I have just put together all the various exam results at GCSE level for our fifth form boys, and although there are one or two niggles (and disappointments for some individuals), the overall results are not at all bad.
One thing which has been on my mind for a while has been the concern of some parents that one either has to go for academic selection and high academic standards or inclusivity and low standards. I have maintained that as long as Chavagnes is a small school with small class sizes it can operate well with many different profiles of pupil, as long as they are of at least average intelligence and have a strong commitment to the College's ideals, notably to the Faith.
The Times today (24th August) ran an article on standards in state schools, and it would appear that our percentage of passes at A* and A (38.8%) would put us statistically among the top 150 state schools in the UK. Not a bad place to be. Private schools in the UK are often around the 50% mark for passes at A* and A, but for a non-selective school where only a minority of our pupils have been with us for their whole secondary schooling, this is good news.
Two boys who joined us right back in September 2002 when they were 11 have really made me proud. They both took their French GCSEs early and got A*s (one would rather expect that after going to school in France, I suppose). But one of them also took German and Spanish and got A*s in them too. And he managed a C in Latin, which is no pushover. He ended up with 12 GCSEs and a B at AS-level. Both of these young men are moving on to pursue Sixth Form studies elsewhere, but although I am sorry to see them go, I think they will be taking a bit of the old place away with them in their hearts.
One of the parents wrote to me:
"As you know I have not been uncritical of some aspects of the school and its teaching methods and have expressed my views fairly robustly on occasions, but there is no doubt in my mind that my son would not have achieved the results he did, if he had stayed within the State system here in London.
In large measure that is due to the commitment of you and your teaching staff.
As important, if not more so, X has developed a value system and a sensitivity that make him stand out as a really lovely person to be around, to the degree that it is regularly commented upon by people who meet him. This is a gift that will serve him far more than academic success alone as he goes through life."
Of course, gifts like these come from the parents in the first place. All the school can do is reinforce and nurture them.
At the end of one school year and the start of a new one, one always feels a special sense of privilege that these parents let us help them in the great work of bringing up the next generation. This year in Year 7 (the First Form in the older usage) we will have ten new boys. I hope and pray that they will thrive and be happy at Chavagnes.
It is going to be another difficult year, but I am full of hope and enthusiasm for it.