Shrewsbury School

A Week in the Life of the Head of School - Will Hunter (Rt)

Thursday 15 September 2011

Head of School on BMX

Friday 2nd September
Friday saw the Hunter family’s frantic return from Spain and my own mad dash around the house to find all of the things which I swore I’d packed before I left for the holiday but which had obviously unpacked themselves and taken the scenic route to the Land of Missing Things.

I must admit that the thing I looked forward to most, as Mum and I trundled down the motorway with a Ridgemount sock waving regally to the car behind, was the arrival of my brand-new bike and the riding privileges which come with Postorship.

Will Hunter outside MSBSaturday 3rd September
The appropriately named “Postors’ Training Day” began with a promising breakfast in Kingsland House provided by the refreshingly eager staff, with their new directives from Holroyd Howe.

We were then rushed into the newly painted Chapel for a quick blessing from the Chaplain. On my way out he caught my eye and the look was expectant and conspiratorial; I knew a reading was on its way.

Then the training began. We were ushered into the Moser Library to discuss various possible scenarios which may confront a Postor in his or her day-to-day goings on; from antisocial behaviour in the Quarry to loutish songs in Quod.

Lunch confirmed my liking of the new KH team as we tucked into salmon goujons and a rocket salad. However, before my plate was clean, the Reverend loomed over me with a “reading taken from John, chapter ten, verses one to seventeen”. Joy of joys!

After a quick debrief of the morning’s events we were sent out to help with the Lower Sixth Induction. The excruciating awkwardness of accidentally pouring water all over someone you have never met was no less painful from an objective point of view. We soldiered on, however, through games involving cereal boxes, contortion and human knots until every boundary of embarrassment had been destroyed.

Then it was a quick dash back to Ridgemount for a shower and change, remembering almost too late that Mr Tonks had asked me to arrange a seating plan for the evening. A hasty arrangement was drawn up and, after a frantic revision of my Third Form Latin; I was ready to say grace.

Later that night I remembered I hadn’t gone to Reception to pick up my new bike! Never mind, I thought, I can get it in the morning...

Sunday 4th September
I arrived at Chapel early to rehearse for my big moment. I struggled through my reading a few times until the words blurred into a sacred smudge on the page before me.

People began to arrive, and if it weren’t for the occasional murmur of “How was your holiday?” you could easily be mistaken in thinking that we’d never been away.

The reading seemed only to make sense to me after reading it a hundred or so times so I can’t imagine how the congregation followed it (however, from personal experience I’d guess not many of them were listening). I recovered my seat and attended the rest of the service with renewed zeal.

After trudging out of Chapel I wandered over to check whether my bike had arrived at Reception, it was locked and had the blinds drawn so tightly that I couldn’t tell if my pride and joy had arrived.

Half past four saw the arrival of the New Boys in Ridgemount, my co-Head of House, Archie Smyth-Osbourne, had deserted me to play a Polo match so I was left to greet nervous Third Formers and distraught mothers on my own. Eventually the time came for the New Boys to meet the Headmaster and I shepherded them away as Mr Percival held tearful parents at bay.

Monday 5th September
Whole School Assembly. Three words with the power to freeze the blood of any Postors in the vicinity within seconds. The nightmare of squeezing the whole school into the Alington Hall was only made more entertaining by the fact that this year has seen Shrewsbury grow to unprecedented numbers; 370 students in the Sixth Form alone!

We persevered and all the students, from wide-eyed Third Formers to weary Upper Sixth, were jammed into the Hall and suitably named “crush hall”.

Suddenly Mr Tonks beckoned me from the front and I began the long walk down the aisle. Instead of worrying what big shoes I was attempting to fill all I could concentrate on was not tripping over my own. However, I made it all the way to the front row without disaster followed quickly by a wave of eerie silence.

The teaching staff had seemed to agree we needed scaring so we were thrown into the deep end right away. Threats of A-level disaster and a lifetime of McJobs seemed to be enough to blast the last memories of summer from our vacant minds and spur us into action.

The afternoon’s Medical Society was a little friendlier but I still felt slightly guilty as I handed a hastily fashioned Personal Statement over to Doc Morgan.

Tuesday 6th September
Mr Tonks and the Headmaster greeted me bright and early for my first meeting as Head of School. As they sipped their coffee and we discussed the new school year, I was slightly distracted by coming opportunity I would have to ride my bicycle to lessons.

At half past eight my world fell apart. The receptionist had seen no sign of a bike. Amazon had let me down again. I rushed back to the house to check the progress of my purchase and was confronted by a wall of incomprehensible jargon; I decided that it meant my transport would arrive the next day.

My double period with Doc Briggs was cut short by a singing lesson in which I belted out a few bars of O Sole Mio and added concerts, recitals and lessons to my rapidly overflowing diary.

I then spent a triple PR guiltily hiding from my Topschools in Quod, watching the awkward comings and goings of the Lower Sixth who still seemed unsure of their right to sit in the Sixth Form Common Room.

Tuesday afternoon brought me to Junior Senior and I was given an opportunity to embarrass myself with a few badly timed “dummies”, missing the ball more than I hit it and showing a perfect example of what a summer of lazing about can do to your sporting ability. I think that my relegation back to Mr Bell’s might 5th XI was more than kind given my performance.

Wednesday 7th September
My Wednesday morning lie-in was brutally cut short by an Early Applications talk in the SLT providing me with the perfect excuse to nip over to Reception to pick up my bike. I was told there was no chance it could have arrived unless it came in a boxed marked “A4 Yellow Exercise Books” which seemed unlikely for some reason.

The afternoon gave me another opportunity to demonstrate my rusty skills on the football field in Junior Senior, followed by a meeting with Mr Hughes to discuss the House Duties Rota which reminded me that I was already behind on creating the list of Postors’ duties and threw me into a frenzied whirlwind of organisation.

I then spiralled towards the Maidment Building for a Chamber Choir rehearsal. Mrs Nightingale insisted that our piece was “simple” but the 3-4 harmonic arrangement in an 8-by-2 time signature said otherwise.

Thursday 8th September
No amount of spiritual tranquillity provided by Rev. Dobbie could have prepared me for the horrors of the DUO Interview Course. I was grilled relentlessly for twenty minutes about my desire to study Medicine and just when I thought it was all over I was informed that we’d been recorded. In a later “group discussion” my peers got the chance to see me flounder when confronted with a question about NHS reforms, but I felt much when I watched other interviews just as dire as mine.

The afternoon’s Spanish Oral class allowed me to brush off the cobwebs from my linguistic talents (I think I managed to repeat the same sentence thirty or forty times). Almost as soon as I had finished, Mr Sheppe cornered me and solicited my help at the Societies Fair.

Mr Sheppe’s attempts to use my Head of School influence to attract new Polo players was met by sideways looks from oblivious, uninterested Third Formers. They seemed a little more intrigued when they saw us smacking a ball around outside the Library and we managed to sign a few potential players, to Mr Sheppe’s delight.

On Thursday night an exhausted and bikeless Head of School crashed into bed, with the coming 1st Leagues battle with Severn Hill occupying his thoughts.

Friday 9th September
The morning brought another meeting with the Headmaster, this time I was accompanied by my Deputies, Jack and Henry. It seemed once again that the three of us didn’t have much to say, understandable as the school year has barely even begun!

Lessons were, as usual, a grave reminder of the coming university applications and I was moved to redraft my Personal Statement post-haste to ensure at least a place at Bristol if not Edinburgh.

As people whipped past me on bikes during break I couldn’t help but curse Debbie at Amazon Costumer Services for her lack of knowledge concerning the whereabouts of my two-wheeled means of transport.

At five o’clock an epic struggle began. After Ridgemount’s unprecedented success in 1st Leagues last year, Severn Hill were raring at the bit to prove that our sudden rush of skill and finesse was a rare phenomenon. They were wrong. We fought to the bitter end and many casualties were caught in the crossfire, including a bewildered looking Colonel Jenkins who was battered on the forehead by a rogue strike from Rob Cross. The final score came to 2-1 and, broken and bloodied, we trudged back to the House with our heads hanging in shame.

Saturday 10th September
As any well seasoned Sixth Former knows, Saturday lessons tend to take a back seat. This week was no exception and all anyone seemed to be talking about was the afternoon’s football matches and the first Saturday night in Quod.

GJFB always enjoys getting into photos!The gladiators of Mr Bell’s 5th XI played a somewhat disjointed yet thoroughly enjoyable match against the Liverpool Ramblers Veteran Team. After a very obviously offside goal from the Shrewsbury team, it seemed rather just that every single other decision in the game went to the Ramblers and the score settled on a frustrating 1-all draw.

After a quick shower I made my way to Quod, not for the evening’s revelry but for a chilli and a chat with the Ramblers. It seemed that our Merseyside opponents had outclassed us across the board and, but for the efforts of the Mr Bell’s warriors, the Ramblers would have had a clean sheet.

Quod on the first Saturday night of term is always quite an experience, and with well over 300 Sixth Formers now, this year's was even busier than usual.

Sunday 11th September
An early start. Mr Fanning had insisted that the Postors arrive at St Mary’s no later than 9.30am to assist in the setting out of chairs and programmes for the service. So, following a hurried mouthful of Cornflakes, I set off along with my comrades towards town on a miniscule blue BMX borrowed from a bleary-eyed housemate.

Two dicey road-crossings and an exhausting hill later we arrived at the church to find that the chairs had already been set out and we were surplus to requirements. Over a tasteless Costa Coffee we grumbled about the extra half hour we could have afforded in bed.

Squashing the whole school into St Mary’s was a slightly more pleasant experience than the Whole School Assembly and seemed to go off well (upturned flower arrangements and broken seats aside).The service was enjoyable and, after a hesitant opening hymn, seemed to fly by.

After packing up what seemed like endless rows of seats, the remaining Praepostors participated in a sluggish and strenuous race back to School.  I was victorious but the sheen of glory was stripped off by the realisation that I would have to wait another working day until my own bicycle arrived.

Epilogue (Wednesday 14th September)
Still no bike. This is getting ridiculous.

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