Dear Parents and Guardians,
I should like to extend the warmest welcome to you all for the start of the new academic year. We were delighted to welcome our families back, and in particular all those joining us for the first time. Our new girls and boys have settled in extremely well and are already making an exciting contribution to the life of the school. On behalf of us all, we welcome you to the community and hope you will be extremely happy here.
The start of the year is always a thrilling time, and whilst out and about during lessons, break times and lunch, it has been fun hearing tales of the holidays and catching up with the children. Listening to some of the conversations struck up during the early days of term is indeed enlightening – not once have I heard children passionately discussing time spent watching movies, gaming or engaged in social media. How lovely to see the perseveration of true childhood captured here. This reminds me of an editorial in The Times a while ago:
Tech billionaire parenting
“Melinda Gates’ children don’t have smartphones and only use a computer in the kitchen. Her husband Bill spends hours in his office reading books while everyone else is refreshing their homepage. The most sought-after private school in Silicon Valley, the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, ban electronic devices for under-11s and teaches the children of eBay, Apple, Uber and Google Staff to make go-karts, knit and cook. Mark Zuckerberg wants his daughters to read Dr Seuss and play outside rather than use Messenger Kids. Steve Jobs strictly limited his children’s use of technology at home. It’s astonishing if you think about it: the more money you make out of the tech industry, the more you appear to shield your family from its effects”
How very apposite…
As Arts subjects are under threat within the UK education system, we are delighted to see our Music, Art, Drama and Design thriving at St George’s. This was evident when our outstanding LAMDA results came through in August. All our candidates were awarded extremely high results. This is testament to Mr Adam Jennings, but also indicative of our focus on the Performing and Visual Arts, and my warmest congratulations to all the children. Higher numbers than ever are taking part in LAMDA, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to consider signing up your son / daughter, space permitting.
Lions of Windsor Press Launch – July
Following the very kind donation of a lion to accompany our cub, each child contributed to our design for this year’s ‘Lions of Windsor’ fundraising initiative. We were thrilled and honoured to be asked to host the press launch where our gardens became a scene from ‘Lion King’ as a great pride of lions and cubs were presented. It was a wonderful day and our thanks to the pupils who were involved.
QED Summer School
For two weeks in August, St George’s was home to the inaugural QED Summer School, a language and high-level music course for students from China. It was a great success and we look forward to working with QED on future projects.
The Summer Holidays provide an opportunity for our teams to work on our facilities and grounds, and my thanks to Katie Chorley and her team for all they have done during the last eight weeks to prepare for the new year. Especially exciting was the completion and handing over of our new pavilion in Home Park Private. It has been finished to an exceptionally high standard and will be used and enjoyed by us all. A formal opening will be held towards the end of term, and further details of this will be sent out as soon as we can. In addition to the ongoing refurbishment of our changing facilities and boarding houses, you will have seen our new signage and screens around the school. I am immensely grateful to the Parents Group for funding our screens which will be showing positive messaging, the all-important birthday greetings and other messaging for our community.
We are currently planning to re-surface the sports area in the playground, and I hope to bring you more news as soon as we have given the go ahead to our contractors to complete this.
My colleagues and I came together before term started for two days of INSET training, which included ‘Inspire Maths’ training, poolside rescue, various statutory updates and important safeguarding refreshers, and an introduction to ‘MindUP’ for our Prep School teachers. Following its highly successful launch in the Pre-Prep last year, we are all absolutely thrilled to be bringing this integrated approach across the school. Following the introduction to staff, we held our launch day on Friday with presentations, activities and an introduction to the ‘brain breaks’.
I won’t reiterate what Louise Squire has written in her letter to parents last week, but suffice to say we feel this is going to be a hugely exciting journey for us as a school.
I do hope you have had a chance to look through the calendar for the term. You will note many events, activities and opportunities for the school community, and we look forward to seeing you at as many of these as your own diaries allow.
A new academic year affords me the opportunity to outline our ethos and vision for the year ahead, and during our staff meetings last week and first assembly of term, I set this out. St George’s is such a special community, and it has always struck Catherine and me how immensely supportive of one another all constituents are, and how mutual fellowship acts as such a vital driving force within the school.
Celebrating individual success, setting your own targets and developing an independence of mind and action is crucial, but no more than working together, celebrating group triumphs and being a force for good for others. You may remember, just over a year ago, the extraordinary rescue of the 12 boys and their coach trapped in a cave in Thailand. As I watched this unfold, I reflected on what must have been so utterly terrifying for them on an individual level. The camaraderie, maturity and support they gave each other through the toughest of times was an example to us all; the support and fellowship afforded to their coach portrayed humility at its very best; and the courage, teamwork and shared force for good from the international team of rescuers demonstrates the power and success that teamwork brings. As Martin Luther King said: “We are bound together by a single garment of destiny”.
Our theme for this year doesn’t necessitate great change here, moreover it allows us to celebrate what already exists at St George’s as we now deliver our strategic intentions I had the pleasure to outline at the end of last term: coming together is the beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. It is in this spirit that we are now in the planning stages to launch the ‘Pre-Senior Baccalaureate’, and I shall be updating you on the progress of this planning and our training as a staff as we go.
I am delighted to welcome the following new members of staff who join St George’s this term:
Claire Hawkins is our new part time Art Teacher teaching Years 4 to 6 and working alongside Louise Squire. Claire has been a teacher at Lochinver House Preparatory School, Hertfordshire where she was Head of Art and DT. A graduate of Middlesex University, Claire has established herself as an experienced and progressive teacher and also finds time to continue her own love of Art.
Jennifer Hegarty, as Year 1 parents will know from Mrs Adriano, will be covering Mrs Edwards’ Year 1 class while she is on maternity leave. Jennifer has expansive experience primarily in primary education most recently at Hall Grove School where she was also a Year 1 Class Teacher.
Clare Holbrook joins us as a SEN Tutor from St Bernadette Catholic Primary School, Middlesex where she has worked in a similar capacity. Clare, a qualified PE and Science Teacher (Liverpool), has taught at Watford Grammar School for Girls and The Queen’s School Bushey.
Emily Ralfe joins us as Year 4 Class Teacher from St Teresa’s Prep School Effingham. A graduate of Durham University (Geography), Emily undertook a PGCE at Exeter University before embarking on her teaching career at Bassett House School where she was awarded a prestigious Geography teaching award and also ran the Eco Council.
Dorothy Scambler has joined the Year 4 team as a Teaching Assistant with a teaching qualification from the University of Bedfordshire. Dorothy has experience in a number of schools, most recently at Millbrook Combined School, High Wycombe where she had a similar role.
Having been with us in the Summer term as a part time Girls’ Games coach, Lisa Wayman will be joining the team on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as a specialist Girls’ Games Coach. Alongside her role as coach to the Elite One squad at the Berkshire Satellite Academy, she coaches Netball to the Eagles Netball Club and the Surrey Storm under 17 squad. She has also coached at Bradfield, Marist and Hall Grove Prep School and has played Netball to a very high standard.
I cannot remember starting a new year surrounded by such a positive and uplifting atmosphere. There is a sense of excitement, ambition and collective pride, and together we can look forward to a wonderful year, where the joy, wonder and enchantment of our school can be pronounced stronger than before.
It is my wish that every child goes home in the evening with memorable experiences, the best and happiest can last a lifetime. Through good times and tough times, the spirit of togetherness will see us all as individuals, and collectively as a school, grow stronger. I quoted Jim Ryan, President of the University of Virginia, to the staff last week. In his inauguration address, he ended by saying:
“This is the place where our aspirations and realities finally intersect. I know that many of you, so many of you, would like to get there as well, and I look forward to our imperfect journey together”.
With very best wishes,
P.S. I am so grateful to all those who have sponsored our 'Heads Up Challenge'. With a group of 20 other Prep School Heads, I completed a challenge in Pembrokeshire (3 mile sea kayak; 50 mile bike ride; 12 mile walk) at the end of August to raise money for ‘Place2Be’, a leading and vital Children’s Mental Health Charity. We have raised over £88,000 and have a target of £100,000. If you wish to support us, please do so on the following link: