View profile

Roland Martin - Issue #11

City ways: city days; city nights.

Roland Martin

February 16 · Issue #11 · View online
Headmaster - City of London Freemen's school; Chief Officer - City of London - '...write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing' Benjamin Franklin

City ways: city days; city nights.

Ironic timing
On Ash Wednesday, I found myself (guiltily) in the rather lovely and grand surroundings of The Armourers’ and Braziers’ Hall for our annual ‘Chairman’s Dinner’ - a celebration of the last year at Freemen’s, to which members of the Board and The City of London Corporation, a body of Staff and external guests were invited.  This one was significant, as it was simultaneously my first, and my current Chairman’s last, in post. The irony of dining so well on Ash Wednesday was not lost on me, though I did manage to get through even Loyal Toasts on water, having given up the stronger stuff for Lent.
The setting was a sight to behold - there was something a little Hogwartsian about being in a dining hall surrounded by armour, though, I did wonder, mixing my fantasy narratives, whether the Worshipful Company ought to have a couple of lightsabers on display to add to the elegant weapons representing a more civilised (?) age…
Livery Dining Hall
Speech! Speech!
One of the supposed highlights of the evening - though not necessarily for me - was ‘The Headmaster’s Speech’.  As this digest goes out largely to an interested internal 'audience’, many of whom were not able to attend, it was suggested that I share it with you this week:

'Unfortunately, we live in a fractured society. The society in which we live likes to separate and segregate by class, by race, by religion, by gender. Within education, journalists and politicians enjoy pitting the independent and maintained sectors against each other at every opportunity. At the weekend, you may have read that independent schools were failing because of the improvements in the state sector; as one of my colleagues pointed out, shouldn’t the headline have read ‘State schools succeeding!’ rather than ‘Private schools failing’?
‘This idea that the state and independent sectors are in a death match does no one any favours’ | News
It is because of these fractures in society that much of it doesn’t work. It is because too many people focus on identifying difference, rather than celebrating diversity that the children that we are educating probably spend too much time wondering where on earth their position in society might be, as if going through adolescence and childhood doesn’t give them enough with which to contend already.
Success at any cost?
Add to this, the pressure that children feel to succeed. To look the right shape. To succeed in the examination room. To pick the right subjects. To get onto the right courses. To get the right job in a marketplace more competitive than any others we have known. Is it any wonder that more mental health issues are being reported in schools? 1 in 5 children display mental health or anxiety problems before they are even 11. 
Children's Mental Health Week: Duchess Of Cambridge Calls For Support For Children In Video Message
You will all know that the average life expectancy has been and continues to be on the rise: it is anticipated that by 2055, women will live on average until they are 100 with men reaching that milestone by 2080. A futurologist at last year’s HMC Conference rather bleakly predicted that the children in our schools will be working until they are 100. If this is anywhere close to true, the children in our school have even more with which to contend.
Life expectancy for pensioners in England rises to its highest ever level | UK | News | London Evening Standard
What these factors add up to is a challenge for those of us in education to provide safe environments for the children in our care; to empower them to feel confident to make responsible decisions that are right for them; to allow them to feel able to be who they are, rather than striving to be who they think they should be. These are all relevant concerns and we have to acknowledge them and act on them.
The biggest challenge?
Vanity of vanities | The King's English
In the ‘Book of Ecclesiastes’ in The Bible, we learn about King Solomon’s Pursuit of Happiness. He was in a pretty good position to experience what life had to offer (he was rich; he was wise) and showed a determination to experience as much as possible: wine; women; song; money; education (in particular, Philosophy); power and fame; possessions. I imagine that some of these pursuits might be ones that seem attractive to many of the children in our care at Freemen’s and in schools across the country, and they may – at various times and in varying degrees – have appealed to us at times in our lives, too. King Solomon’s rather radical conclusions, after what was a pretty extensive period of experimentation, were quite clear; he worked out that all worldly pursuits are vanity. The word ‘vanity’, in fact appears no fewer than thirty-eight times in his story. Perhaps one of our greatest responsibilities as teachers and as parents – and forgive me for being a little radical here - is to steer our children away from the path to vain pursuits and instead, open up paths for them to be socially responsible in the decisions that they will be prepared to make in the future, being prepared to give back when they can, whether in time, talent or resource.  
School Report
Of course, it is very early days for me at Freemen’s. I feel ill-qualified to speak about or share the successes of the last year at the school, though 2014-15 was indeed a very good year at Freemen’s. Our rugby XV, for example, got further than ever in The Daily Telegraph Cup; the music schools and boarding house were opened; our dramatists performed at Edinburgh; record numbers completed DoE awards – some, even, taking to the river in canoes supplied by the FSA’s charity.
One of my predecessor Philip McDonald’s last pleasures was to receive a call from the Independent Schools’ Inspectorate and – not surprisingly – staff, students, Governors and parents ensured that the school was seen in an almost unanimously excellent light. Having had the pleasure of getting to know my leadership team in the last five months, I am not surprised that Freemen’s was found to be in good shape.
The success of this inspection came after a record number of students – 14 – had been offered places at Cambridge or Oxford and 9 students were successful in their applications to Medical Courses. The inspection was the precursor to excellent examination results published in the summer: 91% A*-B at A Level with 26% at A* and 81% A*-A at GCSE with 50% at the highest grade. Five students came in the top twenty nationally in Physics and Biology A Level examinations across the country with Rachel Dunne featuring as the top student in Physics and Katie Collins earning the same accolade in Biology; Katie Griffin ranked joint third in Biology. These three pupils were warmly entertained by The Salters’ Institute in The Fishmonger’s Hall.
2015 Prizewinners | The Salters Institute
The first term and a half has swiftly passed, but it has been a tremendous pleasure to see so many enriching things happen in and out of classrooms at the school, not least on the fields and pitches (our U15 girls hockey squad, for example, being crowned Surrey Champions), in our fabulous new concert hall (the world premiere of ‘Fantasia on We Three Kings’ in December being a highlight for me) and in performance spaces, including a successful and innovative performance in the Leatherhead Shakespeare Festival as well as during enrichment afternoons, including growing CCF activity with Glyn Academy. I have seen great commitment from staff – teaching and non-teaching - who are all dedicated to putting children first at the school. And children of all ages, in Junior and Senior years, have impressed with their engagement, interest and warmth – we are developing 'Free Minds’ at the school for the very open minds in our care.
It has also been enjoyable to get to know some of the former pupils of the school in a number of contexts. I have since last January been a regular correspondent with a former Head Girl – almost to the point of my wife becoming jealous … a Head Girl from 1956. Kerri and I had a lovely lunch with her and a small number of supportive and interested Old Frees in The Farmer’s Club last year. We look forward to strengthening relations in the future.
HOME - Old Freemens Association
City Philanthropy
Although my relationship with The City of London Corporation is in its infancy, my initial feelings of curiosity and intrigue have been overcome by a keen sense of admiration for – and pride in – what is done here, as I aim to play some small part in that. I mentioned earlier that the regularity with which education sectors are pitted against each other is more than a little irksome and one of the most positive impressions from these early months has been made by being a part of what is a considerably bigger picture, with three Independent schools, three Academies as well as two primaries (and pleasingly, more on the way) being encouraged to share and celebrate resources, ideas and achievements and I look forward to more partnership in the years ahead. January’s Guildhall City Schools Concert - the subject of a previous blog - was a remarkable example of diversity being celebrated.
City Schools' Concert, Guildhall - Update!
And having mentioned an ambition for children in our care to give back, it has been remarkable to see at close quarters the amount that the City of London Corporation, the Guilds and the Livery Companies do in this regard, an example to all the children in all City Schools. 
British institutions: livery companies -
We at Freemen’s are very grateful for the support that we receive and the opportunities that our students enjoy.
I am very pleased to be here in your company this evening and for the faith that has been put in me by those who were a part of the selection process for a new Headmaster. For many Boards – and Chairmen – appointing a Head is one of the most important challenges that they might expect. Stuart Fraser has managed to fit a few more experiences in during his time as Chairman; witnessing a swimming pool go up in flames, opening two new buildings as phase one of the school’s masterplan was concluded and having the rare pleasure of an interrogation by the reporting inspector during the ISI visit, which in seriousness, can always be a make or break moment for a school inspection. It is fitting that in his final months as Chairman the School has – at last – been given permission to build the pool which once was lost, a project that he and all members of the Board have been rightly keen to see started. Before further formalities, Stuart, a sincere thank you from myself and on behalf of the school for the work that you have done for Freemen’s – and to Laura, too for her interest in events at the school. We are looking forward to your continued involvement.’
It was a lovely occasion and afforded an opportunity to get to know City ways a little more. With Livery Companies raising over £40 million for charitable work each year, it was a privilege to spend time in The Armourer’s Hall and to enjoy such a wonderful evening.  Even if it wasn’t the austere occasion that Ash Wednesday might expect! 
And if my Chairman is reading, I might well hold him and certain (jesting?) members of the governing body to that proposed inaugural swim to celebrate the opening of the pool, once that day comes.
Did you enjoy this issue?
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here
Powered by Revue