It has been fantastic over the last two weeks to see students walking the corridors of the school again, bringing that buzz of learning to our little patch of Oxfordshire. I admit that this opening reflection is a little longer than normal, however I make no apology at a time when we reflect on the news of recent days.
In the last week, we have been mourning the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. At school, we marked the occasion on Friday 9 September in a series of Year Group assemblies. These provided an opportunity for moments of reflection on how the Queen served the communities of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. A great deal has been said in the news about the Queen and I cannot add anything particularly profound that has not already been said. However, I would like to here reflect more widely on the values that so epitomised the Queen, those of service and duty. I would like to do this by considering three different groups of people who are in some way connected to the school and are committed to honouring the duty to serve others.
Between ten and fifteen percent of our families have direct connections to the armed forces, with even more connected indirectly to the bases in the area. In week one of training, recruits are asked to take an oath of allegiance to the monarch of the United Kingdom. The oath is sworn in an event known as the Attestation Ceremony. In recent days the wording of the oath has changed but the meaning remains the same. For the British Army it is:
I swear by almighty God that I will be faithful, and bear true allegiance to his Majesty King Charles III, his heirs and successors, and that I will as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend his Majesty, his heirs and successors in person, crown and dignity, against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, his heirs and successors and the generals and officers set over me. [army.mod.uk]
As we lament the death of the Queen, it seems appropriate to recognise those who have served under her reign and those who will carry on under our new King.
School governors carry a great deal of responsibility in serving on behalf of others. Whilst they do not have control of the management and day-to-day decision-making of the school. This is delegated to the Headteacher and in turn the leadership team. Governors have oversight for the scrutiny of strategy and must ensure all the policies adopted in school comply with the laws of the day. Before commencing the role, there is an explicit requirement for each governor to know and accept the Seven Principles of Public Life, also known as the ‘Nolan Principles’. [gov.uk]
The responsibility for governors to be selfless, remain objective, and be accountable is not insignificant. This is particularly given that the role is undertaken without financial compensation and the work is performed in addition to their day job. I am grateful to the Governors of Burford School for their dedication to a position in public life and for fulfilling a heavy workload on top of all other professional and personal commitments.
This academic year we have introduced the role of Prefects. These are ten members of Sixth Form who support the Heads of School in leading and representing the student body. Each Prefect is assigned to a year group (two for each) and works with a Head of Year to provide additional support to students. Indeed, they have several roles from attending Year Group assemblies and sitting on the School Council to being present at lunchtime on the pitches and around the corridors of the school. The experience is valuable to each Prefect and provides an opportunity for leadership that is otherwise difficult to gain at a young age.
However, being a Burford School prefect is about more than leadership. It is also about service and selflessness, looking out for others and being a foundation upon which the school values are built. There is no better example of selflessness than that of the prefects who attended the Year 7 trip at the end of last week. In total, six of our prefects supported the students on their adventure. There is no doubt that their contribution helped the event pass so successfully. I am grateful also to Mr C Cowley and the team of staff who guided the activities at Boughton Wood. Further details are contained within this issue of the Burfordian.
We were fortunate enough in November 2021 to welcome the Queen’s cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, to the school for Charter Day. It is therefore not surprising that the last time I wrote on the theme of service was in recognition of the visit from the Duke. As we come to the end of a period of mourning, I ask that we take a moment to think about all those who, like the Queen or the Duke, fulfil their duty to serve others.
Mr M Albrighton