When Terrington Hall Preparatory School’s headmaster Stephen Mulryne threw out a challenge to his pupils in a Wednesday morning assembly to create something in the holidays, he could never have envisaged the response he would receive
It was prompted by a call from the Daily Telegraph.
Would Terrington Hall’s headmaster care to comment on how his pupils might usefully spend their time during the forthcoming half-term holiday? The journalist was writing up a piece for the education pages and was keen to hear what he had to say.
Equally keen to take advantage of the opportunity for some publicity in a national newspaper, Stephen Mulryne took the call.
A month later, he was somewhat taken aback when he found himself quoted as saying that he was ‘setting up a two-day [rugby sevens] camp for local boys to hone their skills’.
Mystified, his press officer fired off an email to ask whether he was really planning a two-day rugby sevens camp.
‘I am now,’ came the response. ‘I forgot I said that!’
The rugby sevens camp, heroically organised and run at short notice by Terrington’s rugby coach Alex Crockett was a huge success. The point of this tale, however, lies elsewhere.
Reading the other similarly hastily-delivered thoughts of prep school heads and public school heads from around the country that Saturday morning, Stephen reflected on what, actually, in all honesty, he would like to see his pupils doing over the February half-term holiday. An hour later his Wednesday morning assembly was written.
Entitled ‘Take Time’, Terrington Hall’s pupils were encouraged first to take time to consider something that they would like to do, or create, or try out for the first time during the holidays. Yes, the holidays were there for rest, sleep and the occasional pyjama day in front of Netflix, but equally important was to consider how to use your time wisely, to appreciate the value of time.
Next, they were encouraged to take action, to do something about the dream they had dreamt; in a nutshell, to take on board Kipling’s advice to his son, ‘to dream, but not to make dreams your master’.
The Terrington Hall Headmaster said:
I wanted the children to understand that whilst it’s great to dream, the fulfilled life involves having the courage to do something about your dreams, to take action. So many adults put their dreams on hold whether through fear or imagined busy-ness. Fear is not a bad thing, but it’s important to “feel the fear and do it anyway.
The response to that challenge, thrown out in assembly, was overwhelming.
Within the first few days back to school, the boardroom table in the Headmaster’s office was overflowing with paintings, collages, models (of a robot, a hen coop, an aeroplane, the Eiffel Tower); woodwork projects, basket-waving, embroidery, sewing projects, inventions, stories, secret codes.
Then there was the inbox, overflowing with virtual world creations and photographs of creations too complex or fantastical to bring in to school (sprawling lego models, model battle scenes, sandcastles).
Mr Mulryne said:
I was humbled by the children’s response, humbled by the fact that they had listened, taken on board what I had said and then went out and “did”.
Then there was the touching pride with which the children showed me their creations, talked about their ideas and how they had made them happen.
Such a simple recipe coined from my somewhat careless initial response to a journalist: take time, think and do, or, in the words of Andrew Hunter, Headmaster of Merchiston Castle, who gave a memorable 2013 speech day address “Just do it!”