I am writing to update you on a number of important matters before the year ends. These are partly unrelated points, so please excuse the ‘bouncing’ from one topic to the next. Before I do, I wish to convey my appreciation to parents, staff and students for their support of this great school. It has been a vital year of progress in sharpening our academic focus and practices, as well rebuilding one of the few genuinely broad approaches to education in Pakistan. In so many ways, Aitchison sets the standard for the nation in this regard. I add to this our engagement with traditions that resist the ‘dry’ uniformity and dull habits of so many modern educational manifestos. Aitchison is not a ‘factory of education’; it is an experience writ large in its people, stories, architecture, fields, trees, nature and the extreme good fortune of working among people who genuinely regard their school as a treasured family member.
There has been plenty of encouragement and support for boys across many pursuits this year, and a clearer respect for discipline and fair play. The classroom experience is sound and the mental as well as physical challenges are helping to produce well-rounded and highly accomplished young men. The only inhibitor to this success is lack of engagement or taking for granted what remarkable resources and facilities are at each boy’s fingertips. Of course success is never achieved in isolation or without strong family support. I trust that parents have felt happy with our approach and discovered the College to be responsive and helpful when most needed.
School recommences Monday August 21, 2017. There will be an Eid holiday of 5 days to allow boarders to return on time for school and enjoy the break with families. The calendar has been very carefully thought out and it suits the best interests of the many and varied obligations at Aitchison College. The complete calendar will be posted to portals before the end of May.
Owing to the Cambridge syllabus framework the school will be divided into slightly altered year levels next year. The old year level is shown in brackets. Junior School will comprise K1-K3 and K4 to K6 (E1) as lower and upper primary sections. Prep School will be E2, M1 and M2 and Senior School will be C1, C2, H1 and H2. The historical expression Prep School is preferred over Middle School.
M2 in Prep School will sit promotion examinations in March 2018 and then move for the remaining months to the Senior School to continue preparation for their first Cambridge IGCSE Levels in 2018-19 academic year. We believe this system will be very successful. It should enable core subject teachers in particular to prepare boys in the best possible ways while providing a more managed entry to Senior School expectations. Please also know that Cambridge is a seamless curriculum and ‘old preparations’ are irrelevant.
I am pleased to announce that the Board of Governors has approved recommendations for the appointments of Vice Principal and Headmaster of Prep School. Dr. Andrew Treharne (UK) assumes the post of Vice Principal (Academic) and Mr. Andrew Egan (UK) takes over as Headmaster of Prep School. Extensive interviews and visits from both men and their families to Lahore has ensured that they feel comfortable here and understand Aitchison College and where it is headed.
Andrew Treharne will join us a little later in the new session. He was awarded an MBE for services to Biology and will be a key driver in future educational improvements, especially in Science. His role will also include some A Level teaching in senior science. He is a vastly experienced educator in day and boarding schools, as well as a keen sportsman. Andrew will be accompanied by his wife, Marcela, and son.
Andrew Egan has served as a school principal and brings with him an impressive breadth of knowledge in Cambridge and other International curriculum standards, as well as strong credentials in ‘middle schooling’. He has considerable experience in day and boarding schools, and is also a keen sportsman and supporter of broad educational programs. Andrew will be joined by his wife, Joanne, who is also an educator. Both appointments will add a great deal to the management structure and our ability to communicate and apply worthwhile on-going change at Aitchison. I am sure that you will join with me in welcoming both families to Lahore.
I wish to thank Mr. Waqar Joiya for his excellent term as Acting Headmaster. Mr. Joiya will become the new Deputy Headmaster of Prep School.
Farewell to Amir Hussain –Schoolmaster, Acting Principal and Loyal Servant of Aitchison College
In early August, we will officially farewell this giant figure of the College. Amir has affected so many aspects of College life over 40 plus years and we are delighted that he has agreed to a farewell luncheon in the ‘Old Building.’
At the time of writing not all positions have been finalized but particular emphasis is being placed on English, Mathematics and Science teaching. Obviously all areas of teaching are crucial, but this has been our initial priority and will continue to be over the next year. We are being careful to appoint men and women who will bring experience and excellence to the classroom and, just as importantly, support our professional and encouraging style of teaching. New staff will be introduced to boys at the start of next year in a whole school assembly on Monday, August 21. Among this new group, I am pleased to announce a further international appointment in Mr. Jon Wright. Jon played county cricket for Somerset and Kent, has current involvement in Sri Lanka’s U19 cricket team, is a teacher of English Literature, and has served as a boarding house master. Jon is still active as a sportsman and he will assume leadership of Prep cricket and Academy skills’ coaching, teach Prep School English, organize Saigol House weekend games, and assist with Saigol duties in the evenings. Jon is married and has a small child.
The optional study of Persian will be introduced at E2 level of Prep School as an Introductory Course that we hope to carry forward into future years. I believe it is important to revive and promote classical languages in schools. I am advised that Persian is a language our high achievers should find challenging, valuable and interesting. Some senior teachers in French and Urdu have been repositioned in Prep School as a measure of our added focus on competencies in these languages.
Thirty-two M2 boarders will join this beautiful house brought back to life again. Mr. Zubair Ata (Aitchisonian) will be housemaster. The housemaster’s residence is attached to Bahawalpur House where his family will also reside. We have a great leadership program designed for this crucial age group, which also aims to develop independent senior study habits and skills.
Boy are expected to have a 90% ‘approved’ attendance rate –this accounts for explained and reasonable absences. 90% is equivalent to missing almost one school day a week. The reasons for this have been amply justified in previous correspondence, most notably because boys represent the College in external examinations while internal results bear directly upon retaining a place in the College. Those whose attendance falls below 80% without excuse have already been cautioned some time ago as part of a progressive warning system. Additional second warning letters have now been sent to the few who failed to heed this advice. Boys who continue to ignore fair warning will be required, as a minimum, to reapply for admission to the College with no guarantee of acceptance.
Additionally, boys will not be permitted to represent Aitchison College in Cambridge examinations or sit internal equivalents in future cases of poor or unexplained or lengthy absences. Offending boys will either be required to sit as private candidates outside the College or simply not at all. A qualifying decision will be made by the January cut-off in 2018 for Cambridge registration. The days of casual absence that disrupt classes and impose unfair burdens on staff are over.
To this I must reinforce that boys in H1 are required as part of the Promotion Policy to undertake examinations in 4 AS subjects. Boys may not simply absent themselves from these and those who do are liable to forfeit their place in the College.
Next year, we are adopting a slightly different approach to teaching in A Level (H2) English, Mathematics and Science, gradually widening the scope over future years. Boys will be grouped for introductory and closing lectures in units, attend normal classes and break into small tutorial groups for discussion and application of knowledge tasks based largely on the Harkness Table method. Staff have had a year to absorb the rich benefits of Harkness and how it enhances the effectiveness of teaching, learning and communication, all of which makes school attendance even more vital as we introduce to our most senior students this university styled pedagogy at the right time.
Learning and questioning beyond the set curriculum is absolutely essential for top modern schools. Next year, senior boys will be exposed to two lessons per week on a variety of topics that will enhance general knowledge, refine thinking skills and encourage discussion. Our esteemed ‘old boy’ Adjunct Faculty has prepared this fascinating unit and engaged eminent visiting staff who will lead units of work investigating such topics as: Arts, Science, Technology, Philosophy, History and other fascinating extensions. Aitchison College is leading the way.
We will begin aptitude testing in Prep School in English and Mathematics during the first few days of the new academic session. Testing will assess reasoning skills and also students’ strengths in different areas of thinking. There is no way anyone can prepare for these tests and they will be optional as parents will be required to pay a small fee. A report will be generated that will be shared with students as well as parents to guide us in how we can best help each boy to achieve better results –as well as simply know more about a boy than what exams reveal. It will certainly make parent-teacher occasions more diagnostic and informative. Teachers will also know early in the year students’ strengths and weaknesses and the ways in which certain students learn best. This had added benefits in structuring pedagogy.
Additionally, there will be a checkpoint style aptitude test for K3 and K6 to ascertain reasoning abilities at these crucial stages. This particular test cannot be done every year as there is rarely discernable improvement on an annual basis in aptitude. Again, there will be a small fee charged for student participation. Aptitude testing has no bearing on promotion. It is an educational tool only.
We are also investigating the possibility of Aptitude Testing for Admissions next year and I will keep parents updated on this. Clearly an early decision on this is essential.
Our short term plan is to upgrade senior Chemistry laboratories in the Tiwana building and Biology laboratories in the Barry Block, mostly over the summer break. This will require modernizing benches, seats, new technical equipment, waste traps, storage, preparation rooms, fume extraction, wet and dry areas, and some teaching areas. With Senior School now capped at around 1000 boys, our facilities are more than adequate and have scope for expansion. Over the next session, we will also look to gradually upgrade our Prep School Labs to encourage more empirically based studies in line with interactive Cambridge learning. Science lessons should be lab based as much as possible. M2 level of Prep School will also have opportunities to experience senior science practicals.
Plans are afoot for a kiln and pottery course for boys with an artistic bent. A kiln will be procured and placed in a viable, safe location at ground level in Prep School.
As previously mentioned, many of our teachers will be taking part in major Cambridge professional development in July (English) and August (multi subjects). The latter session will upgrade teaching competencies and qualify 16 Cambridge Master Trainers on our College staff, thus ensuring that Aitchison maintains a strong commitment to accountable and relevant PD in teaching and delivery of syllabuses.
Two weeks ago, Aitchison hosted a combined schools’ Cambridge in-service for English, Urdu, Computing and Science. It is beneficial that teachers from across different systems get to meet and share experiences. For many visitors, it was their first glimpse of Aitchison College. We look forward to more meetings like this.
Aitchison teachers will also now undergo recorded teaching PD to watch their teaching and to gain constructive feedback. Self-analysis is crucial to improving professional skills.
University placements this year have been resoundingly successful. I am delighted with the spread and quality of outcomes among local, UK and USA universities and colleges –as well as many boys securing their preferred placements. This is terrific. I will be speaking directly to this matter at the next senior parents’ social gathering so that parents receive the facts and nothing but the facts. Several boys have made it to some of the world’s top universities, although of the eight boys interviewed by Cambridge and Oxford combined, none received offers. Reports from colleges reveal that the boys were academically most able but fell short in being able to talk about (and beyond) their preferred subjects and special interests. This is a clear justification for the meta-cognition curriculum being introduced next year and the increasing application of the Harkness Table. We must get our boys to talk. As I have consistently said, ‘grades are not enough’ and ‘preparation is everything.’ I have advertised Oxford Summer Schools as one example for those whose clear intention it is to try for these iconic UK universities –again, there were no takers. I stress that we have a team of eminent Alumni most happy to help with interview preparations for these specialist applications. The message needs to get through to these select boys that Aitchison has everything here to help them. All they have to do is tap into this resource. These highest of applications are ‘no walk in the park’ and it takes months of preparation to give oneself a genuine chance of succeeding against the world’s best in what is a small pool. I have no doubt whatsoever that Aitchison prepares boys academically well enough in A Levels to be invited for interview anywhere as is proven, but to succeed to the next elite step requires additional commitment and smart planning.
Results from the current AS examinations (H1) will help boys focus on the possibilities that lie in wait for them. I am receiving encouraging feedback on how boys think they coped in this first AS examination period. Without question, it has made good sense to break the full A Level down into manageable quantities.
Aitchison College has an impeccable record among universities world-wide. It is vitally important to maintain this reputation. Our results and recommendations are well-received and trusted, and our boys have an outstanding record of achievement at universities.
We do not release transcripts to external consultants for the purposes of UK admissions, although we will verify or confirm results if requested to assist a boy. Notwithstanding, I believe strongly that boys should use our College University Admissions department through which transcripts are automatically verified. All they have to do is to be organized, meet deadlines set and follow the basic procedures. As we all know this can be a challenge for boys at this age. I add here that teachers who write references for boys are required to have these checked as well by the College as part of their professional duty.
While currently over 90% of our boys use Aitchison, there is growing concern, in many quarters, about externally doctored transcripts being procured at great cost and submitted via disreputable consultants in Pakistan. The only reason someone would pay up to 20 lakhs to an external consultant is to cheat or use them for fraudulent purposes. I have drawn UCAS attention to this (and several key universities) as it is peculiarly a UK admission problem. There must be a level playing field in the interest of every boy and girl in Pakistan, irrespective of school.
The College Guidance department staffing will be increased to improve the process even further during the heaviest periods. We have invested also in relevant software for the US university market and boys can easily determine which universities or colleges are likely to accept them. We are also investigating on how to hold SAT tests at Aitchison in our own accredited centre –more on that initiative in August. A great deal of school time can be lost when boys take time off to study and sit SATs externally. It is a massive disruption. I also suspect some of this is wasted time or ‘invalid time’ that cuts into school unnecessarily –an excuse not to attend. By no means am I downplaying the importance of SATs. They are still king in the USA! But this is where school and home must work together and be vigilant and ensure that boys spend as much time in class as is possible. Yet again, the top performers at Aitchison have had very high attendance rates and utilized the services here designed to help them.
I will briefly visit top universities and colleges in the UK and USA next year for the purpose of re-introducing Aitchison College and explaining our educational system and application processes –all in the interests of our boys.
Boys may be granted up to one year’s leave from school and reserve their seats on payment of the annual fee or for the prorated period of absence up to one year. There are no exceptions to this rule. No boy under these circumstances may repeat a school year and all are required to pass English and Mathematics papers to the standard of at least C grade on return to school. Leave in excess of one year means a boy must reapply for admission through the general admissions process. While this may sound harsh, we have so many leave requests that it is very difficult to set class sizes and numbers when long and sometimes unpredictable absences are taken.
Unless a boy is advised otherwise, he is accepted automatically into AS Level from O Levels. Any boy who receives a Red Slip (previously Pink in Senior School) will know his place is subject to academic review and he is liable to be ‘withdrawn’ if his next Half Yearly results do not show improvement. A Red slip can also be raised in connection to poor behaviour.
Boys who record less than C Grade in English, will not be invited back to school. At present C grade minimum is required to take an AS Level. While a C Grade is not a perfect scenario, it does give some concession to the growth in boys during the years 16 to 18. Again, there are no repeat years.
I am very pleased with how smoothly the internal examinations passed. Boys seem overwhelmingly happy and teachers have reported few incidents. I commend Fariha Ramzan on her outstanding management of this and Cambridge.
Senior parents will have received text messages regarding punctuality and uniform standards for externally based examinations at Aitchison. I would add to this Examination Hall ‘Code of Conduct’. We are not aiming to be overly officious, but it needs to be understood that Aitchison is the only school in Pakistan with its own Cambridge Examination Hall. This is a considerable even extraordinary concession that we cannot afford to lose or boys will be sitting in wedding venues and other unsuitable external venues. Instead, our boys now have familiar surrounds and air-conditioning. If they abuse this privilege by behaving inappropriately in the Examination Hall then we will lose this concession we have ‘fought’ so hard to retain. The point here is that Aitchison does not manage external examinations or the exam centre in the Shamim Khan Hall. We are denied access. Cambridge is solely in charge and sets the standards. Please reinforce this with your sons as we also do constantly. Together, we can get across an important message here. There is no excuse for attending in casual clothing or the wrong shoes. Such breaches only lead to the likelihood of ensuing poor behaviour. Nor is there any excuse for not following the instructions of the Examination Controller.
As previously reported the Board of Governors has approved the Sporting Masterplan and formed a committee for the purpose of implementing one of the largest projects since our foundation. I am delighted that Mustafa Ramday (Old Boy and Board Member) has made himself available to chair the Masterplan Committee. The Committee comprises well-known identities Ashiq Qureshi, Salman Butt and Arif Saeed who will assist in our oversight of the tendering process, financing strategies, and appointment of project consultant, architect and construction engineer. The roll out of the master plan will follow a funding trail of donations that may also offer naming rights. Interested donors should contact the College Bursar, Mr. Noon.
As previously advised the Board of Governors decided to end this service, but will meet again shortly to reconsider objections and viability. I will keep you updated. Thank you to those parents who expressed their concerns in writing. Your opinions have been noted and forwarded.
This year, we will not be holding a general sports camp. The experience last year was that too many boys either pulled out as the program went along or simply did not turn up when required. Undoubtedly the weather has a lot to do with this, but I also feel it was too broad in purpose. As staff give up their holidays for camps, I am not prepared to continue with the same format. Instead, sport specific camps will be held subject to numbers. A Tennis Academy Camp for 6 to 12 year olds and a Swimming Academy Camp for Leaners and Experienced swimmers will be held between June and August. Letters and relevant forms are now posted on the web portal for parents. A general text alert has also gone out and will be repeated. Cricket and squash camps will be announced shortly. Cricket will be for Prep and Senior boys. Squash will be open to all age groups. Boys must nominate for one sport only. In this way they will acquire skills and enjoy good and sufficient practice.
School Dress: Traditional Uniforms and Turban return to Aitchison with Standardization of Dress
From the next academic session, boys will wear white Salmar Kameez for summer and black Sherwani for winter on Fridays. This will apply to the whole school. Staff will also be able to do this. It will be featured as Tradition Day. The traditional turban will also return with its original tying. The tying will be seen to by Aitchison uniform staff. From next year our white school shirts will carry a small school crest on the pocket. These are very important educational initiatives that inculcate a sense of identity, pride and discipline among the cohort.
Special Note: From August 2017, it will also be mandatory for students to wear uniform prepared by the School Tailor only. We have made this compulsory to ensure standardization and uniformity in the colour and material of the uniform. Kindly make sure to order your son/sons' uniform by 1st July 2017 to avoid any inconvenience.
All boarders will be able to take advantage of additional leave, next year. They may take the second Sunday of the month for day leave and the last weekend of every month for overnight leave. Leave may be taken with parents or nominated guardians whose information is held by the boarding house. Before leave is granted, each boarder must have neatened his bed area and completed all school duties. Leave may be taken from 9am (earlier by special request) and return time is strictly by 5.30pm. The only exception will be the first month only for all new junior boarders. It is vital that young boys (and parents) acclimatize and settle.
The history of Aitchison shows clearly that beards are a part of the story line. Boys may grow a beard for religious purposes. This is acceptable. But if a beard is worn for religious purposes the parents/guardians must, please, provide a letter for the Headmistress supporting this. A beard is not a fashion item.
What we don’t like is boys ‘sporting’ three to five day growth for fashion reasons. Boys must either shave or have a beard for the right reason. This is the spirit of the law. Day parents, in particular, must help the College here. Boys who attend school improperly (beard, shaving or hair) will be sent direct to the barber at Aitchison. Haircuts also come under College rules. Boys who continually breach this guideline will face serious disciplinary action.
Incidents of bullying and fighting have fallen dramatically –partly aided by strong consequences, better canteen management and placement of services, and regular counselling and conversation. I would add to these the pleasing development in boys themselves. The Senior School recently appointed a Welfare and Discipline Officer (an Old Boy) and this has also helped. While we will never completely eradicate incidences of bullying or intolerance, we have empowered boys to speak up and inculcated among seniors (and leaders) that leadership has nothing to do with physical punishments or traditional ‘ragging’ or age advantage as seems to have been the custom. All change is incremental and we are seeing healthy habits forming. The message is clear however: bullying and unprovoked fighting (inside or outside the College) will lead to withdrawal or expulsion. Gentlemen of Aitchison is our credo.
All prefects for 2017-18 will attend a leadership camp prior to the start of the next academic session.
From the next academic year, IPhones or its equivalent technology will not be permitted on campus. This means mobile phones with internet facilities, videoing, filming or recording devices will be prohibited. This action is taken for a variety of reasons but mainly protection of privacy and general school discipline. Equally, it is simply counter-productive to the aims of a good school environment that boys are ‘beholden’ to such devices. They cannot be supervised and they are rarely used for legitimate purposes or necessary purposes. Boys may, however, bring to school other basic ‘brick’ mobile phones for calling and security needs but only before and immediately after school. Mobile phones may not be used during school hours. Boys who break this rule will have their phones confiscated. School does not require mobile technology nor the distractions that come with it. This rule will also apply in boarding but with added provisos.
We are currently investigating our foundation date, which may date back to between 1864 and 1868 to the school at Umballa/Ambala. It is proposed that our first principal, Walter Robinson, was secured from this school along with some students who relocated with him. Sir Charles Aitchison also refers to the Wards School as part of our origin in his foundation speech in 1886. The seamless historical connection if proven would be Wards School to Chiefs College to Aitchison as one educational journey. However old we are is being determined by an Oxford historian looking into the facts about the transition from Umballa to Lahore. Without getting carried away, it is possible that our 150th anniversary is 2018.
After a brief set-back, the Major is recovering under the best care at Aitchison. He has two nurses and the doctor attends each day. Preparations are underway for his 100th birthday October 21st.
I pay tribute to these two schools that educate the children of our workers. Academic results continue to be excellent and we are helping as we can with necessary developments in facilities and programs –and staffing. These schools have produced doctors, engineers and national sport representatives. They are a credit to Aitchison College and reminder a good education is a passport to the future.
The big structural academic changes have now mostly taken place. Senior School comes next with the introduction of Cambridge IGCSE; it will go smoothly and our boys will do very well as have all boys under Cambridge. I congratulate the boys on their year and thank our outgoing leaders and in particular the Head Boy, Rafay Hassan.
My thanks to the three Aitchison Heads of School and two Heads of Campus Schools for their unwavering support and professionalism throughout the year; to the Academic Coordinators and Heads of Department who have played a vital part in our success, and our teachers who have absorbed a good deal of change this year. To our Director of Sport and his energetic team –well done! To our boarding housemasters and their assistants, you have lifted the quality of the boarding experience. I acknowledge the good work of the Alumni Office and the new Archives Department, and make special mention of our outstanding Bursar and his excellent Administrative, Maintenance, Security, Food, Grounds, Sanitation and Driving staff. I acknowledge the fine leadership of our Board of Governors and Sub Committee, and the genuine affection for the College expressed in deed and word by His Excellency the Governor, Malik Muhammad Rafique Rajwana.
Finally, I wish the School Family a blessed, safe and happy Ramzan, and school holiday.