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. For brief details please click here and for further information and reply slip click here. Please keep an eye on the school’s website: 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.

James Davies.



The St. Beghian Society,    St. Bees School,    St. Bees,    Cumbria,    CA27 0DS.
         Tel: (01946) 828093