Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls.
Welcome to Rossall School! I am tremendously privileged to have recently become the seventeenth Head of this wonderful school; a school which will soon celebrate its 175th year. Throughout our long and illustrious history we have had an intimate connection with our surroundings and we are intensely proud of the deep connection that we have to the local communities and people of the Fylde coast and the North West.
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War, I am humbled by the extraordinary service and sacrifice that members of this community made to King and country during the 20th Century. This exquisitely beautiful chapel serves as a memorial to those 298 members of our community who lost their lives during the First World War (including two holders of the Victoria Cross). That might seem like a sombre note to strike but the illustrious history of this school inspires us to achieve great things – we do not wallow in nostalgia but strive for excellence in all areas of school life. We are an entirely modern and progressive school. Our outlook is international and we embrace diversity.
For 175 years we have been successfully enabling young people to become the best possible versions of themselves and that is tremendous privilege and responsibility.
It is a well-worn cliché that successful schools are special places but Rossall is truly unique in terms of its clarity of purpose and solicitude for the holistic development of each and every boy and girl as he or she progresses through the school. The school is distinguished by a level of pastoral care that ensures a positive and affirmative focus upon each individual.
I am so glad that you have chosen to join us this morning as this is a tremendously exciting time to visit the school. Pupil numbers have grown by over 20% during the last couple of years and the growing attractiveness of the school is in no small part due to the exciting and varied curriculum on offer here at Rossall. I think it also reflects the growing ambition of the School and a sense that what we offer is truly transformative. In particular, the growth in our day numbers is a superb vote of confidence from the communities that we seek to serve.
We are a School which reflects deeply upon the contribution which our pupils should have upon the world around them. The fact that Old Rossallians are to be found making a profound impact in the world of sports, the arts, politics and technology at a local, national and international level is indicative of a School that understands that education is more than the sum of subjects studied.
A Rossall Education develops character. It develops young people with a palpable concern for the world within which they live. Our status as a Round Square school and our membership of the International Baccalaureate Organisation has led to a distinctive culture within which children are encouraged to become critically reflective thinkers and independent learners. A Rossall School education engenders a concern for the environment and empathy for others. Children leave Rossall as young men and women who exhibit a profound interest in humanitarian issues. They are politically literate and encouraged and empowered to make a difference to the world within which they live.
Academic aspirations are important but what really matters is that we are of service to others, that our lives count. All schools should focus upon helping children to achieve that end.
We can say with some confidence that a Rossall education provides young people with the skills they need to succeed in the technologically driven global village of the twenty first century. We prepare our children for an uncertain future by developing those attributes which will serve them well in this changing world. We encourage boys and girls to be resilient and flexible in terms of their approach to problem-solving. Interestingly, companies like Google are not seeking brilliant coders, they are seeking young people who are resourceful, creative and adaptive and we are responding to that need here at Rossall.
Involvement with the Duke of Edinburgh Award and CCF encourages children to develop leadership skills and learn the value of teamwork. Courage and compassion are developed through our extensive programme of outward bound activities and by virtue of living as part of a tight community where lifelong friendships are forged.
The architectural splendour of our surroundings and the spectacular backdrop of Morecambe Bay and the Cumbrian peaks inspires us to achieve great things but the elemental beauty of our surroundings is only half the story. The real strength of Rossall is our staff and our uncomplicated focus upon the individual. We believe that young people thrive on positive encouragement and the knowledge that their opinions matter. We are an open and warm-hearted community. Boys and girls at a Rossall express themselves with a confidence that reflects their sense of belonging. They know that they will be listened to and that their voice counts.
Our Sixth Form boys and girls exude confidence and we are immeasurably proud of the young men and women that they have become. I always believe that one should judge a School by its pupils rather than the words of its staff. On this account, Rossall is extraordinarily blessed. My daughters are still very young, seven, five and eighteen months. What matters to me as a parent, above all else, is that they are challenged and provided with exciting opportunities within a context which is nurturing, affirmative and entirely dedicated to supporting their wellbeing. Speaking personally, the attractiveness and effectiveness of Rossall is exemplified by our pupils. They are eloquent and erudite. They put others before themselves and they express their ideas with conviction and confidence.
The dynamism and confidence of Rossall is reflected in the considerable sums that we are currently investing in the School’s resources and infrastructure. We are unashamedly ambitious and our newly opened Performing Arts Studio provides a fantastic space for the creative arts. This development has been made possible by the extraordinary generosity of an Old Rossallian and the continued involvement of our Old Rossallians is, in itself, indicative of a School which engenders loyalty and affection in equal measure
The new Sports Centre is a state-of-the-art facility which will enable us to extend our impressive performance in a number of sports where we make our mark both regionally and nationally. In September 2019, we are launching an Elite Sports Training Programme for our highest performing boys and girls. Individualised programmes built around the Level 3 BTEC in Sports and Exercise Science will ensure that our provision is cutting edge and that we maintain our position as a real leader in this field.
For us, inclusivity is key and all our pupils will benefit from this fantastic centre and we are tremendously excited to watch the building taking shape in front of our eyes.
Above all else, our core purpose is teaching and learning. It is our responsibility to inspire excellence and to ensure that our children become active lifelong learners who value education for its intrinsic value rather than perceiving it simply as a facilitator. This is why we are investing heavily in this aspect of the school and have made two key appointments of which I am particularly excited – a new Director of Teaching and Learning and a new Head of Professional Development.
This is part of our ambitious strategic vision which includes the provision of a centre of innovation and the development of a leadership academy. We are determined to become a regional and national centre of excellence for teaching and learning.
We intend to become an Apple School by September 2019 and we are already actively embracing Google Apps for Education. Academic results are strong. Nearly 50% of grades in reformed GCSE subjects scored a 7-9 (equivalent to A*/A) and our top performers in the Sixth Form achieved As and A*s across the board or over 40 points in the IB Diploma Programme. Rossallians access top universities in the UK and Overseas and our Oxbridge preparation programme provides our pupils with the best possible shot at our most competitive of universities.
Old Rossallians can be found in every major city around the world and in all walks of life and many provide an invaluable service to recent School leavers in terms of providing internships or advice on career related ideas.
We are mindful of our illustrious history and traditions but, strategically, we are sharply focused on the future. We believe that a modern education must balance courage with compassion and creativity with consistency. We believe that personal happiness and emotional literacy are as important as academic success and professional fulfilment.
This Open Day may well be a first step in your journey towards Rossall but, above all else, we would like you to return to us for a personal visit. We are happy to welcome you at any point during the year and many families like to have a taster day to make absolutely sure that this is the right choice for them.