On Wednesday of this week, we were delighted and proud to be able to help our friends at the Appledore Book Festival host an outreach event by having Professor Lord Robert Winston spend the day at Kingsley. I knew that the day was going to be a good one when I quickly realised that the Professor and I share a mutual love (and frustration) of Arsenal FC and we spent some time over coffee discussing our new manager, but I digress…

We were pleased to be able to welcome pupils from many local maintained and independent schools to hear Professor Winston talk about the importance of science, in particular, Biology and the incredible advances that are being made in relation to the manipulation of genes and DNA sequences. Kingsley pupils from Year 6 up to 6th form were able to listen to presentations from Professor Winston and also engage with him in open question and answer sessions.

They were treated to some incredible photos and videos, including footage of a white blood cell “chasing down” and engulfing a bacterium as well as some simply stunning images of the actual moment of ovulation filmed within the Fallopian Tube. The pupils also got a wonderful insight into the incredible work that Professor Winston and his team are doing in developing our understanding of the very complex issues surrounding human fertility and infertility. Clearly, this is a very emotive and sensitive topic, and the Professor helped the pupils to deepen their understanding of the process and also posed some significant questions about to what extent it might be appropriate for us to modify the process, potentially to create “super-humans” in years to come. It really was a wonderful day, and his visit will no doubt lead to some fascinating conversations taking place in science lessons, RE lessons and PSHE lessons as pupils grapple with the complicated moral and ethical issues that Professor Winston touched upon.

For me, one of the most impressive aspects of his talks was his emphasis on the role of women in science, both within his own research team at Imperial College in London, but also more widely within the field of genetic research. It was wonderful to hear him tell all of the girls in the theatre that they are, of course, just as capable of making significant contributions to scientific understanding as their male peers. Absolutely right! If your own children have not yet mentioned the talk, please do ask them about it over half-term and ask them what they can remember what Lord Winston said.

After half-term our Year 13 pupils will start their study leave and, just as many of the Year 11 pupils have been doing, I would encourage them to keep coming into school when they are on study leave so that they can access their teachers and get the support that they need in the run-up to their main exams starting. We have 60 of our boarding pupils staying in school this coming half-term; those sitting GCSE and A-level exams will have 2 hours of supervised study in the school library each day during the half-term break, although they will be doing much more than 2 hours work each day as they prepare for the second half of term. We are also putting on lots of trips for the boarders so that they get a good balance of work and play and this half-term we have trips to Exeter and other local attractions as well as a two day trip to Alton Towers and Merry Hill Shopping Centre in Dudley.

For those of you who have pupils facing more exams, do encourage them to have a healthy balance next week between revision and getting out into the fresh air. For those of you who are not yet worrying about such things, have a lovely week. I am spending the first weekend of half-term on my son’s stag weekend in Bournemouth. Wish me luck…


Pete Last