Back in August 2022, we started the academic year celebrating the excellent GCSE results achieved by the outgoing Year 11. Indeed, last year’s GCSE grades were the school’s best ever set of formal public exams. Our pupils achieved 40% of all GCSE at the highest 7-9 grades (equivalent to A or A*), which is truly impressive for an non-selective school, and we were delighted to then be recognised by the Telegraph as one of the top 200 independent schools in the UK.
During the course of the year, the pupils’ successes continued at pace. There were too many to name everybody individually in this speech, but the mountain of silverware on the table next to me speaks volumes. However, there are some pupils who do deserve a mention right now.
Our intermediate and senior debating teams did very well, both winning the local and district rounds of the Rotary Club Youth Speaks competition. Unfortunately, our senior team had to withdraw due to personal grounds, which left our intermediate team of William, Sophie and Mia flying the Rookwood flag at the London and South East finals at Surrey University. Their humorous and witty argument as to whether or not to ban Fairy Tales was a hit with the judges as they won the event and moved through to the national finals at Rugby in April. They performed to their very best at the national finals and we were delighted when the team were declared national runners-up with William receiving the award for the best proposer.
Rotary Club success continued with the Young Writer competition and Leo Walker-Lloyds poignant interpretation of Peace, writing from the viewpoint of Peace itself. Leo’s entry was selected for entry at the national finals and, again, we were delighted that he was chosen as the national runner-up.
Our national successes did not end there. In the world of sport, a small of group of Rookwood pupils, by winning their respective regional competitions, made their way to the ISA national finals in athletics and swimming. I am delighted to inform you that there were national gold medals for Ellie in the U17 shotput, Grace in the U17 long-jump, and for Xen and Amelie in the swimming freestyle relays.
As we return to normal times, the year also saw an increase in the number of extracurricular clubs, such as the introduction of archery, and school trips, such as the Year 7 and 8 residential trip to Germany and the music department’s now annual visit to Voice in a Million at Wembley Arena. These are just a few of the activities which the pupils have benefited from during the year and I would like to thank all of the staff who have given up their time to support the pupils both in and out of the classroom.
The academic year also saw the reimagining of the school’s values and ethos. Following consultation with the staff and pupils, we drew up the six key values which we hold dearest and, collectively, best reflect a Rookwood education. These form the acronym ASPIRE and stand for Ambitious, Safe, Personal Growth, Integrity, Responsibility and Emotional Wellbeing. The ASPIRE ethos has since formed the foundations of our assembly, tutor time and PSHE programmes and we have also launched our new ASPIRE Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 Bronze, Silver and Gold badges. These are awards which pupils work towards during their time in the Senior School and we look forward to presenting the first awards in September.
Sadly at Christmas, we said goodbye to Mr Hick, our much loved Deputy Head as he retired from teaching. It is a credit to Mr Hick that we could not fill his boots with just one person and, in January, we saw the appointment of two new Deputy Heads, Mrs Hacker and Mrs Jellard, as well as the introduction of Mr Brooker as the Senior School’s Pastoral Lead.
The new team certainly had their work cut out as soon afterwards we received ‘the phone call’ from ISI that school would be inspected. The inspectors visited us in early March and were particularly impressed by the warm welcome they received from the pupils. Of particular note, the inspectors praised the pupils’ excellent understanding of their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing (most notably through the emotional assertiveness programme run by Mrs Hacker) and the pupils’ excellent communication skills.
As always with school inspections, there were some areas which my team and I need to focus on, including reviewing our careers guidance. I am pleased to confirm that we will be introducing a new careers programme from September, which will provide support to pupils throughout the Senior School and I expect to share the full details with you very soon.
Thursday 9th March 2023 was a crucial day in the life of Rookwood School. Not only was this the last day of the inspection, but it was also the day the school’s ownership changed hands and we joined the Inspired Learning Group.
Joining Inspired Learning Group (ILG) has brought significant stability to Rookwood School and it has secured the long-term future of our community. Furthermore, by being part of a wider group, we also benefit from the shared expertise and opportunities from amongst the 22 ILG schools and nurseries. It is still early in our ILG journey, but we have already seen the introduction of new super-fast broadband, remedial works to our buildings and plans being drawn up for investment in our boarding facilities, swimming pool and the wider estate.
Finally, looking ahead, this academic year will see the publication of our first set of A-level results as our inaugural cohort of sixth former leave the school and I wish our students all of the best at university and in the future.
This academic year has seen Rookwood School go from strength to strength and I am genuinely excited about what 2023-24 holds for us all.