SCHOOL NEWS ARCHIVE
From the Headmaster's Desk - July 2014:
After a Thanksgiving and Leavers’ service in the Priory, Speech Day continued with prize-giving in the sports hall.
The Headmaster’s address (slightly abridged) follows:
Pupils of St Bees School, Professor Sir James Underwood and Lady Underwood, Chairman of Governors, parents and friends.
There is no doubt that the greatest feature of St Bees School is not our wonderful location, nor our superb buildings, not the incredibly supportive parents prepared to make great sacrifices to send children here and not even the wonderfully dedicated staff but in fact our pupils. I always have and always will believe that at this very special school we have amazingly talented pupils. Along with all the other facts that I’ve just mentioned they join together to create this most spectacular thing known as the St Bees School community and that is what we come together to celebrate today.
We started this year with quite a bang as we received the examination results in August showing that our Upper Sixth pupils had managed to secure the most outstanding set of results for some significant time at the school. An eye-watering 43% of all A level examinations taken were awarded the top marks of A* or A. 95% of all examinations taken were awarded between an A* and a C grade. The result of these magnificent grades was that our leavers were confidently able to take up their places at many of the leading universities in this country and abroad. In fact the statistic that I am most proud of is that 95% of our pupils were successful in gaining entry to their first choice of university.
Mark Twain popularised the saying in ‘Chapters from My Autobiography’, “Figures often beguile me,” he wrote, “particularly when I have the arranging of them myself”; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Having been involved in the running of schools for several years now, I am incredibly cynical of the whole system of league tables and educational statistics. I feel they represent a very small picture of the achievements of our pupils and take into account no recognition of the pastoral care, extra-curricular opportunities and wider life-skills that schools like ours provide in abundance. The crux of the problem, as I see it, is that schools are such diverse and complex places that it simply isn't possible to reduce the good we do to a set of numbers. And even if the figures suggest one school is doing better than another, they offer no insight as to why.
However, whilst I absolutely stand by this view, when these statistics show you at the top of the league tables not only for Cumbria, but as the leading co-educational boarding school in the North-West, then maybe we can allow ourselves a chance to celebrate!
At GCSE we were again highly successful with a magnificent 100% pass rate and again 43% of our pupils securing grades of A* or A in their examinations. Later on in our proceedings we will have a chance to celebrate the achievements of three of our pupils, Dani Lewis, Amelia Tyson and James Brookes, who were successful in gaining a clean sweep of A* and A grades, achieving between them 26 A* and 10 A grades.
All of these outstanding results are a great tribute to the hard work and dedication of our pupils and their teachers and the families who have supported them during their time at St Bees School. Of course what these sorts of statistics don’t show are the many pupils at the school who achieve equally impressive results by scoring the much coveted C grade in a subject in which they have battled hard for two years. Many of our pupils were successful in gaining significantly higher results than they might have expected according to our baseline models and I am incredibly proud to celebrate all of their achievements.
At least during my tenure as Headmaster, St Bees School will never become an examination factory. Of course we will always strive to enable our pupils to maximise and often exceed their potential and achieve the best results possible, but we will do that within an environment where they are still able to take leading roles on the sports field, stage, concert hall, deep in mud on a CCF expedition, out on the fells and in supporting magnificent charitable projects both locally and internationally. As members of the St Bees community, I want our pupils to feel that they have access to a wide range of exciting opportunities both within and beyond the classroom, and to be able to share in the adventure of learning together with other likeminded people, talented and dedicated staff, supportive parents and a vast network of former pupils. This is a powerful combination and one which I believe is the key to success. In the words of John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
The St Bees journey begins now in our flourishing Prep department. It is a constant source of pleasure to see the youngest children in the school going about their business, using the facilities, comfortable in their surroundings and very much a part of the school community.
Whilst reading up on recent government changes to the work in our early years’ class, I decided to look for the word ‘fun’. To my delight the search engine reported it had found several hundred references, the only problem was each time I found the word fun it was closely followed by the word ‘ding’! But here at St Bees, our Prep Department know not only how to work hard but also how to have fun. Here are just a few highlights of the things which they have enjoyed this year:
Learned to play a musical instrument taster day with the Music Department.
They have watched the Whitehaven stage of cycling’s Tour of Britain - in the rain!
Had a visit from former Head Boy, Chris Sharman, to explain about his career as a vet.
Celebrated World Book Day by dressing up as their favourite character - lots of Harry Potter look-alikes!
Enjoyed a talk from the Owl Trust after which they discovered there are barn owls behind the Whitelaw building. Real owls in the Prep – just like Hogwarts! Then the highlight of the day as they examined owl poo to see what owls eat!
A magnificent Christmas Nativity Play.
The annual Christmas Crafts Event – glue and glitter, cutting and sticking. Fun for all the family. And Carol singing, too.
A visit to see the Mayor of Whitehaven.
A visit to Morgan Sindall's site in Whitehaven, where they are building new offices for Sellafield. In return they built the prep an outside hutch for Rory, the Prep Rabbit!
Baking activities with Madame Mouette – Mother's Day cupcakes and Father's day pizza-themed cookies.
Pancake tossing in the school grounds.
Art on the beach, PE on the beach, walks on the beach, ice cream on the beach. Any excuse to go to the beach!
A stunning music recital – where they showed off their instrument skills – piano, clarinet, guitar followed by some wonderful singing.
Sporting activities against other schools in the Copeland cluster – Football, Hockey, Tri Golf, Cross Country, gymnastics and netball.
Planting seeds as part of the Morrisons’ ‘Gardening for Schools’ initiative.
Then finally earlier this week, the annual two-day adventure training residential visit featuring ghyll scrambling, rock climbing, canoeing and some lovely nature walks.
This year has seen a number of exciting developments on the site. Over the course of last summer we completely renovated the Fox Music School and spent a considerable amount of money equipping it with new resources. We now have a state of the art Apple Mac computer studio, running recording and composition software, which enables our pupils to create their own music and to record their pieces.
Following the floods there was a great deal of damage caused to our Home Economics room; but every cloud has a silver lining, and again last summer, we were able to completely refit this facility and create a bright and welcoming place where under the expert guidance of Mrs Evans, our budding Jamie Olivers and Mary Berrys can create their culinary masterpieces.
I reported last year on the developments at Grindal House, and extensive work has been carried out to all four boarding houses over the course of this year to continue to provide our boarders with the best facilities possible. Due to a growing interest in boarding, this summer will see further work undertaken with additional bed spaces being added to Bega House.
Thanks to the artistic eye of Mr Midwood and the support of the Bursar, I’m delighted to say that we have made significant strides in brightening up the school with fresh colourful paintwork all around the site and what a difference it has made.
Outside the buildings we invested heavily in doing some serious work to help with the drainage of the Crease and I’m thrilled to say that for the most part this has been highly successful and combined with the care and attention of our ground staff led by David Lamb, our pitches have been in excellent condition. To complement this, we also decided that it was time to put some much needed effort into preserving our historic pavilion. Built in 1893 there was no doubt that it was showing its age, and through the care and expertise of our maintenance staff, we have been able to transform it back to its former glory. I am looking forward to welcoming Mrs Joan Lees, widow of distinguished former Headmaster, Geoffrey Lees, to officially open this fine facility in his name on Old St Beghians’ Day this September.
Another area of development this year has seen us actively engaging with a whole host of local junior schools organising special days to offer them a taste of life at St Bees School and offering our pupils a chance to show their amazing leadership credentials. The fact that attendance at our Open Days has shot through the roof, shows that there is real interest in the school as a serious choice for local parents. This year we had more people applying for entry into our First Form than we could accept, a position we haven’t been in for many years.
I’m also delighted that we have been engaging much more with the local community, getting involved and supporting local events. We are very fortunate to have excellent links with St Bees Priory and I am very grateful to the wardens for all their support in allowing us to use this magnificent building. The Chaplain was keen to appoint a ministry associate this year and it has been a real joy to welcome Mr Ben Shires to the staff, sharing a role between our two organisations and contributing enormously and with real energy to both. It was also a pleasure to be able to share in the service of confirmation earlier this year. One of the major schemes I am most proud of, is our association with Rosehill Theatre. Their Director, Richard Elder, has a great vision for Rosehill and through a creative partnership with the theatre as part of the ‘Rosehill on the Road’ programme we have been able to host two magnificent concerts here at the school and the Priory featuring world famous performers, Paul Lewis on the Piano and the Ellias String Quartet. This summer will also see us collaborating in bringing the National Youth Choir’s training Choir to St Bees for their summer residential featuring concerts from the Choir, Tenor Nicky Spence and the Crioch Quartet.
With advancements in technology, it has never been more important for us to ensure that we have the best IT facilities we can provide for our pupils. It is fair to say that we have a large task ahead of us as investment in this area has not really kept pace with change. However, I am delighted that the governors have agreed to a significant investment in IT over the forthcoming years. We have started with completely replacing the server systems in the school. A little like the engine in a car, you can’t see anything from the outside but you certainly notice the difference once you get started. This has been an enormous job and not without its fair share of difficulties. Despite meticulous planning, introducing twenty-first century technology to historic listed buildings was never going to be easy. I am very grateful to the staff, pupils and parents for their patience as we have undertaken this task. We have also managed to start a rolling replacement of computers throughout the site, giving our pupils much faster access to the variety of programs that they use every day. We continue to grapple with the issue of introducing wi-fi to the school and I’m delighted to report that this system is being launched today.
New and improved facilities are hugely important as we seek to develop and we are constantly looking at opportunities to benefit our pupils as funds allow. At the same time, we continue to work assiduously at what I think of as the fundamentals, the essential virtues if you like, of any school with aspirations to excellence, above all in teaching and learning. Over the last two years we have made significant developments in ensuring that we provide the best possible opportunities both inside and beyond the classroom for our pupils. You will have seen many new initiatives introduced as we seek to address the points raised in our inspection report. New policies and procedures have been implemented and there has been a great deal of change. I must, at this point, pay tribute to the staff for stepping up to the challenge of what has been a remarkable time of change for them. Winston Churchill said, “to improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often”. Well I’m not sure we’re perfect but I am hugely grateful to all my colleagues in embracing swift change as we have sought to take St Bees forward. I am fortunate to be able to work with people who are teachers of children not just of subjects. The art of being a teacher, and believe me it is an art form, risks being lost in a maze of narrowly focussed and misdirected political gimmicks, which Mr Gove tells us will drive up academic standards. I believe passionately that outstanding pastoral care has to be at the very heart of any school community. Mr Gove would have us label our children as learners, data sets or perhaps even mobile profit centres and I really do fear that we risk children losing their identity as individuals in a data-driven swamp.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a special day for many who will be leaving St Bees School either today or at the end of this term. Schools are places that never stand still but that doesn’t make the process of saying goodbye to pupils and staff we have known so well any easier.
I’d like to start with our Upper Sixth leavers. For many this is the end of a seven year journey and for others a much briefer two year one through St Bees School, and I know that I can honestly say that we will miss you just as much as I hope you will miss us. We have been truly blessed with a quite remarkable set of pupils in the Upper Sixth this year and they have led the school magnificently. Under the watchful eye and unflappable exterior calm of Thomas George and the encouraging and relentless cheerfulness of Julieanne Thompson, our Upper Sixth have set an extraordinarily high standard. I’m sure that all my colleagues on the staff would agree that it has been a privilege to work with them. It is testament to the mutual respect shared between the staff and pupils at the school that we were all able to enjoy some wonderfully inspirational end of year pranks as the Upper Sixth said farewell in style. I have to say as a Headmaster the last few days with any Upper Sixth are always filled with trepidation, what will they do, who will they upset, how will I ever calm the Bursar down when they……!
Well, 1,000 cups of water were removed from the corridors, 933 balloons from the PE centre, 500 metres of cling film was retrieved from various parts of the school, including the inevitable toilet seats, 38 chairs were removed from the temporary fort that was once the sixth form common room, twenty classroom and toilet name plates were returned to their rightful places in Foundation and eight posters of me as the newly appointed Professor Dumble-Davies were found around the school, as it had been transformed into “Hogwarts up North” complete with our very own dementors hanging out of the sixth form common room windows – causing much bemusement on the faces of a visiting local history group that afternoon; but not perhaps so much confusion as the sight of two goldfish who had to be rescued from the water coolers and one UKIP sign proudly displayed at the main entrance! At the end of the day we were still smiling and much fun was enjoyed by all, not least the Third and Fourth Form pupils who helped members of the SMT to fill the Sixth Form’s cars with the 933 balloons from the PE Centre!
As our leavers move on from here this afternoon I’d just like to ask you to keep in mind that your life must never be reduced to what is on your CV, or what job you have, or how much money you earn. Please don’t ever forget that the many opportunities that your parents, teachers and friends have laboured - and often sacrificed – to give you are nobody’s God-given right. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges you will face in this fast-paced world is not falling into the trap of taking things for granted. As you set out on your journey, I’d urge you to keep the words of the Irish writer, James Joyce, in mind. He referred to life’s ‘epiphanies’, those magical moments when you recognise just how rich and meaningful even the most unlikely experience can be. Whatever the results of the summer are, I am convinced that each and every one of you has a magnificent future ahead and I can assure you that all of us at St Bees School will be here for you.
Of course it is not just members of our Upper Sixth that are leaving; sadly this time of the year also sees us inevitably saying farewell to a number of members of staff. I am faced with the momentous task of wishing two Welsh giants of the St Bees Common Room all the best as they hang up their rugby boots and CCF uniform respectively and head for life at a slightly slower pace.
Huw Lewis joined St Bees School in 1989 from a large London comprehensive and there can be no doubting the influence he has had on literally thousands of young St Beghians. It is a little known fact that Huw was a former premier rugby player for Blackheath, competed as an international hurdler and indeed ran in the first London Marathon back in 1981. I suppose given that this was 33 years ago we can forgive him for the fact that he now chooses to cycle the incredibly long distance of 200 yards from the PE centre to the Common Room!
During his time at the school, Huw was the Housemaster of School House and took the role very seriously taking care, at one point, of no less than 92 boys from eleven different countries. He took it as a personal mission to introduce many of them to the mysterious game of rugby for the first time; his wife Chris remembers fondly many a young man from a far flung corner of the globe returning to the house cold and covered in mud thus affirming in their mind the fact that the Brits were indeed a crazy bunch. He has led many sports’ tours across continents from South Africa to Sri Lanka, Paris to Pontypridd and, when not leading the tours, he was often busy running the ever popular ski trips.
Huw took the then School House pantomime to new heights re-writing the scripts in order to find every opportunity to mention sheep. One thing that all his former charges remember is his early morning greeting of ‘Morning Boys! Glorious Day!!’ This cheerful early morning call didn’t always sit well with adolescent youths on a cold dark Cumbrian morning, but it is what they had inscribed on a commemorative plate when he stepped down from duties on house.
Huw was responsible, along with Hugh Turpin, for starting the tradition of Fringe Week at the school and giving us a time of wonderful music echoing around the corridors. One of his favourite phrases will continue to live on at the school, displayed proudly on the sports notice board for all to see - ‘Modesty in Victory, Dignity in Defeat’. In many respects, it is the values enshrined in these words that sum up Huw. His legacy to St Bees will be in having given to countless pupils a deep love for sport regardless of ability.
Moving on to fellow Welshman Jeff Evans, here is another long serving member of the common room. Jeff joined St Bees six years after Huw from Mill Hill School in London. Many of you will know that Mill Hill and St Bees have historic links going back to a time when Mill Hill were evacuated here during the Second World War. Indeed they had their field-centre close to here in the village of Dent, and it was on trips to the Western Lakes that Jeff fell in love with the area, writing in his letter of application to the then Headmaster that he felt he wasn’t really a ‘metropolitan type’. Prior to being at Mill Hill, Jeff had been Head of English at Radley College and Canford School. Writing in his reference for Jeff, the former warden of Radley commented, ‘I believe Mr Evans to be a very good all round schoolmaster whose wide range of talents would fit him well for the post of Head of Department at such a distinguished school as St Bees.’ Well as they say, the rest was history and Jeff has certainly lived up to and exceeded the sentiments expressed in his reference.
It would be true to say that Jeff has certain traditions and perhaps even some may say peculiarities and he is certainly a creature of habit, believing strongly that whatever the clock may say, it is never the afternoon until a gentleman has had his luncheon. Renowned for not holding back on his thoughts, Jeff is someone who calls a spade a spade or perhaps even a shovel! Jeff has worked closely with many colleagues in helping to present drama of an extremely high standard and this was evidenced earlier this year in producing a captivating performance of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. He is also not afraid to tread the boards himself and who could forget his performance last summer as the Priest in the Art of Coarse Acting?
Never happier than when out with the CCF, Jeff has worn his uniform proudly since 1976 when he was first commissioned whilst at Canford School. Sharing a love for the phrase, ‘You stupid boy’, Lt Col Evans would sometimes be referred to as St Bees own version of Captain Mainwaring. Jeff has been our Contingent Commander here since 2004 and has given countless numbers of cadets many wonderful opportunities. He was responsible for helping to introduce the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award into the CCF, and as we know, this is now a jewel in the school’s crown. In 2006 he was awarded the Platinum Award for Volunteers and this was followed by the Lord Lieutenant’s Certificate in 2008. He has trained and guided many staff through the intricacies of the CCF and led countless camps at various locations across the country. Unsurprisingly, Jeff’s leadership of the contingent was highly regarded during our most recent inspection by Air Commodore Quigley. Whilst he leaves the CCF in the incredibly capable hands of Linda Johnston as Contingent Commander, there is no doubt that we will certainly miss his presence on the parade ground and in the classroom.
I would like to record my thanks to both Huw and Jeff for such long and distinguished service to the school and would ask you to join me in wishing them well.
The Headmaster’s speech continued at length and can be read in its entirety by clicking here.
From the Headmaster's Desk - January 2014:
For those of you who have been able to join us at the school over the last few months, I hope you would agree that there is something of a buzz in the air. Over the summer we received notification of the best set of A Level results we have achieved in recent history. We were delighted to find that this had placed us as the highest achieving boarding school in the North West. This magnificent result is testament to the St Bees community of teachers, hardworking pupils and highly supportive parents and former pupils. I mention former pupils as there is no doubt that the support offered by members of the Society to the school in so many ways is an integral part of all that leads to such superb accolades. I am also delighted to be able to report that we have seen the school roll grow for the first time in a few years and we welcomed over ninety new pupils this September.
Many of you will have read about the recent news of the government’s deciding to promote the benefits of boarding. Well once again, St Bees has been ahead of the curve and I’m delighted to announce that our decision to offer weekly boarding places to a select number of day pupils has meant that all four boarding houses are full, and indeed we now have a waiting list for weekly boarding places.
Probably closer to the hearts of many members of the Society will be the welcome news that following extensive work on the Crease over the Summer holiday, we have been able to host a full set of fixtures back at the school this term and it has been a real pleasure to look out on a well-cared for rugby pitch rather than a boating lake! Following the flooding last year we have also seen a great deal of refurbishment going on around the site with a new Food Technology Area and significant improvements to the Fox Music school. The Bursar and his team have also been hard at work painting and decorating large areas of the site, all of which helps to make the place look so much better. A visiting old boy commented that it looked ‘loved’ again, I thought this was rather a wonderful way of expressing things. Many of you will know that Mr Nigel Halfpenny has been working as our Bursar since last December and I would like to thank him most sincerely for all his hard work over the last twelve months. There is no doubt that having a former pupil as a Bursar is a real advantage and I know all of those who have come into contact with Nigel comment on his absolute passion for the school.
We have welcomed a number of new staff and I am delighted to say that they are doing a magnificent job and making a dramatic impact on the quality of teaching and extra-curricular activities we offer to our pupils. Sadly there isn’t time to list them all here but it was a particular highlight to welcome back Amelia Warne (nee McWilliam) (G/L 88-95) as Head of Classics. It speaks so highly of all that St Bees stands for that a former Head Girl would want to come back and teach in her former school. Those who were able to attend the superb Newcastle Dinner had the opportunity to meet our new Deputy Head, Miss Alexia Taylor. Miss Taylor comes to St Bees with a background in raising the quality of teaching and learning in her previous schools and it has been a real pleasure to work with her in reviewing and enhancing what goes on in the classrooms here. In changing times it is also wonderful to have appointed our first ever female Deputy Head. You’ll be aware that there are a great deal of changes happening in education at the moment and it is inspiring to be able to work with someone as knowledgeable as Miss Taylor as we help to maintain and enhance the high quality of education we provide.
On Saturday 21st September we celebrated Old St Beghians’ Day and it was a real pleasure to be able to meet so many members of the Society and to hear about their memories of their time at school. The highlight of the day was of course the presence of Stuart Lancaster, the England rugby coach. I don’t think our rugby team will ever forget his inspirational words to them and it was fantastic to see such a large crowd of people supporting the day’s sporting events. That evening those of us who were able to secure tickets were treated to a spectacular black tie dinner. My thanks to all of those involved in making this evening such a success. Stuart was able to share with us a most entertaining and motivating speech on his journey from St Bees to becoming England’s coach. It was fantastic to hear him talk about the values that he learnt from his time here and how they have helped him as he has taken on this iconic role. As a consequence of the raffle and auction we were delighted to be able to award our three chosen charities with cheques to the value of £15,500. Representatives from the Calvert Trust, Cash for Kids and St Bees RNLI came to the school last week and Pam Rumney, David Milner and I were able to hear from them how they will use the funds generated by our dinner to support much needed charitable work in the local community. Thank you to everyone who gave prizes and to those who offered bids; I can assure you that your generous donations are being put to excellent use.
At the end of the last academic year I travelled out to Nigeria to discover what was happening in this newly emerging market for British boarding schools. I was struck by the tremendous warmth of welcome from the people that I met and how highly they valued all that a St Bees’ education meant. There is a great deal of competition for the best Nigerian pupils, not only from the UK but also from schools in America, Canada and Australia. However, I am confident that it will not be too long before we are once again able to welcome pupils here from Nigeria. I am very grateful for the support that has been offered by a number of members of the Society who are now working in Nigeria. There is no doubt that personal recommendations are invaluable in helping us to attract new pupils.
Last month saw Jane Hawley travelling out to Bulgaria to meet prospective families in what is becoming another new market for the school. I am delighted that we now have three Bulgarian pupils here and Jane has built a very personal link with these families who are now helping her to spread the word about St Bees. Whilst Jane was in Bulgaria, I travelled out to Moscow to meet current parents and to attend a fair for families who are interested in sending their children to the UK. We both then attended an event held in London where over the course of the weekend we were able to discuss the school with a whole host of agents from across the globe. Almost before the Christmas pudding goes cold, I will be flying off on New Years’ Eve to China and Hong Kong to meet parents and pupils along with agents and prospective pupils.
Closer to home we were delighted to have a record number of people attending our Autumn Open Day; there is no doubt that there is a great deal of interest within the local community. We will therefore be organising a series of further open events with a Sixth Form Information Evening on the 30th January, an Open Week from the 3rd-7th March and our summer Open Day on the 26th April. Continuing to promote the school both at home and overseas is a large part of my job and there is no doubt that when I meet with former pupils they are all very willing to help in anyway that they can. It would therefore be wonderful to build up a list of former pupils who are now working abroad so that we can put prospective pupils in touch with people who can tell them what the school did to help them. There is no doubt that such contacts are invaluable in helping us to attract the best pupils from abroad to come and study here. If you are able to help please could you send me an e-mail with your details to -
On a similar note I am very grateful to a small number of members of the Society who have been willing to organise and host social functions for friends, clients and colleagues who are interested in finding out more about us. These opportunities provide an opportunity for me to meet people in a smaller setting and to talk about the benefits of the school for their children. Again if this is something that any members feel they could help with, I would be delighted to hear from you.
St Bees School is on an exciting journey at the moment and my colleagues and I are fully committed to enabling St Bees to lead the way in the provision of independent education in West Cumbria and beyond. In order to do this we need the help and support of everyone in the St Bees’ family and I very much appreciate the personal support that has been shown to me by members of the Society since I took over my role. I look forward to meeting with you at various Society and school events over the next few months and in the meantime I would like to wish you and your families a very happy and peaceful New Year.
From the Headmaster's Desk - July 2013:
After a Thanksgiving and Leavers’ service in the Priory, Speech Day continued with prizegiving in the sports hall. A slightly edited version of the Headmaster’s speech follows:
“May I welcome Professor Anthony O’Hear as our distinguished guest of honour, Professor O’Hear is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Buckingham and served as the Head of the Department of Education. He has been a government special advisor on education under three administrations and has recently worked with Michael Gove on the new Initial Teacher Training standards. I am delighted that he has been able to join us and we look forward to hearing from him later in our proceedings.
As a young boy I am told that I returned from my first day at school and sat next to my mother and declared, ‘I’ve had a lovely day and enjoyed myself very much, thank you, but I’m not going back.’ On Tuesday, 18 September, less than three weeks into my time as the 32nd Headmaster of St Bees School and some 30 years later, I had that same feeling all over again! It was a lovely day, the first few days of Headship were going well and I bounced into my study to find my unflappable PA, Emma Graham, looking pale and decidedly uneasy. ‘What’s the matter?’ I enquired. ‘We’ve just had the call,’ she replied. ‘THE call?’ I looked bemused. ‘We’re being inspected in five days’ time!’ Shock is a funny old thing. I laughed nervously and then began to match my PA in my facial expressions. Ten days later and with about 30 hours of sleep, I finally waved goodbye to the six members of the inspection team; yes, that’s correct, five days and one inspector to every 40 children – but they say that what doesn’t kill you certainly makes you stronger!
Throughout this whole ordeal everybody pulled together. The pupils were as always, stunning, my colleagues worked tirelessly to prepare, and members of the support staff were magnificent. I was truly humbled to be in charge of such a wonderful group of people. I am delighted to say that when the report was published, it was very much our magnificent sense of community, something which pervades all aspects of St Bees, that shone through. I don’t want to re-live the whole experience again, but I do want to quote just a couple of sections of the report that we are particularly proud of: ‘The personal development of the pupils is excellent and they leave the school with a set of values and competences to serve them well in later life. Excellent pastoral care throughout the school ensures that pupils are well known, are looked after very well, and feel very secure and happy. Behaviour is excellent with the sense of community deeply engrained in the school.’
This sense of community was then further challenged six weeks later when we saw large areas of the school’s buildings and grounds flood. ‘They don’t call it the Lake District for nothing you know young man’ were those sound words of advice from a local as I ran down from my house in my wellingtons. For those of you who are not aware, I am a volunteer member of the RNLI and whatever I thought the connections between my life as Headmaster and lifeboatman were, I can assure you it was not finding myself in my dry suit up to my neck in muddy water trying to find a pump in one of the school basements; especially when a very perplexed member of the ground staff asked, a little too nonchalantly, ‘Have we turned the electric off yet?’
Every cloud has a silver lining though, and yet again it was the camaraderie of the pupils and staff that shone through as I took the historic decision to suspend lessons as the main buildings were now declared unsafe by the fire brigade. Pupils and staff pulled together as we made sure everyone was safe and accounted for.
The next morning as I walked into the staff room I was viewed with even greater suspicion than usual. Here was the man that had brought the school plagues of lice in the form of ISI inspectors, now floods, ‘When are the locusts due then Headmaster?’ was the question on everyone’s lips. I’m pleased to say that they never came. But what did follow and continues to follow are a whole series of wonderful achievements.
These started last August, with our current Lower Sixth Form and last year’s Upper Sixth Form recording another superb set of examination results. At A Level we had a pass rate of 99% with 66% of all grades being achieved at A*, A or B grades. Nine pupils achieved A or A* grades in all their subjects. At GCSE, our pupils achieved an outstanding 100% pass rate with over 43% of the examinations at the top A* and A grades. We are of course delighted by these magnificent achievements, but we must not forget the pupils for whom an A* is a million miles away from their experience but for whom achieving a pass after two years of hard work and dedication is a superb achievement. As I keep reminding the pupils here, all that we ask is that they try their best and if they can say that they have done this, they can be proud of themselves. Whilst I would never be so naïve as to suggest that results don’t matter, how many of you sitting out there today have ever been asked recently what you got in your GCSE’s or A Levels? What is of more concern is your capacity to think broadly and intelligently together with qualities of motivation, application, commitment, sensitivity, resilience, creativity and enterprise - talents which simply cannot be assessed in the examination room and which we as a school seek to nurture in each and every pupil. I am always therefore rather sceptical of league tables as I think they only show a very small part of the picture; nevertheless, coming in the top three schools within Cumbria at both GCSE and A level is quite an achievement, especially as unlike many of our competitors we are proud to have pupils with a wide range of abilities within our pupil body here at St Bees. A few weeks ago I was at a lecture from a futurologist who told us that 80% of the jobs that our current First Form pupils will do when they leave University in 2022 haven’t even been invented yet! So I ask you - what are we doing as teachers? Are exam results enough? And the simple answer in my opinion is, absolutely not.
We live in a fast-changing world, and producing more of the same knowledge and skills will simply not suffice to address the challenges of the future. A generation ago, teachers could expect that what they taught would last their students a lifetime. Today, because of rapid economic and social change, we have to prepare our pupils for a very different world where they will come across technologies that have not yet been invented and problems that we can’t yet foresee will undoubtedly arise. Think back thirty years: could educators then have predicted how the Internet, which emerged globally in 1994, or the mobile phone, which appeared a few years later, would change the world? These technologies have not just become tools of learning, but have facilitated networking and knowledge-sharing as well as innovation and entrepreneurship. I believe passionately that education today is much more about enabling our young people to develop ways of thinking which involve creative and critical approaches to problem-solving and decision-making. We need to equip them with the skills to be able to communicate well and to work collaboratively. They need to be able to recognise and exploit the potential of new technologies or, as I fear may well be the case, to know how to avoid the risks that some of them pose. As a school we need to enable our pupils to have the capacity to live life to the full by making the most of all the opportunities we offer. I believe that as we move St Bees forward into an exciting new future, our combination of small classes, dedicated teachers, ever-improving facilities and hard working and motivated pupils, is a very powerful recipe for success. At the core of our community is the fact that we value and actively encourage and support the needs of each individual as an individual and not just as another pupil. We listen to our pupils and respond to their needs.
I’d like to pay tribute at this point to our leavers. I can honestly say that they have been a most wonderful group of Sixth Form pupils. Nothing has ever been a problem, they have consistently risen to the challenge and have certainly kept me on my toes, I’m not sure I have yet recovered from their end of term prank where upon opening my hymn book in the Priory I found a photo-shopped image of my head on the body of a tattooed bikini clad woman, Mr Evans as a body builder, and I won’t even mention who they had turned Borat into. Amongst them they have led all areas of our school, from the rugby and hockey field, to the CCF parade, out on the golf course, organising the boarding houses, singing solos in the choir and probably most memorably of all, performing in the Christmas pantomime. I hope that each and every one of you will keep in touch with us here at school and come back and tell us what you have been doing. As you leave St Bees I can promise you that the school will never leave you and will always be here to support you for the rest of your lives.
At the other end of the spectrum, our small but beautifully formed Prep. Department continues to prosper. If ever you are having a bad day, I urge you to go into this department and see the real joy of learning taking place within the classrooms. Much has been made of the outdoor areas surrounding the school, and the sight of the Prep staff leading wellington-boot-clad children around the campus is sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face on even the most dreary Cumbrian morning. Early in the term the children were taken off on a bear hunt for the day, which then led to a Winnie the Pooh day last term, complete with a pooh-stick competition and lots of honey sandwiches for lunch. Father Christmas made a guest appearance at the Christmas craft fair and was quickly followed by the Easter bunny who had left eggs all around the site for our children to find. The Prep choir have performed magnificently on a number of occasions and the children have enjoyed a whole host of sporting challenges from swimming and cycling awards to learning the art of fencing. Here is a part of the school that truly never sleeps and my thanks go to the endless energy of my colleagues, Mr Sewill, Miss Sharman and Mr Pointon who are laying such strong foundations with our youngest pupils.
When I heard that I had been appointed Headmaster, people gave me all sorts of useful advice, ‘Never make a decision in the corridor,’ was very sound, but sadly half an hour too late; ‘Beware the first five members of staff who come into your study smiling.’ But perhaps the best and the one I hope I continue to live by, ‘Appoint good staff and encourage and support them.’ The opportunities St Bees School offers to our pupils are the consequence of the commitment of members of staff to giving generously of their expertise, time and talents in all areas of school life. I thank each one for their hard work, professionalism and support throughout the year.
The end of this term sees the retirement of two giants in the history of St Bees School. Mr Hugh Turpin started teaching at the school in September 1983. In his letter of application to the renowned Headmaster, Mr Malcolm Thyne, Hugh wrote – ‘I believe that through my musical ability and by using skills acquired in ten years of organising and developing music in the state system and elsewhere, I can create a department which will fulfil a dual role: to create and provide a healthy atmosphere of exploration and study and to present St Bees as a school which will attract pupils for its excellence in music, as it already does in other subjects.’ Well I don’t think that there can be anyone in this room who would not agree that over the last thirty years Hugh has managed to achieve this goal and so much more besides. Over the last few weeks we have been gathering together some moving tributes to Hugh from former pupils, colleagues and friends. One refers to the marking of Remembrance Day, which, as is traditional, includes a rendition of the Last Post. With no bugler amongst the pupil and staff body that year, a small issue presented itself; however, as the assembled company stood on the terrace, the dulcet strains of a brass instrument could be heard. Those with a musical ear had never quite heard anything like it. Hugh had recorded himself playing the last post on a euphonium and then simply sped up the play back speed – hey presto a bugle! The number of pupils who have passed through the Music Department during Hugh’s time en-route for Associated Board examinations must run into the thousands. However one incident stands out for the quality of Hugh’s stewarding during these events. Hugh had popped outside for some of his customary ‘fresh air’ and was standing on the steps outside Barony House. Suddenly a pupil who was helping with the stewarding was heard shouting, ‘Miss! Miss! Mr Turpin is on fire!’ Sure enough, his cigarette had somehow made contact with his jacket…I know that metaphorically and quite literally Hugh has truly kindled a fire for music in the hearts of so many past and present St Beghians.
Eleven years later, Hugh was joined by Jon Mellor, who started off as a temporary English teacher, rising to become Head of Drama a year later and then in 1997 joining his wife Wendy as Housemaster and Housemistress of Bega House for the next nine years. In addition to being a truly inspirational English teacher, Jon has also taught PSHE, been the President of the Staff Common Room and probably most notably led and developed our Drama department to be a real jewel in the St Bees’ crown. Described by a colleague of his as a Guardian- reading pinko liberal, Jon is never slow to take the opportunity to play up to his Times’ reading fellow members of Common Room and air his political views. Can you imagine therefore his horror when he learnt that his daughter Rowan actually enjoyed attending CCF! In searching for stories about Jon there were many. A particular favourite of mine was when, during a trip to Northern Cyprus, Jon’s artistic streak got the better of him. Mrs Malan and Mrs Mellor were busy enjoying themselves having dresses made. Having obviously spent too much time working in theatre and not to be outdone by the ladies, Jon went to the local tailors and had his very own white three piece suit made. Several weeks ago for his final Lonsdale House photograph Jon arrived at school sporting said suit, looking like a cross between Martin Bell and the Man from Delmonte. In recognition of his family’s long association with the school, I am delighted that Jon has been very generous in presenting a trophy. In his words, ‘It’s like me, small and squat and slightly skewwhiff!’ I would like to record my thanks to Jon for his sage advice and wisdom this year, and I know that I, along with everyone associated with St Bees School, will miss both Hugh and Jon a great deal.
It is always sad to see good staff move on, but a real pleasure to see them move up the career ladder to new and exciting challenges. We send our very best wishes and thanks to Becky Evans as she moves on to take up the position of Head of Mathematics at St John’s School in Leatherhead this September. Becky joined St Bees School after completing her teacher training in September 2002. After only a year Becky was determined to be more involved with school life and took on the role of Assistant Housemistress on Lonsdale House. Her patience and calm manner have enabled many pupils to grasp the complexities of mathematics and her care for the pupils and their welfare is evident on a daily basis. Outside her teaching and tutoring roles, Becky has been a leading member of the Common Room in offering a plethora of extra-curricular activities to our pupils. She has led the athletics and cross country programme at the school, travelling the length and breadth of the country inspiring many young athletes to do their best. It was therefore perhaps Becky’s combination of maths and sport that inspired her upper sixth form to create a giant human pyramid within her classroom that then managed to move menacingly towards her as she came through the door.
Never being slow to miss a trick, our pupils also found out that Miss Richards, as she then was, had taken something of a shine to the new Deputy Headmaster. Rather than leaving it to Dan to get down on one knee, a group of pupils decided to take matters into their own hands and to announce the news to the whole of Cumbria by placing a giant sign on the roof of the Chapel announcing to the world ‘Will you marry me?’ Such was the size of the sign that the local press then contacted the school wanting to run a story. Well, as you know by now, the answer was indeed ‘yes’ and it was perhaps inevitable but nevertheless a great shame that Mr Dan Evans has decided to follow Becky and relocate to the South. Dan joined St Bees in 2009 moving from Oundle School where he was Head of Chemistry and acting Head of Science and Technology. Throughout his time at St Bees, Dan has helped to lead the school in a wide variety of ways, addressing with great professionalism the needs of the pupils who passed through his care. It was therefore with this same care and attention to detail, obviously learnt from their teacher, that members of the upper sixth carefully packaged every single item within Dan’s study in brown paper. From the pens on his desk to the desk itself, they marked the front door ‘please forward to St Teresa’s, Effingham.’ St Teresa’s gain is most certainly St Bees’ loss and I would like to thank you, Dan, for all that you have done to support me in my first year of Headship.
In September 2008, Ms Alison Considine joined the staff as Head of Classics. Throughout her time at St Bees, Alison has insisted upon high standards and helped to develop a true love of the classics within her pupils. It is a testament to her hard work and enthusiasm that so many opt for Latin each year at both A Level and GCSE. Alongside this, Alison has also led our gifted and talented programme, offering our most able pupils a truly stimulating diet of extra activities and events. Alison has also been a wonderful tutor and I know that her fifth form tutor group was devastated to hear that she had been successful in her move to become Head of Department at the much larger, Talbot Heath School for Girls in Bournemouth. Sadly, as many of you will know, Alison was involved in a most distressing accident outside the school last term from which she is still recovering. We continue to send her our very best wishes for a speedy recovery and every success in her new role. I would also at this point like to pay tribute to Dr Tony Reeve, Alison’s predecessor and long-time friend of the school, who has leapt out of retirement to help take over Alison’s teaching commitments.
Sadly, Alison’s move has also led to her partner, Mr Simon Canon, deciding to move along with her. Simon joined the school in 2010 from a fantastically varied career that included work in the media, ten years as Head of Biology at Tiffin Girls School and at Brighton and Hove High School, and also a stint as an assistant brewer in a real ale company. I’m told that on the day of his interview Simon arrived in Whitehaven without his suit and so made a quick dash into town to get suited and booted. Finding a certain lack of Savile Row style establishments, he ended up parting with £99 in Burtons menswear and telling the assistant to ‘make him look smart’. It obviously worked! Simon’s quick wit and attention to detail have kept his pupils eager to hear more and I know that they will miss his engaging teaching style. Away from the laboratory, Simon has been a great supporter of the Music department, sharing his skills on the violin. In addition, he has also helped to lead many outward bound activities. We wish both Alison and Simon well as they move to the south coast.
The end of term also sees us saying farewell to a number of our assistants. Maria Cantero joined us as our Spanish Assistant and Philippe Kromwell as our French Assistant. Isabelle Cazals has done a wonderful job of taking care of our French pupils at the school in supporting them through the French CNED course of study as well as helping out on Lonsdale House. Miss Katarina Kuenberg joined us as a Fives coach and did a wonderful job of introducing our pupils to this unique game. Mr Norbert Lukacs joined us from Romania and has done a spectacular job in both the Sports department and as Assistant Housemaster of Grindal House. We wish all our leaving staff every success for their futures.
Dr Bob Young has also decided to step down as housemaster of Grindal House. Bob has been a dedicated and caring housemaster and I know that the young men on Grindal House have benefited a great deal from all that he has had to offer them. Dr Young will continue to lead our Chemistry department, and I am delighted to be able to announce today that Mr Stuart McNee will take over from Dr Young as housemaster of Grindal in September.
At the start of this year we were joined by a number of new staff. In the Prep Department, Mr Ian Pointon came to teach Prep One alongside Miss Katy Sharman, who joined us to teach Prep Two. Miss Maria d’Angelo made the long journey up from Brighton University, where she had been lecturing, to come and teach Spanish and French. Miss Natalie Cheers joined us from Nottingham University, where she had been lecturing in English for Academic Purposes. She teaches English both within the International Centre and the main school. Natalie is also involved in teaching Drama and assisting Jon Mellor with our productions as well as being Assistant Housemistress on Bega House. Finally, Miss Jennifer Carr joined us from Clitheroe Royal Grammar School to teach Geography and Art. I am looking forward to working with them all in the years to come.
In December, Mr Gordon Stokes resigned his position as Bursar and Clerk to the Governors. Although I only knew Gordon for a short period, I was extremely grateful for his help and advice when I took up my post. I know that he did an excellent job of considerably improving the school site and controlling the costs. He helped keep the school on a very sure footing. I am very grateful to Mr Nigel Halfpenny, who agreed to join us in January as locum Bursar whilst the Governing Body embarks on the considerable task of finding a new one. Nigel has been an enormous support to me and I would like to thank him for his incredible energy and vision as we work together to take St Bees forward.
Before I move away from the staff I would like to make a few more brief mentions. Firstly I must thank my colleagues on the SMT. There is a great deal of work that goes on behind the scenes and to Jane Malan, Jane Dyer, Jane Hawley, Dan Evans and Nigel Halfpenny I would like to record my gratitude for all their support. Everyone at St Bees School will have come across my PA Emma Graham. Her ability to put up with me and you, her wonderful sense of humour and amazing efficiency help to make all of our lives so much easier, thank you Emma. Finally I would like to acknowledge the work of the members of the support staff. We are truly fortunate here at St Bees to have a wonderful team of people who work tirelessly to enable the school to be successful. The ladies in the kitchen, our cleaners, ground staff, maintenance crew, accounts staff, matrons, admissions and marketing and secretarial staff are all essential members of the St Bees family and I thank them and all the teaching staff for the wonderful work that they do to make the school the strong community that it is.
There are three other groups of people of whom I would like to make mention. The Old St Beghians are a hugely supportive and wonderfully varied group of men and women who, though their devotion to their old school, work tirelessly to help and support us in all that we seek to do today. I have been truly privileged to meet a large number of ‘old’ boys and girls over the course of the year. Undoubtedly one of the highlights was being present as we unveiled the plaque in our Chapel commemorating the heroic actions of former St Bees School pupil, PC Bill Barker, who died so tragically in November 2009 in the Workington floods. It is a real honour for me to be able to welcome Bill’s youngest daughter Emma-Louise, who will join the school in our First Form next year. Probably one of my favourite moments with the OSBs, though, came when Rowan Atkinson paid his third visit to the school this year. At this point we should send our best wishes to Rowan on the news that Her Majesty the Queen has bestowed upon him the honour of a CBE in the Honours List published this morning. He is an incredibly modest man and I have enjoyed meeting him a great deal. He never wants to make a fuss and is always ready to support us in the work that we do. During his last visit he decided he would like to relive the memory of taking lunch in the Foundation dining hall. We went in early to join our Prep Department. As always, their manners were impeccable and Rowan decided he would like to say hello to them. One of our youngest pupils stared hard at him and said, ‘You look just like Mr Bean you know.’ Rowan wittily replied, ‘Well there could be a good reason for that.’ Turning to his friend, the pupil said, ‘No, he’s not Mr Bean. He doesn’t sound anything like him.’ I would like to record my thanks to the St Beghian Society for their encouragement and support during my first year, in particular to their President, Mr Anthony Wills, and Secretary and Treasurer, Mr David Lord. Headmasters are often nervous of their former pupil associations. I feel quite differently. For me it is wonderfully reassuring to know that we have such a body of committed people behind us and I look forward to working closely with the Society during the coming years. Another equally supportive and active group is our Family Association, led by Mrs Julie Cox and Mrs Julie Thompson. This group has worked tirelessly supporting the work of the school in everything from decorating Christmas trees to serving endless cups of tea and coffee at school functions. This September, I am delighted to announce, the Society and the Friends are working together to host another of our famous former pupils, as England Rugby Coach, Stuart Lancaster, joins us to host a Black Tie Dinner on the 21st September. Three hundred tickets for this event sold out almost overnight, and we look forward to using the event to raise valuable funds for the Calvert Trust, a local activity centre for the disabled, who have supported former pupil, Thomas Froggatt; also “Cash for Kids”, a charity which raises money for local young people who are suffering from abuse or neglect or who are disabled and have special needs; and our local St Bees’ lifeboat.
My final thanks are to the Governing Body. They are charged ultimately with the responsibility for the running of the school and I am very grateful to all the members of the board for their hard work and dedication.
Looking ahead, it is worth reflecting on the fact that a school such as ours cannot be, and is not, immune from the difficult financial situation facing both the UK and the global economy. However, we are rising to the challenge of running a successful boarding and day school in West Cumbria. I am passionate that the people of this area deserve the very best education, free from too much political interference, that enables us to offer young people the chance to acquire a love of learning and the skills to go out and become confident and successful in whatever career they chose to embark upon. I have met former pupils old and young, local and international, and I can tell you that they are truly impressive. Whatever it is that they have gone on to do they have done it equipped with all that a St Bees’ education has offered them, and they all feel that this school has provided them with the skills to achieve their ambitions. We will continue to monitor and improve what we offer our pupils as a school and I can promise you that our pupils and their needs are absolutely at the forefront of every decision I take as Headmaster. With the support of the Bursar it has therefore been a real pleasure for me to be able to take the decision to move our Learning Support Department from their previously cramped accommodation to newly refurbished rooms on the ground floor of Foundation. Making the most of the opportunity, we have renamed this area the Teaching and Learning Centre or TLC for short. This is a part of the school where pupils who need that little bit of extra help or encouragement can come and receive guidance and a place of quiet under the watchful eye of our outstanding Head of Learning Support, Mrs Sarah Ollis.
One of the features that attracted me to the school was the fact that we offered boarding. With each member of the school belonging to a house, we can offer a flexible approach to boarding which enables you, as busy parents, to attend to your commitments whilst we as the school do what we are good at, looking after children. This year we have invested just under half a million pounds in improving our boarding facilities, most notably in returning Grindal House to its former glory. Just to return one last time to the inspection report, they rated our boarding as ‘excellent’. In an attempt to provide a service to parents living in remote rural locations, I am delighted that the Governing Body has decided to introduce the Weekly Boarding Award, which allows us to offer boarding to pupils during the week, allowing them to concentrate on their work whilst their parents concentrate on working and then hopefully both parents and pupils can spend quality time together at the weekends. I hope that you will feel that you can talk to others that you know and to recommend to them what is on offer here at St Bees School. There are few schools with a finer setting anywhere in the UK or with a warmer community.
You’ve heard the Chairman remark that you will never lose your education, and as you only get one chance at it, we must give you the best chance. Whilst the prizes that we will award shortly are extremely important, and our farewells to those who are leaving us arguably even more important, I would say that the most important thing about Speech Day is that it offers us the opportunity to affirm who we are as a school and the values we hold dear. Above all, in helping us to cherish our sense of community and our unwavering commitment to strengthening it further.
I’d like to conclude with a few words of advice:
Look at the past, learn from the past, let go of the past, live for the present and look to the future.”
For up to date information about what has been happening at school please visit the school websitehttp://www.st-bees-school.org
From the Headmaster’s Desk - December 2012:
Fellow Heads told me that my first term would be something of a honeymoon and not to worry too much; I wish I could say that was true – what a term we have had! The crease has been flooded for the majority of the time due to the incessant rain. Those people who know about these things tell me that the water table has risen and hence there is very little that can be done to improve the situation for the present. That said, I am delighted to report that we at least managed to play our first proper game of rugby there this week for the annual School House v Grindal match, and many congratulations to the victorious School House.
On the weekend of the 14th and 15th of September I very much enjoyed taking part in the OSB celebrations. The dinner on the Friday was a wonderful experience and I particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to share your memories of the school. I still can’t quite get over the fact that we used to have a school glider! On the Saturday I was truly privileged to join with a packed chapel in listening to Mrs Hazel Barker recall the inspiring story of her husband, PC William ‘Bill’ Barker. At the close of the service Hazel and her family unveiled a plaque to commemorate Bill’s life and a tree was planted alongside the entrance to the school. These are a wonderful lasting memory to the heroic actions of this amazing St Beghian.
On the Tuesday of my third week I walked into my study to be greeted by a telephone call from the Independent Schools Inspectorate and informed that they were ringing to let me know that they would be sending a team of six inspectors to look into every area of school life and arriving the following week! Such inspections have two main purposes, the first is to check that we are complying with the mountain of regulatory compliance and the other is to report on a whole range of areas of school life, to identify what we are doing well and what we could do better. I am delighted to say that we passed all areas of our regulatory compliance checks and had a very favourable report on the school, with comments such as “The personal development of pupils is excellent and they leave the school with a set of values and competences to serve them well in later life...”; “Excellent pastoral care throughout the school ensures that pupils are well known, and looked after very well, and feel very secure and happy” and “Behaviour is excellent”. On a personal note it was gratifying to see that they had picked up a flavour of my three weeks of work, “Under the newly appointed Headmaster, the school already shows signs of significant improvement. A clear vision for the school has been communicated to all members of the school community”. Inevitably, there are of course areas where we need to improve and the main recommendations will see us looking closely at our curriculum, the way we record pupil progress, staff appraisal and the development of an outdoor learning space for our Prep children. Whilst the inspection week was a real challenge for the school community, it gave us a focus and brought us all very close together. The report has given us a framework to work with and we now look forward to continuing to improve the service that we offer to our pupils.
During half-term I was fortunate enough to travel to Berlin with Jane Hawley, my Registrar, to meet new and existing agents and parents and to tell them about the work of St Bees School. Jane also attended a fair in Bulgaria earlier in the term and we are travelling to Russia in March. In addition, I have plans to visit the Far East before the Easter break. Such visits are invaluable in helping to promote the work that St Bees School does and show how we offer a truly world class education to our pupils. We have moved the International Study Centre into the Whitelaw Building and the students are benefiting from the significantly improved facilities on offer to them. The recruitment of international students provides the school with wonderful diversity - we have some first class overseas students, who join us with a willingness to learn and an enthusiasm to take part in all aspects of school life.
In the coming months a vitally important part of my role will be the promotion of St Bees School – building up links with overseas contacts, hosting events here at school, visiting parents and partners to inform them of the rich benefits of a St Bees’ education and the inestimable value of joining a community such as ours. This is a vital part of my job and I would be most grateful for the help and support of any St Beghians who may have contacts at home or abroad in order to spread our message.
Returning from the trip to Germany, I was having lunch with some prospective parents when news came that the school was flooding. To my horror I discovered the main hallway underwater and over four feet of water pouring down from the main entrance. The Foundation basements were completely flooded as were the basement areas in Barony. Our pupils were amazing in their support and assistance in trying to keep the water out and away from the buildings. Unfortunately, at the point when the water reached the main power supplies, we had to take the decision to evacuate the building and call for the fire brigade. The fire engine from Egremont was soon at the scene and after three hours the worst of the water had been pumped out of the buildings. The clean-up operation lasted several days and, as usual, our wonderful support staff did a first class job.
Those who have visited the school this term cannot fail to notice the improvements being undertaken on Grindal House; this £250,000 project will see the exterior of the building restored to its former glory. In addition, there has been a great deal of work undertaken to repair the rear aspects of properties on Lonsdale Terrace and an extensive refurbishment programme for shower and toilet facilities on School House. Boarding at the school is flourishing at the moment and the move to make each of the four houses home to pupils from first to sixth Form has proved hugely popular with students and staff.
Sadly, other commitments precluded my attending the Scottish Dinner and Yorkshire Lunch this year, but I was very pleased to meet with the members of the Newcastle Branch last month for an excellent evening. In addition, it was also a real treat to be invited for lunch to join those competing in the Critchley Cup at Formby Golf Club on the 21st October. This was a splendid demonstration of old and young St Beghians coming together in a shared love of this flourishing school sport. I am delighted that the school and the St Beghian Society are able to work so closely together and I very much appreciate the support that has been offered to me by so many members of the Society since I took up my post.
I would also like to mention the St Bees Autumn Ball on Saturday 21st September at which Stuart Lancaster (FN/AC 80-88), Head Coach of the England Rugby Union team, will be present. Details below and on the enclosed form. Please keep an eye on the school’s website: www.st-bees-school.org for further information. The website is also a perfect way to keep in touch with all our news and events.
Finally, I hope that you and your families had a very happy Christmas and I wish you all a peaceful New Year.
News from the Marketing Office - January 2012:
We commenced the new school year in September 2011 with a change in personnel due to the departure of Helen Gascoyne at the end of the summer term. Jane Hawley, the school’s Registrar, has taken overall charge of the marketing and admissions function, ably assisted by Claire Armstrong, Marketing Officer, and Debbie Clarkson, Admissions Officer. Claire is a recent graduate in advertising from Chester University and has responsibility for the website, production of marketing materials and advertising, while Debbie, who moved over from the Bursar’s office at the end of the Christmas term, is responsible for visa compliance and admission enquiries into the school. In light of this move the marketing and admission team is now able to provide comprehensive administrative support to the ongoing work of the Development Committee.
Term commenced on the 6th September and we were delighted to welcome 21 new pupils into Form 1 (Year 7). They looked very smart in their new uniforms. In addition, our preparatory department has been given a “makeover” and it is very gratifying to see how proud they are of their new blazers and ties!
In October, we profited from the artistic skills of one of our current parents, Graham Jones, who kindly re-drew our school crest. At this time we made the decision to reintroduce the original school motto, which has quietly hung above the original Foundation doorway for over four hundred years - “Ingredere ut Proficias”. Three school buses can now be seen on the highways and byways of Cumbria sporting our smart new livery.
Graham Jones has also given us kind permission to sell prints of one of his original paintings depicting a summer cricket match on the crease, and money raised from the sale of the prints will be put towards the purchase of an electronic display screen for the school reception area. If you would like to view the print, you are most welcome to come and take a look at the display copy currently on show in our reception area, or alternatively contact Claire Armstrong
(Claire.email@example.com or telephone 00 44 (0) 1946 828012), who would be delighted to email you a version prior to purchase. We can supply backed, mounted or fully framed versions of the print.
Dates for your Diary:
The 11+ and 13+ entrance examinations are due to take place on Saturday the 25th of February 2012 and registrations are still being received. If you would like your child to be entered for the examinations or know of anyone who may be interested, please ring or email Debbie Clarkson on 00 44 (0) 1946 828013 or firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Our next school Open Day will be held on Monday the 7th of May 2012.
Proms on the Crease, our summer musical extravaganza, will take place on Saturday the 19th of May 2012 and further information will be published on the St. Beghian Society website in the new year. Alternatively please contact the marketing office on 00 44 (0) 1946 828012/13 for further information.
The date of the next biennial St. Bees School Ball has been moved from September 2012 and will now be held in May/June 2013. The date will be published on the St. Beghian Society website in due course.
Finally, you may be interested to know that we now have a Twitter page (@StBeesSchool) and a St. Bees School Facebook page. These have been created for your use to help you keep in touch with events and news at the school. The marketing office is proposing to re-introduce a termly Newsletter and if you would be interested in receiving a paper copy please let us know.
For up to date information about what has been happening at school please visit
the school website: www.st-bees-school.org.
From Helen Gascoyne, Marketing & Development Director - January 2011:
It has been another busy start to the year for the marketing team. Since the start of term in September, we have welcomed 76 new families into the Preparatory Department, Senior School and the International Centre.
International trips promoting St. Bees School have been undertaken to Korea, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Germany, and we have increased the capacity of the International Centre by opening a third classroom to cater for the increasing numbers of pupils who wish to come to St. Bees to improve their English language skills.
Our Music Department has been on the road showing pupils in local primary schools how to play an instrument, and we now have plans for our Science Department to do a ‘Wizz Bang’ workshop to encourage children to come to the school to study science and engineering.
The annual Charity Challenge event for primary schools was a great success with nine local schools attending to join in the fun. This year’s entrants had to undertake a Maths Challenge, then design and build a catapult out of Lego and elastic bands. The event raised £200, which was donated to the NSPCC.
This term has also seen Primary Headmasters/mistresses attending lunch with pupils who left their schools last year; a drinks’ reception for new parents and a formal dinner for members of the Nuclear community to see the opportunities which St. Bees School has to offer.
We are looking forward to showing some more families round the school prior to Christmas and to welcoming some new German pupils in January, along with others into the Prep Department.
Helen Gascoyne (Marketing & Development Director).
From the Head’s Desk November 2010:
I am writing this in the final week of November and surprisingly for St. Bees at this time of year, it is bitterly cold and there is snow on the ground. Although many of our neighbouring schools have been closed due to the weather conditions, we have remained open and all the non-resident teaching staff have made it into school to ensure lessons have been unaffected.
At the start of the academic year, we welcomed into the St. Bees School community our first group of four, five and six year olds with the establishment of a Reception/Key Stage 1 class in our Preparatory Department. The kitchen area on the ground floor of School House was converted over the summer holidays to provide an attractive classroom space for these young pupils opposite the already established two older classes in the Preparatory Department. My wife, whose teaching expertise has always been in this age group, was appointed to take the class. To compensate the boarders on School House for their loss of a cooking facility, the area always known as B-Dorm was gutted and refurbished, also over the summer holidays, to provide an additional recreational space for the boarders. As well as this, a new, fitted-kitchen area has been created equipped with kettles, toasters, microwaves, ovens and hobs, so that hot food, drinks and snacks can be prepared by the boys at those times when they are overcome by hunger on house! If the youngest pupil in the Preparatory Department, Oliver, spends his entire educational career at St. Bees, he will be sitting his A levels (or their equivalent) in 2024!
The Golf Academy continues to thrive and the area behind School House where the golf studio is located has been set out as a practice putting area. The school’s golfers are taking full advantage of our own 9-hole course as well as experiencing other renowned local courses such as those at Silloth and Seascale. The golf team has gone from strength-to-strength under the watchful eye of our PGA professional Stuart Hemmings and we were particularly pleased with its recent victory over Sedbergh in the summer term. The school is especially grateful for the support, both moral and financial, offered by the OSB Golf Society, which has enabled the development of the Golf Academy to advance very quickly over the past two years.
Now that both the junior boarding houses are based on Lonsdale Terrace, the future of Abbots Court is being discussed. The bursar is presently acting as guardian of the building by residing in the old HM’s accommodation and the various options for the building are being given serious consideration. It might provide facilities for a Pre-Prep Nursery offering childcare throughout the year or the base for short residential English courses which might be offered to overseas pupils throughout the year. No decisions have yet been taken.
However, we do hope to establish a Development Office in school in the very near future to promote good relationships between the school and its various stakeholders, which, of course, include the St. Beghian Society. We hope to work very closely with the OSB President, officers and committee to promote the work of the Society, particularly with regard to its support of the school. We already work closely with the OSB office as joint promoters of the biennial Autumn Ball and we hope that by utilising the resources of the Development Office, we can assist the Society to become even stronger.
Wishing you all a happy and prosperous New Year.