Headmaster's Welcome & Blog
At Thorpe House we pride ourselves on knowing every boy and having a genuine family atmosphere. These are attributes to which virtually every school in the country would aspire, but we believe that we actually achieve them. However, it is only by visiting a school that one can get a true sense of what makes the place tick and what it really stands for. Therefore I hope that you will be able to find the time to come and look around after you have studied the information on this website.
If you do visit us you will find a group of pupils who are happy to be at school and cannot wait for the next time that school is open. They enjoy their lessons and the extraordinary range of other activities on offer and the company of their friends and the adults who look after them.
You will also find a group of staff who are completely committed to the success of the school and, by that token, the success and happiness of each individual boy. This does not just include the teaching staff - everyone who works at the school understands the important part that they play, whatever it might be, and gets to know the boys.
Schools are about people and at Thorpe House people are central. We join in celebrating the many successes that our boys chalk up and we share in their disappointments when they do not quite achieve what they had hoped and help them to do better the next time. We are a very happy, successful school and we would love to meet you and your son. If you would like to discuss the possibility of your son joining Thorpe House, please contact us to see if there are spaces in the relevant year and to arrange a visit.
Headmaster's BLOG - July 2014
Well, I made it, but only just! Here I am writing my final blog and it has been a fortnight of final times I do things. Strangely most of my 'lasts' have passed without much fanfare as I have just being doing the things as part of my normal job and at this time of year there is very little time for stopping and reflecting. This week alone I have been through my last Sports Day, Swimming Gala, Prizegiving, End of Term Assembly and Staff Meeting, taught my last lesson, written my last newsletter and 'Oval' items and rung the school bell for the last time. (Attendees of our Parents' Evenings will understand that I have rung that particular bell on very many occasions!) The event which did not pass unnoticed or uncelebrated was when I wrote my last report. Eddie Young in Year 8 was my last report and although reading through an individual boy's report and commenting upon it at the end is interesting, it becomes less so when you reach boy 200. Given that it takes at least 15 minutes per report, the process every year takes in excess of 50 hours, and hence the celebration. There have many other celebrations this week, but mainly at specific functions held in my honour - some planned and some completely unexpected. I attended two assemblies, one at Pre-Prep and one at the main school, when the boys made a huge fuss of me, said lovely things, sang to me and presented me with cards and scrapbooks. I could not speak properly at the end of either event as I was so emotional! The event with the parents at the start of the week was less tearful but I was absolutely staggered by the number of people who came out to say goodbye and by the generosity of those who had contributed to my collection. The week ended with the Ball which was, thankfully, not in my honour, but to celebrate the 90/50th anniversaries. It was a fantastic occasion and a fitting way to make my last public appearance as Headmaster. Penny Lawrence, Emma Barnard and Anita Bansi did a brilliant job with the organisation and deserve a mention here!
So I hand over to Terry Ayres in a few weeks time and I know he will do a brilliant job of keeping Thorpe House as the very special place that it is. Whether he continues with the Headmaster's Blog is up to him but if not then I sign off after a number of years of incosequential ramblings and wish everyone all the very best.
Headmaster's BLOG - June 2014
As we enter June, I realise that I am just starting my final half term as Headmaster. Therefore, the reality that I will be shortly ending my time at Thorpe House after 15 very happy years is starting to hit home. It is difficult to imagine what the future will be like when I have moved into 'retirement' so I am determined to make the most of the last few weeks at the school - just in case. The second half of the summer term is always a mixture of many things. The key aspect of the term is the examinations but it is always difficult to get everyone to focus on those when all the additional attractions of the term are there to cause distractions. The Summer Fair will be swifly upon us and I have volunteered to be gunged if enough money is raised for that purpose - I will soon find out how keen the boys are to make life unpleasant for me! Later in the term we have the Leavers' Dinner for the Y11 boys, Sports Day, Swimming Galas and Prizegiving and then we end the term with the Parents' Association Ball. Somewhere in the middle of all that I have various leaving functions to attend for both myself and my wife. Altogether it is going to be a very busy, exciting and emotional five weeks. After that, who knows.....
Headmaster's BLOG - May 2014
May is an incredibly busy month at school with so much going on. The first half of term is only four and a half weeks long, due to the way that Easter and the late May Bank holiday fall, but we still have to fit the usual events into that time. The Year 11 boys will start their GCSE exams and there will be the usual last minute rush to arrange extra lessons so that the boys can be the best prepared that they possibly can. There is also the Junior Play taking place on two nights - a selection of Grimm's Fairy Tales - as well as a raft of the usual Parents' Evenings. However, the big event of the half term is the celebration of the school's 90th Anniversary and the 50th Anniversary of Kingscote which is now our Pre-Prep. We are arranging a special Sunday event when the school will be open to visitors, when we will have a Celebratory service at All Saints Church and when we will hold an Old Boys' cricket match. The aim is to get as many former pupils as possible to come back to the school, have a look round and reminisce fondly about their time at Thorpe House and Kingscote. We are putting an advert in the local paper to alert Old Boys to the day, and hopefully a number of people will find out about it from visiting this website. It will be great to meet back up with boys who were at the school during my time as Head as well as those who were at the school at various different times in the last 90 years. On the day we will have a number of displays in school of photographs from across the years and the Pre-Prep boys and Lower Juniors will be taking part in a special Art Day to produce some work which will also be on display. As I said, it is going to be a very busy term!
Headmaster's BLOG - April 2014
It is not often that we are in school on April 1st. In fact I think that it has only happened on one other occasion during my time as Headmaster. Therefore it was with great pleasure that I discovered that I had a Junior Assembly to take on that morning. Having had Terry Ayres at the school the previous evening to meet the parents I asked him if he minded if I take his name in vain during the assembly. I was then able to announce very solemnly to the boys and staff that he had indicated to me the previous day that he had plans for next year to shorten the school day by an hour every day, but to make up for the lost teaching time by cancelling all the half terms. I also said that he is very keen on healthy eating and so has decided that chips will be removed from the school menu completely. At that point some of the staff had begun to catch on to what was happening, although some were still very concerned about losing their half terms. When I moved onto the fact that boys in Years 5 and 6 would have to move into short trousers so that all boys in the Junior School had the same uniform most people caught on.
It just goes to prove that more is often less. I should have stopped after the first two and left everyone guessing about whether it was really true until midday!
Headmaster's BLOG - March 2014
I am delighted that as March gets underway the weather seems to have got a grip and we may now be able to play rather more football matches than we have managed so far this term. It has always been great that we have pitches which drain so well - one of the few advantages of having a layer of stones a few inches below the surface - but even we have been unable to play many matches this year.
Thankfully bad weather has not affected the programme of events going on this term. I have to report to the Governors on a termly basis on the special events, trips and activities which are taking place and this term that list stretched to a full side of A4 because there has been so much going on. I still remain enormously impressed by the way our members of staff are willing to give up their free time to either help pupils with extra lessons or to run activities for them to enjoy. The Y9 trip to the Battlefields of Belgium is always a high point of the year and that trip, which is taking place in a fortnight's time, has a special significance this year it being the centenary of the First World War. As I write this blog I remain concerned that events in the Ukraine should not escalate further and that we find history repeating itself. I have been very fortunate in my lifetime not to have been affected by a major war involving the UK and I hope that the generations that follow me, including the boys who are currently at the school, are able to have a similar experience.
Headmaster's BLOG - January 2014
I have to say that I am a little anxious at the start of the Spring Term. Given the weather we have been having and knowing that children are particularly fractious when it is windy I am a little concerned that we might be in for a slightly rocky start to term. If it remains wet and windy and we cannot get the boys out to run off their excess energy then we will certainly have our hands full. Nonetheless it is challenges such as this which make the teaching profession such an interesting one. Given the high level of advance planning which needs to go into putting the arrangements for each term together we always have to remain very aware of how adverse weather might cause us to change long standing plans at very short notice. There is nothing worse in my opinion from a Head's perspective that having to make a decision at 630am in the morning as to whether we should open the school or not. Keeping everyone safe, be it boys or staff, has to be the priority at all times but there are so many conflicting views when the weather gets icy, snowy or extremely cold. Therefore I am hoping that the extreme cold which the people of the USA are suffering at the moment does not make its way across the Atlantic.
This term we have the very exciting prospect of having a new Head in the Pre-Prep school and I am absolutely convinced that Natasha Doran is going to become a real asset to the school in no time at all. She is full of energy, enthusiasm and ideas and I know that both the boys and the parents will be smitten by her instantly. Therefore I very much hope that she can have a clear run to make her mark during these first few weeks without having to suffer disruption caused by the weather.
I was delighted to be able to start the term with very positive things being said about the New Year ski trip to Les Menuires. We always expect the boys on any trip to behave at all times and represent Thorpe House in the best light, but it is very heartening to get reports that so many people who were nothing to do with the trip had mentioned the behaviour, helpfulness and good manners of the boys who took part. An excellent start to 2014.
Headmaster's BLOG - December 2013
It is interesting to see how decisions to do new things work out in reality. This year we started the term with three fairly major new initiatives in place and although we could see the advantages of each of them we were not certain what problems would raise their heads as we went along.
The first was the introduction of a completely new system of recording positive and negative points for the boys which brought together a variety of different systems which were in operation at different points in the school. The boys now carry around cards on which they record all positive and negative points, called Merits and Demerits. Those who said that the system would never work as the boys would lose their cards were well and truly proved wrong as hardly a card from about 240 has gone missing. As a system it has proved amazingly successful in the Senior School with the boys really buying into the idea of collecting points and cashing them in for chocolate and eventually an i-tunes voucher. Most importantly it has moved the emphasis to the boys themselves to keep track of rewards they are given rather than to the teachers. The only negative has been that we were not able to roll the system out in the Pre-Prep but it is still early days.
The second was the movement of Pre-Prep lunches up to the main school. This had more concerns about it as the logistics of getting the boys up and down the road and coordinating the timings with that of the lunches for the other sections of the school were very complex. Nonetheless, at the end of the term the overwhelming feeling is that despite the technical difficulties from time to time it has been a very positive change and the boys have benefitted by having a much greater variety of food to eat. I suppose the 'proof of the pudding' was when we had the whole school through for Christmas lunch last Wednesday and it went without a hitch despite the addition of crackers and orange squash. Not only that, but the meal was stupendous.
Finally, we decided to have three carol services at All Saints Church instead of one at St Joseph's. The concerns there were that we would not fit everyone in, and that the Senior School service might be a little 'low key' for want of a better description. In the event, we had three fantastic services, all of which were full but not overfull and the Senior School service was possibly the most uplifting of the three. Each one had its own charm and was of a very high standard and certainly everyone who attended seemed to think that it had been a very positive development.
Therefore I feel reassured that our time spent over long discussions and planning before bringing out new initiatives is time well spent when the outcomes are so successful.
Headmaster's BLOG - November 2013
This has been a very strange term for me - I announced at the start of term that I would be retiring at the end of the academic year and since then I have known with every event that comes along that it will be the last time I am taking part in it. That is far from being a universally sad emotion as there are many aspects to being a Headmaster which are 'less than exciting'. Paperwork has become the bane of the profession and I will not miss having to keep policy documents up to date, sending in returns to the Department for Education or writing reports on one thing or another. The things that I will miss enormously are the events I take part in with the boys. I will miss teaching lessons, taking part in assemblies in all three parts of the school and being part of the big occasions that take place. Particularly now I am looking forward with mixed emotions to the Carol Services, the Nativities, the School Play and the Junior School Christmas Concert with 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'. I know I will enjoy each one of them but I suspect I will feel very sad after they are all over.
Strangely, one thing I have found to be very positive has been the appointment of the person who will take over from me. I realise it is my own choice to leave but I would not have felt happy to do so when the time actually comes if I did not believe that the school had found a good person to take over from me. As it is, I know that Terry Ayres is a very worthy successor and that he will lead to school onto even greater heights in the years ahead. As I write this we are looking forward to welcoming Natasha Doran to meet the Pre-Prep parents tomorrow night and I am sure that when Natasha and Terry are here in tandem next year they will give the school a new impetus to move forward.
Therefore, I am determined to enjoy the remaining eight months although I have no misapprehensions that there will be many ups and downs along the way.
Headmaster's BLOG - August 2013
I always feel sorry for the boys who take their exams in May and June and then have to wait until the end of August before getting the results. Other than when sitting GCSE and A Level, there is no other time in a person's life when there is such an enormous gap between sitting important exams and knowing how you have done. When the powers that be eventually finally announce the definitive plans for the future of these examinations, perhaps they will consider doing something about the torture which our young people have to endure in seemingly endless waiting to find out about their futures.
Meanwhile, the wait was finally over for our Year 11 boys at the end of last week and the vast majority were delighted with the results that they had gained. As a school we were 'over the moon' with the overall grades that the boys achieved, and with over half the grades gained being A or A* it is clear why that was the case. However, GCSE results are not actually just another set of statistics but were, in this case, the individual results from seventeen boys. Amongst those boys were inevitably some who did not do as well as they would have hoped alongside those who had exceeded expectations. Therefore, although there was much to celebrate, those celebrations were slightly tempered by knowing that one or two boys are having to re-assess what they are going to do next year. There will be a mix of results once again next year but hopefully the high level of A and A* grades this year will act as a target for the next set of boys who have to endure a summer of waiting for their results.
Headmaster's BLOG - June 2013
It is a great relief that the cold weather seems to be finally behind us and we have eventually reached a point when we are getting more of the weather we expect at this time of year. It has in fact been a lot drier than usual at this time of year which has been a great bonus. It has meant that the huge raft of outdoor activities that take place at this time of year have been able to go ahead without interruption. We have had to cancel very few cricket matches and all our Athletics meetings have taken place on schedule too. The after-school activities such as sculling, sailing, tennis and golf have been able to take place in pleasant conditions for the boys as well. The boys are very hardy and keep going with most sporting activities despite wet or cold conditions but it is always much more fun to take part in the dry and warm.
The real bonus was last Saturday when our Parents Association were able to hold their Summer Fair on a lovely afternoon - dry and mostly sunny. This was the first time for a number of years when it has been held on a nice day and it very much showed in relation to the attendance. It was wonderful to see the Pre-Prep field full of people enjoying themselves and the organisers should be very pleased with the huge amount of positive feedback which the day generated. The other positive is that it will have raised a lot of money towards their twin projects of putting astroturf onto the tennis court and putting an interactive whiteboard and projector in the Pre-Prep hall.
As the term moves on the Year 11 boys have virtually finished their GCSEs and the rest of the school are heading towards examinations. We are hoping that the Year 11s will be able to repeat the tremendous success they gained in their Science GCSEs across the board. We will know in August!
Headmaster's BLOG - April 2013
Having had the coldest winter in the memory of the pupils and many of the staff, (at least those who are younger than me and do not remember 1963) we are now hoping that the Summer Term might bring some better weather and that everyone's Vitamin D levels can build up again.
This term is always full of events, and it is difficult to imagine how both the boys and the staff will manage to get through the programme in one piece. At certain points in the terms the pressure is on for the parents too, with a number of events for them coming in close proximity to one another. The first big occurrence is the Senior Play, this year taking place at Chalfont St Peter Memorial Centre to give the boys the experience of taking part in a production on a full stage. Miss Smith and her cast are putting on The Caucasion Chalk Circle and it is looking like being another tour de force, so we are looking forward to 10th and 11th May. Things such as swimming galas, Sports Days, Prizegiving and end of term concerts loom on the horizon, but of course there is the small matter of school examinations to get through before we get to them. The boys who are about to take their GCSEs have even more important examinations ahead of them but I am sure they will have been boosted by gaining absolutely superb results in their Science exams which were completed last term.
The various outdoor events really do need some decent weather to make them enjoyable and a number had to be curtailed or cancelled altogether last year. Therefore let us hope that the recent up-turn in temperatures is the start of a glorious summer.