At the beginning of this term, when I sat down with the College Prefects to talk about what they wanted to achieve this year, one of their suggestions was to ensure that we had regular themed events in the Dining-Hall to add a bit of colour and fun to what can sometimes seem the daily grind of day-to-day school life.  In yet another example of adopting American traditions, one of their ideas was to mark Thanksgiving and so, on 28 November, Wellingtonians and staff sat down at tables suitably festooned with the Stars and Stripes to dine on roast turkey and pumpkin pie.

As we enter the last week of the Michaelmas Term, giving thanks once again becomes a major theme as cards are written, presents are bought and messages of gratitude are passed on to one another. Father Paul Thomas reminded us in Chapel last night that the real heart of Christmas is a celebration of the incarnation, “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” as St John expresses it, and he lamented the superficiality of much of the way in which our secular society now marks this Christian festival. Many of our modern ‘traditions’ which are now associated with Christmas are, indeed, tacky, commercialised and unnecessary, but I would not want to lose the collective acts of thanksgiving which seem to characterise the end of this term.

G K Chesterton wrote, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder” and those who follow the positive psychology movement will point to the numerous studies from the past decade which suggest a causal link between the expression of gratitude and happiness. A quick Google search throws up academic papers and newspaper articles with headlines such as, “Is gratitude the secret of happiness?”  and, last week, our Staff Mental Health Committee launched a 12 Days of Wellbeing challenge, asking staff at Wellington, amongst other things, to send a message of gratitude to a colleague telling them what a positive difference they have made in their lives this term.

As I come to the end of my first term as Master, I would like to pass on my own gratitude to the pupils, staff and parents at Wellington College for being so supportive of me over the past four months. I have genuinely been touched by the positive way in which all members of the Wellington Community have responded to everything I have tried to do. The question I am asked most regularly is, “How has your first term as Master been?” and the honest answer is that it has been the greatest pleasure and privilege of my life. Busy? For sure. Difficult moments? Plenty of them. But there hasn’t been a single day on which I have not been deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve and lead this remarkable school community.

It would be remiss of me in this final festive missive not to pass on my sincerest thanks to those members of the Teaching Staff who are leaving us at the end of this term. We wish Mr James Ellis every success and happiness as he takes a break from teaching; Mr Nick Carpenter moves on to Epsom College where he will be an outstanding Head of Maths; Mr Dibran Zeqiri takes up the position of Head of Politics at St John’s Catholic Comprehensive in Gravesend; and Miss Rosie McColl moves to the South Coast with her partner Mr Tim Grant and their son Rory as she takes up the position of Head of Brighton Girls school. They have all been the most wonderful servants to the College during their time with us. I wish them every success and am deeply grateful for everything they have brought to the Wellington Community.

Have a very happy Christmas.

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