From the Headmaster:
Since the last Bulletin, it has been a real pleasure once again to spend time with members of the Society at a whole variety of events and dinners. This has enabled me both to talk about the exciting events at the school and to express my pride in informing members of how well our current pupils are performing.
Over the summer we achieved another outstanding set of examination results both at A Level and GCSE where virtually half of all examinations taken were graded at A* or A, a truly amazing achievement especially when you bear in mind the fact that the school does not have a selective intake. All of this is, of course, due to the support offered by all members of the community from teachers to parents and from pupils to former pupils. The support our current pupils receive from members of the Society is invaluable; it includes careers’ advice and help with mock interviews for university applications, to name but two.
September saw a very positive start to the year with the highest number of pupils on the roll for some time, and we finally managed to rise above the 300 hurdle. This magnificent achievement has again been down to the hard work of many different parties and I continue to be grateful for the support given to us by former pupils both locally and internationally. It has been wonderful to welcome a truly diverse range of international pupils to the school, including several from new (for us) countries such as Nigeria, India, Georgia and Romania. As well as expanding the roll we have dramatically increased the numbers of pupils boarding, and this has led to some exciting developments in the Houses.
Last year saw the completion of the external works on Grindal House and this year we have set about internal improvements, with new bedroom furniture and carpets to bring the House up to a very high standard of accommodation. Across on Lonsdale Terrace, the increase in numbers has meant that we have expanded Bega House to include No. 9 Lonsdale Terrace and in so doing, developed a fantastic new set of bedrooms and bathrooms much to the delight of the Bega girls. Lonsdale House has also been further upgraded with new kitchen facilities and fresh carpeting in the main areas. Finally, over on School House, the expansion in pupil numbers meant that we had to relocate the Medical Department and use this area for three new bedrooms and a bathroom. In addition, further new furniture has been added to many of the bedrooms in the House. As you can imagine, pupils are delighted with the new facilities. If you are visiting the school, do come and have a look around the Houses – I am not sure you would recognise some of them.
As well as relocating the Medical Department in the main Foundation Building, the increase in pupil numbers, particularly in the Sixth Form, has also meant the development of a new mathematics classroom in Foundation.
Away from the boarding houses, we have been investing heavily in upgrading our IT provision. Having a reliable and speedy IT service is essential and I am delighted that we have been able to upgrade our facilities in order to provide staff and pupils with a much more reliable system. We are now committed to rolling out the provision of wifi access across the site. Last year we completed the provision of wifi in the boarding houses and our next step will be to extend this to the main teaching areas. Staying with technology for a moment, we have also managed to install two LCD screens into the Sports Hall and the Pavilion, alongside exciting new iPad technology that enables our sports staff to demonstrate live video feed of coaching points along with a host of other applications. I am very grateful to the St Beghian Society 100 club for the funds to support this project. It is certainly helping to enhance our level of sports’ coaching across the school. On a similar note, we were delighted to receive help from the Golf Foundation to enable us to improve further the facilities in our golf studio with the installation of the latest GC2 equipment. Golf continues to go from strength-to-strength here with several notable victories over much larger schools and excellent individual successes amongst our pupil golfers, many of whom thoroughly enjoyed their rounds with members of the Society on OSB Day.
Following extensive developments in the Fox music school last year, I am pleased to say that our musicians are really flourishing. During the floods the Chapel organ was fatally flooded and the cost of repair far outweighed the value of the instrument. We were therefore grateful to our insurers for their help in replacing it with a new digital instrument that offers a wonderful accompanying and teaching instrument for the chapel. As always, the cost of such replacements is never fully met, and I am very grateful to Mr George Robson for his incredibly generous gift that enabled us to go ahead with the purchase of a new instrument in time for its dedication on OSB day. The versatility of this was seen with some quiet accompanying of the chamber choir alongside rousing hymns and a rather deafening final postlude! At the same service we were delighted to also have the opportunity to dedicate formally a new altar cloth complete with a beautifully embroidered dedication in memory of Tony Cotes. I am very grateful to Elizabeth for her support in helping us to purchase such a beautiful gift in memory of her late husband and much admired member of St Bees School staff. During this service we were also delighted to welcome back the Revd Canon Dr Andrew Todd as our preacher.
Whilst we all very much enjoyed the chapel service and other sporting events on OSB Day, there is no doubt that the highlight for many was the naming of the restored pavilion. When I arrived at St Bees School one of the first sights I saw was the pavilion, but sadly it looked rather sorry for itself. The original pavilion dates back to 1893 and it has served us extremely well. However, there was no doubt that the woodwork was rather aged in places and on those occasional windy days in St Bees it did seem to move a little too much for my liking! I am therefore grateful to the Bursar and our in-house joinery staff for their help in rebuilding large sections in keeping with the original design and then restoring all the glazing and paint work. We even took the opportunity to install electricity, meaning it can now be used throughout the year as a base for any sporting activities on the Crease.
At about the same time I took over as Headmaster, we were informed of the sad news that a former Head, Mr Geoffrey Lees, had sadly passed away. Many members of the Society were keen to mark the significant contribution that Geoffrey made to the school during his time as Headmaster and also to mark the work done, very much behind the scenes, by his wife Joan. In conversation with members of the Society it became clear that one of Geoffrey’s abiding passions was cricket, and therefore it seemed entirely fitting that we should record our gratitude to both Geoffrey and Joan by naming the restored pavilion, the Lees Pavilion. I was thrilled when Joan agreed to make the long journey from Brighton to join us for OSB Day to open the pavilion officially and unveil a plaque to mark the occasion. The whole event was most enjoyable and I was privileged to spend a lovely afternoon in her company along with David and Geraldine Elston, who had been a great help in organising the occasion. There was no doubt that the love Geoffrey and Joan held for St Bees was behind all they did for the school and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing stories of their time here. It is days like this when you realise what a magnificent community St Bees School had, and continues to have, and how fortunate are those of us who spend time here.
We continue to work incredibly hard to explain to people just what a difference an education at St Bees School can make to their children and I am grateful for the support of so many members of the Society in assisting with this task. There is no doubt that the effects of the recession are still very much being felt locally and the current difficult overseas financial situation is not helping our recruitment, and yet we continue to do our best and fly the flag for the school. We had excellent numbers of visitors once again at our Autumn Open Day and we are looking forward to a Sixth Form Information Evening on the 27th January at 6.30pm; our Welcome Day for prospective new pupils on the 7th February; followed by our Summer Open Day on the 25th April at 10am. I would be most grateful if members of the Society could pass these dates to any contacts who may be interested. I am always happy to meet and welcome those who would like to look around at any time. I know many members of the Society are following the activities of the school on our Facebook and Twitter pages and we look forward to the new website early in the New Year at: www.stbeesschool.co.uk If you have any further suggestions for marketing the school please do feel free to contact the Admissions and Marketing office on: firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been a pleasure once again to meet many of you at various dinners around the country and I was sorry that on two occasions my visits to other events precluded my attending. One area that has proved successful is small gatherings where former pupils bring together friends who have school-age children, and I am always happy to come along and speak about what we can offer. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who would be willing to host such an event.
With the support of the OSBs, the future of the school continues to be an exciting one and I can assure you that all of us here are committed to providing the very best of educational experiences to the young people in our care. There is no doubt many members of the Society truly recognise the pivotal role played by their school days in their later successes and I hope that with your support we will be able to continue to do this for many more years to come.
I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible over the course of the coming year and, in the meantime, I would like to wish you and your families a very happy and peaceful New Year.