Aitchison College, Lahore.
August 01, 2017

Dear Parents,

As the new school year fast approaches there are important messages, reminders and initiatives to bring to light.

Our Main Focus

Roughly two-thirds of a boys’ school day is spent in the classroom. As much as we can add variation to this arrangement the simple fact remains that basic academic grounding takes place in this environment. Our focus is to make the classroom welcoming, participatory, positive, interesting, disciplined and focused. This does not happen automatically. If we break it down, both teachers and students have roles to play and responsibilities to live up to. It is as much a team game as any sport, except that everyone is meant to be batting on the same side! No matter how good a school thinks it might be this message needs revisiting from time to time, especially after such a long break from school.

Boys must get off to a solid start at Aitchison from August 21. Playing ‘catch-up’ is not a good strategy at a very busy school. Accordingly, ‘Early Warning Reports’ will be sent home at the end of the first two weeks of term identifying those boys who have begun slowly or erratically. This applies to all three schools and is a ‘snap shot’ assessment based on ‘classroom attitude and effort’ as well as general behaviour. Boys who do not settle quickly or who disregard rules and expectations will be told to lift their games very quickly. By succeeding in studies a boy is able then to enjoy a whole range of other equally beneficial activities and pursuits that make Aitchison such a special place.

Observing Calendar Dates and A Level Obligations

All boys are expected to observe calendar dates. This is a condition of enrolment. I especially remind all A Level boys that a 90% attendance (with approved leave) is required for them to sit for Cambridge examinations in the College’s name. The cut-off is early January. Records will be kept by the Exam Office from Day 1. Missing on average more than one day of school a week is simply unacceptable for a senior student. Should families find themselves out of the country, our boarding houses are an excellent short-term solution. If there are medical reasons or other valid difficulties the Headmistress should be notified promptly with supporting evidence.

Aitchison Invited to Join the G20 Group of World Schools

As the only school in Pakistan to have been invited to join this prestigious group of schools (50 schools from 20 countries), it is testimony to how well the quality of our education is regarded externally. I am sure that we will gain much, and offer much, as we join this forum at its annual conference, this time, in Melbourne, Australia. Not only am I hopeful that teacher exchanges will result from this in the near future, but to be part of an international forum that talks openly and confidentially about educational issues and which shares modern educational initiatives, we are assured that Aitchison will continue to meet the highest expectations.

Voluntary School Aptitude Testing: Prep School

We have been investigating the benefits and application of Aptitude Testing. Prep boys will now be offered Aptitude Tests in English and Mathematics: essentially the ‘launch pad years.’ These tests will be externally validated by a highly regarded UK Educational Consultancy. Each test takes 45 minutes and no boy can prepare for them. Why offer this? Diagnostic results help us better target and measure teaching and learning and also determine ways in which individual boys might be taught more effectively via a range of teaching styles. Staff will be trained to help boys interpret their results and we will also offer advice to parents. The value of the reports is that parents, students and staff will have a much better picture of strengths, weaknesses and possible remedies early in the school year. Results will be sent home. The tests are voluntary and will cost 2,700 rupees. The College makes no money from this exercise.

A permission form will need to be signed by relevant parents/guardians. The ‘tear-off’ section should be returned to the Bursar who will debit first term accounts. Forms must reach the Bursar’s Office no later than Wednesday August 23. Tests will take place after Eid. This is the only time during the year such tests will be held for Prep School. I am sorry but boys who are absent from school will have no opportunity to sit at a later date.  

Senior College Leadership 2017-18

I am delighted to confirm the following senior student leadership appointments for 2017-18. These appointments have been made after thorough staff input and interview of boys who applied. Further appointments may be made as the year unfolds. Our leadership camp will emphasize the positive aspects of student leadership and how prefects can make a difference by helping others and setting standards. I am also quick to point out that everyone can be a leader at Aitchison and that our school provides so many forums in which this is made possible and recognized accordingly.

Head Boy: Muhammad Amzar Naseem (Leslie Jones)

Deputy Head Boy: Muhammad Saljuk Gondal (Sikander)

College Prefects: Humza Ataullah, Mansoor Khan, Sajjad Ali Khan, Hesham Mohammed Nawaz, Rafi Ullah Safi, Hassan Kamal Wattoo, Muhammad Usman Omer, Mohammad Ibrahim Raza, Taimur Kashif Khan Niazi.

School Prefects: Mohammad Fayzan Shaukat, Syed Musa Mufarrih, Aleem Malik, Muhammad Bilal Sher, Khan Shirwani, Nehal Munawar Jamal, Raif Tariq, Syed Mohammed Bilal Mehdi, Choudry Abdul Rehman, Syed Ramis Ahmad, Muhammad Shabraiz Mushtaq, Mustafa Khalid Waheed, Mujtaba Ashal Pal, Rao Makhdoom Akif, Shaheer Haider, Syed Moeed Irfan, Hussain Abbas Zaidi, Shahrez Aziz, Shahmeer Mohydin, Muhammad Asad Aftab

Please note that Leadership in Junior and Prep School will be announced later.

Admissions

Admissions passed comfortably this year. Naturally, I am sympathetic to families whose sons did not gain entry and I encourage them to reapply next year. There are quite a few examples of boys succeeding on second and third attempts. We have admitted boys from a good cross-section of Pakistan, as well as a growing number of expatriate enrolments.

We will be releasing information on next year’s admission process as early as possible (prior to December) thus ensuring that any changes are known well in advance.  I can immediately reassure everyone that Age Criteria will not change, but how we test and when we test (owing to the timing of Ramzan next year) is to be reviewed by the Board of Governors, as it is each year.           

Summer Sports Camps

The summer sporting camps have been a great success. The quality of coaching and engagement for boys has been among the best I have seen at any school. Just watching boys learn and practice new skills is immensely satisfying. I thank staff for their commitment to cricket, swimming, squash and tennis –and the parents who supported us. Staff planned the camps extremely well. I have had nothing but very positive feedback from parents.      

Sporting Successes & Fixtures & Tours

Swimmers selected by the UK training camp and sponsored by the Punjab Sports Board selected only 2 boys and 2 girls from all of Pakistan in a squad of 243 swimmers. Both boys are from Aitchison College.  Our swimming Academy is working wonders and boys who are serious about swimming should be training with their school.  Congratulations to Azlan Khan (SS) and Danial Gulam Nabi (PS). And full marks to our great Head of Swimming, Mr. Shahid Faqeer. 

Over the break several of our boys competed internationally in the Biathle in Kazakhstan. Mr. Faqeer accompanied the team. Mikail Faisal Ejaz of Prep School, Under 13 age group, won a silver medal out of 32 athletes in his age group, from 7 different countries. This is the first medal in Pakistan national history at such an event.

Cricketers look forward to two tours: Dubai (December) and the United Kingdom (June). I remain hopeful of rekindling our Indian traditional tours for other sports too. We are keen to add more tours in other sports. This year, our teams travel to Sadiq Public School for our annual general sporting fixture in athletics, cricket, football, and hockey. Please visit our portal for the full sporting program for 2017-18.

Ground Developments

The MCG cricket square has been rebuilt with the best ‘mud’ and pitches will be faster, bouncier and spin. It is now in perfect condition.

The College has been sensibly rezoned for sport and each school will have ample designated playing and practice areas across this remarkable landscape; a small part of which has lain unutilized for years. In future, football will be centred on the Barry and Kelly fields (Pitches 1 to 3) with additional playing space on Zulfiqar at Prep School (Pitch 4) closest to the main building. The Barry will feature the College’s main soccer pitch at the Cypress end –manicured and the correct Olympic size for football. As a major sport this will bring numbers and ‘action’ back into the Senior School on a daily basis. Hockey will be played at the Jaffar (as usual) but additionally occupy what has until now been the football field: this field will be relevelled and improved. There will also be an area for junior hockey.

Junior School playing fields have been created for K2 to K4 for cricket and football seasons. K5 will use what is known as the Junior Cricket and Football ground beside the pool. K6 will now utilize the field running alongside Jilani Avenue. This field has a new turf wicket. As a result there be will be 8 turf wickets in all for cricket matches.

Most of these initiatives will allow coaching and competition to take place in the same sporting zones, where coaches can easily view boys of varying ages and conduct coordinated and relevant skill sessions. I also feel it is beneficial for younger boys to be in the proximity of older boys where feasible and safe. This generates camaraderie and ambition in a sport.

In general, we have taken the stance that boys in Junior and Prep should play as many sports as possible to develop good motor skills and hand-eye coordination before specializing.  Of course, participation is the primary goal.

Riding and Stables

We have been examining ways in which to insulate or cool the horse shedding to minimize heat stress in summer. Several clever, inexpensive ideas have been suggested. In the meantime each stall has had gates and fencing installed which will free horses from ropes at night. Stalls will also have rubber floors to reduce the likelihood of horses slipping. All horses are in excellent condition, but these are sensible and modern concessions to animal welfare.

Sports Master Plan

The Sports Masterplan Committee will announce shortly its choice of project consultant, architect and builder for the new multi-purpose gymnasium.  It has been determined that the new Gymnasium would be better sited at the Monnoo Squash complex and lawn area with a new squash centre incorporated. This initiative will ensure that the grassed area behind the mosque is not compromised.   

Senior Chemistry Labs Upgrade

Our senior chemistry laboratories are being rejuvenated in the Tiwana Building. This is long overdue. In the process the structure built in the 1890s has been assessed by structural engineers and reapproved for occupation. Among many changes, open drains have been covered while new flooring, benches and utilities will make this a beautiful and effective place to study. I am sure boys and staff will be elated.

New Computer Laboratory –Junior School

K6 will have its own computer laboratory in Junior School. This is to be situated adjacent their classrooms. New computers have been purchased.

Bus Service

The Aitchison College Bus Service for Day boys will continue, but for this service to continue it must be patronized and remain cost effective. I thank parents for their feedback on this matter.

Reminder about Boys’ Appearance

I have written previously about boys dressing inappropriately for school. Those who do not heed this advice are simply lazy or discourteous. Boys’ dress and general appearance are important and will be checked at the school gate each day and during school. This includes correct sports attire after school.

In the same vein, boys who fail to shave (refer to my previous letter on what this means and what discretion there is) or whose hair is too long or cut in an extreme form or whose shoes are not approved footwear or who do not wear a belt or who wear the wrong trousers, etc. ….will simply not be permitted to enter school or a classroom. If there are problems at home in finding clothing (as seems to be a regular excuse among chief offenders) then boys should bring a note with them which can be checked later. The great majority of boys take pride in their school and do the right thing. Those few who let us down conspicuously in public must change their ways. It is expected that all boys will follow the new dress code set for Fridays.

Reminder on Iphones

As per my last correspondence on Iphones and similar devices that record or video these are now banned from school. A basic mobile phone may be brought to school for security reasons for use prior to school and immediately after classes have finished. Boys who break this rule will have their phones confiscated on the spot. Phones will be checked randomly. Boys who wish to record something may approach the Head of Campus for permission, otherwise it is forbidden to film classes or any individual without their consent.

Senior School ‘School Box.’

Senior boys will benefit from the introduction of the ‘School Box’ information system. Among its many benefits, teachers will be able to communicate with instantly with students and upload relevant materials for classes or homework including videos and online resources, as well provide easy access to many important school messages, activities and homework advice. The Headmistress will be writing to parents in detail about this. We plan to introduce this facility to Prep and Junior School after a trial period in Senior School.  In time, parents will also have access to ‘School Box.’ Our website will remain but the interactive parts will increasingly be rolled out on this platform.

A Concluding Thought

I am sure I speak for everyone in stressing that Aitchison must always be a safe, happy and productive educational environment. I believe it is. We love our children and want them to grow up with healthy habits and positive friendships –in the best possible mental, emotional and physical shape to take on the exciting opportunities that await them after they graduate. At the conclusion of one’s school days Aitchison should produce warm memories and deep affection among all those who studied or lived here.

Our relationship with one another and our ability to communicate effectively will surely govern how successful this outcome will be. Parents should know that every boy matters to us and there is no challenge or everyday problem that cannot be addressed calmly and sorted out. We should always meet on that premise. In fact, I reluctantly guarantee you that things will go wrong occasionally or grind to a halt over some misinterpretation because this is what happens in any deeply humanistic enterprise. As a dramatic headmaster once opined “We are not a soap factory! We are dealing with all types of personalities, shapes and bouquets, as well as the good days and not so good days that boys can bring along with them. It is all part of life” Showing boys how to deal with setbacks or disappointments is part of a true education. Small ruins can be a gift for the character. Having worked with street children in Calcutta for two years and seen what obstacles some needed to overcome merely to survive and then sit in a classroom, I am of the opinion that our boys begin from a very comfortable base. Again by contrast with many boys across Pakistan they are indeed blessed. I expect our boys to respond accordingly and utilize this opportunity for noble outcomes and make the most of this extraordinary school.  This in no way precludes individualism or spontaneity. Indeed, this is a creative environment and one that encourages free thought and tolerance.

There are of course certain extreme ‘behaviours’ that will not be tolerated in any shape or form whatsoever. Even boys who are evolving must assume a certain level of common sense and decency. This is why systematic and constant bullying and harassment are so stridently opposed and harshly dealt with; just as unwarranted fighting is frowned upon as a poor educational response to solving problems. Physicality can be demonstrated on the sports field but even then rules apply. Put simply, whatever undermines the good enjoyment of this campus is unacceptable to us. We have a duty to educate our children to make the right choices until they are adult enough to make their own way. I believe good character is the best protection against making poor choices and school plays a key part in this.

I wish everyone a happy and successful school year.



Michael Thomson M.A., Dip. Ed., M.A.C.E

Principal