Headmaster's Blog

Success - and the importance of learning from disappointment

Friday, 24 January 2014 by Justin Chippendale

 As we move deeper into the main Scholarship period of the year, some of our Year 8 scholars have already been put through their paces, with the rest of them working assiduously with a view to peaking around half-term.  Academic, musical, artistic, technological, dramatic and sporting opportunities lie ahead for a large cohort of talented individuals.  All of those entered as candidates have already done very well to be considered and we wish them all well over the coming weeks. Past experience suggests that there will be a good deal of success and those who do not gain awards should still feel proud of themselves.  It is good to be ambitious and to aim high: it is also an important, if difficult, truism to discover that even if we try hard and perform well we don’t always find the outcome is the one for which we hoped.

There are some in Year 6 who are candidates for 11+ Scholarships, too, and they have been tested this week.  As well as internal scholarships for children at King’s Hall we offer 11+ Somerset Scholarships to children who are in Year 6 and attend state primary schools; last Saturday we had our first round – there is another opportunity in May.  I met some very talented children and it was one of those (all too frequent!) occasions where I found myself talking to a child whilst thinking "You are far more able than I am but you don’t know it yet!"  It is one of the great pleasures of my job to be surrounded by excited, enthusiastic, eager, energetic, able, gifted and talented people: both children and staff.

 Please click here to find the weekly Newsletter.


A School Of Warm-Heartedness?

Friday, 17 January 2014 by Justin Chippendale

Happy New Year!  What a wonderful time Christmas is – it seems the only time of the year when ‘the whole world’ stops and we find time for those most important to us: I hope you had a good time.

For me, this first week back at school has included the annual Woodard Heads Association Conference which is held in Leamington Spa – or rather it is held in a small conference hotel off a roundabout about 5 miles north of Leamington: and so in six visits I have never seen what is remarked to be the lovely town itself!

This year we touched on interesting topics including the digital future, value added, Philosothons (go to www.philosothon.co.uk to see this terrific initiative King’s College are bringing to the UK) but it was part of a talk from David Boddy that I wish to share with you. David is an author, having been a Headmaster at St James’ Senior School and previously a member of the Conservative Party senior staff under Mrs Thatcher. He talked of the Dalai Lama’s concept of ‘schools of warm-heartedness’ and expressed his opinion that in Woodard there existed a large group of such schools.  He went on to list five common strands of this concept as follows:

•Where we all learn and understand the value of gratitude.

•Where there is a sense of cultivation of inner peace.  A world of peace is impossible without inner peace.

•Where we learn to forgive. To give something better.

•Where we practice happiness.  You become what you think.

•Where the power of unity is understood. A strong sense that we live as a single human family.

Food for thought as we head into 2014 and what is likely to be another busy year.  It is always good to catch up with the other Woodard Heads and later this year I will be heading to London to visit Trinity School, Lewisham, which is one of Woodard’s state secondary schools. Fr Richard Peers is the Head and he will be coming here to reciprocate and I am sure there is much we can learn from each other. Interestingly, the school’s address is Taunton Road.

 Please click here to find the weekly Newsletter.

Christmas is Coming

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 by Justin Chippendale

You will be reading this as we come to the end of a thoroughly rewarding term which has culminated in a week of special Christmas events - just click the link to our Newsletter for the Christmas evidence!
Last Sunday saw our heart-warmingly familiar Carol Service which brings out so much emotion. The quality of the children’s reading and singing was exceptional and many congratulations must go to all involved.  There was an immediate outpouring of feelings; again, see the comments of children, parents and staff later in the Newsletter.
You may know that St Nicholas is our patron saint and we continue the wonderful tradition of retelling the story each year. It’s very special to have a man who gave without seeking reward or recognition as such a positive example to us all.
Lastly for now, you may have spotted a reference to Brian Cox in the ‘History of Christmas’ section of the Newsletter last week.  Well, Professor Cox was recently on the radio explaining how Father Christmas is able to complete his extraordinary feat each year: click here to hear Brian Cox explain ‘How Father Christmas Does It’.  I hope he finds time to visit you this year.

Happy Christmas!

Please click here to read this week’s Newsletter.

Busy, busy, busy - but bundles of fun.

Friday, 6 December 2013 by Justin Chippendale

I have just come from the Nursery Nativity, ‘Whoops-A-Daisy Angel’, and this afternoon I head to King’s College Chapel with both of our Choirs for our Carol Service rehearsal - the Christmas spirit is definitely with us!  By the way, our Senior Choir sang beautifully at the County Ground yesterday for two different audiences and then popped back for some afternoon lessons - all in a day’s work!


Talking about busy children, our Academic scholars completed their mock exams earlier this week and they all seem to be in good order as they head towards their exams in late February.  They have coped exceptionally well this term with the play, sports fixtures, Music and Drama festivals, County tournaments, Carol Service rehearsals and aforementioned performances at the County Ground, as well as maintaining standards akin to GCSE and above in their studies.


Once again, this week has been full of the incredible range of King’s Hall children’s efforts and accomplishments and makes for very rewarding reading.  As we come towards the final week of term, I find myself a very proud Headmaster of all we have achieved as a community these last few months.


Please click here to read this week’s Newsletter.

Final Fortnight Fun

Friday, 29 November 2013 by Justin Chippendale

You may have noticed a hattrick of contrived three word alliterative titles recently!

It is that stage of term where you try not to think of all the events and admin to be squeezed into the next couple of weeks as, when taken as a whole, you cannot imagine how it will all get done: but we know from experience that it will.  The ‘Still To Do’ list for the children ranges from Nativities to Scholarship trial runs, from completing DT projects to final sports matches, from verb tests to descant rehearsals and for staff goes from organising Christmas parties to report writing. The wonderful run up to the end of the Michaelmas term is all laid out ahead and children and staff now simply(!) have to embrace all the fun and hard work for a fantastic time together.

The results from the Drama Festival were just as pleasing as the Music with eight 1st  places and seven 2nd.  There were an enormous number of children taking part and it is a valuable experience for them all. Once again, I am proud to have heard only positive things about our children when they are away from King’s Hall.

I know I have written about sport a bit recently but it just keeps coming.  Yesterday, our U13 girls (it was the U12s last week) headed off to the County Hockey Championships at about 7.30am and when I saw them at 2.30pm they had gold medals around their necks having not lost a game and become County Champions: this is a fine achievement amongst quality opposition and a terrific reward at the end of the season for these girls

I had better stop writing as the 'To Do List' awaits - Carol Service readers next ......

Please click here to read this week's Newsletter.






Narnia, Nationals and Numbers

Wednesday, 27 November 2013 by Justin Chippendale

As the weather turned colder this week it prepared us for our journey through the Wardrobe and into the frozen landscape of Narnia.  What a treat we were offered as Year 8 propelled us energetically into the power struggle between the animals of Narnia and The White Witch.

Last week we were excited about the Under 12s qualifying for the National Hockey Finals and you can read briefly about how it went in this Newsletter, with more to be found on the website: a wonderful couple of days for them and a fabulous achievement to be placed 3rd in the country! Congratulations, girls.

In the last few weeks, some parents have commented on the marketing stance taken by a local independent school. You may be interested in Richard Biggs' comments on the recent Queen's College advertising campaign which he made in a letter to King's College parents; you can read his thoughts which are included as part of his half term letter by clicking here.  It is perhaps worth observing that I was in conversation with another senior school Head who could evidence that, amongst their cohorts, the stronger academic performers at GCSEs and beyond came from those schools, such as King’s Hall, who undertake the academic rigours leading to Common Entrance or Scholarship in Year 8. Important foundations are put down from an early age here and all the pupils at King’s College who had straight A* grades at GCSE, as well as 14 of the 18 who gained all A* or A grades, are all former pupils of King’s Hall.

Please click here to read this week’s Newsletter.

Wardrobes, Witterings and Winners!

Friday, 15 November 2013 by Justin Chippendale

My reflections this week come in three parts.  

Firstly The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is into performance stage next week and there is a tangible sense of purpose about Year 8 as the excitement builds. 

Then, our presence online is finding its feet as our Facebook page is increasingly populated and @KingsHallSchool sends its first tweets – do spread the word to other Likers or Followers! 

Finally, our sporting results at all ages have been really good recently and we seem to have played mostly schools who are within half an hour of us. As well as regular fixtures our boys’ 1st team won the Rugby Sevens Tournament at Sherborne on Wednesday and the icing on the cake was the news that our Under 12 girls qualified for the National Hockey Finals: we wish them well next Tuesday.  Looking back over the last year and a bit we have reached National level competitions in Rugby (U13), Hockey (U11 and 12), Netball (U12), Cricket (U13) as well as contributions in athletics, equestrianism etc etc.  

The first feedback from the Music Festival indicates a good collection of winners, too... and we will have more news from the Festival next week.  

Stop Press … World Premiere!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012 by Justin Chippendale

As I sit in my study slaving over a hot keyboard, I can hear the Chapel Choir rehearsing in the Woodard Room for Sunday evening’s Carol Service. 

A few weeks ago all of the children in the Prep department were given the challenge to compose a new tune to fit the words of ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ to be performed at the Carol Service.  They certainly ‘stepped up to the lectern’ and we had eight entries, all of which would have passed muster.  After a selection process involving both staff with musical ears and those with a more lay approach to their music (Matron was part of the panel – I will leave you to decide which category she falls into!), the winning composition was selected.

So … we look forward to the Chapel Choir’s World Premiere performance of the tune composed by two Year 6 girls on Sunday!

The best days of their lives ...

Tuesday, 20 November 2012 by Justin Chippendale

Half term was great - a good chance to gather oneself for the exciting but full on build up to the Christmas holidays. There is so much to squeeze in ... sometimes there are enough hours in the day but not enough minutes in one particular hour!

The week after half term brought our Remembrance Service, the Friends of King's Hall quiz night and our fabulous firework display.  It finished with the OA Dinner at which over a hundred ex-pupils gathered to celebrate 60 years of the School.  This was such a good evening full of happy memories and tales of yesteryear - I wonder what our own "It's not like it used to be....." stories will be in 30 years' time?

I don't know if you have seen the publication from the National Trust entitled "50 Things To Do Before You Are 11 3/4". It's a wonderful document and just the sort of attitude to life we subscribe to here at King's Hall. Indeed, I found myself thinking that the majority of our children have had the opportunity to tick off the vast majority of them before they leave the Pre-Prep aged 7 let alone 11 3/4!

I have recently spoken about the importance of one's childhood - we are a long time 'old and sensible' with the responsibilities of adulthood to consider.  The carefree nature of our earlier years are so crucial to developing a zest for life, a can-do attitude, a preparedness to fail without losing the crucial appetite for trying something new and, importantly, a sense that life is fun and there to be embraced and enjoyed.

"There are no problems in life, just things to do - every challenge is an opportunity": whilst some would say this is a little idealistic, we would certainly want our children to grow up with ambition and belief, setting their sights on whatever they wish to achieve wouldn't we? Those programmes on television entitled 'Grumpy Old Men/Women' may be amusing and a bit tongue in cheek, but life is definitely more exciting than that when you're a child and we are lucky at King's Hall to have the environment and attitude to make childhood fun.

The National Trust list is below.

Click here to go their webpage on it.


1. Climb a tree

2. Roll down a really big hill

3. Camp out in the wild

4. Build a den

5. Skim a stone

6. Run around in the rain

7. Fly a kite

8. Catch a fish with a net

9. Eat an apple straight from a tree

10. Play conkers

11. Throw some snow

12. Hunt for treasure on the beach

13. Make a mud pie

14. Dam a stream

15. Go sledging

16. Bury someone in the sand

17. Set up a snail race

18. Balance on a fallen tree

19. Swing on a rope swing

20. Make a mud slide

21. Eat blackberries growing in the wild

22. Take a look inside a tree

23. Visit an island

24. Feel like you’re flying in the wind

25. Make a grass trumpet

26. Hunt for fossils and bones

27. Watch the sun wake up

28. Climb a huge hill

29. Get behind a waterfall

30. Feed a bird from your hand

31. Hunt for bugs

32. Find some frogspawn

33. Catch a butterfly in a net

34. Track wild animals

35. Discover what’s in a pond

36. Call an owl

37. Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool

38. Bring up a butterfly

39. Catch a crab

40. Go on a nature walk at night

41. Plant it, grow it, eat it

42. Go wild swimming

43. Go rafting

44. Light a fire without matches

45. Find your way with a map and compass

46. Try bouldering

47. Cook on a campfire

48. Try abseiling

49. Find a geocache

50. Canoe down a river

History In The Making......

Tuesday, 30 October 2012 by Justin Chippendale

I so enjoyed wandering around during our History Day recently. As you may well know, it is our Diamond Jubilee year, as well as Her Majesty’s, and every child in the school spent the day exploring the last 60 years here.

I saw some of the Reception children making '60' hats and biscuits and Year 1 were comparing 'then and now'. I had a wonderful conversation with a couple of children in Year 1 who, as a result of all the black and white material in books, photos and film clips, were very definitely of the view that the world (houses, clothes and everything) was black and white in the past and colour is something that has been created / invented / developed since and then put into nature and buildings! The older children were trying to recreate photos taken in 1952 and some were quite tricky to place as the current use, after 60 years of developments, masked the original scene, whilst others had barely altered at all. The bell went for the morning break and one boy said "Aww, for once I'm quite sorry that it's break - this is brilliant!".

Shortly afterwards, just before half term, we held a Service of Rededication exactly 60 years after the buildings were first blessed by the then Bishop of Bath and Wells. The Chaplain sprinkled not only the buildings but several excited children with Holy water as we read passages from the original service of 1952 and some from a service held in 2002 on the 50th Anniversary as well as those from today.

We are away for half term and we have received a letter from the owners of where we frequently disappear to saying they wish to celebrate their Silver Jubilee of ownership in 2013. They have invited people to bring old photos and are seeking the longest 'serving' customer which will predate their 1988 purchase: I reckon there are photos of me at least 40 years ago in this area with my parents and grandparents - it might be my mother they are looking for!

All of this reminds me that we are making history each day - at school, we are part of the journey King's Hall is taking through time: the events of this term will form part of the story as future generations look back. Each Monday I usually review the major happenings of the previous week: outings, achievements from all walks of life, boarders’ themed parties, concerts and other performances and, generally, enjoy the huge range of happenings amongst our community.

We are merely the current custodians of the fabulous estate centred around the magnificent building of Pyrland Hall. Previous incumbents filled their lives with richness and made decisions for the future. It is now our turn (children and adults) to experience the pleasures of growing in such a beautiful place whilst planning to ensure future success for those as yet unborn. I don't mean to sound melodramatic but it is true!

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