Next Friday marks the end of an era in that it will be the last day that Nottingham High School has as an all boys’ school. We are proud of our traditions and yet now stand on the threshold of a fantastic new era for the School. I keep being asked what I am feeling as we are about to take this huge step forward and I can honestly say that after all the planning over the past few years it is so rewarding and exciting to be looking forward to September.
On 2nd April 2014 when I stood in front of first the staff and then our current pupils I could never have imagined just how many new Sixth Formers we would attract to join us. In our business plan for the project we had a cautious estimate of 10-15 and an optimistic one of 25-30 so to have signed up 42 girls and 8 new boys to join us in September has been beyond our wildest dreams. All of those who come will have achieved a minimum of 5 Grade As at GCSE but many of them will have achieved far higher than this. What unites them all is that they have been to see what we are offering and are excited by the opportunities which lie ahead.
Key to our success has been the seven taster days which we held in the Autumn Term. It became immediately apparent talking to the girls, their parents, our current boys and to the staff just how natural it all felt when the girls joined our lessons. This feeling has remained throughout and was again evident on our recent induction days when it was immediately clear that the new Year 12 will integrate brilliantly together. We have had so much positive feedback through the year and this has done much to reinforce our beliefs that this is an exciting time for all at the High School. Parents and pupils alike have felt welcomed and the attention given to each of them as they have made up their minds has done much to reassure them. At the start of the year we were asked a great deal about integration but the more times the girls have come in to school the clearer it has been to all that the integration has gone well. It is great to see girls already signed up for some of our trips next year and also that a number of them have secured parts in next term’s school plays.
Another great part of this project has been the opportunity for us to review so many of our current practices. There is a real sense of energy about the School at present and we have been delighted with the fields for the various teaching roles we have advertised over the last year – I had not anticipated how many staff would be attracted to join us because we are making this move. With our new Deputy Head Academic Dr Nick Dennis joining us in January there will be further opportunities for us to build on the strengths of our teaching and learning and over the past couple of years our Deputy Head Pastoral Paul Spedding has also led a great deal of work to develop our pastoral care. All this is strategic work designed to make us even stronger tomorrow than we already are today. We are not having to react to pressures from outside but can take a good hard look at all of our practices to see what works well and what we can improve. The parental survey we have just sent out will also help to drive further innovation and improvement in the future.
We have been helped along the way in our planning by senior staff in many other schools and this support from fellow HMC schools has been incredibly generous. HMC is the organisation of the heads of almost 300 of the leading independent schools in the country and the collegiality of fellow heads and their deputies in supporting our planning has allowed us to learn from their experience. I hope that we can soon invite them to come and see it all in action and that we can continue to share good practice as we move forwards.
So as I head for my summer break at the end of a really busy year I am already looking forward to returning in September. I lead a great school and I am fortunate to work with so many talented colleagues and yet this next stage of the School’s history promises so much. Above all else education is about preparing students for the real world, about inspiring them and about getting the best from them. I am confident that we will be able to do all of this. There is no doubt that at present all of our staff are pulling together towards a common and shared vision which we hope will fulfill our aim of being the strongest school in the region. Strong not just in academic results but also in pastoral care, co-curricular opportunities and in turning out students quietly confident but academically fulfilled who will make their mark in the world.
There is work still to be done in recruiting girls into all other year groups from September 2016 and I hope that many more will come to hear more about our vision and to meet our first groups of girls who will be able to give their own accounts of how they are finding the School. Whilst next Friday does mark the end of one era we are now ready and prepared for the next chapter. I really do have the best job in the world in trying to pilot Nottingham High School to this bright future and repay the trust that all those joining our school have put in us.