Aitchison College, Lahore.
March 01, 2016

LETTER FROM THE PRINCIPAL - MARCH 2016

Dear Parents,

I am writing to update you on recent events and initiatives at Aitchison.

Admissions

Before the end of this session a new interactive website will be launched that features online registration and application, as well as a dedicated parents' portal. Until then, the existing website contains all the information about the 2016/17 Admissions process, including a policy statement on Admissions.

We have taken the step of ensuring that boys will have reached a more suitable age to commence K1, which essentially means they need to be a little older than many have been -to be precise, six months. This is an important decision taken by a full sitting of the Board of Governors as it affects the whole development of the College, not to mention the ease with which little boys settle and cope with expectations, learning tasks and the acquisition of knowledge. For this reason, an inclusive June 1 and May 31 birth range has been chosen. This aligns ages with testing, and ensures that in the coming years students will be no younger than 5 and no older than 6 at the time of testing in K1. In this initial year there will be a small cross-over in months, but this is a transactional cost we are prepared to absorb for one year in the greater interest of education. I will, personally, be interviewing all shortlisted candidates separately and with parents/guardians to ensure that the College's expectations are understood before an enrolment is offered. Meritocracy will guide all decision-making.

Prospective parents should read all Admissions information, including my covering letter. A registration Form for enrollment can be downloaded from our website from March 21st. General enquiries should be directed to Admissions or to the Headmasters and Headmistress of relevant schools and not to the Principal or any member of the Board. Information on grade intakes, day and boarding, is also available on our website.

Teaching & Learning

Both Junior and Prep will be incorporating Cambridge Primary and Secondary English, Mathematics and Science in existing programmes from the commencement of the next academic session. This will not increase workloads and is an initiative that will benefit students and teachers -and parents. The importance of this is as follows:

 

  1. We can benchmark children's learning by international standards across the core subjects of English, Mathematics and Science, and offer externally assessed examinations in K5 and M1 to gauge transition progress. This is a diagnostic tool. When we consider that final Senior School A Levels are international and almost half of the H2 cohort choose placements in overseas universities, this initiative makes sense and will help us track performances more accurately throughout the whole school journey.
  2. A greater variety of assessment tools are used in Cambridge Core subjects, which also feature formative assessment tasks not merely summative. This encourages a skills' based approach to learning.
  3. It is a  natural development of the three syllabuses we currently offer.
  4. A strong feature will be online access to core subjects, courses and resources, promoting independent learning and access to well-structured and resourced curricula. In doing so, we are aiming to seek a balance between teacher as the facilitator and the application of technology in learning.
  5. Cambridge courses will be studied alongside the remaining existing subjects in Junior and Prep.
  6. All teachers will undergo Cambridge professional development before the next session.

 

An Extended Role for Vice Principal (Academic)

How we effectively teach and report throughout the whole school will be a major theme of 2016/17. To this end, I have addressed Board and Staff and explained the reorganization the College academic management. The Vice Principal (Academic), reporting to the Principal, will now be responsible for the development of curriculum and teaching programmes directly through Heads of Department. This will result in Heads of School being able to concentrate more on the day-to-day management of their schools. Thus, an enlarged and autonomous whole school Academic Office will help drive the necessary changes and oversights.

I am acutely aware of the need to incorporate more IT, but we will spend much of the next year investigating our best options. Whatever is finally decided, it must also be a whole school approach. Key among our considerations is Science. In the meantime, necessary and valuable progress is being made on this front.

Promotion into H1 & Subject Selection at C2, H1 and H2

The current grade requirements or algorithm for promotion into H1 are being reconsidered in line with the promotion guidelines for M2 and C1. While I firmly believe a B grade or better in O Levels is the best guide to achieving top grades in A Level equivalents, an easing of the promotion 'cut-off' into H1 is a logical initiative. Such a move will not diminish overall performances -it never will -but rather send a clear message that we are supporting boys and believe in their capacity to succeed through determination. Boys are a 'work in progress' whereby some are very good at 'being 16'. Others take more time and we need to acknowledge this. Just as not all academics will become leaders and not all outstanding schoolboys will necessarily be the most successful in adult life, Aitchison College stands by its boys, so long as effort and discipline are shown. I believe this initiative will lessen the preponderance of external tutors (who also send mixed messages in teaching styles) and will allow many boys to take part in the full life of the College, which involves sports, activities and clubs. The value of Aitchison has always been its holistic and broad education. When a boy has involved himself fully in the life of the College, it also makes it easier to see his potential and determination to succeed, thus his eligibility for provisional promotion.

English will no longer to be a mandatory subject in H1 and H2. I am not suggesting it should not be studied, but rather treated as any other subject at this crucial stage. The obvious benefit of English need not be iterated from me, but in cases where this subject is not a pre-requisite for university and IELTS or TOEFL are sufficient, it will allow a boy to spend a good deal more time in getting better A Level results in his preferred subjects. It may also allow for a continuing of a study in Urdu or other languages out of curiosity and interest. Many people are under the impression that 5 A levels or more are necessary. This is not necessarily so. The best universities in the world look for the best 3 A Levels. What is becoming increasingly important is building an impressive resume of school and community achievements, and in the instances of Oxford and Cambridge a familiarity with its interviewing processes and preparation are essential. I am not in any way arguing that a boy cannot take 4 or 5 A levels in H2. What I am saying is he now has a mature choice. On this note, I wish to reinforce the importance of getting the best information from our University Guidance Office. As we know, the university world is complex and it requires specialist and regular advice.

The Headmaster of Secondary School is currently examining a more flexible timetable.

Upcoming Special Events

On Wednesday March 23, many boys will be participating in our Unity Night; on this occasion the theme is honouring our Armed Forces. This will be an exciting evening event with over 300 performers.

Founders' Day returns with a Friday April 1 Prize Giving Day and Saturday April 2 Sports Day. Can any boy beat Majid Khan's long standing throwing cricket ball record of 110 metres? We shall see, but I have my doubts! Both days will have a late start of 4pm to reduce heat issues. Our respective guests of honour for these two occasions are: Chairman of the Board of Governors, Dr. Aisha Ghaus-Pasha, and His Excellency the Governor of the Punjab, Mr. Malik Muhammad Rafique Rajwana. Our website contains more information.

Sports

Cricket, football, hockey, tennis, basketball, athletics and tent-pegging have been sporting highlights of the past month. I must make special mention of senior cricketers who lost out so narrowly to the eventual winners of the Lahore Challenge Cup. Next year, we will be launching our very own Aitchison College Cricket Academy that will focus on developing young players. In the years ahead, I am hopeful we will also see swimming, football and other sports follow this model.

Our riders have performed extremely well in tent-pegging and underline the uniqueness of this sport.  From next year, it is a return to compulsory riding in K1 to K5. This is a major investment by the College and possibly our unique point of difference. The value of the relationship between rider and horse is inestimable in character building. Boys have also displayed great skills in hockey and football, with representative teams playing exciting matches with our Old Boys. Athletic Standards attracted many participants, as indeed did the annual Cross-Country that had over 400 competitors. The reopening of the grass tennis courts has spirited a rise in the number of players. Saigol House boarders are particularly enjoying learning this wonderfully social game. Swimming begins shortly.

Not only is sport bountiful at Aitchison, it is growing and most boys will never again play in conditions as good as they enjoy here.

Art and Drama

The importance of both these expressive skills in school life cannot be underestimated. Recent exhibitions in the Old Building have featured beautiful and creative pieces for general viewing, as well as a superb photographic exhibition judged by Old Aitchisonians. These will again be made available on Founders' Day for general viewing.

Last week our boys performed Death of a Salesman in the Shamim Khan Hall, a very challenging and confronting play that was convincingly carried off. On the 19th I thoroughly enjoyed the Prep play Robin Hood that took place at night in the Amphitheatre. The props were a castle and forest, which blended so well with this towering, superb facility. I wish to praise all boys and staff who have almost invisibly prepared themselves for public scrutiny in the most difficult of talents. Recently, we were also entertained by senior musicians in the 'Old Building'.  It is, and should be, our aim to enlarge the role of art, drama and music in the College.

Boarding

Boarding continues to attract more interest. Dormitory makeovers, outstanding Prep support and access to facilities a boy might only dream of. It is a generally overlooked statistic that boarders perform extremely well in academics. Next year, we are introducing a 'Weekly Boarding' option, subject to the availability of places. This means a local boy can board from Monday to Friday, returning home for the weekend. Applications should be first directed to the appropriate Head of School. It is our aim to grow boarding and ensure that the value of this remarkable campus is fully utilized.

Closing Remarks

Mock examinations have been well handled and overwhelmingly boys appear to have left the Hall quite satisfied. I look forward to good sets of results. I also look forward to sharing more achievements with parents and guardians in my next newsletter. There is an optimistic feel around the College and a sense of people working together toward a common goal. There is still much to do, but it is all achievable and we will get there calmly and sensibly.

 

Warm wishes to all,



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

Principal