October 31st, 2009
Low visibility in swirling mist, with the proximity of one of hte UK’s most notorious prisons, did not defeat the intrepid Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Gold expeditioneers over half term. Three groups of U6th pupils undertook their DofE Gold assessed expeditions on Dartmoor, which presents challenges, the like of which are not encountered elsewhere. Any complacency built after two reasonable first days on challenging terrain but in good conditions was blown away by wind induced horizontal rain and the dreaded mist that reduced visibility to less than 50 metres. As we have come to expect, pupils from this school are made of sterner stuff than most and they rose to the challenge, displaying excellent teamwork and navigational skills in the most arduous of conditions.
October 24th, 2009
Twenty-three new Third Form students spent an activity packed five days at Pen Arthur over half term. While the weather was a lot better than expected, it did feel drier in the River Wye itself rather than in the kayaks at times. Beyond the canoeing and kayaking, the boys climbed, caved, walked and bowled in the autumnal Brecon Beacons. Highlights included the team competition (EJB’s Shackleton beat DS’s De Niro, CJE’s Vettori and MD’s Greenwood) and the night games of Terminator and Werewolf. All boys had a wonderful time and earned their week of rest.
October 19th, 2009
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the French Exchange, aimed at the Third, Fourth and Fifth Forms, with our partner school Notre-Dame du Rocher in Chambéry, Savoie.
As usual, the French students came to visit us first before half term. During their week, they visited St Albans, Windsor, experienced a morning at school and some also attended after school activities such as CCF, which they found different and interesting.
Most of the time was spent with the families and despite the language barrier, the French students made every effort to fit in and the English families worked hard at entertaining their guests. A mixture of French and English was actively spoken during the week and the French students said that it was amazing how much more they understood after a week in England.
We are going to visit them for a week in February and everybody is now very keen and looking forward to meeting up again.
October 12th, 2009
For the second year in a row, St Albans School skiiers have been crowned English Schools Ski Champions. A slightly disappointing Saturday at Rossendale led to a pep talk by team captain Gerard Flahive, who told his squad that he would rather be disqualified than come second – each member of the team, Gerard and Niall Flahive, Douglas Reid and Max Greenfield, needed to push himself hard. Day two was wet, ironically perfect conditions for dry slope skiing, and Niall first put pressure on the opposition. He was followed by Max Greenfield, who maintained the advantage, and Douglas Reid also completed and impressive run. The finale was Gerard Flahive, who finished in a staggeringly quick time, with all eyes on him. He blew the field away, making him the fastest overall racer. The squad was the only top school to finish all 16 runs over the weekend, with no disqualifications, and after calculations had been completed, St Albans had beaten competitive Chaucer and Reed Schools to maintain its grip on the title.
Report by Max Greenfield
October 9th, 2009
Headmaster Andrew Grant, this year’s Chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) was widely reported as having wrung a major concession from the Charities Commission this week after speaking out at the HMC Annual Conference in Liverpool.
The Charities Act 2006 has removed the presumption that provision of education, whilst remaining a charitable purpose, is necessarily for the public benefit, placing upon independent schools a requirement to demonstrate they provide ‘public benefit’ in order to retain their charitable status. Despite issuing guidance to the effect that this could be shown through a variety of community activities, in practice the Commission has focused on the provision of means-tested bursaries and this year failed two out of five schools it inspected on the grounds that they had failed to offer enough places to pupils from families who are unable to pay fees.
Mr Grant argued that because it was not possible in law for a charitable foundation to cease to be a charity, the attack on charitable status was in effect an attack on schools’ independent status itself. He pointed out that the independent sector took a burden worth around £3 billion a year off the taxpayer by educating thousands of children at their parents’ expense who would otherwise have to be educated in the maintained sector. In addition, the sector and contributed £235 million in irrecoverable VAT, and boarding schools brought in £300 million in foreign currency, as compared to supposed “tax breaks” worth only £100 million.
The Chair of the Commission, Dame Suzi Leather, was invited to speak at the Conference by Mr Grant. She told the Heads of 250 prestigious independent schools that they would be given five years to meet the criteria and that, since the Commission did not have an inspectorate, there were no plans for an extensive assessment programme. Announcing the concession, she said, “We recognise that developing partnership activities or building up a bursaries fund will take time. We also recognise that in the current economic climate it is more difficult. We know you can’t pull a rabbit out of a hat.”
Mr Grant welcomed what she had to say about the five-year breathing period and the frequency of assessments, adding: “I think we would all feel she was as reasonable and conciliatory as she was allowed to be.”
In effect, the announcement means no school is in danger of losing its charitable status until well into the next parliament, if at all. If they gain power, the Conservatives are likely to interpret the new legislation less strictly. In addition, the Charity Commission is committed to a review of the new legislation in 2011.
St Albans School maintains strong links with the city through charitable work, community links and partnerships with local primary schools as well as its bursary programme.
Mr Grant, who has been Headmaster of St Albans School since 1993 and has been elected to the Chairmanship of HMC this year, attacked a number of entrenched attitudes to independent schools in his conference speech and professed himself “happy to have rattled a number of cages that needed rattling.”
October 6th, 2009
The Cross Country Team opened its season in style at the Abbotts Langley Tough Ten. Fielding 30 runners from all age groups, the School dominated the 5km race. Euan Mackenzie crossed the line first, with Vasudev Zaver second (which won him the U17 trophy), Tom Brooks third and Antonio Razzano in fourth place. The performances of the day, however, have to go to Mark Pearce and Joe Redwood from the Third form, finishing in fifth and sixth places respectively.
Twenty eight members of the CCF also ran in the 5km race, running as a squad in full uniform. This wasn’t just extra training, but a sponsored event to raise money for their trip to Tanzania next year. The money will be used to support both local charities and the orphanages in Tanzania. The squad completed the run in a respectable 26 minutes, finishing together, and was awarded the Services Cup.
Read about The Banana Tree Project charity, which helps orphans and former street chldren in Mwanza, Tanzania.