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Headmaster's Blog - A Celebration of Difference

Earlier this month I attended the HMC conference; held, this year, on my home turf of Belfast. It was great to be back for a few days and it was particularly special, for me, to see heads from around the UK enjoying the best culture, music and food Northern Ireland has to offer. The conference theme was a ‘celebration of difference,’ apt in a part of the world which has worked so hard to bridge divides.

Listening to Tony Blair’s former Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell talk about his experience of the Northern Irish peace process led me to reflect on life at Bloxham. Powell’s themes, of tolerance, compromise, negotiation and respect, are the universal ingredients of harmonious living. Students at Bloxham grasp this quickly, with the house structure being key. In houses, students learn to be sensitive to their peers, to be polite and companionable, to put others first and to value their community. Vertical house structures, which mix students from across the years, mean students grow up in an environment of trust and respect, learning from older peers and maturing into roles of responsibility as they move up the school.

Difference is all around us at Bloxham. We are a broad community, made up of people from different nationalities, cultures, backgrounds and abilities. We celebrate these differences, recognising that everyone has something to contribute. The breadth of our curriculum offers opportunities for all to shine. The child who excels in hockey, may not stand out on stage, or ace her maths; yet her peers will come to value her as an individual and for the talents she can share. Through the many instances of team-working they encounter, from inter-house competitions to fundraising challenges, students realise they will achieve more as a group than they can on their own; and that by helping everyone to succeed, their group will make a greater impact overall.

In September, we welcomed our first day students to school, adding a third tier to our boarding structure of boarding and day (flexi) boarding. Our track record of pastoral success made me confident we could integrate the new students into our community and, a few weeks in, I am pleased to say this is bearing out. It is wonderful to see the Stonehill group mixing – at the Sixth Form socials, in rehearsals for Lord of the Flies and on the pitch with the 1st XV. And they are as excited as any house about the end of term House Shout and rugby 7s! I like to think it is working because Powell’s themes – tolerance, compromise, negotiation and respect – are so ingrained here … Along with a good helping of Bloxham friendliness and warmth. In their recent inspection, the ISI praised the strength of our community and I firmly believe that we should, and do, embrace differences within it each and every day.