Head’s Blog

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The calendar has been full of fixtures this term, and no less so this week. I want to thank all girls who have represented Prior’s Field – I hope you have learned how to work together for the good of the whole, and that you have enjoyed participating in competitive sport with your peers. As I look out of the window at yet more rain, I am reflecting on the huge benefits of hard courts and astroturf! Good luck to all the sports teams and individuals who still have matches to play or competitions to take part in before the end of term. And congratulations to our debaters on their success this week – they continue to be hugely impressive.

On Tuesday we held our pastoral evening on on-line safety. The audience were addressed by Lorin LaFave, who runs the Breck Foundation, and who lost her son, Breck, in tragic and shocking circumstances as the result of him being groomed whilst gaming on-line. I know Lorin well as I was Deputy Head of a school that Breck attended just a year before his death. She is an excellent speaker on such a traumatic and, often, harrowing subject and an inspiring woman. Many people intend to turn a truly horrendous experience into something positive.  Lorin was talking at Breck’s funeral about setting up a charity to support young people, and she has achieved her aim and more. We now have trained staff in school who are able to help the girls keep themselves safe. The danger of on-line activity for children is not a concern likely to go away in the near future.

Christmas has come a step nearer today with ‘Elfridges’ – a brilliantly-named initiative  by Fifth Form girls to raise money for moon cups for the children in Tinga Tinga by selling stocking fillers and small gifts to the school community. The boarders have a weekend of festive activities in store. This evening, they will enjoy a Winter supper and tomorrow they are going to see the Chiswick Lantern Festival in London. On Monday they will don their Christmas hats to sing to the shoppers at Waitrose in Godalming. Meanwhile, on Saturday, a large group of girls and several Francophile staff are going on a day trip to the Christmas market in Lille, where the hot chocolate promises to be a real treat.

Today, we have welcomed a lovely group of girls to Prior’s Field to sit the 13+ entrance exam and to be interviewed by a member of staff. It has been a delight to meet all the girls and talk to them about their interests and aspirations.

Preparations for next week are in the final stages and the excitement is building, with secret Santa’s and Christmas decorations popping up all over the school. The girls are looking forward to Christmas lunch, House Quiz, the Celebration of Christmas and, of course, RAG day on Friday. Then we will each be able to find a comfy chair and dip into Mrs Olive’s suggested Christmas reading list.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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The Christmas Fair on Saturday was a great success and put us all in the Christmas mood. My thanks to the PSA for all their hard work.

The preparations for our Celebration of Christmas on Thursday 13 December are well under way. We very much look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at what is always a very festive and atmospheric event. The musical menu promises to impress, as always; the girls are rehearsing hard with a Christmas smile on their faces, knowing that, on the performance day, the end of term will be just around the corner.

First, though, the whole school will enjoy the RAG day organised by the Upper Sixth. On Monday the girls presented an assembly, explaining to the other year groups what is in store for the day itself and where the donations will be going. The Upper Sixth’s theme this year is ‘Blast from the Past’ – an excuse for girls and staff to don an outfit from the 20’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s or 80’s. I am sure that the Marketing department’s camera will capture many images to share with you. The Upper Sixth also launched our participation in the Red Box Project, a charity which quietly ensures that no young person misses school because they have their period. This nationwide project provides free menstrual products for young people in local schools.  It was clear that the younger girls very much appreciated the value of this initiative and were keen to be part of it. I am proud of the girls for addressing something so personal and so important.

Yesterday, with my senior prefect leadership team and Polly Murray, an old girl and our Development and Alumnae Officer, I visited the grave of our founder, Julia Huxley, in Compton Cemetery.  Julia died 110 years ago and her legacy very much lives on in the ethos of Prior’s Field. Polly read a passage from the school history about reaction to her death, including words by Beatrice Burton-Brown, who took over as sole headmistress, who commented that ‘[Prior’s Field’s] spirit is her spirit, and will be her monument for ever…. her ideal [was] that we should live by admiration of all that is good and great, by ‘the unconquerable hope’. And by love to one another.’

Today our admiration has primarily been for each other’s Christmas jumpers, which were joyous! They are evidence of the school community’s continual enthusiasm for supporting those less fortunate – in this case, as part of the RAG fund raising activities, the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice in Farnham. We are hoping that parents and guardians will join us at our pastoral evening with the Breck Foundation next Tuesday – do book your place via Eventbrite.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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‘Grease’ has been the word on all our lips this week. Pupils from Longacre School, members of Prime Time from Busbridge Church and friends and other members of the school community enjoyed a matinee performance on Tuesday and three capacity audiences were wowed by the girls’ singing, dancing and acting in the evening shows. This has been an amazing tour de force from the Drama and Music Departments and, of course, the girls, who were fantastic and clearly thoroughly enjoying themselves. The production was brilliantly cast, staged and styled and had everyone laughing out loud and tapping their feet – immersed in the pure joy of it. The last night ‘themed dressing up’ option was very popular and, I am sure, made all the difference when it came to audience participation! Well done to everyone involved.

There has also been a huge amount of preparation going on for the Christmas Fair, which takes place tomorrow. The PSA have been working very hard to ensure that this year’s fair is a success and I am very grateful for their continual support for the school. Please do come along and get ahead with your Christmas shopping.

This week I attended the GSA Annual Conference in London, with speakers presenting and roundtable discussions on a variety of very pertinent subjects such as how the landscape beyond school is changing and how independent schools can support social mobility. One debate which resonated particularly for me focused on girls in STEM subjects. The interest in Science subjects for A level at Prior’s Field is on an upward trend and we need to maintain this, to ensure that all girls are offered the widest opportunities for personal growth and for future career options. I am delighted that we have two Upper Sixth girls who have been invited for interview, one at Oxford and the other at Cambridge – both girls have a Science bias to their studies. The Sixth Form team are also supporting all the girls in our Upper Sixth in preparation for their upcoming university interviews and applications.

As the ‘Grease’ company regain their breath and energy, girls are looking ahead this week to opportunities including an Upper Sixth History of Art trip to the ‘Ways of Seeing’ exhibition at the National Gallery, a careers talk by Sarah Hardy, Curator/Manager at the De Morgan Foundation and a movie night social for the First Form.

The Fair tomorrow will tip us into the run up to Christmas and the end of term. The Upper Sixth are in charge of the girls’ celebrations which will be focused on fun and also on the importance of thinking of others at this time. The girls’ chosen charities this year are the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice and Palliative Care Centre in Farnham. Our Christmas jumper mufti day next Friday will certainly put us all in the Christmas spirit.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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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