A note from the Headmaster – 15th March 2013


This is my first Friday contribution to our School’s new blog which has replaced The Newsletter. It is actually my first ever contribution to a blog, unless one counts the pre-Firefly blog I set up to help my pupils with their History studies. To be honest I am far from certain as to the style one is meant to adopt for such things ~ part FDR’s ‘fireside chat’, part pastoral letter, part chatty magazine article?

This has been a very busy week for both the School and for me. As some of you may know for the past two to three weeks I have been teaching Mrs Haig’s timetable along with my own, whilst she has been on compassionate leave. This has given me an 80% teaching timetable which is a little high for a Head, even one who likes teaching as much as I do. This has also meant that I have had to cram the ‘heading’ part of my life into the other 20% of the timetable which is something of a challenge as that part, in fact, usually occupies 100% of my time, so apologies to any of you who have had to wait a little longer than usual for a reply to your letter to me. The School has been busy with ‘Red Nose Week’ this week which, as I write ~ or should that be blog? ~ is coming to an end with a super-hero themed mufti day. There has been much baking, dressing up and general fund-raising throughout the week. Many of us had the joy of teaching two of our pupils who were spending the day handcuffed together whilst others have been silent for a week!

Several people have asked me how I feel about the new Pope. It is really too early, I think, to respond to the news that we have a new Pope, and speculation, although completely understandable, merely exerts more pressure on an already challenging environment. It is interesting that he is a Jesuit, and thus shares his Order with a member of our Governing Body. Only time will tell what particular mark Francis I will make on the Church but it is certainly an exciting prospect.

My congratulations also go to the members of the UVIth Art Set who are now all holding offers from some of the best Art Colleges in the country. In several cases these offers are unconditional. Congratulations also to Ms Beatty and her team for helping them to get to this very comfortable position.

I have spent some of my time this week in interviews, both of potential Staff and potential pupils, both categories to be starting next year. We have been looking at teachers to cover Mrs Smith’s impending maternity leave, and Ms Crowe’s retirement. Next week we will be looking at applicants for Mrs Adler’s maternity leave. In terms of potential pupils I have been meeting some parents and pupils from Putney Park School which, as you may seen from the local news, may be closing at the end of the academic year ~ the owners have announced its closure but parents and Staff are attempting to get some kind of rescue-package in place. How successful they will be only time will tell. I feel desperately sorry for these girls, a number of whom are in Year 9 or Year 10 and thus are at a very crucial stage of their academic lives but there has been very little I have been able to do for them as we have very few spaces left within the School.

Mention of Putney Park brings me to the final topic in my post for this Friday, namely the various rumours which have been flying around this week, and which I have been addressing. Every teacher, and certainly every Head, knows that the only natural phenomenon in the universe that can violate Einstein’s Theory of Relativity by travelling faster than the speed of light is a rumour in a school. This week, which has seen a bumper crop for some unknown reason, the rumours with which I have been dealing have been:

  • the Governors are planning to move the School ~ not to my knowledge, and I am sure that they would have mentioned it to me. I do know that they are considering plans to clean the front and the back of the school building in the next few years but that’s not really the same thing;
  • we will be admitting all of Putney Park’s Year 6 and Year 7 and therefore our class sizes will jump up to 25 per class – no we aren’t. The Putney Park girls I have seen have been for further up in the School where we have the occasional vacancy next year. Class sizes will not rise higher than 16 here except in special academic circumstance ~ for example we have one Year 9 teaching group that is larger than 16 at present because we are launching a new GCSE next year (Classical Civilisation) and a larger than usual number of Nines wanted to try this before making their Option choices. If we did make the decision to expand a Year Group due to, say, over-subscription then we would simply open another Form. We have always had small classes here since the times of the Canonesses and if it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for us;
  • the same thing which happened to Putney Park will happen to us ~ no it won’t. Although our two schools share a similar nurturing ethos our structure and size have always been different. They had one Form entry, we have two. We have a VIth Form, they didn’t. Their numbers had been in decline over the past few years, whilst ours have been rising steadily since 2007 to a situation where we now have Waiting Lists for the first four Years in the School. However the most crucial difference lies in the fact that Putney Park is a proprietor-owned school whilst we are run by a Charitable Trust. This means, at its most basic point, that our Governors cannot sell the School because they do not own it – they are the stewards of the Trust and have no financial interest in it at all. The Head over at Putney has an Executive Director who answers to a group of stockholders. I have an astoundingly able Chair and Board of Governors who answer to, and are part of, the Trustees who administer the Charitable Trust for the benefit of the School and not to generate a profit for shareholders.

Finally, I can confirm that, to my knowledge, my daughter is not getting married at Easter – I’m sure that she would have mentioned this to me earlier!

With best wishes for a restful and productive weekend,

Robert Carlysle


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