Headmistress’s Blog

13 May 2022

‘May my heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living.’

Dear Parents and Friends,

Have you ever held a chick in your hand? Felt the fragility of its wings beating gently against your fingers and the pulse of its heart through its skin? Just before the start of term OHS played host to ten of them – chicks and their mother sheltering in the shadow of the Sir Jacob Epstein statue Deirdre in the heart of our school. It’s been really inspiring to see gaggles of students gathering at the windows watching them learn and grow. The sheer innocence of their comments as they watch the ducklings dive in the pools or chase each other around the garden is gorgeous and is a timely reminder that it is such an important part of school to retain that innocence of spirit.

And, frankly, that’s really hard at the moment isn’t it? The shadows of Ukraine, a war which threatens to seep over national boundaries and the constant and relentless terrible pictures which invade our own world is really difficult and hard to manage for ourselves – let alone our children. In a little over two weeks we will be welcoming our first refugee from the Ukraine and I feel for her and the struggles that she and her family have experienced. Of course, school is a place to learn and grow but it is also a place to be transported, a place where a child (of whatever age) should feel safe and secure, a place to try and fail and try again and learn that they, themselves, have the courage and tenacity to face the challenges they will be presented with at some time in their lives.

And how courageous they are. Students who have not known what it is to face public examinations nor seen previous year groups take them are now resolute and ready. Having talked to so many of our students I do understand just how fearful they have been. In my experience it all builds before the first one and once that is done the anxiety and worry recede, and so we are seeing in school.

It feels so reassuring that these patterns and cycles are returning. Earlier this week we held our inaugural Warnock concert. In tribute to my predecessor Baroness Warnock, who loved music and whose name decorates our Music Hall, the staff turned pupil and performed an extraordinary programme to showcase the variety and range of the piano. One piece by Janacek 1.X.1905 was written in response to an uprising in the Czech Republic, where the town of Brno protested to ask for a university to be established in the town. A protester, Frantisek Pavlik, was killed on the steps and Janacek was so moved that he wrote the two movement Sonata. Originally, he wrote three and then burnt one as he was unhappy with it. Indeed, not satisfied with the rest of the Sonata, he threw it in the river Vltava where he said, rather poetically, that ‘it floated along on the water that day, like white swans.’ Luckily, the soloist Ludmila Tuckova, who had performed it at the premiere, announced only in 1924 (the year that Janacek turned 70) that she had kept a copy and it was saved.

And so, as we turn out of Covid to a different world, a place where we are all re-learning the rules of engagement, of exams, of social life, finding the patterns (whether it is of rites of passage or of the passage of swans and ducks) will help us to rediscover the joy and meaning of our lives.

With warmest wishes

Marina Gardiner Legge


Tags: Head's Blog

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