Senior School Home

Welcome from the Head of the Senior School

I regard it a considerable privilege to lead an independent school with the distinguished history of St Lawrence College. It has a long record of providing an excellent academic education within a supportive community, but is also modern in its outlook and very well suited to preparing pupils for a rapidly changing world. In fact, we were recently awarded the coveted award of High Performance Learning World Class School - one of only 14 schools globally to receive this recognition.

You will find on this website many attractive pictures, showing the blend of beautiful historic buildings and state of the art boarding and classroom facilities, which together make St Lawrence one of the finest schools in the country. I would ask though that you judge the school not just on its facilities, or its excellent academic results, but on the attitudes and behaviour of our pupils. They find St Lawrence to be a very happy and caring community, a place which gives them the space to develop their individual talents, but also one that seeks to promote the essential attributes of confidence, teamwork and service.

As a co-educational boarding and day school, St Lawrence welcomes pupils from all around the world to benefit from the best of the British educational system. This diversity makes the school a cosmopolitan and vibrant place, where pupils leave us prepared for the challenges of the globalised world of work and study. They are well served in this by very committed staff who care passionately about their work.

One aspect of St Lawrence that distinguishes it from other private schools is that we are deliberately a medium sized school, when the trend nationally is towards ever larger school groupings. We believe this is essential to ensuring that individual pupils receive the attention and care they require. At the same time, we are large enough to provide facilities that would be the envy of much larger schools, and have something of a reputation for punching well above our weight in school competitions!

David Jackson

Nothing can beat visiting a school when deciding whether it is the right place for the education of your child, and I can assure you of a very warm welcome if you choose to visit this outstanding school.

 

David Jackson  BA (Durham), MEd (Buckingham)
Acting Head

 

Head's Musings

After a very windy day yesterday, the forecast is for more of the same today, albeit not quite to the same extent. Do take good care as you are walking around school and if you do happen to notice any damage which has been caused by the stormy weather, please report it to a member of staff. It has certainly been an extremely busy and successful first half of term and I suspect many, if not all of you, are ready for a well-earned break. Just 5 days to go now, but it is important that you keep pushing yourself and giving of your best. For those of you in the 5th Form with mock exams around the corner, do make sure that you have a clear revision programme in place for the half-term. They may not be the real exams, but diligent preparation will help ensure that you are in a position to give them your best shot and, just as importantly, to learn from the experience; indeed, only by doing so will you be able to identify properly where the gaps in your knowledge and understanding lie. U6th likewise. With the incentive of some very good university offers now in, for which congratulations, you need to see next week not solely as a chance to rest, but also to be disciplined about getting a good deal of independent study done too. I wish you all well.

On Saturday there were some comprehensive victories on the hockey pitch against Cranbrook, following on from an excellent performance by our U18 boys on Thursday in the prestigious Frank Mason Tournament. For the fourth year in a row we reached the final, after a 3-1 win over Kent College in the semi-final, before losing to a very strong Tonbridge side 3-2, conceding a goal right at the end. We wish the team wel

l today as they play against Kingston Grammar in the next round of the National Cup. Similarly, the very best of luck to our U15 rugby side against the Crypt School tomorrow in the quarter final of the National Vase Competition. You have done St Lawrence College proud and we are all behind you.

Of course, the most important event of the weekend was the annual inter-house singing competition, without doubt one of my favourite events in the school calendar for a number of reasons. Firstly, and this year was certainly no different, I am always impressed by the huge array of talent we have in this school. Some of you are well-known performers within our community and it is always fantastic to see and hear you entertaining us with something new. Equally, however, we love it when, as teachers, we get to see a number of pupils in a completely different light, showing off skills which I did not know they possess – Demi particularly stood out for me in this regard on the drums and really got the evening off to an incredible start. And then, of course, there are those pupils who have just been waiting patiently for their moment in the spotlight and, when it comes, grab it with both hands – well done Philip for adding something special to Lodge’s version of Yellow Submarine!

Two other things really struck me on Saturday evening. The first was your behaviour, the respect and appreciation you showed towards your friends in other Houses. I am only too aware of how much the competition means to many of you and how much you would like to win the coveted trophy. But of equal importance to me was the way in which all of you helped to create a supportive atmosphere throughout the evening as well as the way those of you who did not end up winning in the end showed real graciousness. That, for me, is a mark of true character and of an excellent school.

The second point I wanted to make was how evident it was that, you had spent considerable time rehearsing – and this hard work really paid off. Aside from the undeniable benefit of helping to boost that crucial sense of house spirit, one of the reasons, as a school, why we continue to place great emphasis on pupil-led events like the house singing and house drama competitions, is that it gets you working in team and gives some of you the opportunity to lead – key skills which employers are increasingly looking for today in a competitive workplace. For some of you, for whom performing on stage is a daunting prospect, I know this requires courage and takes you well out of your comfort zone, but that is fine and indeed to be encouraged. In years to come beyond SLC, you may well find that the House Singing Competition remains one of your abiding memories, regardless of whether you see yourself as musician or not, as is the case for a number of OLs I have spoken to in recent times.

Alex and Josh - Newlands Winners of Small Ensemble House Singing 2020

 

So well done to all of you who took part, including the staff, some of whom I know were just as nervous as you were. And for those of you lower down the school, whatever the outcome this year, please do not let that put you off giving it your best shot again in 2021 and beyond. Many congratulations to Josh Crottie and Alex Kirchschlager for winning the small group ensemble. Please can they come up. And can I now ask Rasmi, as House Captain, to come up to receive the trophy on behalf of Bellerby.

Belleby House - winners of House Singing competition 2020

 

So onto my thought for this week. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Channel 5 TV programme ‘New lives in the wild’.

Now I am not a big watcher of television, but I do find this documentary series, now in its eleventh season, particularly compelling viewing. Having heard him speak at a conference a few years ago about the transformational effect boarding school had on him, I must confess that I am a big fan of the explorer journalist Ben Fogle, who presents the programme.

What fascinates me is how all the people Ben Fogle meets and spends his week with, in some of the remotest places on the planet, have chosen to give up a life of relative security, and in some cases quite considerable fame and wealth, and instead have opted to lead an existence, almost entirely cut off from society, and deprived of the modern-day creature comforts to which they were accustomed. Moreover, in the majority of episodes it quickly transpires that this dramatic change in lifestyle was not undertaken on a whim, but in fact was very much a conscious decision, one which in a good number of instances was taken a long while ago. Indeed, in the most recent episode I watched about a former professional photographer who gave up everything to live in the tiniest underground house imaginable amongst the beauty of the mountains in Oregon (think Mr Tumnis’s house in Narnia and shrink it), he has been doing so for thirty years. Perhaps even more remarkably, what invariably comes across in every interview Ben has with the people he stays with, is the fact that, without exception, they have no regrets whatsoever; indeed more than that, they claim that it is the period in their lives when they have enjoyed the greatest levels of happiness and fulfilment.

Part of my admiration undoubtedly comes from the fact that I know I could never entertain making such a bold and drastic move. And I am certainly not standing here this morning suggesting that you should; on the contrary, I imagine that very few, if indeed, any of you in this room would or will consider going off grid and leading a life of solitude in the future. But I do think it is worth spending a few moments reflecting on what motivates some human beings to want to live in this way and, more importantly, if there are any potential benefits of doing so that we can learn from or adapt for our own lives. There are four I would like to consider briefly.

The first is their common desire to detach themselves from a materialistic world. Now I know that I would find it exceptionally hard to do without certain possessions, to no longer have the possibility to buy new clothes or to be able to go out for dinner or the cinema. Equally, however, what I also know is that at times I suspect I give too much weight to the extent to which such things can contribute to my sense of contentment and well-being. Last week, I alluded to the life-changing experience I had working as a volunteer teacher in Tanzania. It was during my time there that it really came home to me that having lots in a material sense did not necessarily make me any happier. Indeed, the orphaned children I worked with, who had next to nothing comparatively, were genuinely some of the happiest children I have ever met. Perhaps, one might argue, this was because they did not know what they were missing out on. But I think the true answer lies elsewhere. The fact they had never experienced that desire to want the latest or best of anything meant that they were somehow more content with their lot, not to mention far more resourceful than anyone else I have ever known. Not too different in fact from the people in ‘New lives in the wild’.

The second point to make is their enjoyment of solitude. I consider myself to be a pretty sociable person and, as such, the idea of being on my own for days or weeks at a time fills me with horror. And I have to say that I do think the loss of human interaction the people on the programme experience is an extremely high price to pay for their hermit lifestyles. But it has, nevertheless, made me stop and consider whether I am perhaps too dependent on having other people around me more or less all of the time, and whether in fact there might be something to be said for me carving out a little more time to be on my own – time to reflect, time to appreciate complete silence, time simply to enjoy the beauty of nature around me.    

The third common theme that seems to unite the people in ‘New lives in the wild’ is their disillusionment with what they perceive to be a corrupt or flawed society. One such example appeared in a recent episode – a former Olympic athletics coach, named Nikola Boric, who enjoyed considerable success training runners and triathletes, leading a number of them to gold medals. Increasingly disenchanted with a sport that appeared not to be a level playing field, the final straw came when one of his athletes was refused entry to a competition for having the ‘wrong’ sponsors. He consequently decided to leave his glamorous and lucrative lifestyle behind. He bought a plot of land in Croatia for £10,000, donated the rest of his money and possessions to friends, keeping just €500 for himself, and built a mud hut from scratch in the middle of the woods. An extreme reaction you might think, and I would be inclined to agree. Would it not have been better to address the issue head on rather than seemingly running away from it? Quite probably. But I do, nonetheless, have a certain respect for remaining true to one’s principles and refusing to associate with something which does not align with your values.

And finally, there is an environmental aspect. Each of the people Ben Fogle gets to know has an acute sense of the need to lead their lives in a way that is ecologically friendly and sustainable – be this not having electricity, using local streams and rivers to get water and to wash or thinking carefully about the materials used to build their houses. A far cry from the world in which we all live and I dare say sacrifices that we would find it incredibly difficult to make. But at a time when concerns for the future of our planet are regularly being discussed, as highlighted by David Attenborough and Boris Johnson last week as they launched a climate change drive in the hope of achieving carbon neutrality in 30 years, we do have a duty as responsible citizens to consider ways in which we can contribute to this cause.

Four ideas then that I think we could all reflect on this week. I am certainly not intending to live life as a recluse in the back of beyond any time soon, but I do intend to make a few small changes to my way of operating and general mindset. I hope that you may feel minded to do the same.

Thank you for your attention and once again well done on all that you have achieved so far this term. I hope you have a really good week. 

  • hockey
  • house singing

Well, it’s two weeks until half-term with a good deal still to look forward to, not least the much anticipated House Singing Competition of course on Saturday evening. Do keep working hard and make sure that you are getting plenty of quality sleep too. I would like to start this morning by saying well done to all of you involved in some very competitive hockey and netball matches against Sutton Valence over the weekend. This is invariably one of our toughest block fixtures of the term and so it proved again. I was delighted to be able to witness first hand your tremendous commitment both on the astros and on the netball courts. Equally, I was pleased to see you playing in the right spirit too and to hear the same message from your coaches. In the end, honours were pretty much shared between the two schools. Particular congratulations to our 1st XI hockey side for securing a 6-3 victory and also to our 1st VII netball team who in a very tense affair ended up drawing 18 all. Earlier in the week, it was fantastic to hear too about our U13 boys being crowned Kent County Champions in hockey, following their defeat of Eltham College on penalty strokes in the final. They now go on to compete in the regionals. Well done to all of you involved.

Those of you who were in Chapel a couple of weeks ago will recall Reverend Goodwin Hudson speaking to you about Zach Whitehead going to Uganda to work with the Abode Project – a project which seeks to provide a home and an education for children in the Kabale region of the country. Zach is there currently and is involved in building an orphanage and school as well as helping to organize a small music festival. You will remember too that Zach was seeking a wide range of items for the new school. True to form, a good number of you responded to the call and as a consequence Zach was able to fly out with two 25Kg bags full of equipment and clothing. So thank you very much to those of you who contributed.

Showing concern for society and the wider community, volunteering and fundraising for worthy causes are all things I believe we feel strongly about as a school – indeed, it is an area of school life we have focused quite a bit on in recent times, last term’s ‘Rowvember’ event being a prime example. In light of this, it gives me great pleasure this morning to welcome and introduce you to our guest, Andy Robertson. Mr Pegden and I heard Andy speak last term at a conference we both attended, and we both found that what he had to say resonated very much with some of our aims as a school. Andy works for Tearfund, a Christian Charity based in the UK, whose primary aim is supporting those in poverty and providing disaster relief for disadvantaged communities in different parts of the world. A good number of you will have had the opportunity to meet Andy during the course of the day, and indeed I know some of the boarders amongst you had chance to do so yesterday evening. I know you will make him feel welcome and will be interested to hear what he has to share about Tearfund. Some core themes he will cover are - 

You are not too young to make a difference - you can be a voice for change 

A lack of information and education leads to extreme poverty 

Tearfund is working to change lives through communities- empowering people to be the change - as well as campaigning on the detrimental effect of single use plastic and how it hits those living in poverty the hardest.

 

  • charity
  • netball
  • plastic
  • Tearfund
  • vounteer

I do hope that you had a lovely long exeat weekend and may I take this opportunity to thank those members of staff whose turn it was be on duty, providing others with the chance to have a break and re-charge the batteries.

As in previous weeks, I am going to begin this morning by handing out certificates, this time for achievements in a different area of school life. Drama. The following pupils have all achieved distinctions in their LAMDA exams, so can I please invite them to come up to the stage to receive their certificates.

Albie Sibson-Harris – Miming Grade 3

Rebecca Dawson – Speaking Verse and Prose Grade 3

Georgia Binfield – Miming Grade 4

William Khan - Speaking Verse and Prose Grade 4

Caspar Durrant – Miming Grade 5

Well done to all of you. Now, today I wanted to celebrate some good news for a member of staff as well. Having successfully completed her training, Ms Yanchunis has officially been appointed an Officer in the Combined Cadet Force and to recognise this I am delighted to be able to present her with her scroll from Her Majesty The Queen. Ms Yanchunis – would you like to come up.

As some of you may know, today, the 27th January, is Holocaust Memorial Day and to get us thinking about the significance of this, I would like to start by showing you a short video clip - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCrmmMZHNTM

I imagine that most of you in this room are aware of the word ‘Holocaust’, even if you would not all necessarily be able to talk about what it really means or refers to in great detail. Most commonly, the Holocaust refers to the systematic killing of six million Jewish people, as well as other minority groups (whom I will come onto shortly), by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. The word Holocaust is in fact derived from the Greek word holokauston, meaning a burnt sacrifice offered whole to God. This word was specifically chosen because in the ultimate manifestation of the Nazi killing programme—the extermination camps - the bodies of the victims were consumed whole in crematoria.

As you saw in the video, this year the date is particularly significant since it marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of arguably the most notorious extermination camp from the Second World War, Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. And similar to Remembrance Sunday on 11th November, where we remember all those who have given their lives in armed conflict and in service of their country, Holocaust Memorial Day encourages us to remember the millions of people who died in what is perhaps the best known example of genocide; genocide being the deliberate killing of a large group of people from a particular nation or ethnic group.

It is worth pointing out, however, that whilst the Jewish population undoubtedly represented the biggest proportion of those killed, and were very much the group most singled out for complete annihilation, the Nazis did target other groups too for discrimination – essentially those they believed threatened their ideal of a pure Aryan race. Hitler’s devotion to achieving racial purity meant that hatred was also focused on Roma and Sinti people (sometimes referred to as Gypsies). Slavic people from Poland and Russia were also considered inferior and were targeted, whilst the desire to ‘improve’ the genetic make-up of the population also resulted in the disabled, either mentally or physically, being persecuted and killed. Likewise, those who were considered political opponents, specifically communists, as well as homosexual people and those whose religious beliefs conflicted with Nazi ideology, such as Jehovah’s witnesses, were also deported to death camps. Many of these groups did not receive acknowledgement of their suffering until many years after 1945, though Holocaust Memorial Day does at least give us the chance to do so now.

So why is it important that we continue to mark something that happened so long ago, something which none of us in this room were responsible for? Well, ensuring that we remember is certainly part of it, all the more so when the number of Holocaust survivors who are still alive is dwindling fast; indeed, in the not too distant future there will be no one left capable of providing first-hand accounts of what actually happened. All that will remain will be the message and the stories passed down from generation to generation, the black and white video footage, accounts recorded in books and the power of Holocaust poetry. I have asked Amelia to read one such poem for us this morning.

Auschwitz – By Charles N Whittaker

The semiquaver chugging of the train on the track,

And the people on board who will never go back,

And the terror in the eyes of all the young ones to go,

With no one knowing as the train comes to slow.

 

Those men at the station as the ramps drop down,

Where humanity lost is the only crippled sound,

Hope gone for those who stand behind the hard sharp wire,

And the smoke in the towers rises just a little higher.

 

And the blue ink stabs a little harder in the skin,

Above the veins of despair where murder let it in,

And the terror in the eyes of all those about to leave,

Another train on the track no last minute reprieve,

 

And the slow, crotchet chugging of the train on the track

And the people on board, who will never go back.

.

From my point of view, it has been pleasing to see in the last couple of years, new books still appearing, written by survivors of Auschwitz, books such as ‘The Tatooist of Auschwitz’ and ‘The Librarian of Auschwitz’, books which tell personal stories but also give us as the reader an insight into the horrors of the camp. For me, one of the most powerful books I have read about the holocaust is ‘Se questo è un uomo’ (‘If this is a man’), written by an Italian chemist named Primo Levi, a survivor of Auschwitz who saw it as his responsibility to those who had perished, to tell his and their story, in the hope that the memory of what happened would never be forgotten, nor destroyed.

Like many things, nothing quite beats going to a place yourself, of course, and I would encourage you all to visit Auschwitz at some point in your lives. I went there twenty years ago on a school trip and the memory of it is still very much imprinted on my mind – the piles of glasses and suitcases, stacked on top of each other, the eeriness of the gas chambers and the haunting feeling I had inside of me when we stepped inside Block 11, the torture and interrogation building. So too is the memory of seeing the reaction of the students I took there. On the coach journey back to Krakow afterwards nobody spoke for an hour, staff or pupils, we simply sought to process what we had seen, to reflect. I know the same was true of the pupils from this school who accompanied Mrs Locsei-Campell and Mr Gale to Auschwitz on an educational visit a number of years ago. Indeed, the older ones amongst you may recall the hugely powerful chapel talk given by one of our former pupils, Nina Schenk, who went on that very trip.

So, remembrance yes. But of arguably greater importance, is the need for us to learn from the mistakes of the past, in this case in order to ensure that never again will a whole people be reduced to tattooed numbers, dehumanised, exterminated. Because the sad reality is that as human beings we continue to make the same mistakes, genocides have continued to take place around the world and are still happening today. And the purpose of Holocaust Memorial Day is to remember and acknowledge those atrocities too. Let me give you some examples.

In the 1970s in Cambodia, under the leadership of Pol Pot and his political party the Khmer Rouge, with its haunting slogan ‘To spare you is no profit, to destroy you is no loss’, it is estimated two million civilians died from execution, disease, exhaustion or starvation. Two decades later, in Rwanda in 1994, we saw the extreme tension and conflict between the two main tribes – the Hutus and the Tutsis - which resulted in around 1 million Tutsis being massacred, including women, children and babies. Remarkably, the enormous scale of this genocide was carried out almost entirely usually using machetes and clubs. Even more tragically, the killers were frequently people they knew – neighbours, work colleagues, former friends, sometimes even relatives through marriage.

Elsewhere, between 1992 and 1995, the Bosnian war resulted in the death of around 100,000 people, and the displacement of over two million men, women and children. Under the orders of Slobodan Milošević, the President of Serbia, a campaign of war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide was carried out by Bosnian Serb troops. The violence and killings culminated in a massacre that lasted three days when over 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were murdered in and around Srebrenica. Many were shot trying to escape and their bodies were bulldozed into mass graves and concealed. This particular genocide is the largest incidence of mass-murder in Europe since World War II.

More recently, in Sudan, under the control of General Omar Al-Bashir, the government used armed militia, known as the Janjaweed, to carry acts of ethnic cleansing against black Africans in Darfur, a region in the west of the country. This has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and even today the United Nations estimates that 4.7 million people are still affected by the conflict and denied their basic human rights.

So, Holocaust Memorial Day is a day when we must seek to learn the lessons of the past and recognise that the genocide witnessed in World War II was not a one-off event. Quite remarkably, there are still those who refuse to admit that the Jewish Holocaust ever happened, despite the irrefutable evidence to the contrary. By and large, we are fortunate here in the UK; we are not at immediate risk of genocide. However, discrimination has not ended, nor has use of the language of hatred or exclusion. And the threat of terrorism at the hands of extremists, though still relatively low, has evolved in recent years and is growing. So, as you go about your day today, I would ask you to remember. Perhaps some of you will choose to support the ‘we remember’ campaign on social media. And in the longer term, as you go through life, I would ask that you do all that you can to help ensure history does not repeat itself, not to be silent or to be a bystander if and when you see instances of racism, discrimination or persecution.

I leave you this morning with a second video, put together with some more familiar faces. Advance warning that you may find one of two of the images distressing, but I would urge you to keep watching – after all, Holocaust Memorial Day is not something we should close our eyes to.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/24/top-footballers-to-mark-holocaust-memorial-day-with-anti-racism-video-kane-houghton-klopp-lampard-lineker

 

  • Holocaust
  • LAMDA

Last week, I began by handing out a good number of Maths certificates and this week I am delighted to say that it is the turn of music. Before Christmas, a number of you took ABRSM exams in a variety of different instruments and there were some outstanding results. So can I please invite the following to come up:

Hannah – Grade 2 Clarinet with merit and Grade 4 Violin

Charlotte – Grade 2 Piano with merit

Sabija – Grade 3 Piano

Atida – Grade 3 Violin with merit

Hiruni – Grade 6 Singing

Georgie – Grade 6 Singing with merit

Tom – Grade 8 Violin with merit

Pupils collecting music certificates

In rugby, our U15A team, as I’m sure many of you know, qualified for the last eight of the National Vase Competition on Thursday and now find themselves two matches away from playing in the final at Twickenham. Trailing 19-10 to Brentwood School, the boys staged an amazing come back, culminating in fantastic try by Max Rogers, to win 22-19. Many congratulations to all you of involved, players and coaches, and the very best of luck for your preparations over the coming weeks as you get ready for the quarter final match against Crypt School, a big Grammar School in Gloucestershire, to be played at home at some point in the week before half-term.

Now as those of you who were in Chapel on Thursday will remember, today is Blue Monday, the third Monday in January, the day which some people claim is the most depressing day of the year. Hopefully the Chaplain’s top tips so far this term on ‘how to survive January’ will have helped you to address this. Nevertheless, I thought it would be good to start this morning’s Headmaster’s Assembly with something a little light-hearted. My theme for today is that of taking risks and to help me to introduce this I am looking for four highly coordinated pupils. So please can Tobi, Penny, Henry and Joshua from our Upper 6th come onto the stage.

Now the rules are as follows. Each of you has 3 bean bags, red, yellow, blue or green. Throwing alternately (girl/boy or boy/girl), your aim is to throw each of your bean bags into the green bucket. If you achieve this you will earn points – 2 points if you choose to throw from the first cone, 5 points if you throw successfully from the 2nd cone and 10 points if you manage to get your beanbag in from the furthest away cone. On each throw it is up to you which cone to throw from. You are competing girls v boys so your scores will be combined, with the winning team the one with the most points. Girls – you have the choice of going first or second.

Risk taking bean bag game demo

Please can we give our four volunteers a big round of applause. The truth is, more or less every day of our lives we find ourselves in positions where we are weighing up the risk of doing something, situations where we have to decide whether we are going to play it safe or else take a chance and be bolder. In the case of the game we have just observed, Aimee, Robyn, Henry and Joshua obviously needed to decide whether to be reasonably conservative and go for a throw with a high chance of success, but less in terms of reward (2 points) or instead to go for the bigger prize (5 or even 10 points), mindful of the fact that there was a higher chance that they might not succeed. Calculated risk taking.

Surprising though it may be to some of you, as teachers we absolutely want you to take risks when you are at school. Sometimes, the risks you take will be calculated ones, like in the example we have just seen here on stage – all part of you honing your decision-making skills. And there are countless other examples. And sometimes, the risks we encourage you to take are ones that we would class as positive risks, risks where failure is a possibility but where the ability to learn from it and improve is significant. Ask any teacher in the Modern Languages Department, for example, and they will tell you that one of the fundamental keys to success is in fact risk taking, a willingness to give it a go, a willingness to speak to and in front of others without worrying if every word is right or if you are making grammatical errors. Your English teachers would say the same about playing with language, so too would your Art and DT teachers about experimenting with different colours, materials and techniques. Your Chemistry and Biology teachers, meanwhile, would, I’m sure, tell you that taking risks is an integral part of scientific research and advancements in medicine.

For some of you, taking a risk might mean other things: signing up to sing at Open Mic night or Cabaret evening for the first time, auditioning for a part in The Great Gatsby, your first time on stage in a school production, or doing a high ropes course when you know you are afraid of heights. Such risk taking is to my mind extremely laudable and absolutely to be encouraged.

And the good news in all of this is that, perhaps unsurprisingly, research shows that adolescents and young adults do in fact take more risks than any other age group. More than that, taking risks is a normal and essential part of our development as human beings. And that is of course fine, so long as the risks in question have been properly considered; when they have been taken in an essentially safe environment; when they are neither reckless or negligent, nor likely to cause serious harm to the person taking them or to others.

But what of unhealthy risk-taking, to which young people are also particularly pre-disposed? And what is behind the decision to partake in it, especially when the potential dangers of doing so are known and understood? The first obvious answer is, undoubtedly, whether we like to admit it or not, the influence of or pressure from peers, that desire to fit in or to impress, all of which are far more keenly felt in the teenage years. Indeed, in an interesting study that was carried out, early adolescents, late adolescents, and adults all behaved similarly on a computerised driving task when they were doing it by themselves. However, when they were paired with same-aged friends, clear differences emerged. The early adolescents were much more likely to engage in risky driving when their friends were present. Late adolescents were somewhat riskier in their driving when they were with friends. However, the presence of friends had no impact whatsoever on adults’ driving.

The second reason is that young people prefer to rely on personal experience to tell them right from wrong, rather than allowing themselves to be told by others whether something is a good idea or not. Consequently, they are more willing to ignore the warning signs and potential consequences until such time as they have tested it for themselves. This can still be the case when the risks are presented to them clearly and objectively by experts, rather than their parents or teachers who they sometimes feel do so more subjectively and judgmentally.

As many of you hopefully know, we do in fact have one such expert in school today. Dave Parvin, a former Drugs Squad Officer in the Police, will be leading our Drugs Awareness day in school today. He will be talking to staff, giving three presentations this afternoon to the 2nd and 3rd Form, to the 4th and 5th Form and finally to the 6th Form. And then this evening he will be addressing some of your parents. The older ones amongst you may well remember him from four years ago. If that is the case, please do not fall into the trap of thinking that there is therefore no need for you to engage with it. Indeed, trends and fads change, new drugs and substances are appearing all the time. And that is precisely why we have asked him back and why he continues to visit a large number of schools around the country, providing the most up-to-date information about drugs, including those which are still not necessarily seen as being harmful or dangerous. And I would urge you most strongly to listen to what he has to say. He is certainly not here to preach or to lecture. But he is here to present you with clear facts so that you can make informed decisions. The truth is that drugs affect different people in different ways. In fact, they can affect the same people in different ways. And in the case of more recent drug paraphernalia, such as Nitrous Oxide (NOS) and Vapes, the true long-term effects are not properly known or understood as yet.

It is a recognised fact that young people are inclined at times to want to push boundaries, to rebel and to seek new experiences – hardly a recent phenomenon. But when it comes to drugs, my strong advice to you is that this is very much one risk that it is not worth taking. Not just because it is against our rules and can result in you having to leave the school, albeit this is of course important and would have a detrimental effect on your educational career. No. Of equal, if not greater significance, for me is the fact that if you are looking for ways to help you relax, to cope with stress, if you are seeking a buzz to help relieve feelings of boredom, or are tempted by the feelings of confidence or a connection with others that drugs are reputed to elicit, experiences most of us have felt or wanted at some point, there are many other healthier, less costly and indeed easier ways to achieve these goals.

In short, taking risks in life can be extremely positive, especially when the outcome is personal growth, change for the better and even when valuable lessons are learned from an initially undesirable or unpleasant result. As Albert Einstein famously once said, “A ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it is built for”. But when it comes to taking unhealthy risks, such as drug taking, risks where the short-term benefits are debatable at best and the long-term benefits non-existent, these are invariably best avoided. I hope you find today really useful and informative and that you draw similar conclusions.

As some of you may have noticed, we are joined this morning by the new Headmaster Mr Durrant. He will be in school for the whole of this week and I know he is hoping to have the opportunity to meet and chat to a good number of you over the coming days. Do please make him feel welcome.

We are at that stage when there are a few coughs and colds going around. Do keep going. A chance to recharge the batteries next weekend over the long exeat awaits, but in the meantime work hard and have a great week. 

 

I would like to begin this morning’s assembly by handing out some certificates. In November a good number of you took part in the UKMT Senior Maths Challenge. We now have the results and 21 of you have been awarded a certificate (Bronze, Silver and Gold). The winners are;

Gold and Best in School – Alex – Year 13

Silver and Best in Year – Thomas Year 12

Silver – Zofi, Ryker, Toby, Anmol (Year 13); Alex, Cathrine, Tony (Year 12)

Bronze – Hank, Yibo, Amip, Yea, Ellen, Sirui (Year 13); Joyce, Joe, Kevin, Dilim, Bibek, Sankalpa (Year 12)

It is not too often that we celebrate CCF achievements in Headmaster’s Assembly, but I wanted to make you aware this morning of one which those of you who were on Parade on Wednesday afternoon last week will have heard about. 29 cadets from RAF Sections around the country from 14 different schools applied for the very competitive Air Cadet Pilot Scheme – a week’s course of intensive flying held at Tayside Aviation in Dundee. Toby from Year 12 was one of only four cadets to be selected nationwide and I think he deserves our congratulations. Can we please give Toby a big round of applause.

And finally onto sport. There were some terrific results this weekend against Duke of York's Royal Military School, with a clean sweep of wins for our girls’ netball teams and some equally impressive victories for the boys’ hockey sides - well done to all of you involved. We also, of course, had two teams playing in the Indoor Hockey National Finals. Our U18 girls played amazingly well on Friday recording three wins of 5-1 against Millfield, 6-0 against RGS Newcastle and 6-4 against RGS Worcester to put themselves at the top of their group overnight. A 3-0 defeat to Wellington College on Saturday morning, however, meant that we failed to qualify for the semi-finals on goal difference by the narrowest of margins – indeed, just one goal against Wellington College would have seen us through. Sport can be cruel at times and I know that it will have been hard to take. Led expertly by captain Aimee Plumb, who was the second highest goal scorer in the competition with 9 goals, our coaches could not talk highly enough about you as group, not just as players but as ambassadors for SLC. I hope that with time you will come to recognize the magnitude of your achievements against schools three times our size. 5th-= in the whole country. Well done to you all. 

Our U16s boys, meanwhile, travelled to Croydon. A 2-1 loss to Ipswich School in the first game put us slightly on the back foot, but the boys bounced back brilliantly with wins over Altrincham Grammar, Repton and Sherborne. This set up a semi-final against the much fancied hosts Whitgift, but two goals from Thomas Izzard and another from captain Ben Young saw us through to the final 3-2. Our opponents were Ipswich School once again. In an unsurprisingly tense match, the clock ticked down but the scoreline remained 0-0 until, with just a minute left to play, Tassilo Sura broke the deadlock and scored in open play. The team held on for one more minute to be crowned National Champions. An extraordinary end to a fantastic weekend. Well done all you, both players and coaches.

So onto my thought for this week. Growing up, I must confess that I never considered myself to be a big reader. Like many children my age, I did enjoy books by Enid Blyton, most notably the Famous Five, C S Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, one or two books by Roald Dahl, as well as a few other well-known classics. And I do distinctly recall reading a book called The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend in a weekend, a book which I suspect nowadays would seem spectacularly dated, but at the time was a must-read for any self-respecting teenager. Do ask your parents if you’ve never heard of it! But the truth is, I would never have listed reading for pleasure at the top of my list of pastimes.

At A Level studying English, French and German, my appreciation of the wonders and power of literature, both in my own language and foreign texts, did certainly grow and as I went through university and began a career in teaching, it continued to do so. But, when I look back on those years, aside from some novels read by a pool in the summer holidays, much of what I read were books on reading lists, books I was required to read, rather than books I had specifically chosen.

I dare say that a good number of you may well be able to relate to this. I have often thought that part of it has been down to the fact that I don’t consider myself to be a ‘natural reader’ – someone who reads quickly and has that enviable ability to devour books in a matter of days. And part of it has come down to the fact, perhaps, that during my time as a teacher, I have sometimes fallen into that trap of not always allowing myself to strike a really healthy work/life balance during term time and to pursue hobbies outside school – something, I suspect we all need to think about at times. But it has also meant, I think, that when the holidays have come round and there is the opportunity for some down time, picking up a book has often not been the first thing I have thought to do, since I have not been in the habit of doing so for the majority of the year. A brave confession, you might think, for me to be making standing in front of you this morning – after all, aren’t all teachers meant to be bookworms?

This has, however, changed in recent years and as I look back, I do somehow have a sense of making up for lost time. I have not suddenly become the voracious reader that Mrs Jackson is, nor, I suspect, will I ever be. But what I have really begun to appreciate is the beneficial effect that reading regularly can have. Now I could, of course, spend time going through in some detail the obvious benefits of reading for you as young people – benefits of which I am sure many of you in here will be hopefully well aware: the fact that it exercises your brain, helps your concentration, improves your vocabulary, language skills and spelling, enhances your imagination, to name but a few.

All of this will, I’m sure, come as little surprise, nor the fact that there is considerable research too to back up the fact that pupils who read on a daily basis from a young age, be it with their parents, on their own, or both, are more likely to perform well in exams later on. But whilst this may all very well be true, I want to focus this morning on three other advantages that reading just for the sheer enjoyment of it can bring.

The first is escapism. All of us in this room, be we teachers or pupils, have moments in our week when things our tough; indeed, Rev Goodwin-Hudson and Mr Jameson touched on this very topic in Chapel yesterday. And to be clear, by escapism I do not mean running away from difficult situations or our fears. No. What I mean is, getting lost in a book, becoming part of a world which is not our own, can sometimes be exactly what our brains need to help us switch off. What’s more, there is strong evidence to suggest that as people we become better equipped to socialise and to relate to others if our lives are not solely based on our own experiences; as the famous British writer Malorie Blackman says, “reading is an exercise in empathy, an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while”.

The second, not altogether unrelated benefit is relaxation. Research carried out on a large number of volunteers by the University of Sussex revealed that just six minutes of reading a day can be enough to reduce stress levels significantly. In fact, they found that doing so worked even better and faster than other recognised activities we use to calm ourselves down and unwind, such as listening to music having a cup of tea and taking a walk. And the reason psychologists give is that reading requires the human mind to concentrate, and it is the distraction of being transported into a different place which eases tension in our muscles and heart.

The third benefit of devoting some time to reading, especially in the period before we go to bed, is that it can help you to sleep better. I certainly have personal experience of this myself, so much so that nowadays it is very much the exception rather than the rule that I do not read for a good 20 minutes before turning in. And when it comes to reading before bed, I would certainly still recommend a paper book rather than an ebook. Not for any anti-technology reason – quite the opposite, I am actually a big fan of kindles and the like. It is simply that, despite improvements, studies still show that, as with mobile phones and other electronic devices, the blue light emitted can suppress the release of the sleep inducing hormone melatonin, thus affecting our ability to get to sleep and indeed the quality of sleep we have. Besides which, for me, nothing quite compares with the smell of new print, the physical turning of pages and being able to know exactly where you are within a book – the percentages can sometimes be misleading.

Escapism, relaxation, sleep; all benefits associated with reading for pleasure, even in relatively small doses, alongside those other oft-cited intellectual advantages. And as you move through this academic year, your school careers and indeed your life after SLC, having the chance to escape mentally from time to time, to relax and to get decent sleep will in fact be vital to your chances of success, academically, in public exams yes, but also for a healthy lifestyle. And for those of you lower down the school for whom GCSEs and A Levels seem a long way off, why not get into good habits now?

In some cases, I know I am preaching to the converted here. For some of you, however, it may very well be that you feel you have given reading a try and decided that it is not for you. Just another way of being made to study. I would urge you to reconsider. You may disagree with the oft cited quote “There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book”. But I do believe that when it comes to reading, there is something for everyone – be it fiction, stories based on true events, autobiographies of people you admire.  And if you are still not convinced, do ask Mrs Robinson, our librarian, for some advice.

The challenge I have set myself for this year is to have ten minutes of DEAR time, Drop Everything And Read time, during the course of the working day, be it at break, after lunch or whenever. I would encourage you all to have a go too – to carve out some time in your busy weeks when you take yourself off, immerse yourself in a book, and allow the words to wash over you. In tutor time later this afternoon, once you have finished your target setting, have a think about this with your tutors. Who knows, like me, you might just get the bug and never look back.

Have a good week.

 

 

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Senior School Statistics

140 Years

St Lawrence College was founded 140 years ago in October 1879 at Dane Park House, not far from the present site, as an Evangelical Church of England school, originally called South Eastern College. Under the leadership of Rev E C D’Auquier, its purpose was to combine religious training with “a sound, liberal education”.

Starting with just 5 pupils, by 1884, when a new Main Building was opened, the number of pupils had risen to 125. In 1905 the Archbishop of Canterbury opened the distinctive Tower, which completed the Main Building of the Senior School and is a Ramsgate landmark.

30 Nationalities

St Lawrence welcomes both boarding and day pupils from all around the world to benefit from the best of the British educational system. This diversity makes the school a cosmopolitan and vibrant place, where pupils leave prepared for the challenges of the globalised world. At any one time we have around 30 different nationalities in total.

Our overseas boarders participate fully in the academic and pastoral life of the College, along with the sports and activities programmes. Although almost half of our boarders are English-speaking, we have a dedicated EAL Centre for those students who need additional English support.

45 Activities

Recognising that there is more to education than just exam results, we aim to develop pupils’ wider skills through our extensive range of extra-curricular activities, with over 45 different activities offered each term. The range of options available to our pupils enables every individual to find their niche, from Scuba-Diving to Film Club, Chess to Horse Riding, and we try to ensure a balance of adventurous, sporting and creative options.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and Combined Cadet Force provide further rewarding opportunities for personal development and leadership, with field trips and expeditions offered throughout the year.

200 Boarders

With over 200 full Boarders in the Senior School, boarding is central to the school’s life and is one of its great strengths. Children thrive in the supportive and calm environment and we are very proud of the level and quality of care that the staff provide to all pupils, especially those who are boarders and for whom the school is their home.

We try very hard to provide a 'home-from-home' for our boarding pupils, both in terms of comfort and atmosphere. In recent years, a massive programme of investment has created some truly remarkable facilities for our boarders, and all rooms are en-suite.

160 Fixtures

Over 160 Hockey fixtures were played over the year by senior boys and girls. Building on our strong foundation of sporting success, we are proud of how many pupils represent the school in so many different sports, including the school’s major sport of Hockey. Expert coaching at all levels develops confidence and skills, and the school has several current and ex-international sports coaches on its staff.

An Olympic-standard water-based hockey pitch is a fantastic addition to the extensive sports facilities at St Lawrence College which also include a swimming pool and purpose-built sports centre housing squash courts, dance studio, fitness suite, climbing wall, etc.

378 kg of Fruit

In an average term-time week, the school community consumes 378kg of fruit and 1020 pints of milk! All meals are freshly prepared in-house in the school’s kitchens, with local produce used where possible.

Catering Manager, Mark Curtis, says: “My team and I strive to provide top quality, delicious and nutritious food.” There is a wide choice of food and individual dietary needs are catered for.

As well as the traditional ‘Hogwarts-style’ Dining Hall used for breakfast, lunch and supper, the school’s modern coffee shop is popular with pupils, parents and staff.

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