COVID-19 Information


14th September 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

I would like to begin by once again thanking you all for your support, patience and co-operation which have helped to make our return to school run so smoothly. Our systems and new arrangements have been really successful and the site has felt calm and controlled.

The start and end of the day, breaks and lunch-times have been genuinely pleasant and lessons have been brilliant. Pupils have taken to the new arrangements without complaint and their enthusiasm and positivity is quite simply overwhelming. A special mention must go to Year 7 for bringing such energy and commitment to their first full week of secondary school. They have made a brilliant start.

All members of the Marlborough community, staff and pupils, have really pulled together and it has been absolutely fantastic and indeed, joyful, to see all the pupils returning – our attendance this week across all the year groups, including our new Sixth Form intake, has been 98%! That is higher than last year’s overall average and a remarkable figure. The overall Guidance for schools remains the same and we are confident we have everything in place and that our systems are working. I spoke to all pupils last week and asked them to now focus on working hard in all their lessons and making the most of their time in school.

School Leaders have been asked by the Government and Public Health England to share some key messages around the ‘Test and Trace’ system they have in place. The full messages to school leaders is here:

Essentially, they are asking parents only to book a test if they have symptoms of the virus, rather than just general symptoms. The letter says:

Crucial to our overall support for schools and colleges is ensuring that everyone with coronavirus symptoms has access to a test as soon as they develop those symptoms.

To ensure we identify those with coronavirus while avoiding a huge increase in demand for tests from people without coronavirus symptoms, we ask that you recommend to your pupils, students and staff who feel unwell, that they get tested if:

· they develop one or more of the main coronavirus symptoms:

· a high temperature;

· a new, continuous cough;

· the loss or change of their sense of taste or smell;/, or

· they are recommended to get tested by a healthcare provider (e.g. GP or nurse).

If a pupil, student or staff member develops one or more of the main coronavirus symptoms described above, only they should be tested. There is no need for their households to have a test, unless they are also symptomatic. Unless a pupil, student or staff member has one of the three main coronavirus symptoms, they should only be tested if instructed otherwise by the local authority, health protection team or their GP.

We are all aware of the crucial role of the NHS Test and Trace system in managing instances where there are positive Covid cases, and, ultimately, in deciding whether schools should stay open. We have worked really hard over many weeks to make Marlborough as safe as possible and put in place all the safety measures required in order to welcome back our pupils. I am sure that many of you will have heard first hand, or seen in the media, that there are reports of significant difficulties in staff or pupils being able to access tests, with worrying incidents in which individuals have been advised to travel long distances to testing stations.

I want to reassure you that we will keep you informed of any confirmed cases here at school and will do all we can to support families who may be struggling. We are fortunate to have the support of The River Learning Trust and have clear protocols in place to deal with any confirmed cases of Covid and/or potential partial closures. We hope we will not need to enact these, but will be ready to do so if required.

Please do not hesitate to contact us here at school for any advice, guidance, or questions you might have. In the meantime, we will keep doing what we are doing until we are informed or advised otherwise.

Keep safe and take care.

Yours sincerely,

Mr A Hanlon


1st September 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

I am writing to you with more information about how we will safely re-open school for all pupils in September. Inevitably, preparing for this has been quite a lengthy and complicated process. I would refer you to the letter I sent in July which outlined the headline arrangements that will directly impact you as parents and carers. We have written a ‘First Principles’ document that outlines our school priorities for this year and informs the thinking behind our detailed and comprehensive ‘Re-opening Plan’. We have also, working alongside our colleagues in The River Learning Trust, completed a comprehensive whole-school Risk Assessment. Up-dated versions of these documents are available to read on our website.  The DfE Guidance for schools is also available for you to read and there is a guide for parents, both of which can be found here: -the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools

How school will be organised

The DfE Guidance recommends that each year group be kept separate from each other: ‘Consistent groups reduce the transmission by limiting the number of pupils and staff in contact with each other to only those within the group.  In secondary schools, the groups are likely to need to be the size of a year group to enable schools to deliver the full range of curriculum subjects and students to receive specialist teaching.

(Schools should) look to implement year group sized ‘bubbles’…and limit interaction, sharing of rooms and social spaces between groups as much as possible’’.

Therefore, to comply with Government guidance, and ensure that all pupils are as safe as possible, school has been split into 7 entirely separate areas or ‘zones’ (see Maps 1). These are: 

  • Year 7: Maths Block + M6 and E6;
  • Year 8: History and RE side of the main block + DS1 + DS2 + Dining Hall;
  • Year 9: Geography side of Main Block + G6 + A2 + A4;
  • Year 10: Science Block;
  • Year 11: English Block and Sixth Form areas;
  • Year 12 + 13: IT Block + MFL Block;
  • Ormerod Pupils: Ormerod Resource Base.

Each of these areas has its own set of toilets with hand-washing facilities, its own extensive social space, additional seating, a food servery area, bicycle parking area and safety barriers. Achieving this has meant a significant financial investment in new facilities, additional equipment and re-furbishment of existing areas.  

Maintaining the integrity of these separate areas in absolutely crucial in keeping all pupils safe.  There will be controlled, restricted movement around the whole school site, which will include:

  • A one-way system around the internal buildings to avoid grouping/meeting other pupils;
  • Pupils and adults can only walk two abreast (maximum) whilst outside;
  • A one-way system will exist inside buildings, where possible;
  • Where a one-way system is not possible e.g. the History/RE corridor; Maths entrance; pupils and adults will walk on the left-hand side;
  • All people in school will walk in single-file in the corridors;
  • All Blocks in use have clearly identified entrances and exits;
  • There is a new drop off and pick up system for buses and cars.

The pupils will therefore remain in one separate year group area. The DfE guidance makes it clear that staff are able to move around school in order to maintain the full range of curriculum subjects: “All teachers and other staff can operate across different classes and year groups in order to facilitate the delivery of the school timetable. This will be particularly important for secondary schools. Where staff need to move between classes and year groups, they should try and keep their distance from pupils and other staff as much as they can, ideally 2 metres from other adults.”

The wellbeing of our pupils and staff has informed every stage of our planning process. Our guiding principle is to have ‘the safest school possible, with the least disruption possible’. To this end, we have made sure we are following all DfE guidelines and in doing so we have made the environment in school as safe as it can possibly be by reducing risk as much as we can.

Arrival and Departure

We have introduced new car parking arrangements for all staff. The Staff car park will be closed as it will be used for a safe and secure Year 9 social space. We are also removing staff parking across the front of school. This is to help the flow of traffic at the front of school and allow for the safe movement of people, cars and coaches.

In accordance with the DfE guidance, we would encourage everyone who can to either walk or cycle to school. We have additional cycle areas and will invest in more if the demand is there from pupils.  Staff are being encouraged to car share and if driving to school, you may consider dropping your children off away from the school site and letting them walk in on foot – the Fire Station area/old Library car park area are good places for this. 

When pupils arrive at the start of the day they will go straight to their designated year group area and into their form rooms. This includes on their first day back at school. There will be plenty of staff around in the morning to direct them where to go and to reassure them.  All entrances are marked with coloured lines on the ground (see Maps 2).

We will control the release of pupils at the end of the school day. Pupils will go straight to their coach or car, or if walking, they will leave the site immediately after exiting school. There will be no congregation of pupils outside of school. Coaches will depart at their usual time.


Arranging all year groups into separate areas allows us to continue to deliver a ‘’broad and ambitious’’ curriculum. We will be delivering all GCSE and A Level courses. All pupils continue to be being taught by subject specialists and have their own designated class teacher.

To help with teacher transitions between lessons, all Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8 and 9) will begin with silent reading. This will mean that pupils in these year groups will be expected to bring a reading book in from home every day. We will also have some additional books in school from the school library available in each classroom. Key Stage 4 pupils will review key knowledge from their books and begin their lessons reading through their subject-specific ‘Knowledge Organisers’.

Each year group area will have a designated ‘Support Base’ that will be fully-staffed at all times. This will be available for pupils who require some ‘time out’ of lessons for either academic or pastoral support.


School uniform should be worn as per our usual expectations. There is no longer a requirement for pupils or staff to wear or wash clothes any differently from our usual routines. However, we are aware that some parents have been struggling to purchase new uniform and that lots of the pupils have grown over the summer! We will be flexible with this – our strong desire is for all pupils to return to school.

The only exception to this is for PE. On the days where PE lessons are timetabled, pupils should come to school already in their PE kit to avoid using the changing rooms. They can wear a school jumper or Marlborough training top, as well tracksuit trousers. Our expectations around uniform, including PE kit, will be clearly communicated to all pupils.


All classrooms have been arranged so that all desks are facing forward - and pupils are sitting side by side, not face to face.  All classrooms have been set out in the same way, with a marked area at the front to indicate a 2m distance between teacher and pupils.

All rooms have a cleaning station that includes hand sanitiser, tissues, and antiseptic wipes. All rooms have been deep-cleaned, de-cluttered and have clearly marked bins, spare bin bags, and door wedges. These are important as one of the best ways to reduce transmission risk is to use natural ventilation to prevent air being re-cycled.


Where possible, pupils should bring their own equipment into school and not share it with others. This includes specialist equipment for subjects such as Art and Mathematics. We will provide equipment for those pupils unable to provide their own. 

Refreshments/food and drink/lunch

Lunch-time will be at the same time for all pupils, who will remain in their group bubble social areas (see Maps 3). We would encourage all parents to provide a packed lunch for your child/children. We will continue to provide support for those families eligible for Free School Meals. 

Food serving areas have been set up in each year group zone and will provide a small selection of pre-packed sandwiches, snacks and drinks. All food waste and packaging should be taken home or left in the bins provided. 

Toilets and hand-washing

Each year group has been allocated their own toilet facilities. Pupils should only use the designated toilets that are within their year group area. All toilets will be cleaned daily and the on-site cleaner is available if additional cleaning is required during the day. 

We will continue with the existing protocols, where all pupils should follow the ‘Catch it; Bin it; Kill it’ approach when sneezing or coughing.


As stated earlier, all pupils and families are strongly encouraged to walk or cycle to school, or be dropped off by car.  As per the DfE guidance, wherever possible, public transport should be avoided. On school transport, pupils will be asked to sit in year group ‘bubbles’ where possible.  On all transport, face coverings should be worn by all pupils.

On arrival at school, if their face coverings are disposable, they should be placed in a black bin bag and binned immediately after disembarking the coach.  If reusable, all facial coverings should be placed in a sealable plastic carrier bag and put away in the pupils’ bag.

What happens if someone has Covid symptoms?

The DfE guidance states: ‘’If you have symptoms, or you have someone in your household who has symptoms, do not attend school’’.

‘’If anyone in the school becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, or has the loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia) they must be sent home and self-isolate for at least 7 days and should arrange a home test.  Other members of the household, including any siblings, should self-isolate for 14 days from when the symptomatic person first has symptoms’’.

In compliance with this, any pupils or staff showing these symptoms will be isolated in the designated ‘safe area’ at the front of school and arrangements made for them to be collected as soon as possible. We encourage all parents to actively engage with the NHS Test and Trace system and in the event of a suspected case we will work with families to ensure our internal protocols are followed swiftly and carefully. Details can be found here:

What happens if someone is diagnosed with Coronavirus?

If someone tests positive for Coronavirus, the DfE have advised schools to contact ‘the Local Health Practice Team (LHPT).  The guidance states that this LHPT will decide who needs to self-isolate based on tracking the movements of the diagnosed person. Again, we will work closely with the Leadership of our Multi Academy Trust (MAT), the River Learning Trust and have Trust-wide protocols that we will follow should this happen. We have a detailed ‘Plan B’ in the case of partial or full closure, and are ready to deal with any eventuality, including a return to some form of remote learning and ensuring all our pupils have access to IT.     

Facial coverings

In line with its previous guidance, the DfE is keeping its recommendation that face coverings do not need to be worn in school “if all other factors are implemented”. However, in parts of the country in local lockdown, face coverings are compulsory in communal areas such as “the corridor or elsewhere”, though not in classrooms. Headteachers have been given ‘flexibility’ to introduce facial coverings when/if schools are unable to maintain social distancing or have mixed groups in the same areas or if they “believe it to be right in their particular circumstances”. 

Our first priority is for every pupil and member of staff to be safe on their return to school. We want everyone to feel confident in returning and have therefore followed all the guidance to the best of our ability. In the school

arrangements, there are no ‘non-bubble’ communal areas, nor are there any areas that are compromised in terms of social distancing.

Pupils do not need to wear a mask or visor to be safe in school. However, if they feel safer wearing a mask or facial covering, then we will allow them to do so.  Where face coverings are used they should be safely stored (preferably in a sealed plastic bag) by the wearer when not being worn, nor shared or handled by others. Black bin bags and bins will be provided for safe disposal of temporary facial coverings.  

The Ormerod Resource Base

All pupils attending the Ormerod Resource Base have individual plans in place to support their return to school. It will be important that no pupils enter the area of school designated for these pupils. The pupils attending the Ormerod will operate a ‘bubble within a bubble’ arrangement to enable them to attend lessons and take an active part in the life of the school.

Start of the year 

We are grateful for the understanding of parents and carers regarding the staggered start to the school year. We have carefully planned the re-opening of our school and introducing one year group at a time allows pupils and staff the opportunity to adjust to new ways of working and organising ourselves. We will be explicit in explaining what pupils need to do to keep themselves, and others, safe. 

Communicating with school

Only essential visitors are allowed on site and therefore all visits or meetings will have to be arranged by appointment only. However, our communication with parents and families has been a real strength of the previous months. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us either by email on or by ringing school directly.

We are ready for our young people to return to school. We are very much looking forward to the start of new term and welcoming all our pupils back to Marlborough.

With all best wishes,

Mr A Hanlon



GCSE Success at The Marlborough School: 20th August 2020

We are delighted to share with you the fantastic news that pupils at The Marlborough School have achieved exceptional results in their GCSEs. Results Day has certainly been different this year in school, not least because pupils have been awarded their Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) today, following the Government’s decision earlier this week to over-turn their previous approach of having grades generated by the Exam Boards.

The process employed by The Marlborough School to determine the CAGs was one that was robust, fair and equitable for all pupils. We worked with our partner schools across the River Learning Trust to ensure that we achieved a transparent and externally verified system – producing results that were evidence-based and completed with the utmost professional integrity.

It is this context that makes these results so special. The GCSE grades achieved today by our pupils reflect years of hard work and dedication to their studies. These results have been five years in the making – with this year group fulfilling the potential which was clearly evident when they began their Marlborough journey in Year 7. Our message to our young people is really clear: you have earned these results. They have risen to every challenge placed in front of them and met it with such determination and resilience. If ever a year group have exemplified our Marlborough values of ‘perseverance’ and ‘ambition’, it is these Year 11 pupils.

We are incredibly proud of them. They have learnt so much and developed into such lovely young people. We look forward to welcoming them in greater numbers than ever before into our hugely successful Sixth Form. To those leaving us to pursue their lives at College, undertaking an Apprenticeship or in Employment, we wish them every success for the future and our very warmest wishes.

A Level results at The Marlborough School: 13th August 2020

We are delighted to report another fantastic set of A level results here at Marlborough. The hard work, dedication and commitment of our pupils and their teachers has really paid off with destinations being secured at high quality Universities and top Apprenticeships.

Marlborough students will be starting their new lives in Universities across the country such as Exeter, Durham, Swansea, Manchester, Nottingham, London, Cardiff, York, Warwick, Oxford Brookes, Sussex, Aberystwyth, Bournemouth and Portsmouth. Apprenticeships secured include those in Mechanical Engineering, Finance and at international companies such as IBM.

The young people leaving this year are the doctors, scientists, teachers, journalists, accountants, theatre designers, actors, artists and business leaders of the future. We are proud of them and all that they have achieved.

This year, even though our results are the highest in the school’s history, we had predicted them to be even higher. A number of the Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) we submitted to the Exam Boards have been downgraded. The process of producing these CAGs at The Marlborough School was evidence-based, robust, quality assured and conducted with the utmost integrity and professionalism. We know our pupils and what they can achieve.

We therefore believe that some of the grades awarded to do not truly represent what we think our pupils would have achieved. To this end, we will be appealing all of the instances where the pupils’ awarded grades are lower than those we have submitted and where we have evidence that pupils achieved this grade in their PPEs (mock exams). We hope, through this process, to secure all the grades that we are sure our pupils deserve.

We will celebrate the achievement of individual pupils more widely once we have completed the appeals process. No-one should under-estimate how challenging this process over the past few months has been for our pupils. We are so proud of their optimism and resilience and know that they will go into the world as confident and successful young adults.

Mr. Hanlon

16th July 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

You will be aware of the Government guidance for schools regarding re-opening in September. I am writing to you today to share the ‘headlines’ of our arrangements for September with you. To comply with the guidance, reduce risk and therefore ensure that the return to school for staff and pupils is as safe as possible, all pupils will be arranged in year group ‘bubbles’. This approach will provide a safe learning and working environment for all and enable staff to continue to deliver our broad and rich curriculum.

The key principle that underpins our planning is to have ‘the safest possible school with the least possible disruption’. It is complicated and challenging. You are free to read the guidance yourselves to get a sense of the complexity of what this will entail. If you wish to read it you will find it here, along with links to other related documents:

We have been working closely with our partner schools within The River Learning Trust (RLT) as well as other national organisations. We have been through the guidance incredibly carefully and have effectively un-picked the systems and processes of how school operates, and then re-constructed six separate schools, one for each year group. The overview is:

  • School will be open for all pupils, all day, every day, from September;
  • All pupils will have the usual full range of subjects, taught by specialist teachers;
  • All pupils will be taught by the teachers they have been assigned all year – therefore pupils will carry on being taught by those teachers even when these current arrangements end; 
  • School will start at the same time as always and where there may be some changes to finishing times, these will be minor;
  • We will still have tutor time, assemblies, break and lunch and an Electives Programme on Wednesdays - although these may be delivered in different ways.

However, there will inevitably be some differences from how school would usually operate. These are:

  • All pupils will be organised into ‘year group bubbles’. These year groups will need to be kept separate from each other at all times;
  • This means each year group will need separate teaching spaces, social spaces, toilet, washing and catering facilities. We also need to accommodate our pupils who attend the Ormerod Resource Base;
  • Teachers are able to move from ‘bubble’ to ‘bubble’ – but need to do so in a way that is safe;
  • Because pupils will have to be taught in designated areas within school, access to specialist teaching rooms may be reduced for some pupils and teachers;
  • Pupil movement around the school will be carefully controlled and supervised;
  • School and public transport will still be available for those pupils who require it, but we are strongly encouraging everyone to travel to school on foot, by bike or in a car where possible;
  • We will have a gradual return to school for all year groups - one year group at a time.

I am aware that this will probably raise more questions in all of our minds as to what the further implications of these actions are. Rest assured we have a detailed plan in place that covers all aspects of school life.

Pupils in whole year group ‘bubbles’ will need specific and detailed guidance on how to behave under the new protocols.  A clear and structured Induction Programme will need to be adhered to.

To this end, we will have a staggered start for each year group at the start of next term. This will be as follows:

Monday 31st August

Bank Holiday

Tuesday 1st September

Staff INSET Day

Wednesday 2nd September

Staff INSET Day

Thursday 3rd September

Year 7 only

Friday 4th September

Year 7 and Year 12 only

Monday 7th September

Years 7; 12 and Year 13

Tuesday 8th September 

Years 7; 12; 13 and Year 11

Wednesday 9th September

Years 7; 12; 13; 11 and Year 10  

Thursday 10th September

Years 7; 12; 13; 11; 10 and Year 9

Friday 11th September

Years 7; 12; 13; 11; 10; 9 and Year 8

All pupils will therefore have returned to school by Friday 11th September.

There is a lot of information here to take in. I am mindful not to bombard you with too many details, but wanted to provide you with the important information you need to start thinking about next year. I will write to you again before the start of term with specific details of how school will operate. This will be in the week beginning Monday 31st August.  

Finally, let me say an enormous thank you to all of you have risen to the challenge of the past few months. Thank you also for your support of both your children and the school. Your messages of good will and encouragement have been sustaining in these difficult circumstances. We are such a strong community when we work together. Thank you for the trust you have placed in us as your child’s school. It is a privilege to lead The Marlborough School and we are so excited about September and the coming academic year and can’t wait to have all the pupils back in school. There is so much to look forward to.

In the meantime, have a wonderful summer holiday.

Yours faithfully,

Mr A Hanlon


Wednesday 15th July 2020: Whole School Assembly


The painting above is by the English painter G.F. Watts and was painted in 1886. It depicts a young woman, head bowed, sitting on top of a globe. Her eyes are blinded and she is playing a lyre (a type of small, U-shaped harp) which only has one string. The symbolism of the painting would appear be clear – the woman is at her lowest ebb; circumstances have meant she is unable to play; her disappointment and despair are clear for all to see.

And yet the title of the painting might surprise you: it is called Hope. The painting has had an interesting story in inspiring some remarkable reflections on the nature of hope throughout history. Martin Luther King Jr was inspired by this in a sermon he gave in 1959, whilst Barack Obama based his entire presidential campaign and second book on this theme, entitled The Audacity of Hope. In this, he defines hope as being “a relentless optimism in the face of hardship” and reminds us that, like the young woman in the painting, when all seems lost and desperate, there is still a way to bring music into the world, for the dawn to break and for our sight to be restored. Hope will always find a way.

Many of you will have been aware of the celebrations surrounding Liverpool winning the Premier league title for the first time in 30 years. I know some people who have waited virtually their whole lives for this to happen. It has been a long time to wait, with some near misses, tragedies and challenges along the way. The famous Liverpool anthem speaks emotively of hope in a brighter future: “When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark. At the end of the storm there’s a golden sky and the sweet, silver song of the lark. Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown, walk on walk on, with hope in your heart…” I think you might know the rest.  

Clearly, this idea of hope is a really important one, particularly in difficult circumstances. Every single one of you will have had a different experience of lockdown during the past few months. For some of you and your families this will have been a really challenging time. There has been a lot of talk of things ‘missed’ – in school, these have included examinations, Sports Day, fixtures, concerts, performances, end of year proms. The impact of this period will be felt for a long time to come.

In school, however, we have been spending considerable time planning for your return in September. This is a really complicated process and school will have to be organised differently when we all come back. There will be some controls about the areas we can access and we will have to all work together to make sure it is safe and secure for the whole school community to be here. We continue to plan all of this really carefully and in doing so there is a palpable sense of excitement building. We have been amazed at the determination, resilience, creativity and resourcefulness you have shown over this period. The work you have done is incredible – and means you are in a really strong position to build on this when we return. I know that some of you have thrived over the time spent at home, developing life-long skills of self-motivation, autonomy and self-regulation. These will be crucial in your further success. We will make sure that everyone, no matter what your experience has been, gets the help and support they need when we are back in school.   

Preparations for September have continued with our virtual transition day for new Year 7s. As part of the induction process, pupils currently in Year 6 have been invited to write a letter to me about their feelings about starting secondary school here at Marlborough. The thing that shines out most of all from their fantastic letters is their sense of enthusiasm, optimism and infectious hope. Hope for the future, a hope shared by all of the teachers and staff here at Marlborough, where we are full of determination to be even more brilliant than we are, and hold a firm and unshakeable belief that better days lie ahead.

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection.

  • What can we see in the world around us that makes us feel hopeful for the future?
  • What are our hopes and dreams for our own future? What can we do to protect and nurture these?

Wednesday 8th July 2020: Whole School Assembly

This week’s Whole School Assembly is delivered by Dr Jones, Deputy Headteacher.

Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He is one of the most prolific inventors in history with over a thousand patents to his name. In addition to developing the first long-lasting electric lightbulb, he made significant contributions to the fields of electric power generation and communication.

Edison’s phenomenal creativity was underpinned by an unusual habit. When faced with a difficult problem, he would take a very short nap. While sitting in his favourite chair, he would hold a marble above a plate and relax, seeking the disconnected feeling we get as we drift off to sleep. His thoughts would move toward a freer more creative way of thinking as he found the margin between wakefulness and sleep. As he fell asleep, the ball would fall from his hand, clattering on the plate and waking him, his mind filled with new ideas and novel solutions.

Edison was making use of types of thinking that we all use every day, but he was doing it in a deliberate and structured way. Whenever we successfully navigate a large task or complicated problem, or attempt something creative, we use two types of thinking: focussed and diffuse. Through harnessing these different types of thinking, Einstein developed his Theory of Relativity, Harper Lee wrote to ‘Kill a Mockingbird’ and Beyonce wrote ‘Crazy in Love’. You use them when you solve a complicated Maths problem, combine French or German words in ways you’ve never used them before or compose a piece of music.

When you’re paying attention you are using the focussed mode of thinking. You use the focussed mode when you are working on a maths problem; identifying the language technique used by a writer; reading this assembly or playing a video game. Try counting up from 234 in intervals of 17 and you will instantly engage your focussed mode. When focusing, you’re putting specific parts of the brain to work. Which parts are working depends on what you are doing. When you are trying to learn something new, you must first focus intently on it in order to “turn on” those parts of the brain and get the learning process started.

Diffuse mode is when your mind is relaxed and free, thinking about nothing in particular. You’re in diffuse mode when you are daydreaming or doodling. When you are using the diffuse mode of thinking your brain can jump from idea to idea, concept to concept. It allows you to make imaginative connections between ideas. This is useful when you are working on a problem you have never seen before, or are having trouble understanding something. We all have the ability to create new connections between ideas, pulling something from our brain that was never put there in the first place.

Both modes of thinking are equally valuable, but it’s the harmony between them which matters. When we learn something new or grapple with a challenging task, we must first put our focussed mode to work. At some point, we need to relax and slip into the diffuse mode. We master the details in focused mode, then comprehend how everything fits together in diffuse mode. If we keep focussing on the task we block our diffuse mode. This is why we sometimes find that the harder we push our brains to be creative or solve a difficult problem, the less creative our idea becomes.

Shifting between focussed and diffuse mode happens all the time. When we become distracted or allow a little time to pass our diffuse mode kicks in. We just need to do something else until we stop thinking about the problem we are working on. When we return to the problem we often find that our thinking has moved forward or a solution just pops into our head.

Edison and others learned to harness this. Planning their working routines and days to move between modes at regular intervals. The surrealist painter Salvador Dali also used brief naps and a clattering object to tap into his diffuse mode of thinking. Jane Austen found inspiration during her long walks. Like Edison, Dahli and Austen, we can develop habits that support us to use both modes. We can build regular breaks into our day and use these breaks in ways that encourage diffuse mode thinking.  Some of the most effective ways to do this include going for a walk, doing exercise and listening to music. Much less effective, but often more tempting, is spending time online.

At The Marlborough School one of our values is perseverance: sticking at something despite difficulty. If we are to stick at challenging tasks and creative endeavours, trying harder might not be part of the solution. Instead, we can build habits that help us move between the focussed and diffuse modes and be patient, trusting that given time, we’ll find the answers. Edison said: “our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”  If trying one more time means taking a nap and letting our subconscious do the rest, we can all do it.

Please bow your head for a moment of silence and reflection.

  • Jane Austen did her best thinking while walking in the countryside. When do your moments of clarity and creativity happen? How might you make more of this?
  • We all feel like giving up sometimes. What do you do when you feel like this? What might you do differently?

Wednesday 1st July 2020: Whole School Assembly

This week’s Whole School Assembly is delivered by Mrs Harris, Assistant Headteacher.  

Wellbeing. The word is everywhere. We find it in the vision statements of nearly every business or organisation; we find it all over the press in articles about the state of the nation’s mental health and in pieces advising us on how best to look after ourselves, both in a pre-Covid and a post-Covid world. But what does it really mean?

The idea of humans searching for wellbeing, for happiness, for contentment, runs through the philosophies and religions of the world and is something that people have pondered, researched and written about for centuries.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle placed the concept of ‘eudaimonia’ at the heart of his thinking and as the ultimate goal of human existence. The word literally breaks down into meaning ‘eu’ - well or good and ‘daimon’ - spirit. Often translated as ‘happiness’, in fact a translation of ‘flourishing’ captures the sense of the word more fully. It is from this ancient word that our modern ‘wellbeing’ has derived and with it a deep and continued need to strive for a sense that we are flourishing both in terms of outward, measurable success, but also in terms of our inner and more enduring contentment.

The extended period of lockdown has given us all an opportunity to reflect on our own sense of wellbeing and that of our families. For me, the initial days and weeks of lockdown brought some very real benefits. Lots of time with my children, an insight into what they were learning at primary school, no commute to work and a sense of engagement with my local community and with the natural world around me.

As time has passed, this initial positivity has given way, at least in my household, to a sense of lockdown fatigue. The monotonous pattern of each day: a struggle for each member of the family to complete their home learning or their work from home with constant video meetings and calls, sending emails, making phone calls, setting work, giving feedback -all this on top of the seemingly never-ending domestic tasks.

‘When can we just go back to normal?’ is the daily refrain of my children.

My friends imagined that home-schooling my children would have been a breeze for me, a teacher. In truth, it’s been a struggle, particularly as the weeks have gone on. Gone are the shiny timetables stuck to my fridge that characterised the early lockdown period. Now, we do the best we can. And that will have to do for now.

Of course, we have tried hard to mitigate these feelings of fatigue by going for walks, playing games and, more recently, by re-watching every single Star Wars film. We have enjoyed all of these things, but it has become clear to us all that something is missing. Pre-lockdown, we would all have said that spending more time with family would make us happier, bring us a greater sense of wellbeing and contentment. As it turns out, what brings us our individual and collective sense of contentment, what helps us flourish as a family and as individuals, is not only what we get from each other at home, but very much our sense of connectedness to the different communities that we are part of.

This feeling of community and connectedness has been palpable as I have been able to return to school part time. At Marlborough, as we welcomed back our Year 10s and Year 12s, all staff involved felt a sense of joy at seeing our young people again after so long. This joy was only tinged with the sense of regret that it would still be some weeks before we could be reunited with the whole school community. It was clear too that the Year 10s and 12s who attended school for the first time since March were happy to be back within their school community, even if things are not yet quite back to ‘normal’.

Returning to work has had a genuine impact on my wellbeing and my sense of contentment. I have felt an increasing sense of equilibrium at being back in school, a sense of balance at re-connecting with colleagues in person rather than on a screen and a real sense of delight at seeing the young people of the Marlborough School again. After all, teaching is not a job best done at home: it is the daily interactions, smiles and sense of collaboration that makes it such a rewarding career.

Returning home after being at work, I have been re-invigorated. It seems very much that my sense of ‘eudaimonia’, of wellbeing, of a deep and lasting contentment, comes from balancing out the different areas of life: family and work. Each one brings joy in its own way; neither is enough in isolation.

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection:

  • Let’s reflect on what brings us genuine wellbeing and contentment and on the positives in our lives even in a difficult time.
  • As we start to re-connect with the different communities that we are part of: friendship groups, wider families, our school community, let’s do so with full hearts and with a real sense of hope about what we can, together, achieve.

Tuesday 30th June 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

It has been an important couple of weeks in school as we have welcomed back more pupils onto site. It was fantastic to see some of our pupils return. They have grown so much and were full of energy and enthusiasm.

Year 10 return

After seeing 100% of our Year 12s in the past two weeks, Year 10 returned last week in ‘bubble groups’ of between 20 and 25. I am delighted to report that we saw over 90% of our pupils in school. The lessons, delivered in the Dining Hall and the MEC, were brilliant and the students worked so hard in the unbelievable heat! They were really pleased to be back and it felt like a big step on the road towards school feeling ‘normal’ again. I am grateful to all the staff who have worked hard to make school safe and to all the teachers who have kept our key worker children in brilliant routines that has allowed us to focus our time and resources on successfully managing the reintegration of pupils into school.

We have also seen the gradual return of our Ormerod pupils back into the Base. Their return has had to be handled really carefully, but chatting (at a safe distance) with them has been a real joy.

Continuing with remote learning and home contact

Even though it was great to see some pupils back in school, we are acutely aware of the massive amount of work that is still going on as we continue with our home learning provision.  We are grateful for all the help and support that you are giving your children. Maintaining routines and motivation levels is challenging, but so many of you are doing an excellent job. Please keep it going for the remainder of the term.  

Planning for September

The focus of a lot of our planning is now on September. The Government’s stated aim is to have “every child back, in every year group, in every school”. Our starting point therefore is to assume we are all back together in school. To this end we are well advanced with the time-table, have finalised staffing, rooming, the school calendar and so on. We are also carefully looking at how we can make our school as safe as we can, and are eagerly waiting for further guidance and details from the DfE. We suspect these will not published until the summer. However, if we are asked to be ready, we will be.

As you can imagine, we are also planning for a number of different scenarios, including partial openings and even potential future shutdowns in response to the regional and/or national context. Rest assured we will contact you in good time to share our plans – once we have some further clarity.   


Our important transition work continues. This Friday we have our ‘Virtual Sixth Form Induction Day’ for those Year 11s returning to us in Sixth Form. We are producing lots of materials for our new Year 7s and have dedicated a brand-new area of the website to our primary school transition where you can find more information.

Summer Holidays

The DfE confirmed last week that there is no expectation that schools will remain open for key workers/vulnerable children over the summer holiday. An important part of our transition process is our summer school for our MSS and vulnerable pupils. This will continue as usual. Paul James, the CEO of River Learning Trust has written a letter to all parents and carers regarding the Trust-wide approach to summer provision and some words on September. His letter is sent to you today along with this one.   

End of Term arrangements

You may be aware that This Friday, 3rd July, was designated as an INSET Day at the start of the year. We have now received permission to move this day to Monday 20th July. We have also decided to make the half-day scheduled for July 21st an INSET Day. This means that term will effectively end for pupils on Friday 17th July.  

Looking ahead

Planning for September is really exciting. We are really confident that the values and approaches that have served us so well in past few months and have held us all together will help us to build an even better school when we return. Our resilience, perseverance, compassion and sense of community can only become stronger when we are finally all together again.

I am really excited about the opportunities and possibilities of what we can achieve moving forward. Working together, there is nothing we can’t achieve.

Yours faithfully,

Mr A Hanlon


Wednesday 24th June 2020: Whole School Assembly

This week’s Whole School Assembly is delivered by Ms Elli Bromley, Assistant Headteacher.  

Scrolling through my phone, I alighted on a message sent in February by my younger sister, who was then finishing a period of studying in Spain. “I can’t wait to be back and see you IRL!” she enthusiastically wrote, in a message that seems now seems so long ago. Whilst she did get home safely in March, driving through the increasingly deserted towns of Europe as countries’ borders closed, I have not yet seen her ‘in real life’. How could we meet up when we have all been socially distancing and keeping separate from each other?  

For many of us the idea of distancing felt initially like such a challenge. ‘Social distancing’ seems oxymoronic, two opposite things at once. An unimagined challenge that seemed alien and divorced from real life. However, the current situation has actually meant that we are increasingly emotionally connected and sociable, whilst remaining safely, physically distant. ‘We have become a nation of quizzers!’ exclaimed an article I’ve recently read. Certainly, for many in our school community this seems to be true. In my calls to families I have heard of competitive scavenger hunts, monopoly tournaments and a plethora of other games, being enjoyed both within households and online.  

For my own family this period has provided us with the nudge we needed for more frequent communication. Like the phrase ‘socially-distant’, we have always been a paradox: close-knit and far-flung. I have remained lovingly connected to my sister as we’ve shared calls and messages; exchanged cards and even gifts. Now I connect fortnightly with all my siblings, as we simultaneously link Oxford to Leicester, the Peak District, New Zealand and Honduras. We share recent news and decades-old private jokes from across the globe. We are brought back together by our current shared experience. 

I also know of stories from across our Marlborough School community, where the current situation has prompted greater connection with friends and family. Some students have used the Big Marlborough Challenge as motivation to support others: preparing food for a relative or taking a neighbour’s dog for a run. Other families have taken to frequently baking or relishing the experience of gardening together. Even I have managed a batch of muffins and have been enjoying my garden so much I bought more bird feeders, delighting in the increased number of robins, finches and other birds who visit each day. 

It is easy to linger on the negatives when circumstances are unusual. It can be tempting to focus on the past or long for the future, yet we can find many positives by focusing on the present. It helps us to see that small acts of kindness for others and self-care provide us with warmth and wellbeing. Our school’s continuing close relationship with Oxford University’s Myriad research has afforded many of us the opportunity to learn about Mindfulness. Within this practice we are encouraged to stay present. We remember that within each of our personal journeys the significant step is the one that we are taking right now.  

It is important to remember then that the only moment we can influence is now and we do have control over it. We may have missed some home learning tasks last week; this does not impact our ability to start our work today. We may be looking forward to getting the bus to town for shopping; this does not affect our ability to walk around Blenheim today. To help us ground ourselves in the now, we should try to use our senses fully: be where you are. Look around and appreciate the light, shapes, colours, textures; focus on the sounds and smells of your surroundings.  

There is a further practice from Mindfulness which helps us to be stay present in our current moment. This is to take note of good experiences, pleasant moments, beautiful things and recognise our gratitude for them. This could be something small but comforting like cherishing a hot cup of tea, appreciating the flowers in our garden, or gratefully receiving a message from a friend. It is a practice that many of us have shared in Mindfulness classes or in our morning Reflection Focus. 

Let us share again in appreciating the small moments that make up our current reality. I have watched goldfinch chicks fledge in my garden and have celebrated my nan’s 91st birthday with my family across the world: I’m so grateful this is real life. 

Please bow your heads take a moment for silence and reflection: 

  • Take a moment and use your senses to help you centre on right now. 

  • Deepen your appreciation by reflecting: what am I grateful for? 


The Big Marlborough Art Challenge Entries and Winners

Wednesday 17th June 2020: Whole School Assembly

There’s a sign on the door of the school library that says, “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”  I have reflected a lot on this statement during the past few weeks! For 5000 years, reading has transformed the way we live our lives and has offered us the means to live better. Reading frees the mind, lifts the heart and gives us access, not just to new and imagined worlds, but also helps us to be more successful in the real, actual world of examinations, job interviews, University applications and apprenticeship places.

The power of books to influence and change lives has been seen throughout history in the attempts by tyrants and despots to censure and ban reading - from Caligula to Hitler, leaders have sought to control the thoughts and actions of others by controlling what they read. In the current climate, I read a deeply moving story about a black slave in Oklahoma, Doc Daniel Dowdy, who was punished by his owner in a way we would now find incredibly shocking. He said, “the first time you was caught trying to read or write you was whipped with a cow hide; the next time with a cat o’ tails; the third time they caught you they cut off the first joints of your forefinger”. To oppress something so brutally must mean that it is incredibly powerful.

This story reminds us of the privileged position we enjoy in our free and literate society. Our school library, and the access to knowledge and learning that this allows all of us, is essential to the life of our school. I wonder how many of you have spent more time during this lockdown reading books? It is also really important that we are preparing you to read for both pleasure and purpose.  This type of reading is not just confined to books - think about how much reading you do on screen and in a digital space - emails, blogs, websites, news agencies, twitter. It seems to me that being able to read, understand, and digest information matters more today than ever before.

Reading allows us to satisfy our curiosity. To learn new things. It helps us to acquire new knowledge and fire the imagination. It sits so well with us here at Marlborough as it teaches all of us about caring for people and helps us to understand others – Malorie Blackman, the former Children's Laureate and author of the ‘Noughts and Crosses’ series of novels wrote that “reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’ shoes for a while.”

But reading also allows us to learn about structure and vocabulary, syntax and grammar. Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between reading, and being successful in school and, later, at work. This is why creating a culture of reading at Marlborough is so important to us. As teachers, we are actively developing a ‘reading rich’ curriculum, that includes a deliberate and intentional approach to reading, language development and vocabulary acquisition. Now, more than ever, we need to give you, as young people, a voice that can be heard clearly in the world.

We all have our favourite childhood books and stories. I hope that lots of us have re-discovered these over the past weeks and have read some amazing new stories that will live with us for a long time. Having the discipline of setting time aside each day for reading is an incredibly worthwhile thing we can do and will ultimately become habit-forming. This will be harder for some of us than for others, but we should reflect on the words of former slave, statesman and writer Frederick Douglas when he said, “once you learn to read, you will be forever free”

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection

  • How are we incorporating reading into our daily routines? If this is difficult, how can we start doing this?
  • Remember that reading allows us to have empathy, concern and understanding for other people – let us make sure we are living these values in our daily lives.

Wednesday 10th June 2020: Whole School Assembly

I can’t breathe. Never has a simple phrase had such an impact on a global scale. Demonstrations in cities across the world and in all continents have shown the power of this phrase to change the course of history. Perhaps the power the phrase I can’t breathe comes from the idea that all humans need to breathe to live and that we need to breathe in order to speak out and have our voice heard. These words were also so much more powerful in that they were not the dying words of a great world leader, or a seemingly important man, but of a very ordinary person. The final words of George Floyd have echoed around the world and given voice to all of those who have experienced racism, oppression and discrimination in all its forms. it has brought into sharp focus the commonality of racism, as well as the broad of struggle against prejudice and human rights for all people.

Demonstrations and protests across the world have shown that it is not an issue that exists only in America, or in countries other than our own, but is something that lies at the heart of our own society. We must not, and we will not be complacent about addressing the deep and often unconscious racism people encounter on a daily basis. The Marlborough School’s vision statement says that “we recognise the uniqueness of every individual” and that “we believe in the capacity and potential of everyone”. Our value of ‘equality’ means that we give all people an equal chance and that all of our efforts should be to make sure that everyone has access to all the opportunities and advantages our school can offer.

These are laudable aims. But the words of George Floyd are reverberating even in this small corner of West Oxfordshire. It seems only right that we take this opportunity to spend some time thinking about how things are actually done here in school. This is not the time for any quick fixes, or temporary, knee jerk reactions, but the time seems to be upon us when ‘not being racist’ doesn’t seem quite enough; we need to be actively anti-racist, which requires a different level of activity and engagement. As a school, we need to spend some time thinking carefully about what messages we send to all our young people, their families and the wider community. We must be open and prepared to ask serious questions of ourselves, whilst reaching out to others to listen and to find out about their experiences of our school - and how these might shape our future.

As young people, you are the leaders of the future. It is the voices of young people that are being heard across the world. You want the world to be different. We must rise to meet this challenge and listen to those voices calling for reflection and change. We can start by looking again at the curriculum in school, and how we explore issues of culture, history and literature. We will review our Personal Development curriculum and think carefully how about how we are preparing our young people to go out into the world feeling valued, empowered, and equal. And we will listen to the urgent and passionate voices of you, our students.

We know that the power of education means that we can change people’s lives and influence how they see the world and find their place in it. We must address any discrimination or racism, explicit or implicit, and make sure it has no place in our community. Ben Okri, the Nigerian novelist and poet wrote this week, “Maybe ‘I can’t breathe’ will begin the real change that our world so desperately needs. Let’s all breathe. Freedom.”

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection

  • We remember all the victims of racism and discrimination across the world. May their calls for equality and justice be listened to and acted on.
  • We think of the human cost of racism and prejudice – and hope for a recognition of our common humanity.      

The Big Marlborough Sporting Challenge Top Performers and Entries

Monday 8th June 2020: Re-opening letter to Parents and Carers

Dear Parents and Carers,

Over the half term break, the government released more guidance on how secondary schools might re-open more widely for some year groups.  We thought you would be interested in hearing about the plans we have in place for the whole school. Many primary schools have begun to welcome younger pupils back into the classrooms, following all the government guidelines for safely managing Covid-19.

The government is asking secondary schools “to offer some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of Year 10 and Year 12 pupils, which should remain the predominant mode of education during this term for pupils in these year groups”

Based on the latest scientific and medical evidence, the DfE advice is that we need to continue to control the numbers attending school to reduce the risk of increasing transmission of the virus. Therefore, we are limiting the numbers of Year 10 and Year 12 students in school at any one time.  The students in these year groups will continue to learn at home for the majority of the time, or all of the time if they are unable to attend school for any reason.

Provision for Year 7, 8 and 9 Students 

All our Year 7-9 students will continue to learn at home, unless they are children of critical workers or are in one of the vulnerable groups identified in the government’s guidelines.  We are in touch with those families, whose children are already attending school and have been since the full lockdown started.

Provision for Year 10 and 12 Students

We are writing today to update you on the next steps towards opening the school more widely for Years 10 and Year 12.  In planning for greater numbers of students and staff on site, our highest priority remains the health and safety of our staff, students and our wider community.  We also want to ensure that the students attending school have a positive and meaningful educational experience, while ensuring social distancing guidance is adhered to. We have written a document that outlines our ‘First Principles’ around face-to-face contact, based on the DfE guidelines. This can be found in the ‘Home Learning’ section of our website.

Our approach to in-school face-to-face support for Year 10 and 12

We are planning to re-open for students in Year 12 from Monday 15th June and for Year 10 in the week beginning 22nd June.

Bearing in mind the steps we need to take to make our own school environment as safe as we can for the restricted number of students and staff on site, our approach is to offer our Year 10 pupils 3 hours of face-to-face teaching of English, Maths and Science per week for four weeks. The rest of the time the students will continue to learn remotely at home.

Year 12 will be offered pastoral face to face meetings in school with a member of the Sixth Form team. They will also be offered regular online Remote Tutorials (RTs) with subject their subject teachers. The rest of the time the students will continue to learn remotely at home.

All the details of the timetables, specific arrangements, study areas, equipment details and safeguarding protocols will be sent to each individual student and parent of Year 10 and Year 12 so that students and families will know exactly what to expect and what will happen on the times they are in school.

Minimising the risk of transmission

We have followed the Government guidance on the preventative measures that we can put in place to ensure that the school is as safe as possible by reducing the risk of transmission of the virus.  It has been necessary to split our Year 10 cohort into 8 groups of between 20/25 pupils, as we can only safely accommodate around 40-50 pupils (in 2 separate groups) safely on site at the same time.  We have assessed the risks of transmission associated with the various aspects of life in our school and have in place a number of controls to reduce those risks, including:

  • Controlling the risk of transmission by limiting who comes to school;
  • Isolating (adults and students) for those with symptoms or having tested positive for Covid-19, or living in a household with Covid-19 or instructed to stay at home through Test and Trace;
  • Shielding (adults and students) for those defined as clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable;
  • Following guidance on journeying to and from school, including public and OCC transport and encouraging cycling and walking;
  • Staggering start and finish times for students coming into school each day;
  • Reducing the number of staff and students on site at any one time;
  • Managing rooms and routes around the site to minimise contact within and between groups;
  • Frequent hand cleaning and good respiratory hygiene practices;
  • Increased ventilation of rooms;
  • Classes in ‘learning spaces’ rather than classrooms with multiple entrances and exits;
  • Larger spaces used to allow for appropriate social distancing;
  • Regular cleaning of all settings;
  • Not allowing unscheduled visitors on site; 
  • Removing the need to borrow or share equipment;
  • Encouraging the washing of clothes and cleaning of equipment on return home.

We have developed Safe Protocols for all staff and clear behaviour expectations for our students that explain in detail what to expect in school. Every student attending school in Year 10 or 12 will need to read and follow the guidelines, which we will share when we communicate the details of wider school re-opening.

Learning at home

The main form of learning for all students, in all years, remains the on-line work set by their teachers. We are continuing to develop the online provision and thank families for the suggestions you have made about ways in which we could improve engagement in learning further. We will continue to follow the government guidance in relation to the safe opening of schools and continue to update parents and carers regularly.

We hope you are all keeping well and staying safe.

Wednesday 3rd June 2020: Whole School Assembly

Good morning and welcome back to the start of the summer term!

This week marks an important landmark in the History of The Marlborough School. Later this week sees the 80th anniversary of the opening of our school on a sunny June morning in 1940. We had organised a number of celebrations to mark this anniversary, but the coronavirus has put paid to the plans we had in place. I spoke in our Whole School Assembly earlier this year about the history of our school and the local area, and you can find references to this in my blog entry of January 2020.   

Reflecting on our preparations for this 80th Anniversary, which included a school reunion and a whole school photograph, I was reminded of the people and personalities that have gone before us at Marlborough. In the course of 80 years, the school has had ten headteachers – so with an average of 8 years’ service each! The first Headteacher was a Mr. Percy Thompson, a fiery Yorkshireman with a love of boxing! The longest-serving Head was Mr. Gerry O’Hagan, who led the school for an astonishing 22 years, from 1962 to 1986. Some of your parents and grandparents may remember him! The two previous Heads, Mr Ed McConnell and Mrs Julie Fenn, served the school for a combined 17 years. Their legacy, and those that have come before them, is a lot for us to live up to.

It is true that organisations and communities ultimately become bigger than the individuals that make them up. The school has changed and developed beyond all recognition in these last 80 years, but the fundamental driving force behind our school remains as strong as ever. When thinking about how best to frame our thoughts on our anniversary, the passage from Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus tells the story of the wise builder came to mind. Here He tells us:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and its fall was great.”

“Yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock”.

In these challenging times, we look for those things that are stable and strong to provide us with support and reassurance. Our school has been the meeting place for so many friendships, so many enduring experiences and memories, so many lives changed in a positive and lasting way. It is the responsibility of all of us – governors, staff, pupils and parents - who are here now, to uphold those values and characteristics of our school that make it a unique and special place to be: our one community, united by a common vision; our Electives programme and broad curriculum, ensuring all students get a fully-rounded, extensive, personalised education; our inclusive Ormerod Resource Base, that teaches all of us on a daily basis what equality of opportunity actually means; and, of course, how we treat each other - with respect, courtesy and kindness, making sure that we are ready to go out into the world, ready to make a difference in the world.

If we want to plan our course for the future, we must know the journey we have been on in the past. But, of course, the present is ever with us. As William Wordsworth reminds us:

“Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future”.

The challenges ahead are many and great: the rain will fall; the floods will rise; and the winds will blow and beat against us, but as a school, we will face them together, safe in the knowledge that we are building on solid, unshakeable foundations.

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection

  • What forms the bedrock and foundation of our lives? Who do we depend upon when times are tough?
  • Let us commit ourselves to making sure that we are there for other people when they need us most – to being a good son or daughter, a good brother or sister, and a good friend.   


The Big Marlborough Music Challenge. Open the power point presentation to see all the winners and entrants, and listen to the amazing music.

Friday 22nd May 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

As another term draws to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your hard work, encouragement and positivity over the past six weeks.

I know that this a difficult time in so many ways, but your support for your children and our school has been fantastic. Thank you for all that you do. 

I would urge you to have a break from school work over the next week. We will resume setting work and continue to keep you informed regarding any updated government guidelines after half term.

Take care and stay safe.

Wednesday 20th May 2020: Whole School Assembly

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” This quotation is attributed to Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago and White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama. There has been lots of speculation since last weekend about what life will be like post-lockdown. Journalists and historians are looking to history and literature to see how societies of the past have coped in similar times of crisis. The pessimistic view is that things will return to ‘normal’ very quickly and, in fact, disasters and pandemics tend to bring out the worst in people – selfishness, scapegoating and xenophobia can all be seen as a growing phenomenon in our society and across the world. When the Black Death came to Europe in the 14th century, cities and towns across the continent shut themselves to outsiders – and assaulted, banished and killed ‘undesirable’ community members.

As an English teacher I have taught the novel ‘Lord of the Flies’ many times. The story is of a group of English school boys stranded on a desert island without any adult supervision. After a gradual descent into chaos and violence, the book ends with 3 of the boys dead and the island ablaze. The famous line that concludes the book refers to Ralph’s tears as he is recused. Golding writes that Ralph weeps for the "end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart”. I have always struggled with this reading of man’s essential nature and it is a debate that is as relevant today as it was in 1945 when the book was written. The introduction to the novel’s Faber and Faber classic edition puts this into context. Golding was writing in a world that had seen “within 20 years the systemic destruction of the Jewish race, a world war revealing unnumbered atrocities of what man has done to man, and in 1945, the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb which came to dominate all political and moral thinking”.

The great question of our current time is, what will be our response to the current global crisis? Will it be a return to ‘business as usual’, or will we see the emergence of a ‘new normal’?

We cannot be sure. However, what we can be sure about is that, as a school and as the Marlborough community, this period of closure does give us an opportunity to reflect on what is important to us, and will allow us to actively shape our response to what has happened. We cannot control the situation, but we absolutely can control how we choose to respond.

The Marlborough School that I would like to see re-emerge from this current situation is one that builds on the amazing spirt, perseverance and sense of community that has been so palpable over the past weeks. The cancellation of GCSE and A levels has left lots of schools adrift as they search for meaning and purpose – our vision for education was always broader than this, in that “our school cannot be judged by outcomes alone, but by the people it helps to shape.” This remains our vision, and remembering this will be so important for us in the coming months and years.

So what does a school look like that has ‘people’ at its heart? It means that we will focus even more on the health and well-being of all our staff and young people. We will bring in additional counselling services, as well as making sure all of pupils have mindfulness training as part of Oxford University’s Myriad programme. We have, this week, secured funding to develop further our Chaplaincy provision and will look to create specific areas of school dedicated to both prayer and secular reflection.

We will promote reading in every aspect of what we do, not only for its intellectual and academic benefits, but also for its calming influence, the perspective it brings and its ability to stir the emotions and fire the imagination. We have already seen a massive out-pouring of creativity in our pupil’s response to the lockdown and the pandemic in general. We must harness this, and never lose sight of the crucial importance of drama, art, music, sport, cooking, design, craft, building and engineering that is so important to so many of our young people. We have preserved these in our curriculum – and we must continue to promote excellence in all these pursuits.   

We will re-dedicate ourselves to creating the most environmentally friendly, eco-aware community that we possibly can. We have done much already, but this drive must continue and there is so much we can do if we set our minds to it. Giving our young people a voice and letting them lead with these actions is something we are also committed to. Exciting plans are already in place for our return.

And we must also look at our engagement, not just with the global world, but with our local community. The school’s central place in lots of people’s lives has been highlighted in so many ways over the past weeks. Caring for our elderly, the homeless, and the vulnerable members of our community must become the driving force behind what we do as a school. A school that is geographically and culturally at the heart of our local community, a place known for kindness, compassion and generosity. 

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection

  • Think about what changes you want to make as we emerge from lockdown. What would a kinder, more compassionate society look like? What part could you play in creating this?
  • Let us try to see the current pandemic not just in negative terms, but as an opportunity to choose a new, and better, way of living our lives together. 

The Big Marlborough Food Challenge

Wednesday 13th May 2020: Whole School Assembly

As most of you will be aware, last week saw the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. In the run up to last Friday, the BBC showed a programme that told the life stories of some of the veterans who fought in the Second World War, called ‘Britain’s Greatest Generation’. This was a collection of first-hand accounts of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. I watched the programme with my young daughter and found it incredibly moving. You can watch clips and episodes here:

What made it so remarkable was not just the amazing stories of bravery and fortitude, but what stayed with me were the photographs and pictures of the people telling their stories as they had looked when they were young – full of life, youth, optimism and hope. It is important to remember: everyone who is now old, was once young! They had the same dreams, the same ambitions, the same frustrations and joys as young people experience today. But what sets that generation apart is that they also had to face circumstances that were incredibly challenging and unimaginably difficult. Many, if not all, of their stories were often marred by loss and tragedy.

Over the past years I have been privileged to become friends with members of the local Woodstock British Legion. I have heard, first hand, their own stories of conflict and sacrifice, and know how those memories and experiences do not fade with time, but in many ways become more urgent, more visceral, as time goes by. The generation that I first met and spoke with six years ago are nearly all gone - as are the generation of people who spoke so movingly and with such humanity in the documentary.   

Listening to the authentic voices of ordinary people is an amazing way to connect to the past. Lots of you will have tuned in to hear the Queen give her address to the nation on the anniversary of VE Day, at exactly the same time that her father, King George VI, delivered a speech to the nation in 1945, from a bomb-damaged Buckingham Palace.

In his speech, he spoke of the legacy of the conflict that had raged for so many years, and also of the challenges that lay ahead. He said:

“There is great comfort in the thought that the years of darkness and danger in which the children of our country have grown up are over, and, please God, forever.

We shall have failed, and the blood of our dearest will have flowed in vain, if the victory which they died to win does not lead to a lasting peace, founded on justice and established in good will. To that, then, let us turn our thoughts on this day of just triumph and proud sorrow; and then take up our work again, resolved as a people to do nothing unworthy of those who died for us and to make the world such a world as they would have desired, for their children, and for ours. This is the task to which now honour binds us.”

To make the world…as they would have desired, for their children, and for ours.

We all have a role to play in creating and contributing to this work of building a society where peace, goodwill, justice and honour are not out-dated concepts we might study in history books, but living values that we aspire to live out in our daily lives. Inspired by our past, we can be even more determined to shape a brighter, more caring, more selfless future.   

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection.

  • Let us take a moment to remember all those who gave their lives in conflicts across the world. Men, women and children from all backgrounds, all cultures and all nationalities.
  • May we keep in mind the lesson taught to us by struggle of our previous generations: ‘never give up; never despair’.

Tuesday 12th May 2020: Home Learning update

Dear Parents and Carers,

Thank you for the feedback you have offered us about our approach to Home Learning, both through our parent survey and our conversations with you. We are hugely grateful for the efforts you are making to support us and your children in these unprecedented times for school and education.

Your feedback was overwhelmingly positive. You identified the following as some the strengths of our current provision: 

  • The clarity and accessibility of tasks.
  • The quality of communication from teachers through Show my Homework.
  • The encouragement and feedback provided through Show my Homework.
  • The phone calls home from tutors, Heads of Year and other staff.
  • All work appearing on a Monday morning allowing parents and students to organise their week.

We have already developed our approach in a number of ways to address your feedback and have plans in place for further developments. You can find our response to your feedback here.  We hope you find this information useful. Be assured that we are thinking really carefully about how we can support you and your children make the best of this challenging situation. Below you’ll find some key messages relating to students in Years 7, 8 and 9.

Year 7 and Year 8:

  • As of this week, we expect students to complete all Geography, History, Languages and RE activities in addition to their Maths, English and Science tasks. As a result, students can expect more frequent feedback in these subjects. Tasks for other subjects will remain optional.
  • We suggest that students stick to the following schedule:







9.00 - 9.30






9.35 - 10.00






10.05 - 10.30






11.00 - 11.25






11.30 - 11.55






12.00 - 12.25






1.30 - 1.55






2.00 - 2.25






2.30 - 2.55







Year 9:

  • You should have received your confirmed curriculum choices at the end of last week and an updated Home Learning schedule corresponding to these. If you have not received your confirmed choices please email me.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with further questions or suggestions. Please email:

Monday 11th May 2020: Update

Dear Parents and Carers,

You will all have heard the announcement yesterday evening from the Government that made some mention of the proposed re-opening of schools. As things stand, we are all awaiting clarification about what this will mean for us in practical terms. We are continuing to work closely with our partner schools in RLT and taking advice from national organisations such as ASCL. We wait for more details to emerge in the coming days and weeks. When we have more clarity we will, of course, make sure that the health and safety of our pupils is at the forefront of our considerations.

In the meantime, our plans for remote learning remain in place. We have produced a response to the parental survey we issued on 27th May. You will all receive a letter today with information about how we will be setting and monitoring work in the coming weeks.

In addition to this, we have written to all Year 11 parents and pupils regarding Centre Assessed Grades and will be contacting all Year 13 families later this week. We will also begin the process of transition with our primary school colleagues and start welcoming the Year 6 pupils as the latest members of the Marlborough family.

Wednesday 6th May 2020: Whole School Assembly

We have seen and read a lot recently about the importance of keeping ourselves active and healthy during these current times. I came home from school last week to find my entire family, including our pet dog, taking part in an on-line yoga session. This was in addition to the daily Joe Wicks, the ‘fitter futures’ programme and other various workout sessions which have even included Mr. Motivator (pupils will have to google this one).

There have been lots of inspiring stories in the media recently, as we mentioned a few weeks ago when looking at the story of Captain (now Colonel) Tom.  I am delighted to share with you the story of one of own community heroes, Miss Bishop. Miss Bishop was all set to run the London Marathon for the seventh successive year, until it was cancelled. However, determined to do something to raise money for her charities and to challenge herself, she decided to cover the race distance at home, in her back garden!

The reality of this meant that Miss Bishop had to run 1,688 laps of the 25-metre course she set up in her garden – all in a circle. For nearly 5 hours. Running for 26.2 miles. Miss Bishop said that she felt sea-sick and dizzy half way through – her solution? To turn around and run in circles the other way! By completing the challenge, Miss Bishop raised money for Blood Cancer UK and NHS charities, in what is an incredible achievement.

More than what she achieved in completing the task, the most remarkable thing was that Miss Bishop didn’t want any recognition for completing her challenge. It was about doing something positive, making a choice to be active and to be do something for others in a selfless way. More than anything, this encapsulates the Marlborough spirit and our school values – of ambition, of perseverance, of acting for others. 

As Miss Bishop reported, the biggest challenge was not necessarily physical, but psychological – to continue for that amount of time and that many laps of one small space. As teachers, and as parents, we are as concerned with our mental and emotional health as we are our physical health. Keeping our minds active and being creative is absolutely crucial. The recently launched ‘Big Marlborough Challenge’ (BMC) had really tapped into this need for us all to have some creative outlet. It has been amazing to see that since lockdown began, although proportionally the amount of time young people spend on screens has gone up, we have also seen an absolute out-pouring of creativity. You are turning off your screens and starting to write, paint, draw, bake and compose.

The first BMC involved writing a poem on the theme of Spring and/or Isolation. The entries were fantastic – so much so, that instead of choosing a winner, we have decided to publish all the poems as part of an Anthology. This can be found in the The Big Marlborough Challenge area of the Home Learning section of the school website. It is well worth a read.

There are two poems I would like to share with you this morning. One, by Jacob, because it made myself and Miss Knowles laugh out loud and encapsulates what lots of you are feeling at the moment; the other, by Ella, we both thought was a remarkable and thought-provoking piece of writing– beautifully constructed.  


ISOLATION by Jacob B, Year 7

I’m stuck at home,
So I’m bored.
Oh, I wish I could play football
Anyway, in the meantime I am baking
Too much.
I do my work
Now I’ve finished it.


Reflecting In Isolation by Ella T, Year 9

We are fighting in a battle we cannot win
I refuse to believe that
This lockdown is making a positive impact
Precious lives are stolen every day but
We have shut ourselves away from the problem
It cannot be said that
We are lucky to be alive
In the mists of this dystopian disaster
‘This will all be over soon’
Is false news, and
‘This tiresome isolation is helping no one’
So, I will tell myself that
The Government don’t care if I live or die.
It would be wrong to assume that
My friends and I will be reunited
I must remember that
Nothing is guaranteed during this time of ambiguity
When I worry about how
The world may be coming to an unimaginable end
I mustn’t fool myself into thinking 
I will find hope
Stranded alone in my bedroom

Now read this poem in reverse - from the bottom up.

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection.

  • When we are reflecting on our time at home with our families, let us think about how we can support each other to be heathy and active – both in mind and body.
  • What challenges can we meet today? We can try to be patient; to be kind; and to put the needs of others before our own.

Wednesday 29nd April 2020: Whole School Assembly

I received an email this week that helped to put the on-going crisis into a different perspective. It was from our friends at the international charity, BEFSA. This is an organisation that we have helped to raise money for during our Charity Week in 2018. Since then, we have kept in touch and were in the exciting process of starting a formal link with a partner school in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. We had been in contact with our partner school, Ntabenyonkana High School (NHS!) in Middledrift, when global school closures were announced due to the coronavirus. 

Some of you will already be aware that in South Africa the lockdown is far stricter than it is here. There are huge restrictions on who can travel even small distances, and local communities and areas that are already poor are really suffering. This is happening now in the township where our partner school is based. Because the schools are closed there, the majority of children do not have access to food or safety, never mind any form of home learning. The charity has already opened soup kitchens in the township to provide families with a food parcel and children with a hot lunch each day, but they were writing to ask us, as their partner and friend, for help.

Of course, I have responded, and we will be supporting our ‘other’ NHS with an immediate financial donation. I have been in contact with our own Mr. Smith, the lead teacher who is working with our partner school in South Africa, to discuss how we might raise money in other ways by involving more of the whole school community.

It reminded me of a story that I had heard about life in a small village in South Africa. A western visitor had brought sweets and gifts for the children of the village, and proposed playing a little game. He placed the basket of sweets near a tree, and then asked the children to stand a few hundred feet away. Whoever reached the basket first would get all the sweets. When he shouted for them to start, rather than rushing and shoving, the children held each other’s hands and ran towards the tree together, divided the sweets and enjoyed them equally. When they were asked why they did this, they replied “Ubuntu”. Which to them, meant ’how can one be happy when all the others are sad?

This Xhosa saying 'umntu ngumntu ngabantu' really resonates with what is happening in the world at the moment. It translates as 'a person is a person because of other people' and speaks to this broader concept of 'Ubuntu'. Ubuntu is generally understood as the belief in the one-ness of humanity and the importance of showing humanity toward others. ‘Ubuntu’ is rooted in the idea that community is one of the building blocks of society.

Here is an explanation of Ubuntu from Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

"Ubuntu is the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being willing to go the extra mile for the sake of another. We believe that a person is a person because of other people, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity."

A person is a person because of other people. In a time when we are physically separated, it is more important than ever to remind ourselves of our common humanity; of how we are all linked and connected through our shared experience of the world; and how empathy and care for others can help sustain our own selves in these difficult times.

I will finish with the traditional ending of a conversation in isiXhosa: 'hamba kakuhle' and 'sala kakuhle', which directly translate as 'go well' and 'stay well'.

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection.

  • We take a moment to think of those people across the world who will be suffering at this time: refugees; the homeless; the poor; prisoners; and those who feel lost without any help or support.
  • Let us continue to think of the needs of others, remembering the universal truth of humanity: I am because we are.

Monday 27th April 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

Welcome to the start of another week. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our parents and carers for continuing to support the school and your children. It is not an easy time for any of us, but your time, effort and commitment are extraordinary.

We begin another week of home learning. As a school, we have put a huge amount of thought into how best to organise this, to ensure what we are doing is manageable, sustainable and impactful. If you would like to get a sense of this, you can read a paper outlining our thinking on this subject on the ‘Home Learning’ section of the school website.

We are aware that a particular issue that all schools – and indeed society – is grappling with is the issue of connectivity or ‘connectedness’. Attempts to replicate the complex daily interactions of the classroom, not to mention the varied social relationships that exist within a community of over 1200 people is certainly a challenge. Here at The Marlborough School, we have always been proud of the quality of our relationships, between teacher and pupil, pupil and pupil, and indeed between teacher and teacher. Maintaining and developing these connections and relationships is something we are focusing on as the time spent away from school increases.

We have taken a number of steps already to address this issue. This includes our commitment to contact every pupil and family over the coming weeks, as well as increasing the frequency of individual teacher responses on SMHW, whist making this process manageable for all parties.

I cannot tell you how much all the staff are missing the children and being in school – working directly with young people is the reason all of us became teachers in the first place! It will be an amazing time when we are all together again soon.

In the meantime, we are interested in gathering feedback from parents on our Home Learning provision. Please find a few minutes to read our paper explaining the underlying thinking on the subject and the complete our on-line survey. It can be found here:

Home Learning Survey

Have a lovely week and enjoy this time together as a family.   

Wednesday 22nd April 2020: Whole School Assembly

It is difficult at times to comprehend the scale of the global pandemic we are currently experiencing. You will have seen the media and various commentators comparing this situation to other times of unprecedented upheaval, such as the Second World War, when Britain was under daily attack from the air, thousands of lives were lost and everyday life was changed and disrupted. Lots of you will remember for our assembly earlier this year, that it was during this time that The Marlborough school first opened and welcomed a large number of evacuees form London who were sent to live with families in Woodstock for the duration of the war. Going to school every day provided a sense of normality and structure for those young people whose lives had been turned upside-down.

I often wonder what it must have been like to be one of those young people, living with the daily uncertainty of what was happening to their homes, their friends, their parents and their families.

Living with uncertainty is something we are all having to get used to. This is particularly challenging for those of us who are used to being in control of things – that when a problem presents itself we come up with a strategy, devise a plan and manage the situation effectively. In these times, when we are not clear what will happen on a week to week basis, when all of our comforting structures and routines are out of synch and disrupted, we are afforded no such luxuries.

It is tempting to feel powerless in these kinds of situations. The scale of the problem seems so huge, that it can feel impossible that we, as individuals, could make a difference. How amazing to see then, so many people deciding to do something that will make a positive difference.

I am sure lots of you have read and seen the news story about 99 year-old Tom Moore. ‘Captain Tom’ actually lived through the horrors of the Second World War, serving in India and Burma. Having been treated recently for a broken hip and skin cancer, Captain Tom decided to raise £1000 for the NHS by doing 100 laps around his house in his Bedfordshire garden. What happened next is a truly remarkable story. The video below lasts for 6 and a half minutes, but is well worth watching as it tells Tom’s story:

The total money raised by Tom to date now tops £27 million pounds. Something about Tom has captured peoples’ hearts and minds  at this challenging time. His dedication, maturity and the wisdom that only age can bring, speaks of a broader perspective on life, a sense that, despite how bad we think things are, that what one hundred years of living has taught him is this universal truth: that although it may take some time, we shall all be OK again.

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection.

  • Take some time today to appreciate the things you have: the people and friends who love and support you; the home and comforts that keep you safe.
  • Think of positive ways you can make even a small difference: speak kindly to each other; offer to do small jobs in the house; enjoy a cup of tea together.
  • Remember the message of hope from Captain Tom: “To all those people who are finding it difficult at the moment – the sun will shine on you again, and the clouds will go away.”

Monday 20th April 2020: Welcome back!

Dear Parents and Carers,

Welcome back to the new term. I thought I would give you all an up-date on what has been happening over the ‘holidays’ and what the plans are for the week and term ahead.

Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the staff who have kept the school open over the Easter holiday period. Their professional dedication has enabled us to continue our commitment to provide care for the children of our most critical workers and their siblings.

At the start of this new term, it is important to re-establish the routines of work and study that you implemented before the Easter break. Marking a clear difference between holiday time and learning time will be important for all concerned. Teachers are continuing to set work to help you and your children with remote learning. We have put a huge amount of thought and effort into our provision and we will be writing to you to explain the under-lying thinking and principles that are informing how we are organising this. Our aim is for the work to be purposeful, valuable and stretching, whilst being manageable for staff, parents and pupils. We will be asking for feedback from you on what we are getting right, and what we need to improve.    

We have also spent some significant time thinking through the management of our Year 11 and 13 final grades. I wrote to you at the end of term and will up-date you all later this week with our latest plans. Ofqual are continuing to consult on some of their proposals and rest assured that we have been giving feedback as well as reading all the documentation extremely carefully.  

Finally, a reminder that you are all invited to take part in our Whole School Assembly that will be published at 9am on Wednesday morning.

I hope that all members of the Marlborough community are staying safe and keeping well.

Friday 3rd April 2020: End of Term

Today is officially the end of the school term. Well done for making it to this point and for all the support that you, as parents, have given your children over these past weeks. We have been incredibly impressed and amazed by the work and commitment shown by our pupils in what have been unprecedented circumstances. They should be proud of themselves.

We are aware that pupils’ time on-line and in front of screens has increased significantly since school closure began. Parents may find it helpful to remind themselves of the talk presented by our Designated Safeguarding Lead, Ms Harrison, earlier this year. We have updated this and produced a really straightforward information sheet with some useful links and suggestions for how you can make sure your child is working safely on-line. These can be found on the website under ‘Information – Safeguarding and E-Safety’.

It is important now to have a break from school work and take some time to relax and enjoy life as a family! We will resume work setting and all regular communications after the holidays.

I wish you all a peaceful and joyful Easter.

Wednesday 1st April 2020: Whole School Assembly

On a number of occasions last week, I found myself in the slightly unusual position of being the last person left in school. This is not too unusual in term time, but normally I would be in my office, late at night, and there would always be a member of the site team (usually Mr Cooper) around to lock the doors, close the gates and turn on the alarms. For the past week I have undertaken the duty of closing up the school myself, which involves walking from the English Block through the school towards the Drama Studio corridor to lock up at 4.30pm.

This particular afternoon, I stopped right in the middle of school where the wooden canopy area is. Usually, this area is alive with noise – children shouting and chatting, the buzz of the Dining Hall, the sounds from the field drifting over the Languages Block and the blare of instruments and drum beats emanating from the Music Department. This afternoon, I was struck by both the silence and by the noises that were present. Looking up, I noticed the substantial, mature silver birch trees that dominate this area, along with some smaller tress we have planted in the last couple of years. There were birds flying between the trees, visiting their nests as the branches swayed. I noticed the early signs of leaves coming into bud and the early blossoms shaking in the strong winds. In that moment of calm and isolation, in the beautiful spring sunshine, a couple of things came to mind.

I was mindful of how the Disciples, spending their own period of self-isolation in the upper room following the death of Jesus, interpreted the strong winds they heard surrounding them as a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, bringing them reassurance and comfort when they were at their most anxious and troubled. I was also reminded of Philip Larkin’s poem ‘The Trees’ that hears the message of new life in the sound of the trees as clearly as “something almost being said”. The poet writes:

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Larkin is often seen as a pessimistic poet, but this poem abounds with optimism – despite our individual fears and concerns, the world will go on turning and life will return again. The sibilant message whispered by the tress makes it clear that this period of all our lives is only transitory, and that there is always a chance for a new start, a new opportunity to “begin afresh, afresh, afresh.”  After winter, comes spring. And with spring; hope.

Please bow your heads for a moment of silence and reflection.

  • Let us remember that all things and all situations will change, and that all around us we see signs of new life and new hope.
  • Let us take a moment to think of the needs of others, and to consider how we can connect and bring hope to their lives, especially in these difficult times.


Friday 27th March 2020: one week done

Dear Parents and Carers,

Congratulations on completing your first week of home schooling! I really hope that is has been a positive and productive experience for your children and for you as well.

School continues to remain partially open for the children of what the Government now term ‘critical’ workers. I am hugely grateful to the dedicated team of staff who are keeping us going even in these most testing of times.

We continue to receive feedback from both parents and pupils and are responding to this as quickly as we can. We will be asking for some formal feedback towards the end of next week as we look to refine and improve our provision for the period after the Easter Holidays. We have robust and detailed plans in place, but want to make sure that we are meeting your needs and giving our pupils the best opportunity to continue learning, rather than just being kept busy. We are actively monitoring the amount of work being done and I can tell you that 99.12% of our pupils are active SMHW users. An amazing statistic! Well done everyone. To the other 0.88% - we know who you are!

We have been made aware that a small number of parents who are accessing SMHW though the App are finding it hard to see the work that has been set. Curriculum Leaders are setting work once per fortnight at KS3 and once per week at KS4. This is to declutter the SMHW feed and make it simple for students and parents. The easiest way to look at your child’s work is to go into SMHW through your web browser and look at the calendar. All the tasks for the week/fortnight are there.  

If you or your child is using the APP, click on ‘see all tasks’ and select ‘upcoming’. 

  • If your child is in KS4, go to Friday of each week and all the tasks are there, as the deadline for most tasks set is Friday
  • If your child is in KS3, go to Friday week A (3rd April, 1st May, 15th May etc) and the current tasks are all there, as the deadline for all tasks is Friday week A. I hope this helps.

Again, if you have any queries, please contact Doctor Jones directly and he will talk you through any technical difficulties you might be experiencing.

We have also been in contact with our friends and colleagues from the Myriad Project at Oxford University for some help and guidance around supporting our young people at a time when anxiety and worry are likely to be high. Working with Reading University, they have put together the following resource:

There is a lot of good advice here about keeping healthy habits and also useful support for parents on how to frame potentially challenging discussions with their children. There are also lots of links to other resources and information.

I am sure the sunshine and the sense of spring in the air has helped us all this week. Thank you for all your positive messages and for supporting us and your children so well.

Please continue to look after yourselves, stay safe and have a lovely weekend.

Tuesday 24th March 2020: Update

Dear Parents and Carers,

I hope you are all keeping safe and well and enjoying time as a family. We have been really impressed with the amount of work being completed – you are clearly organising and motivating your children well. Parents have shared stories of pupils getting dressed in school uniform to come downstairs in the morning and even of some parents organising assembly! Thank you for your continued messages of support - it is clear from your responses that parents appreciate even more the job that our teachers do!

The Marlborough School remains partially open for the children of our brave and inspirational front line NHS workers. As long as they need us, we will be here. However, I have now effectively cleared the school site of all other staff except those absolutely necessary to maintain a safe environment for the children still in our care.

We remain ready and able to respond to any questions or queries, so please do email us. We will be writing to parents and pupils in Years 11 and 13 in the next couple of days and I will update the school website on a regular basis.

Take care and stay safe.     

Monday 23rd March 2020: keeping in touch

Dear Parents and Carers,

Today saw the first day of our partial opening for those pupils whose parents are key workers and other pupils who need additional support. We were overwhelmed with staff offers of help and support, and in the end had more than enough capacity to cope with the very small number of pupils who came to school today.

I cannot express my gratitude to those of who have made the difficult decision to keep your children at home, where you can, to look after them yourselves. I am able to now allow my staff and teachers to work from home and support their own families. I am once again, inspired and humbled by the dedication and commitment of the staff here at Marlborough. It has been another up-lifting day.

It is crucial to us that we are maintaining strong lines of communication with parents and carers. There will be questions and queries around a number of areas and we are monitoring all communications carefully and regularly to ensure that we stay in touch. Some key points of contact are:

For general enquiries about school:

For the Finance Department:

For information about pupil learning, please contact Dr J Jones directly:

For information about pupils eligible for FSM or about Marlborough Scholarship Students, please contact Ms E Bromley directly on:

For the personal attention of Mr Hanlon, Headteacher, please contact Mrs L Cox:

We will get back to you as soon as we can.

We would remind you that you can ask questions specifically about the work and give feedback via the response function on Show My Homework. We are also planning to keep sending messages out via the school, website, so please keep checking! Enjoy the evening sunshine.

20th March 2020: Home Learning

Dear Parents and Carers,

You should now have all received details of the work that has been provided for your children during this first part of our school closure. You will be able to find all the information in the new Home Learning section on the front page of our website.

Please read it carefully and do get in touch if you have any questions or queries. All instructions are included in your letters.

Rest assured that those school staff who are not self-isolating or have caring responsibilities will be available to answer any questions or clarify any issues you may have. Staff will also be in school next week to provide support for those members of our community that need it.

Friday 20th March: Key Workers

Dear Parents and Carers,

The Government have now released further information about school closures. They have made it clear that parents are being asked to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and that schools are to remain open only for those children who “absolutely need to attend”. The statement says: “the most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of COVID-19 is clear. If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading’’.

The statement goes on to say: “Parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response include those who work in health and social care and in other key sectors outlined below (see links). Many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. And every child who can be safely cared for at home should be’’.

Please, therefore, follow these key principles:

  1. If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
  2. If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is a critical worker, then educational provision will be available for them.
  3. Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
  4. Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.”

The full statements and FAQs can be found via these links below. There are detailed descriptions of ‘key worker’ occupations. Please take some time to read them carefully:

GOV.UK – Coronavirus (COVID-19): maintaining educational provision

GOV.UK – Closure of educational settings: information for parents and carers 

Please note that if you fall within the critical categories in the list you should confirm with your employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, your specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service.

Thank you to those of you how have already contacted us with details about your work and children. Please continue to do so by contacting us directly via The PA to the Principal’s email address: 

These are extremely challenging times and we are doing all we can to support those children and families who most need our support. We will be sending details of the work that will be set for all year groups later this morning and are awaiting news of the arrangements that will be put in place for those pupils not sitting their GCSE and A Level Examinations this summer. As always, when we have this information, we will share it with parents.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions or queries – if we can answer them, we will. I hope everyone is keeping safe and continuing to look after each other. Everyone at school remains really positive and committed to doing the absolute best we can for all our pupils and their families.

Thursday 19th March 2020: Key Worker Information

Dear Parents and Carers,

Yesterday the government announced that educational settings, including The Marlborough School, “will be closed to everyone except children of key workers and vulnerable children from Monday 23rd March, as part of the country’s ongoing response to coronavirus”. The government said: “examples of these workers include NHS staff, police and delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work. Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans.”

At present the government has not confirmed a list of ‘key workers’. We are waiting for this to be published but wanted to move ahead with our planning as soon as we can. When we have the definitive list, we will share it with you.

Parents and carers who are able to self-identify now as key workers (working on the current definitions of NHS staff, police, teachers, social workers and supermarket delivery drivers) and who are not able to make other childcare arrangements, and therefore would not be able to go to work unless the school remains open, are able to send their child to school. This is part of the government’s response to slow the spread of the coronavirus and it is expected that, where possible, children should remain at home with suitable care provision.

If you self-identify as a key worker in the context of front-line services to support the national effort with coronavirus and require the school to remain open in order that you can attend work, please contact school directly via The PA to the Principal’s email address:

It would be really helpful if you could confirm your work role and how many of your children attend our school. This will then help us to plan as best we can for next week. Thank you.

We are currently managing our Year 11 and Year 13 pupils as they experience a huge mixture of emotions. Ms Harris is writing to all those parents today. We will keep in touch with details of what arrangements will be in place for next week, where parents and pupils can access work and what the school’s plan for the foreseeable future will be. We will endeavour to keep you informed without inundating you with different messages.

We have received countless messages of support from parents and governors and there has never been a stronger sense of community in school than there is today. The strength of any organisation is never really seen until truly tested. I am proud to tell you that The Marlborough School is united and strong.

Thank you, as ever, for your patience, understanding and support.

Thursday 19th March 2020: Key Messages to Year 11 and Year 13

Dear Parents and Carers,

We wanted to share with you the messages that we have given to all Year 11 and Year 13 students this morning in light of last night’s announcements. I spoke, with Mr Hanlon, to all of our Year 11 pupils this morning. Mr Buckmaster and Mrs Jones spoke with all our Year 13s. We wanted to let them know that we will support them during this time and to reassure them that we remain fully committed to ensuring they fulfil their potential and are able to go on and achieve their ambitions and hopes for the future.

We realise that the news last night around school closures and particularly around GCSE and A level exams this year will have been very unsettling for them, and yourselves. We realise that they may be feeling anxious and worried and that you may have many questions.

We wanted to reassure them that, while we don’t yet have all the answers to these questions, we will work tirelessly to get these answers. As soon as we have any more details around GCSEs and A levels, our Year 11 and 13 pupils can rest assured we will communicate this to them and you straightaway.

We reassured them that whatever the situation in the country and the world, we will not let this crisis disadvantage them and their futures in any way. We are so proud of all of our young people and of how hard they have worked so far, and we will support each and every one of them in securing their intended destination for September.

We wanted to let them, and you know, that amidst the conflicting messages and uncertainty, our commitment to the well—being and care of our pupils remains our highest priority.

Very best wishes to you and your families at this difficult time,

Emily Harris, Assistant Headteacher & Tony Buckmaster, Head of Sixth Form 

Wednesday 18th March 2020: Update

Dear Parents and Carers,

You will be aware of the Prime Minister’s announcement this evening to close all schools from Friday 20th March “until further notice”.

This will apply to all pupils except those who are children of key workers and our most vulnerable pupils.

The government has also stated that examinations will not take place this summer. However, they have said they will make sure pupils “get the qualifications they need”, but have not as yet provided any details about when and how this will happen.

The Marlborough School will remain open for all pupils on Thursday and Friday this week. We will spend this time gathering more information and will provide this to all parents as soon as we have more detail and clarity about how these announcements will impact our school community.

Wednesday 18th March 2020: Managing Anxiety

Dear Parents and Carers,

We are aware that some of our young people are finding the uncertainty around the current situation is making them anxious and unsettled. We are working hard in school to calm these anxieties and provide sensible, practical ways in which young people (and staff) can develop helpful strategies to cope with stressful situations.

Part of this advice involves pupils not engaging in speculation around the spread of the virus and avoiding social media coverage and posts that are deliberately targeted at raising anxiety amongst young people. We are also making it clear that if family and friends have made the decision to self-isolate for a period of time, this does not mean that they necessarily have the coronavirus.

Parents may find the following websites useful when talking to their children about how to make sense of the current situation:


Young Minds

There are also more really useful links on these pages.

Please continue to take care of each other.

Wednesday 18th March 2020: Year 9 Parents’ Evening

Dear Parents and Carers,

In light of the postponement of the Year 9 Parents’ Evening scheduled for Thursday evening (19th March), parents are invited to request information about their son or daughter’s progress by emailing school directly. This can be done by emailing Mrs Parker our Senior Administrator: Pastoral on:

Please specify the name of your son and daughter and what subjects and/or teachers you would like feedback on. Please indicate if you would prefer an email response or phone call. You should expect a response within five working days of your enquiry.

Parents who would like advice on curriculum choices for Year 10 should email Dr Jake Jones, Deputy Headteacher, directly on: Dr Jones will respond personally to all questions and queries.

I would like to take this opportunity, once again, to thank you for your support and patience during challenging circumstances.

Tuesday 17th March 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

Thank you for your patience as we respond to the current situation to the best of our ability. Things are changing on a daily basis but, since last night, the instructions and guidance are clear in that anyone sharing a house with someone showing symptoms (a new persistent cough and/or a high temperature) now has to self-isolate for 14 days. This is clearly already putting a lot more pressure on our staff resources as many more families make the difficult choice to either not come to school themselves or to keep their children at home. We are all working together as teachers and staff to cover lessons and provide as normal a school experience as we can. As long as we are able to do this, we will carry on.

In order to help with more effective communication, I will now be uploading updates directly onto the website. We have created a bespoke area where you can find all previous letters, messages, links and updates. This has gone live from today and can be found in the home page banner ‘COVID-19 Information’.

The instruction to avoid social contact and non-essential travel means that we are unable to hold Parents’ Evening and no trips or visits, as this would increase social, non-usual school contact. This approach has been agreed by all our schools across River Learning Trust, and we are thankful to have the support and guidance of our professional colleagues. I am in contact on a daily basis with other Heads in the Trust, as well as our Chief Executive Officer and Secondary Advisors. I am also attending a meeting of our Woodstock Partnership Primary Heads tomorrow at William Fletcher School to ensure we are all taking similar action.

This does mean therefore that this week’s Year 9 Parents’ Evening has been postponed. Parents will be offered the opportunity to get feedback on their child’s progress via email or with a telephone call. The details of how we will manage this will be on the new section of the school website. We have also taken swift action to postpone more forthcoming events – The WOLP Apprenticeship Fair (26th March); Battle of the Bands (27th March); Year 7 Parents’ Evening (2nd April) and the Whole School Photograph (2nd April).

We are also having to curtail our Electives Programme this week due to staffing shortages and managing the risk of travelling by buses and coaches. We will make sure that any paid Electives will be reimbursed – although this may not be immediately as we are trying to manage other priorities.

These are unprecedented times. We are trying to manage the message around self-isolation and social distancing whilst remaining open as a school. However we may feel that these instructions are contradictory, we will carry on supporting our community for as long as we are able to do so.

Perseverance is one of The Marlborough’s school key values – so that is what we will do. Please be patient with us: our teachers and staff are also parents, children and carers, so are dealing with all the pressures these roles bring. We are committed to providing the best care we can for all our pupils in these challenging times.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Hanlon


Friday 13th March 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

I am writing to you with an up-date on the school’s response to the on-going coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. This update is based on the guidance from the government Press Release, Public Health England information and the DfE Guidance for Educational Settings issued on 12/3/2020, which now includes advice on school trips.

The government announced yesterday that we are moving out of the ‘contain’ phase of their plan and into the ‘delay’ phase. The headline for us remains that schools should not close unless they have been specifically advised to do so by Public Health England.

However, the guidance around self-isolation has changed. The advice now is:

“Anyone who shows certain symptoms is to self-isolate for 7 days, regardless of whether they have travelled to affected areas. This means people to stay at home and avoid all but essential contact with others for 7 days from the point of displaying mild symptoms, to slow the spread of infection. The symptoms are: a high temperature (37.8 degrees and above) and/or a new, continuous cough. You do not need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation.”

As per the current advice, the most important thing individuals can do to protect themselves remains washing their hands more often, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water, coughing or sneezing into a tissue, which is then put in the bin. I am pleased to say the school is well-stocked with soap and hand sanitiser gels, as we anticipated the increased demand for these items a couple of weeks ago. Our daily routines for checking levels of soap continue and we are maintaining a clean and hygienic site.

The Department for Education continues to publish daily updates on its website and you can visit if you have any further concerns. As the situation evolves further new information will be added to this website.

So far, only a very small number of our pupils have self-isolated (less than 0.1%). We have had no confirmed cases from anyone connected to the school, either pupils, parents or staff. We are continuing to monitor the situation really carefully and are seeking advice from all external agencies and our own Multi-Academy Trust, River Learning Trust.

We are also planning what actions we would take in the event of a school closure. We are confident that we have some robust plans already in place but these will be firmed up in the coming days. In terms of our planned school trips, I will write separately about these as there is not quite the level of clarity around this issue at present.

Could I take this opportunity to thank you all for your support of the school and your children. Your sensible, practical, professional approach is much appreciated as we manage what is potentially a challenging situation, not just in our school but across the country.

Yours faithfully,

Mr A Hanlon


Friday 13th March 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

I am writing to you with an up-date on the school’s response to the on-going coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. This update is based on the guidance from the government Press Release, Public Health England information and the DfE Guidance for Educational Settings issued on 12/3/2020, which now includes advice on school trips.

The advice given is as follows:

“Overseas trips for children under 18 organised by education settings

The government advises against all overseas education trips for children under 18. This is because trip leaders would face significant challenges in making arrangements to ensure children’s welfare, should adult supervisors or children be required to self-isolate.”

The advice makes no reference to time-scales that may be applied to this situation, so we must assume that this situation will continue indefinitely. What this means is that, as it stands at the moment, the planned trip to Berlin in the Easter holidays will not take place.

We will need some time to investigate what this means in terms of our insurance, flights and so on. We will keep you up to date with information as soon as we know it.

There are also therefore some questions about whether we will be able to go ahead with the planned Sports trip to Spain in May half-term and indeed the Music tour which is planned for July. We will seek some further advice and clarification around this in the days and weeks ahead. As the situation is continually evolving, it seems prudent to wait to see what happens over the coming days before making a final decision on what action to take with regard to these future trips.

As a school, we recognise that this is disappointing news. However, we are in the midst of an unprecedented international crisis and, as always, our first priority is the health and welfare of all members of the Marlborough community.

If you have any further questions or queries, please contact our Finance Manager

Kathryn Dalton on:

Yours faithfully,

Mr A Hanlon


Tuesday 3rd March 2020

Dear Parents and Carers,

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Following my earlier communication, I wanted to reassure you that we continue to monitor the coronavirus situation on a daily basis and are carefully following the advice issued by the Department for Education and Public Health England.

Thank you to all the families who have been in touch with an update regarding their recent travels. It has been most useful and allowed for effective, considered management. We are confident that no member of staff nor pupil at The Marlborough School has recently visited any areas classified as Category 1. To support families with best practice, both in school and at home, I am sharing the advice provided by the Public Health England. Their advice around school closures is clear: “No school should close in response to a suspected (or confirmed) COVID-19 case unless directed to do so by Public Health England.”

The Department for Education has launched a new coronavirus helpline to answer questions about COVID-19 related to education. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline as follows:

Phone: 0800 046 8687 Opening hours: 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday)

Alternatively, parents can get in touch via email:

As a school we continue to encourage best practice to minimise infection. We advise all staff and pupils to adopt regular handwashing and to catch any coughs and sneezes using a tissue which can then be safely disposed of. We will be providing anti-bacterial gel for all classrooms across the school so that pupils and staff are able to maintain effective hand hygiene throughout the day. We have put A3 posters around the site and in our Reception and communal areas.

Of course, the situation remains changeable. I will inform you if there are any changes at school. In the meantime, please listen to advice being provided by the authorities through appropriate news channels and refer to the website below for further guidance. Here you will find the latest information/updates on COVID-19, as well as information from the NHS, travel advice and links to the latest up-dates from Public Health England’s blog posts about its response to coronavirus:

Yours faithfully,

Mr A Hanlon