No.30 Autumn 2020 Community in Northwood

23 October 2020

This autumn, our latest issue of No.30 celebrates community. Here in a digital-only piece, Merchant Taylors' School Northwood shares what community has meant to them, their students and their local area over the course of 2020.

It is easy for schools to pay lip service to community and to community outreach but quite another to genuinely embrace the concept. I am proud to say that Merchant Taylors' falls into the latter category, something which became most obvious during lockdown.

In the face of a national shortage of PPE our Design, Technology & Engineering department began producing face shields for local NHS staff. Under the guidance of head of department, Andew Duffey, demand started to rise as word spread, until BBC News featured the story resulting in Merchant Taylors' alumnus, Jonathan Duck, chief executive of leading floor company, Amtico, offering his company's factory as an initial assembly site for parts. The design centre, so long a place of learning and experimentation by the pupils, became a manufacturing hub and an assembly line. Our initiative was eagerly seized upon by local doctors and nurses, as well as many OMTs who were also working on the front line against the disease. Mr Duffey then widened the circle of manufacturers, drawing in a coalition of other local schools.

In the end the school produced 12,000 face shields, and enabled others to produce an additional 9,000

Merchant Taylors' School (MTS) has built strong links with local primary schools, including sixth-formers mentoring younger pupils in a range of subjects and areas of interest. At Greenfields School, MTS students help to support younger pupils with their reading each week. With Bushey Heath School we organised a 30 strong choir who performed for their whole school at Christmas, and at a care home in the local area.

At lunchtimes our boys have provided weekly technology classes, including video technology and editing masterclasses, and at Eastbury Farm we set up two coding days this year, giving 45 members of their Year 5 the chance to learn some basic coding language and apply it to different scenarios, such as controlling a robot.

With regards to charity, aside from raising funds themselves, we are committed to raising awareness amongst our student body so that they are equipped with a desire to make the world a better place. Moreover, we wish for this sentiment to endure long beyond their time at the school.

Our charity drive team have been supporting three charities. The first is the Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre, a local charity that provides support and information for those affected by cancer. The second is Centrepoint, a charity who provide homeless young people with accommodation, health support and life skills to get them back into education, training and employment. The last is Age UK Hertfordshire, a local branch that promotes the wellbeing of older people. Altogether, we have managed to raise over £8,000 for these wonderful organisations and have built up strong relationships with them. Our main event of the year, with Centrepoint in mind, was a sleep-out in late February. Over 50 boys and staff spent a night sleeping outside in the Inner Quad. The wind howled and the rain poured throughout the night but the boys braved the weather to embrace an experience that would offer some insight into the daily struggles of those homeless.

Music has often taken the lead in fundraising activity at MTS, especially for Phab. This inspiring charity has been at the heart of school life for the past 50 years, as our pupils supervise a week-long residential experience for severely disabled children. Last year’s Upper Sixth musicians organised 24 Hours of Music to raise money for the charity. This meant continuous music for 24 hours, in the music department, with concerts, open rehearsals, and solo and small group performances. The protagonists behind the whole endeavour were joined by a few others to keep the music going throughout the night with several boys having the stamina to last the full music marathon, raising £4,000 for Phab in the process.

At Sandy Lodge we are very blessed to have wonderful sports facilities. Through outreach events like Rugby Week we have built ties and stronger relations with other schools. Rugby Week itself continues to grow with 26 matches and with every boy on the rugby programme given the opportunity to play. Highlights include the under 9, 10 and 11 Barbarians matches made up of boys from a number of different primary and prep schools. In hockey, Merchant Taylors' staff and boys also provide weekly coaching for local prep schools.

All of this activity does not, however, mean we should rest on our laurels. In the straitened circumstances in which the country finds itself we will look to do even more to support local school children and the wider community wherever possible.

Jon Rippier, Head of Communications

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