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We nodded in agreement during the post-Bank Holiday staff training on an observation that working in a school has something of the feast and famine to it: holidays for pupils and teachers where we feast on time; termtime where every minute seems to count. A wise colleague commented thoughtfully on the energy levels falling so suddenly at the end of Week 1: it’s the precipitousness of the ramps up and drops off which can catch us out; perhaps only F1 drivers and astronauts can truly be said to understand the G-forces felt by staff and pupils as a new term begins and we go from 0-60 in a matter of seconds!

And never more so than at the start of a new school year.  One day you are getting up late, having a leisurely coffee, a gentle go at the crossword, preparing a light salad for lunch and wondering which classic film to watch in the afternoon, before having a nice early night so you can do it all again tomorrow.  The next day: whoosh!

It’s only ten days since term began and we have already taken individual photographs of pupils in years 7, 9, 11, 12 and 13, and House and Form photos for all; taken the whole of Year 7 to Stubbers activity centre for a day’s induction and bonding; seen the Parents’ Association welcome and welcome back Pre-Prep and Junior School families to a mass picnic on Senior Field; re-open the newly-modernised and refurbished Dining Hall; explore exciting vistas of the Pre-Prep extension; held our first fire drills, conducted a fabulously evocative evensong for OCs, heard tales of wilderness scholarship after Year 11 geographers journeyed to South Wales, and enjoyed the extraordinary endeavour that is House Singing (congratulations Eastgate.  Florence and the Machine have rarely sounded so Highgate).

And all of that on top of preparing for and teaching lessons, getting to know names and dynamics of new classes, setting ground rules, encouraging the correct uniform – the day-to-day stuff of teaching life that keeps us all busy, stimulated, entertained and generally on our toes all year through.

No one is complaining one bit.  It’s a massive adrenaline hit, a joyous rush of endorphins that marks a new year full of possibilities.  We bounce back excited at a calendrically-driven opportunity to nail something new, hone something old. It’s one of the great things about teaching: you can reset every half-term and start afresh every year – like a butterfly from its chrysalis, except you get to emerge, bright and fresh, as many times as you like.

There is a wonderful freshness to the pupils at this time of year too: Y7s in their stiff new uniforms, wide-eyed at the enormity of the change they are undergoing (not to mention of the buildings and sixth formers too) and exhilarating in their enthusiasm to give literally anything and everything a go; Y6s arriving back, pinching themselves with the realisation that they have suddenly become, over a few weeks, role models for younger pupils, looked at with awe and wonder for their confidence and assuredness; Y10 and 12 fired up about and liberated by the choices they have made and the academic friendships which will grow anew; and the youngest of the young, four-year-old Reception pupils taking those enormous first steps on their journey, already twinkling with infectious curiosity about the world of constant companionship and pacily orchestrated, kaleidoscopic activity. It’s pretty much 0-60 for them too – or perhaps 0-160 for pupils new to their school, for whom nothing is automatic yet.

So we feed off each other: schools without pupils are quiet and pretty conducive to getting things done (how lucky we are to have such busy and cheerfully committed support colleagues), but we rejoice at what gives a school its heart-bear and soul: children and young people.  Reading round a subject is interesting, but your knowledge takes on toe-clenching excitement when you sense the passion of a gifted teacher as they explain exactly what is so amazing about photosynthesis or federalism or soldering and evidently really mean it.

All of this, of course, has been against the backdrop of the passing of Her Majesty.  A huge jolt to the nation and beyond, and to us at Highgate too.  We marked the occasion with collective acts of reflection and remembrance and thankfulness.  It’s certainly brought to mind mortality, and with it the idea that however well lived a life may be, it must end.  Against that background, perhaps we’ve been more conscious still of making the very most of the time we have.  Our role in that is to ensure that our pupils’ schooldays are, from the very outset, full of thrilling possibilities and mind-opening opportunities.

So, 0-60?  Well, as Barack Obama used to say: “Fired up, ready to go!”