Head’s Blog

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Public exams are well under way. The girls seem focused and determined. I am sure their hard work will pay off.

This week we have welcomed the PSA to school twice: first for their termly meeting, then for the class rep breakfast this morning. As always, huge thanks must go to the PSA, who contribute so much to the school. We are very appreciative of the fund raising and events they organise.

We were all ‘bowled over’ with the Fourth Form’s Goals for Bowls fundraising day on Wednesday. From popcorn bowls to competitive boules, bowl hoopla and a lucky dip bowl, great fun was had by all. The goal was to raise enough money to provide every child at Tinga Tinga school with a bowl for their lunch and over £250 was raised. At break and at lunch, in the sunshine in the Rose Garden, girls enjoyed the activities; an array of prize vouchers were won, all valid on Monday. Well done to Emily A, who won the golden ticket and will choose a lunch menu.

The Lower Sixth mock interview evening went really well. Thank you to those parents who gave up their time to interview the girls who had applied for the ‘mock’ jobs. Congratulations to the Sixth Form girls involved, who were very impressive, particularly Saffron G, Eve M, Darcy C, Isabella P and Amber W who were all ‘hired’. My thanks go to Ms Jan and Mrs Taylor for organising the evening.

Today is the Upper Sixth’s last day in school and they have, typically, organised a fabulous ‘give back’ day for everyone.  Colleagues came in this morning to be greeted with bunting made of cards adorned with photos of the girls as their much younger selves and heartfelt messages to their teachers. They had left for the staff room a delicious-looking cake and mugs celebrating this year group’s time here. At lunchtime, we all, in very British fashion, enjoyed our BBQ outside; the girls seemed oblivious to the chill and the First and Second Form stalls were a great success.

Next week, the First, Second and Third Form will sit their end of year exams. This is an opportunity for the girls to gain exam practice and to demonstrate to their teachers how much they have progressed during the year. I know they will all do their best.

Finally, I encourage all the Fourth Form and their parents to come to our Sixth Form Information Evening on Thursday next week.  Whilst it may seem early to be thinking about this, the next year will pass very quickly. The evening will useful for both girls planning to stay and those considering other options. The Sixth Form team and students are very much looking forward to telling you about what to expect in our Sixth Form, how it differs from the rest of the school and the new opportunities you will be encouraged to take up. Follow the link in the letter sent out to let us know you are coming.

With best wishes for a lovely weekend

Tracy Kirnig

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It has been an incredibly busy week as usual.

Today has been bittersweet. At the Upper Sixth final assembly this morning, the fabulous video the year group had put together was both entertaining and extremely poignant.  The girls’ last day in school is, of course, next Friday, when they have organised a ‘give back’ day for the whole school. This morning, though, we took the opportunity to wave goodbye to both the Upper Sixth and, for now, the Fifth Form and to wish them all good luck for their exams.

This week I have been at the BSA Conference in London where the theme was ‘Building Character’. The Upper Sixth as a year group are hugely impressive and each unique individual has made a valuable contribution to the school and, in many cases, inspired the younger girls. We have been privileged to see their individual characters develop and grow over the years they have been at Prior’s Field.

It was entirely appropriate that, this morning, we announced to a room packed with an excited Lower Sixth the allocation of prefect roles for next year. Ms Jan and I were so impressed with the girls who applied to be a senior prefect; our decision really was a difficult one. Our aim was to give each girl in the year group a role playing to her strengths and one in which she will be able to gain more confidence and additional skills. I am very much looking forward to working with the new Senior Prefect Leadership Team and watching all the girls as they take on their new responsibilities.

You will be aware that, last term, the school completed its first new style ISI compliance inspection.  I am delighted to be able to report now that the school met all eight parts of the standards with no recommendations for any action needed. The Inspectors noted how the school aims to “focus on the development of unique individuals” and “foster a strong family ethos characterised by team spirit and high levels of ambition”.  The report also recognised that the ability of the pupils is above average and that this is reflected in our current placing in the top 2% of schools for value added achievement at A Level. A copy of the report can be found on the school website here.

My husband and I will be donning our walking garb on Sunday, as we are helping with the Fourth Form Duke of Edinburgh expedition, alongside many colleagues who have given up their weekend. The weather definitely seems to be heading in the right direction. I hope the girls enjoy the challenges they encounter, just as I am sure the Boarders will enjoy their trip to London’s Borough Market.

With best wishes for a lovely weekend

Tracy Kirnig

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At the end of last term, the Development Office team travelled to Sherborne to talk to Old Girl Joan Blake, now 91, a former Head Girl and generous supporter of the school. Joan donated a fund to help girls participate in the Italian Art trip, to reflect her own love of the subject. Joan was at Prior’s Field throughout WW2 and remembers watching dogfights overhead from her boarding bedroom window. Polly Murray, our Development and Alumnae Officer, and Jo Halford, our Archivist, enjoyed chatting with Joan and Micky Burton-Brown, grandson of Prior’s Field’s second Head, Mrs Ethel-Ann Burton-Brown, and nephew of its third, Miss Beatrice Burton-Brown; their memories link us directly to Prior’s Field’s remarkable history.

Continuing on the Old Girl theme, during the holidays, Polly hosted our very first Prior’s Field Connections networking event in London, opened by last year’s (and our first ever) Old Girl of the Year, Caroline Underwood. Several attendees gave a short and snappy talk about their current career. Others gave presentations on various topics including CV writing and how to build a network. I am delighted that we remain in contact with so many of our Old Girls. Their continuing link with Prior’s Field underlines the fact that the school is one step in the journey of life for all our girls and gives greater value to our aim that each and every girl leaving us is confident and ready to do so, wherever she may be heading. We will continue to look for opportunities for Old Girls to help and support our current girls and each other.

Many girls actually headed overseas during the holidays, some on school trips.  The ski trip and Gold Duke of Edinburgh Expedition both, it turned out, saw snow and were very much enjoyed by those tackling the challenges of either the Alps in Austria or the Yorkshire Moors.

We have had a number of visitors since the start of term, including this week the Head of Rookwood School, Tony Kirk-Burgess. Over the years, we have had several girls join Prior’s Field from Rookwood for the Sixth Form and it was a pleasure to welcome Tony here.

Rehearsals for the Lower School Production continue; we are all eagerly anticipating the show, which will be performed on Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 June. The tennis season is already in full swing (excuse the pun!) and we are thrilled that one of Academy players, Jessenia B, is now ranked 15 in the UK in the 12&U category and 1 in Surrey! Huge congratulations to Jessenia!

As the Upper Sixth enter their final weeks at school, the Lower Sixth are preparing to step up as prefects for next year. All the girls will have the opportunity to take up a leadership role. At their leadership training last week, they were very interested in the different styles of leadership and began to recognise the leader in themselves. Ms Jan and I are very much enjoying interviewing the girls who would like to be part of the Senior Prefect team. The girls are talking about their experiences at Prior’s Field, how much they are already doing and exploring their desire to take on more. The Sixth Form girls’ mutual support for each other, both within and across the year groups, is so obvious and very much a product of our Sixth Form ethos, which allows each and every girl to blossom and grow as an individual, in an environment offering opportunities and independence. Good luck to all the applicants and thank you to the outgoing team, who will hand over the baton to their successors before they go on study leave on 17 May.

Last night, I attended a GSA boarding event in London with colleagues and two pupils and next week I will attend the BSA conference in London. I have also recently joined the GSA Boarding Committee. It is always a pleasure to promote boarding to parents who may not be aware of its value to their child. As many of you will have heard me say, I am convinced that the boarding element of Prior’s Field permeates the whole, providing a warmth and feel that would otherwise perhaps not be there.

With best wishes for a lovely long weekend

Tracy Kirnig

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It has been an exceptionally busy and successful week to end an exceptionally busy and successful term.

On Monday, the Fourth Form GCSE Drama students performed their devised group pieces to an invited audience. They chose very challenging topics to explore and all four pieces were incredibly mature and extraordinarily powerful.

Later that evening, I was fortunate enough to be able to watch a performance of Manor House’s production of Barnum. It was spectacular and so joyful. Congratulations to everyone involved, and in particular to our own Mr Pratt, who again lent his musical support, and also to his wife, Mrs Williams, who was the director.

Our annual Sports Dinner took place on Tuesday, attended by the many girls who have achieved so much on the sporting front already this year.  The speaker, Hannah Jones from Surrey Stars, was fascinating and passed on a message belying her years in its strength: she encouraged the girls to judge themselves only in the context of matters and circumstances they can control. I hope the girls listening remember that advice as they encounter the ups and downs of their sporting endeavour and also life in general.

The gym and dance on Wednesday was absolutely fabulous: an exciting showcase of talent with a terrifying and mesmerising triumphant finale. You can see some photographs in This Week in Pictures.

The Easter holidays begin any moment now, after an Awards Assembly celebrating the huge variety of successes and achievements of the girls this term. One new award was presented this year for an enterprise competition which took place during one of our PSHE days. Fifth and Sixth Form teams were charged with planning and designing a festival. Parents, guardians and grandparents will be as delighted as I am that the winning festival theme was a festival especially for the over 50s who may be ‘tired of feeling so old’ – the festival’s name is ‘Staying Alive’. During assembly, Mrs Horton made the exciting announcement that the school has been able to secure the rights to perform the musical ‘Chicago’, which will be our Upper School production in the autumn.

We have two residential trips taking place during the holidays. The Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition contingent are off to the Yorkshire Dales and the ski trip leaves very early tomorrow – I am not promising to wave goodbye to the skiers!

We were grateful for the sunshine this morning when 91 girls – and some staff – tried to squeeze into the Oak Hall for a Head’s Commendation Celebration. We were able to spill out into the Rose Garden, adorned as it is now by a multitude of different artwork. Do pop in over the holidays to have a look.

I hope all the girls have a good break, even, and perhaps especially, those who will be revising for public exams next term. I look forward to seeing girls and staff back refreshed and re-energised after Easter, ready for the challenges and opportunities awaiting them in the summer term.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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As you are aware, this week we welcomed an ISI inspection team to Prior’s Field. Unlike the last inspection, which was an integrated inspection, this was a compliance inspection. It was business as usual, as the team of three inspectors saw the school in action, from breakfast time to supper time. They met a number of girls who, as ever, made me very proud. We expect to receive the inspection report at the beginning of May; we will send it to parents and publish it on the website as soon as it is available.

It has been a fantastic couple of weeks for sport at Prior’s Field. On their recent PGL residential weekend away, the U12 netball team won their tournament and the U13 team were runners up. The U14 and U19B netball teams have recently enjoyed playing in their respective schools county finals tournament day. Our Sports Leaders have started to deliver sessions to other schools; we have hosted Queen Eleanor’s Junior School here a number of times and the girls also have visited St Hilary’s. Finally, our teams have achieved success in a variety of age groups against diverse standards of opposition. Fixtures also continue apace. Congratulations to all the girls involved in sport both in school and at home. Next week the department will celebrate the girls’ successes at the Sports Team Dinner. There is also a treat in store on Wednesday when the Gymnastics and Dance Team are putting on a display for parents which is sure to impress.

Last weekend, the boarders were superb hosts to our visitors from the Busbridge Church Primetime group. Mrs Picken was glowing in her report of the girls. Boarders this weekend are visiting Brighton and enjoying an Easter Eggstravaganza which will involve a fair amount of chocolate, I am sure!

Next Tuesday is House Headwear and Mufti Day. Please do remind your daughter to bring in a £1 to support the Meath Epilepsy Charity, based here in Godalming, and its valuable work. I look forward to seeing what creations the girls are wearing – there is always huge enthusiasm for this kind of event!

On Thursday, we welcome family members of the First Form to our Relatives’ Day. The girls are very excited about sharing their school day with their family. This year, we are giving the day a different twist by introducing a House element. If you have not yet booked your place, you may want to do so – I hear tell of Chef’s cakes in House colours!

The inter-House competition result will be announced on Friday at the Presentation Assembly. Mr Taylor tells me that, with a week and several competitions still to go, the tally is extremely close and there is everything to play for. (If you have any spare 5p’s, do give them to your daughter to bring it – it could make all the difference!) Girls and staff are very excited.

It will be a joy to end the term with a huge celebration with all those girls who have received a Head’s Commendation since half term. There will be more cake and copious amounts of hot chocolate. I commend every girl in the school for her hard work this term.

I hope you all have a restful and, for those girls with exams coming up, productive holiday.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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It has been an exciting time for all things Drama at Prior’s Field. Last week, Lower Sixth students performed part of their A Level exam practical component. The piece was inspired by and based on the American religious cult leader, Jim Jones, and the disturbing events which took place in 1978 – made relevant for today. The girls’ performance was moving, chilling, thought-provoking and clever. In complete contrast, the Lower School production is gathering pace; we are all very much looking forward to watching ‘Alice in Londonland’. Finally some of Prior’s Field superstars have been out and about, performing in a variety of shows at the Mill Studio in Guildford with The Yvonne Arnaud Youth Theatre. Well done to all the girls involved and thank you to all parents for keeping us updated as to your daughter’s experiences and achievements out of school.

The Rotary Schools Concert at G Live on Wednesday evening was stunning with incredible performances from individuals and the ensembles. We received many compliments from other Heads. I was very proud of all the girls.

The Boarders are looking forward to welcoming members of Busbridge Church’s Primetime group to lunch on Sunday. This has become a regular event and is always a lovely occasion.

Set up for the annual AppArt exhibition begins in the grounds on Sunday, which is very exciting. The view from my office will once again be complemented with incredible artwork of all shapes and sizes. We will be welcoming local primary school children to look at the display and to do a workshop with the Art department. Please do plan to come along yourselves from 6 April, when the exhibition opens to the public.

Next Thursday we are holding a Life after Sixth Form evening for the Lower Sixth, intended to inform them about all the options available to them and how to access them. The Sixth Form benefit hugely from sessions such as this and from the all-round support and advice we offer. I do hope as many of them as possible attend.

Last week, a new initiative – Girls on Board – was launched with the Second Form. Girls on Board is an approach to help girls between the ages of 8 and 18 navigate the often troubled waters of friendship problems. The approach empowers girls to find their own solutions, giving them more self-confidence and developing their emotional intelligence. Today the girls have come together in their form groups for a photograph – some in international dress, as the result of an idea from Lyba and her friends in the Fifth Form. I hope all the form groups have had fun together planning for their photo and I look forward to seeing the results which promise to be colourful and joyous.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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I feel I should start today by reassuring you that my team succeeded in finding a team name for the PSA Quiz last Friday – not much thought required, as we took it straight from my blog to you last week: ‘answers on a postcard’. Although we were not wholly successful with all the questions set, we thoroughly enjoyed the evening which ran very smoothly with the brilliant quiz master from QuizQuizQuiz making sure it was fast-moving and fun.  I would very much encourage you to come along next year.  My thanks to the PSA for their perfect organisation of the event and also as usual to the Catering team – the amazing curry with the many and varied side dishes was delicious; they even provided containers for take away portions to enjoy the next day.

This week has been an exceptionally busy week, even by Prior’s Field standards.

The House Art on Wednesday was outstanding. It was a joy to see contributions from Art scholars and from girls less established in the subject. There is huge talent in school and I know the judges found their decision hard. Thank you to all those who helped with the judging – we appreciate the time and commitment that you gave – and also of course to the Art department for staging such a wonderful exhibition.

On Thursday, the Fifth Form girls who took IGCSE Maths earlier this term received their results. I am very proud of all the girls, some of whom will bank their fantastic result and some of whom aspire to a higher grade in the summer.

Rock and pop last night was fabulous. It is always such a pleasure to see girls whose performance skills have developed over the year, as well as those who have hidden their musical talent under a bushel and suddenly decide to share it. They were all inspirational.

This weekend, our U16 netball team will be competing in the schools county final tournament day at Croydon High. I know the girls would be thrilled to make it through to the regional tournament. I wish them the best of luck.

Next week looks no less busy. On Tuesday, we will be welcoming several prospective Prior’s Field families to our Meet the Head event and, later in the day, I look forward to seeing many of you at the Upper Sixth parents’ evening. The Rotary Schools Concert at G Live on Wednesday promises to be a treat, as always, and the music continues on Friday, with the House Choir competition – a fiercely fought battle. The girls are very excited about their Form group photos which will be taken on Friday. Friday is also International Dress Day so the girls will have plenty of options in terms of potential outfits for their photos. My week will end at Farnham Heath End School, who have invited me to their production of ‘Grease’. Their Head of Music and Head of Drama attended our own production in the autumn and were inspired by what they saw.

Yesterday, we hosted a representative of the Tatler Schools Guide. She was treated to a full tour of the school, conversations with pupils and staff as well as some of Chef’s creations. Before she left, she gave us wonderful feedback, having been struck by our uniqueness and friendly feel. Most of all, she was impressed with the girls she had met, their openness, their support for each other and their self-confidence. Today is International Women’s Day and it seems entirely appropriate to celebrate how, as this week clearly demonstrates, Prior’s Field encourages talent and helps girls to achieve great things – it is something of which I am very proud.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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This week there has been so much to enjoy and celebrate.

On Tuesday, it was a pleasure to welcome the new Head of Amesbury, Sheina Wright, to Prior’s Field. It was a beautiful day for Sheina to see Prior’s Field at work.

On Tuesday evening, I joined other members of staff accompanying the Third and Fourth Forms to an interesting production of Macbeth at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. It was not a surprise, but I was struck by the girls’ immaculate behaviour, both on the coach and in the theatre, particularly given the length of the evening.

The U11 Gymnastics Festival we hosted on Wednesday was amazing. It was a privilege to present the awards to such talented and joyful performers. I would challenge anyone not to have walked away with a smile on their face. The Games staff did a wonderful job but it was particularly pleasing to see girls from Second to Sixth Form recording scores and judging alongside their teachers.

I was invited by Alistair Burtenshaw, Director of Watts Gallery, to represent Prior’s Field at a private view last evening of the new exhibition at Watts Gallery: Raymond Booth 1929 – 2015: Detailing Nature. I would highly recommend the exhibition to anyone interested in this area. Earlier in the week, a group of Prior’s Field girls were at the gallery to see the work of Sally Marriott, who is currently carrying out conservation work on our painting by John Collier of Leonard Huxley, Julia Huxley’s husband. It was a wonderful opportunity for the girls to see a real specialist in action. We look forward to having Leonard back hanging above the Oak Hall stairs very soon.

University offers are continuing to come through for the Upper Sixth, who were busy with their mocks this week. Many girls will have to make a difficult decision in the face of a plethora of exciting possibilities.

At lunchtime today, girls enjoyed our first ever Head’s Commendation Celebration, hosted by Mr Taylor and me – a new tradition sealed with hot chocolate, Chef’s special chocolate cake and strawberries.

This evening, staff and parents will pit their wits against each other at the PSA Quiz.  I am grateful to the PSA for their continued support.  The most difficult question of all, of course, will be: what is our team name? Answers on a postcard.

Next week, we look forward to House Art and Rock and Pop. I hope to see many of you on at least one of those evenings.

Finally, I cannot finish without mentioning Polly Murray, our Development and Alumnae Officer, herself an Old Girl, who was honoured this week at a reception in Farnham Council Chamber for her outstanding contribution to the community of Farnham. The medal awarded to Polly is in recognition of her work in setting up a community choir which has now been running for ten years and which has had real impact on the lives of its members, as well as raising money for local causes. Huge congratulations to Polly – we are all very proud of her.

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig

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On Wednesday, the whole school was off timetable. The First to Fourth Forms and Lower Sixth listened to a talk by Karen Power from Drug and Alcohol Education Services and carried out linked activities with their tutor. Karen also presented to parents on this important topic that evening. I hope those of you who attended found it useful. The Fifth Form and Upper Sixth meanwhile were taking part in an enterprise exercise, led by Mrs Lutwyche, requiring them to plan a festival in a day. Their brief was to come up with a business plan and to create mood boards to portray their ideas. The feedback from the girls following this exercise was hugely positive. They very much enjoyed working as mixed year group teams and having the time to work independently from teachers to design their concept and produce their final piece of work. We are going to judge the mood boards, which will be displayed in school, and prizes will be awarded in assembly after half term.

Love and friendship were in the air on Valentine’s Day yesterday at the First Form’s Lovefest in the Assembly Hall. The girls raised nearly £400 for Tinga Tinga – a fantastic total. The First Form’s enthusiasm for this initiative was impressive.

On our return after the holiday, the Upper Sixth will sit their mock exams. I would encourage them to ‘revise smart’ over half term, making good use of their time and ensuring that they also find time to relax and re-energise. Finding the right balance, which will be different for every girl, is key to performance.

The first week after half term, girls in the First to Third Forms will be able to audition for the Lower School Production. Everyone who auditions will have a part and there is always the option to help backstage if performing is not what you enjoy. Mr Kinder is looking forward to seeing the entries for House Art flood in on the first Monday back.  Mr Butler and I meanwhile are eagerly anticipating entries to the Huxley Essay Competition – this year the theme is ‘communication’. Entrants should write an essay of up to 1000 words; the deadline is Wednesday 24 April. There are three categories: First to Third Form, Fourth and Fifth Forms and Sixth Form. The holiday presents the perfect time for aspiring writers to start planning their essay.

Half term therefore is a time to rest and relax and also a time for the girls to think about what they can do to shine on their return to school.

With best wishes for a good break

Tracy Kirnig

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Open Day was a great success. Despite the weather and the difficult road conditions in many surrounding areas, we were impressed and delighted to see so many prospective parents and pupils. It was business as usual and the girls welcomed our visitors with warmth and enthusiasm, enabling them to have an insight into life at Prior’s Field. Those on the Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition were lucky to be out and about on a beautiful, crisp winter’s day – although I am sure their thermals were an essential piece of kit!

House Drama on Monday was excellent. The girls enjoyed themselves hugely and the older girls deserve great credit for their leadership of the younger ones. My thanks go to the judges: Mr Cryer, Ms Williams and Mrs McGarry. House Music on Wednesday was inspiring to watch. More girls than ever participated. Many of them have only taken up their instrument relatively recently and it was a pleasure to see how they have already made such progress.  The two minutes performance rule worked a treat and the judges – Miss Watson and Miss Brown, with keen but unqualified assistance from myself – gave the girls brilliant and constructive feedback. I am very grateful to them and to all involved.

The Surrey U12 and U13 netball tournament on Wednesday benefited from a dry chink in a wet week. Congratulations to all the girls who took part – the high level of play was impressive. There was an atmosphere of excitement and enjoyment court-side.

The whole school has been suffering with a lurgy that has been doing the rounds, and many girls and staff have been under the weather. Well done to everyone for battling through. I hope that we can all recover our strength over half term and come back to school after the holidays with renewed energy.

We have one more week to go before half term, though, and it is a packed week. We are looking forward to seeing many of you at our parents’ pastoral evening focusing on drug and alcohol awareness on Wednesday. On Thursday evening, we will be celebrating the girls’ Duke of Edinburgh achievements at the presentation evening. Do join us if your daughter is receiving an award.

Thursday is Valentine’s Day and the First Form are holding a LoveFest to celebrate love and friendship and to raise funds for Tinga Tinga. They will be selling friendship bracelets and goodies to eat and drink; there will also be a raffle and I understand there will be some glittery girls wandering around school in the afternoon having had their face painted.

Stay warm and dry on what promises to be a wet and windy weekend

With best wishes

Tracy Kirnig