Newsletter – End of Term

Dear Parents,

In our Prize-Giving last Friday, I spoke as follows:-

Good morning and welcome to Prize Giving and a very warm welcome to Sarah Kerr-Dineen, Headmistress of Oundle, and her husband, Anthony.  Sarah is going to give out the prizes and then address us thereafter.  First, a note from our Chairman of Governors, Niall FitzGerald:

Dear Children and Parents,

I am so sorry that I cannot join you on this day of celebration and in part nostalgic farewells.  As you assemble I will be trekking in the Idaho Rockies – and they say that with age comes wisdom!  

It has been 18 months since I joined the Board of Governors and it has been a busy but hugely rewarding time.  When the Board agreed last June the strategy rather grandly called “Cumnor 2020 and Beyond”, it was the recognition of how far Cumnor had come in the previous 10 years which provided the inspiration and confidence to Aim Even Higher while jealously guarding the exceptional ethos of a school in which children are the first, second and final priority.  Christian and his team have taken on the challenge with energy and enthusiasm and we can look back on a remarkable journey this year.

Our 50 Year 8s are moving on to 18 schools with a 100% success in Common Entrance and gathering a record of 33 awards and scholarships on the way.  The range and diversity of these achievements are the embodiment of how we Dare to be Different.  The beaming happy faces of our first Nursery children have been a joy to all and quickly led to the decision to build a wonderful new Nursery which should open its sunny doors in January next year.

The Science Building rises day by day and this 21st century facility will be available from the start of next term.  We are hoping it will be the Tim Peake Science Block.

Another September event will be the arrival of the first scholar funded by the Cumnor Foundation.  In time we expect to see 20 scholars bring their talents to Cumnor in Years 4-8.  These remarkable children will add much to our school.  We should take great pride in the realisation that we are setting the trail for other Prep Schools.  All our children will have space and time to let their imaginations take them on multiple journeys in the new Central Library that will also open its doors in September.  What greater gift can a child receive than the love of books and the joy of reading?

The Governors are very conscious that a Cumnor education is expensive and we have looked for ways in which to contain costs without any dilution in quality of teaching and facilities.  The first results have been the decision to defer the annual fee adjustment to September and to keep this below 2%.  We are also determined to give you more certainty on future fees with the plan to cap the total increase over the next 5 years at 10%.  We will continuously search for ways to do even better.

Ultimately the success of any school lies in the hands of the teachers and the caring, inspiration and skill they bring to your children.  This year we have put in place a new approach to the appraisal of all our teachers which will ensure that we deliver excellence in every aspect of our teaching be it academic, art, drama, music or on the sports field.  No compromise on excellence is acceptable.

My apologies again for not being with you on this joyous day.  My thanks to all the wonderful people who make Cumnor the unique school it is…… and that includes the parents.

I leave you with the words of the Head of one of our great public schools who said to me quite spontaneously “I instantly know a Cumnor child because they are always KIND”.

Niall FitzGerald

Chairman Board of Governors

Well, for the course of this last week, one could almost be tricked into thinking it was summer!  Three nights of Open Air Shakespeare – and relatively balmy nights at that.  We certainly knew it was coming towards the end of term with one or two end of term ‘tricks’ and pranks – Ross Millard’s car being entirely wrapped in gold paper, the “decorating” of the Headmaster’s Volvo with post-it notes all over it, a plague of frogs around the school, and a Flashmob by the Year 8 leavers!

So, the end of the summer term 2016 – a time for farewells.  Our 50 Year 8 Leavers head to 18 different Senior Schools with our love and best wishes.  We are proud of them all!

It remains at the core of the Cumnor purpose that we serve so many different schools.  We are also proud to have everyone going to their first choice school and to have amassed, for the third year in a row, a new record number of awards!  This year, 33:  7 Academic, 7 Sport, 7 Drama, 4 All-Round, 4 Music, 3 Art and 1 DT.

During our assemblies this week, we have said farewell to the staff who are leaving and each of them deserves another mention now – albeit we shall have our own staff party goodbyes tonight!

Debbie Dickens, my Registrar & PA, discreet, reliable and just brilliant to work with since 2002.

Sue Bayley, the front office Oracle of a school secretary, tactful, warm and reassuring since 2003.

Martin Doyle, who has transformed our eating habits since 2005.

On the teaching side, we say farewell to Nicola Patrick and Pascale Williams, moving on after 3 years to Downe House and Roedean respectively.

Lucy Jackson joined the School as Head of Girls’ Games in 2000 and has been a great servant of the School over that period.  Having been part-time for the last few years she now retires.

Dougie and Mandy White are off around the world for a year before landing in Oxfordshire.  Dougie has been Head of RS & PHSE since 2005 whilst Mandy who joined in 2008 has been in charge of Reception and EYFS.

Louisa Belli joined us as a teacher in 2002 and became a form teacher, Latin specialist and teacher of French & English.  She now steps aside from teaching.

Ross Millard has been in charge of Football and Director of Sport – joining in 2004 with a stunning reference from Alex Ferguson. He now moves on to run the Football Academy at Ardingly College…with a stunning reference from me!

We also thank Jonathan Oberst who has been with us for 1 year and now leaves to pursue his PGCE at Brighton and we thank Sara Gros,  who has been with us as a Gapper for the last two terms but now leaves to go back home to Australia………

We say goodbye to 15 Cumnor families today from amongst our Year 8 Leavers: Atkin, Brocklehurst, Bruning, Bye, Guest, Grut, Henley, Kaplan, Lambert, Park, Rogers, Siebert, Watson, White, Wise.  They have accumulated 117 years of Cumnor life between them!

Honourable mentions should go to the following families who have managed to accumulate very close to the critical figure required (in terms of having a continuous run of children here at Cumnor) that bring us close to The Ashdown Forest Pooh Bear country!  The Bruning, White and Wise families have been here for 9 years, and the Grut family for the last 10 years.

Now in award territory, and it’s a very close run thing!  3rd place goes to the Rogers family who have 11 continuous years at Cumnor.

Very well done to Fiona and David Guest who are in 2nd position, with Emily, James and Alex who between them have been here for 12 years.      But… just pipping them to the post, we have the Atkin family who, with Tom, Lucy and Maddie, have accumulated 13 years at Cumnor!

Congratulations to them all.

(In case you are interested the record, so far, is 18 continuous years, currently held by 3 Old Cumnorian families: Brittons, Minchs & Weltons!)

You will remember my claiming in Leavers’ Evensong that these prep school years of our childhood are perhaps the most formative period of our lives.

We develop as characters as well as learning as students.  The most important influence in this period is the sensational stuff around us – teachers, cleaners, maintenance, admin, grounds, medical and pastoral support – from their example we all learn…treating others as we wish to be treated, always giving of their best without favour, without cynicism, with goodwill and relentless hope.  Particular thanks to the Senior Management Team: my wife, Matt Mockridge, Christopher Walker, Paula Talman, Di Medhurst, Sarah Snell, and to Yvonne Turner and Ben Chapman at the end of their first year working together as Assistant Heads.

This School is restless.   We look for change for the better – with the impact on children being the measuring stick for any decision.  Our new science building will be ready for September.  The new nursery is under way.  Our central library will open next term as will a new day room for boarders.  We are opening new after-school clubs for the pre-prep, offering breakfast to all comers.  As the Chairman referenced in his letter, our Foundation has begun and we have extended our involvement with local primary schools.  We move forwards Aiming High, Being Kind and Daring to be Different.

Now I am really sorry if you haven’t won a prize today.  I know it is not for want of effort or desire (although the two have to coalesce – to combine for chances to be drastically increased).  This, today, is not a finishing post, even for Leavers – but rather a staging post – a way station on a marathon – that is to be your life.


All in all, Belinda and I can look back on a most happy and successful year.  We are sad to have said farewell to so many long-serving staff and I hope that they have all understood how appreciated their efforts have been over the years but, as ever, we must now look forwards to the minor changes and opportunities that the new staff will bring.  There is huge excitement at the prospect of the Science Centre being ready for business in September, with the Nursery not far behind it.

As a matter of housekeeping, please note that the new Kalendar for the Autumn term will go up on our website at the beginning of August.  If you require a hard copy of the Kalendar, please apply to the School Office at the beginning of next term.  May I remind you that the Autumn term starts on Wednesday 7th September for the boarders, with day children returning to school on the morning of Thursday 8th September.  Half term is Saturday 22nd October through to Sunday 6th November inclusive, and the end of term is Wednesday 14th December.

I am extremely pleased to announce the enrolment of Cumnor House in a digital noticeboard for parents, School Notices. School Notices is a safe, secure classified marketplace where parents can buy and sell items, rent holiday homes, find holiday work or advertise to an ever-growing membership of independent school parents. It is free for all to browse and post notices whilst providing a place for local and parent owned businesses to advertise to likeminded independent school parents. This will replace our monthly Yellow Pages from September. You can see our hub-page here, and begin to add your items now:

Meanwhile, Belinda and I wish you all a very happy and peaceful summer.





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