Headspace to Reflect

The theme of the recent HMC conference, hosted this year at Celtic Manor and attended by over 300 Heads of member schools, was Headspace to Reflect. After the most turbulent 18 months in education for over a century, it was indeed a welcome relief to have a few days to reunite with colleagues, process the journey which we have all just been on, and look ahead to the challenges coming down the road. In the world of Wellington, the HMC conference was followed by our first long-leave weekend of the year, a similarly crucial opportunity for the entire College community to down tools, take a big intake of breath, and enjoy a couple of well-deserved lie-ins. As one parent recently theorised to me, life at Wellington is akin to High Intensity Interval Training: our weeks fly by with remarkable levels of energy and intensity, and with the occasional breather offered by Sundays and long-leave weekends giving just enough of an interval to recuperate, refresh and prepare to go again. If the pleasure of HIIT training is unknown to you, just use any popular search engine to find out more!

In the Common Room, we have talked a lot about self-care over the past year and a half and I was really pleased when our Heads of College spoke to the entire community back in September about the importance of rest, self-care, and balance. At times, some Wellingtonians and staff can feel guilty if they are not being proactive and productive for every minute of every day, making the most of every possible opportunity presented by the rich tapestry of life in Crowthorne. But this approach is not always productive nor healthy long-term; burn-out is a genuine risk. The five College Values at Wellington are well known to all – kindness, respect, courage, integrity and responsibility – and we have asked the College Prefects and Heads of Houses this year to identify a sixth value which is particular to them. It is interesting that three Houses, without conferring, chose ‘balance’.

As well as supporting and encouraging every Wellingtonian to take full advantage of the remarkable opportunities available to them, it is also our duty to help them keep their lives in balance. This will, of course, mean something unique in each case: we all have different plates spinning and we all find headspace for reflection and rest in different ways. For me, it is daily exercise and losing myself in music and the arts (including last week’s incredible House Dance final!); for some, it will be regular mindfulness and reading; for others, it will be time with friends enjoyed over a shared meal. Self-care and balance mean something different to us all but a good place to start, I think, is that great motto carved over the entrance to the Temple of Apollo in Delphi – ‘Nothing in Excess’.

Another way in which we aim to keep things in balance at the College is through our term dates. The Michaelmas Term is always a 13-week semester, and we feel strongly that front-loading things with 7 weeks of school in September and October, when the weather is clement, energy levels are high, and pupils can be outside longer is the right strategy. It is also why we continue to believe that a two-week half-term in this, the longest term is optimal for both pupils and staff as headspace to rest and reflect.

Having this extra week before half-term has also enabled Murray Lindo and his wonderful Wellington Community team to arrange our annual Giving Week in October this year, and I am deeply grateful to all the parents and House Ambassadors who have been so involved hitherto. I will be writing in a few days’ time with an email launching Giving Week formally and giving more information about the purpose behind this annual event, but to have raised £80,000 for our Prince Albert Foundation before we have even reached Day 1 is remarkable and indicative of the incredible support and backing which the Wellington Community have given and continue to give this important cause. Whenever I do find myself with headspace to reflect, one of the recurring thoughts which I hope will never leave me is just how fortunate I am to serve and lead this wonderful community. And I have no doubt I will feel the same next week as we strive to hit our target of raising £400,000 for this amazing programme.

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