From Our President
Peter Lever (G 62-66)
This will be my last contribution to the Bulletin as President. My two years in office have passed very quickly but with age the speed at which time passes seems to accelerate!
I have been at the helm of the Society during a 'tricky passage of time', but I have had the privilege of seeing the school 'rise from the ashes'. The process of regenerating the school is only partially complete at this stage, 'but from small acorns mighty oaks grow'.
The St Bees School Charitable Trust is currently renegotiating its partnering agreement with the Full Circle Education Group; this will result in Full Circle taking 100% of the equity in the Joint Venture Company and full total control of both education and capital costs associated with the continued refurbishment of the school estate. The Trust is granting Full Circle an operating licence to run the school on a reporting basis, ensuring that the school is run in a manner compliant with the Trust's charitable status and historical educational standards and goals. The agreement will release the Trust from further significant financial demands.
The Trust will however continue to support fully the reestablishment of the school, financially, in what ever way it can as financial resources become available to it.
I have never doubted that the Full Circle Education Group was the right partner for the School Trust. The catalyst of Laurence Gribble, an OSB, with his close friend Danny Wang, CEO of the Full Circle Group, has ensured that the project of reopening the school has remained on course despite significant headwinds.
As I compose this report I have just been informed that the Home Office has granted the school a Tier 4 Licence, which will enable it to offer full time boarding courses to foreign students. This development is highly significant for the future of the school. I really do believe that with the recent appointment of Roger Sinnett as Headmaster, who has previously worked for Full Circle, a man who has drive and passion along with commercial and communication skills, combined with current developments, we will now see the school rapidly come back to life. This will not perhaps be as we remember St Bees School, but it will be an innovative and diverse educational establishment focusing on a 'fusion' style of education, where 'the best of east meets the best of west', offering children with varying abilities the chance to prepare themselves for work in an international workplace offering significantly different job opportunities than those that exist today.
As OSBs we owe Laurence Gribble a great debt of gratitude and I wish him the greatest success as a senior member of the Full Circle management team in developing their international educational business.
Full Circle will open their first St Bees School in China, in the Beijing region, in September 2020 with a capacity to educate over 2000 pupils. This will be in addition to their Language schools and Summer schools in the U.K, their charity school in Cambodia and their established school in Shenzhen. A number of kindergarten schools in China is also planned. St Bees School’s 'name' will be their branding, with the St Bees School Charitable Trust benefitting financially from an intellectual property licence agreement.
I would remind all OSBs that the preservation and advancement of our Society are matters of paramount importance to us all. Not only for the benefit of the new school, but for us all individually. The Society provides the point of commonality to our pasts and affords the opportunity to catch up with lost friends and to share St Bees' experiences. The single most rewarding aspect of being your President has been reengaging with old friends and renewing past relationships. With age we become more equal and the years mellow attitudes. Going back brings sadness as well as joy of course, discovering that a close school friend is no longer with us or is not coping with life’s problems makes you appreciate your own good fortune the more, whatever your age or your personal situation.
The Society is currently faced with its own financial problems due to declining financial reserves from supporting the St Bees Charitable Trust over an extended period, while in receipt of a declining income stream. It is hoped that the sale of properties on Lonsdale Terrace, owned by the OSBs within the Guaranteed Trust Fund, will rectify this position in due course.
If not there may be a need to raise Society funds through the membership.
My father had a great affinity with St Bees. He loved being in the village while my brother and I were at school, so much so that he bought a house there. Perhaps this was the reason I came back to school after fifty years to ensure that I fulfilled his dream.
However I do feel that in my roles as President of the OSBS, a Trustee of the school and a Director of the Joint Venture Company I have put something back into the school, which despite my misgivings at being there as a boy, significantly shaped my life!
I wish to thank all OSBs, the OSB Committee, the OSB office and OSB regional Secretaries for the support that they have given me over the past two years and particularly to Dacre Watson, my predecessor in this office, who has looked after me like a son!