Inspired anew – how adversity brings out the best in us!

Followers of Claires Court school and its enthusiasm to develop a new campus for its pupils, staff and families will know by now that the RBWM planning committee on Wednesday night (28.8.2019) rejected our enabling applications for the school, our new playing fields with our partner Maidenhead Hockey club, together with the housing that would in part fund the new development.

It’s probably true that most planning applications of this nature are refused at this hurdle; for ‘us’ applicants who feel (as we do) that ours has ‘great weight’, we have the rights to make appeal against this decision to the national inspectorate. Pleasingly in principle, we may proceed to the next stage, for which there is no additional fee. Since wednesday, the ‘team’ is considering its various options, of course, and will take steps accordingly.

My brother Hugh, Dave Taylor from the Hockey club, Andy Black from PRP (our planning advisor) and Elkie Russell (Berkeley Homes) spoke with passion and focus; despite the very short time we had available (Dave and I had to share 180 seconds on our playing field proposals for example), all of our supporting speakers gave of their absolute best, and I am deeply proud that we were able to present our case so coherently.

Two other supporters deserve especial mention this morning, those being Charlie Stay and Gabby Lindley. Charlie had agreed to speak to committee on her experiences as a student with us; during the day, whilst working in our summer camp she ‘lost’ her voice, so her good friend Gabby stood in on the evening with 5 minutes notice and gave her speech for her. I print below Charlie’s speech (the 1 minute version), for wider audience review:

My name is Charlie Stay, and I have just completed my degree at Reading University, gaining a 2/1 in English Literature. 

I entered a local secondary school in Year 7 in 2007; I have special educational needs, now identified as Dyslexia, that were not recognised and a growing health issue of anxiety, leading to school refusal. My father was a trooper in the Household cavalry, serving in Bosnia and Afghanistan, my mother a nursery teacher; my parents no longer recognised my 12 year old self as their daughter and felt they had no option other than to find a school in which my learning needs could be identified and met, and I joined Claires Court into Year 8 in September 2008.

The school’s whole provision enabled me to flourish academically, because they recognised my learning needs and met them. I grew in confidence, socially because I loved taking part in the arts, dance, dama, sport and many other extra curricular activities the school offers. My peer group of girls did just as well, and now include Olympians, GB Hockey players, fellow graduates from Uni and through my life in the Sixth Form I have made many lifelong friends, boys and girls.  

The school is an amazing place, with its inclusive ethos of providing for special needs children and weaving them into every element of school life, I felt then as I do now, that my learning is different not difficult; my strengths as a graduate lie not just in writing and the analysis of literature, but also in the ability to understand end create in film and media, key requirements in the new economies in which UK PLC leads the world. 

I urge members to consider my story, one so similar to many others within Claires Court, a school that utterly deserves to modernise its facilities and bring the boys and girls together onto one campus, thus securing its long term future.

Watchers on the big screen upstairs saw that when Gabby delivered these words last night, they report that for the first time the panel members paid full attention to our case, and it was nice for her to receive such positive mention from councillors at the time, even though they utterly disagreed with our proposition shortly thereafter. Well done Gabby and Charlie indeed.

I am so proud of my teaching staff and of the pupils who have benefited so positively whilst in our case and subsequently whilst at Uni and/or work. If failing at this hurdle was going to daunt me, Charlie’s spoken words by Gabby inspired me instead. School returns from Monday, and the phony war of planning argument will be replaced by the challenge once more of running and working in an outstanding school alongside so many amazing people, young and old alike.


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Interesting times in the RBWM Planning office…

They have been at this since 2013, and despite the RBWM planners ‘ protestations that the draft Borough Local Plan submitted version is the working solution, national planning inspector, many local pressure groups and neighbouring local authorities have begged to differ. And yesterday we learned the Mayor has called this Extraordinary full council meeting for the 23 October to restart the consultation process…

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Claires Court, the Equality act and our new campus…

Since the passing by parliament of the Equality Act in 2010, society in general, and education in particular has had to adjust its steering more than somewhat. Here’s the starter for 10 from the Government’s own website:

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations. It sets out the different ways in which it’s unlawful to treat someone. Find out more about who is protected from discrimination, the types of discrimination under the law and what action you can take if you feel you’ve been unfairly discriminated against.

The act came into service in 2011, and had an immediate impact within education: It has three main elements; in carrying out their functions, public bodies are required to have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate discrimination and other conduct that is prohibited by the Act,
  • advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it,
  • foster good relations across all characteristics – between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.

There is so much more that I could write here, but in reality, when the the Court of Appeal in October 2017 held that complete segregation of girls and boys in a mixed-sex school is discriminatory on grounds of sex, per se the separation by gender caused detriment. Most of the diamond* schools in the country (circa 20) share the same campus and during breaktimes etc. the girls and boys can socially interact. In lessons and during other times of segregation, whilst the genders may be separated, at least the facilities are identical, so no discrimination through provision arises.

Claires Court was a boys’ school when in 1993 it acquired the Girls’ school, and saved the latter from closure. 26 years later, both boys and girls’sections are thriving, but the demand for girls places is circa 50% of boys because there are simply so many other independent girls schools around sharing the same catchment area. The school has carefully planned over the years how to ‘balance’ the differences in provision, and as the latest GCSE results indicate, there is little to separate the boys from the girls – both circa 90% 5 or more 4-9 Gcses a head. In their most recent inspection in January 2017, the Independent Schools Inspectorate gave us an excellent rating, and I hope they would today. Except of course the landscape has changed. Here is the Deputy Director of the Department for Education, Peter Swift, writing last month to us:

“However it is critically important that there is no discrimination in the way this provision is organised and delivered. As well as boys and girls having to have an equally wide range of subject choices, it is important too that the teaching is of the same quality and also that the facilities they have access to are equally good. Where a diamond school operates on a single site, this last point is not likely to be a problem because boys and girls will be using the same facilities — the gym, the IT suite, the chemistry labs, etc. But for a school that operates on separate sites this can present a prodigious problem. To comply with the law it would be necessary to ensure that neither site had facilities that were superior — or inferior — to the other. This is likely to be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. There is a theoretical alternative of moving the children from site to site so that they only ever use the same facilities, at either site (eg a gym at one site and an IT suite at the other, etc). But, depending on the distance between sites, this may present insuperable operational problems as well as being wasteful in terms of time, money and transport costs, as well as all the additional transport being deleterious to the environment.
Consequently it is likely that a diamond school that has traditionally operated from separate boys and girls sites may conclude that the only way that it will be possible to comply with the law will be to re-engineer their buildings so that provision for boys and girls is co-located in the same premises. “ You can read the whole letter here – http://schl.cc/5P

Right from the start of planning our new campus back in 2013, we were crucially aware of the existential threat arising from this legislation; whilst the AL Hijrah judgement forced everyone’s hands 2 years ago, reinforced of course by the DfE’s clear guidance from June 2018 that segregation per se caused detriment in schools, the writing has long been on the walls. The Independent Schools Standards Regulations demand that schools meet a whole raft of curricular, pastoral care, welfare, accommodation and leadership standards, and we’ve got to provide equality of opportunity and provision for our children at comparable ages. Wiser counsel than me have studied the form; here’s Kevin McDaniel, Director of Children’s Services on the matter in July:

“While the local authority does not have a duty to ensure that independent schools
comply with this guidance, in this context, I appreciate your point of view, that the
proposed consolidation of the Claires Courts School sites onto a single location is a
sensible way to comply with the guidance whilst still maintaining the chosen diamond model of education. I should however note that it is not the only way to achieve compliance with the guidance.”

Kevin McDaniel is right in suggesting other routes are open to us; for example we could apply to upgrade our sites to meet the mutual requirements of all, or we could move away from our single sex model from age 5 to 16 and go fully co-ed. Trouble is, since 1990, RBWM planning advice has directed against any further major development on the Senior Boys site, so there exists no option here to add Art textiles, food, or additional music facilities for senior boys, nor swimming pool, playing fields and the like. There are lots more examples, and not just for seniors but juniors too. All our arguments are fully rehearsed in our submission to the planning authority, and their judgement just published agrees with ours:

With regard to the above, evidence has been provided on the shortcomings of the existing school buildings and the challenges this puts in place for sustaining and improving educational standards in addition to complying with the Equality Act 2010. There is also evidence to demonstrate that alternatives in relation to addressing the shortcomings of the school buildings on the existing sites would present difficult challenges in terms of the practicalities and financially,
and there are no suitable or reasonably available sites that are sequentially preferable than the proposed site. Therefore, it is considered that the proposal would maintain choice in school places that may otherwise be lost. In accordance with paragraph 94 of the NPPF this should be given great weight to support the proposal and as part of the case for VSC which is assessed below.
” see here page 96, para 9.149

With only days to go until the planning meeting, it seems we are still having to explain and justify our reasons for bringing the school together onto one site; primary legislation has changed the educational landscape as it does from time to time. Over a SIX year period, we’ve consulted and cooperated through the planning process, and next Wednesday sees us able to have our application heard.
Go to clairescourt-newcampus.com to get involved.

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Patricia Fowles – 10 December 1931- 28 July 2019 R.I.P.

Pat Fowles – October 2015

The following is the text of my appreciation of Pat Fowles work within our school over a 50 year period, given at her funeral service held at Slough Crematorium on Thursday 15 August 2019.

“It is with great sadness that we learned of Pat’s death recently, and for me a great privilege to have been asked to say a few words about Pat today. 

I met Pat first in the early summer of 1993, when as the new proprietors of Maidenhead College we took over her employ. She was of course but a young 61 year old then, teaching sciences and thoroughly involved in the care of those who needed additional learning support. Those of you that know our school will recognise that age has no barrier to employment with us, and so it prove with Pat, whose on-going career here lasted until she was taken by her serious illness in April 2016, working in her latter years within learning support and examination services. 

I say I met Pat – it’s fairer to say she met with me, and made her mark straight away. Firstly, Pat was a  redoubtable lady, who could fix child or adult with a steely gaze. It may not be that she had always been quite so formidable, but her experiences in mid-life, divorce followed by having to build a career from scratch certainly made her a force to be reckoned with. Pat’s maiden name was Tozer, commonly believed to have originated in Devon, South West England. It is a reference to the occupation of carding of wool which was originally performed by the use of teasels (Latin carduus), via the Middle English word tōsen, to tease [out]. And my goodness me, Pat could ‘Toze’ like an expert. Once she had me ‘straightened out’, and had worked out that I could be trusted, she then became one of the most delightful of convivial colleagues, always seeking me out as and when to check out that all was well and fill me in on the latest goings on in College Avenue & Road and environs, and the wider St Marks area, where she lived in Fielding Road. 

I am not remotely suggesting that Pat was indiscreet, rather more well-informed and protecting her own interests as best she could, and because she took such a great interest in everyone and everything. For younger vulnerable learners, she opened routes to acquiring skills  they never believed they could master, and to this day former pupils return to the school and ask after Mrs Fowles, who made such a difference to their lives. Taking an interest meant that Pat was a great listener, and for those who wanted or needed an audience, Pat was there for them, as their teacher, as a colleague or indeed simply as a wise friend. 

P. W. Fowles (Mrs) first wrote to the then Maidenhead College on 21 October 1979, to ‘apply for the post of Laboratory Technician , as advertised in this week’s Maidenhead Advertiser. I am forty eight years of age and have had 5 years laboratory experience  at a research station near Bristol and have also taught science at a school in the Midlands, two schools in Gloucestershire & at Furze Platt, Maidenhead. My son has just started at University, & I would like a little job as an added interest.  My phone number should it be required, is Maidenhead 34084. Yours faithfully

P.M Fowles (Mrs) commenced work on or about the 29th November 1979.  Pat’s career with us spanned 5 decades and enriched all of our lives. In the various letters I have been fortunate to find in her personnel file, our school and teachers prove to be a lifeline for her, for shortly after starting with us, she and her husband divorced, heralding a very unhappy period for Pat. She writes a year later in November 1980 to the then headmistress Violet Long  ‘By joining you at the school, I have found  happiness, gratitude and contentment and I pray I can continue to stay with you and perhaps in some small way repay your kindness.’

Some 18 months later, Pat wrote further “My thanks as always go to you and Ann (Doherty) for giving me the opportunity and confidence to pick up the threads of my very shattered life. Without your kindness, I hate to think where I would be today’ 3 April 1982.

It’s clear that in the personal adversity Pat faced almost 40 years ago, she found in our school a place of safety and security. This explains perhaps why she stayed so fiercely loyal over the years, through thick and thin, and why she stayed such a strong advocate for the most vulnerable of children in the school. On her retirement from teaching (April 1996), Pat had pitched to me an idea for providing specialist support for less able pupils – I suggested the idea had ‘legs’, and so it prove, with Pat supporting such children for a further 20 years – she not only repaid those earlier kindnesses but did so magnificently.

Pat drew great comfort from the American poet, Helen Steiner Rice, and she wrote on the back of one such poem notelet which I found yesterday at school. I’ll close with her poem ‘My Thanks’, which so fits how Pat made her life entwine with all of us who worked with her, and who came to value her so highly as a colleague, supported and friend:


Helen Steiner Rice

Pat is survived by her son Mark, who lives in Manchester, and who cared for her so magnificently during her illness over the past 3 years of her life.


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Correlation and Causation – why Independent schools are not to blame for the success of their pupils!

Over recent months, there has been a growing stridency in the voice of the Labour party and its fellow travellers about the role of Independent schools in England’s Education system. Using the #AbolishEton, the group, Labour Against Private Schools, hopes to persuade the party’s conference in September to commit a Labour government to their integration into the state system, whilst at the same time stripping fee-paying schools of their ‘privileges’. You can read more of that in this Guardian article of 9 July. The Guardian has been carrying quite a lot of anti-independent school copy on its pages for many years, but when independent think tank studies such as this one by the Sutton Trust continue to report that Britain’s top jobs are still in the hands of a private school elite, it does cause us all to take a deeper look into quite what is going on in this ‘education space’ of ours. And of course, last week in comes Boris Johnson, the 20th Old Etonian to serve as our new Prime Minister, and ‘Quod Erat Demonstrandum’ Q.E.D. it must be true.

It’s certainly true that Eton has been an utterly extraordinary institution for centuries, endowed as a King’s College by Henry VII, attracting the sons of the mighty alongside poor scholars, and yet, within its walls, ensuring that all were treated with great equality, so that its alumni could then ensure that Eton would ‘Esto perpetua’, translating as ‘May it last forever’. With 300 students a year graduating to the very best universities in the world, it should come as no surprise to anyone that its alumni are to be found in positions of influence. Johnson’s cabinet does have 2 other Etonians (his brother Jo and Rees-Mogg Esq.) plus a total 64% of other ministers independently educated. Take a closer look at the England Cricket or Rugby sides, and it is apparent that independent schools more broadly have been developing talent disproportionately more successfully than one might expect of their apparent 7% hold on the country’s population. The BBC summarised the Sutton report in this area well, the graphic below from their report:

My school at 59 years of age, with now circa 100 boys and girls graduating a year from GCSEs/A levels, tracks the success of its former pupils with interest but not forensically, though anecdotally we can certainly see they represent well on departure the qualities of ambition, collegiality and stickability that’s needed later on in life, and their track records subsequently look very encouraging and magnificently diverse. It’s interesting to note that the few of our best footballers that appeared good enough to make it in that sport have had more options than just football, with other sports and higher education seeming more alluring and open as routes. Swap sport for music, drama, the arts, and it’s clear our best have gone on to thrive, build commercial careers, win glittering prizes and awards. Or indeed, stay resolutely academic and reach for University, Doctorates and beyond – CC alumni are there too. In short, the block chain works well – enter Independent Education, gather the academic, social and collaborative skills needed to get on in life, and guess what, you will.

Behind every child to be found in an independent school, and you find a family deeply interested in the school being the right place for their child and getting the best out of them. Throughout my professional career, I have seen successive governments (Labour and Conservative) shift the focus of the state sector from providing a full, broadly facilitated education to one that is only required (and therefore funded) to cover academic subjects in the classroom. As I look at our plans for a new campus to be considered by the RBWM planners at the end of this month, we are clearly not just seeking to cover a narrow academic core. Apart from a rather obvious centre of excellence for regional hockey, the buildings cover all the arts, mathematics, sciences, languages, business, computing and enterprise education we could hope for. Who wouldn’t want their child to have such a set of opportunities? The master blueprint though that’s been allowed has not provided any silver spoons or gold taps – but what it does do is declare unequivocally that ‘all of the various skills and talents that a child might have’ will be nourished here.

And therein lies the heart of the reason why ambitious parents might choose independent education for their children; namely to ensure they have the opportunity to test out their mettle and find their spark. And having chosen to make such an ‘investment’, continuing to hold their attention on the child so that the ‘sparks’ are captured and nourished into the flames of a future ambition. If this is the root of why children succeed, that is, the energy and commitment of their parents and wider family to that success, why don’t the Sutton Trust and others just come out and say that? I’m not blaming the Sutton Trust or others for that matter for being ‘lay journalists’, indeed the founder of the Trust, Sir Peter Lampl actively espouses that the state should fund thousands of place in independent schools in order to “improve educational opportunities for young people from non-privileged backgrounds and increase social mobility.” The truth is that it is government’s place to make the core decisions on funding, and it hasn’t joined up enough over the past 10 years to make this happen. And here perhaps is why…

Last month, Professor Christopher Ferguson* wrote an excellent article on Bad Data Analysis and Psychologies Replication crisis in Quillette, an aggregating website on ideas help human societies flourish and progress. This triggered a commentary on the same site by Professor April Bleske-Rechek, headlining this Crisis in Psychology, namely the willingness of this new science to sensentationalise weak effects and to bias publications in favour of sales of the ideas in question. She writes “That illness is the conflation of correlation with causation, and the latest research suggests that scientists, and not lay people and the media, are the underlying culprits.Last month, Professor Christopher Ferguson* wrote an excellent article on Bad Data Analysis and Psychologies Replication crisis in Quillette, an aggregating website on ideas help human societies flourish and progress. This triggered a commentary on the same site by Professor April Bleske-Rechek, headlining this Crisis in Psychology, She writes “I believe a related, but perhaps less-recognized, illness plagues psychology and related disciplines (including the health sciences, family studies, sociology, and education). That illness is the conflation of correlation with causation, and the latest research suggests that scientists, and not lay people and the media, are the underlying culprits.

This morning I was listening to Alan Johnson, former Home Secretary and minister in the Blair/Brown Labour government of the noughties. Johnson expressed so clearly that the difference in life expectancy of a boy born in 1950 between North Kensington (where he grew up) and South Kensington is 16 years today. That’s got nothing to do with state or private education, and everything to do with the failure of national government to invest in a joined up way in health, education, welfare and social care. You may recall he was the Minister of State for Universities, and introduced the loans-for-degrees we now have. This has been an amazingly important way of increasing the number of disadvantaged students (on free school meals) from 10% (when student grants existed) to 27% today in 2019 (from 31:00 mins). Any English qualified national can apply to University and receive the funding to attend, with the ‘tax’ on their funding being the requirement to pay back in adult life from the additional earnings as they receive them. Alan Johnson was absolutely clear about what needs to happen if we are to see growing social equality in our country, which is for the Prime Minister to take this requirement for society to provide greater social mobility as the core mission of their premiership and cause the great offices of state to bend to the task. Theresa May expressed this so clearly in her opening speech on entering 10 Downing Street, and was thwarted by the confusion of Brexit.

There is a clear correlation that exists between opportunity and success that follows, and a clear model already in the UK that shows how opportunity can be extended, through the generous funding for all that is needed for education to work. Of course, you could just nationalise our independent schools, cut the funding to the bone and watch our excellence whither. Alternatively, wise government would introduce vouchers that entitle any to spend to acquire the education of their choice, a situation that works for higher education, and now needs to enter lower down too. Those vouchers would inevitably not cover the full cost of the education received, but would provide to the child concerned a funded place. As universities have had to seek additional revenue streams, so have our independent schools too, and this requirement would continue into the future. Where state schools are already good enough, and there are so many that are just that, parents would not need such a voucher. But since such schools cause house prices to be so much higher, entry into an alternative independent school would provide other opportunities for parents to consider.

I’ll close with a ‘nod’ to the chairman of the Independent Schools Association, Matthew Adshead, HM of the Old Vicarage school, Derby, who appeared on the Radio 4 Today programme a couple of weeks ago alongside the founder of the @AbolishEton campaign, Holly Rigby, a state school teacher and coordinator of the campaign. Her stance was “There is no justification for the fact that young people’s opportunity to flourish and fulfil their potential is still determined by the size of their parents’ bank balance.” Matthew’s riposte was perfect, asking her to visit his school, and meet with the parents, the postman, the shopkeeper, the hardworking artisans choosing to spend their earnings on their children as they thought best. And therein lies the rub, our parents are everything in our schools, causing the success of their children’s school lives and beyond; we may be architects, designers and such like of course of the opportunities needed, but we but bask in that reflected glory which is of amazing children doing really well. Holly, Jeremy and all, please don’t blame us for the success of our schools, celebrate with us. Don’t let your fury at a Johnson entering Downing Street blind you to the wisdom of another Johnson, one of your own party, who even today clearly is worth celebrating for the actions he caused when in government to improve social mobility.

* Professor Christopher Ferguson has a book coming out in January 2020, entitled How Madness shaped History. His tag line suggests an interesting read – “This lively investigation demonstrates that, when conditions are ripe, one unstable individual can create the best or worst moments of a generation or even a century.

With Trump in the White House and Johnson in 10 Downing Street, who possibly has he in mind?

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On Theresa May’s departure as Prime Minister, 24 July 2019

As all will know, Theresa May met with the Queen yesterday to resign as Prime Minister. Mrs May has spent 3 years at the helm of her government, during which time her plan was to ‘Build a better Britain’. On her accession back in July 2016, I wrote an open letter to her, which I commenced with the following words:

Firstly, on behalf of the Claires Court community, may I congratulate you on becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.  You have been Maidenhead’s only MP ever, since 1997; before then, the constituency used to be shared with Windsor, whose castle of Royal residence for reasons of history and heritage somewhat overshadows our larger suburban town to its north. I watched you speak on the TV on Wednesday night.  You called our country to attention, you asked us to believe that your government will show it has listened to the outcomes of the recent referendum.  Central to your message, you had this to say:

“We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.”

You can read the whole letter here on a previous blog https://jameswilding.blog/2016/07/14/building-a-better-britain. On reflection, I am quite proud of my writing this time, in so far as I highlighted what I felt could be the key issues for us in our sector over the forthcoming years.

I concluded the letter with these thoughts;

In conclusion, as with so many things, it’s an ill will that blows no good, and the circumstances leading to the self-destruction of both the Cameron administration and the Corbyn opposition have opened the door for your ‘kind’ of administration.  The news tells us you are building a very new government, and we have every faith that you will take this opportunity.  We wish you good luck and God’s speed. You’ll need both of course, and some extra friends in addition from time to time. You know where to find us if you need our help.

3 years on, and it’s difficult not to conclude that whilst there has been much huffing and puffing, actually little has moved on. It may be that Brexit and its works have just consumed so much time to nil effect, hence Boris Johnson and his new team coming in to deliver same in 100 days. Firstly, as is conspicuously noticeable, our own plans to relocate onto one site have still to be heard by the local Maidenhead Planning Committee.

Secondly, education was impressed to have gained Justine Greening as Secretary of State for Education in your first cabinet. To lose her after just 18 months, and shortly after her launch of a plan to enhance social mobility through education ‘Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential’ was as sad a sign of the ‘wrong people being listened to’ as any. None of us could find fault with Ms Greening’s core plan to boost social mobility, indeed her covering statement back in November 2017 says it all still:

“Talent is spread evenly across this country; the problem is that opportunity isn’t. We need systemic change and we need everyone – government, employers, education professionals and civil society – to work together so that social mobility runs through everything we all do.”

Because the evidence still shows that opportunity is not there for all, it’s led a growing number of Labour councillors to call for the nationalisation of our sector into the government’s own schools. Under the #AbolishEton banner, Labour continues to highlight just how over-represented our sector is in the higher walks of life. I’m not going to comment on the suitability of Boris to be our new prime minister, but with 70% of his cabinet independently educated, clearly politics in parliament needs to look for itself anew at the issue of #opportunitiesforall.

It’s fair to say that over the past 3 years, the Labour party itself has not got a grip on itself to good purpose, most notably on its take on Europe and antisemitism. And as it too has chosen to take a tighter grip on its members, spreading further divisions at shadow cabinet level, Shadow justice minister Gloria De Piero resigning last week from Corbyn’s frontbench team over party’s ‘lack of tolerance’. Ms De Piero is like Greening a shining example of social mobility in action, and one whose career is worth watching for the future.

3 years in politics is of course a long, long time. Sadly, in the history of Crossrail, it’s not long enough. We had been promised that our speedy links to the city would open last year in December 2018, and we now await its opening by 2021. We were also promised its budget would also stick to initial announcements (£15.4billion), though sadly, at least a further £2.2 billion pounds needs to be found to ensure the project is completed. What might £2.2 billion pounds buy if only the contractors had kept on budget? I’ve become a fan of the National Numeracy website, and via one of their articles understand perhaps we could have 4 more frigates to enhance our Navy. It’s certainly the case that over the past 3 years, the national estate has sadly deteriorated further, with the military, judiciary, education, health and social care all crying out for additional spending on this scale now.

I welcome Theresa May’s attention back on our constituency solely once more. To her enormous credit, she has not ignored Maidenhead at all during her premiership, but it sadly has ignored her ambition of 3 years ago, to build a better Britain here in SL6. We still don’t have a borough plan (due 2013), and whilst the town centre is now being rebuilt, we don’t have the housing, highways and social infrastructure needed to support a town of such importance where so much more physical growth is required. The council is still of Conservative hue, but it has a narrow majority only, and we will need all of her experience acquired over her time in Downing Street to build a consensus here for the future.

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Principals’ Blog – end of Summer Term 2019

The following blog was published to our parents and community on 12 July 2019.

A year ago at this time, I was writing to parents in such a newsletter, briefly, about the challenges facing the English Football team, just after they had lost out in the Semi-finals of the World Cup, and about our Prime Minister & local MP, the Right Honourable Theresa May. Twelve months on, and I see that the headlines carry fresh stories of an England Football team losing at the same point, and Theresa May still struggling with her colleagues in Parliament. Dear Reader, please forgive me now that I do not reference matters of school, national or indeed international importance; I have become deeply superstitious over the past year, and fear that I can ‘jinx’ almost anything. For those unfamiliar with the verb, I rephrase the definition found in the on-line ‘Urban’ dictionary:Jinx

  1. Verb – To unintentionally curse someone or something by paying attention to them/it and in so doing cause bad things to happen to them/it in the near future.
  2. JTW speak* – And to cause it to continue in like manner for ever onwards.

N.B. *Brexit being an example.

That’s not of course that I cannot speak well of great things that have happened in the recent past, or indeed the current moment, so at least I can do that, and do so with great pleasure.

We have a number of wonderful teaching and non-teaching staff leaving us at the end of this term, for retirement, for pastures new or indeed to take up a well-earned place at University. They include Hugh Wells, who retires at the grand old age of 89, whose service commenced in 1986 as our Director of Studies at Senior Boys and for 18 years has been coaching Maths GCSE for two days a week to older boys and occasional Sixth Formers. As Hugh is 90 this August he felt it time to retire completely with his wife Jenny, thus ending one of the epic tenures here at Claires Court!

Eric Leuzinger’s career at Claires Court began as a pupil back in the 1970s, when I taught him Science before his departure to the Royal Grammar School at age 13. Welcoming Eric back as a teacher 20 years ago felt like welcoming back an old friend; looking after his son’s, Jake’s education for 9 years has given me an even greater respect for Eric’s qualities as a mentor for boys becoming men. He retires as Deputy Head Operations this summer to enjoy a little more time with his wife and hobbies, including fishing. Also laying down their toolkit are Linda Carter, Junior Boys Maths teacher, whose husband Alan introduced a young Dean Richards, now Head of Junior Boys, to the noble game of rugby. Linda’s skills as a Maths teacher has caused many positive breakthrough moments in Juniors, inspiring all that they could do Maths. Cameron Denton also leaves Junior Boys after 8 years with us as a teacher, gaining his BSc in Coaching Science and PGCE en route, following seven years as a pupil. Cameron’s a much loved holiday club key worker, so we’ll still see him there this summer, as he seeks coaching roles in the corporate world. Mother and son Linda Hine, teaching assistant, and Matthew Hine, gap student, also leave Junior Boys with Matthew looking forward to his degree at Kent University.

Nick Lee leaves Senior Boys for an academic role leading Humanities at Long Close School, after a superb 7 years of History teaching, rugby coaching and pastoral leadership of Year 11. Alice Nutkins is another former pupil who has qualified to teach with us after taking her degree in Psychology at Plymouth University, moving on to spend next winter snowboard instructing. Patrick Meaney, our digital guru at Senior Girls steps into retirement too, along with Julie Nicholas, SENCo and fount of so much wisdom on additional learning needs for both parents and pupils.

Lelo Wright has been our first EAL teacher across all 3 sites for 20 years now, and retires willingly into grandmother-hood. Lelo has made so many friends amongst our international families, by assisting their boys and girls in their first steps in English on arrival here for school. Leaving administration is Debbie Parker, who has fronted house at both Junior Boys and at College Avenue so capably for 8 years. Sandra Young has looked after our dining room and outdoor duties at College Avenue for an amazing 35 years, and we’ll certainly miss her kind smile and watchful presence in the autumn. Also departing are Franklyn Hamilton, rowing assistant; Jack Hill, Junior Boys sports instructor; Cheryl Lawrence, Junior Girls higher level teaching assistant; Annabel Pearce, Junior Girls gap student; Arunjit Samra, Nursery assistant. In their own ways, all have contributed brilliantly to the success of Claires Court, and we wish them well with their future careers and university courses.

For the many staff, pupils and parents who will still be with Claires Court in September, I extend my most grateful thanks to you all for all of your hard work, and hope that we can continue to rely on the same in the autumn. In the meantime, it seems that almost nothing is predictable anymore (except that it is unpredictable), so let’s reach out and follow the Dalai Lama’s own words:“Bekind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

New Campus update

From the Administrative Principal, Hugh Wilding.

My brother couldn’t have fed me better words to describe the slow but sure progress that we have been making with our partners, Maidenhead Hockey Club and Berkeley Homes as we have worked patiently with the planning function at the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead to ensure that we have dealt with all their questions and provided the many answers required.

There have been several “false dawns” to date, thus placing me in the same “jinx club” as my brother and covered in embarrassment, but at last there seems to be some real indication that a decision will be taken before school returns in September.

Clearly, we will make the best case we can to the panel that will determine our applications, and of course we can point to the positive responses from the likes of Sport England and the “no objections” on highways grounds and from elsewhere. Most of all, we can show the overwhelming level of support for the new campus that pupils, parents, staff and well-wishers have already recorded via the RBWM planning portal. A reaffirmation of that support may be very helpful and to that end, I would ask that you keep a close watch on the usual channels of communication from the school as the summer unwinds.

One supporter is the Leader of RBWM Council who today posted on his Twitter account “…I fully support the planning application and wish this fantastic school all the best for the future.” That is very kind of you, Mr Dudley!

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