House Competitions
The House Rugby Shield Final for those boys not in school A or B teams has been a new initiative this term. In the final, Lyttelton beat Walters 20-15, so I invite the Lyttelton captain to receive the trophy.

Junior House Table tennis
Girls Boys
3rd Thomas Cookes 3rd Lyttleton
2nd Mary Windsor 2nd Elmshurst
1st Oakley 1st Wendron Gordon

In the junior competition results were as follows:
Cup Plate
3rd Hazeldene 3rd Mary Windsor
2nd Oakley 2nd Hazeldene
1st Thomas Cookes 1st Thomas Cookes

In the Senior competition:
Cup Plate
3rd Oakley 3rd Thomas Cookes
2nd Thomas Cookes 2nd Oakley
1st Hazeldene 1st Hazeldene

The following mathematicians are to be commended for winning Gold in the first round of the Olympiad competition:
Katherine Pu, Johnson Shi, Stanley Cheng,James Pei, Sunny Tang,   Jenna Kam, Murat Shafigullin, Ruby Ngan, Jay Lyu.
Murat, Ruby and Jay also won a “Best in Year” certificate and I invite them all forward to receive our congratulations.

I gave the cast and crew of GREASE a bit of a build up at last week’s Routh and they didn’t disappoint, turning on a four-night season that was spectacular. High energy, popular and professional, it was a show that will be remembered for years to come. The Cobham Theatre is an intimate setting; there is no place to hide on that stage. I commend the entire cast for never once dropping out of character, no matter whether they were in the action or not. It made for a convincing and highly entertaining performance. It also made for a very uplifting end to a long hard term and for that, I would invite you all to join me in a round of applause to thank all who brought us GREASE.

Junior House Debating
Thank you to all the Houses that competed in Junior House Debating this term. The standard of the competition was exceptional, and the two final debates were outstanding. After hard deliberation by the judges, the winners of this year’s Junior House Debating are the team from Oakley House. I invite Ellie and Polly to come forward to collect their trophy.

Duke of Edinburgh Award
Finally, it gives me great pleasure to invite the following to receive their Gold awards.
Heidi Collie James Lord
Matthew Clarkson Emily Lyle
Tom Eaves Will Roberts
Harry Fussell Daisy Scott
Tristan Hall Ben Turner
Grayson Leversha Jess Ward
Christie Lloyd Sophie Ward
Will Ayliffe Georgie Muscutt

Final Address
And so to Christmas. Given all that I have mentioned above, I trust that you will have a restful and rejuvenating holiday. However, I also trust that, although it will be a break from the normal routines of this place, it will not be a holiday completely devoid of all intellectual and creative pursuits. I am not just talking about those in the Fifth Form, who certainly will need to be hitting the books regularly to prepare for their all-important Mocks on the first day back. I am talking to all of you.

By all means swap your textbooks for Netflix for a while. Turn your alarm off. I said earlier that if you have made the most of this term you will rightfully be tired by now. Some downtime in front of a screen or plugged into headphones or just buried in a pillow is fair enough. However, if the next three weeks pass and you have nothing to show for it when you return but bed hair and a few thousand clicks on YouTube, your teachers and I have failed you.

Failed you because our mission is not just to teach you to know, but to do. Yes, you must consume knowledge while you are at school, but so, too, must you create with it. Our teaching is worth nothing if you don’t do something with what you know. It is not enough to learn a Shakespearean sonnet, or a chemical equation, or how to take a short corner or read a compass or a musical score. You need to take that knowledge and act and play and hike and write your own poetry in life. We can make you do that when you are in our care, but what happens when you have freedom to chose how to spend your days? We put pressure on you during term to consume and create. What happens when we’re not there?

The pressure that you experience during term time is not something to be completely avoided at all costs. Neither is it some unfortunate accident. We are not actually hopelessly disorganised, suddenly remembering that we should have given Prep or run a House competition or put on a play or held a debate and then trying to cram it all in at the last minute. Everything asked of you, every term, at every level of the Senior School, is carefully pre-planned.
Neither are we sadists (despite what you may think). The planning I just mentioned is not some evil torture regime, designed to relentlessly keep adding more pressure until you break. Believe me, that are far easier ways to torture you than marking exams and coaching sport on a cold winter’s night. We would just take away your phones if we really wanted to break you.

No, the pressure you experience at Bromsgrove is intended to cause some stress. Which sounds sadistic, because we tend to think of stress as something negative. It is not. Or at least, the right amount isn’t. Without some stress, we wouldn’t be here in the first place. If a single cell amoeba swimming around in the primordial soup on Earth a few million years ago hadn’t felt the stress of needing to survive, human history would be non-existent.

Stress is what motivates us to do things. Good things. Finer things. Stress makes us want to make life better. It is true that too much stress can be detrimental. Make you distressed.
The right amount though, is healthy. It even has a name: Eustress. Eu meaning good. Good stress. Defined as what happens when the gap between what you have and what you want is large enough to test you but not break you.

Hence, we try to create an environment here for you where two things happen. The first is that you experience enough pressure to reach higher, push harder to achieve what you want. The second is to equip you with the skills to allow you to handle that pressure. It is all very fashionable to talk about resilience at the moment. It is the same thing – developing the skills to cope. Those skills include being able to push yourself when no-one else is. To be self-disciplined, self-motivating. So, over the coming break, just because there are no teachers, no timetable, no rehearsals or training or roll calls or deadlines, don’t simply cease to function. You live in the most content rich period in human history. There is more “stuff” to passively consume than any one person could possibly cope with. If you do only that – consume – over the Christmas break, we have taught you nothing.
And by consume, I don’t just mean food, although that is a good metaphor. If all you did was eat and drink, no exercise, no balanced diet, your body would bloat. So too, your mind. Consume nothing but a steady diet of social media, video clips and sleep for three weeks and you will be back swimming in the soup with the amoeba.

Don’t just consume this Christmas, create. Make something. With your hands. Or your body, or your heart, or your mind and soul. It really doesn’t matter. Just create something new each day, something that didn’t exist that morning. Stronger muscles, a diary entry, a new friendship, a smile on the face of your Gran, a Christmas gift for your Dad, whatever. Rest and relax by all means, but keep the pressure on yourself to grow as a person. Do that, and we will have done our job this term. Merry Christmas to you all.

Let us end our gathering with the Grace – please stand.

3rd December 2018

Last Updated: 03/12/2018 10:35:07

Headmaster’s Routh Assembly Address
Monday 3rd December 2018

I saw my problems and I'll see the light
We got a lovin' thing, we gotta feed it right
There ain't no danger, we can go too far
We start believin' now that we can be who we are

They think our love is just a growin' pain
Why don't they understand? It's just a cryin' shame
Their lips are lyin', only real is real
We stop the fight right now, we got to be what we feel

We take the pressure and we throw away
Conventionality belongs to yesterday
There is a chance that we can make it so far
We start believin' now that we can be who we are

Grease is the word
Grease is the word, is the word that you heard
It's got a groove, it's got a meaning

GREASE is the word, that you heard. It’s got groove, but has it got meaning? Unless you have been living under a rock for the past term, you will know that the major dramatic production for the Senior School this year is the musical GREASE, opening tomorrow night in Cobham Theatre. GREASE is, of course, one of the most popular musicals of the past 50 years. If you haven’t seen it though, either live or in the film version, you might rightly wonder at the meaning of its title. Indeed, even if you have seen it, you might still wonder.

The plot revolves around ten working class teenagers who attend the fictional Rydell High School in America in 1959. For an upbeat and joyful show, it actually tackles some fairly heavy topics. Not just familiar themes like love and friendship, teenage rebellion and adolescent sexual awareness, but also social issues; class consciousness and conflict, peer pressure, teen pregnancy, and gang violence. Cheery stuff.

Viewed through today’s lens, you might even wonder if there isn’t just a hint of early gender fluidity in there. Macho tough guy Danny gets in touch with his feelings and shrugs off the way his mates objectify women. Meanwhile, naïve feminine cliché, Sandy, ultimately finds her voice and a firmer identity within a rather stereotyped social circle. Then again, maybe I’m just imagining that.

Either way though, the meaning of Grease is still not immediately evident, is it? Even the soundtrack doesn’t give much away. The show spawned some of the best known, most catchy tunes of the era, with a simple blend of early rock and roll standards. From ballads like ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ or ‘Beauty School Dropout’ to foot-tapping anthems like ‘You’re The One That I Want’, ‘Born to Hand Jive’, and of course, ‘Greased Lightnin.’ For those of you who go to see the show this week, they are songs that will stick in your head long after the final curtain closes.

And yet, even after you do leave the theatre, you may still be none the wiser about why it was called Grease. Why Grease is the word, why it has groove and has meaning? The titles of other famous musicals are easier to fathom, aren’t they? ‘The Lion King’ is about a lion who becomes king. ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ is about a guy named Joseph who has, guess what? A coat of many colours.

Even ‘Les Miserables’, once you unpick what that translates to from the French, actually is all about the poor and downtrodden, people whose lives are miserable. But GREASE is not really about grease. For those who know a bit about life in 1950’s America though, you may have spotted the clue in the last song I mentioned. ‘Greased Lightnin’ is a little ditty about the car that the boys at Rydell High are building in their Workshop Tech class. America’s love affair with cars started in the Fifties and young men, especially working class young men, had the greatest obsession with them. Partly because being a mechanic was the best of the otherwise menial jobs available to the lower classes. Partly also because, in a fairly repressive age, having a car meant freedom and independence. Which is, arguably, not too different from today, I suppose.

Anyway, working on cars meant getting covered in engine oil and – yes – grease. Add to that the fact that it was the fashion of the day for cool young men from the poor side of town to slick their hair back with an oily wax. Today, we would call it product. Back then? It was called grease. Hence, the subculture of working class young men who worshipped cars, girls and rock and roll, probably in that order, were known as “Greasers.”

So there you go, social anthropology lecture over. And what’s my point? Nothing really, other than to commend this week’s performances to you. GREASE is a great show, but it will be a hundred times more enjoyable to see it performed by people that you know, and you should go if you possibly can. The cast and crew have put in countless hours throughout this busy term and are looking forward to entertaining you.

I suppose there is one other message there though. To do with not being put off by the unfamiliar. Although it is set in the 1950’s, the musical GREASE came out in 1974. In a time when television had just become mainstream and many feared staying home in your lounge and staring at “the box” would lead to a demise in attendance at live theatre, plays, concerts and shows. Not to mention the downfall of civilised society and a genuine belief amongst some that children’s eyes would go square if they watched the TV screen for too long.

The things that were said about TV then are the things that are said about the internet now. It will stop people going out, make them unsociable. It will lower the tone and calibre of entertainment, with its emphasis on quantity rather than quality.

It will narrow people’s awareness and appreciation of the diversity of the world, as they lazily chose to watch a steady boring diet of the same type of programmes. Or YouTube clips, as it is now, in the digital age. Attention spans will get shorter. The more an audience is able to flick channels or swipe away from digital forms of entertainment, the less incentive there is for producers to invest large sums of money or talent in it.

As far as I know, the advent of television did not lead to moral decay and, although there are some ugly aspects to it, the internet has not destroyed society. However, I do wonder if it isn’t making us all just a little bit narrow in our entertainment choices. Whether we aren’t all guilty of going back to the tried and trusted, the familiar, when we want to relax? If we didn’t have quite so many choices of what to watch or listen to, would we perhaps experiment a bit more? Try new genres? Who knows.

Just in case then, if you haven’t been to live theatre, haven’t been to a musical, haven’t seen GREASE or just simply haven’t got out of the House much recently, I encourage you to try and get hold of one of the few remaining tickets.

Duke of Edinburgh
I would like to invite the following on stage to receive their Silver awards.
Euan Vaughan-Hawkins, Fleur Parris, Ben Hollingsworth, Alek Florov

Well done to all swimmers who participated in the Senior Girls’ House gala. The results were as follows:
3rd place: Oakley
2nd place: Hazeldene
1st place: Thomas Cookes

I would also like to acknowledge impressive achievements from two of our younger pupils this morning.

Firstly, congratulations to Jake Wingfield who took part in the World Scholars Cup, which is a global academic competition. Jake qualified for the final, called the Tournament of Champions, which was held at Yale University and involved the best 1,000 scholars from the Global Rounds. After four days of debating, essay writing and a series of multiple choice tests; Jake achieved a Gold Medal for the Arts and Music section, a Silver Medal for the Science section and a Silver Medal for the Scholars’, a fantastic achievement.

We are also proud of the fact that James Doohan-Smith has recently qualified as a rugby referee and was in action, overseeing three matches in the Prep School on Saturday morning. A significant achievement at a young age and a great example of service to others.

The Senior Badminton team narrowly lost in a good fixture against Abingdon School.


In matches played last week, the U14 team lost narrowly against St Augustine’s and the U15’s had a good win against Waseley Hills.

Cross Country
There were good runs in a Birmingham league match from Ash Kandola 10th, Natalie Hatfield 17th , Seb Purvis 20th and Orla Walker 35th.

The U14 girls’ team played well at the Midland finals but unfortunately did not make the final rounds.
Well done to both the U16 and U18 boys’ teams who have qualified for the Midlands Indoor Finals.
Also to those who won a number of closely fought matches in the block fixture against Repton.

Rugby Union
There were over 200 boys representing the School on rugby pitches on Saturday afternoon in a good fixture against Clifton College. Impressive wins for U14A, 3rd XV and 1st XV who won 28-22. Compliments also to the U15B team, who played a superb match, drawing 26-26.

Well done to our swimmers who won all four matches against strong opposition from Wellington, Marlborough and Winchester Colleges.

Table Tennis
Lastly, congratulations to Jade Ngan who played Table Tennis for Worcestershire against South Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire.

And to wrap up last week, yesterday over 200 boarders travelled to Birmingham and enjoyed Christmas shopping and the delights of the German markets. 

Visitors from a Language school, Dice Salamanca, will be holding lectures for pupils studying Spanish throughout the coming week. Houseparents and teachers will relay details of who should be where, and when.

The next Boarders’ Forum will be held this Friday at 1.20 in the Cookes room. Please see your house representatives if you have any additional points to raise.

This year’s IVth Form play is to be performed on the 9th and 10th May, and will be Brecht’s epic drama “The Caucasian Chalk Circle.” Which is a gripping story that is, by turns, hilarious and deeply moving. It features a large cast of extraordinary characters, so there are many opportunities for actors, singers and dancers. Auditions will be held this week – further details will be sent to Houses. All IVth form students who are interested are warmly encouraged to attend or to speak with Ms Bradford and Mr. Dinnen.

Finally, on the topic of theatre and as I have already announced, Grease opens tomorrow night and runs through until Saturday. A huge amount of work has gone into the production and it promises to be a spectacular and highly entertaining evening. If you are lucky enough to have booked a seat, please aim to be at the theatre by 6.45pm. If you haven’t booked, there are only one or two seats remaining of each night, so be quick. That said, it is also worth turning up in case there are any last minute returns. If possible, Mr Mullan will find space for you.

Please stand as we say the Grace together.

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