Head’s Blog

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Our wonderful Chef and Catering Team outdid themselves on Saturday when they provided the most sumptuous Royal wedding picnic for the Boarders. Having seen the menu presented to the Royal family and their guests, I am certain that the Prior’s Field spread was far more impressive! The Boarders thoroughly enjoyed watching the wedding, oo’ing and ah’ing in all the right places. It was a lovely occasion for the Prior’s Field memory book.

This week the First, Second and Third Forms have been sitting their internal exams. The girls have been working hard and keeping calm.  I am very proud of them.

The Lower Sixth meanwhile have been putting the final touches to their senior prefect applications, which have been flying in. The letters of application I have received have been so impressive in their maturity – full of wisdom, ideas and enthusiasm. We have a hard task on our hands to choose between these young women, all so keen to step up and take on an important leadership role within the school.

Yesterday, Ms Troup and I escaped the Godalming rain and went to Buckingham Palace to meet not the Queen but, in our case, the Countess of Wessex, who presented four of our current girls (Katie A, Flora H, Holly G and Georgia S) and three former pupils (Sinead K, Holly D and Sophie P) with their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. It was a wonderfully joyous occasion which it was a privilege to attend. Nearly 3 million awards have been achieved since the scheme started in 1956 and more than 275,000 people are currently working towards an award. This transformational scheme promotes resilience and enterprise and builds confidence and self-esteem. I am delighted that Prior’s Field girls throw themselves into it with so much gusto, supported by staff members just as evangelical about Duke of Edinburgh as I am. Please do encourage your daughter to take part and join me on a future trip to the palace!

Finally, today we have said goodbye to the Upper Sixth as they depart on study leave. They have treated us to a wonderful day with a surprise breakfast of cake and personal messages for staff, morning activities organised by the Second Form focussed on giving to others and a delicious lunch for the whole school. We wish the girls the best of luck for their exams and look forward to celebrating their successes in August.

With best wishes for half term

Tracy Kirnig

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I often comment how pleased I am to welcome the girls back to school after a break or a holiday; staff involved with the Fourth Form girls on their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition on Saturday were pleased and relieved to see the intrepid explorers reaching their planned finish point, whether or not they had overcome navigational challenges! We are fortunate to have so many staff willing to give up their weekend to support the girls in this adventure. Each year girls lower down the school are inspired by the achievements of those in the Fourth Form and beyond.

It cannot be overemphasized how important it is for children to pursue activities outside the classroom, whether at school or at home.  I have been struck this week by the breadth of the sporting opportunities offered at Prior’s Field during the school year. The calendar is full of fixtures – tennis, athletics, cricket and rounders feature heavily at the moment. Do remember that you are very welcome to come and support your daughter and her team mates. It really is a joy.

We are all currently very aware of pressures on children and young people due to exams and, with the internal exams for First to Third Formers next week, I would reiterate that a sensible balance between revision and breaks is essential to ensure your daughter’s emotional and physical wellbeing. I cannot promise this year to provide what the Head at another school in Surrey has arranged to remind his pupils to have fun (a fairground on school grounds). We will, however, be aiming for all the girls to give their best without feeling overwhelmed by expectations. The Upper Sixth’s Give Back Day is a wonderful occasion for the school to look forward to at the end of next week.

The Lower Sixth were thinking beyond exams this week when they experienced an evening of mock job interviews with a selection of parents and friends of the school. These interviews coincided with the final days running up to the deadline for prefect applications. The ability to interact with a potential employer or third party in an interview scenario is now crucial for our young people. The Sixth Form team work very hard to continue to equip students with the skills they will need when they leave school. I hope the girls enjoyed the experience and took away from it some tips and techniques on which to build. We are very grateful to the volunteer interviewers.

Our entertainment this week seems to all have a common connection: food! Junior Boarding had an Open House on Monday. We all enjoyed cakes baked by the girls, who were very excited and proud to show us around their domain. Classics and Cakes last evening had a fantastic programme and I was very sad to miss it. I understand, however, that the performances were stunning. These regular mini-concerts provide a valuable opportunity for the girls to perform to a small audience, thereby gradually gaining more confidence – part of our toolkit for life beyond Prior’s Field.

Our final entertainment of the week will be tomorrow, when the Boarders are celebrating the Royal Wedding in style with a wonderful picnic. I will be donning my wedding hat and enjoying the festivities with the girls on what promises to be another sunny day.

With best wishes for the Royal weekend

Tracy Kirnig

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It was lovely to welcome the girls back to school on Tuesday after the fantastic Bank Holiday weekend.

Public exams have begun in earnest for the Fifth Form and the corridors are still. Girls in other years, however, continue with exam preparation in school. I can sense the girls’ focus as I walk around the school. This time of year presents them with a challenge and an opportunity to show us and themselves what they have achieved this year.

I am thrilled that our connection with Delight, the charity working with primary schools to support learning through the arts and books, continues. Sixth Form girls have visited a number of schools this year presenting assemblies and collecting unwanted books which, having been counted and packed by a team of girls at Prior’s Field, have been passed to Delight. This week, a number of Second, Third and Fourth Form girls helped with the next stage of the process: distributing books to children at local primary schools. They visited Guildford Grove Primary School where they helped each child to select two free books that he or she might like to read. As a keen reader as well as an educationalist, I am hugely supportive of the concept behind this charity. If you would like to know more about it, do take a look at http://delightcharity.org.uk/what-we-do/.

Baroness Mary Warnock is a Prior’s Field Old Girl and I was fascinated to read her thoughts in the TES this week on why her 1978 report on special education was, and still is a landmark document for all of us who are passionate about providing the best possible inclusive education for every child. We are hugely proud to count her amongst our Alumnae.

On the subject of Alumnae, we have welcomed a number of old girls to Prior’s Field this week. The visit of Khursheed Khurody was the trigger for a number of other alumnae from her year group (1983) to visit at the same time. It was a pleasure to chat to Khursheed and her family; Khursheed has fond memories of boarding and the English families with whom she stayed at half terms and exeats. Another old girl, Catherine Valentine, a sports agent for Olympian Helen Glover, amongst others, and a keen sportswoman herself, was very impressed with our current sports facilities, and almost wished she could be a school girl again so that she could play on the astro!

This weekend, our intrepid Fourth Form Bronze Duke of Edinburgh girls depart on their practice expedition. It looks as though the weather will be kind. The Bronze Award is potentially only the first step on the Duke of Edinburgh journey. I do hope the girls really enjoy the experience which can be hugely beneficial in so many ways, and can spark a love of the outdoors that lasts forever. I have been invited to Buckingham Palace to see a number of our older girls receive their Gold Award later this month. Who knows, the invitation may be for some of our current Fourth Form in a few years’ time.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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A shorter message from me this week as I was away from school for two days at the Boarding Schools Association annual conference in Brighton. A packed programme kept us all busy with speakers, workshops and information. This is an event valuable for sharing innovative ideas and discussing current trends and concerns. Boarding remains a popular option for parents and Prior’s Field is very much part of the modern boarding story.

Back at base, in Godalming, the school was still buzzing after PF Alive on Saturday- a fantastic event thoroughly enjoyed by the audience and, I think, even more so by the girls themselves. The joy and sense of fun was palpable, the girls giving us huge smiles as they strutted their stuff on the catwalk. This was a tremendous community event and I must thank all the staff involved, particularly Mrs Rusholme, the Music department and our incredible compere, MC Pratt. The combined contributions of staff, the PSA and our amazing caterers made the evening a great success.

This morning the Upper Sixth presented their final assembly: a wonderful celebration of the girls’ time at Prior’s Field, with a video created by our very own Holly H incorporating messages to the girls from the whole school. We will miss these young women when they leave us in the summer. We still have three weeks of their company, however, before their exam leave begins.

Today we are saying good luck to the Fifth Form as they embark on study leave. I know that the girls still have plenty of study to do between now and their well-deserved rest and relaxation at the end of June, and we will see many of the girls who are coming in for revision workshops in the next few weeks. I look forward to celebrating the girls’ achievements with them in August.

With best wishes for a warm and sunny Bank Holiday weekend

Tracy Kirnig

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My first blog – perhaps a broadcast from our YouTube channel next?

Last weekend the clock was turned back – a cricket match was played by Prior’s Field girls, emulating their forebears in the school’s infancy who were some of the first school girls ever to play the game.

We have also been reminded in the news this week of another woman who made history – Dame Millicent Fawcett – an intelligent and inspiring suffragist, who would surely have been known of by the innovative and forward-thinking women at Prior’s field at the time, who is now commemorated with a statue in Westminster.

It is facile to talk about how times have changed – facile, but true and very relevant when considering the report in the Times this week of the view of the well-known historian, Bettany Hughes, on the merits of boarding. The modern boarding experience is very much at odds with many of the public comments which have been prompted by Ms Hughes’ opinion. To be a boarder today is to have all the advantages and opportunities that come from being part of two families: at home and in the boarding community. Prior’s Field boarders, who are here because they and their family have chosen that path for all the right reasons, enjoy wonderful events like the amazing St George’s Day Medieval Banquet which took place on Monday. More importantly, however, they reap the benefits of modern thinking about and awareness of the issues facing adolescents – issues not widely understood even in the recent past – and pastoral support from experienced staff who, every day, interact with the girls with kindness and emotional intelligence.

All our girls – both boarding and day girls – also benefit hugely of course from family support and, at Monday’s PSA meeting, we thanked four parents who are stepping down from the committee, having been stalwart, committed and hardworking members for a number of years: Mrs Kingsbury, Mrs Hone, Mrs Cox-Cunningham and Mrs Leach. My thanks go to them and to all the PSA, for supporting the school in so many different ways. This weekend the PSA will be helping once more, as staff, girls and parents come together for PF Alive. Everyone is very excited and the preparations are gathering momentum. I look forward to seeing those of you lucky enough to have a ticket tomorrow evening.

Finally, we welcomed this week a whole community of new residents, who we hope will provide for the girls a new interest, learning opportunities and … honey!  A colony of bees, tended by the very enthusiastic Mr Swansborough, is now living in my garden.  All we need now is for the sun to return and the flowers to bloom – then the bees will be as busy as the rest of the school!

With best wishes for a lovely weekend

Tracy Kirnig

We have continued to have a steady stream of visitors through the Rose Garden and beyond, following the AppArt trail, which is growing daily as new pieces seem to appear overnight. I have watched out of my window groups of excited children from St Hilary’s and Moss Lane examining the display, and yesterday we welcomed First Form friends and family who came to our Relatives’ Day, one of my favourite Prior’s Field events. The First Form were excellent hosts and tour guides and proudly showed their guests around their school, pointing out their favourite spots and interesting sights – like the Head, for example!

Another treat this week has been to listen to some of Mr Butler’s and Mrs McGarry’s Second Form girls read their creative writing, which was powerful, evocative and, frankly, quite terrifying! I look forward to hearing more after the holidays.

I have had the privilege over the last few days of attending as a guest two local school productions: ‘My Fair Lady’ at Manor House (with acting Director of Music for the show, our very own Mr Pratt) and ‘Hoodwinked’ at Longacre. They were both a complete joy to share with smiling parents and staff. The hat-trick was completed when Mrs Wilcock saw ‘The Jungle Book’ at St Hilary’s, another huge success. Congratulations to everyone concerned with all those shows; the hard work is worth it for the pleasure they bring.

Our own girls who attended the Annual Sports Dinner on Tuesday were both inspired by the speaker, Rachel Morris, and inspiring, as many received awards for their achievements. The celebrations of sporting success that evening were a precursor to our Presentation Assembly this morning, when a multitude of awards for a huge number of activities, both academic and co-curricular, were presented to many girls who were quite rightly beaming with delight.

Last night, our Digital Awareness pastoral evening was an important event with an outside speaker; the parents who came were very engaged and interested. We plan similar talks for the future and I would really encourage you to attend so that we can work together to ensure that your daughter is equipped for life beyond Prior’s Field. We will let you know when we have firmed up the date of our next event.

I am conscious that, for many, the holidays mean revision and I know that girls will be working hard to make progress towards their goals. I do hope, however, that everyone has the opportunity to have a rest. Let’s hope that we see more of the sun than snow in the weeks ahead.

With best wishes for a happy Easter

Tracy Kirnig

Head

As I look outside my window, I know that spring is here as there are fascinating and beautiful pieces of art peeping out of bushes and hiding around every corner. AppART is here and this week we have already welcomed several groups of prep and primary school children to wander around the Rose Garden and take part in an Art workshop with Miss Thorpe from the Art department. It was clear from the excited noise in the Oak Hall, when the girls and boys came in for their snack and were displaying their creations, that they had had great fun.

Another real treat this week was Mothering Sunday at the weekend, when the boarders invited me to join them and other invited guests from Busbridge Church Primetime Group. I was immensely proud of the girls who charmed and made conversation with the group of mainly elderly visitors, who would otherwise have been on their own, despite some having children of their own.

On Tuesday, we welcomed several families of prospective pupils to ‘Meet the Head’ and other members of the Senior Leadership Team. They were shown round by smiling girls, eager to show off their school – so eager in fact that one family nearly had a tour of the kitchen!

It was lovely on Wednesday to see so many of the Fourth Form and their parents at Parents’ Evening. I have been fortunate enough recently to have been able to find the time to observe several lessons, across all the year groups, and I have been so impressed by the way in which the girls really do throw themselves into academic study.

As always, however, Prior’s Field girls frequently manage successfully to combine work and play. This week, the U13 gymnasts impressed at their competition away to Guildford High. Yesterday evening, the audience and VIPs, including me and Mr Taylor, at the Rotary Schools Concert at G Live were treated to a fantastic Prior’s Field contribution, including a wonderful ‘Les Misérables’ medley, reminding us just how amazing that production was last term. And finally, today, in a special assembly, seven Sixth Formers received a Young Leaders in Service Award, a testament to their commitment to giving to others whilst developing themselves and their own life skills for the future. It is remarkable that these girls have been able to contribute huge quantities of time for this award, whilst also achieving in their academic studies, music and drama.

Finally, I leave you with the image of the Head very nearly photo-bombing a form group photo! The girls all so enjoyed the opportunity with their friends to capture on camera this special time in their lives – before they move on to the next one!

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

Head

 

Whilst the north-west of England continues to have snow, spring seems to have arrived at Prior’s Field. It is hardly credible that the boarders (and I!) were sledging down the slopes in the school grounds last Friday on tea trays! Some of the girls also took the opportunity to use the wintery background to add to their Art and Photography portfolios with stunning results.

On the subject of snow, or skiing, we were excited this week to learn that, thanks to Molly in the First Form, Prior’s Field now holds the British Inter Schools U12 Grand Slalom title. Molly’s achievements this season are awe-inspiring and a testament to her drive and commitment.

Rock and Pop on Monday was another celebration of achievement. The girls who played and sang were extremely good and gave a performance that was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. It was super to see so many girls invest such a huge amount of energy and emotion in what was, for some, an experience quite outside their comfort zone.

This phenomenal week continued on Wednesday with House Art: an opportunity for girls in every year group to display their skill in Art, Photography and Textiles. Creative Arts Scholars’ parents and invited guests, including the new Director of Watts Gallery, Alistair Burtenshaw, thoroughly enjoyed admiring the pieces before the judges made their decision. Prince Charles, who has been in the press this week, calling for more Creative Arts teaching and learning, would have been more than impressed with the astounding display of talent.

There was plenty of noise in the Drama Studio yesterday when the Fifth Form received their IGCSE Maths results: every girl achieved at least a C grade and 55% achieved an A*. Even the sun came out to celebrate with the girls, as they posed by the unicorn for a photograph. I am very proud of their achievement, and grateful for all the hard work put in by the Maths Department to support them.

It seems that Prior’s Field girls were involved at the start of the global women’s movement celebrated this week on International Women’s Day. A Prior’s Field girl, Margie Wetzler Coit, wrote in the school magazine in 1909 about the International Women’s Suffrage Conference she attended in London. This week, Prior’s Field girls’ achievements seem to embody the advice of one of the speakers at that conference to ‘follow the gleam’!

The First Form trips to the Robertson Nursing Home continued on Monday, and I know how much the residents enjoyed these visits, and how appreciative their families are that our girls are connecting with their family members in this way. This weekend, I have been invited to Mother’s Day lunch with the boarders, and I am looking forward to sharing the day with several members of the Busbridge Prime Time group who are also coming along.

I hope you too are able to enjoy a special time this weekend with your family.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

Head

 

PF Old Girls SnowThis week has been dominated by attempting to anticipate the weather! Prior’s Field seems to have escaped the worst of the snow and we were one of the last schools standing yesterday, with about two-thirds attendance. Today, whilst the forecast beat us and the school was closed, the boarders, for whom the school is of course their home, have enjoyed a varied programme of activities and had the opportunity to enjoy Prior’s Field in the snow, like many girls before them. 

Our Year 6 guests enjoyed their boarding taster last weekend; I very much enjoyed meeting them on Saturday and I know they enjoyed a packed day with the boarding team and the boarders themselves. On Saturday, I also had the privilege of watching the Lower Sixth rehearse for their devised performance exam. The progression between the rehearsal and the actual exam on Wednesday was striking; the audience, comprising parents, staff and other supporters, were treated to an inspiring performance of great power. 

We welcomed two speakers to school on Monday. We are very grateful to Nick Stylianou, son of our very own School Secretary, Mary Stylianou, and Sky News reporter, for coming to talk to the girls and for fitting us into his very busy schedule – although I understand that Nick’s planned assignment on a boat in Devon the following day was cancelled! Laura Bates is a modern feminist writer well-known for her strong views about the need for meaningful sex education and her readiness to speak out for women. She spoke on Monday to the Upper School about her belief that gender equality is right for everyone, a current topic which provokes much debate. Arguably a controversial figure, we were fortunate that Laura, who is currently very much in demand by the media especially, was able to spare the time to visit us. 

We were also pleased to welcome Richard Evans, (above), Head at Great Ballard School who was keen to re-visit the site after a number of years and before some of his pupils join us in September.

Despite the weather, the First Form Parents’ Evening was extremely well-attended. I enjoyed chatting to some of you and getting to know you a little better. 

I do hope that the white stuff lasts into the weekend and that all of us, young and not so young, have the opportunity to have fun in the snow. 

With best wishes 

Tracy Kirnig 

‘We are our choices,’ wrote Jean-Paul Sartre, and in school this week there has been an atmosphere of supporting the girls across the board in making choices and key decisions as they look ahead at the next chapter of their educational journey and beyond school.

At the beginning of the week, the Fifth Formers were busy with their post mock GCSE interviews. These sessions were an invaluable opportunity to reflect and analyse on their performance, and to support the girls in making appropriate improvements to their preparation for their exams later this year. We very much welcomed the opportunity to continue these discussions with Fifth Form parents yesterday evening.

On Monday, the Third Formers were introduced to the process of choosing their GCSE options. Mrs Wilcock guided them through the next steps, which include the Third Form Parents’ and GCSE Options Evening taking place on Thursday 1 February next week.  Sixth Form were also busy reflecting on a huge array of impressive university offers, whilst undertaking a number of academic trips and lectures which support their studies.

Decision making is also at the fore for so many of the parents whose daughter has received the exciting news of the outcome of her application to join Prior’s Field at 11+ or 13+. We look forward to hosting a significant number of them at Open Day alongside our first time visitors on Saturday 3 February.

Continuing the theme of progression and options, I want to draw your attention to a couple of forthcoming events. The first is open to all ages: a fascinating series of Careers Talks on Monday afternoons, delivered by a host of professionals willing to share their path to their chosen careers, and the sense of fulfilment they gain from their work.

The second series of events is aimed at the Fifth Formers, who have been  invited to the Sixth Form Loft to meet the Heads of Department to explore A Level options over a hot chocolate.  And as another more contemporary author wrote – ‘You just need a little perspective. Warmed chocolate can give you that.’ –  Giada De LaurentiisParis!

Have a wonderful weekend

Tracy Kirnig