To Everyone in the Harrow Shanghai Community

To the families of Harrow Shanghai:

We’ve reached the end of our long Autumn Term; sun-kissed faces have faded to winter pale; scarves and reindeer hairclips have started to take over the school; and we’re all ready to head into a much-needed winter break. It’s been a fantastic term for pupils of all ages, in and out of the classroom, and I know that everyone will look back over the holiday, mince pie in hand, and reflect on all the great things they’ve been involved in.

This was a term in which our school continued its steady growth, both in pupil numbers and in the range of opportunities we offer. We added a large number of ECA programmes, from rowing, rugby and baseball to additional musical groups, debating, chess and a number of extra Chinese cultural activities. Just about every year group has headed out on educational visits; we have been competing in football in Prep and Pre-Prep against other schools (and mainly winning!); we have had five musical concerts, the standards heading up each time; and we took part in more competitions – Maths, Geography, writing and many others besides – than ever before.

In the classroom, I’ve been deeply impressed again by the standard of the work produced by our young people. A clutch of enthusiastic little ones have taken the first steps on their educational careers and it feels like they’re been here for years already! In Reception and Year 1, the standards reached by the children has been extraordinary: we made some changes to our provision in Year 1, and the result has been the best set of phonics results we have ever had. Further up Pre-Pre, we have seen comparable growth in the children’s reading and writing.

In the Upper School, we welcomed a number of new teachers, and the overall standard of both teaching and subject leadership has leapt up. We are always developing, of course, but we’ve seen clear improvements in the standards achieved by many students; and we’ve also seen that our new senior students, of whom there were quite a number this year, have added both a bit of determination and a spark of extra imagination to the student body. Student leadership has been lively and engaged this term, and I can’t wait to see what our new Pupil Observers will bring to us next term.

Our parents too: you have been wonderful. You were there at the musicals; enthusiastic attendees at our PPPs (which we also broadened); filling the open classrooms; keen and knowledgeable at the PTCs; energetic at Sports Days and the Long Ducker; supportive at Open Days and Friends of Harrow events; and responsive and interested when we asked your views. Our children, of course, are the people who make the school something special. And our parents turn us into a community. Thank you. It’s been another wonderful term with you.

And as we use our reflections to bounce into January, we can look forward to more next term. Over the winter break, we will do a few works in school. Some of these will help continue to improve our school IT network, though our major wireless upgrade will be in the summer; some will be the small repairs that help ensure we are still a great place for our children; and one or two will be more significant: we are expecting to upgrade, at long last, the sound and lighting in the Sports Hall to ensure that we have a venue that will match the talents of our children.

We will also run Head Master Parent Brunches again next term. These will be a chance to talk with me, in groups of 10-12, over food and coffee, about the things we’re doing now; the plans we have; and the ideas you have to help develop the school. These lead to the Head Master’s Forum, and all feed into the School Development Plan. This year, a number of the ideas from parents have made it into our planning, or have already happened. This will continue, and we’re also going to ask some of you to be more directly involved in some lesson planning consultation too.

Next term is also University Offers term! Our Oxbridge candidates have already had their interviews and are waiting to hear from the colleges. They have also already received a number of Russell Group offers. Everyone else will hear next term. Trial exams are in Weeks 2 and 3 as well, so the long, structured run-up to external exams gets going too. Very busy!

In the Lower School, we’re working on our Junior Laboratory plans for Science; we will be beginning to teach some Year 4 subjects a little differently, with some ability setting in reading and writing; and we’ll be continuing to develop the facilities and opportunities available to our younger pupils. The curriculum will continue to develop, and we’ll be doing some planning for more extension into 2024/25. This has developed a little this year already, and I’m hoping to be able to explain some more planning here in the new year.

So it’s been a busy term; and it will be a wonderfully busy 2024!

But now, as the nights draw in and an arctic blast sweeps through the city, it’s time to reflect and dial back the intensity a little. Christmas is the opportunity to rediscover the other parts of our souls, those that sometimes lie dormant in the midst of our frantic lives at work. If there’s a book you’ve been longing to rediscover: find it. And if there’s a film you’ve been longing to see: watch it.

Above all, enjoy being together as families.