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Headmaster's Blog- Breadth in the Curriculum
Conference season is in full swing and, not to be outdone, the Headmaster's Conference gathered in Warwick last week, for its own annual jamboree. As I made my way there (feeling pleased that, for once, it was local) I wondered what the vibe would be in the lobbies and lounges, where so much of the chatter takes place. Education has seen a great many political and policy changes in recent years and many of my fellow Heads were in a contemplative mood.
The Prime Minister's position on education, and the possibility of new grammar schools opening for the first time in decades, has made some in the sector jumpy. There was considerable discussion at HMC about what these new grammar schools might mean for the independent market. Personally, I think plurality of choice is a good thing, allowing parents to select the best option for their child and circumstance. I don't feel threatened, and instead believe that Bloxham will confidently take its place in this new and varied landscape.
Where I believe a school like Bloxham can add value is in its commitment to educating the whole child. Over recent years, we have seen the national curriculum narrow, with more emphasis on the core subjects and less room for additional disciplines (including languages, which are no longer compulsory at GCSE). Bloxham's ethos has enabled it to retain breadth in its curriculum, balancing academic achievement with choice and opportunity to develop a full panoply of skills. I have a feeling that this will be ever more useful in a post-Brexit age.
Last night, I attended an OB Careers' Network event at Lloyds of London. Led by Old Bloxhamist Mark Hutley, it was a fascinating talk, at a fascinating location. Lloyds is the world's leading insurance platform, with over 200 registered Lloyd's brokers and a global network of over 4,000 coverholders. Despite its iconic, futuristic architecture, Lloyds is steeped in history. The Lutine Bell in the Underwriting Room is still rung for ceremonial purposes and entries continue to be made, by quill, into the loss book – which, amongst other famous disasters, records the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. One couldn't be anything other than impressed, but what interested me more than the history, was Mark's story. A student at Bloxham in the 1980s, he entered the insurance sector as a young man and spent about ten years building his career. Then, unexpectedly, he found himself out of work. Down, but not out, in 2000 he launched Iris Insurance Brokers from a single room in Southend. Tireless graft, grit and determination saw him build Iris into what it is today – a successful, growing, specialist insurance service with a staff of around 50 and an income of almost £6 million. His advice to the younger Old Bloxhamists in the room was clear: work hard, seize every opportunity and "get your toe in the door."
Mark's mantra was a good reminder that while academic achievement is important, it must be complemented by resilience, tenacity and drive – all qualities we strive to develop at Bloxham, through our broader curricular programme. That is what makes Bloxham, and Bloxhamists stand out, and it is why I believe our school will continue to thrive in Theresa May's mixed educational ecology.