|1 Dec 2020|
After just one year as Headmaster of Brentwood School, Michael Bond reflected on “a truly remarkable” period at Speech Day in June - the 463rd such event but the first in virtual format.
“Can anyone have imagined the events of the past few months? I’m sure that no one in our long and distinguished history could have predicted that we would, over a few days in March, shift almost our entire school online. How impressed we have all been by the way our students have adapted to remote learning.
We have done incredibly well. I’m not aware of any schools which have maintained the level of provision, within and beyond the classroom, that we have done.” Teachers and students had “learned new skills, cast aside any nervousness around technology and thrown themselves into it wholeheartedly.”
A remarkable programme had emanated from teachers and students putting on impressive weekly musical concerts, remote sports competitions, House Charity weeks, and even Sports Day and Field Days.
Fifth Year and Upper Sixth form students had coped extremely well with COVID-19 disruption. “After working so hard for almost two years, these groups have had to come to terms with a very different end to their year. They have done so with real maturity, perspective, resilience and kindness - within the spirit of Virtue, Learning and Manners.”
Mr Bond congratulated all prizewinners. Over the year, he had given out over 80 Headmaster’s Academic Awards for outstanding work and six students had received offers from Oxford or Cambridge.
“I’m incredibly proud of everyone at Brentwood who has made this happen through imagination, creativity, sustained hard work and more than a little love for our school. It’s made me even more excited about our future on the other side of Coronavirus.”
Referring to the pre-Covid months, Mr Bond said the Performing Arts faculty had “literally taken my breath away” with an exceptional house music competition and a production of Les Misérables which was “truly outstanding”.
“The sheer breadth and depth of the ambition, commitment and talent we have within our School” had been exemplified in sport. Three netball teams reached the Regional Finals and the U15s reached the Independent Schools National Final. The Junior Girls’ athletics team finished second at the National Schools Track and Field Cup. At the District Championships, both the boys and girls teams retained their overall titles.
Two fencing teams - the U13 girls and U18 boys- enjoyed podium finishes at the British Schools Team Championships. The Second XI footballers won the Elgin League; the U14 hockey team were crowned Essex Champions; and the swimming team won the District Championships for the 15th consecutive year.
The equestrian team also became County champions and qualified for the National Championships. Some 16 students performed particularly well in the slalom events at the Independent School Ski Championships.
Whereas most schools had mothballed their CCF operations during lockdown, staff had found “innovative and creative ways” of enabling Brentwood cadets to continue their development. “The country’s largest CCF contingent had refused to let Coronavirus beat them.”
A huge amount of effort had been put into voluntary service and fundraising. Houses had raised thousands of pounds for charities. Staff and students had supported Age UK, St Francis Hospice, Little Haven Hospice, Essex Wildlife Trust, Mind and Papyrus. “Ambitious plans” in this field lay ahead.
Mr Bond had no doubt that the school had benefited in recent months from the values laid down in 1622. “Good schools are made truly great schools by the staff, students, governors, parents and Old Brentwoods who make up our community.”
The Governing body had provided steadfast and stalwart support in testing times, ensuring the School “not only survives but thrives.” He thanked Sir Michael Snyder, Chairman of Governors, for the “guidance, encouragement and counsel he has given me personally, and the school as a whole.”
He thanked colleagues in the senior leadership team, who had “worked tirelessly during the pandemic” to support everyone; and colleagues moving to pastures new for “many years of service within and beyond the classroom. I couldn’t be prouder of the people with whom I work. The last few months have proved beyond any doubt that we are, collectively, greater than the sum of our parts.”
Chairman of Governors Sir Michael Snyder paid tribute to the School’s “talented, committed and enthusiastic” Board of Governors, in particular Vice Chairman Bob McLintock and the Committee Chairs. Members had deployed their expertise in finance, law, education, IT, safeguarding and property in the School’s interests during difficult and testing months. “The Board played a crucial role in setting strategy, supporting the Senior Leadership Team and ensuring the School was well managed, financially sound and meeting its legal obligations.”
Sir Michael felt that Mr Bond had been with us for much longer than a year, given changes to the structure, strategy and atmosphere around the School. “His inspirational leadership has ensured that while the site has been closed to most pupils, the School itself has remained very much open, within and beyond the virtual classroom. His enthusiasm and can-do attitude has rubbed off on the staff, leading to some thrilling remote performances in music, sport, drama and other fields.”
Mr Bond had been working closely with Governors and staff on an ambitious and exciting long-term strategy “to produce one of the most forward-thinking and successful education establishments in the country.”
The Prep School expansion and development was nearly complete and would provide facilities few could match. Following the sad closure of another local prep school in May, the Prep had received a high number of applications, dealing with them sympathetically while “maintaining our commitment to the highest standards of academic provision and pastoral care, having invested in and expanded our teaching staff.”
Over 200 new pupils would be joining the Senior School in September, where a modern and efficient new entrance, complemented by artworks showcasing pupils’ talents, welcomed visitors. The Ashton building had been expanded for the History department.
The Brentwood School Foundation had been bolstered by gifts, fundraising activities and generous legacies. A full bursary had been extended to one deserving pupil. Further support would enable more to be awarded. Sir Michael was grateful to the many parents who had donated the Trinity term’s fee discount to an emergency Bursary fund to help families particularly hard hit by Coronavirus.
A major investment in music had focused on increasing stocks of less popular instruments, enabling more students to develop their talents. Brentwood was making the most of its Steinway School status. “The Headmaster has vowed that we will become the very best music department in the country. That’s certainly music to my ears!”
Sir Michael concluded: “What a close knit and committed group of staff we have across the School! They’ve really come together over the past few months to show that, despite the site being shut, the School is very much ‘open’. Difficult and exacting decisions have had to be made in the short term while continuing to focus on investing for the future.”
Head of School Evie McKnight felt it was important to recognise the excellence and achievement of “so many people in our community who have gone above and beyond and even further, given the challenge of virtual learning. The way our School has adapted has proven beyond doubt that the education here is about far more than what happens inside the four walls of a classroom.”
She was extending a vote of thanks to governors, teachers, operational staff and parents for their roles in providing and supporting a Brentwood School education. This encompassed every member of staff - teaching and operational - for “dedicating so much of their time to us as pupils in so many ways. They have focused on values such as kindness, honesty and selflessness - all characteristics that distinguish us as proud students of Brentwood School.”
The Chairman and Governors were acknowledged for giving their time freely and generously to direct and support the School. Parents’ support and encouragement had “allowed us to explore all the opportunities at Brentwood and have been an invaluable contribution to our future.”
Ms McKnight had been impressed by Mr Bond’s assertion at Open Day last year that a chorus member in a School play should feel as great a sense of achievement as those cast in the principal parts. “He has inspired me, the pupils and members of staff to do their best every day. It has been an honour to share ideas with you and you have given the whole pupil body a voice.”
The Upper Sixth students had shown such great commitment, enthusiasm and hard work throughout their final year. “Although the abrupt end of our journey has not been the farewell we expected, so many fond memories have bound us together and will be treasured for many years.”
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