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Headmaster: Rory Johnston email@example.com 01258 860219
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Chair of the Governors: Lucinda Sunnucks (contact details from the office 01258 860219)
Below is the text of the Headmaster's speech given at the 70th Birthday, Summer 2017
Welcome back. May I say how wonderful it is to see so many Old Girls and their families here celebrating 70 years of this unique school and sharing so many memories?
Many of you, I suspect, will have noticed how little has changed: the curriculum may include ICT as well as Art Appre, the tree may have lost a few branches and there may even be doors on the loos, but you will, I am sure, be pleased to learn that...
- the girls still love to climb the tree, play on the see-saw, make dens in Chestnut and jumps in Tumbledown;
- the Summer Play continues to be performed in the shadow of the plane tree;
- there are still early morning rides up Hod and Ham;
- the Nativity still takes place in the hall during Advent; and
- Mrs C's Day is still one of the major events of the early Autumn.
Above all, the girls are happy and enjoy a freedom of mind and spirit which I think is unique to this school.
So, little change then, but not because of some sepia-tinted nostalgia but because Hanford works – no
matter how improbable that might seem to those who don't know us.
When they founded Hanford in 1947 Mrs C and the Reverend Clifford Canning were revolutionary: no uniform, little hierarchy, a family feel – not the typical ingredients of a 1940s prep school.
If one person's revolutionary is another's freedom fighter, then perhaps the Cannings were freedom fighters: they believed that children will be best prepared for their adult lives if they are given the freedom to develop in their own time in as diverting and carefree an environment as possible.
We believe that this ethos – which has underpinned the school for the past 70 years – is as important today as it has ever been.
Because of what it means for the girls.
Hanford continues to provide a beautiful setting in which girls can:
- enjoy being children while still fulfilling their potential (academic, artistic, sporty, dramatic...whatever)
- grow in confidence without becoming arrogant
- develop their creativity and curiosity
- learn to give things a go without a fear of failure and
- create lifelong friendships which have always been a hallmark of this school.
The girls continue to be awarded an outrageous number of scholarships to senior schools (some 28 in the past three years alone) and at these senior schools, they can be relied upon to contribute from Day One (as one Admissions Director said to me: "Hanford girls are radiators not drains") and to make the most of the opportunities afforded to them (I even understand that there are currently eight Hanford girls studying at Cambridge or Oxford).
Hanford girls leave without a sense of entitlement – but knowing how lucky they are to have been here.
This is why, I think, so many of you are here today.
But now, as we celebrate Hanford's 70th, our minds must turn to the future. How do we ensure that Hanford thrives, that the legacy of the Cannings – of an outstanding, enlightened education for girls – endures for the
next 70 years?
We have considered a large number of options – many of which have revolved around new buildings.
We believe, however, that we have the opportunity to pursue a different path, one which is not only bold but also in keeping with the original ethos of the Cannings when they founded Hanford.
It is an approach based on three elements:
- inspirational teaching;
- making the most of what we have; and
Inspirational teaching is the bedrock on which the school is founded: Hanford has always been able to attract the most outstanding teachers and I am sure that many of you have enjoyed catching up with former and current staff – just as I know they will be delighted to hear your news. The current crop is no different - an outstanding mix of experience, energy and high expectations. This must remain our priority in the future.
We have the most wonderful facilities: the beautiful house and chapel, the stables, the tree, the lawn, the gardens, access to Hod and Ham. We will focus our energy and resources on these unique assets ensuring that the girls can get the most out of them. As for new buildings, we will build only what is necessary such that we have what we need and nothing more. Whatever we build, we shall find inventive and cost-effective ways of doing so.
Affordability: there is little doubt that the level of school fees means an education like this is out of reach for all but a very small percentage of the population. Our aim is to address this permanently such that those who believe in this unique and brilliant education... this enlightened education – and by that I mean many of you here today – our aim is to ensure that you can afford to send your daughters here.
There is, however, a price tag: as the great Dolly Parton once said, "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap".
We are therefore launching a process to raise some £4million over the next five years:
- to facilitate on-going refurbishment of the house, stables and classrooms; and
- to create a fund which will enable a substantial – and permanent – reduction in fees.
So this is a call to arms: you are the best advocates and adverts for this school and all help will be gratefully received, whether a financial donation or an offer to help with fund-raising, any links with trusts and foundations, help with PR or contacting potential donors...
The girls will be handing out forms for you to fill in – please take one, complete it and hand it back. With your help, we can achieve anything.
So. if someone asks me what my vision is for this joyous, wonderful, improbable school, it is clear and simple: that in 70 years’ time, long after I have been laid to rest, your grand-daughters will be standing here celebrating 140 years of enlightened, outstanding education, sharing happy memories of teachers not yet born and commenting that, while the tree has lost a few more branches, the roof may be waterproof and Artificial Intelligence may have been added to the curriculum, how little has changed...
... and thank God for that.