Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

In Merrion Square, the languid figure of Oscar Wilde slouches on a quartz-like rock hewn from the Wicklow Mountains. Created in 1997, it constitutes a belated tribute to one of Dublin’s most brilliant and precocious sons.  There was no place for such a statue in the decades immediately following the formation of the Irish state. Eamon de Valera’s culturally conservative vision of a theocratic state; a pastoral idyll (or nightmare) within which a cowed and socially repressed people would live out their days in fearful obedience to the Church could discern no place for the urbane, louche world of the fiercely intelligent Wilde.

Wilde is as famous for his pithy aphorisms as he is for his fabulous plays, public disgrace and the tragic trajectory of his all too short life. In recent times, his wonderfully astute reflection upon the intrinsic virtue of being imitated has struck me as particularly apposite to our community. It is no secret that Rossall is currently flourishing superbly well but before you detect a note of self-satisfied conceit, please note that I do not consider that this has much at all to do with me. I am the hired skipper of this superyacht and although I have been entrusted with the tiller for a little while, the success of the School is dependent upon a powerful dynamic which permeates through this community and inspires all of us to give the very best of ourselves. Obviously, it is my job to ensure that we harness the energy of the wind and avoid any rocks.  There have been plenty of storms to weather but, right now, we are on a spectacular run and it is time to put up the spinnaker, loosen the mainsail and keep the wind behind us.

It is a matter of real pride rather than irritation that we are a School that so many others are so eager to emulate. I like to think of us as being a pretty open and generous community and we have always published our strategic development plans online for the simple reason that we see no reason to be proprietorial about such matters. Parents and pupils deserve to share in the excitement of our plans. If other schools can benefit from our acumen in this regard then good luck to them and we are pleased to be of service.  

Outstanding results, superb university destinations and sporting successes only tell half of the story at Rossall. Similarly, a rapidly growing student body and a growing number of successful partnerships are great but, again, this does not, in itself, explain Rossall’s success and nor does it really explain why others watch us carefully and seek to emulate.

For me, the key to our success is to be found in the brilliance of our staff. I am surrounded by dynamic, thoughtful and creative educationalists who are endlessly ambitious for this School and our children. The collegiate manner with which we work together and our commitment to challenge and self-reflect serves to create a dynamic that is not readily reducible or transferable. Furthermore, the firepower that we now possess, in terms of our Common Room, would undoubtedly be the envy of most Heads that I talk with. Indeed,  I could not be more proud of our teachers and, thankfully, they are complemented by the loyalty of our support staff, who have demonstrated such fortitude during recent times.  Achieving ‘flow’ is not dependent upon alchemy but nor is it something that you can casually pick off the shelf – it is dependent upon a shared vision and the cultivation of positive relationships. It is about bringing together people who are entirely focused in their determination to ensure that a community thrives and, in terms of Rossall, that means ensuring that our children continue to benefit from the very best. 

We embrace those seeking to emulate the success of Rossall but would simply note that our success does not lie in this initiative or that initiative and nor is it solely due to the passion with which we communicate our ethos and values – our success is almost entirely attributable to our staff.  

Our heritage bestows upon us beautiful buildings and the resources necessary to provide young people with an outstanding education but without the right people in the right places, then none of this would be deliverable. Time and again, it is clear that whilst others are still working out how to reverse the car out of the garage, my colleagues have sped off down the highway and are wondering when or how to make the first pitstop. 

However, ultimately, it is our responsibility to ensure that Rossall remains the natural choice for those who wish for their children to be inspired and enthused within a community that is progressive, compassionate and creative. You cannot imitate that passion and vision, though it is reasonable enough to try! We might be trailblazers and we certainly have the courage to be different, but when all is said and done, that is missing the point. We excel because of the outstanding commitment of the people whom I am humbled to work with and proud to call my colleagues. That cannot be imitated no matter how hard one might try, and in any case, as Oscar Wilde would conclude:  ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken!”

Mr Jeremy Quartermain
Headmaster of Rossall School