The Headmaster's Weekly Routh Address

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16 October

Last Updated: 16/10/2017 09:41:05

Monday October 16th 2017

Confucius said: “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”

Plato: “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”

William Shakespeare: “The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus. Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.”

Hans Christian Andersen: “Where words fail, music speaks.”

Leopold Stokowski: “A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.”

Leonard Bernstein: “Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.”

Billy Joel: “I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”

Bob Marley: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

Albert Einstein: “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”

Friedrich Nietzsche:
“Without music, life would be a mistake”

Thought For The Week

No prizes for guessing the thought for the week then. With House Song tomorrow afternoon, your own thoughts are probably there anyway. Not that I have any great authority to talk on the subject of music. Despite Mr McKelvey’s insistence that everybody can sing, I may be the exception that proves the rule. I am to music what Donald Trump is to public speaking. A menace. The same goes for playing any form of musical instrument. The first and only thing I ever learned to play was the recorder, which almost certainly is the instrument of the Devil. Certainly in the hands of a seven year old boy it was. People have been tortured to death with less.

So I can’t sing and I can’t play. But I still try. To make matters worse, I have to try whilst standing amidst a crowd of absolute experts. If you find it difficult, slightly awkward and embarrassing, to really let rip and sing your heart out in Chapel because you are tone deaf like me, trying standing where I have to. In the midst of the Choir. Who sing like angels.

And yet, I still try. I try for the same reason that builders whistle on work sites. For the same reason that toddlers, before they can craft a single coherent word, careen around the house endlessly chanting “la-la-la”. For the same reason that pre-historic tribes drummed on logs around a cooking fire. For the same reason that humans of every creed, colour and religion have used music to start revolutions, inspire troops to battle, calm prisoners, excite the fans, unite nations, conjure up nostalgia, offer hope, impel people to give, compel others to spend. The same reason we reach for it in the most important moments in our relationships, using music to break up or to propose. Even, ultimately, to say farewell at our funeral.

Because music is already in us all. Music is intrinsically part of what it means to be human. Sociologists have proven that every single human society that exists or has ever existed made music. It is as varied, fundamental and necessary to us as language.

That’s why we mourn when prolific artists die. In the last year, Chuck Berry, David Bowie, Tom Petty and many others, eulogised in the media around the world. Why? Because love their music or hate it, they wrote the music we grew up with and lived by. Even if they weren’t particularly great musicians. None of the Beatles could read or write music. My mother could never understand my obsession with Bob Dylan. “He can’t sing” she would complain. And she was right. Yet his music shaped a generation and was the anthem for numerous social revolutions.

Even if they haven’t produced a new album for decades. David Bowie hadn’t released an album for fourteen years when he died last year, yet he was mourned as if he was a current chart topper. Rightly so; like Dylan, he wrote the soundtrack to a generation. We are saddened when prolific musicians die because their music was so interwoven with our lives, especially our childhood, it feels as if part of us was taken away with their passing. That is the beauty of music – you don’t have to be able to make it to enjoy it.

Nevertheless, the thirst for rhythm, the hunger for a beat, the yearning for something that satisfies our emotions is in us all. And if we can be part of making music, we satisfy that primal need. So when you take the stage behind me with your House tomorrow, do so understanding that the intention is not to humiliate or belittle you. Let’s face it, you can’t sing worse than me and you will at least be surrounded by others in the same boat. Neither is the intention to suddenly create opera singers out of you all overnight, although most Houses are already blessed with some sublime musical talent.

No, the intention is merely to let you enjoy what is coded in your DNA. Just sing, and for a few moments, lose yourself in how that feels. Harmony is not some notes scratched on a musical score. It is the flow, the sense of belonging you feel when you are at one with other people. That’s what House Song is really about. Enjoy it.


Bromsgrove Challenge was launched to Year 8 students before the summer holidays as a taster of Service in the Senior School. Pupils were encouraged to undertake several challenges including charitable work, writing a book review and going on a cultural visit. A number are commended for their excellent efforts and I invite the following to come forward and receive prizes:
Anaiya Sunner,
Millie Goulden-Page,
Olivia Chester,
Rose Willetts
Alex Shakes

Inter-House Competitions

A number of inter-House competitions have been contested over recent weeks and we commend all who took part and put themselves on the line for their House.

Junior House Basketball

A good tournament and I particularly enjoyed watching the final match, a nail-biter with the winning basket coming in the dying minute.
Runners up – Wendron Gordon
Winners – Elmshurst
Would Elmshurst’s Captain please come forward to receive the trophy.

House Hockey

Junior House Plate
3rd Thomas Cookes
2nd Mary Windsor
1st Hazeldene

Junior House Trophy
3rd Oakley
2nd Hazeldene
1st Thomas Cookes

Senior House Plate
3rd Thomas Cookes
2nd Oakley
1st Housman Hall

Senior House Cup
3rd Thomas Cookes
2nd Oakley
1st Hazeldene

All four winning captains are invited forward to collect their respective trophies.

House Badminton
Boys A competition
3rd place Walters
2nd place Wendron Gordon
1st place Elmshurst

Boys B competition
3rd place Lupton
2nd place Elmshurst
1st place Lyttelton

Girls A competition
3rd place Thomas Cookes
2nd place Oakley
1st place Mary Windsor

Girls B competition
3rd place Oakley
2nd place Thomas Cookes
1st place Mary Windsor

Again, I invite all four winning captains to collect their trophies.

Kit car

The GP Race Team attended the World Kitcar and F24 finals last weekend, where they took part in 3 races to determine who would be crowned F24 Champions and to re-seed teams ready for next year. I was there to see the team deal with the disappointment of having to pull out of the first race because of crash damage and proud of the way that they worked through the night to make repairs, enabling them to fight again the next day. That paid off, with Bromsgrove’ Chicken ending up as 2nd fastest Kitcar in the world and moving up the overall rankings from 28th to 18th place.

Our congratulations on a successful race season – I invite the team forward to receive the trophy for 2nd place: Will Edwards, Scarlett Bond, Alek Florov, Ellie Chan, Frankie McCaig, Lucy Jenkins, Hamish Sutherland, Nathan Summers, Jeffery Soo, Luke Weller.

Language Awards
Many of you recently participated in a national languages competition run by Vocab Express, the aim of which was to complete a variety of vocabulary learning tasks in a limited amount of time. The top pupils from our entries are invited forward to receive a certificate.
Iain Messore, Elsa Tsia, Yeuk Kwan Fung, Evie Stephens Jones, James Bateman, Lucy Hannah, Lauren McLean, Claudia Bullock, Simi Jolaoso, Rhys Evans, Daniel Grove, 

Silver D of E
Continuing the impressive procession of recent weeks, I invite the following forward to receive our congratulations for obtaining their silver Duke of Edinburgh award:
Thomas Borriello, Archie Batham Read, Tia Hill, Ishwar Puna, Katie Dew, Iain Simmons, William Pearson.

Review of the Week

Informal Concert
Another personal highlight last week was the term’s first Informal Concert on Tuesday. As an audience, we were treated to an eclectic range of music, from Brahms to Prokofiev, traditional Chinese violin to Lionel Richie. If you missed it, you can see it online on YouTube. Always better live though, so look for the music department’s new Twitter feed to ensure you don’t miss the next one.

Battlefields visit

As I foreshadowed last week, the School was represented at the rededication ceremony of OB Leonard Kidd’s grave, which took place in France on the 101st anniversary of his death. Leonard had been a day boy in Gordon House from 1905-1910. We are grateful to Dominic Gardner, Aled Luckman, Alex Spurgin and June Lec for attending and acquitting themselves with fitting decorum and respect; leaving a School tie on Lt Kidd’s grave to reinforce our links.

Sport Results

In matches played against Cheltenham College the Girls’ team won but there was a narrow loss for the boys’ team.

The U16 team lost against Aylesbury, but better news for the U18 team who beat Welbeck.

Indoor Hockey

Well done to the U18 girls’ team who have qualified for the Midland Hockey Finals.


Not such good news for the U14 girls’ hockey though, despite playing good hockey they narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Midlands Zonal round.

Well done to the U15 team who beat Rugby School 3-0 in the second round of the national cup.


The School Golf side lost a close encounter with Malvern College 2-1 with Harry Murphy and Jack Hill securing Bromsgrove’s point.


Congratulations to the U14 Netball team who won the district tournament, scoring an incredible 99 goals and only conceding 4 in their four matches. A superb statistic.

In the matches against Cheltenham Ladies College, the senior team narrowly lost but there was a good win for the intermediate team.


The senior boys’ team beat St Edward school, Oxford 4-1.

Table Tennis

The Table Tennis teams played a number of very competitive games against a strong Littleton Table Tennis Club.


Congratulations to the 1st XV and U15B Boys’ teams who won their national cup matches this week; the U15 team beat Solihull and the 1st XV beat RGS Guildford. We would make special mention of Ollie Lawrence who scored a remarkable 32 out of the 37 points.

On Saturday there were good wins for the U15 A,B,C, 2nds and 1st XV, with a draw to the U16 Bs.


Aspiring writers who wish to develop their craft are invited to attend Creative Writing sessions in H3 during session 2 on Saturday mornings. All genders, genres, abilities and aspirations welcome. If you can’t make the session but are still interested, contact Mr Williams.

As mentioned, we look forward to the House Unison Song competition tomorrow afternoon.
The latest edition of the student magazine Two Zero One will be out on Wednesday. Please see Aled or Alia if you want to get involved in future editions.

The debate this Friday will be a Harry Potter–themed Halloween debate. Everyone is welcome. The debate will start at 1.25 pm in room H20.

And finally from me, my compliments to you all on a superb start to the academic year over this first half term. I wish you all a restful break and look forward to seeing you refreshed and equally enthusiastic in November.

Would you please now stand as we say together the Grace.

9 October

Last Updated: 10/10/2017 11:25:30

Headmaster’s Routh Assembly Address

Monday October 9th 2017

For Want of a Nail (14th Century English Proverb)

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Thought For The Week

A riddle to start the week: what do the grey squirrels that inhabit the trees around School have in common the Upper Sixth? The answer is not that they are both exceptionally cute. Nor that they both are noxious vermin.

In fact, a clue to what our squirrels and our Upper Sixth have in common lies in this morning’s reading. For want of a nail, a kingdom was lost.

Not that many of you may even consciously notice the squirrels. They live amongst us in these magnificent grounds, yet perhaps their antics are so commonplace they don’t even register as you make your way to your House or Chapel or the Dining Hall. To me though, they are endlessly fascinating. There are no squirrels where I come from, so I am constantly delighted by them. Ever curious about what they are up to.

Dodging in and around us, busily going about their Bromsgrove business as we go about ours. In the corner of your eye, like liquid ribbons across the grass. Almost oblivious to our presence. Forever industrious. Halting only if you stray a little too close. Then suddenly frozen and alert. Or stuck like a magnet, upside down on the side of an Oak tree. Mildly irritated that our passing has interrupted their toil.

What do those grey squirrels have to do with a 14th Century English proverb about losing a kingdom? A proverb so steeped in time that today we don’t even know whether it once refered to an actual situation or not. Perhaps Shakespeare knew, when he had King Richard III cry “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

No matter, the image is easy to conjure up. In a bygone age, when horses were the fastest and most reliable form of transport, someone neglects a small task. A stable hand perhaps? Who doesn’t bother to use a nail to properly fix a metal shoe to a horse’s hoof. Which presumably comes loose and falls off. Meaning the horse grows lame and can walk no further. Unable to continue, its rider fails to deliver a message. A message sent with urgency to a military commander. Not receiving that message, a battle is lost. A battle so crucial that it turns the tide of a war and as a result, an entire kingdom succumbs. All for the want of a nail. You would have to pity that lazy stable hand when the King found out.

Back to our squirrels, who are far from lazy. Unlike some creatures, they don’t hibernate; they are always around us. However, sometimes they are more active and visible than usual. Now is one of those times. With winter fast approaching, they are ensuring their survival through good preparation. Putting away caches of food that will carry them through the lean months when there are no seeds and nuts to be found. That is what you will see them doing today, as you walk the grounds. They are storing away the chestnuts and acorns that are falling in abundance.

And not just in one secret little hiding place. Squirrels are scatter-hoarders. Meaning they hide food in lots of different caches. Zoologists believe that a single squirrel will have several thousand little food stashes each year. Think about that next time you see a Bromsgrove squirrel. When you spot one near the tree in which it nests, somewhere nearby there will be two or three thousand secret food dumps. With remarkable spatial memory, it will know where each one is come the Winter.

The Upper Sixth do not have three thousand secret food dumps (as far as I’m aware). But for the past few months they, too, have been unearthing reserves that they have laid down for themselves over their years at Bromsgrove. Because it is UCAS time. And if you don’t know what that is you, you should, because just about every single one of you will experience it when you get to your final year at Bromsgrove. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) administers all university applications in the UK. They are the body to whom you send not only your predicted and final examination grades, but also your Personal Statement. Which is the summary of who you are and why you should be selected. A personal sales pitch to your chosen universities. Although I always encourage you to be humble, your UCAS is the one place to ignore that and go big. To sell yourself. To list all of your accumulated successes, all of the extra things you have done at school that will make you stand out from the hundreds of other applicants.

Those of you in the lower forms, I urge you to take note. For you will be in the same position all too soon. And the message that the Upper Sixth would have for you is this: Prepare Now. Don’t leave it until your final year to suddenly try and manufacture in interesting CV. You can’t suddenly get a D of E Gold award or a rank in the CCF in the month before you complete your Personal Statement. That takes years of endeavour. You don’t suddenly make a School sports team or become the star in a performance overnight. Long-term loyalty and commitment lead to Minor Colours. Minor Colours lead to Major Colours, Major Colours to a School Cap. Preparation and groundwork that stretches right back to the day you entered the Lower Fourth.

As the current Upper Sixth are discovering, you can’t enhance your university applications with extra-curricular breadth if you leave it until the month it is due. Attending masterclasses each term, going to weekly debates, completing a MOOC course online, volunteering or getting work experience, stage-managing, guiding, event management – all the things that add colour and demonstrate individual flair in your UCAS application - need to have been laid down over the years, not jammed in the week before you write it.

So if your educational goal, your “kingdom,” is entry to the university of your choice, don’t let it be lost for the want of a nail. Don’t put off doing something small and relatively easy today that will otherwise build to something great. You don’t just prepare for life beyond Bromsgrove in your final year here. You are preparing right now. Like our squirrels in these Autumn days (and our Upper Sixth), now is the time to be storing away experiences that will see you thrive in the years ahead. The best possible preparation for the future is a well-lived present. Or as the greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali, used to say:
“I ran on the road, long before I danced under the lights.”


Honorary Scholarship

We have a further Honorary Academic Scholarship to present this morning as a result of a re-mark taking another scholar over the threshold of 9 A*s. I invite Samuel Osborne to come forward and receive our congratulations.

Silver D of E

So too a continuation of those who can be acknowledged for attaining their Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award. The following are invited to come forward and receive our congratulations.
Mollie Trow Benjamin Turner
Alexander Waplington Jessica Ward
Sophie Ward Harry Whitfield
Lydia Wright Andreas Frangeskou
Grayson Leversha Peter Olley

Junior House Swimming
Well done to all the girls who competed in the Junior House Swimming competition.
The results were as follows:
Joint 3rd- Mary Windsor and Oakley
2nd place- Hazeldene
1st place- Thomas-Cookes
I invite the captain of Thomas-Cookes forward to receive the trophy.


Congratulations to the 1st and 2nd teams who beat both Old Bromsgrovians teams in their annual fixture. I invite both captains to come forward and collect the trophies.

Review of the Week
Last Wednesday the U4th and IB1 students visited Carding Mill Valley to conduct geographic fieldwork, collecting stream data and understanding the impact of visitors on the environment. I would like to commend your behaviour, which I understand was excellent, even when you came under pressure of losing your lunches to the resident sheep.


The U18 Boys Basketball Team narrowly lost against Shrewsbury School 48-49.

Cross Country
Well done to both the Boys and Girls Cross Country teams, who finished 2nd in the county round of the English Schools Cup. Special mention to the following athletes:

Girls: Lena Siller 10th , Emily Gitoes 9th, Daisy May Clements 8th,Natalie Hatfield 1st.

Boys: Daniel Goodwin 13th ,Alex Collin 8th ,Charlie Bridgewater 7th, Toby Hill 5th.

Congratulations to the Girls U16 Hockey Team who qualified for the Midlands Zonal rounds and to the U14B, U14A and U15A teams, who all registered wins against Rugby School.

Congratulations to the Netball U18 Team, who won their first round of the National Cup.

Rugby Union
Well done to the U16 team who beat Adams Grammar School 50-0 in their first round of the North Midlands Cup.
Good wins for the U14D,U15A,U16B & U16A against Millfield.

The 1st team beat Stowe School 4-1, whilst our U15’s lost narrowly 3-2 against their 2nd team.

Well done to our swimmers who competed in the English Schools National qualifiers on Friday evening in Warwick. All swimmers performed well and we are now waiting for all regional results to be collated to see whether we have made the national finals in November.

Table Tennis
The Table Tennis team played their first matches of the season against Holte School with the boys winning 7-1 and the girls drawing 4-4.
Stuart Shannon,
Victor Mikov,
Joshua Osborn-Patel,
Kelvin Liu
all qualified to take part in the Regional Finals held at Loughborough University. They won their quarter-final match against Bishop Vesey Grammar School, before losing narrowly in the semi-final to Thomas Telford School. A great achievement to reach the semi-finals of the Regional Finals - congratulations to the team.


Another busy week ahead:
On Tuesday the Junior Boys House Basketball competition commences during lunch and the first of the year’s Informal Concerts will take place that evening in the Old Chapel.
All are welcome to attend.

Then on Wednesday we wish the LIVth all the best on their Malvern Hills walk. May the road rise to meet you and the wind be always at you back etc etc. And don’t believe everything the Upper Fourth tell you about how hard it will be.

This week Mrs Adams and Major Quentin will be escorting 4 pupils to a military ceremony in France. War historians have recently discovered the remains of an Old Bromsgrovian. Lt Kidd was a pilot who was shot down during the First World War over 100 years ago. He will be reburied at a dedication service in the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery and I thank those who will be in attendance to represent his old School.

The end of the Madagascar photography competition is drawing near and you are reminded that you have up until this Friday to enter their photos of living organisms (excluding people). Can I suggest squirrels? The top 12 entries will be made into a calendar to sell to raise money towards the trip to Madagascar. There has been a wide range of entries so far. Photos should be emailed to Ms Honey.

On Thursday, Old Bromsgrovian Ellie Robinson will be talking to student about her apprenticeship with Cushman and Wakefield. Although I have said this morning that most of you will go to University, for some there are other better-suited options.

Ellie applied for this competitive apprenticeship, allowing her to earn and learn at the same time. She will still gain a degree in Chartered Surveying, but she will also be in the world of work gaining great skills. If you would like a seat to hear more, please email Miss Leech.

A reminder that this term’s ‘Own Clothes Day’ will be held on Friday, raising money for ‘Save a Childs Heart’.

On Saturday we wish the Expedition Club all the best on their travels to Snowdonia.

Finally, also on Saturday morning, we are host our Senior School Open Morning for prospective families. We have had a record number of applications to attend, meaning that many people want what you have. I thank you all in advance for making those visitors feel welcome, especially those of you who are guiding.

Whatever else you do this week, seize some of those opportunities and store them away for the future.

Would you please now stand as we say together the Grace.

25 September

Last Updated: 25/09/2017 10:30:48

Headmaster’s Routh Assembly Address
Monday, 25th September 2017

Thought For The Week

Good morning.

I spent last week visiting our two Schools in Southeast Asia. Bromsgrove International in Thailand and Bromsgrove Mission Hills in Shenzhen. I also attended the Top Schools event held by Academic Asia in Hong Kong, where Miss Scannell, Mr Ruben and I interviewed over 175 applicants for just twenty-five spaces available at Bromsgrove UK next year.

It was a very productive trip but, as is always the case when I go on those visits, I came back feeling poor. Destitute. Impoverished. Not financially poor. Culturally.

Culturally poor because just about every single person I spoke with last week, especially the pupils in the other Bromsgrove Schools or those applying to join us here, could speak two or more languages. Even the little five-year-olds dancing around my ankles in the Mission Hills Pre-School knew more of my language than I know of theirs. I walk into their classroom and proudly say “Nǐ hǎo”. And they all say “Hello” and “Welcome” and “Good morning” and “Greetings Mr Peter”. And then their teacher invites some questions and they all gabble at once “How tall are you?” and “Do you like China?” and “How is England?”.

And I say “Nǐ hǎo”. Because that’s all I’ve got. When it comes to an exchange with even these littlest Bromsgrovians, I’m completely broke, linguistically. They may have only come up to my knees, but they are already bigger than me.

So too for many of you. The majority in fact. You are richer than I am and always will be because you are multilingual. Which means not only can you converse with other people in a way that I cannot, you have an insight into their cultures in a way I never will. Languages are the windows through which we see the world. Sadly, some are firmly shut and shuttered to me.

Some of you have come to this country, this School, to improve your English. For those I interviewed in Hong Kong last week, that remains one of their greatest ambitions. We can help with that by insisting that English is the only language spoken around the School grounds. That is not a rule intended to cause offence, nor to denigrate anyone’s native tongue. It is to assist International pupils achieve your goal. You can help. If you are walking and talking with friends and they slip back into your native language, help them (and yourself) by turning the conversation back into English.

Of course, learning English is no simple task. Some languages are easier to learn than others. Partly because of their structure and rules, partly because of the sheer number of words. There is debate about which is hardest language to learn. Some say Mandarin or Cantonese. Dispute also about which has the largest vocabulary. Many claim that would be English, which currently has 171,476 commonly used words, with a further 615,000 definitions. Add in approximately 50,000 old English words that are now obsolete and you have over one million English words.

In case you’re interested, on 10th June 2009, the Global Language Monitor announced that the one millionth new English word was “Web 2.0.” Unsurprisingly perhaps.

The language with the greatest number of native speakers is Mandarin Chinese. The language spoken by the greatest number of non-native speakers is English. Therefore, those of you who speak those two particular languages must surely have a massive advantage in the modern world. More windows than most.

For the rest of you though, those who like me speak only English with a smattering of greetings in other tongues, I also have a word of encouragement. This morning, I do not just wish to commend bilingual Bromsgrovians. I want also to impress upon all of you the importance of your command of English.

Come back to those one million words. Those of you who grew up speaking English knew about 5000 of them by the time you were four years old.

By the time you were eight years old, that had doubled to 10,000 known words. On average, you then carry on learning one new word a day until you are in your forties, at which stage you vocabulary tends to stop growing. So that, by middle age, the average adult speaker of English knows and uses about 25,000 – 30,000 words. That’s less than 20% of all the words available to them.

Which means that even if you were born and bred in England, raised speaking nothing other than English, you are not necessarily fluent. At least, not as fluent as you could be. To those of you who are English, I encourage you to follow the example of your classmates from other countries and keep learning English. For the limits of your language are the limits of your world.

Even when you’re not speaking. Alone in your own mind, your thoughts come in sentences, don’t they? Your feelings and emotions are instinctive, unshaped by language. But our thoughts, your thoughts, are usually words, albeit unspoken.

Therefore, the smaller your vocabulary, the smaller your ability to understand your world. So I encourage all of you, continually, to broaden your vocabulary. It is a sad fact that native English speakers (and I daresay it is true in other languages too) reach a certain level of words they know and use that set repeatedly. They stop exploring the rich depths of the language around your age. Settling for clichés, over-worn phrases, predictable patterns of speech.

How others perceive you is largely defined by how you communicate. Given that most communication is verbal, that means that your vocabulary advertises your personality. Grow your vocabulary and you grow your personality. If you are writing an essay or a report, don’t just use a dictionary, use a thesaurus. Put one of those “Word of the Day” apps on your phone. If you hear an unfamiliar phrase, don’t ignore it, Google it.
And if you are messaging online, don’t slip into lazy habits of emojis and text-speak. Use words. New words. Odd words. Eye-catching, show-stopping, luscious juicy full of flavour words. Words that really do make the person on the other end of that message “laugh out loud.”

Not words like “bigly.” Not tweets that read like comic book captions. I have made no secret of my dislike of the conduct of President Trump. In a School which holds dear values of tolerance, humility, respect and co-operative co-existence, having a world leader role-modelling the polar opposite is unhelpful.

Yet the thing that irritates me more than anything about Donald Trump’s behaviour is his vocabulary. Or lack thereof. I may disagree with his scary nationalism, or his divisive racial policies, or the fact that he appears to be sleepwalking into nuclear conflict, but those are political differences. What I can’t abide is the paucity of his language.

If anyone needs to communicate brilliantly, to be a skilled orator or a clever wordsmith, surely it is the leader of the free world? Even though I strongly object to the playground antics of two world leaders trading insults like a couple of schoolyard bullies, he could at least pick better words. Comic book taunts, like calling Kim Jong-un “rocketman” are not only beneath the dignity of a President, they are just lazy language. Even in his retort, the North Korean leader used a more descriptive English word when he called Trump a “dotard.” Ironically, most news agencies in English speaking countries then felt the need to include a definition when they reported that, realising that many native English speakers wouldn’t recognise the term (it means a weak-minded or foolish old person, by the way).

The use of Twitter does not have to mean your language needs to be sparse. Indeed, the fewer words you have to play with, the more important it becomes that you select the right ones. The great English writer Oscar Wilde was famous for his pithy sayings, choosing words that conveyed exactly the right meaning.

He once said to a friend “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter, I didn’t have time to write a short one.” The point being, it is harder to pick your words carefully than to just spout off.

Which is why I feel the same way about swearing. I’m not a prude. I was raised in a tough neighbourhood and spent my life working in schools – I’m no stranger to swearing and profanity. There may even be times when a well-used expletive can have a powerful effect.

But over-used, all they do is signal that you have a limited vocabulary. People who pepper their ordinary everyday speech with swear words may be trying to impress, but in fact they are demonstrating that they don’t know enough words to say what they want to say. More often than not, we use the F word as an adjective because we can’t think of a better, more accurate or descriptive one. Swearing doesn’t just insult the listener, it insults the user too.

So, as you start the new week, I offer my admiration those of you who are working on mastering a second language. But I commend all of you who are still hungry to grow their own English vocabulary beyond the 20% of words you may need to scrape by.


Duke of Edinburgh Award
We received news last week that fifty-seven Bromsgrovians achieved Gold Duke of Edinburgh awards last year. That is more than any other centre across the whole of Central England, which covers well over 400 schools and represents a fantastic achievement.

The current Upper Sixth Gold presented their Expedition Presentations last week. It was great to see them reflect upon their experiences, clearly reliving many memories from their expedition in July.

Silver award
Today we invite the following to come forward to receive congratulations for gaining their Silver award:

Lily-Rose Faulkner-Schuett
Lilly-May Fowke
Harry Fussell
Ella Gardner
Jonathan Green
Grace Grenfell
Jules Gwinnutt
Tristan Hall
Joseph Harper
Archie Holder

Greenpower Race
Last Sunday, the Greenpower team raced in the last heat of the season, testing new technology in preparation for the finals. Both races were closely fought, resulting with the team being placed second place Kitcar on the day and qualifying for the World finals at Rockingham next month. I invite the team to collect the trophy from the day:

Will Edwards,
Scarlett Bond,
Alek Florov,
Ellie Chan,
Lucy Jenkins,
Frankie McCaig,
Luke Weller
Hamish Sutherland.

Upper Fourth Textile Prize

Unfortunately, the prize for Upper Fourth Textiles was not presented at the Summer Mark Reading. I would like to invite Orla Walker forward to receive our belated congratulations.

The following pupils achieved Grade 5 or above in music exams at the end of the summer term and they are asked to come forward:

George Bingham, Music Theory Grade 5 with Merit
Elina Agrawal, Music Theory Grade 5
Eric Li, Alto Saxophone Grade 5
Bennett Brockmann, Drums Grade 5 with Merit
Hannah Lawson, Flute Grade 6
Freddie Harvey-Gilson, Trombone Grade 6 with Merit
Joshua Lawson, Jazz Saxophone Grade 7 with Distinction
Thomas Chapman, Jazz Saxophone Grade 7 with Distinction
Imogen Vaughan-Hawkins, Jazz Saxophone Grade 7 with Distinction
Keira Sehdeva, Violin Grade 7 with Distinction
Emily Evans, Singing Grade 8 with Distinction

Junior House Swimming
It was good to see so many junior boys representing their Houses in the House swimming competition. The results were as follows:

3rd place Lupton
2nd place Walters
1st place Elmshurst
The Elmshurst captain is invited forward to collect the trophy.


Upper Fifth and Lower Sixth cadets attended the highly successful CCF Survival Field Days last week, learning about water purification, fire lighting, and navigation by using the vegetation, amongst other things.

Last Wednesday, RAF Cadets took to the air in a two-seater plane, and were they were given joystick control by the instructor as part of an air experience day at RAF Cosford.


Both the boys' and girls' badminton teams beat Bloxham School - the boys 11-2 and girls 7-2.

The 1st team lost a closely fought contest 40-48 against Alcester Grammar School.

Dean Close defeated our golf team but James Lord, Meghan Langford and Bipin Gurung all acquitted themselves well against strong opponents.

The boys' 1st team drew 1-1 with Loughborough Grammar School.

In the matches played against Bloxham School there were good wins for the U14B, U14A, U15B, U15A, U16A and 2nd XI.

The U15 team started their defence of the Independent Schools' Cup with a convincing win 47-11 over Wycombe Abbey School.

In a new fixture for the School against Hampton School, Bromsgrove won six and drew two of the nine matches played.


Today there is a Marmite session at 12.50pm.

Tomorrow we have the Senior School Harvest Service in Memorial Chapel.

Also on Tuesday, we host exchange students from Germany and I am sure that you will make them feel welcome.

A reminder that the first House Photos take place Thursday.

On Friday, we host a Big Sing Day workshop for selected pupils.

Finally, this Friday’s debate at 1.25pm in room H20 will be on the motion that: ‘This House condemns Aung San Suu Kyi for the continuing mistreatment of the Rohingya people’.  All are very welcome to attend.

Would you please now stand as we say together the Grace.

11 September

Last Updated: 11/09/2017 16:48:31

Thought for the Week

Good morning. I start with my thanks to all of you who represented the School so proudly on Saturday. We had hundreds of visitors on campus, our first full set of sporting fixtures of the term coinciding with the hosting of a reunion for those who attended Bromsgrove in the 1970’s. Whether you pulled on School colours to play Hockey, Netball or Rugby in front of friends and family, robed up to sing in the Choir at the Chapel service, volunteered to guide our Old Bromsgrovian guests, or simply greeted and welcomed any of our visitors on-site that day, thank you.

The reunion deserves particular mention, for one day I hope you, too, will return to this place and reminisce. When I spoke to you in Chapel on Friday, I was a bit scathing of the Seventies as a decade. I pointed out that growing up back then, my childhood was set against a backdrop of social upheaval and civil unrest.
Saturday’s reunion was for the men, and the first women to ever attend Bromsgrove, who also started school in the Seventies. Chatting with them as they shared their memories of those days, two prevailing themes stood out, which I share with you as we start this new week.

The first was the pressures of their daily lives. Much is made of the challenges of being a teenager today. The modern era has added layers of stress to your world that my generation didn’t experience. We didn’t suffer physical symptoms of withdrawal and anxiety when separated from our digital devices (mainly because we didn’t have any). We weren’t exposed to a bewildering, unrelenting torrent of unfiltered information from Uncle Google and Aunty Facebook. A flood of facts and fake news that doesn’t distinguish between knowledge and noise. Body image was less an obsession. Obesity and anorexia were largely unknown. Study mattered, but with only a fraction of my generation expected to go on to university, examination pressures were different.

Yet talking to the Old Bromsgrovians who were in your place forty years ago, I was reminded that their teenage years were no bed of roses either. I’m not just talking about societal pressure, although that was real enough. During the Chapel service held for them on Saturday morning, the Head Boy and Girl read from a series of articles written in the Bromsgrovian magazines of the Seventies. In those, the Headmaster of the day complains that young people are becoming rude and apathetic. Challenging authority and asking too many questions. An Old Bromsgrovian who fought in the First War writes a letter expressing his disgust at those Seventies hairstyles I was talking about in Chapel. He calls the Cricket XI “filthy hippies.”

Yet it was the difference in their daily, domestic lives at Bromsgrove that struck me most. This was the last generation to live in boarding houses that were mostly outside of the School grounds. Meaning that pupils had to walk greater distances to and from House and classroom. Those of you in Housman will have some sympathy.

Their daily food was, in the words of one man who had just seen what you are regularly served today, unfit for human consumption. All of our reunion guests shook their heads in amazement when they toured the Dining Hall and saw the variety and quality that you are now offered.

The difference in sports training was even more dramatic. Our guests were impressed to see many of you staying on the pitch in torrential rain on Saturday. It brought back memories of the hardships they endured. It was common for rugby practice to include running up and down the bank between upper and lower Charford carrying boulders, only being allowed to stop when you threw up.

Hockey was played on grass not astros, and in all weathers. Two hour sessions shuffling across the greens on your knees grubbing out thistles and nettles with bare hands were commonplace. And their cross country route made our track today seem like a warm up.

There was no choice about playing sport – everyone, right up to Upper Sixth, played every week, every term. The same went for Saturday lessons and Sunday Chapel services, whether you were Day or Boarding. It was flattering then, that the OB’s of the Seventies were so impressed with how much you pack into your week and you should feel proud that you commitment and dedication was appreciated.

The second common refrain we heard was also to do with commitment and dedication. Most of the conversations I overheard amongst the 1970’s Bromsgrovians were about the bonds forged through activities outside of the classroom.

Many of our guests are now highly successful people. They are confident, contributing members of society. All were certain that they had the School to thank for much of their success. Indeed, there were a few amongst them who have gifted hundreds of thousands of pounds to the School over recent years in appreciation, generously funding the bursaries that allow many of you to attend this School.
But what they talked about was not the academic qualifications that got them to where they are today. Few could even recall a single GCSE or A Level grade. Yet each of them remembered, as if it was yesterday, the wins and losses on the sporting pitch. Every try, every goal, every dropped pass and missed penalty. They were misty eyed at the comradeship they felt, playing in teams with their peers. Grateful for the friendships and the sense of belonging that led to feeling part of something bigger than themselves.

And I will tell you this. It may have been forty years ago, in a simpler time, but they found it no easier to get out of bed on a Saturday then you do. No easier to drag on their kit each winter’s afternoon and run out into the weather to train. No easier to push their bodies to the limit.

So if you are feeling a little sore this morning after playing for the School on Saturday. If you sacrificed personal desires to come in and sing in the Choir. If you turned out for a team or a sport or an activity in which you didn’t feel very confident. Well done. You should also feel proud of yourself.
Because not only did you display character and self-discipline, standing up to the pressures of modern life. You also made some memories on Saturday that are going to warm you in forty, fifty, sixty years’ time.

Band of Brothers

The excerpt from Henry V that Lily-Rose read earlier comes when the King is trying to inspire his troops to go into battle. They too, had reservations. Fears and insecurities. Better things to do with their time. Like you sometimes perhaps, they were thinking “Others aren’t here. Friends are at home, safe and warm in bed.” But he reminds them of the same thing I am saying to you now. The same thing I heard from the OBs at the reunion.

From this day until the end of time, these feats will be remembered. And those at home in bed will, forever more, think themselves accursed they were not here and part of your band of brothers (or sisters). Your happy few. So well done to each of you who made the effort and in doing so, forged a bond and made a little personal history.


GCSE Honorary Scholars
I mentioned previously in Routh that the School had enjoyed its best ever set of GCSE A* results last year. So exceptional was the performance of last year’s Fifth Form that 15 pupils achieved 9, 10 and in some cases 11 A*s, with their other subject being just one grade off. That is an outstanding achievement and accordingly, I would like to invite the following on stage to receive our congratulations and bestow an Honorary Academic Scholarship:Vanessa Chou, Tristan Hall, Anna Huang, June Iec, Vanessa Ip, Christiana Lloyd, George Marshall, Georgina Muscutt, Amy Nolan, Ruby Ngan, Shraibman, Benjamin Turner, Harry Whitfield, and new pupils Hannah Brock and Ellie Fung.

I have deliberately left one other name from the above list until last. This person also attained A*s but in her case, they were in every single subject she sat. That is an exceptional accomplishment and I invite her now to come forward for her Honorary Academic Scholarship. Please congratulate: Alia Derriey

Design Technology
At the end of last term, Bromsgrove School’s GP electric race car team competed in the heat held at Goodwood, with the team eager to see what their improvements, including a new ammeter computer, would do to the performance of the Chicken.

They took Race 1 to set a new Kitcar record distance of 37 miles and easily winning the category, which placed the team in 15th place in the world standings out of 170 teams. By comparison, last year at the same stage they were seeded 48th. Unfortunately, an accident meant they did not finish the second race. However, they did win the Kitcar category for the day and came 9th overall out of 71 cars on track.
Accordingly, I invite the race team from that day to come forward and collect the trophy, with special mention of Hamish Sutherland who won the fastest driver award.

International Recognition

I am proud to commend the following pupils for achieving international standings in their chosen sports:
Sam Osborne, who won gold at the English school games in the 400 freestyle and as part of the 4 x 200 freestyle relay team.
Siena Horton, who, as well as her international skiing prowess, has been selected for England U16 hockey trials.
• And Mitchel Wise, who first competed in the UK National Championships, in which he came 1st in the Junior men category (15-18 year olds) then went on to compete in Canada for the WWA World Championships where he came 3rd in the world (junior men). An outstanding achievement.
I invite all 3 international representatives to come forward and receive our congratulations.


As I have already said, it was pleasing to see so many pupils representing the School on Saturday afternoon, either in first fixtures or participating in further pre-season matches and trials.
• Well done to the netball team who beat a strong Worcester netball club 29-28.

• The hockey teams played a mixture of opposition, with good wins for U16A’s and U14B’s against Ratcliffe College. Unfortunately, the U15A game had to be abandoned.

• Meanwhile the 1st X1 played in the Oakham tournament and had good wins against the hosts and Surbiton High School.

• Our rugby teams faced a challenging start to the season, playing a number of schools in a shortened version of the game. However, most of you played with great character, particularly the 4th XV and, as I have said, have started to forge team bonds that you will remember for life.
• I commend the 1st XV, who played a stand-alone game against our great local rivals Warwick and lost narrowly 29-22, having played most of the second half at the right end of the pitch.

• Finally, the Arena was full of students taking part in trials for the School badminton teams.

Thank you all, once again for providing the Old Bromsgrovians who returned for the reunion with such a feast of good sport.

Congratulations to the following who all represented Worcestershire at Cricket this summer

Freddie Fallows
Matt Hill
Tom Cosh
Samuel Hibbert-May
Mitchell Hare
Rhys Evans
Joe Miszkowski
Ed Clews
Alex Hinkley
Nick Jacobsen
Henry Marshall
Elliot Mason
Dan Meredith
Maisie Hucker
Emily Clarke
Ben Fitzmaurice
George Marshall George Hatfield
And for Warwickshire
Olly Davidson (U13)
Mo Talukder (U14) and
Awais Mohammed (U15)

Special mention to Alex Hinkley and Awais Mohammed who played for the Midlands in the Bunbury festival and then selected for the best of Bunbury match.


So to the week ahead.

Head of Year

Today we welcome the Loudmouth Theatre group who will perform for the L4th.

There are individual photographs on Tuesday for all students.

Natural Sciences Society

Starting this week, the Natural Sciences Society, will commence. This is a new, student-led initiative that will take place between 1:00 - 1:20pm. every Tuesday in Biology Lab 1. The natural sciences seek to understand how the world and universe around us works and this is an opportunity for anyone with a curious mind to listen and participate in wide-ranging science discussions. Pupils from all year groups are most welcome.

First Masterclass
On Thursday evening, we host the Lord Digby Masterclass in the LRC at 7.00 pm.

Gifted and Talented
As you may already know, Dr Ruben (that’s Mrs Ruben, not Mr Ruben) runs the Senior School’s Gifted & Talented Society, otherwise known as Marmite (for reasons that will become clear if you choose to join). Provision is made for talent in all aspect of School life, both within academic departments and sport, the Arts and other activities.

Academic, university-style seminars are offered during lunchtimes on Monday for L6th and Tuesday and Wednesday for 4th and 5th Forms. Your teachers and tutors will help identify and invite the most academically able students, but you may also choose to self-refer: no matter what your results are like, if you feel you would be interested and engaged, you will be welcome.

Lunch and homemade cake is provided in Dr Ruben’s home next to the Health Centre. Tutors, posters and emails will tell you more.

Subjects for discussion this term will include Frankenstein, cloning and scientific ethics, The Matrix, Pizza and Suntans, The Incredibles, faith and science, The Pantheon and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. This year there is a whole school theme: Wonder Women and Super Girls: why feminism is the most important step on the road to global social equality.

Seminars start during Week Three of this term: you can email your interest to Dr Ruben at


Finally, for those of you new to the School, I advise that we hold a lunchtime debate every Friday. It starts at 1.25pm in H20 all students are very welcome to attend as spectators. This week the motion is that
'This House would seek a peaceful solution to the North Korean crisis'.

As always, I encourage you to try something new from that list and wish you well for the week ahead

Would you please now stand as we say together the Grace

4 September

Last Updated: 04/09/2017 15:24:51

Headmaster’s Routh Assembly Address

Monday 4th September 2017

Good morning and welcome to the first Routh Assembly of the Michaelmas Term and the new academic year.

Welcome especially to the 197 of you who are new to the School, 146 of whom are boarders. It was a pleasure to greet you all as you arrived for induction last week. Over the weekend you have been joined by those who have boarded here before, so you will know that for over 500 young men and women, this is your home. The other half of you live locally, an even balance of Boarding and Day that is one of our greatest strengths as a School.

So too is the fact that we have now reached my long-held dream of having 50 nationalities represented amongst you. Thank you for the richness that each of you adds to cultural tapestry of Bromsgrove. We are strengthened in our diversity and I welcome you all.

Welcome also to your greatest allies for the year ahead, the Common Room seated behind me. Your teachers are amongst the best in their respective fields. They are also the most dedicated group of educators I have ever known. They will teach, coach, train, support, encourage and guide each one of you to success if you but let them this year.

Academic Focus
If you need any convincing as to how effective they will be, look no further than last year’s examination results. As they have done consistently for many years now, your teachers produced some of the finest results in the country.
One in three of all GCSE grades was an A* - a School record
• Another quarter of all grades were A’s
• Seven people achieved near perfect scores and we will be acknowledging those exceptional performances next week
• We had equally strong averages at A Level, with 80% of all grades being A*, A, or B
• Six pupils achieved more than five A grades, twenty achieved four or more
• 85% of all BTEC entries gained the highest possible award of Distinction *
• And our largest IB cohort to date collectively achieved a remarkable Diploma average of 39 points, placing us amongst the best IB Schools in the world
• In the end though, perhaps the most important statistic for the Upper Sixth was that over three quarters of them gained entry into their first choice university

Expectations of Conduct
So congratulations to all who helped to maintain the high academic standards for which we are known. Whatever level you enter the Senior School this year, from Lower Fourth to Upper Sixth, please bear those standards in mind. Bromsgrove School is over-subscribed. There are many unhappy applicants out there who did not get a place here because we are full. You have won the privilege of studying at Bromsgrove, you must now earn it. To help you with that, your teachers will continue do a superb job of giving regular feedback about your progress. Your responsibility is to heed it.

You also have a responsibility, as a member of this community, to uphold the standards of personal conduct for which we are known. As I announced at Prizegiving last term, we are extremely pleased to have appointed Mr McClure as the new Deputy Head Pastoral. Few people have as deep an understanding of what Bromsgrove stands for as Mr McClure. You are very fortunate that your welfare and conduct will be his prime concern this year. In support, he will also have the assistance of Mr Matthews and Mrs Leech, in their new roles as Senior Master and Senior Mistress. They, too, are there to help you maintain the School’s standards and expectations of conduct.

You are part of a proud institution whose reputation for excellence stretches back over five centuries. There may well be other schools were you can walk when and where you want, dress as you please, say whatever you like. This is not one of them. But neither is it a prison camp. Our blend of rights and responsibilities, freedoms and expectations, have stood the test of time and produced hundreds of fine men and women.

We know that it is possible to abide by a shared set of standards and still shine as an individual. Therefore, we expect you to uphold those traditions, ethos and rules with equal pride.

New Facilities
I have mentioned the examinations successes of the summer. Let me also advise you of the significant building works that have taken place while you were away. Our much anticipated Performing Arts facilities are nearing completion and should be available to us to start using by the end of this month. We will officially open them at a special function on 22nd November and I look forward to seeing the musical and dramatic talent of many of you in those performances.

Refurbishment has also been completed in a number of classrooms, a new screen has improved the LRC Lecture Theatre, and a second laundry is under construction between Oakley and Elmshurst. Please avoid that worksite as much as possible and as usual, please show your gratitude to the members of the Estates and Grounds staff who have made these wonderful new facilities available for you.

Routh Protocols
So to Routh Assembly. For those who are new, we begin each week in the Senior School with this gathering. In our busy lives, it is important to come together physically, not just virtually. We once used to meet in Routh Hall, but outgrew it. That building will shortly reopen as our magnificent new Concert Hall. However, this assembly retains the name Routh in memory of the great Headmaster of the early 1900’s, Gordon Routh. Many would say that he set the standards for which Bromsgrove is famous today and this assembly reflects those values.

It is formal and respectful, as you should be. We unite as a one to share a common experience, no matter how diversified the rest of our week may be. In this place we share are each other’s successes with pride and accept our own praises with humility.

We also reflect on the issues of the day. Ideas about our common humanity and purpose for you to ponder.
And at each assembly, we will review the triumphs (and occasionally the disappointments) of the previous week and will then preview what lies ahead.

On that note, let me make mention of some recent highlights. Not many this week, given the summer holidays, but five trips worthy of note.

Gold Duke of Edinburgh Expedition to Snowdonia
The first was the annual Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition to Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. 53 Lower Sixth pupils headed out after Commemoration Day and following an wet and windy practice expedition back in March, they were treated to some lovely Summer weather this time. All rose to the challenge, with most hiking up to the top of Mount Snowdon, and all groups successfully completing the four-day expedition. You should feel proud of those achievements and are to be commended for your tenacity and teamwork. Bromsgrove boasts a very high participation rate in the prestigious DoE and I encourage all of you to consider attempting it during your time here. Either through the School course or through the CCF, who were also chasing their awards over the break.

CCF – South Africa
12 members of the CCF took part in their Gold or Silver qualifying expedition during the trip of a lifetime in South Africa. Cadets planned their own route and then set off for five days, during which they paddled 15 km’s, cycled 50km’s, and walked 16 miles (not sure why they suddenly switched from metric to imperial when they donned their hiking boots). Along the way they tented in temperatures of -5, sometimes camping in caves. Another highly successful expedition and this one followed by some dramatic sightseeing of battlefields, safaris and bush camps in a wildlife park. The CCF group are also to be commended for volunteering at a local school during their excursion and I know they have returned home having learnt valuable life lessons.

Hockey- South Africa
The cadets were not the only Bromsgrovians to visit South Africa over the summer though. Forty of our hockey players toured in Pretoria and Cape Town, with a packed programme of matches and sightseeing. They played 12 hard fought games between them, with both teams only losing one game.
In fact, the girls came painstakingly close to an unbeaten tour, only losing in their final game. Nevertheless, a superb tour and pre-season training for our senior hockey players that is sure to prove invaluable.

Hong Kong & New Zealand Rugby Tour
Another squad of Bromsgrovains headed to the southern hemisphere to represent the School as well, this time to Hong Kong and New Zealand.42 boys and 4 members of staff embarked on a three-week rugby tour, taking them first to Hong Kong, where both the 1st XV and 2nd XV recorded victories to get the tour off to a great start.

They then headed to New Zealand for trip that coincided with the British and Irish Lions Tour. Indeed, the boys were fortunate enough to be at the 3rd test match between the Lions and the All Blacks, an occasion that I’m sure they will remember for a long time (even if there is no such thing as an “accidental” offside).
Their schedule was just about as hectic as the Lions one, with games and sightseeing up and down the length if the country. I was doubly proud to hear that they were met with some warm Kiwi hospitality and that they played great rugby and were fine ambassadors for the School. Gentlemen, even my mother turned out to watch you play in Dunedin and spoke very highly of your conduct, which is good enough for me – well done.

World Challenge Expedition - India & Himalaya
As if that wasn’t enough globe-trotting, 14 Senior School pupils also had an adventurous foray in India. They flew to Delhi and began a month-long World Challenge expedition that included a 14 day, 100 mile trek at high altitude in the Himalayas. Trekking life was basic, washing in streams, digging their own toilets, using fallen trees to cross swollen rivers. But they were well looked after by a local guide, mule teams and cooks (although I understand most of them have eaten enough dahl and rice to last a lifetime).

Once the trekking was complete, this group also volunteered in a service project by painting classrooms in a school for deaf children in Udaipur, then ended the month sightseeing near the Taj Mahal. Another life changing experience for the pupils involved and as with the rest of those who represented us abroad, a credit to the School.

Well done to each of you and on your behalf, sincere thanks to the dedicated staff who made all of these ventures possible.

Finally, although not an official School trip, I would like to make mention of one individual achievement that deserves our admiration. During the break, Elizabeth Hambling walked the full length of the Camino de Santiago Pilgrim Route, a total of 144 miles in 12 days. In doing so, she raised £1,150 in sponsorship for the World Wildlife Fund. That is a fine accomplishment and typifies the service ethic we are proud to see in Bromsgrovians.

So, an adventurous summer for many and if those trips sounded like something that would excite you, I encourage you to seek out similar opportunities that will be offered during the coming year. Indeed, I challenge you all, as I do every year, to taste all manner of new experiences while you are here. Whether as a participant or a spectator, make this the year that you go outside your comfort zone and try something new. When I preview the forthcoming events each Monday at Routh, make it your mission to try something new in the week ahead. This week, I announce the following:

Preview - Main School production
This year's main school production is a Senior Play that will take place in the new Cobham Theatre from 6th – 9th December. Although a provisional cast list has now been completed, anyone new to the school from Upper Fourth to Sixth Form, or who missed auditions last term, is encouraged to come to a final round of auditions this week. Please contact Mr. Norton via email at as a matter of urgency.

We also commence this year’s series of Masterclasses next week. The aim of these lunchtime or evening guest lectures is to broaden your knowledge and bolster your CV. Therefore we encourage you to attend them even if you are not studying a course related to the topic. Universities and employers seek breadth and exploring outside the prescribed curriculum is a perfect way to do this.

First up this year, we are delighted that Lord Digby Jones will be presenting a guest lecture “The Current Challenges facing Business”. The lecture will be held in the LRC Lecture Theatre on Thursday 14 September, from 7.00pm to 8.00pm. The presentation is open to all pupils, parents and guardians who wish to attend and I encourage you to do so. One word of caution though – just as it counts very strongly for you if you can show that you have made the effort to broaden your knowledge by attending masterclasses, so too does it count against you if you say that you are going to attend and then don’t bother to turn up. Your integrity requires you to make the effort.

Other notes about the week ahead:
The new schedule for meeting with your Tutors starts today, immediately after last period. That meeting will be followed by Head of Year

Our first School Service will be held on Friday – please note the change to the day, with lessons 1-5 as normal, then the Service during period 6. Activities/Games follow on at 4.15pm.

And a busy day for the School on Saturday when we welcome back Old Bromsgrovians who left the School 1970-79. Please make them welcome and show your pride in the School, especially by playing well in the large number of Hockey, Netball and Rugby fixtures that day.

Thought for the Week
That then is how Routh Assembly will go - communal, celebratory, a weekly reminder of our shared purpose. It is then our tradition to end by standing and saying the Grace together.

But before we do that this morning, I have a question to put to you, for your consideration as the new academic year commences. Which is, what is your telos? Before you answer, you may first ask, what is telos? The Classics scholars amongst you may already know. It is a word coined in the days of the great Greek philosophers, Aristotle and Plato. A word used to help debate the deep questions of human existence. But I first saw it in a dust-filled artist’s studio on a small coastal island.

I had paddled there in my kayak. Hard work – 5 miles of big swells and a headwind. Harder still, as I was leading an expedition of a small group of juvenile offenders. Seven young men in trouble with the Police, who had been told they could either undertake a leadership training course in the outdoors with me for two weeks or go before the courts and face jail. They chose my course, but not willingly.

The grumbling only got worse as our journey got harder. Salt spray constantly in the eyes, gusts of wind pushing us backward every time we rested our arms, cross-currents trying to capsize us. When we finally hauled ashore on a sheltered beach, they looked ready to mutiny, so I wandered up the hill to find a shop and see if I could buy some hot chips to placate them.

Which is when I came across the artist’s studio. A run-down little shack really, tucked back off the street. In the window though, were beautiful carvings done in a type of jade or greenstone found only in New Zealand, called pounamu. Extremely hard to work and quite rare, it is usually used for pendants or earrings. You don’t often see pounamu sculptures. But there in the window was one of the most striking pieces I had ever seen.

It was a gannet, just smaller than life size, captured in mid-dive. I don’t know if you have ever seen gannets, but they are magnificent birds. And quite deceptive. Out on the open ocean, we had watched them gliding above us as we paddled. Sleek white bodies, heads of yellow gold.

Huge wingspans, seemingly untroubled by the strong buffeting winds. They looked casual, just an occasional little twitch of their finger-feathers. As if they had nothing better to do than hover above the eight strange creatures below, as we carved our way through the waves in kayaks like an insane pod of brightly coloured dolphins.

But suddenly, the gannets would spy a school of fish and their demeanour would change instantly. Each one would lock onto a target and dive. From our kayaks we got a ringside view. You could see their specially jointed wings pull back like a jet fighter. Webbed feet tucked in for minimum drag. The neck would go down so their long beak and skull formed a perfect arrowhead. And then boom. They would strike the water next to you like an Exocet missile. 70 miles an hour, yet barely a splash as the knifed into the waves.

So close it felt as if we were being dive-bombed, although we weren’t the targets. A minute after every strike, up would pop a gannet, looking cool and collected, with a large fish flipping in its beak.

It is a sight I will long remember, those feathered missiles raining down around us, inches away from our bows, my bad boys laughing and yelling like little kids, forgetting to be tough and staunch for a few moments. We were watching the perfect fishing machine, executing its mission exactly as nature had designed it to do. It was, in the true sense of the word, awesome.

So naturally, I was drawn to this wonderful representation of a diving gannet, cut from greenstone. I went into the shop for a closer look, and read the card beneath. On it was a price that I could never have afforded and a single word. Telos. And I wondered what it meant. I knew my bird names – New Zealand gannets are from the family Sula Serrator. Maori name Takapu. Not Telos. Maybe it was the artist’s name?

Then the artist appeared. A wizened little man, unshaven in old overalls, covered in stone dust. Just popped up at my elbow. “It’s magnificent” I said and he just grunted. “But Telos?” I asked. He looked at me for a moment or two and just said “Purpose.” And shuffled away again.

Telos. It means purpose. The point of a thing’s existence. End-goal. And I got it. The gannet is all about single-minded, highly-focussed purpose. Its whole reason for being, the objective for which it is designed, is to be the perfect fishing instrument. Even when it looks like it is just cruising aloft, no real direction of travel, it is working. It knows what it needs to do to flourish.

So that’s my question to you, at least in the context of Bromsgrove School. This year, what is your telos? What is your purpose? What is the main reason for your existence in this place? What are you focussed upon?

As I have already mentioned, you represent a great diversity. 50 nationalities. Different ages, genders, orientations, religions. Rural upbringing and urban. Some of you are shy and reserved, some boisterous and bubbly. Sporty, musical, studious, humorous. Differing aspirations, tastes and opinions. No two Bromsgrovians the same. Yet you all share the same telos, or purpose. Or at least, you should.

You are at Bromsgrove School to get an academic qualification that will allow you to pursue your dreams in life. No matter what else you want out of the year ahead:
sporting acclaim,
performing arts fame,
a Gold, Silver or Bronze D of E,
a chance to serve others,
the warmth of new friendships,
your driver’s licence,
an iPhone 8
a million followers on Instagram
or world peace
whatever else you seek, you should have only one primary purpose. An academic qualification that reflects the best you can be.

So be as the gannet. Ponder your telos as you leave Routh Assembly today and hold it at the forefront of your thoughts in the weeks ahead. For it is our fervent wish that each one of you may achieve it in the year ahead.

Would you please now stand as we say together the Grace.

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