By Dr SD Smallwood, headmaster, Bishop Wordsworth's School
It will probably not have escaped your notice that there was an away day for a significant section of the populace of Salisbury last Wednesday, as the Bishop’s 1st XV Rugby Team took on Warwick School in the national final of the NatWest Schools’ Cup at Twickenham.
Just imagine that as a schoolboy player, trotting out down the same tunnel as the England Team when they go out to face the might of international adversaries and running out onto the same turf as role models, past and present.
As it says on the school twitter feed, what a day for everyone associated with the school. A day to savour and remember, a day to be carried along on and intoxicated by a wave of emotion and a day for the school to be seen at its very best.
And that is what happened; the 600+ boys in the stands were an absolute credit to us all and the boys on the pitch played with such bravery, such resilience and such passion that it took your breath away – if it is possible for your breath to be removed while shouting ‘Up The Bells’ that is! Even the Bishop’s Old Boys were super-enthusiastic and (reasonably) well behaved.
The day had everything as it really did pull the whole school community together as one and showed just what a privilege it is to work here. A real sense of pride surged through everyone who witnessed Terry Gilmour’s boys give their all on the pitch.
But while I was enthralled by the match another, broader, view troubled me; the supreme irony of the fact that on the very day that our elite players were in a national final at Rugby HQ their parents received a letter telling them that amongst many other cutbacks, A level PE was to be a victim.
Such is the toxic nature of education funding at present. Looking down the programme details, the last state school to make the national cup final did so more than a decade ago.
For more than the last 10 years not only has the winner been a private school, but the finals have been the fiefdom of the fee-paying sector and its almost unlimited resources.
I can understand why that is, and the last thing I want to do is to denigrate the super sides that have graced the finals over the years. But I found myself wondering whether I was watching one of the last state school sides to ever contest at this level, as the playing fields are now so unevenly biased against sides from the maintained sector.
What I witnessed on Wednesday last was magnificent; I am sure that my staff and boys will do their best to go one better next year, but we have to fight (and win) even harder battles off the pitch if this is to happen.