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It feels a little odd to still be saying ‘Happy New Year’ but as this is the first blog post of the year, I think I can get away with it.

No sooner had term started, I found myself at the Annual Woodard Heads’ Conference and, as ever, there were some nuggets to take home as well as the ever-present pleasure of catching up with like minds.

Dominic Peckham was there to talk to us about a future project to hear 1000 Woodard Voices in concert at the Birmingham Symphony Hall early next year. Or at least, we thought he was going to talk to us but with no verbal instructions at all for the first 10 minutes, he quickly had us up on our feet, mimicking rhythms, sounds and actions. This then progressed to words, chants and even a couple singing brief solos … eventually, it evolved into a five-part harmony (well, I think it was harmonious!) and 40+ Heads giving it their all. He was terrific and it promises to be a great event which I certainly hope we can send as many children as is practical to when the call comes.

Monty Halls, the vivacious TV naturalist and adventurer, was also there to discuss the importance of personal development and self-confidence and whether enough time and resource is committed to this aspect of growing up: personally this is something very dear to my heart and I think we do pretty well at King’s Hall, but it is always good to reflect and review.

A less well-known or vigorous presentation was from Professor Gerald Pillay, who is Vice-Chancellor and Rector of Liverpool Hope University. He was talking about the contribution of Christian Education and was incredibly interesting in regard to the history of education. In days of yore, churches saw it as important to provide education in order to enhance future opportunities, not to convert future followers. He said that ‘education is liberation’ and this phrase chimed with my meeting with Mr Paul Mbugua, who had joined the Conference for the first time.

Mr Mbugua is the Headmaster of the Woodard Langa Langa school in Kenya which, as you know, we helped to build in 2011. Previously, there were only primary schools in the area and when you reached 14 there was no further education. Mr Mbugua was very strong on the fact that this opportunity to further your education and even go to University has provided liberation for some of the children in Langa Langa. A genuinely life changing gift was bestowed when the decision was made to build the school and it was a powerful, inspiring yet simple story he had to share with us yesterday.

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