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Head’s blog

Taking Pride

The initial letter of our PILLARS, or guiding principles as a school, stands for Pride, one meaning of which can be defined as ‘confidence and self-respect as expressed by members of a group’. As Head, I cannot imagine feeling prouder of all that Mill Hill stands for, than reflecting back on the events and activities of recent weeks, both in School and in the wider community.

Last weekend’s Foundation Fireworks, a tribute to the loyalty and enthusiasm of our wonderful Parents’ Associations, brought 1,600 of us together to enjoy: musical entertainment from our Grimsdell’s Toffee Bear Choir and Belmont’s Choir, as well as upbeat numbers from the ever-popular Jazz Band and Big Band; tasty food and drink which included warming mulled wine; and, of course, a spectacular display of fireworks on Top Field which left our enjoyment undampened by the rain.

A more solemn historical commemoration came with our annual Call to Remembrance, in which in time-honoured fashion the whole School, combined with Mill Hill International, lined up in silence on the crescent driveway for the wreath-laying ceremony. Whereas last year we introduced a symbolic planting of paper poppies in the Chapel Garden, this year, to mark the 125 fallen Old Millhillians from WW2 and the Falklands War, our Lower School pupils planted that number of bells on copper wire stems, each bearing its own name tag. The pupil Guard of Honour performed their duties with admirable precision and reverence, and the Old Millhillians in attendance were particularly moved by the remembrance of names, who to some of them were lost classmates. We were also honoured to be joined by two representatives of the National Memorial Arboretum who laid their own wreath and wrote with feeling about how impressed they were by our staff, pupils, CCF and choir and by our Chaplain, Dr Warden, ‘an inspirational orator’. A lunchtime cello recital by Ellen B-G (Murray), and an evening War Songs Concert, which attracted a full house in the Music Recital Room, made this an all-day commemoration, with approaching 400 views on the live-streamed Chapel service which was the centrepiece.

With the wider community always in mind, it was a great tribute to our CCF that they once again earned high praise for the part the Corps of Drums played in the Lord Mayor’s Show. And they already have their invitation for 2020!

The theme of liberation and historical reflection continued with informative and moving Chapel services to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Fourth Form took part in a quiz, with answers stuck up around the School; the Sixth Formers studying German gave presentations about the history of the wall, and in Chapel an Upper Sixth pupil recounted a gripping tale of her grandfather’s perilous escape from East Berlin, which really brought the story home to us. For a full immersion in the theme, the Catering team treated us to a delicious curry wurst, schnitzel and Black Forest cake mousse lunch – food for thought indeed!

On the academic front, we were proud of our pupils’ excellent performance in the first heat of the Top of the Bench Chemistry competition, in which we have been participating for 20 years.

In addition to the fantastic rugby tour to Japan and the successful hockey tour to Holland reported in the news section, recent sporting triumphs include our 1st XV girls’ hockey team topping their pool in the Tier 4 Hockey Championship. Congratulations must also go to Aryan D (Priestley), Max A (Priestley), Sam P (Cedars) and George T-Y (Atkinson) who competed in the National Schools’ Badminton Championships. Max won the singles final and together the team earned silver medals, narrowly missing out on qualifying for the regional round of the competition.

As well as taking pride in our many events and activities, we also value calm spaces, reflection and the chance to refresh our minds. Where better to do this than the recently opened Wellbeing Wing, and what better symbol for it than the beautifully painted kingfisher, which forms part of the mural on which our pupils began work in earnest last weekend.

In Greek mythology the word for a kingfisher is Halcyon, the bird symbolising prosperity, joy and, of course, tranquility. We like to think that our pupils’ time at Mill Hill can reasonably be considered, in the quieter moments at least, to be Halcyon Days.