3 September 2015
Dear Red House School Parents
I hope you have enjoyed a pleasant summer and on behalf of everyone at Red House can I welcome you all to a new term and a new academic year.
For those of you who could attend the Prize Giving Awards in July you will be aware that our Headmaster, Mr Alex Taylor, has announced he is to retire at the end of this academic year. By then he will have given Red House School eleven years of committed service and will leave us with all of our best wishes and a great appreciation for the work he has done to help develop the School from where it was when he joined in 2005.
Mr Taylor’s lasting legacy will be yet another superb and consistent set of annual GCSE results achieved this summer. Rather than quote to you a lot of very impressive statistics (I’m sure you’ve seen these on our website and in the press) can I simply re-iterate what we have been stating for many years now – an education at Red House School means your child will achieve their potential. It may appear that we can work miracles, we can’t, but what the School has done is prove that children reach and attain their potential at Red House. That is something for you the parents to be proud of; you are giving your children a significant opportunity at the start of their lives. In our region no other School can claim this consistently and the league tables reflect this fact.
Incidentally, it is not just at GCSE level that we are achieving; our Nursery continues to provide an outstanding start for children joining the School which is then built upon as pupils’ progress through the key stages.
Naturally, it is sad whenever any important member of staff leaves. However, I believe this provides us with an opportunity to look at the market place and aim to attract the best available talent for the School. I have already put the wheels in motion to recruit a new Head teacher. Head-hunters have been charged with the job of finding absolutely the right individual to take this School forward; meaning both maintenance of the superb standards that Mr Taylor has overseen but also with the future development of the School very much in mind. The recent appointment of Carole Blyth as Deputy Head will ensure consistency at the senior management level when the new appointee starts and I for one am very excited about guiding Red House into what will be new era with a new and revitalised leadership team in place.
I mentioned our intentions to develop the School. Please bear with me if I give you a very brief but revealing timeline of what has happened since the project to relocate commenced:
- 2011 – We announced plans to relocate to a site at Wynyard. The site was sourced and secured by virtue of an option agreement. Work commenced on finding a bank to fund the project, designing a new and suitable property, finding a buyer for our site and attaining planning permission at both sites.
- 2012 – The design was completed, planning permission was attained. A bank agreed to fund the project. All work was ready to proceed by June 2012. Sadly, two things halted progress a) the planning permission was tarnished with a 15 % affordable housing contribution (discussions with the Council had led us to believe this wouldn’t happen) b) the bank decided to reduce the magnitude of the loan it was prepared to offer.
- 2013 – The School decided to appeal the affordable housing stipulation, which took up a further year. The independent Government Inspector judging the appeal felt an independent school like Red House would be able to afford to proceed regardless, so he rejected our appeal. Naturally we weren’t going to ask our parents to fund this increased cost and we were left with a more expensive project to fund with reduced support from our bank.
- 2014 – We had to focus on securing our site at Wynyard. The option was due to run out and the owners would not renew it. We changed banks, that provided us with a suitable loan and we bought the site. It is fair to point out that this site is now worth considerably in excess of what we paid for it and secures the School’s balance sheet for the long term.
- 2015 – Since mid-2014 we have been talking to a range of specific targeted developers and funders. These talks continue and we will be in touch when there is further news to communicate.
I am sure you do not need me to remind you that this is a hugely difficult and major project to complete and, as we have seen, it is fraught with pitfalls. Let me also be absolutely clear about three aspects of this strategy:
1) We will never put the long term future of the School at risk, if the project simply proves too expensive we will postpone until a point comes when we can afford it.
2) We remain fully committed to continue to invest in your child’s education regardless of location e.g. in the latest equipment, the best teaching methods, improving facilities etc.
3) We will always ensure, again, regardless of location, that our School fees are hugely competitive locally and remain significantly lower over the lifetime of a pupil at the School (having just paid sixth forms fees at another local School, as well as fees for my son in Year 11 at Red House, I know that Red House fees are at least £500 lower every term).
In other news, we hope our relatively new caterers are providing you with more positive feedback regarding our School meals. I ask my fellow Governors to try to attend lunch at the School as frequently as possible to ensure we have our own first-hand knowledge of what is clearly a most sensitive issue. However, parents are also encouraged to attend lunch at the School if they so wish and this can be arranged for you through the School office. This is intended to provide more considered feedback and I hope you will take advantage of it.
Can I thank you for taking your time to read this letter and for your patience with us as we strive to move the School forwards. Red House School may come across as “small” with a good “family atmosphere” and a “friendly approach” to all, however, it is also a significant organisation that healthily grows and evolves on a regular, consistent basis. People come and go, indeed buildings come and go, yet the School moves on and indeed has to move on or it will stagnate. We fully expect and intend to ensure that Red House School continues to thrive and continues to deliver your children the education they deserve.