October 2020 - News from Frensham
Reflections from Rick at the end of a busy half term.
Autumn views from the back of Main House
As the first half of the Autumn term comes to a close here at Frensham, I once again find myself looking back on yet another few weeks that truly have been like none other – in my teaching career to date or indeed in the history of Frensham.
As last term, our prime focus continues to be the wellbeing of our Frensham community and the need to do our utmost to minimise the disruption to their education. For the large part I really do feel we have succeeded thanks, as always, to the commitment of the staff, both academic and support. Everyone has had a part to play. But it has meant changes, big changes! Frensham, as you will all know, has never had an extensive rule book. We give our students freedom and trust them to handle it responsibly. This term, however, many of those freedoms have been curtailed. We have one way systems, no entry signs, specific drop off times and lunch times, coloured wrist bands to identify (and unfortunately keep separate) each year group. Break times are no longer the opportunity to enjoy roaming the grounds freely as we have had to create zones for each of our years and the children are sitting in individual desks in long lines. In many ways, Frensham simply doesn’t feel like Frensham!
But look beyond the physical changes and rest assured, Frensham is still very much alive and well! We have been joined by some fabulous new members of teaching staff, bringing with them a wealth of experience from a range of backgrounds but all committed to our progressive, distinctive approach to education. Our student numbers on 1 September were the highest they have been and interest from prospective families is strong, particularly those looking to leave London for a more rural life. We are working really hard to support our Year 11 and Year 13 students as they face inevitable disruption and uncertainty in the build up to their public exams next summer whilst also doing our very best to offer all of our students the breadth of curriculum and range of activities that makes Frensham a truly special place to be at school.
One tradition that has refused to be beaten by COVID is Morning Talk and last week I had the privilege of speaking to the students, albeit virtually. I chose to talk about our school values, what they are and why they are important to who we are as a school. I touched on our history and why Frensham was founded and the relevance today of the guiding principles of our founders.
Frensham Heights is a school founded on the values of equality, mutual respect and the recognition of individuality. Acceptance for individuals marginalised by society and for those suffering prejudice or cruelty, is deeply engrained in our view of what it means to live in the Frensham community. Our commitment to valuing diversity is one that I wanted to reaffirm. We aim to be a world-class progressive school, leading by example to create a world where the unique facets of every individual are recognised and celebrated. We aim to build up the varied dimensions of our students to help them flourish into socially conscious change makers.
Recent events close to home and further afield have prompted members of our community to call for a renewal of our commitment to diversity: the global Black Lives Matter movement expressed passionately through sport, the arts, on the political stage and in schools across the country is one such event.
As we plan for the future, we have the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to diversity by building a meaningful guidance for our school community. We aim to draw on our collective experience, understanding and vision to build a roadmap to integrate our values for respect, individuality and equality in all that we do.
I have appointed a team of experienced staff, some new to our school, to develop a leading approach to respecting and encouraging diversity at Frensham. They bring enthusiasm, a fresh perspective and commitment to our ethos to the task. Alison Bundy (English teacher), Flic Bains (Head of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics) and Peter Fotheringham (Assistant Head Teaching & Learning) will be enabling and empowering our students, staff, parents and you, our Old Frenshamians, for a whole-community review of how we do our work at the school. They will be working with the community to produce a guide for our academic, pastoral and professional development going forward.
We really do value your input and it will be crucial as we aim to build our vision with broad-based support. We hope you will want to be involved in the processes of review, reflection and renewal, and we will send further details about this in due course.
Finally, I wanted to share with you the good news that we have committed to appointing a Development Director in the next few months, with a broad remit to cover relationship building with current parents and students, former parents and in particular our OF network, and fundraising. I know you will enjoy getting to know them once they are in post.
In the meantime, of course, we wish you and your families well. 2020 continues to be a tremendously challenging year and whilst we are still not sure when we will be able to welcome you back to Frensham, we are always thrilled to hear from you. Please do share your stories and news and don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can support you or your family.
With best wishes