It really does seem very hard to believe that a year ago Debs and I were saying our farewells at Stowe and preparing our family to move to North Devon. I can honestly say that the year has absolutely flown by. I am not going to say that I have enjoyed every minute as this would not be true. I don’t think that any headmaster takes pleasure in excluding pupils from his or her school and I have, sadly, had to do it on three occasions since January. I do not do so lightly, but equally, it is important that pupils (and parents) understand that I do have expectations with regard to behaviour and there will be consequences for those whose behaviour falls well below the standards I expect.

On a much more positive note, I have thoroughly enjoyed all the amazing things that your children have done during this calendar year. I have seen pupils pushed to their physical and mental limits on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions; I have seen them push themselves as far as they can go and then still further in attempting to win cross country races; I have watched as they have cheered on their fellow house-mates in many of our inter-house competitions; I have marvelled at the culinary skills of the pupils who work so hard in their Food and Nutrition lessons; I have shed a tear at the adorable cuteness of our youngest children in their stunning nativity play “Gabriel’s Big Break”; I have been proud to stand and sing alongside pupils in the best school choir in Devon; I have been astonished by the musical and dramatic abilities of many of the pupils in performing in concerts and plays; I have been absolutely delighted to see last year’s leavers heading off to work or to study at University; I have been thrilled to hear about the University offers that many of this year’s 6th form have already received. The list could go on and on!

Kingsley pupils are a diverse, talented, interesting, articulate, inspiring group of young people and it is a genuine privilege to be Headmaster of such a school. As some of you will have seen from our YouTube channel, I have been speaking all term to the senior school about the importance of character: courage, justice, honesty, compassion, gratitude, humility, integrity and respect. This challenge, to develop character, is just as important to me as seeing your children do as well as they possibly can in their academic, sporting and extra-curricular lives. It is character that counts and it is character that people remember long after we have gone. This will remain a key focus for me as Headmaster in the years to come.

Term will end on Wednesday 13th December with our Christmas Carol Service which will be held in Bideford Methodist Church at 2.30pm. It would be really lovely to see the church absolutely full of parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and neighbours, so please spread the word! All pupils from year 3 to the Upper 6th will be attending the service (plus a small number of Year 1 and 2 pupils who are in the Prep School Choir). Please come and join us for this Christmas celebration; Christmas jumpers most welcome! I apologise in advance that I will not be able to be present at the service this year. This is because the MIST trustees have an important meeting in London that was long ago scheduled for the 13th December and which I have to attend. I am really gutted to be missing my first ever Kingsley Carol Service and my wife, Debs, will be doing the reading from John 1 in my place.

On your behalf, I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to the staff who work at Kingsley. Many of them you will know well and I know that many of you will be kind enough to say thank you to teachers and tutors with a small token of appreciation at Christmas, which is always lovely to see. However, I would also like to say a special thank you to the staff who might be less visible to you as parents: to the catering staff who feed the children so well, to the cleaners who come in very early and stay late to keep classrooms and boarding houses clean and tidy, to our bus drivers, to the administration and support staff, to the team in the laundry who clean and iron boarders’ clothes “as if by magic” and to the grounds and maintenance teams who keep the estate in such good condition. I am hugely grateful for all of their hard work; without them, the school would simply not be able to function.

As this very busy and long term draws to a close, all that remains for me to say is that Debs and I wish you and your families a blessed and enjoyable Christmas and a wonderful New Year. The staff return for 2 days of INSET on 2nd and 3rd January and we look forward to welcoming the boarders back on the evening of the 3rd and the rest of the school on 4th January. We will also start the Spring term with a service in the Methodist Church which will be at 9.30am. Again, please do put the date into your diary and come and join us. Have a great Christmas break!

Pete Last