Headmaster’s Blog

Welcome back!  I hope you were able to enjoy a restful Easter break, and that the celebrations (and accompanying chocolates) were joyous.  The Boarding Team and the Choristers went straight through from the last day of term (Maundy Thursday) to the afternoon of Easter Monday (the annual Old Choristers’ reunion), so their rest arrived a little later (in the form of a Choir Tour to Austria and Slovakia for the Choristers – of which more next week), but there were at least a few days towards the end of the Easter break to grab some R and R before returning for the start of the Trinity term.

As I said to the Prep School in Morning Worship on Tuesday (in the Cathedral Quire), I love the Trinity term.  The sunnier weather, the start of the cricket season (I remember feeling excited by that in Year 8 – the feeling still comes back each summer some 25 (ish) years later), the sense of anticipation at the end-of-year celebrations, the steely determination of senior pupils and their teachers as they knuckle down to give good accounts of themselves in their public exams, the flurry of musical, drama and sporting opportunities that await: there’s no doubt that the start of the Trinity term is an exciting time.

But is also the time of year when we begin to gear up to saying goodbye: to senior pupils for whom this term will be their last; to some ECS families who have enjoyed long-held associations with their school; and – sometimes – to members of staff.

You will be aware that today is Katy Hockings’ last day at ECS.  She has been offered her ‘dream job’ and will be leaving us after some farewells this afternoon.  Katy has been appointed PA to the Principal and CEO of Bridgwater and Taunton College, a renowned centre of education and training which has some 15,000 (yes, that’s correct) students on roll.  The College is where her partner works and is 45 minutes nearer to home, and her thoroughly-deserved promotion to this very senior role means that she will be able to spend more time at home with her family, enjoy a (much) shorter commute to work, and that she is retuning to a Further Education setting (her background prior to maternity leave and ECS).  There is no doubt that she will be missed here, and she assures me that she will miss us, too!  She writes: ‘I am going to miss ECS so very much.  The parents, pupils and staff have been an absolute joy to work with.  There is so much support, care and kindness within the ECS community, as well as a sense of fun.  I will definitely be keeping in touch, as I have made some wonderful friends!’.

Katy has been quite remarkable in her role as PA to the Headmaster and Office Manager.  We ‘found’ her as a Head’s PA via an agency at the last minute, and it very quickly became apparent that she was enormously capable in every aspect of the role.  She was quickly promoted to Office Manager, and you will have experienced for yourselves the rapid up-turn in the levels of school-to-home communication that she has brought about along with her first-rate team.  The website: Katy.  The parent portal: Katy.  The Engage App: Katy.  The new-style blue diary: Katy.  Parents’ Evening bookings: Katy.  Electronic consent for trips: Katy.  The new Newsletter and Blog: Katy.  My sanity (such as it is): Katy.  Given the start-date of her new role, I won’t get the chance to say this at Speech Day, so I want to go on record as saying how grateful I am to her for all that she has done – for the School and for me.  She has had a monumental impact during her time here, and she leaves with my sincere thanks, my very best wishes, and my promise (….) that I will keep up the healthy-eating regime that she has bullied me into.

We advertised far and wide for Katy’s replacement, and have spent the last day or two interviewing a seriously impressive shortlist drawn from the 90 people (again – yes, that’s correct) who expressed an interest in the role.  The quality of the shortlisted candidates has been extraordinary, and I look forward to sharing with you the news of a successor to Katy once a final decision has been made.

Parents/Guardians of our Boarders will have received a letter from Mrs Lacey already, and I write now to let the whole School community know that Mrs Lacey has decided to retire at the end of this academic year.  Katherine has been the most wonderful Housemistress and Head of Boarding, and has been simply outstanding in the role.  The ECS boarding house is a really homely, welcoming, caring and thoroughly well-run place, and Katherine’s attention to detail as well as her ‘big picture’ overview (gleaned from over 40 years’ experience of working in Schools) has been instrumental in ensuring that the city’s only boarding house has continued to flourish and grow as a happy, forward-thinking, safe, well-managed and highly-thought-of feather in the School’s cap.  There will be time in due course to pay proper tribute to Katherine and David and to thank them both for all that they have done: meantime, I hope they both know how much I have valued – and continue to value – their input, their astute leadership, their commitment, and their friendship.

But the Trinity term is also the term when we can begin to look forward to welcoming new pupils and staff to the School in a few months’ time.  You will be aware that we were on the look-out for a Head of Languages (Modern and Classical) in the last few weeks of last term.  This is a new (and additional) post in the School, and is designed to bring together, and add yet further strength to, our excellent Latin and French departments.  Again, we had a tremendous number of applicants (we are finding that the number of applicants for posts at ECS is rising quite markedly at the moment) and an extremely impressive shortlist.  The recruitment process was very thorough indeed, and I am delighted to announce that I have appointed Mr Cédric Baurance to be the School’s new Head of Languages from September 2018. Mr Baurance, a French national, is an experienced and qualified MFL teacher.  He is an English graduate (with honours) of the Université Charles de Gaulle, Lille, and qualified as an MFL teacher through the National Centre for Languages, London.  He is currently a French and Spanish teacher at Ellesmere College in Shropshire, where he teaches from Year 3 to A Level and runs numerous trips and clubs.  He is a keen sportsman and has a Level 1 football coaching qualification, and has taught at Ellesmere for 6 years.  He will be a tremendous addition to, and leader of, an already-strong department.

Mr Baurance is currently Assistant Housemaster of one of Ellesmere College’s boarding houses: a mixed Year 4 to 8 house.  In addition to this, he is the Resident over-night duty member of staff in a Year 9-Year 11 (13-16) boys’ boarding house.  Ellesmere is a day and boarding school which holds a very similar ethos and embodies very similar values to ECS.  Given Cédric’s substantial boarding experience within a culturally-similar school, and the energy, kindness, compassion, high standards and wisdom that he radiated throughout the interview process, I have been very pleased to appoint him to the post of Housemaster from September 2018; a post which he will hold alongside his Head of Languages role (with an appropriately adjusted timetable to ensure the time for due focus and commitment to both roles).

Mr Baurance will be moving to Exeter with his long-term partner Beth.  Beth is also a teacher at Ellesmere College (she teaches Year 6), and she also has boarding experience: until 2016 she was the Resident overnight duty member of staff in their senior girls’ boarding house, and she remains their exeat cover residential housemistress.  Beth is about to begin a course with Exeter University to retrain as a Doctor, and will be assisting Cédric with the smooth running of our Boarding House.  Welcoming two experienced teachers and Houseparents (one of whom is a trainee Doctor) to the ECS boarding house is an excellent way of ensuring that the outstanding work done by Katherine and David Lacey will continue to be built on, and will ensure that the care of our boarders passes into two more very capable sets of hands.  Cédric and Beth will be visiting ECS and the boarding house later in the term, and there will of course be the opportunity to meet them.

And my final piece of staff news this week is a message of good luck: to Mrs Claire Tamblyn, Reception teacher, who will be at the starting line (and, we hope, the finishing line an hour or so later) of what looks set to be the hottest London Marathon on record.  Claire has quietly been training hard since January and will be running on Sunday for Mermaids.  Do sponsor her if you can.  I admire anyone who can show the determination, tenacity, athleticism, stoicism, work ethic, strength of character, and good humour to sign up for the London Marathon, and I wish Claire the very best of luck and lots of enjoyment for the race.   It may only be from the comfort of my sofa, but I will certainly be cheering her on!

James Featherstone

20 April 2018
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