Parents' Day Speech, Friday 6 July 2012
July 09, 2012
Headmaster’s Speech 6 July 2012
We are extremely grateful to the School Visitor, Charles Mitchell-Innes, for delivering our address in Chapel this morning. Charles was the leading school Chaplain of his generation and his wisdom today, and understanding of this extraordinary school, is a privilege to witness. We are extremely lucky to have his calm support and influence, and I know that the Chaplain and other members of the school community have greatly appreciated all he has done for them during his time as a Governor and latterly as Visitor.
Behind every supposedly successful man there is a woman who has collapsed in shock, being attended to by medics who are administering a defibrillator and oxygen. I start with a thank you to my wife. I’m not one for huge public displays of affection, but I’m in awe of someone who is so committed to the school, dedicated to the staff, determined to host and look after guests so well, cook meals as varied as monkfish to pheasant, who adds almost daily to her job description and manages without a fluster. She has had diverse responsibilities from helping to create new job descriptions to designing the new school uniform, which will be in action from September. However, there was a moment earlier this term that I shall savour. With the impeding birth of our first child, the Headmaster’s Wife had to go to the Bursar to inform him that she would be taking maternity leave from her role as Headmaster’s Wife. As her line manager, with the agreement of the bursar, I had to sign off her maternity leave. Therefore, for two weeks after the birth of our child, Mrs Doodes is taking maternity leave from being my wife, which gives me a Hall Pass for the first time in seven years. I look forward to reporting back on the undoubtedly hedonistic 14 days upon which I’ll embark. Seriously, thank you Jessie for listening, for supporting and for enabling me to do a difficult job with good humour and laughter.
I look back on this time last year and compare where we are today. To say that the staff and pupils at the school have achieved a huge amount would be an understatement. I look forward to celebrating the individual successes of all pupils. The inherent beauty of Milton Abbey – its small size, its focus on the individual, its amazing teachers, its care and attention – is what we savour and love, and as a school I’m proud that the Governors and staff are cementing these values which ensures that Milton Abbey is so individual and special for the years to come.
Last year I talked of the plans we had to build two new boarding houses, and the work that we would undertake to renovate and develop the remaining three; this year I am proud to announce that the new boarding houses will be ready for occupation this September, as will the renovated three other houses, all of which will have three resident members of staff and superb social spaces. The construction company, AMIRI, have worked quietly and efficiently. We have been lucky with a mild winter and some relatively warm spells. The Houses are looking magnificent, unobtrusive but still elegant, and will add huge amounts to our community and to the pupils who will live in them. We look forward to them being opened officially by Lord Fellowes in October.
Last year I talked of the plans we had to introduce girls to the third year in September 2012, and the work that we would do to attract 13 year old girls and develop Milton Abbey into a fully co-educational school; this year I am proud to announce that the first intake of 3rd form girls will join us in September, to be looked after by Simon and Kate Kibler. They are a fantastic group of young ladies, and will benefit hugely from being at Milton Abbey whilst also adding to our community.
Last year I talked of the plans we had to focus on academic work, and on developing our teaching and learning within the school; this year I am proud to report that we have successfully introduced a diagnostic reporting system that communicates clearly to parents, that we have developed and used Challenge Grades as an important method in developing pupils’ aspirations, and that we have had a new format for parent / teacher meetings which focusses more on pupil progress. We have enhanced the support that we give for teachers by introducing an effective, efficient and far-reaching professional development and appraisal system that is designed to support all staff and celebrate success.
Last year I talked of the importance of communication and consultation during a process of necessary change to strengthen and prepare Milton Abbey fully for the 21st century; this year I am proud to reflect on the successful introduction of the Parent / Teacher Committee, the use of school wide votes, the effective consultation and discussion with staff on the introduction of new systems for the boarding houses this September, and the important focus on communicating to all stakeholders in the school about the successes that we have had, and indeed some of the challenges that we, and indeed every independent school throughout the country, face on a daily basis.
Last year I talked of the importance that I placed on preparing pupils for life after Milton Abbey, in raising the profile of careers advice and making sure that parents and pupils were fully informed about the UCAS process; this year I am delighted to report that Josh Bradbury, stepping into the shoes of John Milman, has developed this superbly with an up to date booklet informing parents and pupils of the systems and processes, and the introduction of the ISCO Morrisby Test to support pupils in preparation for career choices. We’ve also introduced an ‘After Milton Abbey’ programme to the Lower Sixth, teaching how to write CV’s, letters of application and developing leadership skills.
It is an extraordinary litany of success, and a testament to the hard work of all the staff at the school who have embraced everything that Milton Abbey stands for, have worked with dedication and supported each other in aspiring to work in a world class institution that places the primacy of everything it does firmly at the feet of all the pupils.
As well as leading, directing, cajoling and providing a vision for the school, I have had the pleasure of communicating all of these exciting developments to feeder schools and attracting new pupils to the school so it can develop and grow. I am proud to say that from this September we will be welcoming the largest cohort of third form pupils since 2006, which equates to an increase in recruitment at third form of 26%. And it doesn’t end there. Our registrations for September 2013 are already 50% higher than they were for 2012 entry this time next year, which means that should the current trend continue we will have to open a waiting list for next year by this coming December. My vision to have a school of three hundred is a distinct reality by the start of 2015 and 2016.
On a small aside, I have heard rumours from the common room that colleagues have a spread bet on specific words that I will use in this speech, which they have developed into what is generically called ‘Bullshit bingo’. I am obviously delighted that colleagues listen so closely to what I say, but in this instance I’ll help out by providing them with a list of words that I reckon they’ll expect me to use. Here goes. Fundamental. Celebrate. Challenge. Spark. Co-education. Boarding Houses. Resident Staff. Building for the future. Genghis. Individual. Hugo. Farm. Primacy of the classroom. Staley. Rottweiler. Creative arts. Music. Art. Music. Art. Music. Drama. Music. Drama. Music. Music.
So where do we go from here? We have much that we want to achieve over the coming year and beyond. Firstly, our priority must be to cement co-education and ensure that it is fully incorporated into Milton Abbey’s DNA. Secondly, we have to keep striving for excellence in the classroom, demonstrated by good individual exam results and demanding high standards from our teaching staff. Thirdly, we must ensure that the new systems with the boarding houses are providing the most effective support possible for each and every pupil in all areas of their lives, and that parents are fully reassured of the pastoral care and support that they will receive. Fourthly, I want to see Milton Abbey sport and activities reaching new levels, continuing the huge success of this last year, reaching a new competitive level and training more pupils for possible county level, as well as involving everybody in sporting pursuits. I’m looking forward to celebrating the newly invigorated third form carousel programme that Majella Raindle has brilliantly created, and a fully integrated service afternoon on Wednesdays, overseen by Marcus Monier-Williams, that sees every pupil involved in CCF, Community Service, an activities carousel programme or directed study. Fifthly, the flourishing of the creative arts has been especially important to me, and I am looking forward to the excellent work that David McKee, Sara Burton and Al Duncan will undertake in this vital area of school life, and finally I’m excited about working alongside Penny Doubleday in ensuring that Round Square is properly implemented and developed throughout the school. Together, we can make these exciting projects happen. Together they will create an exciting school for the new century.
We’ll have a chance to celebrate pupil success with the distribution of prizes. However, I have some personal highlights of the year that will stay in my memory. Fran Barron reading beautifully in Chapel; Jesper Tseng delivering a spirited performance as a judge in The Inevitable Rise of Arturo Ui; Henry Leschallas’ sublime leadership in CCF; Hector Barrett in drag in Titanic; Ed Fane-Trefusis’ amazing achievements and commitment both within and without the classroom; Alick Petit’s wise counsel and advice; Calum Best’s brilliant skiing; Harry Evans’ leadership and guidance to pupils and staff; Anthony Bentley-Buckle and Tom Walker’s recounting of the Warriors trip; Will Boughey’s amazing work with his riding career; Blake Carter’s leadership in Tregonwell. The list could go on. There are 206 other pupils I could mention as well. I look forward to announcing the prizes later, with the Chairman of Governors celebrating this moment with us.
And we are so lucky on having such a fantastic Chairman of Governors. It is no secret that James has been very ill, and throughout this last year of his recuperation he has given constant and unstinting support to Milton Abbey, looking out for the pupils, caring about the staff and giving me support. James is a phenomenal educationalist with a clear business mind. He has given unstinting service to the school, has enabled us to grow and has given me the confidence and courage to deliver an exciting vision. He has been ably supported by a dynamic Governing body who bring enormous skills to the school, and support.
We also owe a debt of gratitude to a number of staff who leave us this year. JOHN MILMAN arrived at Milton Abbey when I was five months old. A true sesquipedalian, He has served the school with distinction throughout that time as an extraordinary Head of Biology, and has made numerous areas of school life his own, not least the Cross Country Team which he has run for 35 years. Academic, focussed and demanding of high standards, John has taught the intricacies of mitosis, fallopian tubes, diabetes and xeronisus to hundreds of Miltonians. As with such esteemed and established colleagues, John will prove impossible to replace. From those Miltonians past and present, we salute your service, your dedication and your passion. May you have a long and happy retirement.
MARCUS WILLIAMS joined Milton Abbey in September 2002 as a pastoral assistant after a career outside of education, and was rapidly appointed as Housemaster of Athelstan in September 2004 under the watchful eye of Nick Arkel. Throughout his time as a Housemaster, Marcus has always put his pupils at the heart of his decision making process, and has been an advocate for them at all levels. Passion is the word that sums Marcus up. He is passionate in his approach to his house. He is passionate about his teaching of Countryside Management, where he became Head of Department last year and has overseen the teaching and assessment of our present sixth form. He is passionate about his contribution to sport, most especially rugby where he has been a superb coach to the first XV. He is passionate about his colleagues and friends in the staff room, where he has been a loyal and unswerving advocate of Milton Abbey. Above all, he has been passionate about Milton Abbey, which is why we are saddened to see him go. I know that he would have made a fine Housemaster of the new Athelstan; however, Marcus’ desire for new challenges see him leave this term, and I am utterly grateful for his wise words, support and good humour over the last three years. We will miss him and Tory terribly, and are obviously delighted that he will provide continued support through the Old Miltonians. Good luck, and may the ‘Abbey ticker’ beat strong for many years to come.
RICHARD THOMSON started in the same term as Marcus Williams, soon becoming great friends over their time at the school. Richard moved to us from a parish post in the Piddle Valley, and quickly became a prominent member of the Common Room, supporting pupils with Ferreting, sailing, and sport alongside his work in the Abbey. Richard’s great strength is that of a pastor, and his skills are never better demonstrated than when he is looking after staff or pupils in times of need or distress. He will have the opportunity of utilising these more regularly as he transfers to his new Parish post in the summer, and we wish him the best of luck in his new role. We will certainly miss his dedication to worship, but also as an aside, his Abbey comedy, most memorably opening a Chapel service with the phrase ‘Good morning, and welcome to Chapel tomorrow’.
LUCINDA WINGATE-GRAY joined Milton Abbey as a Matron in September 2002 before being appointed as the first Housemistress of the new girls’ house. Lucinda has been a dedicated and reliable leader of the house, the Miss Jean Brodie of Milton Abbey, and has overseen and supported countless girls as they have prepared for University and beyond. Her work in hospitality has also been greatly appreciated, and she has left a legacy of good practice in this area. We wish her the best of luck in her new role overseeing girls’ boarding at Repton School in Dubai. I hope that she manages to bring that special touch to her new house in the Middle East.
KATHLEEN WIGHTMAN arrived in 2002 as Head of History and has given the school ten sterling years’ service. In her calm and quiet manner Kathleen has raised the profile of History in the school, produced some excellent results and worked tirelessly to get the best out of her pupils. She has been a superb tutor in Athelstan, and has added colour and vibrancy to our community. We wish her the best of luck in her retirement and years of happiness.
FREDDIE MILLION joined the staff at Milton Abbey in 2009 as a Pastoral Assistant. An old boy of the school, he has provided superb pastoral support and excellent sports coaching to a large number of pupils. Freddie has been a great support to Marcus and a fine addition to the Countryside Management team. We wish him the best of luck in his new role at Repton School in Dubai.
NICK ROW is a man who has been with us since 2007 undertaking the delivery of all external exams in the school. This is a challenging and a difficult task, and one which he has undertaken with great energy. We are very grateful to him for his support, and especially for his effective management of the invigilator team.
There are a number of staff who have been with us for a short time, but have still had a big impact. We’re indebted to the hard work of JASON WHITE in the PE Department, and the work that he has undertaken with the Middle Sixth BTEC group; we’re grateful to BECKY BARTON for the work with the sixth form business studies pupils, working with David lane; we’ve appreciated the contribution provided by LEE-ANNE UNSWORTH for her work in the art department alongside Sara Burton in raising the profile of this vital area; we’re indebted to TOBY CARSON who has joined us for two terms and taught RS with great enthusiasm; we must thank ROBERT KELSO for his work as the school counsellor; we’re in awe of NICOLA DAUBENY and WILF HARDING for their dedicated teaching of French and German; and in absentia we thank MARGARET POINTON for her maternity cover for Charlotte Peach.
I want to pay tribute to the dedicated work of SUE TARRANT. Sue joined Milton Abbey in May 2006 and has transformed the library into something which any independent school would be proud. In every inspection report Sue has been mentioned as one of the leading lights of the school, whose energy and bubbly enthusiasm is infectious. She’s also provided unofficial counselling, support and love for a myriad of pupils who have been taken by her warmth of character, her sense of fun, her love of life. We were devastated to hear that Sue had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, and we as a school, but also individually, owe her a huge debt of gratitude. Sue cannot be with us here today, but in her absence I ask for a round of applause in recognition of all that she has contributed to our community. May she be safe, comfortable, loved and cared for, and we send our love to her.
After a long illness, TREVOR DOAR, the school’s amazing Organist and previously Director of Music, died in April. He was an outstanding member of the school community, and the number of wonderful comments that I received from former pupils and staff about his teaching, his antics and his infectious sense of humour is a marvellous testament to unstinting dedication to Milton Abbey. We will not see his like again; may his wife, Stella, be safe and healthy, and may the great man himself rest in peace, playing his beloved Bach with a passion to the heavenly hosts.
Next term we see some exciting new staff joining us. CHRIS BARNES and his wife Lizzie takes over the running of Athelstan House; Chris joins us from Bradfield where he is an Assistant Housemaster and History teacher. PAUL CHEATER joins us as Lay Chaplain after a career as a Headmaster, Housemaster and teacher in numerous schools. We are privileged to have a man of such considerable experience and school pastoral understanding joining us. LISSIE CARR has been appointed as Head of Countryside Management after an extraordinary academic and practical career where she has become one of the leading exponents of her art, most recently at Kingston Maurward College. DR RICHARD EDWARDS joins as Head of Science, whilst AL DUNCAN takes over the running of the Drama Department after time as Assistant Director of Drama at Oakham. We have already welcomed RACHEL MCNULTY as our new exams officer, HOLLY WHITE as school secretary, and in January DAVID MCKEE as Director of Music. SIMON and KATE KIBLER will be running the new girls’ house, with PETER TIMMIS taking on the Housemastership of Hambro. Simon has been a superb Housemaster, had an extraordinarily loyal following from present and former pupils and boys, and leaves a house in fine shape for Peter to run. We will also welcome HENRY IVES and HENRY STOOT as House Tutors, and SHAUN PIRITIJAVI as the new Organ Scholar. am delighted that PENNY DOUBLEDAY will be running the Round Square programme, and using her talents and skills to develop and promote this extraordinarily important area of Milton Abbey life. She steps down from BANCKS HOUSE, a House of great spirit and fortitude, a House that has served countless young men since 1973. The name of the House rests, and does not die; I pay tribute to the boys in the House, to those in the MVI who have led it in its final year, and to Penny herself for all that the House has achieved. I wish those boys who are transferring to other Houses the best of luck, and Penny clarity of purpose as she oversees the running of Round Square.
I am so pleased that every member of the school staff feel valued, and I am indebted to the work of Marianne Wilson and her amazing nurses in the Medical Centre – now moved to new facilities and looking amazing; to Joe Cooper and the groundstaff; to Charlie Bell the School Caretaker; to Sue Lanes and Paul Brewer and the housekeeping and portering staff; to Andrew Kennedy and the kitchen staff; to Steve Vincent and Garry Smith and the Maintenance team; to Simon Bennett and Nelson Brockway in Transport; to Phil Richardson and Alan Green and the team in accounts; to Jackie Tory with Events; to the Jackie Bland, Karen Row and Rita Edwards in reception; and to Jackie Elston and her ICT team.
I am indebted to the work of the Senior Management Team. MIKE SHARP has been a long-standing member of staff and took up the challenging role as Assistant Head (Academic) in September 2010. Mike has been wonderful in support, wise in counsel, clear in direction and focussed in delivery. He has overseen the introduction of Progress Reports, Challenge Grades, formal Exam Result information, a new timetable, a new bell system, academic detentions and played a key role in the appraisal process. This is a wonderful collection of achievements. On top of this, he’s also looked after Charlotte who has been fighting illness, and coped admirably. I am proud of what he has done, and know that KATE MATTHEWS (soon to be Timmis) will be a worthy successor as she takes up her new role as Director of Studies this coming September. To Mike our thanks, and to Kate our best of luck. SIMON KIBLER has overseen the transition to co-education superbly, and has worked closely alongside Kate, his wife, to deliver a fully integrated school this September. I wish both Simon and Kate the best of luck as they move from Hambro to Hodgkinson House this September. DIANA MORANT has worked extremely hard in her post as Registrar, and has been busier than ever this year which is good for us and for the school. However, overflowing open and taster days have been challenges to organise, and she has executed them wonderfully. We welcomed JULIAN LITCHFIELD as Bursar in December. An unflappable former Naval Officer of extraordinary pedigree and distinction, Julian is a truly splendid Bursar, who has overseen the school build project, the management of the new structures and the staffing with absolutely pinpoint accuracy. Although he regularly says to me ‘No new ideas Headmaster PLEASE’, he has become a great asset to Milton Abbey and we would not be where we are without his leadership. Last year I said that ‘Every head needs a Hugo’ and I was exactly right. HUGO MIEVILLE, after open heart surgery, returned to Milton Abbey as Senior Master and has been a rock to all staff and pupils in the school. Collaborative, friendly, engaging and encouraging, Hugo is indispensable, as is CHRIS STALEY, the resident Rottweiler, the Deputy Head who is efficient, effective, good humoured and focussed. The new systems next year with the boarding houses, the structures and the staffing are a testament to his planning and management, and the school’s reputation has been enhanced throughout the country by his clarity of purpose and focus, especially when dealing with pupils and defining boundaries. To the entire team, well done and thank you.
To ensure that those who have yet to call a House yet can continues with their game of bingo, I’d like to focus briefly on music. As a passion of mine, nothing has given me greater pleasure than the resurrection of this flagship department after a number of years. David has literally revolutionised music in the school. We have had two highly successful Choral Society concerts which has seen over 400 people visiting the Abbey to hear the singing and performances; we have an ambitious production of Les Miserables next term, where David and Al Duncan are already working together to provide some top quality musical theatre, and as we have all discovered, David has a great interest in musical theatre. With choirs, ensembles, barbershop groups, string groups, brass ensembles and composition clubs being created, I know that we will become renowned as a creative arts school as much as we are famed for sporting ambition, country pursuits and education tailored to the individual.
Before I close, I would like to announce next year’s School Pilot body and Heads of Houses.
MILO STOPFORD will be a School Pilot and Head of Athelstan House, with EVY MARTIN-SMITH as his Deputy. I have also decided to appoint Evy a School Pilot on account of the outstanding contribution that he has made to Milton Abbey during his time here, and the result of the pupil vote when choosing their new House leaders.
JACK HURRELL will be a School Pilot and Head of Bancks House in absentia, with DOUGGIE MALCOM as a House Pilot and his Deputy.
ALEX DENOON-DUNCAN will be a School Pilot and Head of Damer, with ALEX SMITH as a House Pilot and his Deputy.
GUS ROUSE will be a School Pilot and Head of Hambro, with HARRY SAKER as a House Pilot and his Deputy.
LYDIA EDWARDS will be a School Pilot and Head of Hodgkinson, with EMILY POPE as a House Pilot and her deputy.
MAX THORNTON will be a School Pilot and Head of Tregonwell, with DAN DANJUMA as a House Pilot and his Deputy.
WILL HAGENBUCH and IZZY WINTOUR will be Heads of School next year, with FERDI BERESFORD as their Deputy.
To all the new leaders of the school community next term, we wish them the very best of luck.
On a very personal note, I’d like to thank parents, pupils, staff and governors for the understanding and support that I, a young head, have been given as I have grown into this extraordinarily demanding, varied and busy role. Through the last two years I have understood the expectations placed upon me, valued the support and relied upon the care and goodwill of my staff to deliver the leadership that they both need and want. However, leadership is not always easy, and last year was especially challenging as we underwent a process of change. With the wise words of the Pilots, laughter with colleagues and a sense of collective vision throughout the school, this year has been extremely enjoyable. I’m looking forward to standing next to you next year not simply as a Headmaster, but also as a father. Thank you for your trust and for allowing us to look after what is without doubt the finest group of young men and women in the country, and the best school in the land.
To our leaving Middle Sixth: May your memories of school last a lifetime, may you be constantly supported by the education, love and care that you experienced at Milton Abbey, may you achieve great things in your life, treat others as you would like to be treated, and above all embrace Milton Abbey’s inclusivity and welcome in everything that you do. You are an extraordinary, fine, splendid group of young men and women. Good luck, and from the staff to you all: thank you.