Letter From The Headmaster - July 2019
As we reach the end of another incredibly busy school year, I write to thank you all for your support for the College. As ever, the summer term is dominated by the public examinations; we hope and pray that all our pupils did justice to themselves and the work that they have put in over the years. After the exams finished it was so good to see the Year 11s and Upper Sixth return to the College with their parents for their thanksgiving services in the Chapel followed by the Year 11 Prom at Coombe Abbey and the Upper Sixth Leavers’ Ball at Warwick House; both of which were lovely celebrations in beautiful venues.
The year has again been packed with a range of activities, trips and expeditions. We know that residential trips make a huge impact on our students in so many areas and are often a highlight of the year. This year they have had so many opportunities with a total of 679 pupil days and nights on residential trips including: the South Coast Tour, the Holland Hockey exchange; the Year 7 trip to the Pioneer Centre; the Year 8 trip to Whitemoor Lakes; the Lower Sixth trip to Marle Hall; the Ski trip; the A-level Physics trip to CERN; the Cuenca Spanish exchange trip; the Geography trip to Sicily and the recent Year 8 trip to the World War One battlefields sites. Within the next few days we will have a party of almost 100 pupils and staff departing on the Senior Sports Tour to South Africa and 34 pupils and musicians visiting Vienna where the choir and orchestra will be performing at some stunning historical venues. We wish them well and hope that their experiences are rewarding, enjoyable and also open their eyes to new horizons and opportunities. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers and thank all the staff who give their precious holiday time to benefit the pupils. Of course, the planning for next year’s trips, which include the History Trip to Berlin and the Expedition to Malawi, are already well under way.
It was tremendous to see that within the past few weeks, despite the challenging weather, 166 pupils managed to get through the various Bronze (104), Silver (49) and Gold (13) Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. It was also lovely to see the pictures of the 21 strong group of Upper Sixth and recent Old Princethorpians together at Buckingham Palace receiving their Gold Medals. There is a large team of staff involved to thank, but special thanks must go to Will Bower for his leadership of this key pillar of our co-curricular programme. Thanks too must go to Greg Hunter for all his work ensuring we offer a wide range of educational trips that go smoothly, as well as his superb organisation of Activities Week, which is always a highlight of the year.
There is so much that goes on in school and I am sure you will all have your own personal highlights of the year. There are so many times when the pupils inspire us with their creativity, hard work and perseverance: the House Talent Show; Little Shop of Horrors; the Spring Music Concert; the Summer GCSE and A-level Art, Photography and Design Show; seeing the inspirational work produced for da Vinci projects and The Pinnacle; the Princethorpe Oscar Awards and of course the wide variety of sporting achievements and fixtures throughout the year. It’s hard to single-out individuals but some of the stand-out performances include: the U14 girls hockey unbeaten season, the U15 boys’ rugby team making the NatWest Vase quarter finals and having three cricket teams through to the Warwickshire finals this summer – with our U14s defeating Solihull on Wednesday to be crowned county champions.
The multitude of House events at all levels are also inspiring, giving each pupil the opportunity to contribute and represent their houses. The pinnacle of these events is of course the tremendous House Activity Day where every single member of the College is involved. With this year’s theme being ‘Whodunit?’, staff and pupils had nine amazing tasks to tackle including the ‘Escape Room’, ‘Forgery School’, ‘Police Academy’ and the ‘Pony Club Challenges’, all in all a really wonderful day. Huge thanks to all the House Activity Co-ordinators and prefects and particularly to Jess Newborough for her leadership of the House programme this year.
Some of the most memorable and special moments are when the whole school community comes together. This is often by giving both time and energy to some wonderful charitable causes and living out the ethos of the school by showing kindness, compassion and love for others. This has been another bumper year for projects and activities run with the sole aim of helping other people, not just by raising money but also by giving of time. We have had cake sales, ice-lolly sales, pancake races, 24 and 40 mile walks, non-uniform days, pink days, blue days, valentine’s flowers, car boot sales, visits to the Leamington night shelter, lunches and social events. Some of the charities we have been involved with are local, other are national or international. Mary’s Meals, CAFOD, Breast Cancer, UNICEF, Prostate and Testicular Cancer, Father Hudson’s Society, British Heart Foundation and Warwickshire Young Carers, our House Charity, have all benefited.
The money is still coming in, but the total raised by the Princethorpe Community so far this year is just over £21,000 which is a tremendous achievement and it is worth noting that over the past nine years we have raised over £90,000 for Mary’s Meals. The £16,792.95 (so far) raised this year will feed 1,208 children at the Makalanga School in Malawi every day for a year. Many thanks to all staff and pupils who have been involved in these events, but a special mention must go to Mary Benham, our Chaplain, who also co-ordinates our charity events and Rod Isaacs who leads our Youth SVP and Sixth Form community outreach programme.
We are always looking at ways we can improve and this year we have raised the profile of pupil voice with our College Councils and other feedback via questionnaires. The College Council has debated and discussed many relevant issues and I am delighted that improving our carbon footprint and environmental credentials are high on our agenda. The Council has also spent much time suggesting improvements to ‘Extended Day’ - the after-school homework club. From the start of the new academic year, Extended Day we be rebranded as ‘Princethorpe Prep’; it will take place in the Sixth Form Centre, food will be available and Sixth Form Prefects, Ambassadors and Scholars will be present to provide assistance to pupils as necessary. We will send further details before the start of next term. As you will know, earlier in the year all pupils gave detailed feedback to their teachers via on-line questionnaires which was invaluable feedback for our teachers. We will now be extending these surveys to cover other aspects of the school such as tutoring and the co-curricular programme.
As we move into the summer holidays our staff again will be working exceptionally hard to prepare for the new academic year. The teaching staff have a number of training days – and as I write all staff have just completed an extremely valuable day undertaking a First Aid Course run by the Red Cross. There is also a small army of estates and grounds staff who work all through the summer to complete the annual programme of maintenance, redecoration and refurbishment of our wonderful buildings and campus.
There are no major building projects this summer as we are focused on the new Science Centre, which we hope to open in 2022. This now has planning permission and is part of a long-term strategic vision for the campus which will benefit teaching and learning, not only by providing state-of-the-art Science facilities, but enabling us improve the accommodation for many other departments too. Art will get a new home, Geography, Business Studies and Economics will have space in the main building and we will be able to offer an additional stylish dining area for 120 pupils. This programme will cost in excess of £8m. There has been an excellent response as a result of the Vision for the Future presentation in March and we are very grateful to those who have made donations already, which will greatly help our ambition to deliver the project on time. Thank you for supporting us.
The Golden Jubilee year provided us with a marvellous opportunity to broaden access to the school, when we launched our 50 + 10 Bursary Fund, to provide a further ten additional full bursary places to pupils who would otherwise be unable to benefit from a Princethorpe education. As a result of generosity, we are well on the way to fully supporting two pupils through the school. An increasing number of families are choosing to support this fund by giving and I would like to reiterate my thanks to those whose contributions make such a difference.
Please consider a one-off gift or a regular gift to our campus improvement plan or to the Bursary Fund. We value all donations, small or large. The easiest way to donate is through the Virgin Money Giving link which can be found here on the College website under the ‘Support Us’ tab.
A school, of course, is only as good as its staff and we are tremendously fortunate to have such a large number of hard-working, caring and dedicated professionals; I would like to thank them again for all that they do for the pupils in so many ways.
As always, we have a number of staff changes for the new academic year. I would like to say a personal thank you to Greg Hunter who as you know, leaves to take up a Deputy Headship at King’s Canterbury, after six extremely successful years as a key member of the Senior Leadership Team, overseeing the enormous co-curricular and trips programme. We are delighted that he has earned this promotion, though his huge presence, kindness, irrepressible optimism, Aussie wit and good humour will be sorely missed.
It is a sign of the strength of the school that we have two other teachers leaving to take up Deputy Headships after tremendous service to the school. Chris McCullough, our longest-serving leaver with 22 years of outstanding service to the College and Kenny Owen who has spent 11 years with us, leave to take up their new roles at Kingsley and Arnold Lodge respectively – we wish them both well for the challenges ahead. As previously announced, Neil McCollin will be taking over from Greg Hunter as Acting Assistant Head (Co-Curricular), Louisa Fielding, who teaches Economics and Business Studies will become Head of Fisher, Adam Rickart, currently Head of Psychology and Sociology, takes charge of Austin. With Adam Rickart’s promotion, Fionnuala Schofield steps up to become Head of Psychology and Sociology.
In the Mathematics department, Tomi Owens and Will Uglow leave to take up positions in boarding schools: King’s Bruton and Rugby. Theo Scoutas, currently at Welbeck, and Leanne Gallagher, formerly at Uppingham, both join the department in September. We say thank you to Shirley Thomas and Steph Kent-Smith who have covered Christina Baxter’s and Davinya Munford’s maternity leave this year.
Cyp Vella now Heads up the Religious Studies Department after Spike Lane’s departure at Easter and we wish Alex Philpot well as she moves to become a Head of Year at Oasis Academy, Southampton. We look forward to welcoming back Megan O’Gorman (Old Princethorpian) and Nicola Jones, currently at Tudor Hall, into the department next term.
With three recent maternity covers in the MFL department and the phasing out of German, there are few changes. Suzy Ellis is leaving at the end of the year to take up a part-time position at Kings’ High. She is replaced by Sarah Duran, currently at Shrewsbury (Bangkok); Sarah will also take on the second in department role. Bérénice Galano and Kate Parsons return part-time from their maternity leaves in September, whilst Marianna Hunton departs to Arnold Lodge.
Catherine Gregg, currently part-time in Art and Textiles, leaves in September to take a full-time role as Head of Department at WMG Academy, from where our new recruit to the Design Technology Department, Tom Walton arrives.
In the Science department Dr Carlos Gane from Warwick School takes up the reins as Head of Physics, replacing Sarah Sephton who moves to Birmingham University to take up a role in teacher training. Digby Carrington Howell also departs from Science and we are delighted to welcome back Faye Roberts our Head of Biology, who returns after her one-year sabbatical where she has undertaken some amazing voluntary charity work overseas.
As you will be aware, we have a number of teaching assistants and language assistants who have helped out in a variety of ways round the College – in Chaplaincy, Food Technology, Games, Administration and Learning Support to name but a few. You will have seen them at parent interviews, tutor evenings and on the games fields and they play an essential role in oiling the parts of the school which many don’t see. Ben Haden, Charlie Bond, Aimée Brookes, and Miriam Isaacs have made a huge impact and we wish them all well in the next phase of their lives. Our new Teaching Assistants for September are Upper Sixth leavers Lily Dyble and Fleur Street. Our reciprocal arrangement with our MSC partner school Downlands in Toowoomba, Australia continues. Upper Sixth leavers Christie Wukics and Jasmine Rigg will be spending their gap year at Downlands and we will welcome two of their recent leavers in January 20120.
We thank all our leavers for all they have done at Princethorpe and wish them all well in their retirement or future careers. We will be sending details of any tutor changes to parents later in the summer. We also send out best wishes to Mike Turns and Adam Rickart who are both getting married over the summer and to Katharine Darwood-Bredin who will be going on maternity leave
For the summer holidays, we will cross our fingers that the England cricketers may finally win the Cricket World Cup and I say to all pupils ‘Carpe Diem’ – seize the day. Enjoy a good rest and break, but don’t let the time disappear without setting yourself some tangible goals for your free time.
I hope you and your families have a safe, happy and relaxing summer.