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2023: A New Year message from Headmaster Sunak


THE passing of one year to the next reminds us all that nothing stays the same. That is as true for the School as it is for the world outside. We have experienced a few tumultuous months with changes at the top as well as at the bottom.

I am reminded of these changes by artefacts left by my predecessors. Mr Johnson’s well-thumbed copy of Keith Waterhouse’s magnificent novel Billy Liar, Ms Truss’s model tank, and an almost overlooked memento from Mrs May – a video of Dancing with the Stars (sadly broken).

Yet change is a good thing. With Mr Hunt installed by popular demand as Bursar, and me at the helm, we can look forward to steadier and better times.

As I look out towards the waterlogged playing fields, I instinctively think not of sporting prowess and memorable victories, but of climate change. What a pity if these magnificent swards of green were to be lost, submerged for ever by an unstoppable tide of rising sea levels. That for me is a worry, and it should be a worry for parents and pupils alike. I can reassure concerned parties that I will not shirk painful decisions, and unfortunately there will be some financial, and possibly physical, discomfort as we go ‘carbon neutral’.

On the plus side, however, is the knowledge that we will be the envy of schools worldwide. I am both grateful and fortunate that many of the current staff share my vision in this respect.

On school matters, a few boys have made a fuss regarding Matron’s recent unavailability. This criticism is both unfair and unwarranted. During what I call the ‘difficult period’, the school went through a hiatus, lessons were suspended, and staff had to work from home (or the pub) as was required. Matron was in the vanguard of providing a valuable lifeline for pupils. Her single-handed efforts in the mastering of dance routines for her social media profile were hectic and heroic.

She now finds herself in the somewhat unfamiliar territory of being required to cater for the boys’ medical wants. Unsurprisingly, she feels this unforeseen workload warrants a trifling 19 per cent uplift to her meagre stipend. I have asked the Bursar to review this as a matter of urgency and we should come to an amicable solution early in the new year. Keep up the good work, Matron!

Older boys will recall that Headmistress May engaged the security firm Borders ‘R’ Us to stem the regular incursion of pupils, notably sons of missionaries, making their way across the ornamental lake that separates our playing fields from those of the Lycée Français. This initiative has descended into a total and unashamed fiasco, with not only more boys popping over from the Lycée, but also now being joined by pupils from the Albanian Reform School (formerly Tirana Comprehensive). Quite why this occurs remains a perplexing mystery, but I would like to reassure parents that I have this situation completely ‘in hand’.

The traffic flow from the school gates to the car park situated behind Chapel will now have a prefect directing operations. Until now the Schools Highways Agency has overseen this assignment; regrettably (and perhaps egged on by Matron’s somewhat militant stance) they have decided to ‘down tools’ – a rather quaint expression from yesteryear. With luck, a sense of normality will return once Bursar Hunt has intervened.

On another matter of transport, it is extremely regrettable that Mr Lynch (or The Grinch, as a few staff and pupils call him), who oversees the school’s miniature railway, has once again taken it upon himself to spoil what for many is a magical spectacle. The annual ‘running a train on time’ demonstration has been a highlight of the school’s calendar for decades, yet he has chosen this very moment to ‘withhold his labour’, as he puts it. Mr Lynch, who follows in the fabled footsteps of Mr Knapp and Mr Buckton, should rightly be ashamed of himself. Once more the Bursar will be required to settle matters once and for all.

Finally, may I wish everyone a very happy new year – there is much to look forward to.

PS: For the moment, we have put on hold the Fourth Form’s planned trip to Scotland, as there have been reports of boys wearing skirts. We think this is a cultural misunderstanding and relates to that most traditional of garments, the kilt. Should that prove to be the case, this temporary sanction will be lifted.

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Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin is a retired media executive who worked across domestic and international media.

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