Assemblies

Assemblies are given to Years 7-9 and 10-13 Monday to Friday, with Thursday reserved for extended form period.  We have a range of speakers and topics at each assembly, from the boys themselves to outside guest speakers.  Below are examples of recent assemblies at the RGS.

  • Subtle Sexism by D Gallagher Open or Close

    The more observant amongst you will have noticed that Mrs Gallagher seems to be getting a little... well... a little podgy. Despite initial suspicions of excessive gorging on her favourite white chocolate, it turns out that there's actually a miniature Gallagher on the way, at the end of October all being well.

     

    Even four-and-a-bit months before the big day, I've found that my life is already changing in strange ways. My own mother has now completely bypassed me and goes straight to source so that rather than being told that I'm her darling beloved schnooky-wookum son, I get told that I should be doing a better job looking after the mother of her grandchild. Where once my browser history was full of football gossip it's now dominated by mumsnet forum topics like "what colour should my baby's poo be?" Where I used to fixate on awesome gadgets like robotic exoskeletons, I now find myself reading about exciting new products like nappies which play a tune when the baby pees or breast-feeding bras for men.

     

    Being a philosopher, or perhaps more accurately a procrastinator, I've also found myself thinking about the big decisions we're going to face bringing up this child. At what age will it attend its first Liverpool match? How much of our budget should be set aside each year for a Liverpool kit? Is it morally justifiable to disown the child if it decides to support another club? etc etc

     

    But perhaps the biggest change has been in my views about the old enemy, namely: girls. Where once they were simply the hyper-emotional bearers of girl-germs, now not only am I married to one of these creatures but there's a 50-50 chance that I'll be jointly responsible for the creation and wellbeing of another one. A frightening prospect, and that thought made me pay more attention that I might otherwise have when a UN specialist recently stated that out of all the countries she had visited so far the UK had the most pervasive, in-your-face sexism.

     

    Did I hear that right? When the #Bringbackourgirls campaign has highlighted such low educational expectations for and value of girls in some countries? When a woman's testimony in a Yemeni court is only considered valid if backed up by a man's account? When a woman can only drink alcohol in Abu Dabhi if they carry a "pass" signed by their husband? Am I really about to bring a child into the world in one of the most sexist countries or is this just "political correctness gone mad"?

     

    We've certainly come a long way since, in a moment of hilarious irony, an advert placed by the Irish Government in 1976 for an equal opportunities officer proposed different salary scales for men and women. Thankfully, the legal structures which supported sexism have mostly been torn down. But being a mathematician, I look at the stats and here are just a few:

     

    - In the world of work, women receive on average between 10 and 15% less money than men doing exactly the same job

    - Still only 1 in 5 executive board members of FTSE 100 companies are women

    - and only 1/4 of MPs are women

    - In terms of wider society attitudes, a recent survey found that 1/3 of brits think that a woman should be held partly responsible for being sexually assaulted if she was drunk

    - 71% of 16-18 year olds say they hear sexual name-calling of girls on at least a daily basis

    - and about 1 and a half thousand people seek help each year while being forced into marriage against their will, of whom the vast majority are women

     

    The evidence goes on and on... There's no doubt that many women have to fight hard for any kind of equality. But why would this be?

     

    Perhaps it's to do with the bizarre lack of promotion of female role models. From times past, how many stories are there like that of Rosalind Franklin whose work was critical to the discovery of DNA but who was sidelined for her male colleagues Watson and Crick. Even Florence Nightingale is portrayed as the soft and gentle "lady with the lamp" when she was more accurately a tenacious, highly intelligent, forceful, imaginative and sometimes troubled campaigner and letter-writer, hardly a gentle benign soul. Even in modern times men and women are portrayed very differently in the media. When men are "the boss", women are simply "bossy", when men are "driven", women are "pushy"... And how many disney princesses or film floozies are so busy being beautiful that they get themselves in trouble and have to wait to be saved by an all-action prince charming?

     

    It might seem strange for me to talk to a hall full of young men about this, and my point is certainly not to try to inculcate some kind of inherited masculine guilt complex. The more positive point is that truthfully, us men are perhaps in the best position to do something about this, to challenge sexism from other men, to change the everyday culture of objectification and warped expectations of girls and women and to celebrate the tremendous qualities of our sisters, mothers and friends. Because each and every day, each one of us, each one of you, is either complicit with or active against what we might call "everyday sexism". What ends in poorer job prospects and society status, surely starts in everyday comments and attitudes - you know the sort... "You run like a girl", "stupid woman"... not necessarily intended to be sexist but reinforcing the association of women with weakness, submission or shrill pushiness. I believe passionately that for us men there is no neutral position on this - we make a decision to either let it happen or take a stand against it.

     

    Whether baby Gallagher is a boy or a girl, I don't want it to grow up with the sense that the page 3 girl is the model woman or that science is really the domain of boys. I want them, like all of you, to have whatever opportunities match their talents. And it's up to us all to challenge what we know to be unfair and belittling both institutionally and on a small scale. Equality means equality all the time, every day, with no exceptions.

  • Lent by A Wallace Open or Close

    I want to talk to you this morning about Lent, a time for giving something up, which seems a little contradictory when we are always telling you to never give up! This never give up attitude was typified on Saturday at the rugby as the players and supporters never gave up. As a staff we have recently been reflecting on what the RGS Ethos is all about and on Saturday there was a perfect example of what makes this school so great. All the attributes you would want to have in a school were on display on and off the field. There was passion, commitment, determination, skill, reflection, manners, support, kindness, teamwork, loyalty, inspiration and aspiration. It made me appreciate how lucky I am to work in this kind of environment which again brings me back to Lent, which I think does allow to reflect on how fortunate you are compared to others.

    We have currently just started Lent which as mentioned, is a time for giving things up. What have you decided to give up? This year, for the first time ever I have decided to give up crisps. I am passionate about many things but crisps tend to be at the top of the list. I know what you’re thinking how does he still look so athletic, I sometimes ponder the very same thing. I enjoy all crisps but if I were to pick a top 5 it would include, discoes, roast beef monster munch, squares (salt and vinegar), space invaders (old school) and scampi fries but I’m not sure if they count. So far so good, but we’re not even a week in!

    Lent is a hot topic in the staff room but as you’d expect many of your staff are so perfect that they do not need to give anything up! One thing which my good friend Mr Gallagher has spoken to you about previously is the idea of taking something up rather than giving something up. What else can we do? Is there a hobby that you have always been thinking of getting involved in? Is there a sport you’ve always been thinking of playing? Is there a music instrument you’ve always been thinking of trying? Is there a homework you’ve always been thinking of doing!

    Surely, we should always be seeking to improve and enrich our lives. I mentioned to you a few years ago that my wife has always been keen on dancing and with things like “strictly come dancing” on the telly she was forever asking me to give it a go. I had always avoided such activities because I am all about the disco dancing. However, two years ago for lent I thought I should give it a try. The group we joined was in Bicester, I have to be honest, it was not exactly what I expected, I was searching the room for an Ola or a Flavia to soften the blow of giving up my evening. At the very least there will be a Tess Daly to teach the class. Sadly I was met by a Bethal and a Gladice! The average age was about 80 and that included us in the survey, but that didn’t stop us giving it a go and it was surprisingly enjoyable. Often I would return from work, exhausted with plenty of work to mark and the sheer thought of going dancing was not very inviting. However, every time I went, I always enjoyed it and came back refreshed and wanting more. Sadly, we now have two children, of course I don’t mean that, I love them dearly but it has put an end to our dancing. This has been sad news for me but absolute devastation for Bethal and Gladice. I’d like to think I would still be dancing now if we had not started a family.

    There are so many opportunities both inside and outside of school, whether it’s the bake off, the rugby team, the school play, the orchestra, medsoc, mentoring, book club,the cross country team, there are so many opportunities and it is what makes school great. Perhaps you want to do something outside of school, maybe you want to do some charity work, join the scouts.

    So, if you are sat here now thinking yes I have been meaning to get involved in something then now is the time. It is so easy to come up with an excuse as to why you should not get involved but I urge you not to hide behind such fears. Be proactive, you will no doubt gets loads out of it.

  • Developing Skills by A Wallace Open or Close

    Good morning everyone. I’m sure for the vast majority of you today, you sprang out of bed with genuine delight that once again it’s the start of a brand new week here at RGS. This was certainly the case for me when the alarm went off this morning at 6.20am. I leapt out of bed. Kissed my beautiful wife goodbye, got changed in the dark, smashed my leg on the bed, shouted “Sugar and Blast”. Tiptoed downstairs in silence for my bowl of Cheerios (what else). I then jumped in my Kia Ceed estate, the Porsche boxster is at the garage again and headed off down the M40.

    On my drive I started to consider my Geography lessons for the day, but I must not get too excited when driving so have to have a change of thought. I began thinking about the pressure that many of you students are under with your upcoming exams and continual tests you face. It is really tough on you and you should be commended for all the work many of you do. I started wondering if we give you a really good experience here at RGS and I genuinely think we do. Our overall aim is to surely prepare you for the next stage of your education. In the strictest sense we do this well, because we support you to get the top grades you need to continue your education.

    However, I have a slight concern as to whether we are truly preparing you for the real world out there. With this in mind I asked a variety of people who work at school which skills or knowledge they feel are most important to enable them to do their job. I asked teachers, HODs, HOYs, receptionists, cover supervisors, exams officers, the bursar, canteen staff and groundsman. You may be surprised to hear that the following did not come up:

    Pythagorus theory

    Knowledge of the periodic table

    The year Krakatoa erupted

    Quadratic equations

    Photosynthesis

    “Excuse em moi moisture, mais ou est le Bibliotheque”

     

    Don’t misinterpret what I am saying, all of these things are very helpful to know, but it is way you have learnt them that is the important skill. I hope that in the process of your education here at RGS you are sub consciously developing all these other attributes you will need in the work place. Here is a list of what I found out (according to people working at RGS) were most useful skills in the workplace:

    ·         Communication skills

    ·         Ability to think on my feet

    ·         Motivation

    ·         Energy

    ·         Personality

    ·         Able to think in adversity

    ·         Passion

    ·         Enthusiasm

    ·         Ability to present

    ·         Organisation

    ·         Sense of Humour

    ·         Creativity

    ·         Compassion

    ·         Time management

    ·         Delegation

    ·         Flexibility

    ·         Technical Skill

    ·         Charm

    I look at this list and it excites me and does not surprise me, I do feel that your staff here create many opportunities to work on these skills. Whether it be in the classroom, being part of the school council, part of a rugby team, attending the Wycombe Abby Management Conference to name but a few.

    I do feel all these skills or dispositions as they are sometimes referred to are vital to your future development. It is something I feel very strongly about. These skills will be revisited later in the year in more detail.

    When you are sat in your lesson today, I’ll bet you have the chance to work on some of these skills, I am sure you will have the opportunity to collaborate, to present, to communicate, to time manage, to demonstrate compassion, to be flexible, to show passion, enthusiasm and energy. It may not be something you have considered before but it is certainly something your teachers will have taken into account when preparing your classes. Maybe your tasks will be undertaken with even more vigour now you know the value of them. Today and everyday at RGS it is not about the content but the skills you develop when gaining this content. That’s the important part of education.

     

     

     

  • Careers Assembly Open or Close

    As a young lad I had many dreams I wanted to follow. Initially I wanted to be spider man, I spent everyday  wearing my red lycra outfit (balaclava included) fighting crime. Spraying my webs of chaos to catch and trap the baddies. I would suggest I was pretty good at it. Sadly, I grew out of the lycra and had to pursue a new career. So I decided to be a cowboy, I had some horse riding lessons and enjoyed looking exactly like the milky bar kid!

    Sadly, one day I fell off my horse and decided it was time for a change. As I progressed through school I was desperate to be a professional sportsman, so I trained hard and listened to the advice of my coaches to better myself. However, at the age of 16 I realised I was sadly not quite good enough. Too small for rugby, too short for basketball, not skilled enough for football, too impatient for cricket, too attractive for boxing.

    I was lucky, at that stage I knew I wanted to teach. So I studied  hard and here I am today. People often say to me that it must be nice helping people. If I am honest that is not the main reason I decided to teach. It is actually because I really enjoy it. It’ s just a bonus that the job involves helping people and of course having long holidays. You spend the majority of your life in work, hence it is a very important decision. You want to surely spend this amount of time doing something you enjoy. Some of you may enjoy working in an office environment, some may enjoy being a number crunching accountant, some may just enjoy making money, some may enjoy working abroad using a language, some may enjoy helping others.

    The problem for many of you is that at this stage you guys probably don’t know what you want to do. So you need to try and keep your options open. How can you do this? To have the greatest amount of opportunities then you need the greatest amount of qualifications that you are capable of achieving. The key to my last sentence is qualifications that you are capable of achieving. As your HOY I do not mind what grades you get as long as you fulfil your potential. I have just seen all of your report grades. All of your aims here should be to avoid effort levels 4 and 5 and strive for levels 1 and 2. Qualifications open the doors. Without decent GCSEs you will find it difficult to access the university of your choice should that be the route you wish to go down.

    What you want to do is up to you, but don’t dramatically reduce your options before you have made your decision. You may find that later in life you want a different career and those GCSEs might become pretty important once again. These exams are with you for life, you only get one go. Work hard now and keep your options open forever.

     

  • Caring, Never Giving Up and Keeping Things in Perspective Assembly Open or Close

    It's New Years Eve at 4am and my beautiful wife walks into the room, "Mr Wallace (she has total respect for me) We need to go to the hospital now". 6 hours later we have a beautiful little girl called Charlotte in our arms. She actually looked very fat and ugly but you can't really say that about your own daughter.

     

    Unfortunately that evening the doctors discovered a little hole in Charlie's lung and we had to end up spending a week in hospital. Initially it was a little scary but all was well in the end.

     

    However, the care we received in hospital was amazing, the midwives, doctors and nurses were so caring and thoughtful, it did not matter to them if Charlie or my wife needed help in the middle of the day or middle of the night.

     

    They took real care and pride in their job. For many of them it appeared as if this was a vocation as opposed to a job. It made me remember the importance of doing a job you love. You do not want to spend your working life waiting for the weekend. A few of the midwives I met had decided to retrain because it was so important that they did what they were passionate about. It must take real bravery to sack in a well-paid job and to retrain in your 30s or 40s.

     

    You may not know what you want to do for some years, maybe even decades, but the important thing is to get it right even if that means getting it wrong a few times first, why settle for a job, why not strive for a vocation.

     

    At present some of you might even have jobs, it may not make you spring out of bed but it is also imperative you do it to the best of your ability and with good grace, your work ethic is very important, and your employers may well be writing the reference for that dream job in years to come. By doing a job you love, you don't clock watch, you have fun and you are prepared to go the extra mile for that profession.

     

    The other thing that struck me was how encouraging all the midwives were and this made a big difference to my wife who was struggling to feed young Charlie. Their continued positive reinforcement was a huge help and is something we should all consider when trying to support others. However, you do need to provide the guidance as well as the encouragement. They had a huge never give up attitude. When my wife had not slept for 3 days and Charlie will still struggling to feed, they never once gave an indication that it was not going to happen. The always told my wife that Charlie just needs to learn how to get it sorted. When one method didn't work we changed it and tried again and again with little adjustments until it finally worked.

     

    This is surely how we should address our learning, if a baby doesn't give up on a task over 3 days why do we give up after 3 minutes of trying. What do we do when we get stuck? Do we give up or do we try and make small changes and repeat the process? Maybe we should seek support from peers, pals, teachers, the internet before we even consider giving up. Things such as top grades or creative ideas are not easy to achieve, they take dedication, hard work, research, collaboration, resilience. It is these dispositions which get you to the end point.

     

    One final thing I learnt about being in hospital was that it is important to keep things in perspective. We were only in for a week. It felt like an eternity and initially you feel a bit sorry for yourself. However, there were babies in the high dependency unit who had been there for months with their poor parents coming in everyday. We were told about an Indian women who had gone into labour on a flight over to the UK, the plane had to emergency land. The mother was rushed to the JR hospital and then spent the next 8 months in the UK. She had no family here and spoke limited English. She could not afford to stay in a hotel. A local hostel took her in for the entirety of her stay for free. It is amazing to see such generosity. Sadly, after 8 months the baby lost her battle.

     

    It is very difficult to keep things in perspective because situations can make you feel so vulnerable and scared but there are always people to support you and there are often people who have it far worse.

    No one ever wants to spend time in hospital, but it certainly reminded me of a few important life lessons. Hopefully you might take this on board without the need to visit the doctors! Thanks for listening.

  • Challenges Assembly Open or Close

    It was a Friday afternoon in the not too distant past when I packed up my bags for a great challenge. I had packed waterproofs, woolly hats, gloves, walking boots, sun cream and a couple of Geography books for the journey. I met my team Messers Scourfield, Hollyer, Zair, Mead, Greenhough, Durning, Taylor and Copeland. A fine bunch of young men, each with superb individual skills which complemented one another!

    I knew this was going to be a tough challenge but nothing had prepared me for the difficulty of Mr Scourfield’s 2011 Geography versus History Quiz. The questions were demanding and a little bizarre, such as “I am thinking of a country of the World. Which one?”At one stage we even fell behind history. Naturally, this did not last long and Geography reigned supreme. However, the main challenge for the weekend was of course the three peaks.

    You will no doubt hear more about this event in coming weeks during assembly, but the reason I want to discuss it briefly now is because I want to discuss how we face challenges and how we know if we succeed.

    Our group completed the challenge of climbing the highest mountains in Scotland, Wales and England in just under the 24 hours being the first group to complete the challenge. Does that mean our group was more successful than the others? When I speak to members of the other groups my answer is of course yes, by miles.

    However, that is a total lie. Our group was full of PE teachers or teachers under the age of 30 or teachers with driving skills more dangerous than Lewis Hamilton. This challenge should have been relatively comfortable for us, it was not! Other groups had total mixes of people, retired staff, staff not really too keen on physical activity, people who picked up injuries and yet they all completed the challenge. As we descended to the bottom of Snowdon we passed the final group who were only just about to start it. It must have been very demoralising for them and yet they continued on in horrific conditions to completion some 4 hours later, finishing as a team. So who was the most successful? Perhaps the leaders of each of the groups, Mr Zair, Mr Scoble, Mr Stevens and Mr Rose, who had to look after their team and make sure everyone was safe and sound. Maybe, those who were completely exhausted by the end and had no energy left to give, maybe those who supported friends and encouraged them in times of difficulty, maybe Mrs Whalley who organised all the transport, hotels and meals or perhaps Mr Mead who came up with the idea and worked tirelessly to ensure it was a success?

    I ran a marathon two days ago over the hills of Devon and I ran it with my brother. We’d never done one before so on the way we discussed the idea of success and as we got to mile 21 and things were pretty painful, we decided it would just be a success to finish. We kept each other going and were looking to cross the line together, when my younger brother outstreached an arm and punched me in the stomach to ensure he came in 30cm in front of me!

    So how do we measure success? I don’t think we can measure it by a time or a speed or a grade. Success can only be measured by the individual. He or she is the only person who knows whether they have tried their best. Last week and this week you will have been receiving your exam results, some of you should be disappointed with a B grade and some of you should be delighted. Everyone has different abilities, whether that is athletic, academic, socially or artistically. It is important to be aware of where you have not been successful, so you can learn from the mistakes, but it is imperative to ensure you celebrate your own individual success as long as you have given of your best.

  • Choices Assembly Open or Close

    Happy New Year to you all and great to see you back. Christmas is a fantastic time of year. I had a great time but have to confess that as you get older the standard of presents diminishes. Being young I always had a nice long list of what I wanted, I rarely got it but at least I had the list. I a sure some of you had a list or perhaps you are already getting too old for lists. However, what has improved over the years is my ability to appear genuinely delighted with any gift I receive, “I my word Granny, this is honestly exactly what I wanted, It’s perfect, just the right size and that colour is ideal. Thank you so much for the socks.” However, seeing younger relatives receive their presents I am regularly amazed at the fantastic effort and choices that people make on behalf of their loved ones!

    Life is full of choices. We make choices everyday, right from the moment we get up. Which tie shall I wear with this shirt (another good choice I’m sure you’ll agree) or maybe your first choice is which cereal to have. Personally I go for Weetabix (3 naturally) with Crunchy Nut Cornflakes on top! However, as a young lad I never had a choice in this matter. My mother had a system called tops and bottoms. Bottoms were things like Frosties, Crunchy Nut and Cheerios- the sugary cereals and the bottoms were the healthy ones such as cornflakes, branflakes and weetabix. So my mum made this choice for us because we would obviously have chosen to have just tops all the time and that would have hampered my development into the finely toned athlete you see in front of you today. At the time I thought it was unfair and every now and again would decide to begin an argument about it. However, by restricting my choice my parents were doing what was best for me even though at the time I could not see this.

    Maybe you feel like you choices are always being limited. Perhaps limited by friends, teachers and probably most often parents. When you are next told that you can’t go on your Games Console or go out to town by your parents don’t just think it’s totally unfair, try if possible to put yourself in their shoes and think why they are doing it and I am sure you will find they are doing it because they care. Believe it or not teachers are the same, we do not want to give after schools and punishments but we often do and this is not because we enjoy spending quality time with you after school but because we hope that it will lead to change in behaviour or a more positive approach to your studies.

    I believe we always want to make the right choice, take the best option. When my beautiful wife and I planned our wedding we took a great deal of time choosing who to invite. It seemed to take eternity to come to a decision. I had only just started at the RGS at that time and I did not invite many of the staff from here. Of course DJ Mr Bennett got the nod. But I could not possibly invite Mr Stevens or Phillips as their handsome suave looks would clearly upstage me on the big day, I could not invite Mr Marshall as his entertaining and amusing anecdotes might not be suitable for fellow guests. I could not invite Mrs Whalley as we had a strict ban on Carlisle supporters and the same applied for Mr Ellis with our universal History ban.

    We were happy with our choices at the time. However a few years later when I look back I can’t help thinking it would be great to have swapped a few guests around. I’d love to have seen Phillips and Stevens charming the lovely bridesmaids, nothing would have amused me more than seeing the shock on the guests faces when they realised they were on Mr Marshall’s table! I could imagine looking up midway through dinner to spot Mrs Whalley sneakily checking the football results. Of course we would never lift the History ban! Actually, I have made a number of decisions in my life that when I look back were not the best ones but at the time I honestly thought they were. So how do we get it right at the time.

    Year 11, you have some of the more important decisions to make in the coming months. You have to choose your  A-level options, you also have to choose whether you want to continue studying here next year. These are bigger decisions than what cereal to have. You need to take the time to really research your options. Read the booklet you have just received, look at the entry requirements for that subject. Speak to your subject teachers and find out what is involved at Sixth Form. Speak to current Sixth Formers, speak to parents and friends. Book an appointment to go to the Connexions office in Wycombe. You should also consider what sort of degree or profession you might be interested in. Look at the teachers who will be teaching at A-level. If you are unsure of a profession or degree (which is likely for many of you) then perhaps you want a broad mix of subjects. The main advice would be to choose subjects that you are good at and also and importantly subjects that you enjoy as you will be spending a great deal of time working on them.

    So good luck with your choices, research them properly and aim to make the right choice not just in this decision but every decision you make. And when you want to go out this weekend and you parents say no, think back to tops and bottoms cereal… they’re only doing it because they care! By the way on birthdays and Christmas we’re allowed all tops! There can be room for compromise!

  • Democracy Assembly Open or Close

    In one of those idle moments that all teachers say they don't have because they're far too busy with marking, some colleagues and I were recently discussing one of the great philosophical questions that has troubled mankind through the ages: who would win in a fight between a lion with a shark's head and an elephant with an alligator's head. It was a close call - the shark has pretty vicious teeth, but an alligator's head is heavily armoured and still pretty savage. In the end we decided that the elephant's body would trump the lion's and win the fight of the nightmare hybrids. Naturally, this heated and principled debate led us to consider other likely and noble contests. Who would win in a fight: Barrack Obama vs David Cameron? Or Homer Simpson vs Darth Vader? Or Hitler vs Ghandi? For my money, the answers are obviously Obama, Simpson and Ghandi - and what a wrestling tag-team that would be, too... Our final hypothetical bust-up was between the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from X-men and the staff of the RGS and we decided after some discussion that while Miss Lawson and Mystique were locked in deadly combat, Mr Travi would ring up the mothers of the mutants and put them in detention, and that would be game over.

     

    This set us on another path of enlightened enquiry - is there a more irresistible and powerful force on earth even than the Travi detention? A hurricane? Perhaps, but they're predictable and more or less avoidable for most people. A super-volcano? Maybe, but how often do they even happen? Any good geographer knows that the most significant force on earth, just pipping after-school catch-up sessions in the computer room, is probably the humble water molecule. However powerful any creature or spectacular tectonic phenomenon may be, anything which can create the Grand Canyon is a force to be reckoned with, and all the more remarkable for being made of only very loosely connected individual molecules which have virtually no effect on their own.

     

    Of course, the immense force that can be exerted by a collection of individually ineffective agents - this is the very point of democracy. No one person has exceptional influence, but everyone plays their part in potentially totally reshaping the landscape. I suppose it's like saying that Ironman would definitely win in a fight against a 1-year old kid, but against 100 1-year old kids? Or 1000? Or 10000? Soon enough, people power reaches a critical mass and Tony Stark would be dribbled to death if nothing else.

     

    But if people power is so significant, I wonder why, for instance, only 1/3 of eligible voters in the UK bothered to turn up to the last elections to the European Parliament, the next round of which are this Thursday? That is to say, the European Parliament which shares national authority over issues like immigration, workers' rights and the environment.

     

    I suppose some combination of apathy and distaste at the available candidates is responsible. Russell Brand articulated a lot of people's opinions, especially young people, when he said recently in a cracking interview on the BBC - look it up on YouTube - that he was "not voting out of absolute exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class ... where you have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system."

     

    Strong stuff and I would agree with Brand - up to a point. It's hard to escape the feeling that there is something self-serving in British politics. When was the last time you felt represented by Michael Gove or anyone in Westminster, for that matter? But surely we can recover the democratic urgency which led women to sacrifice their lives for the Suffragette movement, which led to over 500 million people voting in the biggest single election ever in India recently, which led to a nearly 60% turnout in Afghanistan even in the face of a coordinated programme of intimidation and suicide bombers.

     

    For you guys, I think, the question should not be “should you vote when you're old enough", but “how do you start now to make your voice and your opinion relevant?” And “How do you make these people represent what is important to you?”

     

    First of all, I would suggest, make sure you're well informed. If Christiano Ronaldo's twitter feed is your only source of current affairs then you might just as well give up now and accept that your generation will be screwed over before you realise it's too late. Watch the news, read a variety of papers and blogs, listen to the world news on the radio, whatever it takes to know enough that you're confident you're not being hoodwinked by multinational companies, media barons or governments with an agenda of their own.

     

    Then when you feel you know what you're talking about, make your representatives represent you. And do it now, not when you're 18. If our local MP got, say, 800 letters in his postbag on the lack of facilities for young people in Wycombe or overpricing of football tickets or the HS2 project or whatever, he would have little choice but to take it seriously.

     

    You could attend demonstrations, serve on youth councils, badger your parents into considering your views before they vote, start a blog or use social media to talk about the issues that are important to you and try to get people behind you. You could join organisations that campaign on things dear to your hearts like Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Liberty and so on...

     

    And in a relatively recent twist, you guys are in a fantastic place to utilise the communal power of the internet, using e-petitions like those on the "38 degrees" website. They've already had some serious impact, through claiming to represent literally millions of people, on issues like closure of A&E wards as in Wycombe, class sizes in schools and rising university fees, all things that affect you directly.

     

    That name, by the way, 38 degrees, is apparently the angle of snowslope at which human-caused avalanches are most powerful. All those tiny, delicate snow crystals, tearing up the place. And so we return again to the idea of the irresistible force of the many. I suppose my argument comes down to this - if you think that politics is irrelevant to your lives then you're delusional. And if you think that not voting or ignoring the whole process is going to change anything, you're plain wrong. But together, there are so many ways you can change things for the better, right now, if you only bother to find out more and get involved and make the people who represent you listen to what you have to say.

     

    Please bow your heads.

     

    Father,

     

    Thank-you for the joy of sharing the highs and lows our lives with family and friends and all those people around us. Help us to see clearly our responsibility to think about and stand up for what is right and good and especially to give a voice to those who have none.

     

    Amen

  • Helping Each Other Assembly Open or Close

    Over the Christmas holidays my beautiful wife and I went down to North Devon to visit all of my family! There’s quite a few of us, I have 3 brothers and a sister and their various partners and my little niece were all about. It was great to see each other and exchange the socks we had all bought each other over the festive period. My mother worked incredibly hard providing us with wonderful meals, plenty of sparkling mineral water and basically mothered us!

    On one of the days after Christmas, my brother and I decided to go out for a run. We actually drove the car to a nearby pub and left it there. The idea being to run home and then walk back to the pub with the rest of the family so they could get a lift home. Anyhow, we set out as usual at Olympic pace. I was like Mo Farah romping through the countryside, churning up the mud! About 2 miles into the run, we passed a little lane which had a camper van struggling to reverse in the mud so myself and my brother decided to offer our raw natural strength.

    As we approached there was a man covered in mud trying to resolve the situation. The door to the van opened and out popped an attractive young lady who said, “Am I delighted to see you!” At this her boyfriend looked a little less welcoming. Anyhow my brother and I, and the considerably less attractive boyfriend heaved the car out the mud! The couple were very grateful indeed we continued on our way with a little spring in our step.

    We then went to the pub and played golf in the afternoon. We returned home and Mrs Wallace senior produced another amazing meal. Her meals are amazing and a few of the staff here have tasted the delights of her cooking. Anyhow, I ate, drank, played Pictionary, celebrated my victory with a rhythmical yet aggressive dance in my brother’s faces. I then went to bed.

    Why do I tell you this? The highlight of the day for me was helping the people out in the car. So if helping people made me feel good then why don’t I do it more often. I had loads more opportunities to help people over Christmas. I should have helped my mother a great deal more around the house, I could have picked my brother up from the station, I could have cleared all my rubbish from my old room and yet I did not do any of this. Why not?

    One of the strange things about life is we often help out, care for or are very polite to complete strangers and yet we can be a real nightmare for the ones we love. Why do we insist on using up our nice vouchers on people we do not know and then use our angry vouchers on the people we most care about?

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it is imperative we are kind and polite to all people we come across whether we have met them before or not. It is certainly important to make a good first impression. However, let’s not take those people who you love the most for granted. Show then that you care, tell them that you care. Your best behaviour should be shown to those who matter most to you. You’ll have a chance today in school to help someone out, take that opportunity and most importantly make sure you save plenty of niceness for when you get home this evening with your loved ones. It’s nice to make someone feel special. Thank you for listening.

     

  • RGS' Olympic Rings Open or Close

    Yesterday we heard from the wonderful Mr Wooliams about the positive impact sport can have and I have to say I mostly agree, except that over the weekend I happened to flick onto the football to see Rio Ferdinand hit in the face by a coin thrown from the crowd and then a Manchester City supporter running on and confronting the United player. This sort of behaviour saddens me hugely and it is a terrible example to youngsters. You will all have times when you get frustrated and you must ensure you know how to conduct yourself. When I get incomplete homework or a silly remark in class I don’t run over to the young lad in question f-ing and blinding before emptying the contents of my wallet on his head! We need to learn from other people’s errors. However, I do not want to dwell on the negatives today. I want to discuss the positives and I want to bring it back to the Olympics again. It really was incredible.

    I am sure many of you know the symbol for the Olympics, the five inter-locking rings of different colours and I am sure you know what it symbolises? The rings represent each of the 5 continents in the games and the colours are chosen as it has the colour of a part of every flag in the world.

    What about if we were to pick our 5 rings to symbolise us at RGS. What would typify us?

    I asked some of my year 10s this questions yesterday. They found it difficult because they were in the middle of some incredible enjoyable Geography learning. However, they did manage some answers.

    Ring 1- Hard work. I am constantly impressed by how hard many of you work. In my role I am often dealing with the negative side of academic progress and it is easy for me to forget how many of you are working incredibly hard and achieving great success. I am not just referring to hard work in classroom but on the sports field, in drama productions, music concerts, public speaking to name but a few. The hard work that goes into all these activities really impresses me.

    Ring 2- Caring, as a student body I think you are incredibly caring. I think you are very aware of your fellow students and do your very best to make sure they are doing ok. You're inclusive, you don’ t isolate and victimise individuals. I see strong academic lads regularly helping out weaker students. Sixth form tutors can be an inspiration to others. This caring approach would be one of my most pleasing aspects of this school.

    Ring 3- Community. This links in a little bit with the point above. I think we are proud to be at the RGS and to feel part of this community. We love to support and celebrate each other’s success. You only have to hear the applause for music groups in assembly or hear the chanting on the side of the rugby pitch to realise the camaraderie between the student body. Taking the U15s out at Twickenham I was nearly tearful at the shear noise that was made when we jogged out.

    Ring 4- Expectations. I think you guys set yourself incredibly high standards. The vast majority of you here will want to achieve the very highest level in all that you do. Not only do you have high expectations but so do your staff. They set high expectations of themselves and also of you. Many of them do all that they can to ensure you have a good chance of reaching your potential. To set high expectations you must have a determined spirit in order to try and achieve those goals.

    Ring 5- Sense of humour. I think this is perhaps the most important ring. It is imperative to keep things in perspective. Don’t take yourself too seriously. I'm regularly laughing at your humour. Laughter is such a wonderful experience that you should strive for it as much as possible every day.

    So today think about our RGS rings and enjoy the success you are achieving. Celebrate others success and most importantly, do it with a smile on your face.

  • Secret Millionaire Assembly Open or Close

    It was a cold, dark Wednesday evening when I got home, pretty exhausted after another days hard work at the mighty RGS. As usual I fed my two cats; William Wallace and Maverick Wallace. I then knuckled down to a bit of marking before preparing a delicious Spaghetti Bolognaise for my lovely wife, Mrs Wallace! After dinner we had a series of high fives to celebrate the wonderful meal and I returned to a bit of work. At 9pm one of my favourite shows was on, “The secret Millionaire!”

    This week a 35 year old man went to live in Peckham. He made his money in telecoms and had already amassed over 10 million pounds. He set off for his week away to live in a small bedsit only 3 miles away from his luxury London apartment which he shared with his model girlfriend.

    He had never been to Peckham before, he had no real idea this environment was on his doorstep. During the week he met some brilliant guys and girls. Naturally at first he was very intimidated, people on the streets were aggressive towards him and the camera crew, perhaps afraid. Wondering what this posh white man thought he was doing in their neighbourhood.

    During the week he met various people. One group were young lads your age, who had dropped out of school for various reasons. They now worked in a mechanics work shop helping to fix and learn about cars.

    The second person he met was a lad who had to leave school to care for his mother who had a terminal illness.

    The final person he met was a man called Andre who ran the youth club for the local community.

    Andre was a 20 year old who had been on the wrong side of the law previously. He had been through some tough times and managed to turn things around and now dedicated his time to trying to get other youngsters to have a better life.

    Anyhow, the millionaire gave various sums of money to the three groups which will hopefully make a real difference. It was wonderful to see people who had given so much up to finally be given something back. Why am I telling you this:

    1)      Firstly, for you to realise that there are some very tough places out there. That said, everyone here has their own challenges. Some people may feel incredibly stressed, sad and lonely about an issue which other people would perhaps be able to brush off. Does that make it less of an issue- Not at all!

    2)      Secondly, we all have stereotypes, when the millionaire went into Peckham he was afraid and intimidated. It actually turns out he met some fantastic people. Similarly, the Peckham residents did not warm to the millionaire. By the they were gobsmacked that anyone outside Peckham actually cared about them. Give people a chance, want to like people. The World is never against you.

    3)      Thirdly, we can all make a difference, we don’t have to be millionaires. Andre, the youth centre worker is far from a millionaire. However, he has a different kind of wealth. He has patience, he makes time and he cares. Our lives are so busy, you have deadlines, homeworks, commitments sometimes it is difficult to find time for people. Everyone here has the ability to make people feel better. Whether it is paying someone a sincere compliment, supporting someone with work, just having a chat with a mate who needs it, helping around the house. These things don’t require money, they require heart and kindness. These attributes are free and everyone here possesses them, the difference is that some people decide to use these gifts while others keep them hidden away.

    Life is tough, it’s not easy. Let’s try to make it easier by offering a helping hand. Not only are you then helping someone but you might also experience a bit of well being yourself.

    I want you to take 30 seconds now to think of one thing you can do today to make someone feel a bit better about themselves.

    Thanks for listening.

  • Spirit of Snow Assembly Open or Close

    It was week one of this term, I was already a little weary after the excitement of the festive period.  I rested well over the weekend and had enjoyed a usual Monday and Tuesday filled with Geography and well behaved Year 11s. It was Wednesday morning when the phone rang at 6.25am. “Good morning Mr Wallace, you do realize your phone is ringing” my wife said. “Thank you Mrs Wallace, don’t you look radiant at this early hour of the morning!” I exclaimed. I must confess I am not normally this polite at 6.25am in the morning but something seemed different on that morning. I couldn’t quite work out what it was.

    I answered the phone, it was the wonderful Mrs Booth, “I have some bad news I’m afraid Mr Wallace, the school will be shut due to the snow,” “You’re joking I exclaimed, I had a full 8 lessons of Geography planned,” “I’m sorry you’ll just have to save it for next week!” she replied.

    Bitterly disappointed I put the phone down and went and made my wife a cup of tea. Again very kind of me!

     I then contacted Mr and Mrs Stubbs to inform them of the timings that the sledging would commence. But first we decided to walk into town, on the way we helped and witnessed numerous people pushing cars, aiding elderly people walking, carrying people’s shopping, withdrawing the stones from the middle of their snowballs. I suddenly realised why this was occurring. It was the spirit of the snow!

     

    The spirit was contagious; people who normally walk along the street with their head down hoping not to make eye contact would now look up at you coming the other way and smile and wish you good morning or even make the excellent observations such as, “ooo careful, slippery” or my favorite, “bit chilly isn’t it!”

     Anyhow I was loving this new found positivity and decided that I would dedicate the following snow days to the spirit of the snow. I helped an old lady down our road whom I had never met before clear her drive. Turned out she was a lovely old dear and a fine maker of tea! I helped a friend repair his car on the busy A40. I pushed numerous cars up and down hills, I let Mr Stubbs win the sledging speed event of 2010 but sadly the spirit was not strong enough to let him win the jumping! The best thing about the spirit of the snow is that not only does it make other people feel better but it also made me feel better. I totally loved it!

     My three days off school were made far more wholesome due to the commitment I made to the spirit of the snow. I made new friends, met all kinds of people, my wife even appreciated me and I felt really good about it! Sadly of course the snow has to melt and with it went the spirit of the snow. People’s heads were back on the floor as you walked past them, people with car trouble received mocking comments and no help. Doris at number 32 isn’t offering anymore tea and biscuits. Mr Stubbs has not won anything since. I don’t feel as good!

     I fear that everyone in here knows what I am talking about. The spirit has been lost from many of us. We need to rekindle it. It should not take 10 cm of snow to allow to help our neighbour. Today is going to be spirit of the snow day. Try and do something today to help someone out. Open the door for someone, carry someone’s book, spare the time to listen to people. If you’re lucky and you get thanked, remember that is the spirit of the snow at work. Everyone loves a snow day, sometimes the snow is not there but the spirit should always be present! Enjoy making other people’s day easier, life is tough enough already!

  • Using Your Spare Time Wisely Assembly Open or Close

    So I finished my last lesson on Tuesday period 6 and then I went to my office to write last week’s assembly, a belter I am sure you’ll agree. I then started marking my Year 12 mock exams. Imagine doing your homework, but you have to do the same thing 33 times! That is what marking exams can be like. Not for me of course because I am a Geography teacher and I absolutely love it. I enjoyed gliding my way through the brilliant thoughts of some of the schools finest academics!

    At the end of the day I then drove to Oxford to play squash and lost which did upset me but I had played poorly and deserved to lose. I then drove home and was met by my beautiful wife and a lovely dinner of spaghetti bolognaise. Once finished we celebrated the meal with the usual high five before I continued with my mock exam marking. By about 8.30pm I could understand even less of the student’s writing than I could in the first place and decided to stop exhausted.

    I then had a bath, using some delightful lavender oils (guys can do that) and relaxed for a good half an hour before going to bed. Now this is a kind of standard routine for me at the moment. I try to ensure I have a little bit of exercise, make sure my work is done and try to have some quality time with my family. Now this does not often happen. Sometimes the work is too much and I sacrifice the exercise, or sometimes I sacrifice the quality time with my family. I strive to ensure that I have a balance but that does take careful management.

    You may well have similar plates all being spun at the same time! You have homework to do, you have sports, drama or music commitments, you need to be able to spend time with your friends and you need to try and create quality time with your family. To fit all these activities in, does it leave much time for you? And when time is against you what is it that you sacrifice and how does that make you feel? You may want to drop the plates, but there is always people around who can help you spin them for a while. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you find that you’re under too much pressure. School can be quite tough and believe it or not your teacher’s want to help. This is, for everyone at school a very busy time of year and you need to be at your organised best.

    However, the exams will be over before you know it and then you will have plenty of time. It’s up to you how you use. I would encourage you to make the most of any spare moments you get. Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American poet said, “Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”

    Thanks for listening

  • Ethos of Learning: OW Elliot Romney Open or Close

    Elliot Romney is an OW who returned to the school on Wednesday 24 September to talk to our boys about Teamwork as part of our Ethos of Learning pathway.

    You can view his video on youtube and his slides are available here.

     

  • Ethos of Learning: Creativity Open or Close

    An OW architect explains how creativity is intrinsic to how we learn and how it has helped him in his career

    Watch the assembly video here

  • Ethos of Learning: Responsibility Open or Close

    Our Chairman of Governors, Steve Ashton, explains the key skill of Responsibility as a learning device.

    Watch the video here

  • Ethos of Learning: Perseverance & Dedication Open or Close

    Head of Year 11/10, Mr Durning, dedicates his assembly to the key areas of Perseverance and Dedication.

    Watch the video here

  • Ethos of Learning: Engagement Open or Close

    OW and ex-England Rugby captain Tom Rees explains how Engagement has helped him transition from rugby star to medical student.

    Watch the video here.  

  • 11C Assembly Creativity Open or Close

    11C Assembly - Creativity


    Every school year brings something new: new teachers, new forms, new materials, or even new classrooms. However this year, the new addition to the school was not anything tangible, or even really measureable. This year, we were given the Ethos of Learning. A large majority of you probably feel it doesn’t apply or matter, and that’s understandable. As a school we already hit most of these objectives. We take responsibility, mostly, work hard in an engaged manor, and utilise teamwork, be it on the sports field or in those last-minute revision sessions. However, the one element that it could be argued is slightly lacking in the repertoire of an RGS pupil is creativity. Aside from weaving yourself out of a late homework, when were you honestly last creative?
    In order to understand what being creative is, let’s first break it down; what could creativity be? It could be problem solving, challenging assumptions, coming up with new ideas, or showing initiative in some way. Judging by these criteria, we are presented with opportunities at school to be creative on a daily basis, but how many times do we take it? It is all too easy to take a sheep mentality and follow what everyone else is doing, which works, but does it really mean that you get the most out of an education at this school? Everything else is easy in comparison. Taking responsibility, being engaged or working in a team is a fairly default response at school in comparison with breaking the habit of a species and breaking out from the crowd, which, clichéd as it me seem, is incredibly valuable in later life. 


    As George correctly pointed out, it is easy to not be creative or think outside the box, and to just follow precisely what you have been told to do. However, we think that creativity is essential, perhaps more than any other quality on the ethos of learning, to succeed in life. For example, it’s not just creative to design a new piece of art or music. Perhaps overcoming a problem in science or technology is more what you would be doing in your careers, because in many ways solving problems is the father of creativity, and therefore invention. In any case creativity is everywhere within our lives, from this speech to projects in your lessons, to new ways to win on World of Warcraft!

    To give an example of creativity, I initially thought of Steve Jobs, who as I am sure you all know, developed Apple. However, this being a creative assembly, I gave this some thought since all Mr Jobs did, was spot a problem, develop a creative solution. It was in conjunction with the creativity of all of the designers, engineers and programmers which made it happen. This just shows that everybody can be creative, and everyone needs to be creative in order to make huge things happen. 

    But of course, it’s easy for me to stand up here and read aloud this speech, for you to forget all about it by the time that double maths comes along. You all might be thinking “Yeah, but you try being ultra-creative, all of the time”

    So that’s what I thought as well. So just to show you that you can do it too, and by obvious pubic demand, here is my ethos of learning poem. Just so you know, the creative part is that there is an ethos of learning word in every line. 

     This poem was full of challenges,
    But with confidence I shall manage this,
    I must be focused, that I know,
    To reflect upon the ideas sown,
    This took lots of preparation,
    And through initiative, to my elation,
    I used lots of new ideas,
    And took courage in my fears,
    And now I must say I’m challenging assumptions,
    Half way through this problem-solving production.

    But I can tell you why this is relevant,
    ‘Cos perseverance is also prevalent,
    My passion for learning goes on,
    And my rigour for school is never gone,
    And as I saw from observation,
    We all work great in co-operation.

    So I hope you will all respect me now,
    Communicating to you qualities to show,
    Feel empathy here, in this location,
    As I read this out, without collaboration,
    This poem with a message, which in your mind keep turning,
    You must always remember the Ethos of Learning.

    As we can see creativity is an integral part of all of our lives both inside and outside of the classroom. We use it every day. For instance if you are creating a presentation for a school project creativity is used when choosing your images or deciding upon a specific font. Even in later live creativity is an essential part to your success as an individual. We will all have to use creativity at work, at home, or even when you are plotting against your little brother in order to reclaim the TV or PlayStation which he has been clearly playing on for far too long. Therefore it is clear that creativity is a vital skill and it is one of the key ingredients to our ethos of learning here at the RGS. 
    Please just take a second to consider the last time that you were creative. 

    Thank you.
  • Sixth Form Creativity Assembly- Vivek Shah and Ollie Potter Open or Close

    Creativity

    On the 12th November 2013, Jackson Pollock’s Number 16 sold for 32 million dollars at Christies – that works out as about 47 thousand dollars per square inch. Jackson Pollock was the innovator behind Abstract Expressionism, popularising what one critic called ‘Action Painting’. He is the man behind the painting hung high up in Mrs Whalley’s studio that looks as if someone has got black and white paint and carelessly flung it across a canvas from many different directions – certainly, I used to look up at that painting and think how on earth it could be deemed art. It seems to demonstrate no skill, it is ostensibly devoid of meaning and you can’t help thinking that anyone could do the same, if not better. 
    But Pollock will go down in history and his artworks will continue to sell for what seems ludicrously high prices. Why? In short, because Pollock was cutting-edge; by replacing the brushstroke with the drip, he changed how things were done, tapping into the human psyche in the aftermath of World War Two. After all, ideas begin in the mind as abstractions and it is only the constructs of memory, language and logic that shape these and make them coherent. His work is also inherently American; not only is it representative of individualism, but it demonstrates the American model, in which progress starts with ideas, and these ideas are often more valuable than skill. In creating and advancing new ideas, pushing the boundaries of what was accepted and conventional, Pollock can be considered an epitome of creativity. His example shows that creativity is inextricably linked with imagination; it seems to be, as German Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant described, the capacity to produce things of “exemplary originality” through the free play of the imagination: things that are both novel and valuable. 
    However, I would resist the popular perception that creativity is a ‘eureka’ moment; yes, it is inspiration, but this is often a development of ideas that build, overlap, are reinforced and finally result in creative vision. Pollock went from traditional artist, painting on an upright surface with a brush and artists’ paints to laying his canvases out on the studio floor, and using a "drip" technique with household paints and sticks, the former methods informing the latter. Indeed, creativity’s innovation relies on experience, with the subliminal, cumulative effect being a sudden flash of creative genius. And it is through these processes that value is generated; creativity is progress, driving change through learning from the past to improve and build upon current ways of doing things. Pollock helped establish America as the new artistic powerhouse and opened up new dimensions of doing and seeing art – his creativity led to progress in America and in the art world as a whole.  
    When we think about being creative, we often think about risks. Creating a new product, or creating a new business, is risky. Think about university, which is a creative venture. The government has put a price tag on it—£9,000 a year—and so it has become a financial risk. In fact, the whole idea of market exchange is based on just this, putting a price on creativity, and viewing creativity as a risk for a reward.

    Now I think this is a by-product of the way we have come to think about the human being over the last few centuries. Since the Enlightenment, we have increasingly upheld ‘reason’ and ‘logic’, above other human faculties. As a result, we have placed more and more responsibility with the individual themselves. Therefore, in order to be creative, you must be a ‘creative person’—you must do Art at A-Level; you must be good at drawing; you must be irrational, emotional, and crazy.
    But the Greeks thought differently. They believed that there were ‘daemons’—creative spirits that wafted your way, providing you with inspiration and ideas. And I think this is actually a much better way of thinking about creativity: there is no special gene. 

    I want to briefly tell you about Richard Ford. He suffers from dyslexia. And at school, he really struggled to read. As a result, he had to read really slowly. But on reflection, he said that this really helped him. Reading slowly meant that he could appreciate all the intricacies of language—how it sounded, how it looked, and how it was structured. Richard Ford, the dyslexic who struggled to read, then became an author. In 1996, Richard Ford won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
    Did he have an innate ability for fiction? No, he struggled to read it…But he didn’t treat his difficulty as society told him to. He didn’t treat it as an obstacle to overcome. He treated it as an experience to learn from. An experience to fuel his creativity.

    I would like to leave you with the idea of ‘creative courage’. Courage comes from the French word ‘coeur’, which means ‘heart’. Creativity isn’t a gene or an ability that you have from birth. And creativity shouldn’t be seen as a risk for a reward. The things that you create actually define who you are. Your creative aspirations—what you strive for in the future—are one of the fundamental things that make you who you are now. 
    So think about Richard Ford. [P] Think about the Greek creative ‘daemon’. [P] And if you agree that ‘creative courage’ forms a large part of who you are, then consider how you can be more creative in the future. You will not only create things of value for others. Being creative has an intrinsic value for yourself.


  • USA West Coast National Parks Adventure 2015 - Andrew Zair Open or Close

    Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge which we walked across early on our first morning. The bridge is a spectacular feat of engineering which requires 28 painters and 13 steel workers employed full time to maintain its International Orange identity. However stunning the bridge was, it was what I had expected, and it was the pod of dolphins swimming below us, timed to perfection, combined with the San Francisco skyline rising as a silhouette through the disappearing sea mist that made this site most memorable.

    Next stop was Yosemite Valley where we spent two nights in camping the World's First National Park. The scenery of the Sierra Nevada mountain range is ancient and geographically there is no finer place to step into the textbook; for over three thousand years it has been the place of pilgrimage for generations of explorers, pioneers and Indians before us... 

    Our teams hiked trails in the day and reflected on our adventures beneath the stars each evening. However the most impressive scene was presented by a group of RGS's finest, who put their language skills to good use whilst keeping up international relations with a group of rather attractive Spanish university students who were climbing in the valley. Here, the boys clinically applied their learning skills and with the voice of Mr Wallace no doubt spurring them on, Captain Chivers, General Goulding and the gang used their initiative, perseverance and distinctively average banter to initiate conversation with the girls whilst their boyfriends were at the bar. Naturally the lads were a hit and were soon offered a round of beers which, naturally, they politely declined.

    The Grand Canyon needs no introduction. But did you know that 95% of its visitors remain at the viewpoint for less than 20 minutes and do not leave sight of the main car park. Our guide led us blind, eyes to the ground, in single file to the edge of the canyon like a squad of lemmings before signalling for us to open our eyes to the expanse that lay before us. The impact was overwhelming. In the few hours that we spent exploring the upper canyon I was excited to hear the imaginations of our group vocalised with ideas of future trips and potential adventures along the Colorado River that meandered a mile below us.

    One evening we went bowling in fancy dress for Halloween, the day before Halloween, which was a bit odd but which the boys embraced wholeheartedly. Naturally all the staff dressed up too, and another great memory from that night was seeing my old art teacher up to his usual mischief in fancy dress as some kind of coal miner.

    Any tourists who enquired about our route were gobsmacked that we had included 24 hours in Las Vegas as part of the itinerary. Our trip to this desert city of sin proved to be a hi-light - we watched a spectacular Cirque du Soleil and absorbed the energy and atmosphere of the casinos and the wealth of money, and lives, at steak with every role of the dice. But without doubt it is the image of our boys at their finest hour which will remain with me longest; something which summed up this trip in its entirety. When following a ten course buffet dinner in the Venetian Hotel restaurant a group of our boys rallied up a service tip, entirely unprompted, for the old dinner lady who had been cleaning our plates away between each course. She was an ordinary woman who worked hard at her job but clearly was overlooked by the masses who pass her by each day, each year. At first she refused to take the tip and then she began to cry. I think it was due to the fact that she, arguably the smallest cog in the Vegas machine, had been shown common courtesy and been acknowledged with simple dignity, and I have no doubt that she will remember that generosity for a long time.

    And so I considered what it was that had made this adventure so special. The answer is not in the landscapes or the cultures that we visited, despite their having had an impact on each individual on the trip. The true answer is that every adventure is amazing because they allow the walls of the classroom to be set aside, the formalities of structured education to be momentarily forgotten and the cotton wool harness of rules to be lifted, not in a reckless way but in a curious and youthful manner that promotes the kind of education that as teachers we only wish we could give you more often. For me the best parts of this trip and every other adventure like it are in seeing the students, the staff and my friends in their element: using all the skills we talk about so often but for real; making decisions, making mistakes, being challenged, overcoming those challenges, growing, maturing, learning, experiencing life at its fullest and absorbing everything that it has to offer. For me the best part is that those experiences will give us a common bond for ever, never more than a simple nod of the head, an email or a conversation away from a unique set of memories.

    Thank you

     

  • Ethos of Learning: OW Joanathan Ware discusses Responsibility Open or Close

    OW Jonathan Ware studied History at Reading University. He has worked for PWC and Kingfisher Ltd and has worked for MOD for the last 10 years, where he has responsibility for the looking after the MOD estate.

     

    Thank you Mr Wallace for that kind introduction.  And it is a real pleasure to be here for the first time since leaving RGS almost 20 years ago.

    I’ve been asked to say a few words about how the skills of responsibility have impacted on my working life.  Before I do – I would first like to commend the concept of ‘Ethos of Learning’ and its’ content.  I think it is an excellent initiative to focus on these characteristics alongside the academic, sporting and other opportunities that this great school provides.

    I wish I had been exposed to this type of broader thinking during my time as opposed to purely focussing on destroying Aylesbury Grammar on the rugby pitch.

    You will find – in whatever you do – that having a sense of how each of the Ethos for leaning attributes resonates with you will not just help you in your school careers but also for the longer-term as well. 

    Picking up good exam grades, music, drama and sporting awards is great – but also having a sense  how you work and operate as an individual and in a team – and crucially – where you need to develop - is a vital skill to have in business and in the workplace.

    Do not worry if some of the attributes resonate more than others.  Another thing you will find is that life becomes very boring very quickly if you are working in a team of like-minded people.  Being a good team member AND a leader is not just about having your own style and being true to it – but also respecting differences in how others work and learning from them.

    Which brings me, at last, to the theme of ‘Responsibility’.  When I first saw the Ethos poster and the responsibility section – I was immediately struck about the piece on reflection.  In my experience, taking the time to reflect on how I have succeeded and, probably more importantly, how I have failed can be difficult. It is painful but is always worthwhile.

    A key point in my career came 5 years ago when I started a new job in the MOD but in an area where I had never worked before.  It was a particularly stressful time for the MOD as it worked through a difficult Spending Review with the new Coalition Government.  And I was very unfamiliar with what I was being asked to do.

    To compensate I worked very long hours and tried to do as much as possible to show my value to the team - 14 hours a day of work with back to back meetings were not uncommon.  So by the end of the project I was very tired, pretty ineffectual and frankly burnt out. Furthermore, had not really achieved anything.

    Fast forward 5 years and I’ve literally just finished an almost identical job.  I’d say, this time I’ve worked half the time and achieved more than twice the results if not more.  Purely and simply from reflecting on the previous torrid time and where I went wrong; I didn’t ask enough questions, I pretended I knew what I was doing, I didn’t concentrate enough on the key issues and got distracted.  I didn’t have enough focus and I didn’t look after myself.  I took all of this learning and reflection into my current job and have had a great two years.

    So never be afraid to reflect.  Both on past achievements – and mistakes.  Pat yourself on the back for the good work done and, critically, think about what you can do better next time.

    My final point is about overall individual responsibility to achieve.  Every student in this room has tremendous potential to do well.  You would not be here otherwise.  I guarantee that some of you will end up running multi-billion pound companies and organisations, some will represent their countries in full internationals and some will write a best-selling novel or play.  Or, if they are very fortunate, some will become senior civil servants…

    These will be the students who make these eventualities happen – as they will realise that their teachers, parents, university lecturers and managers – whilst there to guide and support – are not the ones responsible for making your success happen.

    You are.

    You need to make the effort to spot the gap in the market for an amazing new business, you need to be the ones to try varied work experiences to ensure the best job and university offers and you need to be the ones to take the responsibility, and challenge, to run the extra mile to be absolutely sure you are better than your competitors.  Particularly those from Aylesbury Grammar.

    Because working life is very competitive – getting a good university offer or a new business off the ground and so on is challenging.  Those who have a deep ethos of individual responsibility are, in my experience, far more likely to succeed in whatever they do than those who do not.  Particularly those with the tremendous foundation provided by schools such as this to get them started on their way.

    Thank You

     

  • Recognise Your Own Creativitiy: OW Kieron Weedon discusses the importance of creativity in working life Open or Close

    OW Kieron Weedon is Director of Strategy at bwpgroup, an integrated marketing agency based in Marlow. He started out as a Copywriter 15 years ago, before moving into Account Management and then Strategy and Planning. He has worked with many brands over the years including Accor Hotels, Bang & Olufsen, HMV, Waterstones, Esporta Health Clubs, Mazda Motors and BMW MINI.

    Thank you Mr Wallace for the introduction.  It’s pleasure to be back.

    Before I get into saying a few words about Creativity and how it has impacted my working life, I’d like to set some context.

    This guy is called Bob McKim. He was a Creativity researcher in the 60’s and 70’s. He liked to run an exercise with his students where he got them to take a piece of paper and draw the person sat next to them in under 30 seconds. I asked my colleagues at work to undertake the same exercise… here are some of the results. They’d be delighted I was sharing them… if they knew.

    What Bob Mckim quickly observed is exactly what I saw – maybe unsurprisingly given the results. Every time he ran this exercise it resulted in a bit of embarrassment and lots and lots of ‘Sorrys’. He would point this out as evidence that we fear the judgement of our peers and we’re often embarrassed about showing our ideas.

    That’s something I see whenever we have a workshop or when we’re working with clients side-by-side. Eventually we get to the point in the process where the problem becomes fuzzy or unconventional and all of a sudden we start hearing things like ‘I’m just not a creative person’. How often do we hear that? How often do you say that? Too often creativity is seen as the domain of the artist. All of humankind’s greatest achievements have used creativity. If you think of creativity extending to ‘problem solving’, it’s as important to engineers and scientists as it is to the more obviously creative professions.

    What I’ve learned is that it’s simply not true. Creativity is an attitude, an approach, a way of doing things which each of us can achieve; but only if we allow each other and more importantly, ourselves the freedom of imagination to develop new ideas.

    A quick quote from someone who we maybe wouldn’t think of as ‘creative’. Albert Einstein identified the importance of creativity and imagination in any process because of how it removes limitations from our thinking.

    ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, whilst imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’

    A mentor and business coach of mine, Sue Cheshire, helped me a number of years ago to realise the importance of this freedom. Having studied me working and spoken to colleagues she came to me and in a very direct way said, “You’re what I call a ‘Knower’. You listen to challenges, follow your own creative process, formulate your response, know it’s right and tell people how to action it.” At the time, I didn’t see a particular issue with this… but she continued. “You’re limiting your solution to one person’s imagination and stifling creativity within your business by judging other people’s ideas.”

    This sparked a period of introspection and the realisation that I might be solving problems, I might even be challenging assumptions, but I didn’t have the courage to have my own ideas challenged. I wasn’t providing the flexibility of approach to allow the generation of new ideas and I wasn’t taking the initiative of using all the resources around me – my colleagues in this instance – to allow freedom of imagination.

    One thing I do ‘Know’ is that I’m currently talking to the leaders of tomorrow. This wonderful school provides an incredible foundation of knowledge. What’s truly encouraging for me as creative business leader is the desire for the school to create new ideas and new initiatives to prepare you beyond simply knowledge for the outside world. The Ethos of Learning programme will give you a competitive advantage as you move forward in your lives. A competitive advantage over people like the University aged me, where I maybe spent rather too long on the rugby field and campus bar, but had a rather good knack of passing exams. A competitive advantage over people like the Employee aged me, where I maybe spent too much time ‘Knowing’ and not enough time ‘Encouraging’.

    So, these are the final few thoughts from me on how to make creativity work for you:

    • Recognise your own creativity; Drop the labels; don’t label yourself or others as ‘Creative or Non-creative’

    • Develop your creativity; Train your creativity; be curious, be brave and let your ideas fly – you’ll often surprise yourself

    • Encourage creativity in others; Don’t pass judgements; encourage creativity in those around you and build on ideas rather than knock them down

    Thank you for the time today. And good luck with all your future endeavours.

  • OW MATTHEW TINNEY DISCUSSES TEAMWORK Open or Close

    Matthew Tinney is a pilot for EasyJet. EasyJet is Europe's leading airline, operating on over 600 routes across more than 30 countries with a fleet of over 200 Airbus aircraft. They employ over 8,000 people including 2,000 pilots and 4,500+ cabin crew. Last year they flew over 70 million passengers.

    So who am I, and why am I here talking to you about the Ethos of Learning, and in particular, teamwork?

    Well I am a former student of the Royal Grammar school, to give you an idea of how long ago I was here, I had a mobile phone by the time I was studying for my GCSEs, but it was a Nokia 5110, the one where you could change the covers, it could hold a maximum of ten text messages and the only game you could play was Snake. The very first iPhone wouldn't make an appearance for another 8 years. 

    I am also a commercial airline pilot and for the last 6 years I have worked for easyJet, the last 10 months as a Captain. EasyJet celebrated its 20th birthday last year in that time we have grown from operating 1 route from Luton to Glasgow to the position where we are now flying nearly 70m passengers a year, to over 130 destinations, operating on average around 1300 flights per day. 

    While there are some very clever people working for EasyJet in all departments, we didn't get into the position we are now by being the smartest, we did it by employing Engagement, Creativity, Responsibility, and Teamwork. Indeed many of my teachers here would tell you that I was never the most academically inclined pupil, I achieved some A-level passes, Cs and Ds which was enough to get me into university, however I quit after only completing one year of the course. Thankfully, owing to the other skills I have picked up over the years, many of which I learnt during my time here, this hasn't been a handicap. The same is true for you, while your academic performance and achievements are vital to getting on in the world of work, it is the elements talked about in the Ethos of Learning which create truly rounded individuals.

    Now I’m sure we all know what teamwork is, so I thought I’d talk about who is on your team, the importance of playing your part, and how you can work on these skills. 

    Now it’s my job to move an aircraft around the sky carrying people and their baggage, safely and efficiently and I have a huge network of people to help me achieve this goal every day. I fly with another pilot, that’s most peoples’ perception of how aviation works, the pilots in the front. I have the cabin crew who believe it or not are not there purely to serve food and drink, I rely on them to carry out all the safety and security related drills for the day. There are the baggage handlers, the gate staff, everyone back at head office preparing a flight plan with our route, weather and other vital information for the day. Everyone in operations sorting out day to day issues, all the engineers preparing the aircraft every day for flight, the emergency services and the air traffic control officers… The list goes on and on. Now on a normal day, each element of this now quite large team gets on with their job independently from each other and you as a passenger just see a very small part of it on your journey. It's only when there's something out of the ordinary do you notice more people or an extra bit of equipment around 

    Using effective teamwork, any problem can be worked around. For example, if a passenger is taken unwell during a flight, the cabin crew or if we're lucky a trained passenger can administer first aid, however if it's more serious we have to divert the aircraft and land as soon as possible. This, is a pretty complicated task in the congested skies over Europe and means co-ordinating with all of those elements I spoke about before very quickly, trusting them and relying on them to perform their roles so that we can concentrate on ours. 

    So I'm very lucky, I've got a large team to call on for support and in turn that I can offer help and support to and it's probably larger than most people think about when I tell them I'm a pilot 

    But who is on your team? School is a surprisingly good place to develop these skills. You're part of a team as part of the orchestra or jazz band. On the rugby or cricket pitch you have to work together, communicate effectively, understand each other's strengths and weaknesses.   Academically you have your teachers, and in a big change to my time as a student you have the biggest resource of all, the entirety of the planet and its knowledge accessible via the Internet. You also have each other.

    Not being a great sportsman or an accomplished musician I developed my teamwork skills during Thursday afternoon activities with the CCF, and also on the stage lighting and sound team. Over the years I spent in both, not that I knew it at the time, I learnt a great deal about working in teams from setting out microphones every day for assemblies and learning the basics of drill on the parade ground, to leading teams and running the school plays and taking part in national competitions and attending RAF base camps. 

    You are in a wonderful position to be afforded such a wide range of opportunities and chances to develop yourselves beyond academia. I would encourage you to do so as much as you can, not only because the challenges you will face are often exciting and fun but they are also the key to developing the Ethos of Learning skills.

    Good luck everyone and thank you for listening. 

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