Back and Forward

There are many occasions during the academic year when it is natural to look both back and forward, like the Roman God Janus. The end of the calendar year is one; the summer term is another; and the start of September, when the latest cohort of Wellingtonians arrive and the excitement of new beginnings stirs within us all, provides a third. Today, however, gives us an additional opportunity for retrospection and reflection, as well as forward thinking. This is, in part, due to the fact that the Monday of Week 10 of the Lent Term will always mark the anniversary of our first day as a virtual school, as well as the day on which Boris Johnson announced the first national Lockdown in the UK. What a year it has been!

Over the weekend, however, I also received the first draft of Mungo Dunnett’s report – the largest piece of research conducted with current Wellington parents and prep school heads in 15 years. 250 different families were interviewed as part of this process, as well as 24 Heads of feeder schools, and the report runs to nearly 200 pages. I am deeply grateful to those of you who contributed, both for your time and also your candour, to this vitally important document which will help shape the future direction of the College.

As you might imagine, I have spent most of the weekend reading, digesting and analysing the report. The headlines can be summed up very simply: the College is doing well but there are areas for growth and improvement. What is most fascinating (and what makes these projects so worthwhile) is not what we already knew – and a significant proportion of the report’s conclusions did not come as a surprise to me – but our blind spots. For those of you who know the Johari Window model, this is the ‘blind self’, things which we do not necessarily know ourselves but which are known to others. I will be speaking to teaching staff at the beginning of next term about this and will keep parents in the loop in due course, too, particularly when the current Purpose and Strategy Review is complete.

There are, however, several major changes, which we were already planning for next year and beyond and which we hope will improve provision across a number of areas. These were discussed a few weeks ago with House reps on our Parents Committee and they will also play a key role in delivering some of the improvements we plan to make in the terms and years to come.

At the heart of it all, we are reviewing our Staffing Model to allow teachers at Wellington more opportunity to contribute and commit to areas of College life where they are passionate and have particular expertise. This will mean giving staff more flexibility to teach more lessons and, perhaps, coach less sport, if their proclivities lean in this direction; another teacher, who is a particularly able tutor, may be able to have more tutees but teach a slightly lighter academic timetable if this will be beneficial both to themselves and their charges. So many teachers choose to work somewhere like Wellington because they love the all-roundedness of the job and they want to be involved in many areas of school life. But not all do and we hope that by creating a more flexible Staffing Model, we will be able to improve the quality of everything we do with your children whilst also empowering our staff to make a real difference in the areas of College life which truly motivate them.

Linked to this, Mr Oakman is also conducting a major review of tutoring at the College. We did not need Mungo Dunnett’s report to tell us that many pupils and parents have been on the receiving end of some outstanding tutoring, whilst others have not experienced the first-rate provision which we aim to deliver. Likewise, we are also reviewing the shape of our week to see if there are ways in which we can maintain some of the benefits which operating under COVID have given us. Timetabling sport for different year groups at different times, for example, has allowed our pro coaches and more confident teachers to coach a far greater spread of different year groups and, indeed, different teams. This is simply not possible under the old model when all Wellingtonians do sport at exactly the same time.

As we come to the end of this Lent Term, however, one thing we will all take from the past 12 months is the importance of reflecting upon and re-evaluating all aspects of our lives so that we can both be thankful for past successes and also look forward and become energised by the prospect of what is yet to come.

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