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Wetherby Preparatory School

Wetherby Preparatory School

Headmaster’s Blog

17th October 2014

Dear Parents,

I wish you and your children a most relaxing Half Term break. The past six weeks have gone by remarkably quickly and that is, undoubtedly, due to how satisfying and enjoyable it is to work in our School. I have been so impressed with how well all of our new boys, families and staff have settled in. It is not easy going to a new school. I remember my first days at the many schools that I have attended or worked in and, in all honesty, they were not all positive experiences. At primary school, the lunch was ravioli; I can still smell it now. I will eat pretty much anything but, at that age, one thing I could not eat was ravioli, so lunchtime was spent in tears as, in those days, the expectation was that, “You have to eat everything on your plate!” At secondary school, being in 2A and having the alphabetically ‘advantageous' surname of ‘Baker’, I was placed on lunch duty on my very first day. Even looking back now, this seemed harsh as I had no idea where the cafeteria was, let alone how many potatoes and carrots to give each child. The Chef took no pity on me though and shouted at me throughout the entire sitting but I overcame these things, as children are very flexible and resilient towards change and challenge, even if, for the first few days and weeks, the environment or situation is completely alien to them.

At Wetherby Prep, we don’t seem to have this problem and it appears that routines have been learnt, relationships made and, as always, there is constantly something to look forward to around the corner. A lot has been achieved and experienced this term but there is much to anticipate further, as we head towards Christmas. Just wait and see what Miss Bailey has got in store for the tree this year…

Have a good weekend,

Nick Baker

 

10th October 2014

Dear Parents,

Many years ago, before most of the children in this school were even born, I remember the very first Wetherby Prep Open Evening.  It was a perfectly successful event.  The building (19 Pembridge Villas) looked great. There were interesting displays on the wall and cheerful, debonair and personable teachers by the names of Mr. Bayes, Mr. Redmond and Mr. Baker, amongst others, who were on hand to charm parents and chat to the boys.  There were though only about 50 attendees that evening.

If we fast-forward to last night, when over 400 parents packed into the building over the course of two hours, it was a true measure of where the school is now.  Whilst we have continually changed and tweaked the format, year on year, to make sure the evening is professional, efficient and gives as true a reflection of the School as possible, what  has not changed has been our senior boys, whom we have always asked to tour parents and prospective pupils around the building.  It is always tempting to say that something is ‘the best ever’. It may not be, of course, but it will be the most recent, the most easily remembered and, thus, the positive energy is still flowing. But the boys who toured parents last night and took part in the various music and sport sessions were, in my mind and in terms of parental feedback, really the ‘best ever’.  They were so impressive and represented every boy, parent and member of staff impeccably.  The children are our finest ambassadors and, therefore, ‘marketing agency’ for our school. Their open, engaging personalities, ease of conversation, positivity and enthusiasm know no bounds and any prospective parent who came last night would have met those boys and said to themselves, “I want my son to turn out like that.”  There can be no doubt about that.

Can you believe we have almost reached Half Term?  Time flies when you’re at Wetherby Prep, it seems.  Just two comments, both positive, regarding the two-week half term next autumn, so I take it that our community is in general agreement with this move.  Two weeks is intended to give everyone a good rest in what is always such a busy term but, as I suppose is typical of our boys, one asked me yesterday, “Does two weeks mean we can do more school trips or sports tours next year?”  That wasn’t the intention but, knowing the staff here and the enthusiasm and spirit of adventure of the boys and parents, I am sure that all you need to do is watch this space!

Have a good weekend,

Nick Baker

 

3rd October 2014

Dear Parents,

As Mr Baker is away at conference today, I have invited our new staff to write to you this week. Enjoy!  Normal service will return, of course, next Friday.

Welcome to all of our new staff and best wishes to all our parents.

Have a good weekend,

Christina Rossi

Miss Balgobin writes…

After only five weeks into my time at this school, I have already been swept up in the buzz that is Wetherby Prep. The atmosphere pervading the school is so welcoming, spilling out from staff, boys and parents, a joy as a new member of staff. The pace of the school takes some getting used to. My day begins as if I was standing on a beach, looking seawards, enjoying a few moments of serenity and calm. Then, suddenly, an enormous wave sweeps me out to sea. The day has begun in earnest: invigorating, challenging, yet hugely rewarding, especially once back on shore! Now you can understand why I am a member of the Maths and not the English Departments as my prose leaves much to be desired. I am really thrilled to be here and have discovered a worrying fascination with Salazar the snake.

Mr Blundell writes…

What a month! Wetherby is such a fast-paced, exciting school that this first month has flown by in the blink of an eye. From History lessons to sports fixtures, visiting senior schools to swimming galas and author talks to fencing clubs, it has been an incredibly enjoyable first month at the school and I am very excited to continue my time here at Bryanston Square. I loved addressing the boys at the assembly today and reminding them of the phenomenal job ‘Team Europe’ did in securing the Ryder Cup -   the subject of my senior school assembly last week. Wetherby boys always look so smart in their uniform, especially when all together in the church, and, as ever, they looked splendid. The first job when starting a new school is to try to learn everyone’s name, from staff to the parents and, most importantly, the children. I am getting much better now but half term homework will still be trying to learn every boy’s name, from Years 3 to 8. (Teachers have homework too, boys!) 

Miss Griffiths writes…

When I received the phone call to tell me I had got the job at Wetherby, Mr Baker used the phrase, “PLU: People Like Us.” Firstly, I was flattered and, secondly, I was so excited to work with like-minded teachers. Since arriving on the 1st September, it has surpassed my expectations. Wetherby really does have an excellent community spirit and I already feel like one of the team. Teachers, parents and children share common goals which are reached together. I look forward to getting to know everyone better and see the boys develop as the year progresses. 

Miss Jones writes…

First impressions of Wetherby? ‘There is a snake in the basement. Look away Miss Jones, look away!’ ‘Am I walking up/down the correct staircase? I hope I don’t get caught.’ ‘Boys love Krispy Kreme doughnuts and will happily consume three in one sitting.’ ‘House Points are sacred and the announcement of which house is in the lead is the event of the week.’

Though it sounds a cliché, my first month at Wetherby has flown by and I have really enjoyed it. I have learnt all of the above, and more, whilst teaching French. I have been impressed by the boys’ willingness to participate in class, their determination to answer correctly and their good humour. The staff have been very welcoming and supportive, as have parents with whom I have come into contact. Merci beaucoup, everyone. I really appreciate it.

 

26th September 2014

We are three weeks into term now and everyone; boys, staff and parents, seems to be getting into, or back to, the rhythm of life at Wetherby Prep.  As promised after the hectic first few days, home time is a more relaxed affair now and we are pretty close to knowing all the new faces.  We are proud of how efficiently we run this part of our day and it needs Hal, Helen, myself, Miss Bailey, Miss Hart and Miss Heydon to work in complete communication and synergy with each other.  We have trialled something this term that has improved things a great deal and has made departure time a really slick operation.  I’m not massively into new technology but by using the ‘Whatsapp’ app on our ‘phones, we can exchange messages instantly.  From outside on the Square, Hal and I can immediately call buses and by ’spotting’ parents, nannies and drivers, message the team in the building and therefore ensure that the boys make a swift exit to their waiting parents.  We’ve got pretty good at this over the last week or so and many boys are already on the pavement and walking to their parents before they have even got out of the car!  Please be assured of two things though:  firstly, we would never let a boy walk freely out of the building, unless there is a known person waiting for them and, secondly, if you see me or any other member of the ‘exit staff’ on our phones at home time, we are not texting friends and family or reading our emails!  Our record for dismissing all buses and boys that leave at 4pm is 4:17pm - that’s 17 buses and about 180 children in 17 minutes, not bad going and we might improve upon this yet.

Massive sporting weekend coming up… not the Ryder Cup or Watford’s game at Blackburn but Westminster’s U10 football tournament on Sunday which Wetherby go into as reigning champions.  This was one of my highlights of 2013/2014 and we won’t give up that title easily.  Please follow the Twitter feed on Sunday for regular updates from Mr Redmond and me, ‘live’ from Vincent Square. It should be a great day of sport!

Have a good weekend,

Nick Baker

 

19th September 2014

Dear Parents,

So there we have it…  After weeks of debate, media coverage and electioneering, the Wetherby Prep community of boys, staff and parents has decided to remain a part of the Alpha Plus Group.   There was a temptation to go completely independent and be fully in control of our finances, divorced from the executive governance at Head Office.  A Governing Body of myself, Miss Bailey, Miss Hart, Miss Heydon, Mrs Noval, Miss Hodgson, Hal, Salazar and the two new guinea pigs, Caramel and Funky, was proposed and, as effective, decisive and professional as this select group would have been, I am glad that the electorate has voted that we stay within the Group. There is just so much to be said for the continuation of our membership of the Alpha Plus Group. Granted, we are a successful, profit-making business in our own right but brand new projects such as the Senior School and the Sports Ground, need the security and finance of the Group as a whole as we, alone, would not be able to afford them.  There is also much to be said for the collegiate nature of being part of such a group.  If Jenny Aviss, Mark Snell and I could not discuss the wide-ranging issues surrounding London Prep Schools, we would be the poorer as a result.  Then there is the legislation that binds us all: terms and conditions, employment contracts and general school policies, as well as professional legal, logistical, media and maintenance support which ensures that everything here runs so efficiently.  Yes, we could probably do all this on our own but it would take up many hours, involve a great deal of restructuring, cost more money so taxes (fees) would have to rise!

I could go on with this analogy and the point is not a flippant one.  Wetherby Prep, as with all the Alpha Plus Schools, is individual, has an identity that parents can associate with and is autonomously run… but with financial and professional support in the background that has made this and the other schools in the Group so successful.  Corporate governance is the way forward for so many schools these days and, in an increasingly competitive world, successful schools need to keep up with the best staff and the best facilities. The only way to afford that is with the security, expertise and economies of scale gained from a group such as ours. 

I think a ‘Yes’ vote for Scotland would have heralded a period of instability and the ripples would be felt in London and beyond over the coming few years, let alone weeks.  I might feel differently if I was a Scotsman but I think the majority of Scottish people voted with their heads yesterday, as much as their hearts might have felt differently.  I, for one, think the right decision was made, wish them well and hope our many Scottish parents agree with me!

Have a good weekend,

Nick Baker

 

12th September 2014

Dear Parents,

Long days this week as it is ‘Dinner Season’ in the Prep School world, with invitations to many senior schools and events.   I’ve been Head for seven years now and, whilst that is not that long in a national sense, for London, I have outlived heads at almost every school!  Nothing wrong with change though and even the most successful schools need different eyes on them from time to time.  At the annual Tatler Awards Ceremony last night, it was great to see so many friends, in the form of Heads and Registrars from other Schools, and it is the strength of these associations that are so valuable in the senior school transition process.  The main factors are, of course, the interview and assessment, but the image and relationship that a prep school has with a senior school is also important.  Yesterday, Miss Heydon and Mr Blundell accompanied 28 of our Year 7 boys for assessment at Harrow School.  The boys behaved impeccably and came across as well-mannered, studious and characterful – just the sort of children Harrow are looking for, hopefully!

As I mentioned last week, I attended two weddings over the summer holidays.  One was my cousin who, although she made a lovely bride, I am sure you are not that interested in.  The other was Mr Dean Bayes and his now wife, Mrs Jo Bayes (née James) who will be known to many of our Pre-Prep families.  It was a great day, revealing a strong Wetherby influence with a reading by Mark Snell at the service and a wedding party made up of Prep and Pre-Prep staff and parents!

Have a good weekend,

Nick Baker 

5th September 2014 

Dear Parents,

Welcome back to Wetherby!  Always great to return to Wetherby Prep and as much as I love the holidays, I never fail to look forward to another school year.  The summer for the Bakers was great fun with holidays to Menorca and West Wittering, two weddings, and three, 40th Birthdays.  I was asked to be a Godfather to a friend’s new baby, took in the V Festival, watched my sons’ cricket matches and revelled in Watford’s encouraging start to the new season.   I was in school as well (couldn’t help myself) overseeing the impressive external decorations, writing references and constructing the timetable.  The building has a completely different atmosphere in the holidays and, as purposeful and proactive as I was in my office, it was clear that this building needs the boys as its energy supply, so it was great to welcome them all this week.

A particularly warm welcome to our 91 new families this term.  You are now ‘one of us’ and as much part of this School as your sons.  We have many events planned for this year, as always, plus a few new initiatives to keep things interesting! We all look forward to your company, support and friendship during your time as part of our Wetherby community.

We also welcome a number of new staff to the School.  Although only here for this past week, it feels as if they have been here much longer, such is the ease with which they have integrated themselves amongst us.  Their pictures are below and I know that many of you have already come into contact, whether in person or via email, with them.  They are all very ‘Wetherby Prep’ and will prove to be excellent additions. I was also so pleased that our intrepid Rwanda team came back safe and sound and clearly did a fantastic job teaching the teachers and the children at Mwegera School. Miss Hart has more details later on in this Wetherbuzz. I am so proud of her and her team’s achievements this summer.

Never a school to stand still, we have initiated a new timetable this year.  This allows an extra hour at Games for all boys but does mean that we have to change things around a touch.   Although Miss Bailey and I managed to make this work with the timetable, this was too late for the fixtures that Mr Redmond had already planned many months in advance.  As a result, we need to change the timetable for six of the Tuesdays this term.  This will all be managed internally, with no disruption to academic teaching, but please do not think that some days the boys will be doing Games in the morning and then a fixture in the afternoon - as appealing as that may sound to many! 

And lastly, many many thanks to the dozens of you who have contributed to the Bursary Fund over the summer.  I will write to you all individually in the coming weeks but your generosity, commitment and suggestions for the future funding of the scheme have been most warmly received and we have actually managed to action two applications already which has supported two of our families.  I will discuss with Kate Groes and the PTA in forthcoming meetings about how we manage the fund going forward but thank you to those parents for getting us off to such a fantastic start.

So much to look forward to in 2014/2015 – it’s going to be another memorable year at Wetherby Prep!

Have a good weekend,

Nick Baker