News from the School – February 2016

Boys in different coloured blazers, boys in dresses, boys wearing spandex and wielding guitars… that’s right: it’s that time of year again and the Whitgift carousel has pootled its merry round to the Entrance Exam / Lower Third Shakespeare / House Music season! Once again, I find the marking on my desk submerged under togas, daggers and drumsticks – the after-show parties are becoming wilder every year! As one has come to expect with Whitgift, all three events were a success: the future of the school is in safe hands, with record numbers of bright-eyed young chaps visiting with their parents for interviews; the L3rd Shakespeare evening saw every boy in a year group of well over 200 perform an extract from the Bard’s cannon – a spectacular and encouraging sight; last but not least, Dodd’s won House Music in a wonderfully entertaining evening that showed Whitgift music in its best light, with everyone from virtuoso violinists to wannabe 13 year old Ozzie Osbornes strutting their stuff on the Big School stage!

The Oxbridge results, whilst not quite reaching the dizzying heights of last year, were nevertheless still very impressive, with a total of 22 offers made in a variety of subjects ranging from the traditional, Classics and Natural Sciences, to the contemporary, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies and Computer Science. At the other end of the school, first former, Kit Connor appeared in BBC 1’s adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Kit won the role after a rigorous audition in London, where he was up against more than 100 hopeful young actors. He appeared alongside household names: Ade Edmondson (playing his father); Greta Scacchi (playing his mother); and Lily James (as his sister).  Clearly, the more challenging reading list given by the English department to the first form boys is paying off. Next up – Ulysses!

In hockey, Whitgift continued their annual hosting of the Boys U16/U18 Schools’ National Indoor Championship, held between 15-17 January 2016. The U16s, who had narrowly missed out on a semi-final place by just one goal the previous year, had a fantastic competition. The squad defeated Norwich School, Thirsk School, Repton School and South Dartmoor Community College, in the pool matches. The final was played against a strong Worksop College side, who, for long periods of the game, were very much in contention. A strong Whitgift second-half performance saw the team proclaimed national indoor champions. The First team, having monopolised the indoor scene for the past few years, did not quite manage to repeat their success this time around, but they are still going strong in the outdoor game, having reached the third round of the National Cup and racking scores of 10 – 1 and 7 – 1 in friendlies against Millfield and Oxford University respectively!

In rugby, both the Firsts and the U15s made it through to the Natwest National Cup quarter-finals, where the former produced a combative defensive display to edge out Wilmslow High School 10 – 7, and the latter bravely succumbed 34 -17 to a classy Sedbergh side, despite leading 17 – 12 at one stage and dominating the forward battle. Both matches were well supported, with the entire school out to support the firsts in yet another match that was televised by the RFU. The semi-final will take place at Allianz Park (the home of Saracens RFC) on Saturday 27th February, and will be a tough ask for the boys, seeing as how they have drawn current champions, Bromsgrove, who have thus far remained unbeaten this season.

Whilst the school continues to go from strength to strength in all of the traditional sports, every year it is venturing further and further afield in its quest for national glory. In the last two months alone, we have achieved a number of firsts, including: progressing through to the semi-finals of the London Independent School Basketball League at U18 level; having a pupil – Upper Third Former, Daniel Harding – win a gold medal in a national Karate competition; achieving a record haul of medals ( 31!) at the Independent Schools Ski and Snowboard Championships in Les Deux Alpes; and lastly, the U11 and U16 table tennis teams qualified for the regional finals of the English Schools Table Tennis Association national competition, by both finishing as runners up in the London heats. Whatever next? Anyone fancy a game of polo?

So as not to be completely shown up the boys, some members of the sports staff have also been excelling in their respective fields. Mr Neil Kendrick, the Head of Cricket Performance, was delighted to be selected to be part of the coaching team for the England Women’s training camp, in Sri Lanka, in December. The trip, in preparation for ICC World Twenty20 taking place in India, in March 2016, provided an intensive development camp in conditions similar to the host nation. Whitgift’s Rugby Development Officer, Mr Tom Stradwick, representing Blackheath RFC, has been selected to play rugby for the England Counties XV. The team is made up of players from 13 clubs, and their international fixture list starts on 26 February, when they will face a Scotland Club XV. When Tom turns up for the first training session, he will find himself in familiar company, as Mr Chris Wilkins, the school’s director of rugby, has been chosen as part of the coaching team.

Finally, the eagerly anticipated Remembering 1916 exhibition is now nearly upon us! It runs from 12th March – 31st August and is set to focus on a pivotal year in the First World War through a series of unique, personal stories. In addition to the exhibition, there will be a gift shop selling souvenirs, and this brings me nicely onto the school shop, which can be located just inside South Entrance. When I popped in the other day, I reflected that there were a lot of items that a keen OW might covet: peacock cufflinks; umbrellas adorned with the school colours or, if you prefer, a peacock pattern (notice a theme here?); bow ties; pens; the stylish blue, gold and white striped OW blazer… the list goes on! Next time you come to the school, pop in for a look – you never know what you might find!