The Headmaster's Weekly Routh Address

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8th October 2018

Last Updated: 08/10/2018 14:53:26

Monday 8th October 

During the infamous 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany’s leader Adolf Hitler, was greatly irritated the success of the African American athlete, Jesse Owens. A black man winning numerous gold medals did not fit his racist view of the world.

However, on the day of the long jump final, Owens struggled against his fiercest rival, the German athlete, Luz Long. Jesse Owens was the world record holder in the long jump, but he recorded faults in his first two attempts to qualify for the final. One more fault and he would be eliminated. At which point, Long would certainly have won the gold.

But Long did something unexpected. Although blond-haired and blue-eyed, Long did not share the racist opinions of his country’s leaders. He approached Owens and offered him advice for his next jump, even helping measure out the best point from which to take off. Long’s advice helped keep Owens in the running. He qualified and went on to beat Long and win the gold medal.

After the competition, the first person to congratulate Owens was Long. Owens said, "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler. You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't even be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment.”

Sadly, Luz Long was killed in World War II. However, he was posthumously awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for Olympic sportsmanship.

Good Morning,
That is a remarkable story, is it not? A black American athlete winning gold medals at Germany’s first ever Olympic Games, under the hateful gaze of Adolf Hitler, who believed people of colour were inferior. Worse still, he was helped to victory in the long jump by his closest rival, who was the poster boy of the Aryan ideal; blonde-haired, blue-eyed, tall and handsome.

Remember, this was just before the start of the Second World War. If you Google the event, you will find a powerful black & white photo (forgive the irony) that seems prescient of what was to come. Standing on the winner’s dais are Owens, giving an American military salute, Luz Long, arm raised in a Nazi salute, and the third place getter, Naoto Tajima from Japan, who is standing rigidly to attention, as was his culture’s custom. Little did those three men know what the coming years held in store for their respective nations.

Which makes Luz Long’s decision to help his rival even more courageous. Not only was he risking losing the gold medal to Jesse Owens, which is of course what happened, but he was also risking hatred and rejection from his own fans. Which is also what happened. It was an act of great sportsmanship.
A quick aside, before I go on. I want to talk about sportsmanship this morning, but before I do, I need to acknowledge that it is, unfortunately, a gendered term. I am not just saying that to be politically correct. I genuinely feel uncomfortable about using the phrase ‘sportsmanship’ when I am referring to the admirable behaviours of all of you who play sport for this School, male and female. Indeed, some of the greatest examples of sportsmanship I can think of, come from sportswoman.

But as is often the case with gendered language, ‘sportsmanship’ is a word that has become embedded in our language. One that is not easy to shift. I could keep saying ‘sportspersonship’ over the next few minutes, but it sounds clumsy and laboured. I could say ‘sporting behaviour’ I suppose, but to my ear, that sounds quaintly English, possibly a little patronising. I even went to my trusty thesaurus for a gender neutral alternative, but all that gave me was ‘gamesmanship’, which is not much help. I rely on words in this job. I love the breadth of the English language and it annoys me that I haven’t got a better alternative for ‘sportsmanship’ this morning. So, I hope you will forgive me if I stick with that for the moment, understanding that what I am saying applies to young women as much as it does to young men.

My point was, Luz Long demonstrated great sportsmanship by helping his opponent, even to the point that it ultimately led to him being beaten. There are plenty of other famous examples of similar honourable behaviour. You might remember the dramatic images of last year’s Triathlon World Series in Mexico? When Jonny Brownlee from Britain, who was leading the race with only 700m left, began to weave all over the road due to heat stroke and dehydration. Around the corner came his teammate (who also happened to be his brother). Alistair Brownlee saw what was happening and instinctively gave up his own chance for gold. Instead, he propped up his sibling for the final couple of hundred metres, before pushing him over the line ahead of him.

Those of you who are football fans may know of the actions of West Ham's Italian striker, Di Canio, who won a FIFA Fair Play Award during his side's Premier League game at Everton in 2001. Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard rushed out of his area to make a challenge but fell to the ground injured, leaving an open goal. As the perfect cross came in, Di Canio simply reached up and caught the ball to stop play, rather than shoot towards the empty net. It earned him a standing ovation from the Goodison Park crowd.

Or for followers of rugby, there was the moment during a 2003 Test match between New Zealand and Wales, when the Welsh number eight was knocked unconscious by a tackle from his opposite number. The All Blacks surged forward at the Welsh line, but arguably their most lethal weapon, the centre Tana Umaga, turned away from the attack and ran over to help Charvis, taking out his mouth guard and rolling him into the recovery position. Like Luz Long, Tana Umaga was later given the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship.

They were all moments of generosity of spirit and good grace. It is equally easy to think of examples of bad sportsmanship of course. Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace as a drugs cheat. The ball tampering scandal that blighted the Australian cricket team last year. Serena William’s threats to a tennis umpire in an outburst last month. Plenty of sportsmen and women have let their obsession with winning cloud their morality and humiliated themselves as a result.

Thankfully perhaps, the reality is that most of you are unlikely to ever face the high drama decision of whether to sacrifice your team’s chance of a win in order to help an opponent. Let alone the opposite dilemma of shaming yourself on the world stage. Nevertheless, that does not mean you cannot act in a sportsmanlike manner. In fact, you have opportunities to do that every day. We are now well into the sporting season and the vast majority of you are playing each week, in the astounding number of codes on offer at Bromsgrove. Your conduct on and off the pitch or court is already being talked about. Individuals are already standing out for their dignified and honourable play, as are certain teams. Your character, your restraint, your courtesy and honour are already being noted.

I want, therefore, to take a moment to commend those of you who have already demonstrated those admirable qualities of sportsmanship. Whether in team competitions or individual pursuits. I am always proud to read out your sporting successes at Routh each week. We have a reputation as a highly performing sports School and you are maintaining its great traditions. It is right to use this valuable time at the start of each week to reflect upon your performances.

However, none of your impressive results matter a jot if they come from poor play. Sportsmanship is not about talent or skill. It is about character. More than filling our trophy cabinets with silverware, I aspire to fill each of you with the values of fair play, humility, honour and grit. They are the greatest rewards of any sport.
You might not pass up the chance for Olympic glory this coming week, but you can still demonstrate sportsmanship.

By turning up to training, on time and with a positive attitude. That simple action respects the commitment the rest of your team is making.

By encouraging others, passing the ball, supporting from the sidelines, not making it all about you.

By respecting your opponents, before, during and after a match. A friendly welcome before the first whistle and a warm handshake after the last. And in between, by refraining from the childish and rather arrogant behaviours we sadly see all too often in some professional sports. Booing a penalty or cheering when the opposition drop the ball or make a mistake. Pathetic. If you need to rely on the opposition making unforced errors to win, you shouldn’t be playing. Or sledging individuals the other side. Presumably because if you aren’t good enough to beat someone physically, you are desperate enough to think you can psych them out. I am very thankful that those sorts of behaviours are not part of this School’s sporting ethos.

So kudos to you all, sportsmen and sportswomen, for being sportsmanlike when you play for this School. We expect you to play honourably, as pupils have done here for centuries. Perhaps the better word would simply be ‘Bromsgrove-like’?

The ‘Chicken’

Some truly superb news from the Chicken race team, competing in the world championships held at Rockingham raceway over the weekend. They are now, quite simply, the World Champions in their class. We will make a proper presentation of that trophy at Routh next week, but I cannot let that remarkable achievement go unacknowledged today, so congratulations to you all.

Duke of Edinburgh

I invite the following to receive their silver Duke of Edinburgh award:
Olivia Dalby, Elizabeth Hambling, Jade Jenkins, Theo Gardner, Tina Cai, Naimh Middleton, Ethan Cockayne, Jack Peplow, Jack Gibson, Abigail Hughes.

Geography Photography

A superb response to the Geography Department’s photography competition, with subjects ranging from volcanoes in Italy, Egrets in the Florida mangroves and waterfalls in the Lake District. The entries are now on display in the LRC and Geography department, so enjoy the talent of all who entered. As to the competitive side:
First place
to William Bayliss, in Lower Fourth, for his photo of "The Hidden forest" on a beach close to Aberdovey, Wales.
Second place to Henry Scott, for capturing a fascinating waterfall.
Third place to Luke Weller, for a lovely photograph taken at Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.
Highly commended were: Ellie Roskell, Kate Stepanova, Ben Turner & Vivanne Zhang Wei


In matches played against King Edward’s School Birmingham the 1st team won and the 2nd team lost (both by the same score as it happens - 7-2).
On Saturday, both the Boys and Girls’ Senior teams had good wins against Repton School.

The U16A Boys team lost 43-63 to Shrewsbury School


In midweek games, well done to:
• the boys' U15A who beat Bablake 8-2
• the girls' 1st XI beat Solihull 4-0, and
• the U16 girls, who beat Kings School Worcester 9-0 in a National cup match.

Meanwhile in the block fixture against Stowe on Saturday, the School won six and drew one, out of the 11 matches played


Well done to the girls’ first team who beat Oakham School 56-20 in the National Cup.
More good news for the Senior netball team – they played at the University of Worcester Invitational tournament, winning all four games. Special praise to Taylor Watson, who was awarded Player of the Tournament.


Over 200 boys represented the School in the fixtures against Millfield School, with good wins for many teams.

The U16 Squash team played extremely well to take a creditable 3rd place in National Qualifying matches and now progress to the plate competition in February.

Our swimmers competed in the first round of the national competition, all swum well and we are now waiting to see if we have qualified for the national finals.
Table Tennis
It was pleasing to see the table tennis teams play Holte School on Friday evening. Wins to the Girls and U16 Boys’ teams and a narrow loss for the Senior Boys’.

The girls and boys U15 tennis teams both competed well in the regional tennis finals; a special mention to the boys who lost narrowly in the final.

And just to reinforce my earlier point about the ever-increasing number of sporting codes on offer at Bromsgrove, last week Artim Veprev travelled to Nottingham to take part in a Fencing competition, where, I am pleased to report, he fenced well, winning three out of five of his fights in his pool.

Meanwhile, last Friday, Paolo Romanengo and Justus Krauel competed in an indoor climbing competition in Worcester, with 63 competitors from 12 different schools across five counties. So something for everyone.

Finally from last week, the cake sale for MacMillan Cancer Care raised over £500. Well done to Thomas Cookes and Hazeldene and everyone who helped.


Today the Upper Fourth will be taking part in a PSHE workshop on stress management.

All are welcome to attend the Teatime Concert in Routh on Tuesday at 5.30pm to hear solo and ensemble performances by musicians from prep and senior schools.

The annual Lower Fourth walk on the Malvern Hills takes place on Wednesday. This is a great opportunity for the newest members of the Senior School to show leadership and teamwork skills alongside resilience and determination to complete the day.

On Thursday the four winners of our creative writing competition will be going on a Battlefields Tour to France and Belgium, where they will be laying a wreath at the Menin Gate on behalf of the School. A worthy prize for your efforts.

There is an Own Clothes Day on Friday in aid of Action Aid.

1st October 2018

Last Updated: 03/10/2018 12:10:16

ROUTH HALL ASSEMBLY: Monday 1st October 2018

Routh Assembly was taken by Mr McClure while the Headmaster is attending the HMC conference. 

Last week, the Headmaster encouraged us to look up at the trees and enjoy the additional sphere which nature can provide for our daily lives. If you have taken him at his word during the week, you will recognise how apt the poem you have just heard is right now, with autumnal colours starting to change the palette of the trees around the magnificent campus which we are able to call our base as we go through each term. The poem mentions the hedgehog storing up food for hibernation. Much more obvious for us at the moment are the squirrels – I cannot recall as many scampering around the greens as we have seen here in the last couple of weeks, usually with some nut or berry in their mouths. And of course they are not the only ones gathering food at present – most of you will have contributed to your House’s stash of food which will fill the ledges in the Memorial Chapel for our Harvest School services this coming week. Much to the frustration of my own young sons, I imagine it is the Page House boarders who have been mightily efficient in clearing the pathway above Masters’ Walk of any early conkers. And that is without any mention of how much cake was provided by TC on Friday, or indeed bought and consumed by those of you with a sweet tooth.

Equally, the talk of a chill feeling in the morning air is something we can all recognise from the last week – the School scarves have certainly now appeared in force, yet we have all enjoyed some lovely warm sunshine in the afternoons. That contrast was probably felt keenly by those of you who have been on various expeditions over the past few days. So Autumn has well and truly arrived as we begin the month of October this morning.

It seems that every day of the year now has a cause to promote - some might argue almost too many to focus profitably upon. Today, 1st October, is no different, listed online as being all of the following:

International Coffee Day
World Habitat Day
Lincolnshire Day
Older People’s Day
World Vegetarian Day
World Day of Bullying Prevention
CD Player Day
World Architecture Day

Now, that may not be news to those who you who have already planned to buy your elderly relative a cappuccino and halloumi salad when they visit this evening from Spalding in order to show you the CD-Rom plans for their new sustainable eco-house, which is going ahead despite the spiteful protests of their next door neighbours. However, for most of us, it probably seems like a fairly random list of largely incompatible topics to consider at one time.

In truth, World Day of Bullying Prevention sounds a worthwhile cause for a School assembly at the start of another week, but I have already shared my thoughts with you this term on mutual respect and thinking carefully about the potential consequences of your actions.

More personally, and perhaps nostalgically for a few colleagues sitting behind me, CD Player Day appeals to me since it reflects Sony’s landmark introduction of the Compact Disc in the early 1980s, which moved music and technology on from cassette tapes and floppy discs. Perhaps I can make that more relevant for a young Bromsgrovian audience by providing you with a bit of pop trivia: the first CD album to sell more than a million copies was Brothers in Arms by the band Dire Straits – before he found fame as their bass guitarist, John Illsley was a pupil here at Bromsgrove School.

I digress, but that is what memories can do to one’s train of thought. Some memories will fall into place by chance or context, others are moments you will create for yourself and others. They can be both positive and negative, which is why they can create the range of lyrics which I am sure will cover the many emotions and situations apparent in your House Song competition entries on that very theme in just over two weeks’ time. Memories can also highlight poignant lessons from history, which we will all experience as we enter the annual season of Remembrance. If you have a couple of hours on Tuesday evening, I really do encourage you to attend the first of our School events commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War. In a talk about our School and those from our community who lost their lives during the Great War, the former Deputy Head, Mr Bowen, will inform you (in photos and extracts from the Bromsgrovian magazine) of pupils who shared many of the same pursuits as you, and who would recognise all of the buildings you still see around Gordon Green, but for the more modern Staff Centre and the Chapel which is of course the very memorial to the lives they sacrificed for the cause.

So, as I have said in a previous assembly, use every day here to create some positive memories of this place and its people which you will take with you for the rest of your lives. Those memories will stay with you as the seasons continue to change and the years roll by. The songs you are practising in House now will become associated with these moments in your life whenever you hear them, either by choice or unwittingly, in future. In my penultimate year in Lupton, I can remember a very proactive Upper Sixth Form instinctively organising a post-Song competition medley in which the majority of the House crowded the Day Room and worked their way singing back through the last five years’ worth of House song choices, with the younger year groups dropping out with each change of song until it was just the Upper Sixth left belting out the song they still remembered from their Lower Fourth year. Music has that power to help create, and date, memories.

Some of you will already have created some memories this term – perhaps a winning goal, a well-worked try or a last ditch tackle; a speech in Othello, a reading in public, a moment of friendship, maybe simply your first day here. However, this is probably where we should take stock of the seasons compared to the academic year. Autumn is a time for nature slowing down, shedding some of its summer finery; seemingly shorter days when many of the day pupils will find themselves both leaving and returning home in the darkness; it can be bleak, cold, and blustery, with conditions testing the spirit and leaving us hankering for the emergence of Spring.

In contrast, at School, the rest of this term is not the time to be hunkering down and considering hibernation like the hedgehogs and squirrels. Whether you are a relatively new Lower 4 or an old hand in the Upper 6, you have now had a month to settle into your individual niche, but do not let yourself become too comfortable or you may start drifting off only to wake up in January when a season has passed you by. In academic terms, the rest of this Michaelmas term should really be the equivalent of your Spring. Whatever year group you are in, the choices of your academic subjects have now been metaphorically planted, along with your intentions to be in whichever extra-curricular pursuits suit your talents – you will know which musical groups you have joined or what grade you have set your sights on, which sporting squad you have made, whether you are in the Grease cast, and so it goes on.

So now is not the time to rest on any laurels, but to focus and push on, to strengthen those roots and provide the green shoots which will be in a better state to blossom and bloom in the Summer. Research your subjects, refine your notes, analyse your written techniques, be fully prepared for the mock examinations, don’t procrastinate about your UCAS form, practise your instrumental pieces, learn your lines and train hard on your specific sporting skills. Those of you already in examination years will recognise that improvements can always be made with some hard work at the eleventh hour, but why not employ some graft now to turn this autumn season into a springboard for even more satisfying summer success. If you prefer to opt for some level of hibernation, you may look back on aspects of this term with some regret, which would not be a positive memory to stay with you as you move on to the next season or year.

And so to a review of last week:
• Well done to the Upper Fourth CCF recruits who performed well on their field day at Tiddesley Woods on Friday. They took part in seven different exercises ranging from camouflage techniques to first aid and navigation skills.

• Congratulations as well go to the 70 Fifth Form students who completed their Silver Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition from Thursday to Saturday on the Long Mynd. I am pleased the weather was so kind for them.

• IB1 Geography pupils travelled to the Carding Mill Valley to complete the data collection for their internal assessment. They too enjoyed a very sunny day and worked hard to collect river data at 12 sites, including velocity, river depth and bed load.

• Our Senior Badminton team played a triangular match on Saturday afternoon beating Uppingham School but narrowly losing to Magdalen College.

• The Boys U18A Basketball team lost 24-46 against Shrewsbury School.

• In the first round of the Schools’ Challenge shield for Clay-Pigeon Shooting, Isabella Walters finished a creditable 2nd with 43/50; Demitri Starikov also performed well scoring 40/50.

• Congratulations to Orla Walker who won Gold at the Midlands Counties Cadet Force cross-country championships, as well as finishing 11th in the senior girl category at the English Schools’ fell running championship.

• Congratulations too to James Humphries who secured the Worcestershire Junior Golf Order of Merit which was presented at Moseley golf club. He was awarded this after playing 17 qualifying rounds during 2018. We lost 2-1 to Warwick School at Blackwell on Wednesday, but Anabel Crowder and Lili-Rose Hunt played very well to secure Bromsgrove’s point.

• In midweek hockey matches, the Girls 1st XI won 2-0 against Kings High School Warwick and both the U15A and U14A teams beat Solihull School.

• In the hockey matches played against Shrewsbury School last Saturday, the U15B and 1st XI drew, whilst the U14A and U15As won.

• Well done to the Senior Girls’ Netball team who finished 3rd at the prestigious Sheffield High School Invitational tournament. At the district tournament, the U16 team finished runners up and have qualified for the county finals.

• In the first round of the Nat West cup in Rugby, the First XV beat King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys and the U16A’s beat King Edward VI Five Ways School in the regional cup.

• In Saturday’s Rugby fixtures against Solihull School, the U14B, U15A, 2nd XV and 1st XV all registered wins, with the 3rd XV drawing.

• On Tuesday, we competed in the Stowe invitational swimming relays for 18 schools. Bromsgrove swam well to attain silver medals in the:
Senior girls’ 4 x 50m medley relay
Senior girls’ 4 x 50m freestyle relay
U16 girls’ 4 x 50 medley relay
U16 girls’ 4 x 50m freestyle relay
and bronze medals in both the U16 boys’ 4 x 50m medley relay and 4 x 50m freestyle relays.
• And, just yesterday, in the County Table-Tennis championships, Jade Ngan won all her matches to be ranked number 1 in the county whilst, in the boys’ competition, Murat Shafigullin also played very well, only losing one match to be ranked number 2 in the county. Well done to both pupils.

Finally, a preview of this week:
• With the many performances that we stage at Bromsgrove, we are looking to develop the technical crews – one for Drama, one for Music. For those of you interested in music and live sound engineering, setting up and working on a live stage, how to be a guitar/bass/drum or backline technician, concert lighting engineer or live recording engineer, please listen on. We are now running a Sound, Stage and Backline technician activity every Monday from 5:15 to 6:15pm in Routh. There will also be smaller bespoke lunchtime activities running throughout the year, along with evening concerts. Open to all senior school students - no previous experience needed.

• We hold our Harvest School Services this week, on Tuesday morning for Sixth Form, and on Thursday morning for Fourth and Fifth Form pupils.

• Tomorrow lunch time sees the remaining House photographs taken – details published in Houses.

• As I mentioned earlier, former Deputy Headmaster Mr Bowen will present a talk on the history of Bromsgrove School 1914-1918 on Tuesday evening at 7.30pm in Routh Concert Hall – please book your free ticket online.

• We wish all the best to the students attending the World Challenge expedition this Saturday and to those who are competing in the World Finals at Rockingham raceway this Friday.

I hope you all have a good week. Please stand as we say the Grace:

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, for ever more. Amen.

24 September 2018

Last Updated: 24/09/2018 09:52:25

ROUTH ASSEMBLY - 24/09/2018

Reading: Shams Ali Baig (Sc)


Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow. 

Good morning

Those verses that Shams just read were written by one of our greatest Old Bromsgrovians, the English poet A.E. Housman. Who grew up in what we now call Housman Hall and attended this School in the late 1800’s. He wrote at a time when the industrial revolution was dramatically changing the face of rural England. Roads, railways, canals, pollution, smog; the green and pleasant land was changing. Many of the poems for which Housman became famous had a similar theme to the one you just heard. He was a master at conjuring words to describe the beauty of nature, but he also lamented the loss of the natural world. Housman voiced what many of his generation felt; a growing disconnection from the elements that frame our human lives; the weather, landscape, plants and animals.

I thought of his wistful, often sad, poems about the relationship between people and their environment as I flew home from Hong Kong and China yesterday. I have been to both nations many times, indeed, I enrolled a lot of you whilst I was there. I always enjoy the vibrancy of those bustling cities. However, this trip, I had my first ever experience of something completely new. Namely, a full force typhoon.

I have been caught up in some big storms before, but nothing to rival the impact of super typhoon Mangkhut last week. I was in Shenzhen when it swept through Hong Kong and onto the Chinese mainland. Safe in the comfort of a high-rise hotel in fact. From where I watched, in the dry, soundproof, air-conditioned comfort of my room, the awesome power of this storm wreaking havoc.

In fact, I stood transfixed at the window for hours, watching huge trees being uprooted and thrown across the ground like twigs. Corrugated iron hurtling through the air, stone shingles being plucked off roofs. I saw a row of scooters get bowled like skittles. People crazy enough to venture outside, blown off their feet. It was a surreal experience, rather like watching a disaster movie on the big screen from the luxury of a theatre seat.

Until the moment that the wind literally sucked one of the windows out of my room. At which point, I got a little more personally involved in what was happening outside. Holding onto what was left of the frame to stop the whole thing plummeting to the ground below; it took me quite a while to get hold of hotel staff to help. Mainly because I wasn’t the only one calling. More windows in the building were also popping out. At least mine was able to be bolted back in place. Others ended up hurtling to the pavement below, adding to the chaos.

It took quite sometime to restore order in the aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut. For the first time ever, Hong Kong, the city that never sleeps, was officially shut down for two days. Thankfully, most of the damage can be repaired. In fact, much of it already was by the time I flew out. The thing that broke my heart though, was the huge number of trees that had been snapped, blown over or completely torn out of the ground. Trees that had stood for decades, perhaps centuries, presiding over the rapid growth of those cities. Suddenly, they were no more.

It made me reflect on our own natural world back here at this School. We walk the same paths that Housman did 150 years ago. I wondered if we are still guilty of overlooking these natural surroundings? More so? In an age when our attention is more firmly fixed on a small black screen in front of us than the wide blue sky above? When the virtual world commands more of our attention the real one? Each of you passes under ancient and majestic trees here every day. How often do you notice?

Those of you in TC, as you race to and fro down the back route to your House, do you ever pause to consider the ancient twisted Mulberry tree, propped up on steel supports? That tree has stood, dropping its lush, sweet purple fruit outside Big School, for over two hundred summers.

Or those of you who have scored tries on the pitches on Lower Charford. How many times have you played or sheltered underneath the Gnarled Oak down there? The best age estimate of that tree is that it took root sometime in the early 1700’s, almost a century before Rugby was even invented. Meaning that it has stood watch, a silent spectator, over every game of rugby ever played at Bromsgrove over the past two hundred years.

Some are younger but still tell a story. There is an orchard in the Prep School that a number of you have helped to plant over the past three years. Containing nothing but the original varieties of the fruit trees that grew here in the earliest days of horticulture, when Worcestershire was renowned for its apples and pears.

What about the huge Chestnut trees which bound Gordon Green outside Kyteless? They have supplied conkers to generations of Bromsgrove pupils. Not to mention the squirrels. How many times have you seen them making off with nuts or acorns, setting up their winter stores? They are starting now, as Autumn approaches.

Our trees are not the only plants to mark the changing of the seasons. Daffodils lie invisible and dormant most of the year along Master’s Walk, but burst forth in March, heralding the arrival of Spring as the Lent Term finishes. A few months later, the bluebells planted behind this Arena raise their heads, a carpet of colour that says summer is here.

There are plantings that are deliberately crafted as a reminder of our past. The rockery garden outside Hazeldene, carefully constructed a few years ago to recreate the same landscape that was originally built there by Headmaster Millington when that was his private residence. Filled with mountain herbs and shrubs that he had brought back from his travels in Europe.

The row of mature Lime trees that line the drive opposite the Chapel are planted in memory of a past Headmaster, Mr Page. You will have passed the slate plaque in the ground that acknowledges this a thousand times. Have you ever stopped to read it? Or what about the plaque in the garden outside the Armoury, explaining that the garden there commemorates Bromsgrove’s war dead? Unsurprisingly, poppies are amongst the flowers that lift their heads there.

Or the ivy that covers Housman Hall and makes it iconic. A visual reminder of the Victorian times when A.E. Housman resided there and walked the same route many of you do every day, up to the School.

Why does this matter? It matters because we should not take the majesty and grandeur of our natural surroundings in this School for granted. As I said, I spent last week in two of the world’s most modern and vibrant cities. Home to many of you. Exciting and electric places, full of high rise and high tech. Packed, bustling, every inch of land maximised. Yet when I interviewed prospective pupils there, asking them why they wanted to study in the UK, more often than not, they cited the environment. Yes, they want the high academic standards, the sporting successes and the musical accomplishments that we boast. But they also desire the green spaces, the clear air, the majestic and tranquil grounds. The very surroundings we might take for granted.

It is a sad fact that, sometimes, important things in our lives become so familiar that we only notice them when they are gone. By which time, it is too late to appreciate them. Housman knew this when he wrote of the cherry trees and anguished over the shortness of years that he had left to enjoy them.

So, as you go about your business in our beautiful grounds this week, take a moment to gaze up and around. Appreciate the trees and other flora that are the backdrop to your life here. They are a reminder of your life moving on. Even today, they are starting to tell of the turning of the seasons. Soon all the mighty trees that ring the Green will paint the School in autumnal colours. Then they will surrender their leaves to the footpaths that we tread and another year will fall behind you. Notice that.

17 September 2018

Last Updated: 24/09/2018 09:34:27

ROUTH ASSEMBLY – 17/09/2018

Routh Assembly was given by the Deputy Head Pastoral, Mr McClure. 

In the Headmaster’s absence – he is in the Far East this week – you will be pleased to hear that my message this morning is very brief. I have had the opportunity to speak to two sections of the School during the last week. The Fifth Form heard about British Values (such as democracy, mutual respect and rule of law) in their Head of Year session, whilst in Thursday’s Chapel, this term’s alphabetical theme advanced to the letter B, which saw me addressing the Fourth and Fifth formers about the community-minded character traits of bees. The chance to reflect on a bit of sociology ties in rather topically with September 15th, which was on Saturday. Since 2007, the United Nations have identified this date each year as International Day of Democracy, with this year’s theme being ‘Democracy under strain: solutions for a changing world.’

It aims to be an opportunity to, in the words of the current UN Secretary General, ‘look for ways to invigorate democracy and seek answers to the systemic challenges it faces’. At present, that includes economic and political inequalities, making democracies more inclusive, innovative and responsive to emerging challenges such as migration and climate change. The 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also provides an opportunity to highlight the values of freedom and respect for human rights as essential elements of democracy.

Quite heavy stuff for a Monday morning you may think, and certainly some optimistic aims, but also a timely reminder that we can take nothing for granted and can always improve. No functioning democracy is perfect: the original concept had its flaws in ancient Athens and others still exist in the political system of, for example, Britain today. In 1947, a year before the Declaration of Human Rights, Sir Winston Churchill told the House of Commons that: ‘No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’

Likewise, there is no perfect school but, as I said in here on the first day of term, you have a privileged opportunity to play your part in a diverse community. ‘Peaceful, just and inclusive societies and institutions … where people feel safe as they go about their lives … can deliver quality education, care, fair policies and inclusive protection.’ Not my words, but those from one of the UN’s so-called Sustainable Development Goals on democracy, yet I hope you can see their relevance to a school like Bromsgrove. Mutual respect of others, whatever their background, nationality, religion, gender or even opinion will see you thrive in a community like this. Follow your own dreams, but not in a selfish way which demeans or undermines others who are equally entitled to theirs. Respect the rules, quirks and traditions which make this the School what it is and you will find it presenting opportunities which you can grasp fully. Support others in what may not be areas of your own personal strengths in your classes, year groups, Houses, and you will find that you gain the same respect you are giving. But look to be self-centred, cliquey or aloof and you may struggle to find genuine self-fulfilment.

So let us celebrate together some of the achievements of this last week:
Yesterday, the Greenpower GP racing team headed to Castle Combe for the last heat of the season before the Finals at Rockingham next month. Race 1 was a huge success and the team powered to victory with a record-breaking 37 miles. A collision in the 2nd race saw us drop down the pecking order but, on the back of the 1st race, we won the day as fastest kit car. I invite the following on stage to collect their 1st place Kit Car trophy and medals: Hamish Sutherland, Jeffery Soo, Aggie Warner, Freya Tweddell, Polly Dakin

Our congratulations go to William Hobbs who won the Under 15 County Squash championship on Saturday.

Unfortunately the Golf team lost 2½ - ½ to Malvern College in the first round of the ISGA tournament

The U16 Basketball team won their first match of the season 54-49 against Sir Thomas Rich’s School

There was a great start to the badminton season with all three Bromsgrove teams beating Oundle convincingly on Saturday

The girls’ hockey matches against Oundle were much more closely fought – well done to the U15As drawing 1-1 and the U16As winning 3-2

And completing a huge block fixture list against Oundle, the rugby teams had a good day, winning 9 and drawing 2 of the 14 matches, including a 24-12 away win for the First XV.

Previewing next week

Marmite Society seminars for Gifted and Talented students begin this week. The first is for Lower Sixth today at 12.50pm. Seminars for Fourth and Fifth Formers are on Tuesday and Wednesday lunchtimes. Please check your emails for further details, and reply to Dr Ruben if you will be attending. Everyone is welcome.

On Tuesday 25th September we are delighted to welcome Harrison Clark Rickerbys Solicitors. They will be hosting a day of workshops on corporate, insolvency, family, property, litigation and employment law. In the afternoon you will take part in a mock trial, where you will prepare your case and present in a court of law with a real judge. The day is open to any 5/L6/U6 formers interested in a career in law. You must be able to commit to the full day, which will run from 9am to 4pm. Please see Miss Leech for more information and email her if you are interested. Places are limited to 30 students and are given on a first come, first served basis.

Have you thought about the opportunities open to you with a career in the Armed Forces? Come along to our Armed Forces Careers Information Evening on Wednesday 26 September. The seminar will take place in the LRC between 6 and 8pm. It is an informal evening with representatives from the Army Officer recruiting team, the Army medical team, the RAF, the Navy and the MERCIANS with a weaponry stand. The evening is also open to parents. (Please note you must be a UK or Commonwealth citizen to join the UK Armed Forces.) Please email Miss Leech to register your interest.

The School’s annual research competition is now open for entrant registration and this year forms part of our World War One commemoration events. Teams should identify a development that took place during the war years that still has impact today, and be prepared to argue why their chosen development is the most significant one. Ideas could be from any area of life: arts, sciences, languages, justice, industry, politics, trade, or economics. The presentations will take place on Friday Nov 16th, when the winning prize will be awarded. Students should register their interest by emailing Dr Rimmer.

And of course, we have our Sixth form production of Othello performed in Cobham theatre on Thursday and Friday evening. I recommend you take advantage of the opportunity to see a high quality production, whether you are a frequent audience member at plays or not.

The Director of Music is pleased to announce the theme for this year’s Unison Song Competition is ‘memories’.

10 September 2018

Last Updated: 10/09/2018 10:38:08

Headmaster’s Routh Assembly Address
Monday 10th September 2018

Dialogue from “Back To The Future II” at the point in the film when Marty and Doc notice the cops taking an unconscious Jennifer away.

Doc: They're taking her home, to your future home! We'll arrive shortly thereafter, get her out of there, and go back to 1985.

Marty: You mean, I'm gonna see where I live? I'm gonna see myself as an old man?

Doc: No, no, no, Marty. That could result in a [gasps] Great Scott! Jennifer could conceivably encounter her future self! The consequences of that could be disastrous!

Marty: Doc, what do you mean?

Doc: I foresee two possibilities
1. Coming face to face with herself 30 years older would put her into shock and she'd simply pass out. Or,
2. The encounter could create a time paradox, the result of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the spacetime continuum and destroy the entire universe!
Granted, that's a worst-case scenario. The destruction might in fact be very localised, limited to merely our own galaxy.

Good morning and thank you to Scarlett and Lauren for that little throwback. I don’t know how many of you have seen the ‘Back To The Future’ movies? Iconic in a time well before you were born. The 1980’s to be exact.

They came to mind, that scene in particular, over the weekend, as we hosted a reunion for those who attended Bromsgrove in the Eighties. Many, I think, felt that they had gone back in time and seen their younger selves.

The Eighties was a particularly significant decade for this School. A time of great change, and all for the better. The end of fagging and douls, which was the practice of younger pupils being treated as servants to seniors. The end, too, of beatings with the cane and all forms of corporal punishment.

They were also the years in which girls were first enrolled at Bromsgrove. Mary Windsor was opened and shortly after, Oakley House. I spoke with a number of women, now in their 50’s, who recounted what it was like to be amongst the pioneering females in a School that had known only boys for the previous five hundred years. It was poignant to share with them the news that we had just announced the opening of another girl’s House, Ottilie House, in two years’ time. Many of them had gone to the old Ottilie Hild junior school, which is, today, our Pre-Prep, and they approved of the choice of name.

The Eighties also saw Bromsgrove become arguably the first school in the UK to actively welcome and recruit international pupils. There is no question that we are more relevant, tolerant and culturally richer today as a result of the 53 nationalities represented in the Arena this morning.

Back to the reunion, which was a joyful and emotional event. The Head Boy and Girl did a fine job of reading excerpts from the Bromsgrovian magazines of the day, evoking countless memories, many smiles, one or two tears. Mr McClure gave a well-crafted address that further helped to take the OB’s back in time to their School days. Many of you then took them on a tour, visiting old haunts, sometimes surprising them with modern additions to the School they had known. After which, we all shared a lunch, and their stories poured out.

As is always the case at our reunions, whether for alumni in their twenties or their nineties, I was moved by how vividly (and usually fondly) they remembered their teachers. In particular, the advice that those teachers had given, which had stuck with them. What was especially nice with this generation was that many of their old teachers are still alive and a number were able to attend the reunion as well.

Given that I stand up here each Monday and try to offer you some things to think about in the week ahead, I was particularly interested to ask these past pupils, which bits advice had proved most useful. What words of wisdom had helped them most?

There was no single, simple response. In most cases, good advice had been very specific to the individual. There is an old saying “When the pupil is ready, the teacher appears.” Meaning that only when we are receptive to advice is it useful. Equally, when we are receptive, there will always be someone wise to turn to.

If the best advice you could receive is that which is specific to your own unique life, I guess that would come from your future self. Counsellors trying to help people deal with problems in their lives today, sometimes encourage people to write a letter to themselves when they were younger.
But of course, such letters can never be delivered. As Doc warned Marty in ‘Back to the Future’, you can’t go back and speak to your younger self. Not just because you might put a rip in the space/time continuum, but also because if you did listen to your future self’s advice, you wouldn’t become your future self, so you wouldn’t go back and give that advice (work that one out).

Therefore, you are stuck with us trying to share with you the things we have learned. Learned from having been young once ourselves, however improbable that may seem to you. And learned from working with young adults throughout our professional careers. If we share advice with you, it is based on two things:
what we have seen and believe to be true, and
our shared desire to see you flourish and become the best version of yourself that you can be.
The advice given will vary, as will your willingness to take it. Accept it or not, that is your prerogative, but don’t ever doubt its sincerity. Perhaps though, there is a single piece of ancient wisdom that is applicable to you all. A story I am fond of, whose origins date back to an old parable from Turkey.

A dervish, which was a type of travelling monk, arrives at a village after a long and tiring journey and asks if there is someone who can give him food and a place to sleep. Villagers say that they are poor people and their houses are small. They direct him instead to the farm of someone called Şakir.

The monk walks to the farm, encountering locals along the way, who tell him that Şakir is the richest person in these lands. The second richest, they say, is another farm owner called Haddad.

Finally, the traveller reaches the farm of Şakir, where he is welcomed and treated well. Both Şakir and his family are generous people and offer warm hospitality.

When the time to leave comes, the traveller says to Şakir, "You should be thankful to the Creator for all this wealth." Şakir replies: "Nothing stays as it is. Sometimes what you see is not the reality. This shall pass."

The monk takes his leave and travels on, pondering on these words. A few years later, he comes again to that village. Remembering Şakir’s hospitality, he decides to visit him. However, when he asks about Şakir, the villagers reply, "He became very poor and now works for Haddad."
So the monk goes to the farm of Haddad and finds Şakir, who now wears old clothes and looks much older. In a flood three years ago his farm was ruined, so he came to serve Haddad.
Şakir now hosts the traveller in his humble house and shares his what little food. Before he bids farewell, the monk tells Şakir about how upset he has become over what happened, but Şakir says, "Do not be upset. Remember, this, too, shall pass."

Seven years go by and the monk travels again through these lands. This time, he learns that Haddad died a few years ago and left all his property to his loyal servant and best friend Şakir. Şakir now owns huge lands and many cattle, and is the richest person in the region once more. When the monk finds Şakir, he tells how happy he is to see his friend well. Şakir again says, "This, too, shall pass."

More years pass and the travelling monk again looks for Şakir. This time, the villagers show him a hill, atop which is Şakir's grave. On his grave stone is inscribed, "This, too, shall pass." As he pays his respects and leaves the monk thinks to himself, "What is about death that will pass?" The next year though, when he comes back to visit Şakir's grave, he finds neither it nor the hill exist. Both have been washed away in a flood and no trace now remains of Şakir.

Around that time, the Sultan of the country called his wisest ministers together and commanded that they compose for him a single sentence that will guide him accurately in every decision he has to make as a ruler. A sentence that will give him hope when he despairs and humility when he is too content and pleased with himself. His ministers can think of no such universal truth and, in desperation, they seek out the travelling monk. Who, of course, gives them the gift that he himself received from his friend Şakir. Namely, the simple sentence “This, too, shall pass.”

So, if you are struggling to adapt to early starts, late nights of Prep, weekends full of School commitments, new subjects that are proving complicated or challenging, persevere. Remind yourself that in the span of your life, the academic year is short and this, too, shall pass.

At the same time, if you are feeling pleased to be back on the sports field or in the choir or the CCF, if you are enjoying your new status in this School, or just relishing life in the House with your mates, do not take it for granted. Love every day of your life at Bromsgrove this year, for this, too, shall pass.


Congratulations to the following who have passed their Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music exams
Joelle Booth, Music Theory, Grade 5
Konstantin Chistyakov, Tuned Percussion, Grade 5
Isabella Lloyd, Singing, Grade 5
Jessica Rai, Singing, Grade 5
Steven Tang, Clarinet, Grade 5
Jessica Whitlock, Singing, Grade 5
Sebastian Harrison, Trumpet, Grade 6
Sophia Meadows, Trumpet, Grade 6
Lisa Bradburn, Singing, Grade 8

Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award

I invite the following pupils on stage to receive their Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Seb Atkinson, Edwin Wagstaff, Gabby Brown, Catrin Carter, Kitty Luscombe, Lauren Court, Scarlett Bond, Maddie Cooper, Callum Lee, Abigail Hughes, William Bellamy, Jamie Cox, Rorie Dodworth, Ben Humphries, Lucy Lyu, Harry Dodworth, Jonathan Burke, Joshua Osborn- Patel, Freddie Harvey-Gilson, Helen Wu, Haohao Wu, Catrina Ranger, Orla Walker, Francesca Davis, Michael Jiang, Shams Ali Baig, Alexander Berrow, Emma Dolan, Georgia Doohan-Smith, Katie Burke, Jack Stokes, Tom Reynolds, James Bradley.

Tennis County Championships
Congratulations to Stuart Shannon who was named the Herefordshire & Worcestershire LTA Boys Player of the Year for 2018. In the county championships, he paired up with Izzy O'Connor in the mixed event and it was great to see them winning the U14 mixed doubles county title.

A generally pleasing start to the season for our girls’ hockey teams. In the matches played against Oakham School the U16As won 3 -1, and the U16B, U15A, U15B and U14B all had drawn matches. The 1st X1 played really well, dominating the match but unfortunately could not convert their chances and ended drawing 0 -0.

Well done to our U14A, U15A, U16A and 2nd XVs who performed extremely well in the quadrangular festival against Whitgift, Sedbergh and Warwick Schools.
In the stand alone matches against Warwick there was a good win for the U14C team. The 1st XV had a slow start and were 17 nil down at half time. However, they played much better in the second half eventually losing 27-11.

Congratulations go to Ellie Chan and Emily Lyle for their entries to the Warwick University Sustainable Development essay competition. Both girls reached the final and Ellie was awarded highly commended.

We look forward to the whole school photograph that will take place tomorrow and House photographs on Thursday – details have been sent to Houses.

The Geography department are currently running their annual photo competition. The theme is "Physical Geography in my life" and entrants are invited to choose a recent photograph they have taken and write no more than 200 words to describe the physical geography they have captured. Closing date Friday 28th September. Speak to a member of the Geography department for more information.

Two Zero One, our successful and now award-winning, I might add, magazine is looking for creative thinkers - artists, writers, graphic designers - to showcase their thoughts and talents again this year.
The essay prompt for the upcoming issue is 'Define Success'. Email contributions to Alia or Vivianne by September 17th if you would like to be featured.

Tickets are now on sale for the Sixth Form production of “Othello”, which will be performed in Cobham Theatre on the 20th - 21st of September at 7pm. This promises to be a very exciting evening, with Shakespeare’s classic play of love, jealousy and revenge having been reworked and relocated to a series of pubs, nightclubs and casinos in the 1940s. It features a live jazz band and singers and will run for just 80 minutes without an interval. All are very welcome and you are actively encouraged to come along and support what promises to be a great evening, but please reserve your tickets – which are free - via the School online box office as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

The Head of Gifted and Talented, Dr Ruben, offers elite, university-style seminars on Monday (LVIth), Tuesday and Wednesday (IVth and Vth) lunchtimes.

Subjects for discussion this term will include: Frankenstein, cloning and scientific ethics, The Matrix, the paintings of Norman Rockwell, The Martian, Entropy, The Architecture of the Paris Metro, and Instagram. Seminars start during Week 3 of this term: you can email your interest to Dr Ruben at

The moot for this week’s Friday debate is “This House would endorse Nike’s association with Colin Kaepernick.”

Finally, I am very pleased to announce a new activity to be offered this year, that of Rowing. This will be starting next Saturday morning, 15th September, there is still time for experienced and novice rowers alike to join the activity.

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