From Our President
Peter Lever (G 62-66)
To Old St Beghians wherever you are in the world.
I wish you all a prosperous New Year in the hope that the new decade will bring greater stability to world order and greater happiness to many.
My term of tenure as your President was extended by the AGM of the Society in September, this however will be my final year in office. For the next twelve months I will continue to strive to ensure that the school reopening project progresses and that the future of the Society is secure.
The new school at St Bees continues to develop slowly. Pupil numbers remain low but the enthusiasm from Full Circle Education, who are running the school, is undiminished. I am pleased to say that there is stability and a real sense of purpose developing within the school under its Headmaster, Roger Sinnett, along with a renewed urgency in the marketing of the Full Circle Fusion educational concept.
Old St Beghian Laurence Gribble is the Assistant Head and brings a wealth of knowledge of our school to the team and a refreshing sense of unflappable humour! All the staff at school deserve our full support in the difficult task they are undertaking and our congratulations to them on what they have achieved so far.
The summer holidays was a busy period for the school with over 250 children attending summer courses, including visiting Chinese students, who were resident in the fully refurbished School House.
The high spot of the year however has been the announcement by Full Circle that they will open two new St Bees Schools in China in 2020 in the cities of Shijiazhaung and Dongguan. When fully open these schools will have a combined capacity to educate over 2000 children and the St Bees School Charitable Trust will benefit financially from the Intellectual Property agreement negotiated with Full Circle for the use of the St Bees School name. Full Circle intend to open more schools in China in the foreseeable future.
As a Director of the Joint Venture, which is running the school, I can report that I have no doubt that Full Circle will continue to support the financial position of the school in St Bees. It is the cornerstone of their international marketing strategy.
Both the School Trust and the Old St Beghians’ Society have financial difficulties to resolve in 2020. The Charitable Trust is still in debt to Full Circle in respect of reopening costs. Raising money through the sale of Trust assets continues to present problems. The issue here for the Trust is that it does not have the financial resources to maintain old and empty buildings that are not required by the school for its current operations, hence Grindal House has been placed on the market.
The Society and the Guaranteed Trust Fund (GTF), which holds the majority of the OSB assets, who both supported the Trust financially during the period of closure are now themselves struggling financially. The costs associated with maintaining Lonsdale Terrace, now empty and no longer producing an income and not required as boarding accommodation, has had a big impact on the Society and GTF reserves. The consequences of all this is that the Terrace was put on the market in the summer after the completion of certain works to comply with a change of use planning application. The sale of these properties will have a significant bearing on the direction of the Society financially, particularly in the short to medium term. David Lord, our Treasurer, will keep you advised on developments through the year.
The financial, managerial and social complexities of the regeneration of the school have taken a huge amount of time and effort from a very dedicated team of people and they are to be commended on their stamina and determination. Especially I would wish to mention Mark George, Chairman of the Trustees, the Head Master, Roger Sinnett, the Assistant Head and Old St Beghian, Laurence Gribble, and the small team of maintenance staff at school, under the leadership of Sandy Rogers, who have magnificently held the fabric of the school together.
I must also commend the Pioneer Students at St Bees, now in their second year of education. They provide the ‘pulse’ for the school; they are a very cheerful group of youngsters who have bonded into a great team in all that they do. They should be very proud of their accomplishments in their ground-breaking role.
I express my thanks to the officers of the Society for their hard work during the year, Pam Rumney, David Lord and Tony Reeve. Without their significant contributions our Society would not have survived the school’s predicament.
Also I wish to thank all those stalwart OSBs who are regular attenders at Society events, which invariably produce memorable moments. If you have not attended an OSB event in recent years, then make a point of doing so this year to mark the start of the new decade.
‘Your Alma Mater Needs You’!
Peter G. Lever