One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is getting to know parents and pupils and I do feel that I am beginning to get to grips with which child belongs to which family. Every Friday in the Senior School I also invite all the pupils who have had birthdays in the previous week to come along to my study so I can offer them a card and a “healthy snack” (pretty sure Kit-Kats count as healthy…) to wish them well on their birthdays. I love these chances to chat to the students informally and hear a little bit about how they celebrated their birthdays and the presents they received (money seems to be the gift of choice for most of the senior school pupils!) One of the things that attracted me to Kingsley School was the very genuine feeling of the school as a “family” and it is in these informal moments that one can really catch a glimpse of what this might mean. I love observing the pupils around the school; in lunch, at break and lunchtimes and I am always struck by the ease with which even the younger pupils feel able and confident to speak to much older pupils. This is a lovely thing to say and I know from experience that it is not the case in many schools. I can remember being in year 7 myself and I know that I would not have dared even look at someone in the Upper 6th, let alone talk to them and chat to them about what kind of day they might be having. My own school experience, which was very positive, would have been even better if I had had the sort of opportunities for informal interaction across the year groups that our pupils have here. From my point of view, this is one of the loveliest aspects of Kingsley life. Of course, it is not always sunshine and lollipops and, as we know, pupils will sometimes fall out with one another and, in a small school, such issues can sometimes assume mighty proportions. We are very good at dealing with issues as they arise and I have every confidence in our pastoral team across the school, led by Jon Dickinson. As adults we know that, as hard as we might try, it is not always possible to get on with all people with equanimity and our children need to learn how to cope and respond when they do have friendship issues with others.

In the Senior School this term my assemblies have been focusing on character and this week I spoke about the importance of being truthful. I shared Aesop’s ancient fable about the honest woodcutter and the golden axe (look it up if you don’t know the story). I then challenged the pupils to think about the phrase “honesty is the best policy” and what this might mean in different contexts. Those of us with partners will often have found ourselves pondering this when asked “do I look good in this new outfit” or “do you like my new hairstyle”! I suggested that it might be more helpful for us to think about honesty being the best value; if we are honest with those around us the chances of us falling out in the first place are much less likely. Honesty in pupils is certainly one of my most highly-prized virtues!

It looks as though the weather here in Devon is set to be unseasonably mild this coming weekend, so please enjoy it if you are a local family. For those of you who are further afield, I hope you have a lovely weekend. I am looking forward to our Open Morning tomorrow where we have over 90 families coming in to look round the school and to learn more about supporting their children as they do Maths. I then have a meal in Westward Ho! with some alumni and I also have to say goodbye to my daughter who is moving up to London to start her career with the Civil Service. From Sunday it will be me, Debs and the dog! Have a great weekend…

Pete Last