View from the Pulpit: Singing and Community

Mrs Grote, Head of Classics, reflects on what Friday means to her and how singing can bring us all together and form a greater sense of community. 

I’m always pleased when it gets to Friday

Much like you I’m sure. It’s the end of the week. There’s Fish and Chips. Tutorial with the wonderful U6E, my weekly meeting with the even more wonderful Doctor Farr. Those are reasons to look forward to Friday. But moreover, on a Friday, you can be fairly sure of a good hymn. And with a good hymn, you can enjoy a good sing.

But what about the actual act of singing a hymn? Yes, it can be an awkward activity, perhaps especially for a teenage group. Will I get it wrong? Will my voice stand out? What if I sound silly? What will the person next to me think if I give it a go? Some may dislike it, but we have all experienced Mr Allain’s attempts to wake us from morning slumber with a variety of games, all clever disguises to get us singing well. Naughty true or false questions, impossible teasers involving counting numbers or shapes. Who can forget his attempt to get us all, including the Head Master, “dabbing” in time to the music? 

Mr Allain has science to support him in his quest to get us singing. An Institute of Education study concluded that singing increases oxygenation in the blood and exercises major muscle groups. Furthermore, when people sing together, there is an increased sense of community, belonging and shared endeavour. You simply can’t sing a hymn so well by yourself; you can try, but it won’t be as satisfying. Singing affects our endocrine system, concerning both our hormones and emotional well-being. A UEA research project recommended singing as a low-commitment, low-cost tool for mental health recovery. This is because, when singing, our bodies release those same hormones as when we are eating something we enjoy: endorphins that bring us pleasure and alleviate anxiety. It should be the same feeling you get when you eat a bar of chocolate, but without the calories. As well as making us healthy, singing keeps us so. After performing a complex choral work, higher levels of immune proteins were found in the saliva of choristers. So, were you to take a deep breath, and sing, confidently, you could be smug in the knowledge that your immunity could end up being better than that of your non singing friends.

Charles Hubert Parry wrote the melody for today’s hymn. The 170th anniversary of his birth is next Tuesday; the centenary of his death will be marked later this year, alongside the end of WWI.

Perhaps most well-known to us at Norwich School is Parry’s setting of William Blake’s, Jerusalem, often sung as an anthem of community or even national pride. Parry and his wife, Maude, themselves passionately campaigned for women’s suffrage, but would they have ever anticipated how Parry’s setting of Blake’s words would have such lasting power, for rugby fans and The WI alike?

Parry also blends text, melody and harmony in other choral music. In Blest Pair of Sirens, Parry takes the words of poetic great, John Milton, who describes the combined, divine power of Voice and Verse, before wishing that we too may be able to answer such song with our singing. In his six Songs of Farewell, composed by Parry as he was suffering from a serious heart condition, and approaching his death, Parry considers his mortality and reflects on his faith, but using the words of poets. Dying a mere month before the end of WWI, Parry did not live to see the peace he so longed for, yet his choice of texts in these pieces certainly demonstrates an exploration of what happens after death, if not a firm creed: There is an old belief / That on some solemn shore / Beyond the spheres of grief / Dear friends can meet once more.

Returning to today’s hymn you might be amused to know that Parry found the text of Dear Lord and Father of Mankind in a long, eccentric poem describing a Hindu practice of whipping up religious enthusiasm by drinking intoxicating, hallucinogenic concoctions. Not, of course, what we are encouraging you to do this morning. The text’s author, an American Quaker, actually deeply disapproved of singing in church: he firmly believed that God was best worshipped in silent meditation. A far cry from what our cathedral, organ and, sometimes, even trumpets, encourage from us on a daily basis. But perhaps such silent meditation is not so far from what Parry was aiming for when concluding his hymn with a prayer, not only a wish for the removal of strain and stress from our lives, but for us to be able to find a small voice of calm when life becomes too frantic.

I urge you, whatever the hymn, whether you know it or not, to consider the words as well as the tune…  There are messages within.

I shall finish with the words of three others, all experts and advisors in their own ways.

At the conclusion of the Gryffindor house feast, and after the singing of the school song, Albus Dumbledore remarks “Ah, music! A magic beyond all we do here!" Reminding us that even in wizard world, singing together counts as a potent collective enterprise.   

A ‘Time’ magazine journalist recorded the health impact of singing: “It is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out.  It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed.”

And finally, St Augustine notes that “He who sings, prays twice.” Reminding us that for many, a hymn is more than just words and music.

Whichever of these – the wizard, the journalist, or the priest - is most appropriate to you, I hope that an interest in music, or words, or science or religion will offer you a reason to keep on singing. 

I return to the words of St Augustine:

So my friends, let us sing Alleluia… let us sing as travellers sing on a journey, but keep on walking. Lighten your toil by singing and never be idle. Sing, but keep on walking. Advance in virtue, true faith, and right conduct. Sing up – and keep on walking.

VEX Robotic Coding Club

Mr Jenkins, Head of Digital Learning at Norwich School talks to us about robots. 

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What does your role as Head of Digital Learning at Norwich School involve?

The role includes everything from evaluating effective digital platforms and techniques that will support excellent teaching and learning, to setting up the Computer Studies department by overseeing the development and delivery of curricular courses and extra-curricular activities across school. This has included the implementation of new L5, GCSE and A Level Computer Science courses all in the same academic year. I hope these new courses and opportunities will inspire and nurture enthusiastic developers and inventors of the future. I chair the e-Safety committee and also facilitate training on digital learning, providing bespoke skills updates for teaching staff and departments. 


You recently started the VEX Robotic Coding Club, can you tell us what motivated you to?

Having a club for the younger age groups was important and the aims of the VEX Robotic Coding Club was to give the pupils the opportunity to learn some hands-on engineering skills when building the robots, learning to code them to move and perform tasks in a very tangible and fun way.


When did it the VEX Robotic Coding Club launch? 

Thanks to securing a very generous donation from  Friends of Norwich School, we launched in late September, when the robot kits arrived. We meet every Friday lunchtime.


How many pupils attend the club?

We have four robots teams with either three of four members in each.

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What has the club worked on so far?

So far all the robots are built and some are pimped up with additional ...modifications! They have been tested with the driver remote controllers and programmed for autonomous movement by flashing instructions to the ROM chips. Each week the group think of a challenges that the robots must do and have competitions to develop the best solutions.


How has technology enhanced learning in schools?

The VEX Robotics Coding Club teams take it in turns to take pictures and contribute to the VEX blog (, so people can keep up to date with our progress. The club reinforce in-class learning for those pupils currently studying Computer Science and it also gives a fun taster to those who have yet to start a formal academic course. It is more than just a 'toe in the water' of a new subject. 


What do you think the future looks like for robotics, coding and digital learning?

I would love to have more girls studying the subject. I also hope the club will grow and as the pupils knowledge expands, the robots we have created will begin to do some really complex operations. We may yet have a robot with built in artificial intelligence (AI) ready to replace me as a teacher! I would also like to continue to support local social enterprise like the Techathon on the last two days of the Easter holiday


View from the Pulpit: Collaboration

Collaboration, by Mr Sexton

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“Houston we’ve had a problem” said astronaut Jack Swigert to NASA mission control. Apollo 13 was 200,000 miles from Earth. It had been launched on April 11, 1970, and was two days into its mission, to investigate an unexplored part of the moon. On board were three astronauts.

That evening, mission control asked Command Module pilot Swigert to do a final job, a routine procedure called a “cryo stir.” It was meant to stop the super-cold oxygen and hydrogen, stored in tanks, from settling into layers.

So Swigert flicked the switches for the fans to do the stir. Then “Bang!” and the master alarm sounded. The astronauts didn’t know what had happened. Back at mission control the data screens were going crazy.

Commander Jim Lovell then reported in, “… Looking out the hatch, …we are venting something… out into space.” Checking their instrument panels again they saw that they had lost all the oxygen out of one tank, and it was rapidly disappearing from the second. They were in deep trouble.

To survive they needed to quickly move out of the command module and into the lunar landing module. The lunar module didn’t have a heat shield to survive the trip back to earth, but it could potentially keep them alive long enough to get there. Then the astronauts could transfer back into the command module, and if it had enough power they could re-enter the earth’s atmosphere and splash down safely into the sea.

Lovell and Fred Haise (the Lunar Module pilot) worked frantically to boot up the lunar module in less time than designed, while Swigert remained in the command module to work together with mission control, to shut down all its non-essential systems and so save as much power as possible for the re-entry to earth.   

This done, the mission to land Apollo 13 on the moon was abandoned. The new mission was to get the astronauts back alive.

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There were a number of challenges ahead. The first issue was that the Lunar Module did not have enough carbon-dioxide filters to keep the air breathable for the three men. So the engineers at mission control had to work out how they could fit square carbon dioxide scrubbers from the command module into the round scrubber holes in the lander.

The next problem was that the spacecraft was on the wrong trajectory. At the time of the accident, Apollo 13 was on a path that would cause it to miss earth by 2,500 miles!

Over the coming days, mission controllers worked around the clock – grabbing a few minutes of sleep under their desks when they could.

The problem of the carbon dioxide scrubbers was eventually solved by engineers who instructed the astronauts how to use: spare parts, duct tape and a sock!, to fit the square cannisters into the round holes.

Then another team worked with the astronauts to fire the lunar module’s thrusters, at key points to get them back on course. However, each time this required precious power.  So, just like on the command module, they had to turn everything off, apart from the essential systems.  This meant there was no heating, so temperatures dropped to near freezing. Some food became inedible and they had to ration their drinking water to keep the lunar module’s hardware cool. They were all losing weight and Haise developed a kidney infection.

Finally, on day seven they made it to the earth’s atmosphere and relocated back into the Command Module. Then they got a view of the outside of it. “One whole side of the spacecraft is missing!” exclaimed Lovell. Would they have a heat shield? Would the parachutes open?

As they hurtled towards earth, communication was lost. Everyone held their breath. Then, TV cameras picked up Apollo 13 floating down through the clouds; its three parachutes open. Mission control and the whole world celebrated.

The crew became international heroes, but this had been a team effort. In an interview afterwards, Lovell explained, “It was a collaboration. A tale of two groups. One was in a comfortable control room with hot coffee… [who] had to come up with the ideas to get us back… and the second group in a cold, damp spacecraft, [had] to correctly execute those decisions.”  

It was collaboration that saved them. But collaboration and team work aren’t trouble-free. It sometimes feels like it is just easier to do things by yourself, your way. However, being a good team player, and working well together, is as important as being the leader.

When President John F Kennedy visited NASA headquarters for the first time, in 1961, he introduced himself to a cleaner who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The cleaner replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

As a school, we are going to be encouraging effective collaboration. The Green Group have been setting each tutor group a challenge. 

So to finish, Why Collaboration? Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield said it this way: “Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It's about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others' success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”  

Have a great day, together.

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What happens next? Pupil Nat Gilson writes about his love of reading for World Book Day 2018

I’ve loved reading ever since a very young age. There’s a question I think we’ve all asked at one point or another - what happens next? Once you’ve started reading a good book, or sometimes even a not-so-good book, it becomes very difficult to put it down. I wanted to read as much as possible because I always wanted to answer that question.

Now that I’ve been getting into writing, I find it’s always a good sign when somebody wants to know what happens next in something I’ve written. Stories, in a sense, are a lottery - you have an idea of what’s going to happen in your mind, and you keep reading (or watching, or playing) to find out if it’s what you expected. If it isn’t, it might be something even better that you could even have imagined. There’s a little burst of excitement before the outcome is revealed that keeps you coming back for more.

It’s not the only reason I love reading, given that I’ve re-read my favourite books many times. The best books have an incredible world, and I always want to return to them. Whether that world is the vast network of planets of Philip Reeve’s Railhead or the isolated groups scattered across a dark reimagining of Britain in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, reality is always less interesting. Fictional stories always ask the question “what if?” and that question can make you think far beyond the contents of the book. Stories can make you realise something about the real world that you didn’t consider before.

Books are a very powerful medium. From how they influence our interests from childhood, to how they can spread ideas across the world, aiding revolutions and supporting ideologies. Words are the only art form that can be anything you want.

Nat Gilson, L6

Megan Conway creates Altar Fall for Norwich School Chapel

 Alter front by Megan Conway.  Picture by Edward Chalmers. 

Alter front by Megan Conway. Picture by Edward Chalmers. 

Christmas spirit in the school last term inspired Megan Conway (U6) to make this piece of work. School Chaplain, Reverend Corin Child, was so impressed by the work that it has stayed put right up until Candlemas at the beginning of February. Megan was keen for the Holly and Ivy, typically used around Christmas time, to play a large part in her design. 

The 'Altar Frontal' is a decorative piece of textile, but other mediums can be used such as metalwork or woodwork. Megan used a mixture of techniques in her own design, including embroidery.

The process took Megan around 6-8 weeks to complete as she hadn't created anything like this before. Usually Megan is interested in using different artistic approaches such as printing, by hand and digitally, as well as beading. Megan's advice to anyone who would like to create something like this would be to be patient, as it takes a lot of time and effort as well as lots of trial and error.  

Megan has so far got two offers for University to study Textiles. She has a unconditional offer from Nottingham Trent University and a conditional offer from Chelsea College of Art.

 Megan Conway & Mrs Ravenscroft by the Alter front.  Picture by Edward Chalmers. 

Megan Conway & Mrs Ravenscroft by the Alter front. Picture by Edward Chalmers. 

 Megan Conway by the Alter front she created.  Picture by Edward Chalmers. 

Megan Conway by the Alter front she created. Picture by Edward Chalmers. 

Behind the scenes at this years Dance Extravaganza 2018

We caught up with the three pupils who were the backstage crew members for the Dance Extravaganza, which took place this year at EPIC studios. This year the Junior and the Senior dances joined together to create one performance. Read on to find out about Abigail Hill's, Shreya Vulla's and Grace Collen's personal accounts of what it takes to be part of the crew at a event like this. 

"This year’s Dance Festival was an amazing event to be a part of as it gave all kinds of people different opportunities. I chose to help backstage, and really enjoyed the challenge! I loved watching the dances and helping to organise the performers. It was incredible to see how all the individual dances slotted together into one to make the Norwich School Dance Extravaganza. My personal favourite dance was the ‘circus’ themed performance because the dancers were so in time with the music. Thank you to all the teachers for making it possible for all ages!" 

Abigail Hill



"Working backstage at the Norwich School’s Dance Extravaganza has been an interesting experience. I have worked behind-the-scenes previously for other Norwich School productions, such as the We Will Rock You musical. Working backstage at the Dance Extravaganza was different to other productions because if taught me how to work more efficiently under pressure. My main job was to make sure all the dancers were ready to go, at the right time and at the right place. This was incredibly pressurising as this was the biggest Dance Extravaganza yet. The rehearsals were chaotic, and the actual performance was very hectic for everyone, but we were all very relieved when both performances went very well. Although there were many performers, the experience was a very valuable one as it taught me how to work well in a team and how to trust my peers who were also helping out. I would highly recommend this job to anyone thinking about getting involved backstage in any production; I think it gives us a sense of accomplishment as a lot of the show’s running depends on an efficient backstage team." 

Shreya Vulla



"The annual Dance Extravaganza: a festival filled with colour, light hearted fun, and with over one hundred pupils participating, never fail to amaze me. Having been through the school from L4, I have seen the show develop from a small, perfected performance into an almost industrial scale production. Having previously taken part in the event, it is easy to forget those who work behind the scenes, who are ensuring a smooth running and ‘well-worth-the-watch’ show. It was this outlook that lead to me turn behind the curtains this year, in order to get an insight and indeed help try to manage the chaos of a multitude of twelve-to-sixteen-year olds. The trickiest part of this feat was undoubtedly trying to guarantee each of them were picture perfect and correctly positioned in a matter of minutes. I was working with two others, Shreya and Abi, who certainly ensured the drama of the event was well handled and indeed pulled off. Each of us was in charge of either a wing or were managing backstage, equipped with a check board and detailed list of the over 15 dances being performed. I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable and indeed rewarding experience, which I will not hesitate to aid in again; I look forward to next year’s extravaganza." 

Grace Collen





ON Andrew Jones talks about his time at Norwich School

Andrew Jones was a pupil at Norwich School between 1990 and 1999. In the past year he has opened his first restaurant in Norwich called 'Farmyard'. Read all about his memories of Norwich School and his motivations for opening a restaurant in Norwich below. 


What are you doing now?

Opening Farmyard Restaurant at 23 St. Benedict's Street, which is a modern Bistro style restaurant employing top quality cooking techniques, in an understated way, using the very best produce from some of Norfolk's most passionate producers.


What are your greatest challenges/achievements?

Aside from having two young children? Managing to get financial backing for the project despite it being my first step as a restaurateur and securing, what I consider to be, one of the best sites in the city.


What is your motivation?

Firstly, I love working with great produce, as a chef it is a privilege to be able to handle great ingredients. In Norfolk we are lucky to be surrounded by top quality meat, game, fish and vegetables. There is also a growing band of artisans producing fantastic bread, cheese and charcuterie, even chocolate. The core of the concept at Farmyard is to find the very best produce we can and serve it to our guests.


If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself when starting out?

Keep pushing! It’s a tough industry to get started in, especially if you want to work in good kitchens and learn from the best. It can be pretty demoralising when you are learning your trade and you are constantly told you're useless which top chefs are renowned for doing. Sometimes it’s a physical and mental battle to keep going. But as you progress and become more useful to your employer and earn the respect of your fellow chefs, there is a tremendous feeling of achievement.


100 words on how you got to where you are today?

As a young chef I had drive and passion but it was only when I met my Fiancé, Hannah Springham, who went to Norwich High School, that I was able to focus that into achieving my goal of opening a restaurant. Hannah is a successful TV producer, as well as a great Mother and has been instrumental in the conception and launch of the restaurant. She taught me to keep talking about my idea, to anyone and everyone. The more you talk about it, the more the idea crystallises and the more people start to listen. Its stops becoming an idea and starts to become a reality.


When did you realise your passion for food?

I've always cooked and enjoyed cooking but it was in my final year at Nottingham University I suddenly realised I could earn a living doing something I really enjoyed.


Do you have a secret recipe that you would like to share?

Perfect mash. Cut the potatoes in half lengthways to help release their starch. Salt the cooking water well, don’t boil the potatoes, simmer them, when they are tender all the way through but not breaking drain them properly, return them to the pot and steam off all the excess cooking water. Mash them straight away over a low heat with butter, then gently fold in warmed milk infused with black pepper and nutmeg. Serve immediately.


Favourite memory of your time at Norwich School?

Playing cricket at the lower close, or assembly in the Cathedral. At the time I had no idea how lucky we were and took the incredible surroundings for granted.


How do you think Norwich School helped you to get to where you are now?

It gave me confidence in my own abilities and the tools to achieve my goals.


What was your favourite Norwich School dinner?

Sausage plait, what else?


What are your memories of the Norwich School refectory?

Queuing, soggy chips, and the smell of overcooked veg. Also having breakfast, lunch and dinner there on Thursdays when I did Sea Scouts.


If you could get one thing on the school menu what would it be?

 A bavette steak, cooked over charcoal, served medium-rare with a really good béarnaise.





'Aspiration' by Mr Sexton

"Aim high in everything you do... And become the best version of you, you can be." Mr Sexton recently gave his advice on how to be the best version of yourself. Here is the word-by-word account incase you missed it. 

"Mrs Hill completed the Chicago marathon in October 2017. This is her third of the six major marathon’s in the world. She has done London, New York and Chicago, and now has Berlin, Tokyo and Boston to go. What a fantastic aspiration. I have a much more tame aspiration to run 5k under 20 minutes. And to be honest I feel a long way off still. Nonetheless I am not giving up, it is good to aspire.

At Norwich School we define aspiration as:

 'The desire to succeed and to aim high in everything you do, to become the best you can be.'

I have been awed by some of the recent achievements and aspirations of people. In May 2017, the Spanish climber and long-distance runner Kilian Jornet ran up Mount Everest twice in one week without using oxygen tanks or fixed ropes. He took 26 hours when the ascent often takes people 4 days.  Lewis Hamilton broke the all-time record for pole positions by taking the 69th of his career with a sensational performance in wet qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix in September.

I also watched a sporting performance last year that has stuck in my memory. It was the final event in the Triathlon World Series in Cozumel Mexico. Jonny Brownlee was on the cusp of being crowned World Champion. He had to win this last race, to win the World Series.

With 1500m to go he was in front by 25 seconds and said he was feeling good. However, with 500m to go, he could not run anymore. He was suddenly overcome with heat exhaustion, and his body started to shut down to protect his vital organs. He began to stagger, and drift backwards and forwards across the course, until he finally just stopped.

At that moment, his older brother Alastair came round the corner, grabbed his arm and supported and half-carried him the final distance to the line.

However because he stopped to help his brother, South Africa’s Henri Schoeman ran past them both,  to victory. Alastair sacrificed his own chance of winning the race and coming second overall in the World Series. He finished the year in 10th place.

When interviewing the brothers afterwards an ITV presenter said, “You two are sportsman trained through and through to prioritise victory over pretty much anything else, what was so remarkable about this, was that you prioritised your brother over that, you could easily have run past.”

Alastair described what happened in this way. I have paraphrased it because his response was quite long… “I was running the race thinking this has been the perfect year. Jonny is going to win the World Series. I’m in third place, I am going to beat the guy in second and come second in the Series. Then 500 m from the finish line I see Jonny stumbling around. I thought I have to get him to the finish line he might still win the World Series and I think, I have had that problem before and it was horrendous.”

Did you catch that? There were two reasons why Alastair stopped to help his brother. The first was because he had been through something similar himself, in a race in London, and said it was a horrendous experience. The second reason was that he was thinking of his brother’s world title hopes, and that if he could help him over the line, he might still win the world series.

Alastair’s own aspiration gave way unselfishly to Jonny’s health and ambition. At that moment Alastair became a hero, he stepped up when it was right to do so. Mr Fisher recently spoke at the U5 Step Up 2017 Leadership and Service Conference. He defined a hero as:


I do wonder if what happened to Jonny, happens again in another race, if people will follow Alastair’s example, I really hope so?

I don’t know if you have something you aspire to yet? Be it a certain number of high numbers in your GCSE’s, or to achieve a musical or sporting goal, or a place at your university of choice or something else?

I am not saying that you have to have a driving ambition. I left school without knowing what I wanted to do as a career. And for me life has been a really varied and exciting journey so far. 

In this school, we want to help you to achieve your goals, and reach your potential, and in whatever you do we want you, to want to do your best.

However, we also want you to be like Alastair Brownlee and balance your aspiration with compassion and empathy. Mr White put it this way, we want you to have “sharp elbows with a conscience.”

One of America’s favourite writers, Henry David Thoreau, says, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”  Jesus said it another way, “what does it profit a person to gain the whole world, but lose their soul.”

So Aspire… Desire to succeed... Aim high in everything you do... And become the best version of you, you can be."

Written by Mr Sexton for Cathedral Assembly