MOULSFORD
BOYS' PREP SCHOOL

Head's Blog


The Headmaster publishes a 'Word from the Head' in the Parents' Weekly Round Up newsletter.

2nd November 2018: Parents Association

Many of you will have attended Moulsford Bonfire Night, which was a fabulous event organised by the Parents Association. Over 800 people bought tickets to view the bonfire and fireworks, and there was a lovely atmosphere throughout the display.  On such evenings, the Parents Association works extremely closely with the Moulsford staff, and both are critical to the smooth running and operation of the event. Enormous thanks go to Nicola House (Chair of the PA) and her team for giving so many boys, parents and staff such a great night.

The school is extremely grateful to those parents who give up their time to make such a valuable contribution to the Parents Association. Not only does the PA provide a very important social forum for Moulsford parents, but it also raises significant funds in the process, which are used to purchase items for the benefit of your boys. In an average year, the PA generates between £25K-30K for such purposes.

For the PA to be effective, it is wholly reliant on the goodwill of Moulsford parents to run events and coordinate its administration. Specifically, the PA is seeking to appoint a Treasurer from March 2019. The role does not require detailed financial knowledge, just someone who can keep track of the cash, pay invoices and be responsible for floats and banking.  Being organised, with basic spreadsheet ability is useful.

The Moulsford PA is a great way to get involved in school life.  If you are interested in the role or would like further information, please contact mpa@moulsford.com.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

12th October 2018: Arts Week & Sport

November marks the centenary of the armistice of “the war to end all wars”. Today sees the culmination of Arts Week, the theme of which has been World War I and Remembrance. The boys have been integral in both the preparation of the week and in the running of Arts Week itself. As a result, they will enter November with a greater understanding and awareness of the impact at all levels of war, and specifically of life between 1914-1918.

I do hope that many of you were able to view the wonderful art exhibition in the sports hall. What was so special about this display was that boys contributed individually, and their work was then organised and mounted into a collective display of powerful paintings and images of The Great War. The poppies below the display gave a wonderful contrast to the destruction portrayed immediately above them. 

On Monday and Tuesday evenings, Year 5 put on an excellent production of ‘Archie Dobson’s War’. The subject matter of the play required an extremely sensitive and mature approach by the boys, who gave two outstanding performances. My thanks to Ash Edwards and Camilla Moore who got the very best out of the boys both in the lead up and on the nights themselves.

For the latter two nights of Arts Week, we were treated to two fabulous concerts under the direction of Trevor Bissell and his team. The evenings were a blend of solo, ensemble and choir performances, with one of the highlights being community singing of World War I songs by both the whole company and audience. At the end of Thursday’s concert, Trevor rated that night’s audience as the stronger singing group. Controversially he has now revised his judgement to give both Wednesday’s and Thursday’s audience joint first place!

Finally, the pop vocals concert this afternoon saw a number of outstanding group and individual performances – Moulsford has pop stars in the making!  Many thanks to Josie Smith for the enthusiasm, energy and fun she brings to the Music Department.

Thank you to parents for all the support that you have shown during the week, and to all the staff who have made Arts Week possible.

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The football season draws to a close today for Years 5-8, with rugby on the agenda after half-term. One of the new initiatives from September has been larger squads and greater rotation of boys between teams. Coupled with very purposeful practices, boys have shown a real desire to push themselves to reach their potential.

This season we have had boys start in the E teams and make selection for the C teams, as well as boys starting in the C teams and getting opportunities in the A teams.  15 boys have played for the U10As, 15 boys have played for the U11As, and 18 have played for the 1st XI. The Lion Heart has been awarded on a weekly basis to a boy in each of the senior (Y7 & 8), Under 11 (Y6) and Under 10 (Y5) teams. The criteria for this award are Endeavour, Enjoyment, Resilience, Teamwork and Humility.  This term, the very significant bulk of nominations and awards have gone to boys in the lower teams.  My thanks go to James Springer, our new Director of Sport, and his team for an excellent start to the sporting year.

Have a lovely half-term break.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

5th October 2018: Moulsford Rugby Tour

Parents will be aware that Moulsford has a long tradition of touring to South Africa on a biennial basis in the summer holidays. July 2018 saw the 10th such tour, with 67 boys enjoying a wonderful mix of rugby, culture, charity work and tourism. The school sees such a tour as having huge benefits for the boys in so many different areas, and the recent take-up of the 2018 tour suggests that boys and parents feel the same. 67 boys toured out of a possible 94 boys who were eligible, and feedback after the tour from all parties was extremely positive.

The English Rugby Football Union (RFU) has recently revised its regulations for U12s & U13s (Years 7 and 8) relating to contact rugby and tours. Specifically, the RFU will no longer permit either to take place in the off-season (May to August inclusive). The 2018 tour was granted permission to proceed because planning for the trip was significantly advanced prior to this new RFU regulation. We have now had confirmation from the RFU that there would be no such dispensation for future tours. Please click here to see a copy of the RFU’s letter to Moulsford.

This means that Moulsford will have to change the structure of any future rugby tour, as touring in the summer holidays will no longer be an option. We are currently exploring all options, across different sports, countries and timings.  We are very keen to keep the flagship tour inclusive and open to all boys and for it to be non-selective in terms of ability. (This year we ran four teams in South Africa each playing five matches). If Moulsford was to continue to run a rugby tour for our Year 7s and 8s to South Africa, the only feasible timing would be the Easter holidays, with the next tour departing in 2020. We appreciate that many parents will have views on this development, and we will conduct a survey among parents of current Year 6 and 7 boys, once we are clearer on potential paths forward.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

28th September 2018: Tomorrow's World

Since Wednesday, I have been at the Independent Association of Prep Schools Conference for Head Teachers which was held this year in Wales. The theme for the conference was ‘Tomorrow’s World; Global Citizens’.

So much of what I heard was in keeping with Moulsford’s aim to develop the skills needed for ‘Tomorrow’s World’, and which are being promoted through the Moulsford Award (click here), launched to the boys in assembly this week.  The Award is a co-curricular programme designed, as another piece of jigsaw in a Moulsford education, not only to give your boys a fantastic start to their educational life, but also to ensure that they have the foundations for senior school, university and the world beyond.

The IAPS Conference brought together an excellent series of talks and seminars designed to inform, challenge and inspire Head Teachers, so as to encourage prep schools to equip children with the skills they will require to flourish in a changing world. Of particular interest was Lord Hastings’ talk on 2030 and the Artificial Intelligence revolution. Lord Hastings is the Global Head of Citizenship for KPMG International and serves as a member of the World Economic Forum on a number of issues, such as: the role of business; the next generation; and migration.

Dr Ruth Graham also gave a fascinating talk on “Our Future Engineers”. A mechanical engineer by training, Ruth worked with BAE Systems before moving to Imperial College London where she has recently been working on a project to transform undergraduate education across all nine departments of the faculty of engineering.  This talk focused on what prep schools could learn from developments in top engineering educational institutions such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), UCL & Cambridge: developments designed to keep these establishments in the global top 10 performers in 20 years’ time. As it stands, the latter two are forecast to drop out and be replaced by institutions in Asia, Australia or Chile, while it suggests MIT will remain in the top 10 but will slip significantly down the list.

The main reason for this is the style of delivery of engineering curricula, which has remained remarkably static for a generation, and is not equipping students with the relevant skills which employers will require in a changing world. Theoretical skills are no longer enough and even the most academically brilliant students need a context to apply the technical knowledge which they are learning, otherwise the skills are of limited value to their employers when they arrive in the modern workplace.

Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts is an interesting case study. It is currently in the top 10 of educational engineering institutions and is predicted to remain there in 20 years’ time. Olin has adapted its selection programme so that, while they maintain a high hurdle for academic ability which students must attain, candidates also attend a weekend programme during which they are presented with a series of tasks designed to assess the following: communication with others; dealing with uncertainty; how they cope with failure; and the ability to have a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving.

MIT and Olin College want to stay at the very top of the engineering game not only for the kudos, but also so they can attract the very top international students, particularly those from Asia. The simple fact is that if there are more relevant courses being offered elsewhere, that is where these students will go.

The skills which Olin are looking to seek out, and then foster and develop, will not be confined simply to the engineering workplace, but will be relevant to numerous areas of study and careers over the next 20 years. Lord Hastings cited the top vital skills needed by 2022 as identified by the World Economic Forum: analytical thinking, innovation and emotional intelligence all being very high on the list.

The World Economic Forum updates its top vital skills roughly every two years. The world is not standing still, and neither should we!

Ben Beardmore-Gray

21st September 2018: Mastering Maths

This Autumn term has seen Michelle Guy take over the leadership of the Moulsford Maths Department. Michelle is a Specialist Leader of Education, and under her leadership Moulsford Maths will provide boys with exciting, relevant and challenging mathematics, delivered by dedicated staff. The aim is for the children to understand the underlying principles of mathematics by making links and developing reasoning skills through which they progress towards being independent mathematicians.  Core skills are at the heart of our junior maths syllabus with boys following a mastery curriculum encouraging them to make connections across mathematical topics, sustain their understanding and build on prior learning.

In Years 7 and 8 boys will prepare for their mathematical journey beyond Moulsford. Lessons offer regular opportunities for problem solving and investigative work, and collaboration is actively encouraged in order to aid the development of effective reasoning skills. Boys are stretched not through acceleration, but by providing extra depth, in particular by using a wide range of harder questions and problems. The use of manipulatives and application of technology to enhance mathematical understanding is actively encouraged across all year groups.

Paul Dunsby has also joining the Maths department this term, having worked very closely with Michelle at the Misbourne. We have also welcomed Ben Jones to the team as well as Caroline Scriven (who focused on Maths as a Specialist Teacher as part of her Masters). These new staff appointments to the department heralds a very exciting period for Moulsford Maths, and gives the school the flexibility to teach Maths in four sets in Years 7 and 8.

One of the many excellent new initiatives which Michelle has introduced, is the weekly Maths Challenge for children from Years 3 to 8. Boys do not have to be constrained by their year groups and if they fancy having a go at a problem for the older or younger age groups they are welcome to do so. Correct solutions will be drawn randomly and announced on a weekly basis. Consistent with our policy of giving the older boys more responsibility, the aim is that the Year 8 Maths Assistants, Archie Nokes and George Wilson, will shortly run the challenge themselves with the help of the Maths Department. Please click the following links if you fancy having a go yourself!

Years 7 and 8 Maths Challenge

Years 5 and 6 Maths Challenge

Years 3 and 4 Maths Challenge

Ben Beardmore-Gray

14th September 2018: Sport at Moulsford

Wednesday heralded our first set of “block” fixtures with James Springer at the helm as Moulsford’s new Director of Sport. There are 208 boys in Years 5-8, and all those who were fit represented the School that afternoon against Summer Fields.  The size of team squads has been marginally expanded to allow involvement and participation for as many boys as possible on a weekly basis.  At this early stage of the season, there is likely to be fluidity between the teams as the coaches aim to select the right boys for the right level. The sports department aims to instil in boys a lifelong passion for sport and is guided by the long-term development of the boys’ sporting ability, rather than results in the fixtures themselves, although winning is often a happy by-product. To help families plan ahead, fixtures for Saturdays will be posted on the website on the previous Monday, so please look out for these.

Last night saw this year’s first meeting of the Moulsford Parents Association (MPA). This is a wonderful organisation and please look out for the super events they will be holding throughout the year. Through these events, the MPA raises approximately £25 -30K per annum, and the school is able to “bid” for various items from the committee. Hockey is high on James Springer’s agenda and the MPA has kindly agreed to purchase a skirting board which will line the sports hall and will enable full scale indoor hockey to be played. On top of this, the MPA has bought four hockey goals which will be placed in the sports hall and on our astro. These initiatives and the hire of the Hithercroft Astro in Wallingford for three afternoons a week in the Spring term will significantly raise the profile of hockey at Moulsford. Thank you to the MPA for these items from which all boys will benefit.

Please click here to view a recent interview I had with Hero Brown from Muddy Stilettos about the importance of the extra-curricular programme in schools.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

7th September 2018: Year 8 and positions of responsibility

The transition from the holidays to term time has been remarkably smooth, and your boys were very swiftly back into the routine of school life. It is great to have a week of work under our belts already.

The beginning of an academic year is a very exciting time for boys, as they graduate to a new year group which brings with it new adventures, opportunities and expectations. This is particularly the case with a new Year 8, who have finally reached the top of the school. When I spoke with all our top year boys on Monday, I stressed the great responsibility that this position brings. As the eldest boys at Moulsford, they are role models for all other boys in the school, and they set the tone for the Moulsford community. We are extremely keen that all Year 8 boys step up to the mark and lead from the front.

Closely connected with this are the historical posts of Head Boy, Deputy Head Boy and Prefects. Our recent Year 8 experiences suggest that all boys thrive on serving the school, and that for a strong and cohesive year group, the Prefect system can be of limited value. Realistically we could only appoint a finite number of Prefects, and this has the potential to divide the year group and leave a number of outstanding boys disillusioned. Such an outcome should be avoided for all children (and adults) but particularly for 12 & 13 year old boys.

For this year, we are enhancing all the Year 8 positions of responsibility, so that all boys have a meaningful role and can take real ownership of it. To recognise their position in the school and the service they are giving, the boys have been presented with a Year 8 tie. This is the second year we have “awarded” this striped tie, and credit goes to Old Mole Archie Friend who came up with the idea on leaving in July 2015. The school reserves the right to withdraw the tie if a boy is not acting in a way we believe a Year 8 should. That was my idea!

This year we will be appointing a Head Boy and Deputy Head Boy for each of the Autumn, Spring and Summer terms. Once boys have completed their post they will return to the “ranks” with their fellow Year 8s. In making these appointments, we will consult boys in Year 4 and above, but the final decisions will be taken by the staff.  The first appointment will be made towards the end of this month, and Year 8 boys (and others) will be told clearly the criteria we are looking for in this role. We will not be appointing Prefects.  All the above has been clearly explained to Year 8.

Moulsford is very proud to learn that two Old Moles, Toby Hargrove and Toby Maclachlan have been appointed Head Boys of Marlborough and St.Edward’s Oxford respectively for this academic year.

On a separate note, please click here for Moulsford’s write up in this year’s Tatler Schools Guide, published recently. I have spent a good deal of this week on the zebra crossing, so this seems a fitting piece!

Ben Beardmore-Gray

29th June 2018: Football fever and Activities Week

In selecting the strength of the England side to play Belgium, Gareth Southgate had many factors to take into account. While no self-respecting manager or team would set out to deliberately lose a game, the loss of this final group match has arguably given England an easier route through the knockout rounds. Had the England manager been aware that a Belgian victory would also mean that England’s next game would clash directly with Moulsford’s Summer Concert on Tuesday 3rd July at 7.00pm, I am confident that Kane, Lingard and co would have started last night. Unfortunately, this message did not get through to Southgate.

We have considered the clash between the two events and, disappointingly, FIFA have told us that they will not be changing the time of kick-off.  FIFA’s intransigence means the only feasible option for us would have been to bring our concert forward by an hour. However, this is one of the highlights of the academic year, and it has been deliberately timed to enable working parents to attend. So to be clear, the Summer Concert will go ahead as planned, starting at 7.00pm, and we are much looking forward to welcoming many of you to this super event. We can all watch England in the Final on Sunday 15th July.

We have been blessed by the sunshine for Activities Week.  Year 8, 7 and 6 have had fabulous trips to Devon, Snowdonia and Normandy respectively. The memories of these expeditions will stay with the boys forever. Please watch out for news stories and photos of these trips, which will be published next week.

The theme of the week for Years 5 and below has been countries of the UK. There have been many wonderful opportunities for the children to learn new skills and take part in activities which they might not normally encounter. Your boys should now be very proficient at baking Welsh cakes and can give you a Morris Dancing display. One of the highlights of the week was the Pre-Prep’s traditional English Fair on Thursday afternoon. It was so lovely to see the boys and their parents enjoying simple fairground games on an idyllic English summer’s day.

While all the boys will hopefully have had a fantastic week to remember, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff for all the planning, organisation and sheer hard work that goes into making Activities Week such a success for your boys. 

Ben Beardmore-Gray

22nd June 2018: Managing screen time

Managing children’s screen time at home can be a real challenge for parents, and is a very emotive issue in many households. When I was growing up, screens in their current form did not exist, but the reality of today’s world is that they are now part of the routine of daily life, and this is unlikely to change.

We know that a number of Moulsford parents are currently finding it difficult to guide their children to get the balance right at home particularly in relation to the game “Fortnite”. This game appears to be particularly addictive and has the ability to take over boys’ lives, causing friendship issues and arguments with parents.  We do have genuine concerns about the amount of time being spent by Moulsford boys in the game and talking about it, and would like to work in partnership with parents on this thorny issue.  Please click here for a letter from Tiffany Squire, Deputy Head (Academic) and Director of IT, which provides further information specifically about Fortnite and its effects.  Parents should be aware that Fortnite is rated as PEGI (Pan European Game Information) 12 by the Video Standards Council for frequent scenes of mild violence, and is not suitable for people under 12 years of age. 

Two articles which may be of interest can be found at https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/parents-ultimate-guide-to-fortnite#whatis and

https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/mar/07/fortnite-battle-royale-parents-guide-video-game-multiplayer-shooter

From September 2018, all Moulsford boys in Years 4 to 8 will have their own iPad. Currently these are available to boys in Years 4 to 6. To reassure parents, our network is so designed to allow us to have complete control over these iPads. They are for use in class, specifically for educational purposes, and it is extremely rare for them to be sent home. If this is the case, we alert parents in advance and give the specific reason for doing so. If boys use their iPads for any reason other than that directed by their teacher, they immediately have all privileges withdrawn for a period of time. Boys are not permitted to use their Moulsford email accounts to sign up for anything unless directed to by a member of staff.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

15th June 2018: Common Entrance Results, Staff News and Parents' Survey Results

This afternoon, I was able to deliver the excellent news to the Year 8 Common Entrance candidates that all of them have been successful in their recent exams. It was a very special moment and as you can imagine there was enormous excitement amongst the boys. Congratulations to all the boys, whose hard work over a sustained period of time has paid off. There are 43 boys in Year 8 and they will be joining the following schools in September: Abingdon (10); Bradfield (2); Cokethorpe (2); Eton (1);Marlborough (5); Magdalen College School (2); Milton Abbey (1); Pangbourne (1); Radley (5); Shiplake (2); St. Edward’s Oxford (6); Stowe (4) and Wellington (2).

Parents will be aware that Mark Griffiths leaves Moulsford at the end of this term to become Director of Sport at Shiplake.  We shall say a fond farewell to him in July. We ran an open process for a new Director of Sport in the first half of this term and had a very strong field with 42 applications. I am delighted to announce that James Springer will become Moulsford’s new Director of Sport from September 2018. James, who is currently Head of Games at Moulsford, was outstanding throughout the process and possesses the skills, energy, vision and empathy to lead Moulsford sport forward.  A central feature of James’ application was inclusivity and opportunity for all boys.  I am also extremely pleased to inform you that Markus Orgill has been appointed Head of PE, with effect from next term. 

Our thanks to all of you who completed the parent survey conducted by RSAcademics in March. 80% of Moulsford families responded to this, which is an extremely high figure, demonstrating the excellent engagement which parents have with the school. The results of the survey were very positive and in terms of overall parental satisfaction with Moulsford, compare extremely favourably to the previous survey carried out in March 2015.

However, the reason we conduct such surveys is to establish how we can further improve as a school and so in analysing the findings, the management and Governors have focused on the continued development priorities identified by you as parents.

Inspiring your boys is key to their success, and when employing new staff, we are looking for clear evidence of this gold dust.  Likewise, giving the current staff the support and time which allows them to stay fresh and energised is so important, particularly in an environment which is becoming ever more demanding. We are looking very closely at how we feedback on your boys’ progress and specifically the organisation of parents’ evenings. The rejigging of the latter is not straightforward and may take a while to come through, so please bear with us in the meantime.

Inclusivity and opportunity for all (as stated in the paragraph above) remains core to the ethos of the school, and we will continue to strive for this. The security of the school site continues to be a priority for the school, and our transport consultants are looking closely at ways to manage the car park. We have also put additional protocols in place for visitors to the site. From September, we will be adjusting our preparation for senior school pre-tests, on which more details will follow.

To see a summary of the results of the parent survey, please click here.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

8th June 2018: Plans for the Pre-Prep

As you will have seen in my email message to parents last week, I would like to share news on the strategic future of Moulsford, and in particular the future of the Pre-Prep.

Historically Moulsford has had a large intake of boys in Year 3, with a significant number joining at this stage from Cranford House, Rupert House and The Manor. However, since 2015 all three of these schools have changed their dynamic and are now fully co-educational. As a result, Moulsford can no longer rely on a steady stream of boys into Year 3 from these schools.

To secure the long-term future of Moulsford it is therefore very important that the school builds pupil numbers in the Pre-Prep, so that we are not reliant on a large entry at Year 3. We currently have very strong demand for places in the Pre-Prep (there will be 23 boys in two Reception classes next year), and we have taken a number of short-term decisions to satisfy this demand. While considering all plans, the school is extremely mindful of the impact of traffic both on the school site and in the village.

In light of the above, I am delighted to announce that the Governors and the Senior Management of the school have prioritised the construction of a new stand-alone Pre-Prep. Parents may be aware that the school owns the freehold of the land on which the main buildings are situated and the playing fields immediately adjacent to the drive. The land through the archway comprising of the astro, playing fields and playgrounds is not owned by the school but is on a long lease from our neighbouring landowner. While this lease has 35 years to run, its tenure is not suitable for a major building project.

The proposed location for the new Pre-Prep is “Bonfire Field” which is the land immediately opposite the entrance to the school drive, where the annual Bonfire Night event has been previously held. This site has various advantages. First, it will allow for the construction of a state of the art standalone Pre-Prep with its own hall, playground and playing field. Second, it addresses traffic issues for both the village and the school. As a significant number of vehicles would no longer enter the main school, this would take pressure off the car park. From the village angle, the traffic scheme we are proposing creates right ‘ghost’ turning lanes into both the new Pre-Prep site and the main Moulsford drive.  This will allow for a freer flow of traffic on the A329. Third, the new Pre-Prep will free up significant space on the main site for the development of additional facilities for the Prep School.

The new Pre-Prep will be self-contained on its own site.  On the occasions that boys come across to the Prep School, it is likely they will be transported by minibus. Likewise, we will give very careful thought to those parents who will be dropping off or collecting from the two sites. To confirm, the new Pre-Prep would be for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. There are no plans to introduce a Nursery at this stage.

While embarking on this exciting project, the Governors and the Senior Management are also very mindful of our commitment to continue the upgrade of the existing infrastructure for the School as a whole. Priorities include the Performing Arts areas, the astroturf and the swimming pool. These areas came out strongly in the parent survey for focus, as (not surprisingly) did parking. More on the Parent Survey in my missive next week!

The School has a strong association with the village, and we will be consulting closely with local residents to gain their views before submitting a full planning application. The project is landscape-led and is designed to be in keeping with the village, while also addressing traffic issues. Our initial discussions with the planners have been positive.  We anticipate applying for planning in the next couple of months.  Assuming the application is successful, the aim would be for the new Pre-Prep to be open for September 2020, subject to planning issues and project management.

The School is able to take these decisions from a position of great strength. Moulsford will have record numbers in September 2018 for the third year in succession, with waiting lists in several year groups. There is strong demand for an all-boys education which focusses on academic excellence while giving boys an extremely broad diet of extra-curricular opportunities. While this new initiative will allow for some growth in Pre-Prep numbers, there are no plans for the Prep School year groups to expand.

I will keep parents informed as and when I have further information.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

25th May 2018: Exam and Assessment Week

This has been an extremely busy week for the boys, particularly for those in the Prep School. Exams and assessments have been the focus for Years 3 – 7, while Year 8 had their final full week of lessons before Common Entrance. There has been a real air of hard work and study in the run-up to half-term, and the boys will be ready for a break. For Year 8, it is of course important that focus is maintained in the coming week, so that they are in the right frame of mind immediately on their return in June.

One of the joys of Moulsford is the number of opportunities available outside of the classroom. This breadth of opportunity is of particular relevance at this time of year, as the activities programme provides an important and refreshing distraction from the world of examinations and assessments, and also gives boys the chance to develop skills and interests in a pressure-free environment. I am lucky enough to be with the boys on the river on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and it is wonderful to see them gain in so many ways from this wonderful resource.

Enjoy Half Term with your boys!

Ben Beardmore-Gray

18th May 2018: Inter-House Triathlon

The Inter-House Triathlon which took place this afternoon is a wonderful opportunity for all boys in the prep school to compete both individually and as part of a team. With 304 boys each taking part in 3 different events there are many logistical challenges to overcome. My thanks go to Markus Orgill for all of his organisation which ensured that the event ran so smoothly. Thank you also to the staff for all their help today. We were also blessed with enthusiastic boys, lots of parental support and super weather.

There is so much that happens at Moulsford outside of the classroom, both for boys and parents. This evening, 120 guests will attend the “Taste of Africa” wine tasting at Henley RFC in aid of the forthcoming South Africa tour. On Saturday evening, the Choir and Jazz Ensemble are performing in a concert at Benson Church (7.30pm), and shortly after half-term on Sunday 10th June we have the Ridgeway Rhino. This cycle ride which stretches 21 miles, starts at the White Horse at Uffington and finishes with a BBQ at Moulsford. It is a very special event and I would encourage all boys and parents from Years 5 – 8 to consider taking part. Further details can be found by clicking here, with the closing date for entries being Monday 21st May.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

11th May 2018: Open Day

Today was Open Day and 32 families visited Moulsford. Such events provide an excellent opportunity for prospective parents to see the school in action on a normal “working” day. For many it is their first experience of Moulsford. To give our guests a complete visit, we ensure that they meet the staff, are guided around the school by the boys, and also have plenty of opportunity to talk to a number of current parents.

Without exception, today’s parents were enormously impressed by their Year 7 or 8 Moulsford guides. The feedback we receive is that the boys thoroughly enjoy giving the tours, talk very positively about daily life at the school, and are extremely proud of Moulsford. Likewise, we are very grateful to the current parents who generously gave up their time today to talk to prospectives. Affirmation of the school from those who already have sons here is very powerful.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

4th May 2018: In discussion with Sir Clive Woodward

On Tuesday of this week, Sir Clive Woodward visited Moulsford to discuss an elite skiing programme. For further details about the specific reasons for Sir Clive’s visit, please click here. Tiffany Squire (Deputy Head-Academic) and I had roughly 75 minutes with Sir Clive, during which time we discussed a number of topics. It was particularly interesting to listen to his thoughts on nurturing young talent with a view to producing outstanding performance. He has spent the last couple of years visiting and observing elite performance centres around the world, and of course he has his own coaching experiences at the highest level to draw upon.

Sir Clive is a very strong advocate that breadth of education, both in and outside of the classroom, ultimately adds huge value to elite performance in a chosen discipline. Contrary to what many may think in pursuing sporting excellence, he believes it can be counter-productive for children to specialise exclusively in one sport at too young an age, both in terms of children developing their skills and staying mentally “fresh”.

I found this particularly interesting from a skiing context as I had always assumed that it would be extremely difficult for UK skiers to compete against their French, Swiss and Italian counterparts if they have not been immersed in skiing throughout their lives. Sir Clive’s view is that many sporting and athletic skills are transferable and that an individual’s mindset and approach is also key. While those brought up in the Alps may have an advantage, given the right exposure, training and guidance at a certain age, it is not insurmountable for UK skiers to compete at the top tier. Sir Clive has done his research and I strongly suspect that he is right. Time will tell as UK skiers graduate from his new skiing Academy in Tignes.

While chatting this through, we also discussed Moulsford’s ethos in ensuring boys are exposed to many different opportunities. We firmly believe that the extra-curricular side of school life plays an enormous part in keeping boys “fresh”, building their self-esteem and self-confidence, the knock-on effects of which are seen in the classroom.  Sir Clive fully backed this approach. It was also super to have his endorsement of the new Moulsford sports kit and he signed a prototype of the new games shirt. This was an early design and is marginally different in colour and “hoop width” to the final outcome, thus making this unique item all the more valuable when it is auctioned at one of our fundraising events later this year.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

27th April 2018: Thoughts on the new Curriculum

The beginning of this academic year saw the introduction of the new curriculum to Moulsford, and specifically the move away from Common Entrance in Year 8 for subjects other than Maths, English and Science.  Common historical feedback from senior schools to the prep school sector was that many children were having to be re-engaged in Year 9 as much of Year 8 had been spent revising for knowledge based exams.  Boys are like educational sponges at prep school age. We believe it is important to have a curriculum and assessment/examination system which encourages learning, exploration, investigation and enquiry throughout the prep school years.

The new Moulsford curriculum has given our teachers at all levels further freedom to explore different topics, make links across the curriculum, develop lateral thinking and encourage creativity. There is plenty of debate in the prep school world about the relevance of Common Entrance and its future given that the vast majority of senior schools now pre-test in Years 6 or 7. Over the last 18 months, Moulsford has been contacted regularly by other Prep schools who are keen to learn more about the decisions that we have taken and the new curriculum we are following, and many schools are now choosing a similar path to us. This debate sometimes hits the national press such as a recent article in the Daily Telegraph in March (click here), which was also reported in the Times.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

20th April 2018: Hit the ground running!

At the first assembly of the term on Wednesday, I stressed to the boys the importance of hitting the ground running on the academic front. The temptation can be for them to spend a couple of days readjusting to school life. However, before the boys know it, half term will be upon us, as will various exams and assessments.  At the other extreme, another potential trap for boys to fall into is to think that academic work is all they need to focus on. In observing schoolchildren (and adults!) over the past 20 years, I have noticed that those who are ultimately most fulfilled and successful tend to be busy in many different areas of life. This not only helps them to prioritise their time, but also keeps them fresh.

Likewise, it is important for the staff to remain fresh. The day before the start of term, 20 of us undertook Stand-Up Paddleboard training on Bray Lake, near Maidenhead. This was a rescheduled outing for us, as we had to postpone in March due to a frozen lake – what a difference a few weeks make.  Not content with our standard issue single paddle boards, we upgraded to a larger version which allowed for plenty of opportunity at developing teamwork skills. The younger members of staff took the bow position which enabled them to test the temperature of the water.

16th March 2018: Year 7 Play Sherlock Holmes

The Year 7 plays being performed this week are three short performances of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures, “The Reigate Squires, The Blue Carbuncle and the Second Stain”. This puts Moulsford in the enviable position of having not one but three Sherlocks! The same applies for Dr. Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Inspector Lestrade and so on. As with the Lion King last year, we are keen that as many boys as possible get the opportunity to take on a significant role. These are complex plays with a lot of narrative, and I have been extremely impressed by the application, engagement and buy-in from the boys. The skills they have learnt in both the rehearsals and the performances themselves will prove invaluable.

My thanks go to the many staff who have been involved in the production, specifically to: Miss Roberts, Mrs. Betts and Mrs. Tollett for all their work on the costumes; Miss Roberts, Mr. Clements and Madame Tattevin who produced the most amazing set, the majority of which was constructed at half term or over the weekends; and to Mr Edwards, assisted by Mrs Squire, who have directed the boys so well, and had the belief in Year 7 to know that they would rise to the challenge.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

9th March 2018: Senior School Relationships

It has been a busy couple of weeks for 8M who have been visiting their senior schools for academic scholarship exams.  By the end of next week, most will be completed with only Eton carrying things over into the summer term.

While the scholars have been busy putting all their knowledge and academic skills to the test, we have had an interesting week with a lot of contact between Moulsford and the senior schools.  On Monday, I was invited by Bradfield to the Independent Schools Football Association Cup Final at Milton Keynes football stadium.  Bradfield secured a 3-1 victory over Repton, and it was excellent to watch Old Mole Billy Bolt contribute to Bradfield’s success.  

Also on Monday, five Moulsford pianists were invited to take part in a Piano Extravaganza at Radley, where twenty-one children played an arrangement of the ‘Dr Who’ theme simultaneously on seven Steinway pianos.  Please see the news item and photos below of what was was quite an event! Tonight, I am attending the Foundation Dinner at Abingdon School, a ‘black tie’ event with the title ‘A Spirit of Adventure’.

On the sporting front, boys of all ranges of ability have recently benefited from the following visitors:  Nick Wood and Peter Bennett, Head of Rugby and Hockey at Radley and Matt Gold, the Head of Rugby from Abingdon.  A sports coach and a Housemaster from Cheltenham College will be visiting shortly and Rugby School is also sending a hockey and rugby coach to assist with games for an afternoon. All these links serve to strengthen Moulsford’s relationships with our key senior schools.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

5th March 2018: Snow & Adversity

The cold snap is behind us and my chickens are especially grateful. They didn’t venture out of their hutch for several days! Last week, daily life in the school continued as normal until Friday, with the games programme requiring the most flexibility. Cross-country became the order of the day in the snowy and frozen conditions. In my eleven years as a Head, I have never closed the school, but in the end Thursday evening & Friday’s forecast made this a fairly simple decision.  Apologies for the late delivery of this Weekly Roundup as a result.

What a difference a week makes, and how quickly the snow melted away. Tomorrow’s assembly will be on this theme. Snow, rain and adverse conditions will come and go, and we need to weather our way through them to sunnier climes.  Likewise, when we hit adversity in school life and we can’t see a way through, we need to remember to take one step at a time and keep persevering.

23rd February 2018: Sport Update

The second half of the Spring Term provides an opportunity for boys in Years 5 to 8 to play a mixture of different sports. With hockey being a major feature in many senior schools, we believe that it is important that Moulsford boys have good exposure to the game, to prepare them for all that lies ahead. The boys play on a combination of the Moulsford astroturf, in the sports hall and at the excellent facilities of Hithercroft, the home venue of Wallingford Hockey Club.

Rugby Sevens also plays a prominent role in the second half of this term, with all boys having an opportunity to train and trial for the Sevens teams. Given the nature of Rugby Sevens, it is not feasible for everyone to represent the school in this form of the game. We aim to balance the reduction in fixtures with the excellent Moulsford Premier League (MPL) football tournament. There is nothing quite like playing a match against your own schoolmates to kindle and harness that competitive instinct. Talking of which, it was tremendous to watch the Year 2 tag rugby tournament this afternoon. In spite of the freezing conditions, the Moulsford boys and their opponents competed with enormous gusto, enthusiasm, determination and skill.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

9th February 2018: Parent Survey

Communication between parents and the school is key and Moulsford has an open-door policy for you to give feedback on a day-to-day basis. We are always keen to listen, and efficient communication within the school enables information to be passed on swiftly as and when we are aware of it. 

It is also important to us that we know more generally how parents are feeling about the strategic direction in which the school is going.  Three years ago we ran a parent survey with an external consultancy RSAcademics. This provided the school with valuable information which helped shape long-term management decisions.  It also provided a benchmark of parental perceptions of Moulsford against other schools which have also undertaken this SchoolPulse survey.

We now feel the time is right to run the survey again, to establish whether perceptions of the school have altered and to provide a further opportunity for parents to give opinions on wider school issues.  The survey will be sent out in a link in the week after half-term, and parents will have roughly a fortnight to respond. We are very keen for everyone to participate. The last survey had a response rate of 70% against a benchmark of 63%. This time round, it would be excellent to be closer to 80%! RSAcademics will gather all information anonymously, and provide feedback to the School early next term, with a summary of general findings being passed on to parents shortly after.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

2nd February 2018: Moulsford Parents Association

In the News section this week, you will see a report from the Moulsford Parents Association, reporting back on the many and varied items that they have funded which are now being put to good use throughout the school for the benefit of all the boys.  Parental support of the fundraising events and sales are key to their success, but so also are the commitment and organising skills of the MPA Committee. 

We are so fortunate to have a fantastic team of parents who are willing to give up their time to devote to fundraising schemes and events on behalf of the school.  Parents from all year groups are welcome at any stage to join the committee, or to offer to help at specific events.  All offers of time and help are gratefully received.  I wholeheartedly encourage parents to get involved and put themselves forward for this very important aspect of life in the Moulsford community. 

The MPA is holding a coffee morning on Friday 23rd February from 8.30am on the Sports Hall balcony, which offers an opportunity to hear more about what is involved.  Please do support the Committee if you can and complete the Google form in the Week Ahead to let us know if you can attend the coffee morning.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

26th January 2018: The Value of Form Assemblies

Form Assemblies take place on Thursday mornings with classes from Years 4 to 7 taking it in turns to give a presentation to the rest of the school. The boys are normally actively involved in selecting the subject matter and script, and over the course of the year a broad variety of interesting topics are shared through these assemblies. Delivery of the boys’ lines and performance on stage are important skills to foster in building boys’ confidence in front of an audience, as are the messages conveyed through the assemblies. Parents are very welcome to attend these events, as many did to hear 5L’s excellent message about kindness yesterday.

On occasion, these assemblies can lead to wider opportunities as Mr. Orgill’s class discovered this week. Those parents who attended the Social Media Basics for parents this morning might now understand how 5O’s assembly reached a national audience via Twitter, leading to a fantastic opportunity for Moulsford boys to present on Radio 1 to an audience of millions. There was plenty of follow-up comment on Twitter about how confident our Year 5s sounded on national radio – listen for yourselves by clicking here. (go to 38 minutes and then again at 49 minutes).

Coincidentally, a recent assembly at Wellington College, delivered by one of their pupils, has been drawn to my attention, again via Twitter, through Mr Weeks who spotted it.  This assembly also focused on kindness and courage and really is worth a read, please click here.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

19th January 2018: E-Safety

Parents often tell me that their boys are much more proficient than them when it comes to Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Parents! Here is your chance to catch up, and even stay one step ahead of your children!

At 5.00pm on Tuesday 30 January, Alan Mackenzie, an E-Safety Adviser, will be presenting an E-Safety Workshop for Parents.  This workshop is suitable for any parents in the school, no matter how old your son is. We hope to see representation from Reception to Year 8 - it is never too soon (or too late!) to start to educate your child (and yourself!) about online safety. To sign up for this course, please click here. For details about Alan MacKenzie click here. During the day, Alan will also present E–safety workshops to all boys in Years 6, 7 & 8.

E-Safety runs throughout every stage of the Moulsford  ICT curriculum, and in Year 8 there is a focus on Digital Citizenship which covers, amongst other things, the legalities of certain online behaviour, how to ensure a positive 'Digital Footprint', and dealing with Cyberbullying. 

We recognise that the boys will live in a world in which technology will play a central role. We are advocates of educating them in the uses, applications and pitfalls of ICT and on-line behaviour at an early stage. The most important thing that parents can do is to create a culture where open dialogue in the family exists, particularly as they may know more than you! It is important for parents to be aware of what their child is doing, and children need to feel that they can go to adults if they have problems without fear of being told off – just like any aspect of parenting!

Another ICT related date for your diaries is Friday 26 January at 8.30am, when Laura Wood will be presenting a course for parents on “Social Media Basics”. For those of you who do not know how to “tweet” or are unfamiliar with Facebook etc, this is the course for you. Laura is a parent in Year 4 and is the Parents’ Association Communications rep. Please email the office if you are planning to attend so we know numbers for catering. All talks will be in the theatre.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

12th January 2018: A Taste of Africa

This term we have one major parent social event. This is “A Taste of Africa” which takes place at Henley Rugby Club on Friday 2nd March at 7.30pm. This promises to be a really excellent event, with a wine tasting hosted by Nick Taylor, who is the Group Buying Director at Direct Wines and General Manager at Averys of Bristol; entertainment from Kwa-Zulu Natal and some fabulous auction prizes.  The evening is open to the whole Moulsford community and I do hope that many of you are able to join us for what I am sure will be another great Moulsford night.

So far the event has sold 100 tickets, but we have capacity for more guests. The event organisers need to finalise numbers with Henley RFC as soon as possible, so please could I encourage you to purchase tickets straightaway if you would like to attend. For details of how to do so, please check the Week Ahead. You can either buy individual tickets, or take a group - the organisers can ensure that you are sitting together. All funds raised from this evening will go to the two charities associated with the South Africa Rugby Tour 2018, SKRUM and the Goedgedacht Trust. My thanks to the event committee who have been working extremely hard to ensure that this will be a fantastic evening.  In particular, it would be wonderful to have support from those parents whose boys are going on the tour this summer.

8th December 2017: Festival of Singing

We have had a festival of singing this week from the boys in the lower years of the school. The Year 3, Year 4 and Pre-Prep productions all had singing as their central theme, with the boys belting out the tunes under the expert guidance of Miss Moore. What was absolutely clear to all three audiences was how much the boys loved the opportunity to sing as part of a large group. Enormous thanks go to Miss Moore for the energy and enthusiasm with which she prepares the boys.

It is now the turn of the older boys, and the residents of Rush Court Nursing Home thoroughly enjoyed their visit from some of the senior choir today, with the boys gaining hugely from the experience as well.  We much look forward to hearing the whole of the senior choir perform at the PA Christmas Fair tomorrow (Year 4 will also be singing), and then at the carol service at Pangbourne on Wednesday. What is so great is that boys of all ages thoroughly enjoy their singing (and music!) and are really keen to be members of the various Moulsford choirs (and bands!). Well done to the music department at this very busy time of year!

Ben Beardmore-Gray

1st December 2017: Christmas Events

The Christmas tree is up in the front hall and the festive season is upon us! Next week heralds several Christmas productions including the Year 3 Christmas Play on Tuesday and the Pre-Prep Play on Thursday. A new venture for 2017 is the Year 4 Christmas Concert which will take place on Tuesday evening, and provides another opportunity for boys in the lower years to perform in front of an audience. Both the staff and the boys have thoroughly enjoyed preparing for these productions.

Moulsford has a history of hosting large events, none more so than the Parents Association Christmas Fair, which takes place on the morning of Saturday 9th December. This is a wonderful community event on a similar scale to Moulsfest, Moulsford’s Got Talent and Bonfire Night. We hope that many of you will be able to attend what promises to be a tremendous morning. Not only will you be able to listen to the Senior Choir, the Year 4 Choir and the Jazz ensemble, you will also be able to shop at a wide selection of excellent stalls while raising valuable funds for the Parents Association. The school is extremely grateful to the PA team led by Claire Fremantle for organising this super event.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

24th November 2017: Cross Curricular Links

Two key aims of the new curriculum introduced this September were to foster cross curricular links, and develop boys’ skills in areas such as creativity, collaboration, lateral thinking and communication. The Year 5 Humanities (History, Geography and RS) course this term has fully embraced these aims. The boys have learnt about the various invasions of the British Isles by the likes of the Romans, the Angles and the Saxons, and the effects these invasions had on settlements, communities, culture and religion in our country. On a practical level, boys have constructed mini Roman roads, and adorned Celtic face paint, the latter helping them to understand the psyche of a Celtic warrior (and great fun for all 9 & 10 year olds!).  Year 4 kindly lent them their recently constructed trebuchets to test out their castles’ strength.

Year 7 are nearing the final stages of Dragon’s Den. In this excellent project, boys work in pairs to design a product or concept from scratch and bring it to a virtual market. On this journey, boys will make a prototype in DT and Art, design a website in ICT, produce a video commercial and draft a business plan. Boys will then present their product to the Dragons (four members of staff) and an audience of up to ninety boys, pitching for investment into their fledgling business.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

17th November 2017: Anti-Bullying Week

I am sure that your boys had fun yesterday choosing their odd socks in recognition of Anti-Bullying Week (ABW).  ABW has been given a high profile at the school this week and rightly so. Moulsford as an institution does not tolerate bullying at any level and my assembly on Thursday reinforced the message that every boy in the school has a responsibility to report any such behaviour. The school aims to foster a culture and environment in which boys respect each other and are kind, caring and considerate to others. We also have strong pastoral systems which are designed to pick up niggles and issues at a very early stage.

Two initiatives we have introduced this term may be of particular interest to parents. We are piloting a social-emotional assessment and tracking tool called Affective Social (AS) Tracking. AS Tracking is being used in a growing number of schools to support proactive, targeted and evidence-based pastoral care.  We believe it will add another piece of the pastoral jigsaw, helping us to build a more rounded picture of each pupil’s social and emotional development.  AS Tracking data used alongside our existing pastoral processes will guide us in offering each pupil the right pastoral support at the right time. The pilot is being trialled in Years 3 & 4.

The school also uses the services of an independent counsellor. To date, this counsellor has visited the school on an ad hoc basis as requested. As of November, the counsellor will visit weekly to be available for drop-in sessions should boys feel the need to talk. Neither boys (nor their parents) will need to book in for a chat. If you would like further information about this, please contact Jim Hamilton-Smith (Deputy Head Pastoral).

Ben Beardmore-Gray

10th November 2017: Communication between school and parents

Communication between the school and parents is absolutely key. The school has put various systems in place over the past three years to streamline this most notably The Week Ahead and The Weekly Round-Up, and we also encourage open communication between parents and staff. I am particularly grateful to the ladies in the school office who manage much of the flow of information in and out of the school on a daily basis. As a school, we appreciate that there is always room for us to improve our communication and we are exploring ways of doing so.

In my 20 years of teaching, I have noticed a significant increase in the volume of direct communication between parents and teachers. This is a largely positive trend, but it is worth making some observations. As an organisation, we want to respond both thoroughly and professionally to all communications with parents. To do so often involves many conversations, meetings (possibly with staff, boys and parents) and data collection which all has to take place at school mostly within the academic day.

To make the whole process more efficient for everyone, please could I ask parents to consider the following: first, much of the information you may need is likely to be disseminated in the Week Ahead. Second, please trust the channels of communication if you need to raise an issue. In the first instance, this is likely to be your son’s form tutor or subject teacher. Many issues can be dealt with at source without the need for parents to go direct to the senior management of the school. Communication between the staff is extremely good, and even if not directly involved, our structures are such that the senior management is made aware of the issues and concerns relating to individual boys.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

3rd November 2017: Choosing a Senior School

Choosing a senior school after Moulsford can be a daunting process. One of my key roles is advising parents on the next step to ensure that their boys thrive and flourish in many different ways.

Having been a Head for over 10 years, I have a wealth of experience of schools in the area and further afield, both day and boarding. Both I and the school also have very close links with senior school Heads and Registrars, as well as regular dialogue with other prep school Heads which all helps inform us of trends and developments in the sector.

Last year we printed a booklet “Choosing a Senior School after Moulsford”. A number of senior schools have since made adjustments to their entry processes in the past year, and so we have now revised this document. We are not reprinting it, but please click here for the updated 2017/18 version. This will be of particular relevance to parents of boys currently in Years 4, 5 & 6. The document will tell you more, but in essence you should be thinking seriously about the process in Year 5, and meeting with me from January of that same year. We plan to hold another Senior Schools Fair in the sports hall during the Autumn Term 2018. This event will give parents an opportunity to chat to staff from up to twenty different senior schools over one evening.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

13th October 2017: Arts Week

Education in the broadest sense is central to the Moulsford experience. Arts Week, which has just come to a close, provides a wonderful opportunity for boys to explore the performing and creative arts in greater depth.

Two plays and three concerts have given opportunities for large numbers of boys to be involved in live performances to an audience. Likewise, during the week the boys have been involved in and exposed to declamations, gymnastics displays, theatre workshops, talks and dance.

Perhaps the visual highlight of the week has been the three hundred and sixty-eight canvasses beautifully displayed in the sports hall, each with different interpretations of the natural world. Thank you to the boys for embracing this very special week, and to the staff for ensuring its success. Particular thanks go to Mr. Clements, Miss Roberts, Mr. Edwards, Miss Moore, Miss Smith and Mr. Bissell.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

6th October 2017: Community Spirit at Moulsfest

Moulsfest, which took place last Saturday, was a huge success. It was wonderful to see the community pulling together to raise significant funds for two excellent causes. Thank you to all of you who attended the event, and it was so good to see boys from all year groups enjoying the various activities and entertainment on offer. Enormous thanks go to Sam Pritchard and her team who did an amazing job in organising such a great afternoon. Well done also to the Year 7 & 8 boys who, on the same afternoon, undertook a sponsored kayak to raise money for the South Africa Rugby tour. We are also very grateful to Mr. Griffiths and Mr. Symonds for spending the afternoon on the river with the boys, encouraging them to complete their goal.

Not content with seeing their Headmaster in the stocks, I know a number of boys will enjoy watching me attempt the Moulsford Mudder on Sunday. This is always a super occasion, and the perfect opportunity to get covered in mud and raise funds for charity at the same time!

Ben Beardmore-Gray

29th September 2017: IAPS Heads' Conference

This week I attended the IAPS (Prep Schools) conference in Edinburgh, the theme of which was "Leading Inspirational and Aspirational Schools". Many of the key speakers focused on the huge importance of preparing children for life in a workplace which has rapidly changed over the past decade, and will continue to do so at a very fast pace as your boys approach working age.

Two key points which I took away from the conference were as follows: first, the importance of adopting a curriculum which focuses on developing skills which will enable boys to flourish and adapt to new environments. For example, oral comprehension and expression, active listening skills, written comprehension, critical thinking skills, collaboration and understanding, appreciating and developing links across all disciplines. The latter is particularly important in a global world.

Second, and closely linked to the above, is the significance of developing softer skills such as empathy, communication, contemplation and reflection, risk taking and adventure. In a world where the workplace is going to be less predictable, and certainly less linear, than it was for previous generations, having such skills will give your boys foundations on which to adapt, build and fall back on, as well as the human skills which will be invaluable for them to lead happy, fulfilled and purposeful lives in a changing world.

Everything that I heard at the conference supported the direction of travel that we have adopted at Moulsford this year for both the curriculum and the wider education for your boys. Both the content and the delivery of the curriculum needs extremely careful thought to ensure that it is, and remains, directly relevant for the modern world.

On a lighter note, many of you will be aware that we had block fixtures against Cothill on Wednesday. The Head of Cothill is a very good friend of mine and during a break in the conference, we watched the live results ping in on the Moulsford sports website. It was a very exciting 15 minutes, with honours roughly even across the board. The picture above shows us enjoying the culture north of the border.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

22nd September 2017: Changes to school day well underway

With three weeks of term under our belt, we have an opportunity to reflect on the changes which have been introduced this term to both the curriculum and the structure of the day. I have regularly sounded out boys for their views, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive, together with some sensible suggestions as to how we could tweak things further. The boys particularly appreciate the longer lunch break, and have seen the benefits of hour long lessons, during which a lot of work can be covered, and there is less movement around the school. Both these factors have combined to make the school a calmer environment for both boys and staff.

The boys also appear to be getting great enjoyment and benefit from the additional range of after-school activities which are on offer. One caveat to this is that it can be extremely tempting for boys (and parents) to sign up for activities on every evening, simply because options are available. Mr Symonds will shortly be sending out details of activities for the second half of term. When making choices, please take into account that boys (particularly those in Year 4 and below) will get extremely tired if they have too much going on into the early evening. This is especially the case as we enter a very busy second half of term when the nights draw in and the lead up to the Christmas events begins.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

15th September 2017: Excitement for Moulsfest is mounting!

Community spirit is one of the greatest assets of Moulsford. Moulsfest, which takes place on the afternoon of Saturday 30th September will be a wonderful example of this. The central focus of the event is to raise funds for the two charities associated with the South Africa Rugby Tour in July 2018, a trip which involves seventy Year 7 & 8 boys. These charities are SKRUM (link to www.skrum.org) and the Goedgedacht Trust (link to www.goedgedacht.org).

So far, 380 tickets have been sold and festival-goers will enjoy a wide range of activities including: three bands, a classic car display, dancing, stalls and many children’s activities such as hair-braiding, face painting, splat the rat, welly-wanging, a penalty shootout, bouncy castles and various other inflatables.

Running concurrent with this event will be the Moulsford 147, a river-based challenge for the South Africa tourists who will aim to complete 147 miles (the length of the river) on the Thames between them in various Moulsford craft. In doing so, the boys will raise funds for the costs of the tour itself.

If you have not already purchased a ticket, it is not too late to do so. Please click here for details. In particular we would expect to see all the South Africa tourists at the event so that they can play their part in the Moulsford 147. We have deliberately kept the afternoon free of fixtures so boys can attend. Please join us for what should be a wonderful afternoon. My thanks to Sam Pritchard and her team for all the hard work they have put in to organising the event to date.

8th September 2017: New Activities Programme

It has been great to see all your boys back at school this week, all bubbling with enthusiasm from their summer break. My first assembly of the year focused on what is new at Moulsford this term: new boys, the new curriculum and the new structure of the day.

As parents will know, the after-school extracurricular programme has been very significantly enhanced, with more opportunities for all boys. It has been excellent to see the very large take up of the wide range of clubs and activities on offer.  

As with any new system, there have been a few teething problems, most of which centre around timings, buses and sign up to activities. We have already learnt a huge amount from seeing the first week in operation. Extremely clear communication and absolute clarity on the School’s part should be the solution to the vast majority of gremlins. The first item in today’s “Week Ahead” gives parents a summary of key information and addresses areas where there appears to be uncertainty - please could parents read it carefully.

If any queries remain unanswered, please do contact the School Office.  I would like to thank them for doing a fabulous job this week fielding the inevitable queries and for their cheerful efforts to resolve any hitches.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

6th July 2017: Farewell and Welcome!

Those of you who were able to attend the summer concert will have witnessed a very special evening. It was a fantastic way to spend the final night of the term. Congratulations to Mr Bissell, his team and the boys for staging such a memorable event in the most idyllic setting. We were blessed by fabulous weather which stayed with us for Prize Giving at which we wished farewell to our leavers and the best of luck for their next schools.

At the end of this term, we said farewell to Claire White who has made an outstanding contribution to Moulsford since 2002. Most recently Mrs White has been Head of the Pre-Prep, and this role is taken on in September by Mrs Nikki Hartley, who has already spent much time at the school in preparation. We also welcome Miss Minnie Browne who joins us from the Beacon. Miss Browne will be a Year 5 form tutor teaching general subjects in Years 4 and 5. Luke Sparrow has been working at Clifton Prep and will teach the same year groups, as well as some PE to boys across the school. It will be very good to welcome Miss Ellie Wilkinson to the staff as a Year 1 class teacher from September.

I do hope that you all have a fantastic summer and I look forward to hearing the stories the boys have to tell when they return for the start of the new academic year.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

30th June 2017: Activities Week

Shiver my timbers, Moulsford was a dangerous place to be this week – there were pirates lurking round every corner! The theme of Pirates for activities week was a massive hit with the boys from Reception to Year 5. What fun they have had with all their various pirate related activities – an enormous amount of learning has taken place at the same time.

A highlight of the week was the river trip to Miss. Severin’s house, which is situated on the Thames halfway between Moulsford and Wallingford. It is the ideal length for boys to take to the high seas in kayaks, canoes, catacanoes or paddleboards - a pirate will commandeer whatever vessel he can. Boys’ efforts were rewarded with a barbeque in a gorgeous riverside garden. All boys from Years 3 to 5 take this trip – how lucky we are that our site makes it so easy to expose the boys to such an adventure. Thank you, Miss. Severin for opening up your garden to hordes of marauding pirates.

All boys in Years 6 to 8 should sleep well tonight! Years 7 and 8 have spent the week in a very damp Devon, with Year 7 under canvas. The boys had a tremendous time and will be able to draw upon the memories of this week when times get tough in the future. Activities week is a great bonding week, particularly for these three year groups, and there is nothing like a bit of adversity to help build resilience. When the staff return smiling from such a full on week complete with foul weather, you know the boys have excelled themselves.

While the boys were busy with Activities Week, we were delighted to once again host the Macmillan Summer Lunch at Moulsford – I hope the pirates didn’t cause too much alarm among the 250 ladies attending!  It is a fantastic event which raises much needed funds for the Henley and South Oxfordshire branch of the charity.  Thank you to all our parents and the wider community who supported it so generously.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

23rd June 2017: Sports Day

What a wonderful event Sports Day was. There was such a lovely atmosphere on the back fields throughout the day and it was great to see the boys competing with such energy, enthusiasm and spirit. One of the highlights of the day was seeing George Hathaway (Year 4) help a fellow hurdler across the line after a fall – this, for me, encapsulated the Moulsford spirit.

The Tug of War which rounds off the day is always a hotly contested event. We will be needing a new rope for 2018, as the current Year 8s managed to snap it in their quest for House glory!  Well done to Drake for winning the ‘reduced rope’ Tug of War, and to Amundsen for overall Sports Day victory.

Ensuring the seamless success of today’s event requires a collective team effort from all the Moulsford staff. Thank you to everyone for all their hard work and to James Springer for masterminding the day.

Many of you will be aware that there has been an excellent take up for the 2018 South Africa rugby tour. At present we have 70 boys in Years 7 & 8 signed up for this trip. Please could I alert all Moulsford parents to ‘Moulsfest’, which will take place on Saturday 30th September 2017, and ask you to put this date in your diaries now.  Moulsfest will raise funds for the tour and the associated charities. This event will include the ‘Moulsford 147’, which will be a kayaking challenge on the Thames. Further details of Moulsfest and other SA Tour events can be found on the second item in the ‘Week Ahead’, which was sent earlier today.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

16th June 2017: Common Entrance Results

As Headmaster, I often find myself in a position as the bearer of news of one sort or another. This afternoon I was in the privileged position of gathering all the Year 8 Common Entrance candidates together to inform them that they had all passed into their senior schools. There is always much anticipation in the lead up to this announcement, and it is a seminal moment for them as they open their envelopes to reveal their grades. All the boys should be extremely proud of their achievements, and I know how grateful they are to the teaching staff who prepared them so well for last week’s exams. 

An important defining factor of a Moulsford education is the breadth of senior schools to which the boys graduate, and the strong links we have with these schools. The fact that we are not affiliated to any particular senior institution, allows us to give clear and impartial advice to parents and ensure that we can guide boys to the schools which are right for them as individuals. In September, Moulsford boys can look forward to starting at the following schools: Abingdon, Bradfield, Cokethorpe, Eton, Magdalen College School, Pangbourne, Radley, St.Edwards, Shiplake, Stowe, Uppingham and Wellington.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

9th June: Team Fixtures

Sport plays a very important role in Moulsford life. The school aims to ensure that boys get plenty of opportunity to represent the school in fixtures. We believe that the whole experience of being selected for a team, hosting the opposition, and learning to win or lose in a competitive environment teaches boys many extremely valuable life lessons. Consistent feedback, either through surveys or anecdotally, suggests that parents are totally supportive of this policy.

Tomorrow we had fourteen cricket fixtures scheduled against Caldicott. However, there are forty boys in Years 5 to 8 who are unavailable to play in these matches for one reason or another, with little notice given to the school in many instances. We are extremely reluctant as a school to cancel any matches, but we have been left with no other option as we are unable to put out either an U11D or 6th XI team, which is extremely disappointing.

These fixtures have been published in the school calendar since March, and the team sheets were posted for parents to see immediately prior to half term with a pointer in the Week Ahead to encourage parents to look. We understand that on occasion there will be special events which boys should attend in priority of a school match, and the school is sympathetic to this. However, please could I make it absolutely clear to parents that this should be the exception and not the rule.

Boys being unavailable for matches has the following consequences: first, we may have to cancel fixtures, and it is invariably the lower teams which suffer - this is unfair on boys who want and are able to play; second, there is a knock-on effect on the standard of all the other teams, making a miss-match much more likely; third, such situations are extremely damaging to the school’s reputation and standing amongst other schools on the circuit, and schools will question the viability of the Moulsford fixture in the future. Please could I ask parents to fully support school on the matter of Saturday fixtures, and to check the calendar well in advance.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

26th May 2017: Good Luck to Year 8 for Common Entrance, and Happy Half Term!

The end of exams for boys in Years 3 - 7 has coincided with the fantastic weather we have been experiencing. Year 5 camped out last night on the front fields and had a wonderful night. The boys had a very early start this morning – they should sleep well tonight, as will the Year 5 form tutors! Enormous thanks to Mr. Orgill, Mrs. Lancaster and Mr. Smith for organising such a great event for the boys.

There is masses to look forward to in the second half term of term, and so much learning still to be done of all sorts before the year ends. Year 8 have the Common Entrance exams starting on the Tuesday after half-term and we wish the boys the very best of luck for these. They have worked hard and have been well prepared.

With exams out of the way, Friday night Prep for Year 7 and below was croquet practice!

Enjoy the half term break!

Ben Beardmore-Gray

19th May 2017: Inclusivity

What a fantastic afternoon we had for the Inter-House triathlon. One of the beauties about this competition is that it involves every boy from Years 3 to 8. It is a hotly contested event, but most importantly everyone gets an opportunity to take part. Enormous thanks to all the staff who were involved in the organisation and particular thanks go to Mr Orgill for masterminding proceedings.

A culture of inclusivity is extremely important to me. The school photograph was taken this morning and we make a point of ensuring that the entire Moulsford staff is invited to appear in the picture, even if not all of them take up this invitation! This reinforces the message that everyone’s role is important - there are plenty of schools where only the academic staff are represented.

Likewise, if you refer to the first item in this week’s “Week Ahead”, you will note that there is a list of those boys whose parents have signed them up for the 2018 South Africa tour. Out of 94 boys eligible to go (all of Years 7 and 8), 68 boys are currently registered for the trip.  Rather than opting for an A team selective tour, we have been keen to structure this opportunity so that it both offers involvement and is attractive to as many boys as possible.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

12th May 2017: An Inspector Calls

What a busy and exciting week we’ve had!  Sarah and I were fortunate enough to be invited to Pangbourne College’s centenary celebrations on Tuesday, which were attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh - the atmosphere of anticipation in the chapel as the congregation awaited the arrival of the royal party was unlike any I have experienced before. The call had come through from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) on Monday that we would be inspected on Wednesday and Thursday, so the regal outing was an excellent tonic. Today we welcomed forty-five families to Moulsford for our Open Day.

The ISI team carried out a Regulatory Compliance Inspection, which occurs roughly every three years. The school is judged against the Independent School Standards, with further commentary given in the Independent School Standards Regulations. In addition, because Moulsford has a Reception class, the inspectors also judge the school against the provisions of the Early Years Foundation Stage Statutory Framework. The school’s boarding must fulfil the National Minimum Standards for Boarding. This particular inspection does not focus on the educational provision at Moulsford.

The inspection process is incredibly thorough and rigorous with no stone left unturned by the four members of the ISI team. The key to a successful inspection lies in the preparation undertaken in the three years leading up to the visit.  I am extremely grateful to the entire Moulsford staff (from groundsmen to domestic staff, from the office to teaching staff, and of course our Senior Management Team) who all pulled together in a fantastic display of sustained teamwork to ensure that Moulsford was thoroughly prepared - and they were still smiling for Open Day too!  My thanks also go to Ed Boddington, Chairman of Governors, and the wider governing body for their support. Thank you also to the parent body for completing the ISI questionnaire – the inspection team commented that not only were the results extremely positive but there was a very high parental return. ISI request that we do not publicise the outcome until a full written report has been received next month. However, I can say that we have had a hugely positive week.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

5th May 2017: Community Support & Fundraising for Diabetes UK

Nichola I’Anson (mother of Oscar and Fred) undertook a quest to complete a 24 hour Classathon at the Barn Gym in Cholsey over the Bank Holiday weekend and raised in excess of £4,000 for Diabetes UK. Oscar was diagnosed with diabetes last year and Nichola was determined not only to raise funds to help research, but also to empathise with those who struggle with diabetes on a daily basis.

The Moulsford staff were delighted to be able to support her in some small way, and between them attended just over 100 hours of fitness classes averaging 4 members of staff a class over the 24 hour period. A number of the staff joined Nichola in exercising as the sun set on Saturday evening and were still going with sunrise on Sunday. Nichola’s achievement was extraordinary and a real inspiration to us all. To learn more about the event, please click here.  

I also learnt a good lesson from this wonderful event. In preparation for the weekend, there was a staff meeting to ensure that we had representation at every class. Failing to attend this meeting was my first mistake. A second error was allowing my wife to book me on a “gentle” spinning class in my absence. At 7.00am on Sunday morning, I arrived to be thrust straight into an hour of Bob’s Bootcamp. This class appeared to be intent on causing maximum damage to my hamstrings, calves and various other muscles, ligaments and tendons which are not used to such punishment – I have just about recovered from the experience. The athlete next to me took an early bath after 35 minutes – no such luxury for me! Sarah assures me that this was a genuine clerical error, but I am not so sure!

If there is a lesson to be learned from this which I can pass on to the boys, it is to make sure you know what you are signing up for!

Ben Beardmore-Gray

28th April 2017: To FAIL can be the First Attempt In Learning

On the face of it, I chose an unusual topic for a recent whole school assembly – the theme was “failure”. As parents, our natural instinct is probably to be fearful of exposing our boys to disappointment at a young age – the temptation is both for us and society to place our children on a trajectory whereby they experience nothing but success.

The danger of this is twofold: first, it is unrealistic to think that our children will go through life without suffering some knocks and setbacks along the way – if they haven’t suffered the minor setbacks through childhood, how are they going to cope when the more serious issues arise in early adulthood, such as not getting into the University of their choice, being turned down at a job interview, a failed relationship or worse? 

Second, it is often through getting things wrong that the most effective learning takes place. If the boys are instilled with the right attitude, they will take responsibility for themselves and learn from their disappointments.  As I said in Assembly, don’t be afraid of getting things wrong, because approached in the right way to FAIL can be the First Attempt In Learning. As Thomas Edison famously said on the path to inventing the light bulb, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Ben Beardmore-Gray

21st April 2017: Welcome Back & Sports Update

How lucky we are to have started the term with such lovely weather. It was a joy to host a touring prep school side from Norfolk on Wednesday in bright sunshine.

Sport is such an important part of Moulsford life and last term was no exception. The profile of hockey was given greater prominence and it was excellent to witness so many boys getting good exposure to the game. For a brief review of last term’s sport, and to get a flavour of the variety of options for boys of all abilities, please click here.

The final day of the Spring term was the U13 Rosslyn Park Prep Schools Sevens tournament - this is the premier competition of its kind with 136 schools competing. The Moulsford boys performed outstandingly well, winning all five of their games in some style, and playing some wonderful rugby along the way - this was probably the most exciting Sevens team ever to wear Moulsford colours. Because of changes to the regulations of junior rugby tournaments, 2017 was the first year in which there was no overall winner of the competition.

As well as the cricket to look forward to, there are so many other exciting sporting opportunities taking place this term. Particular highlights for me include the Inter-House Triathlon (19th May), the Ridgeway Rhino Cycle Ride (11th June) and of course Sports Day (23rd June). I must also confess to a hint of envy when I see boys exploring the river in kayaks, canoes and sailing boats while I’m stuck in the office! 

Ben Beardmore-Gray

24th March 2017: Flexibility & Adaptability

An important skill for boys to learn is the ability to be flexible and to adapt to different situations and circumstances as and when they arise. We have had plenty of opportunity to practise this at Moulsford this week. Unfortunately, on Tuesday, Google cancelled their visit to us at very short notice – possibly they were busy dealing with issues elsewhere? On Wednesday afternoon, following the terrorist attack in Westminster, we had to make a very swift decision to cancel the Choir and Orchestra trip to see Aladdin in the West End - this caused great disappointment to the boys who were very excited about this trip, but they were mature enough to understand that this was the only course of action that the school could have adopted. We are delighted that the theatre company have rescheduled this event for late April – please see the Week Ahead for full details.

As parents will know, we held our Trial New Timetable day on Thursday. A lot of planning went into ensuring that this day ran smoothly, and I am extremely grateful to parents for responding to our requests for information, and to the boys for embracing the new day with such an open mind. We were extremely pleased with how the day went and took copious notes throughout Thursday to ensure that we can iron out any gremlins, before full implementation in September. One of the most rewarding aspects was seeing so many boys involved in extra-curricular activities at the end of the day.

Have a lovely Easter break, and we look forward to the smell of mown grass complementing the sound of leather on willow when your boys return in April.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

17th March 2017: Launch of Google Expedition

On Tuesday, Google will be visiting Moulsford for the official launch of Google Expedition at the School. This amazing software allows classes to go on virtual field trips to such places as Mars, the Great Barrier Reef and Machu Picchu – there are 200 different locations which boys can visit.

During the day, a number of our staff will also receive training from Google.  Google are extremely selective in the schools which they will visit - we have a very good relationship with the company, having been among the first prep schools to use both Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom. We also have the ICT infrastructure in place to enable Google Expedition and other such programmes to operate effectively in school.

The absolute ideal is of course to visit a location in person. However, if boys are unable to get to the International Space Station for their 9.35am Science Lesson, Google Expedition represents a really good alternative. Please click this link for further details. https://www.google.co.uk/intl/en_uk/edu/expeditions/gallery/

Ben Beardmore-Gray

10th March 2017: Final preparations for The Lion King

Excitement mounts as we draw closer to Year 7’s production of the Lion King. The boys have been working extremely hard and have thoroughly enjoyed both the challenge and the variety which this wonderful musical presents.  

Today, their rehearsal was performed in front of Year 3, who were a very appreciative audience.  The play runs over four nights (Wednesday – Saturday), and Mr Edwards has double cast the boys - this means that 28 boys get the opportunity to play one of the 14 major parts, and all 42 boys in the year have exposure to two different roles. 

I have been working in prep schools for 20 years and must have seen close to 100 school productions – I have never come across a Director who had either the vision or energy to double cast a play! The aim of giving opportunities to as many boys as possible is a cornerstone of a Moulsford education.  Thank you very much to all the staff who have been involved in the production in so many different ways.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

3rd March 2017: World Book Day

What a fabulous morning we had on Thursday for World Book Day. It was wonderful to see how the boys and staff embraced this event which provided super opportunities for the boys to learn in different ways. Animal Farm was the theme for Year 8, and the boys’ imagination and creativity were really fired up by exploring about dictatorship, anarchy and oligarchy through drama, music and leadership tasks. Likewise, it was excellent to see Year 5 connect to the Jungle book through the mediums of art and dance. A re-enactment of the fight scene from Wind in the Willows provided Year 6 with the perfect opportunity to let off their excess energy!

It is difficult to overstate the importance of reading for boys. Studies suggest that boys who read for pleasure on a regular basis have the potential to be a year ahead of their peers academically by the age of 15. I am very grateful to Richard Martin (Head of English) and his department who do so much to bring books to life for your boys.

The fun was not confined to just the boys.  In the office, I was the big, bad wolf - I think you know the rest of the characters!

Ben Beardmore-Gray

24th February 2017: Outside the classroom

Warren Gatland will be the British & Irish Lions coach as they embark on their tour of New Zealand this summer. In an interview with David Flatman this week, it was interesting to hear Gatland’s philosophy on what makes a successful team. For him, getting things right off the pitch for the players is essential to ensuring a strong performance on it. Keeping them busy, challenged and ensuring their overall happiness are all priorities for the Lions’ coach.

The same principles can be applied at Moulsford. The boys spend a good deal of time in the classroom, but much of their day is spent outside of lessons, whether this be during break times, rehearsals, games or lunch. Creating the right environment in these areas of school life will ensure that, like the Lions, the boys are busy, challenged and happy. If we can achieve this, we will then see the knock-on positive effects in the classroom.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

10th February 2017: Spread a little kindness

We are in Children’s Mental Health Week, and it is worth taking some time to reflect on the environment in which our children grow up. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have experienced both a home and school life where I was simply allowed to be a child – my parents may have questioned this philosophy as I embarked on my second gap year!

Modern life makes it less easy to achieve an idyllic relaxed childhood for children, although as parents I am sure this is what we all strive for. Securing the foundations for boys’ long-term well-being and resilience is so important. An excellent start to this lies in creating an environment whereby children feel loved and valued, and in encouraging them to do the same for their peers. A very simple message we constantly reinforce to the boys is that meanness generally only has short term gains. However, kindness is transformative. In the words of Henry James: “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind: and the third is to be kind.”

Have a lovely half term.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

3rd February 2017: Merits of All Boys' Education

During the first half of this term, we have had a large number of prospective parents visit the school, and today 20 families were at Moulsford for our Open Day. Questions from prospective parents often focus on the pros and cons of single sex versus co-education. I am always very clear to parents that by far the most important consideration is that they choose an excellent school – far better for a child to receive first-class schooling in a single sex environment than an average experience in a co-educational environment, and vice versa.

We then discuss the merits of an all-boys education, and how the Moulsford curriculum is specifically designed to get the best out of boys.  For example, the boys respond so well to teaching which is interactive, encourages participation, involves teamwork and has an element of nurtured competition embedded in it.  When I tour parents around the school, they can then see all this in action for themselves. On tours this week, we have witnessed boys catching cuddly toys in French lessons, answering questions and then doing star jumps; in Science, the lab coats have been donned while the boys conduct experiments, and we have observed several team Science games – the ruler game is particularly popular.

In ICT, Year 8 boys have been making films about cyber bullying and I have been asked to star in four films this week! I’m beginning to feel typecast as each group wants me to play the Headmaster giving a metaphorical rocket to the cyber bully - I’d love the opportunity to expand my repertoire. When visiting the English classrooms, parents have been introduced to the new martial art of “kung fu punctuation” – ask your boys about it! The History rooms are not normally on my tour but if they were there is a very reasonable chance that we would find ourselves under attack during a re-enactment of a mediaeval battle complete with foam swords.

It’s all good fun and the boys learn a huge amount in the process.

27th January 2017: Appreciation of school staff and their varied roles

One of the most refreshing aspects of working with children is that they are very straight talking and tell you things as they see them. This can sometimes be an extremely humbling experience. Recently, a father asked his son what Mr Beardmore-Gray did at school. The reply was, “He’s the man who parks the cars”. He might have added, “…..and sometimes not particularly well.” I should also point out that another boy has referred to me as “the Prime Minister” – he was immediately given a House Point.

A central lesson of a Moulsford education is recognising the value of everyone involved in the school, in all the various roles that they play. For example, we constantly remind the boys that, while they may see a lot of the teachers, there is a whole host of other very important staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that Moulsford runs smoothly. Expressing our thanks to these members of staff, and respecting the roles they carry out for the benefit of the boys and the success of the school, is key. 

Ben Beardmore-Gray

20th January 2017: Boarders' MasterChef

Forget the inauguration of Donald Trump, the really big event this week was the final of Boarders MasterChef. Mr Clements and I were fortunate enough to be the judges at this prestigious competition. On both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, we sampled the culinary creations of the finalists. On night one, it was cottage pie and cheesecake and, to ensure a level playing field, it was also cottage pie and cheesecake on night two. The school had cottage pie for lunch on Tuesday, and it also reappeared as a choice for Wednesday’s lunch. Never let it be said that you can have too much of a good thing – every cottage pie is different and they were all delicious!

MasterChef provides a wonderful opportunity for boys to unlock talents and skills which they never knew existed – such as peeling a carrot, mashing potatoes and washing-up. I have stressed to the boys that they could become leaders in their field if they continue to practise at home on a regular basis. The standard of meals produced was quite excellent – the judges reckoned that the cheesecakes were two of the best they had ever sampled. It was great to see the boys give so much attention to detail and to work as a team in pursuit of the much coveted trophy. Congratulations to all those who took part, and thank you to the various members of the boarding staff who guided the boys in the right direction.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

13th January 2017: Back into the Routine

I have been very impressed by how swiftly the boys have got back into the routine of school life. The transition back to reality after the extremely busy and relatively short Christmas break has the potential to be tricky.

 

The term has started with a real sense of purpose as the boys have quickly knuckled down and are already putting in hard graft across the many different areas of school life. The fruits of their labours may not be instantly visible, but will become clearer as the academic year progresses. They will become more confident in the classroom, more proficient and experienced on their musical instruments or on stage, and develop strong bonds on the arctic games pitches – these are all experiences which they can draw upon and tap into at a later date. The ability to put in the hard hours now for a delayed reward is an excellent characteristic to develop in itself.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

9th December 2016: Generosity of the Moulsford Community

As the term draws to a close, and the Christmas message encourages us to think of others, I would like to thank the Moulsford community for all that has been collectively achieved over recent months on the charitable front.  With plenty of individual events and a wide variety of charities supported, it is easy to lose sight of the overall picture, and there is no doubt that our efforts in 2016 have been exceptional – from boys, staff and parents.

Fundraising for the 2015/16 academic year resulted in a cheque for £7,000 being presented to local charity Blue Skye Thinking in October.  This impressive sum has a huge impact on their work in funding research into childhood brain tumours.

The Moulsford Annual Sporting lunch in November at the RAC in London raised a total of £9,400 – an increase on the sum initially reported of £8,000 – for the mental health charity YoungMinds.  The significance of the latest statistics of mental health issues among young people must not be underestimated, and as a school we are determined to create a learning environment in which the emotional wellbeing of our pupils and development of resilience are prioritised.

We have already raised a significant amount for this year’s chosen charities, Style Acre and Mary’s Meals.  The Moulsford Mudder raised an impressive £1100, and the pennies from the Mary’s Meals blue mugs have already raised nearly £700.  The Moulsford staff have been playing their part too, with Chris Symonds completing an impressive double marathon in September to raise £475 for Mary’s Meals. This is a great start, with many more events in the pipeline for 2017.

Remembrance Day saw further funds raised with £400 donated to the Poppy Appeal, and there was a huge response to the Sal’s Shoes collection of outgrown and unwanted footwear, with around 450 pairs of shoes and boots donated by Moulsford to those in need around the world.

Finally, our very own Parents Association has raised impressive funds of over £7,000 this term alone, through the Headmaster’s Quiz night, Bonfire Night, cake sales and early sales of Christmas cards.  This money is ploughed back into the school for the benefit of the boys, with input from both boys and parents as to how it is spent. 

With the MPA Christmas Fair to look forward to tomorrow, I would like to thank the Moulsford community for organising and supporting our events so generously.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

2nd December 2016: Religious Studies at Moulsford

We were delighted to welcome Monawar Hussain, the Imam of Eton, to Moulsford recently. Ensuring that the boys are exposed to religious and cultural diversity is an extremely important part of a Moulsford education. The Religious Studies curriculum gives boys a good knowledge of Bible stories from both the Old and New Testaments, and the Christian message is central to the overall ethos of the school.

However, boys also study in detail the following world religions: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. In providing a broad education, we aim to foster understanding and tolerance which ultimately leads to collaboration with people from all different backgrounds.

Exposure to a wide range of views and opinions at this age ensures that your boys will be better placed to make a positive difference to society in the global world in which they will live and work. For more details of the Imam’s visit, please see the news story on the website.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

18th November 2016: IT at Moulsford

Planning strategically for IT and ICT in any school is a difficult task. Who knows what technology will look like in two years’ time, let alone ten? One thing that is certain is that all pupils will need solid IT skills for both their future education and in the workplace. We are preparing boys for jobs that do not exist yet, and all will involve IT in some shape or form.

Here at Moulsford we are keen for the boys to be exposed to as many IT environments as possible. In our two computer suites, we have Macs which run both OSX and Windows operating systems. We are a Google Apps for Education school, and we use mobile devices: iPads and ChromeBooks. The boys therefore have the opportunity to use all of these applications, to learn to pick the 'right tool' for the job, and to consider efficient and effective ways of working when using technology. One example of this is the use of Google Classroom, a virtual environment where discussions about work can take place and assignments posted, created, handed in and marked. We are now at a stage that, given a project to complete, boys can consider their past technological experience and choose the best approach.

Learning to understand how this technology comes to exist in the first place is very important and the boys have the opportunity to program in a variety of languages by the time they leave Moulsford in Year 8. As a result of this, we have had many boys over the years who have started to develop their own software and websites in the real world. 

Using technology safely and responsibly is another area of great importance, and we deal with this area continually throughout the curriculum as well as part of special focus days.

Finally, we strive to get the balance right between pushing ahead with technology, while maintaining and developing very sharp focus on the core skills of handwriting, presentation and face to face communication. 

Ben Beardmore-Gray

11th November 2016: Senior School Relationships

Years 6, 7, & 8 boys will be delighted that their exams are out of the way – they celebrated with an excellent lecture on sharks and elephants on Thursday afternoon!

I have had a busy week on the senior schools circuit. On Tuesday I was invited to lunch at Abingdon with Mike Windsor (the new Headmaster) and some of his senior staff. It was also excellent to catch up with a number of old Moles on my visit - there are roughly 60 of them at Abingdon!  Later that day, I attended a Prep Schools' Heads dinner at Radley, which was an excellent opportunity to discuss issues with other Heads and to catch up with Radley staff.

Many of you will remember Dr. Tim Hands who spoke at Prize Giving in the summer - Mrs Clements will certainly not forget his speech! Dr Hands is now the Headmaster of Winchester College, and on Wednesday he held a dinner in the wonderful medieval surroundings of College Hall. This was my first visit to Winchester for a long time, and both he and I are very keen to forge links between our two schools. On Thursday evening, I was at Reading Blue Coat for a dinner and much enjoyed meeting their new Headmaster, Jesse Elzinga, and other key staff.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

4th November 2016: Choosing a Senior School after Moulsford

I do hope that parents have found the booklet “Choosing a Senior School after Moulsford” useful. If for any reason households have not received a copy, please contact the school office.

While the booklet acts as a guide to parents, there are so many variables in the process that not all eventualities will be covered. Parents are very welcome to email either myself or Tiffany Squire (Deputy Head – Academic) for clarification on specific questions or issues as they arise. Please can I stress the importance of giving the school plenty of notice if your son is attending an interview at a senior school - we can then ensure that interview preparation can be organised.

You will have noticed that the booklet contains information on scholarships. The Year 8 scholarship “season” has just begun, and many congratulations go to Johnny Miller and Louis Holland who have both been awarded Music Scholarships to Shiplake College.  

Ben Beardmore-Gray

14th October 2016: School Prefect Appointments

For this academic year we have parted with tradition in making our senior appointments (Head Boy, Deputy Head Boy and Prefects). Historically these positions were announced either at the end of the previous Summer term or at the very beginning of the Autumn term. However for 2016/17, we decided to introduce a new system. 

All Year 8 boys were invited to apply for the posts by writing a letter of application. Virtually all boys put themselves forward and we then drew up a shortlist of 15 boys who each gave a two minute presentation to a group of staff and all of Years 7 and 8. Drawing up this shortlist was very difficult in itself, as the quality of the application letters was extremely high. This level of quality was then mirrored by an outstanding series of short presentations given by the 15 boys. The consistent message that came through from the candidates in both their letters and presentations was that of service to the School, and leading by example. While we canvassed the views of the Year 8 boys as a whole, the decisions on appointments were taken by the staff.

The whole exercise has been an extremely uplifting one in which to be involved, and the staff have seen a level of maturity and generosity of spirit beyond these boys’ years.  We are extremely grateful to all the boys who put themselves forward, and who, by doing so, stuck their necks out in the knowledge that not everyone could succeed. 

Inevitably, we are not able to make every boy a Prefect and accordingly there were many strong candidates who have not gained a senior position. However, we very much hope that the opportunity of going through this experience will have been both beneficial and useful for all those boys who took part. We recognise that some boys will be disappointed by the outcomes, but hope that this will not stop them applying for future positions as they arise during the year.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

7th October 2016: School Assemblies

School assemblies are a wonderful opportunity for the school to gather as a community. The boys thoroughly enjoy singing rousing hymns, and Moulsford assemblies always finish with prayers. This term we have introduced a short musical item as the boys enter the theatre. Last week Ediz Hunter played a lovely piano piece ‘Allegro non tanto’ by Dussek, and we were very well entertained by Antonio Perez-Quane on the flute yesterday, who played ‘Yesterday’ by Lennon and McCartney. As an audience it is clear that the boys have really enjoyed listening to the music, and we look forward to hearing many more performers over the coming weeks.

At Thursday’s assembly, we also listened to an excellent declamation by Oscar I’Anson. Oscar spoke extremely fluently with both enormous passion and great composure to the school. His rousing oratory about ‘winners and quitters’ struck a real chord with the boys.  Please click here for the text of his declamation. Boys give declamations in assembly on a regular basis, and we have several to look forward to next week. Musical performances and declamations are excellent ways for either individuals or small groups of boys to gain confidence, and also for the audience to gain further exposure to the arts.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

30th September 2016: Prep School Heads' Conference

Earlier this week, I attended the IAPS Prep School Heads’ Conference in London. As well as an opportunity to catch up and discuss current issues with numerous other Heads (over 400 delegates were present), there was a series of very useful talks.

Of particular interest was Natasha Devon, who was appointed mental health champion for schools by the Department for Education in 2015. She did not last long in this role, apparently having differing views to Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education at that time. Natasha Devon’s talk was entitled “Understanding the Modern Teenagers’ World” and key points taken away were as follows: the importance in developing children’s critical thinking so they are better placed to navigate their way through the mass of information and social media; identifying outlets for children to relieve their anxiety/stress; teaching boys in particular the importance of talking about their emotions.

The conference closed with an excellent talk by Tony Little. Tony was headmaster of Eton from 2001- 2014 and is now Chief Education Officer of GEMS – an organisation which encompasses 88 schools in 13 different countries. His talk on “Leading a School at a Time of Exponential Change” outlined the very rapid change that the world is about to experience over the next 40 years as a result of developments in computing – specifically in both artificial general intelligence and then artificial super intelligence. To prepare children for this new world, he stressed the importance of an education system which allows for flexibility and mental agility, as well as the sowing of strong moral values, so that children have clear points of reference in tomorrow’s non-linear, dynamic world and workplace. He also emphasised the importance of having fun in schools!

Amongst the Heads, there was also a lot of discussion about the senior schools’ admissions process and the future of Common Entrance. There are a number of schools taking a very similar route to Moulsford, but at present we are among the forerunners to introduce a new curriculum - it is absolutely clear that many are about to follow.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

23rd September 2016: The Academic Challenge

A large number of parents attended the two meetings this week regarding the curriculum changes outlined in my recent letter. It was excellent to welcome Julian Thomas (the Master of Wellington College) and Mark Hindley (Deputy Headmaster of Abingdon School) both of whom spoke about the importance of a curriculum which teaches skills which are directly relevant to your boys’ future.

Moulsford’s focus is not only to prepare boys for senior schools, but also to ensure they have the skills for life beyond. So what does the new curriculum mean for Moulsford boys?  Your boys will follow a curriculum which promotes intellectual agility, will encourage them to think and analyse critically, make connections across the subjects and give plenty of opportunity for creativity and collaboration.  The new curriculum will encourage boys to have a go, take a well-thought-out risk, and, on occasion, fail. Exploration and enquiry will be strongly encouraged and Moulsford life will aim to develop boys’ resilience. While exams will remain an important part of school life, Moulsford boys will continue to learn much more than how to score highly in summative tests, and regurgitate learned facts. 

If you would like a reminder of the details of the curriculum changes, please refer back to my original letter and supporting notes.  I am in the final stages of producing a booklet which will guide parents through the process of choosing a senior school, and gives details of the admissions criteria for individual schools. This will be sent to parents shortly.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

16th September 2016: Moulsford Charities

Many of you will have read Mrs. Lancaster’s letter and news item giving details about the two charities we are supporting this year, namely Style Acre and Mary’s Meals. We are delighted for Moulsford to have an association with these organisations and hope that the boys and the school can play a small part through 2016/17 in making a difference for those who benefit from these charities’ work.

Such links also form a very important part of the boys’ overall education in raising awareness of both wider issues “outside of the school gates”, and of individuals in society who are in need of some form of support.   One upcoming event which will fundraise for these two charities is the Moulsford Mudder on 2 October, which we hope will receive widespread support.  The deluge we received last night should assist the ‘mud-makers’!

The school will also work closely with other charities this year, such as Young Minds which has been adopted by the RAC Sporting Lunch on 18 November. Over the past couple of years, I have been so impressed by how your boys have responded to the challenge of helping these charities, and the way in which the Moulsford community has got behind such causes.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

9th September 2016: Welcome Back & Senior Schools

It has been excellent to welcome your boys back and there has been a real feeling of energy around the school. How lovely to see so many cheery faces at the zebra crossing at the start of the school day!  A particularly warm welcome goes to all new Moulsford families who have joined the school this term.

One of the key aspects of my role is in advising parents regarding senior school choices for their boys. To do so, it is essential to nurture and develop very close links between Moulsford and these schools. Regular dialogue with senior school staff at many different levels not only allows us to give parents an informed view, but also helps Moulsford fully understand changes in educational trends and philosophy which may be taking place.

In this first half of term the following will be visiting Moulsford: Julian Thomas (Master of Wellington), Mark Hindley (Deputy Head of Abingdon), John Moule (Warden of Radley), Thomas Garnier (Headmaster of Pangbourne). I will also be visiting Abingdon to have lunch with the new Headmaster, Mike Windsor. On Thursday evening, Sarah B-G and I attended the launch of the Tatler Schools Guide. At this event, I was able to catch up personally with the Headmasters of Stowe, St. Edwards Oxford and Shrewsbury, as well as Registrars of Marlborough and Wellington, besides chatting to numerous other Prep School Heads.

On Tuesday 4 October from 4.30 – 6.30pm, Moulsford is hosting a Senior Schools Fair at which the following schools will be represented:  Abingdon, Bradfield, Radley, Magdalen College School, St Edwards Oxford, Eton, Marlborough, Millfield, Pangbourne, Shiplake, Stowe, The Oratory, Wellington, Cokethorpe, Harrow and Padworth College. This should be an invaluable event for many parents, and I do hope that a good number of you will be able to attend.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

1st July 2016: Activities Week

Activities Week presents the opportunity to introduce a completely different curriculum, and for the boys to learn in an alternative way. There have been so many wonderful events and activities taking place at school this week for Year 5 and below, all under the theme of “Mystery” - boys in Years 3, 4, and 5 were in one of three groups, either “Scooby Doo, The Famous Five or Sherlock Holmes”. One of the many highlights was the Riverwalk, which involved hiking upstream towards Wallingford, having a BBQ and then kayaking/canoeing back (or vice versa). On this journey, boys hunted for various clues to crack a code. An equally wonderful sight could be seen at various times during the week by looking down on the Moulsford river frontage: groups of boys were given the task of starting small fires using flintlock self-starting kits and at one point, I counted eight mini bonfires all with smoke rising directly upwards!

The Pre-Prep have had their own activities programme, Years 7 & 8 have been in Devon, and Year 6 had an overnight camp and then undertook a series of tasks at Moulsford, designed to build resilience. The benefits of such a week for all boys are huge. For example, it gives boys numerous opportunities to express themselves; the confidence to have a go; it encourages collaboration amongst both peers and between different year groups; and there are all sorts of links made across the curriculum. This last point is particularly important as it can be very easy for boys to view academic subjects in isolation. Education becomes particularly powerful when boys can see that subjects/topics/activities all link up and connections can be made. The Year 7 Dragon’s Den project (which takes place in the Spring term) is also a classic example of this. Boys (in pairs) design a product in Art, create a prototype in Design and Technology, build a website for their product in ICT, and then present a business plan to the Dragons (in front of their whole year group) in an attempt to win investment. Both Activities Week, and projects such as Dragon’s Den play a large part in preparing boys for life in the modern world.

Ben Beardmore-Gray

24th June 2016: Moulsford Community & Parents’ Association

Many of you, like myself, will be looking forward to the Parents’ Association Ball which takes place on Saturday evening. An enormous amount of planning, preparation and thought goes into ensuring the success of this and other PA events. The Ball is just one example of parents and the school working extremely closely together, and I am in no doubt that such collaboration is one of the keys to the strength of the Moulsford community.

The success of the PA rests largely in its very simple and clear aims: first, to provide a social platform for parents to meet each other; second, to raise funds to purchase additional items to enhance the boys’ educational experience. Closely related to the PA functions, are the wonderful charity fundraising events which involve large numbers of parents, boys and staff. The Ridgeway Rhino bike ride (a 21 mile journey along the rutted Ridgeway in filthy conditions this year) and Moulsford’s Got Talent were both recent events which brought the Moulsford community together, and had the added benefit of strongly testing the boys’ resolve – all those who took part in the bike ride or performed at MGT to a large audience in an open air forum, will definitely feel they have earned the money that they raised for charity.

With their aim of making PA activities more transparent, the PA committee has written a letter giving details of where raised funds have been spent for the benefit of the boys – please click here. Thank you to all of you who are involved in the events which generate these funds – they are such fun for us all to be part of. On the charitable fundraising side, the South Africa Tour fundraising committee have reached their target of £15,000 for the two charities they are supporting – the Goedgedacht Trust and SKRUM. What a wonderful achievement and particular thanks goes to Alex Bradbury who has led this committee with enormous energy and resolve.

17th June 2016: Common Entrance Results & the Year 8 Leavers’ Programme

I am delighted to report that all the Year 8 Common Entrance candidates have passed their exams and have gained entry to the senior schools of their choice.  On Thursday afternoon, I gathered the boys around the circular bench overlooking the river to give them this great news – they were then each given an envelope containing their grades, which were opened simultaneously. Overall the boys have achieved a tremendous set of results which is testament both to the hard work they have put in, and the excellent teaching, support and encouragement they have received from the staff.  Well done to all!

The post Common Entrance Year 8 Programme is well under way, and the boys loved their night under the stars at Forest School on Tuesday, although I believe there was limited sleep! We much enjoyed hosting the girls from Cranford at Moulsford on Thursday for a Design and Technology day, and the boys also had an interesting drugs information talk.  Further opportunities for the boys include a languages day, raft building on the river, some First Aid training and participation in an African drumming workshop. To round it all off, they will enjoy a Personal Development Training Course for five days in Devon, which will incorporate sea kayaking, rock climbing, surfing, mountain biking, ringo-ing and paintballing.

Huge thanks go to the staff who put the programme together, and to all those who contribute their time and energy to ensuring the Year 8s have a really fun, varied and educational end to their time at Moulsford.

10th June 2016: Manners and Discipline at Moulsford

When I show prospective parents around the school, they often comment on the excellent manners and discipline of the Moulsford boys, coupled with the relaxed atmosphere of the school. Manners, courtesy and discipline are key life skills that we aim to embed in the boys at an early stage. Good habits formed at a young age can become second nature as boys progress through the prep school years – these ingrained habits then become invaluable to them in later life. Making eye contact, a firm handshake, opening a door for adults, standing up when an adult enters a room (in a school situation), engaging in conversation all help foster an overall respect for both each other and the community we share - as well as creating a very good impression.

Perhaps the most powerful way of instilling these values is by the use of role models. The older boys in the school are acutely aware of the influence they have on those in the lower year groups, and the responsibility that such influence brings. Only yesterday I was reminding the Year 8 boys how the younger children will take their lead from them - whether this be as members of the choir, orchestra, sports teams, but particularly in relation to manners, courtesy and discipline and the overall atmosphere of the school.

With 330 boys at Moulsford, it is very important to have a clear set of boundaries in terms of discipline, and our experience is that the boys respond extremely well to this. Inevitably, boys will push the boundaries, and on occasion get things wrong – one expects this (to a certain degree!).  What is important is that issues are clearly talked through and boys understand how they can learn from their experiences.

I consistently hear positive third party comments about the behaviour of Moulsford boys – these come from prospective parents, senior schools, or from members of the public when the boys are out on school trips.  Thank you to parents for setting standards at home and backing up these shared values.

27th May 2016: School examinations

There was a lovely feeling of achievement and relief at Moulsford on Thursday afternoon as exams for Years 3 to 7 drew to a close. One of the primary aims of school exams is to familiarise boys with the examination process – we aim for exams to become part of the natural cycle of academic life rather than a significant psychological hurdle for boys to fear and get through.

There is no escaping the fact that children will need to sit a series of exams as they go through school, university and in gaining professional qualifications - media coverage and grade inflation also serve to raise society’s expectations of children to perform at a very high level in public exams.  Clearly not all children will achieve a string of A* grades, and neither should they have this pressure thrust upon them. However, habits formed and lessons learned at a young age in approach, attitude and preparation to exams can reap huge benefits as they progress through life.

As much as anything, we feel it is important that boys (and parents) keep exams and their results in perspective. Talking to senior school staff, one of the biggest concerns they have is the mental health and well-being of the boys in their care – pressure to succeed and comparisons with others (now all too easy with ever present social media) are large contributing factors to this trend. Moulsford’s decision to support the charity “Young Minds” at the RAC lunch in November is designed to raise awareness of the issues that your boys may face as they progress beyond Moulsford.

In determining classes for the coming academic year, exams are only one factor we take into consideration. More important to us is how boys have performed over the course of the whole year, and the class in which they are likely to flourish going forward.

With exams out of the way, Year 4 were able to get down to the serious business of taking on Lambrook. It was great to see the whole year group involved, with the front field turned over entirely to cricket – just as it should be! Best of luck to the Year 8 boys who sit Common Entrance exams immediately after half term.

20th May 2016: Music ABRSM Examinations

On Monday, 24 boys ranging from Years 3 to 8 took their Music ABRSM practical exams. Between them, the boys entertained the examiner with a variety of instruments including oboes, clarinets, cellos, pianos, flutes, violins and saxophones.

For some boys it was their first experience of a practical music exam, while some old hands are working their way up the grades. I popped into the music department a few times during the day and it was great to pick up on the atmosphere – there was a mixture of anticipation, nerves and excitement. We hope all the boys are successful, but whatever the outcome, it is tremendous that boys put themselves forward for this experience.

The benefits of learning a musical instrument are well documented, and we strongly encourage boys at Moulsford to take up the challenge – roughly 75% of boys from Reception to Year 8 do so.  Spin offs can include development of co-ordination and motor skills, improved academic skills such as recognising patterns, as well as short and long-term memory.  The teamwork involved in group music cultivates social skills, regular practise encourages self-discipline and patience, and in general, through self-expression and having fun, participating in music helps boost self-esteem.

Please do have a look at the news item on Year 7’s trip to the Gamelan workshop in London.  It is a perfect example of the exciting opportunities that the Music department offers.

We are very excited about the arrival of Camilla Moore in September 2016.  As an additional full-time music specialist, Camilla will further boost music learning here at Moulsford.

13th May 2016: Clubs, Activities & Fundraising

I have so enjoyed watching both the RugbyTots and Henley AFC sessions for the pre-prep boys, which are new this term. The energy which the boys still have at the end of the school day is being put to very good effect on the school grounds! The whole programme of Moulsford clubs and activities is being looked at extremely closely at the moment with Chris Symonds taking on the newly created role of Director of Activities from September – he has some really exciting ideas of his own, and has canvassed the staff and boys about further expansion of extra-curricular opportunities. While there will be some alterations to the make-up of the activities programme for 2016/17, there are likely to be more significant changes from September 2017, when we aim to create additional time in the school day for more extra-curricular opportunities.

We had an excellent assembly this week from Grace Lancaster, who is the school’s Charities Co-ordinator. Grace gave the boys details of Moulsford’s charitable fundraising efforts so far this academic year. We were all amazed to discover that in total the Moulsford community had raised £34,000 since September which was going to a number of different charities: Blue Skye Thinking, Brain Tumour Research, the Royal British Legion, Great Ormond Street Hospital, SKRUM and the Goedgedacht Trust. Grace also gave us a preview of acts to appear in Moulsford’s Got Talent (MGT) on the evening of Friday 17th June. I can assure you that you will not be disappointed – it was great to see the boys of DSY in action demonstrating their skills with Diablos, Strings and Yo-Yos!  MGT was a fabulous evening last year, and I would encourage parents to attend if they are able – you will have the added entertainment of the Staff v Parents cricket match at the same time! Thank you to all Moulsford families for the wonderful support you have shown for these events and charities. 

6th May 2016: Cricket & Senior Schools

At last some proper sunshine! It is a joy to walk around school grounds during break times to see the boys having so much fun and making the most of the warm weather. During Wednesday morning break, I must have counted 25 impromptu cricket games taking place as boys prepared for the real deal against Summer Fields that afternoon. All boys from Years 5 to 8 were involved in some form of match on Wednesday afternoon, either against Summer Fields or internally. We are keen that boys play as many fixtures as possible, as team sports teach boys so much about life (especially cricket!) as well as being excellent for morale and self-confidence. Notable performances included the following: Bert Dreyer hit 50 (6th XI); William Johnson took a hat-trick (U11C); Milo Griffiths scored 72 (U11A); Liam Hilditch and Monty Bradbury made 56 and 60 respectively (1st XI); mention should also be made of a stunning ankle high catch by Jasper Laidlaw in the 4th XI fixture.

Deciding on the next school for your boys after Moulsford can be a very tricky process, particularly for your eldest son. It is in Year 5 when I suggest that parents book an appointment with me to discuss the various options. We also hold an information evening for all parents in Year 5, when we talk parents through the process - for the next academic year this will take place on Tuesday 20th September at 7:30pm, and will include a talk from Julian Thomas, the Master at Wellington College. Any non-Year 5 parents who would like to hear Mr Thomas talk are extremely welcome to attend.

Next term we will also be holding a Senior Schools Fair, which will take place on Tuesday 4th October from 4.30 – 6.30pm. The following senior schools will be represented: Abingdon, Bradfield, Cokethorpe, Eton, Harrow, Magdalen College School, Marlborough, Millfield, the Oratory, Pangbourne, Radley, St Edwards, Oxford, Shiplake, Stowe and Wellington.  All parents are invited to attend this event, which will take place in either the theatre or the sports hall. A booklet for Moulsford parents giving advice and information about the next stage will also be published shortly.

Links between Moulsford and the Senior Schools are really important to us, and we are constantly looking at ways to nurture and strengthen these. Last week, we welcomed Michael Windsor (Headmaster – elect of Abingdon) to Moulsford, and he had lunch with the twelve Year 8 boys who will be joining Abingdon in September. This coming Tuesday, Jonathan Leigh and Niall Hamilton (the Master and Registrar of Marlborough respectively) also join us at the school for lunch and a tour - they will also spend time with the five Year 8 boys who are starting at Marlborough next year.

29th April 2016: Shakespeare & New Newsletter

The 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare provided the theme for my Monday assembly this week – the aim being to expose the boys to the wonderful and colourful language used by the Bard. It is not every day that boys are encouraged to hurl insults at each other in a public forum, but this was exactly the task that I gave to Hugo Carr and James Head! With the whole school and staff watching on, Hugo delivered his favourite line, which came from Henry IV Part II:  “You scullion!  You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!” Not to be outdone James responded with:  “There’s no more faith in thee than a stewed prune!”(Henry V).   However, Hugo had the final say with a line which resonates with all prep school boys: “Thou cream-faced loon.”(Macbeth)

I hope parents have found the new website useful, and are finding it easy to navigate their way around the mass of school information which it houses. In particular, I know that for many parents it is the sports website which is visited most frequently. I recently discovered a very useful tool on this when viewing on a desktop screen, by which all team sheets for a particular day can be displayed simultaneously on one screen. If you bring up the fixtures for a specific day, and then click on the icon “Today’s Teams”, all team sheets are listed – this is particularly useful if you’re searching for multiple children!

Following the launch of this Weekly Round Up, you can also now expect a new Week Ahead version in similar style.  The Week Ahead will carry notices and letters from staff, reminders, a brief overview of upcoming fixtures, with links through to the online calendar and sports website. The main aim is to reduce the number of separate emails being sent to parents, so that only urgent emails are sent out from the office over and above this weekly mailing.  Both the Weekly Round Up and the Week Ahead will be sent out separately on Fridays.

Have a wonderful Bank Holiday weekend!

22nd April 2016: Start of Term & New Weekly Round Up

Along with reporting on a great start to the new term, I am delighted to welcome you to our new look ‘Weekly Round-up’.  This has been developed to work in tandem with the new website, and should allow you to keep more fully abreast of your son’s activities at school, as well as encouraging you to engage with all of the news and stories that we now publish online.  We would welcome any feedback so that we can produce a weekly update that you find helpful, informative and interesting.

We are also producing a new ‘Week Ahead’, which is a re-vamp of my previous weekly email.  Again, we hope this provides improved communications, and would welcome comments and ideas for both new publications.  Both will be sent out on Fridays, but separately so you can review and plan accordingly.

Our glimpse of Summer on Wednesday and Thursday has been brought to an abrupt end.  Sadly the touring cricketers in Somerset are being limited to indoor pairs in the Taunton Prep sports hall this afternoon.  We hope that tomorrow will bring drier weather at All Hallows, near Shepton Mallett, but I’m sure the high spirits of our tourers will not be dampened by rain!  The Jazz workshop at the Oratory today, in which ten senior musicians are participating, should not suffer the same fate.

Apart from today’s rain, we’ve had a fabulous start to term.  In only three days, both boys and staff are back into the routine, and House Points have been pouring through my door.  I think the first arrived on my desk by 10.42am on Day One!  The kitchen staff dressed up for the Queen’s birthday yesterday, with fish and chips putting everyone in a good mood. 

I have been very impressed by the efforts of many boys during the holidays in both individual endeavours for fundraising, and sporting triumphs.  We are always delighted to hail successes of our pupils for efforts outside of school, and you will see some reports below.  Please do send in details as and when they arise: they will always be published on our website, and when we have space we will include them in the Weekly Round-up.

9th December 2016: Generosity of the Moulsford Community

As the term draws to a close, and the Christmas message encourages us to think of others, I would like to thank the Moulsford community for all that has been collectively achieved over recent months on the charitable front.  With plenty of individual events and a wide variety of charities supported, it is easy to lose sight of the overall picture, and there is no doubt that our efforts in 2016 have been exceptional – from boys, staff and parents.

Fundraising for the 2015/16 academic year resulted in a cheque for £7,000 being presented to local charity Blue Skye Thinking in October.  This impressive sum has a huge impact on their work in funding research into childhood brain tumours.

The Moulsford Annual Sporting lunch in November at the RAC in London raised a total of £9,400 – an increase on the sum initially reported of £8,000 – for the mental health charity YoungMinds.  The significance of the latest statistics of mental health issues among young people must not be underestimated, and as a school we are determined to create a learning environment in which the emotional wellbeing of our pupils and development of resilience are prioritised.

We have already raised a significant amount for this year’s chosen charities, Style Acre and Mary’s Meals.  The Moulsford Mudder raised an impressive £1100, and the pennies from the Mary’s Meals blue mugs have already raised nearly £700.  The Moulsford staff have been playing their part too, with Chris Symonds completing an impressive double marathon in September to raise £475 for Mary’s Meals. This is a great start, with many more events in the pipeline for 2017.

Remembrance Day saw further funds raised with £400 donated to the Poppy Appeal, and there was a huge response to the Sal’s Shoes collection of outgrown and unwanted footwear, with around 450 pairs of shoes and boots donated by Moulsford to those in need around the world.

Finally, our very own Parents Association has raised impressive funds of over £7,000 this term alone, through the Headmaster’s Quiz night, Bonfire Night, cake sales and early sales of Christmas cards.  This money is ploughed back into the school for the benefit of the boys, with input from both boys and parents as to how it is spent. 

With the MPA Christmas Fair to look forward to tomorrow, I would like to thank the Moulsford community for organising and supporting our events so generously.

Ben Beardmore-Gray