Shrewsbury School

Summer Term Co-Curricular Update - 5 June 2020

Friday 5 June 2020

An update from Peter Middleton, Deputy Head Co-Curricular.

Salopian Inspiration: Resilience

The Discomfort Zone

“We want your children to fail.”  So began a talk to parents back in October 2017 at the start of Shrewsbury’s whole-school Failure Week.  It was a deliberately provocative statement, but one designed to stress the importance of failure as a key learning experience.  As CS Lewis put it, failures become the “fingerposts on the road to achievement”.  Stepping out of your comfort zone, embracing challenge and trying new things were central to the experiences we sought to deliver during the course of that week, and staff and pupils alike were firmly forced into what we termed their ‘discomfort zones’. 

I have been reminded in these past weeks and months of just how important the trait of resilience has been where we have all, of course, been forced out of our comfort zones as we adapt to new experiences and new challenges.  Resilience has never been more important and Salopians have certainly demonstrated it in bucketloads during this past term.

Staying in the Seat

Perhaps more than most, the Boat Club have shown remarkable resilience through this year.  With near-record flooding levels to contend with in the early part of the Lent term and the subsequent cancellation of major events such as the National Schools’ Regatta and Henley, you’d have forgiven the rowers for being downbeat and demotivated.  No such thing.  They’ve been as energised and committed as ever engaging with a hugely impressive programme in remote.  Particularly worthy of commendation are the five Salopians- James C, Sophia U, Dan G, Tim M and George B- who have completed the ‘Conquer the Severn Challenge’ covering the row/run/cycle 354km in under three weeks- a monumental effort! I trust that, as John Dryden once put it, “Sweet is pleasure after pain”. 

Taking Centre Stage

Similar resilience has been seen by those in the cast of the new Shrewsbury musical Gatsby which was due to have its global premiere during Salopian Week.  Where other schools have abandoned ship with their productions, Dr Brown and Mr Moore have continued to rehearse in remote and cast members have continued to dedicate themselves to rehearsal.  We hope to be able to showcase some of their work in the forthcoming Speech Day live broadcast, details for which will follow in the coming weeks.

Amongst their number, Fourth Former Kate W has been successful in her bid to gain a place in the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain (NYT) which is an outstanding achievement and one that is thoroughly well deserved.  With alumni including Sir Derek Jacobi, Dame Helen Mirren and Colin Firth, Kate follows in the footsteps of some true acting greats, and we look forward to following her progress with great interest.        

If at first you don’t succeed…   
As any actor will tell you, a life on stage brings both highs and lows, triumphs and setbacks.  The willingness to take risks and put yourself in the firing line is essential, so too picking yourself up following disappointment. 

Much of what our pupils have been undertaking through the virtual co-curriculum has been focused on encouraging this spirit of resilience and a willingness to take risks.  We’ve seen pupils in our Individual Projects group all picking up new skills, for example learning the ukulele, dress-making, Italian and much more besides.  Similarly, large numbers have signed up to our various Cooking at Home classes (and the mouth-wateringly good Great Shrewsbury Bakeoff group) where they have been tasked with trying new things and learning new skills no doubt with varying degrees of success! 

Whether in the Calligraphy group, Gardening at Home, Creative Arts, the Magic Masterclass, Dragon’s Den or any of the other 60 activities, Salopians have recognised that in challenge there comes opportunity, and that, increasingly, their resilience becomes both a strength and a shield.        

A Time to Reflect

I will leave you with the words of Sixth Former Mollie M in a section from her reflections as part of the ‘Corona Diaries’ group, words which have particular power and resonance at this time:

          “We find consolation in nature.  While the modern-day world around us grinds to a halt, the natural world continues as normal, arguably thriving more than ever. To find some light in the negativity of the ‘unprecedented’ present day, I believe that we are enormously fortunate that the lockdown commenced at the beginning of Spring.  Watching nature come to life again after an arduous winter, has provided hope that after this incredibly difficult time, we will be able to rejuvenate in the same way.”

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