Head’s Blog

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The ISADA conference last weekend was a huge success. We hosted representatives from a range of schools who enjoyed lectures and workshops and made valuable connections with other like-minded individuals. One of the artists who shared his inspiration was Mark Spray, with whom Prior’s Field has had a connection for some time.  Mark commented: ‘I think that was the first time I have had an audience that seemed to understand what it is I have dedicated my life to. From my perspective, that was truly touching and wonderful.’

On Sunday I popped into the ‘Grease’ rehearsal and, on Monday, there was a ‘Grease’ assembly for the Second, Third and Fourth Forms. As a result, my appetite has been well and truly whetted and I am even more excited about seeing the production. The girls are fantastic!

I must mention the English Speaking Union Mace Round 1 Debate which took place at Prior’s Field on Tuesday. Our team – Mabel O and Freya W – were two years younger than all the other teams competing and were chosen by the judges as one of the three teams to go through to the next round. This is an amazing result – I am so proud of the girls. Debating competitions are technical and fast-moving. They have shown incredible maturity and resilience to achieve this result and they should be very proud of themselves too.

On Wednesday we welcomed to Prior’s Field a large number of Duke of Edinburgh volunteers from various local schools, for their regional training day. As you will know, the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme is very popular here and we were delighted to be able to support the professional development of teachers who spend so much time supporting young people who have signed up for the scheme. The skills and experience gained en route to the award, at whatever level, are invaluable in creating rounded, confident individuals keen to help others and to grab all the opportunities life offers. There are many pressures on our young people these days and I would encourage  all our girls to engage with an activity like the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, to ensure balance in their life and – particularly relevant today, when we are thinking of Children in Need everywhere – to help them appreciate the value of altruism to society.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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After the welcome break of half term, this week has flown by.

My start to the week was interspersed with fireworks. On Monday, at the Boarders’ spooky supper, the costumes were impressive and the display put on by Dr Smith and Mr Swansborough drew the requisite ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the watching girls and staff.  Well done to Alice T for her wonderful costume. Sofia S and Ella W won a prize for their incredible make up and Mr Jones and Miss Austerberry were highly commended for their spooky appearance. On Tuesday, it was a pleasure to attend the Longacre School display – another treat on a perfect evening for fireworks.

In the latter part of the week, Mr Kinder, Mrs Horton, Ms Fernandes, Mr Pratt, Mrs Morwood and I have very much enjoyed meeting the Fifth Form girls who have applied for a scholarship for Sixth Form. The girls have approached the process with a great deal of maturity and I hope they have benefited from the process. We are very excited about watching this year group progress to Sixth Form where they will continue to grow in confidence and to discover more about themselves.

This week continues at pace with a number of girls coming for a boarding taster tonight prior to our Preview Day for prospective new First Form for September 2019. This is always a delightful day to be part of – the girls’ joy and enthusiasm is infectious. Staff are looking forward to assuming their persona for the day, which is themed around the stories of Sherlock Holmes, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose daughter attended Prior’s Field.

This evening, we are welcoming delegates to a conference Prior’s Field is delighted to be hosting for ISADA, the Independent Schools Art and Design Association. ISADA is an association for the professional development of art and design teachers within the independent sector. It holds two or three conferences a year that usually take the form of a weekend meeting at an independent school, incorporating lectures, demonstrations, workshops, visits to galleries, exhibitions of students work, and a tour of the host school. I am looking forward to meeting all the attendees this evening.

The rehearsal schedule for ‘Grease’ is ramping up and everyone is becoming increasingly excited about the show. The girls have been working tremendously hard and I know it will be a production that will leave a smile on your face. As the press continue to report extensively on the amount of time spent by young people on their devices, it is clear that the ‘Grease’ company are completely committed to being part of the show and to giving whatever time is needed to ensure it is a success.

Remembrance Assembly this morning in this special year was moving and relevant, as we learned about a previous Head, Beatrice Burton Brown, who lost her fiancé in the First World War and about how the war empowered the women of that generation and opened their eyes to previously unconsidered possibilities and opportunities. Beatrice never married and went on to be Head at Prior’s Field for 25 years. We remember her and other women of that era whose pioneering efforts and legacy are the backbone of women’s independence and equality today.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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The highlight of my week this week was being able to join the First Form on their bonding trip in the South Downs. The girls were impeccably behaved and so lovely to each other. I glowed with pride when the tour guides in Hastings commented on how much the girls know about history, how responsive they are and what a pleasure it is to be with them. This was particularly gratifying as the tour guides were with the girls on the third day of what has been a very tiring – if thoroughly exciting! – adventure and activity trip.

‘Here came the girls’ on Wednesday evening, when the audience were treated to a fantastic menu of performances. This is always a superb evening of entertainment and this year was no exception. Sadly I was unable to be there this time (as I was learning how to light fires with the First Form at the time!), but I have heard fabulous reports.

Thursday saw the Fifth Form experience Sixth Sense, a glimpse of what their life in the Sixth Form will be like. I would encourage all the girls to consider applying for a Sixth Form scholarship, even those who are already scholars. The scholarship process itself can be a hugely stimulating and beneficial experience.

Sport is a permanent feature of life at Prior’s Field and we often have cause for celebration. This week, I feel I should make a special mention of the U14 and U16 netball teams who are through to the Surrey Finals Day – what a fantastic result. Well done girls.

Over the holidays, Sofia S will be having her head shaved to raise funds for Momentum Children’s Charity. Momentum Children’s Charity supports children with cancer and life-challenging conditions, living in South West London, Surrey and West Sussex. The charity offers tailored practical and emotional help to the entire family, through their unique support programme at home and in hospital, which includes therapy services, counselling, holidays, experiences and children’s ward refurbishments. You can watch a video about the charity here. Please do support Sofia with her fund raising through her Just Giving page.

My final treat of this half term will be gatecrashing the first part of the reunion sleepover of the class of 1978. I am sure the 40 years that have elapsed will give them much to talk about in between their school day reminiscences.

It has been a very busy first half of the autumn term and I know that staff and girls are looking forward to some rest over half term. You never know, our Indian summer may continue!

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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The leaves are now well and truly turning, as we are blown into the last week before half term.

The Scholars’ Concert at the Guildford Institute on Tuesday was well attended by both parents and music lovers who come every year. Once again the audience was extremely impressed by the high quality of the performances. If you would like another talent fix before half term, do remember that Cabaret Evening is on Wednesday. The girls have been working hard on pieces focused around a celebration of 100 years of inspiring British women: ‘Here come the girls’ – it is an evening not to be missed.

It has been very interesting to follow the debate on social media this week about the future of Common Entrance. It is exciting to see the prep school curriculum evolving. I had an interesting conversation with Neil Brooks, the new Head of Cranleigh Prep school, when he visited this week and I am very much looking forward to going to Longacre on Tuesday to help with their year 6 mock Common Entrance interviews. Prior’s Field continues to welcome girls at 13+ as well as 11+ and 16+.

In the next week, girls are going out on some amazing trips – to Ypres, Cheltenham, Rome, the Peak District, Croatia.  We will bring you news of their exploits after half term.  I would, however, like to address the First Form in particular and to wish them a wonderful time on their trip to the South Downs. I hope they enjoy the adventures that are planned for them and also the experience of being away together as a year group. The girls have settled in at Prior’s Field so well; we are proud of them all.

This morning in assembly we said goodbye to the four girls visiting as part of an exchange programme from Ruyton School in Melbourne. Abby, Nicola, Miranda and Angie have thrown themselves into life at Prior’s Field for the last four weeks. Huge thanks to the families who have hosted the girls here; I am sure their Prior’s Field buddies embarking on the return visit next year will have a fantastic time.

Today the whole school is taking part in Bright your Write – a Second Form initiative to raise funds for Tinga Tinga. The girls are hoping to buy exercise books and other stationery to send to Tanzania. We have all been challenged to use only bright colours on paper, boards and in emails today – and it has been a joy. The simple things really do put a smile on your face.

Wednesday was World Mental Health Day but, in fact, not a day goes by now without a news article about mental health, particularly in the education press. It is very much at the forefront of our minds here, in the context of both girls and staff.  I hope it would not be too bold of me to suggest that parents and guardians might also benefit from making more time to look after your own wellbeing, and set a good example for your children.  Perhaps you could have a family challenge over half term to try a few days ‘off grid’ or to go for a daily leaf-kicking walk?

With best wishes for a mindful weekend

Tracy Kirnig

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Thank you to everyone for helping to make Open Day last Saturday such a success.  The school was positively humming with excited girls and interested parents.  The school looked fabulous and I hope our visitors really picked up on the unique spirit of Prior’s Field.

Our Sixth Form Open Evening last night was another well-supported event. The girls were able to listen to Heads of Department speak about A Level courses and to quiz current Sixth Formers about what it is really like to be in the Sixth Form here.  I would encourage the Fifth Form to continue the conversation with both staff and Sixth Form girls over the next few weeks and to consider applying for a scholarship – their journey into Sixth Form has begun.

I mentioned last week the wonderful mini-EPQ presentations given by a number of Fourth Form girls. This morning the girls reprised their performance at assembly, where certificates were also awarded.  The winner was Emilia C with her fascinating research into serial killers, and the runner-up was Mabel O with her interesting study of stereotypes. Well done, girls.

This morning, I travelled with members of the Upper Sixth to the Number Five Project in Guildford, a charity supporting the homeless, with harvest donations from girls and staff. We have now established a strong link with the project, which helps all the girls have some understanding of the reality of this huge social issue.

I am planning on venturing into the sunshine this afternoon to watch some netball at the U16 county tournament being held at Prior’s Field today. Looking at the calendar, the sports teams are having a hugely busy term. Do come along and support your daughter at weekend and after school fixtures when you can – they are great fun.

The Careers department has also been working hard to arrange the brilliant At Home series of weekly talks by representatives from various different professions. On Monday, we are welcoming Rebecca Armstrong, a solicitor with Clyde & Co, who will be talking about her role and career journey.  Do encourage your daughter to come along.

On Tuesday evening, we have another musical treat in store as the scholars are performing at Guildford Institute.  This is such a special venue and the event is open to the public.  The girls would be thrilled to have your support if you would like to come.

Thank you to the PSA for organising the parents’ social tonight; tomorrow it will be the Third Form’s turn as they enjoy a disco with boys from Eton.  I hope you too have a pleasant weekend – whether or not you are partying!

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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The glorious weather this week has been reminiscent of summer and the girls have enjoyed spending as much time as possible outside. My impossible task today was to judge the annual House cross-country event. This year’s theme was ‘space’ and the outfits were a real spectacle in the sunshine.

Thank you to those of you who came to the pastoral evening on Monday. I hope you found it interesting and beneficial. There will be plenty of other opportunities for parents to attend presentations about how we can support both your daughter and you. Do let us know if you have any feedback.

On Tuesday, I very much enjoyed meeting Tania Szabo, the daughter of Violette Szabo, the Special Operations Executive agent whose amazing story (told in the film ‘Carve her Name with Pride’) captivated the Fourth and Fifth Forms.

The Fourth Form girls who produced a mini-EPQ last year were stunning at the presentation evening on Wednesday. They gave fantastic talks to a very interested and appreciative audience. The subject matter chosen by each girl and their grasp of the relevant issues were so impressive.

Classics by Candlelight last evening was absolutely exquisite. Each scholar performed a Debussy piece, specifically chosen for her by Mr Pratt and, in some cases, transposed by him from the piano arrangement for a different instrument. Each piece was accompanied by an image of an Impressionist painting, selected to complement the music. We were even treated to performances by Mr Pratt and Mrs Harrison.  The Recital Room was shown to great effect, with candles everywhere – the atmosphere was magical. The audience were spellbound from beginning to end.

The Sixth Form have been busy baking and the products of their labours went down very well this morning at the MacMillan coffee morning in the Sixth Form House. Team building skills, lots of laughter and cake – the girls so enjoy sharing experiences such as this.

We are looking forward to welcoming our visitors tomorrow at Open Day. Thank you for enabling the girls to come in on a Saturday morning – they do enjoy showing off their school. And a final reminder for the Fifth Form that the Sixth Form Open Evening is on Thursday 4 October – we have an exciting evening planned for you so do come along.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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Joining in the fun at Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

We started this week on a high with a record-breaking hymn practice in assembly – 7 hymns in 7 minutes – great fun! Where was Roy Castle?

There is a sense in school that all the girls are settling in and an almost tangible buzz about lessons. Teaching goes on, of course, both in and out of school. Our Fifth Form Geographers have been on a residential fieldwork trip this week in Shropshire and Snowdonia – an opportunity to view the reality of physical geography in a stunning location. Meanwhile, my first lesson observation of the time was a Biology lesson outside in the Rose Garden.

The boarders this week enjoyed a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – house warming with a difference. It was a chance for all the girls to get to know staff outside lesson time, to help them to feel part of this community which is their home from home while they are here. Do look at the photos of the mad hats below.

Next week, we will welcome Tania Szabo, the daughter of the Special Operations Executive agent Violette Szabo, who suffered under the Nazi regime in 1945 at Ravensbruck concentration camp. Tania will be talking to Fourth and Fifth Form historians who are studying Germany in that period as part of their course.  Next week is also Languages Week – I am brushing up my Swahili and looking forward to having hot chocolate with all our overseas boarders on Tuesday.

Looking a little further forward to 29 September, we have 80 families pre-booked for our Open Day and preparations are well under way. Just a reminder for Fifth Form parents and girls that we will also be holding our Sixth Form Open Evening on Thursday 4 October.  I do hope to see you there and that you are excited by the programme of events scheduled over the coming weeks to introduce you to what life in the Sixth Form will be like.

Classics by Candlelight is a treat in store for next Thursday and rehearsals for Grease are under way. The list of girls interested in joining the Tanzania trip has been growing and everyone is already very much looking forward to next July.

Today many of the girls and staff are wearing jeans and raising money for Jeans for Genes. It is so important for us all to realise what a gift it is to have good health. We will be reminded of this again next week when we are treated to the fruits of the Sixth Form’s culinary skills at the MacMillan Coffee Morning.  I am very proud of the girls for supporting charities such as these with such enthusiasm.

The storms have kept away so far although the weekend promises to bring us some wet and windy weather. Do enjoy the September sun when you see it.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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The first full week of term has flown by. The girls have thrown themselves back into their life at school and are already immersed in their learning.  Next week, they will be able to start their clubs and activities, which are such an important part of their school experience.

It was lovely to see so many new, and some well-known, faces at our information evenings for parents of new girls and the Lower Sixth on Tuesday. I hope you all gleaned important and useful information.

This week, we were delighted to welcome members of the PSA to school, first for the termly committee meeting and secondly for the reps’ breakfast this morning. It is very appropriate at the beginning of the new school year for me to thank all the members of their PSA for their invaluable support to the school, for which we are very grateful.  This term, of course, we are looking forward to the PSA Christmas Fair on Saturday 24 November – one for the diary as a prime Christmas shopping day.

The Boarders’ activities for this term began with a talent show, judged by Mr Rood, Ms Ritchie, Miss Kindersley and me.  The girls did not hold back and the evening was full of laughter and applause.

One of the highlights of the week was the whole school photo on Thursday – my first as Head. The weather was kind and we were able to capture the whole Prior’s Field community, smiling in the sunshine – a wonderful modern addition to our archives.

As you are aware, this is an important term for those thinking of coming to Prior’s Field next September. Our Open Day is on Saturday 29 September and our aim is to start welcoming prospective pupils and their families for a visit to the school after that date, by which time we hope that the First Form and other new girls have had time to adjust and to feel that they are an integral part of the school family. I would encourage Fifth Form girls and their family to come to our Sixth Form Open Evening on Thursday 4 October, and hope to see many of you then.  The girls will also enjoy a chance to experience life in the Sixth Form for a day.

I understand just how important a decision it is to choose a secondary school, or even a Sixth Form, for your child. Knowing your child’s personality and needs will help you find the right choice. I know as a parent myself that big decisions do not get easier as a child grows, and they tend to develop a mind of their own! Please be assured that any of the staff here would be happy to talk to you about any particular aspect of your child’s future education, up to A level and beyond. Our aim is for your daughter to leave Prior’s Field at the end of the Upper Sixth confident and ready to face the modern world and we are very excited to be able to walk beside her on her journey.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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Whether letter or number grades, Prior’s Field today demonstrated they have a proven formula to GCSE success.  Despite the new style tougher GCSE the school were celebrating a haul of the top level 9 grades, 52 in total and an overall 57% 9 to 7 (A* -A) equivalent.

Standout pupils with top grades throughout and a hat-trick of level 9s in each Science were:  Millie Webb with five grade 9s, three A*s and two grade 8s; Poppy Wagerfield with five grade 9s, three A*s, one A and one grade 8 and Imogen Henderson with four grade 9s, four A*s and one grade 8 and one grade 7.  Other fabulous results were gained by Natasha Cocksedge with four grade 9s, three A*s and one B and Jess Laffan five grade 9s, three A*s and one grade 7.

Standout departments with 100% grades 9 to 7 were Chemistry, Biology and PE. Physics reported 80% grades 9 to 7, Geography 76%  grades 9 to 7 and Maths 67% A* to A (iGCSE).

The school has taken a decisive strategy over the last few years to invest in facilities, teaching and co-curricular opportunities which truly support the notion that women can excel in science.  They built a super new science facility with smart board technology and A Level only lab space.  They have also encouraged the girls to embrace extra-curricular science opportunities such as the Big Bang Science fair, Salters Festival of Chemistry and invited leading female scientists such as Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock in to inspire the girls.

Head Tracy Kirnig said:

“We celebrate our choice of a broad cohort on a daily basis and even more so on a day like today where all of our girls have secured the most amazing results.  We are particularly proud of our phenomenal Science, Maths, PE and Geography results which prove how serious we are about ensuring that girls have every opportunity to succeed in their chosen career path”

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Record Breaking Results with 50% A*-A’ and 76% A*-B 

Nothing could dampen our spirits this morning as we awoke to a wave of wonderful news.

Every member of staff has been brimming with excitement this morning as we welcomed our class of 2018 back across the threshold to unveil their incredible results, which are true testimony to the hard work, ambition and commitment of the Sixth Form girls and staff alike.

The breadth of A*s and As is spread wide across all departments with equally excellent grades in the Arts, Sciences and Humanities. Chemistry, Geography, Art and Textiles performed particularly well. Every girl collecting her results today got her first choice of university and the range of destinations includes: Manchester, Exeter, Cardiff, St Andrews, Imperial College and even Iowa!

Amongst the girls celebrating their creative talents are: Anja Cox Cunningham with 3A*s in Geography, Art and Textiles who will commence an Art Foundation course at Manchester University. Flora Hickman who has also achieved A* in Art along with an A in both English and History which sees her ably on her way to St Andrews to study History and finally Erin Saunders whose A* in Art, A* in Textiles and A in English guarantee her Graphic Design place at Leeds University.

There is also a distinct strength in the Sciences this year: Holly Giles has achieved an A* in Biology, A*in Chemistry and an A in Maths with that her long-held desire to pursue a medical path by studying Biomedical Science at Cardiff. Other students eager to experiment with a scientific career are Maya Tanfield who mastered an A in Maths, A*in Chemistry and A in Biology and will be heading to Imperial College in London to study Biological Sciences and Beate Wehrmeyer whose 3 As in Biology, Chemistry and Psychology will secure her place at Bath University to read Biomedical Science with an Industry placement.  Also aiming to study Biomedical Sciences but demonstrating a perfect balance between her scientific and creative prowess is Kari Webb who secured A* in Textiles, A* Biology and A in Chemistry and will be heading to Exeter.

Not to be outdone, but unable to collect her results in person is Daisy Phillips, the first graduate of the Prior’s Field Tennis Academy who received an unconditional scholarship from IOWA university and her A* and 2As in PE, Biology and Geography illustrate that she is both a knockout success on and off the court. She has started her US studies already.

Head, Mrs Tracy Kirnig commented “We pride ourselves on playing to our girls’ strengths and it is wonderful to see that by allowing them to choose the mix of A Levels that they want to pursue, we help them achieve beyond expectations.  The reformed A Level criteria has not presented any barrier for us and I am delighted that these results resoundingly confirm that Prior’s Field has a proven formula for success.”