The ambitious and exciting development of our facilities, growing partnerships with the local community and beyond, and our drive for wider access for all sections of our local community are central to this vision. As we look forward, we must also look out to the world which our students will experience.
Our students, with the world’s finest libraries in their pockets, now more than ever need the critical reasoning to interrogate data, the ability to listen and the humility to change minds, including their own. They face a lifetime of learning and jobs not yet invented. To prepare them, we will lead by example; staying true to our values, collaborating with others, innovating and striving always to be the very best we can be.
Teaching our boys to learn
It seems obvious that what we do is teaching and learning, but traditionally schools have focused on the former rather than the latter. In 2015, we launched 6 indispensable learning habits which we want every pupil to have acquired by the time they leave the RGS. Developed by the entire teaching body, following an independent review, they are designed to help students take greater responsibility for their learning, preparing them for higher education and helping them to understand how they learn best for the longer term. This year we are focusing on reflection and tenacity – particularly important in the rarefied atmosphere of RGS and similarly high-achieving schools. The emotional resilience and positive sense of wellbeing they develop here will help to determine success throughout their lives. We want our boys to respond positively to challenges and to persist when they have setbacks and disappointments. To paraphrase Samuel Beckett, learning to fail and fail better, is one of the most powerful lessons we can teach.
Enrichment through co-curricular activity
We set aside curricular time every Monday afternoon and five field days each year. This varied and exciting programme is designed to provide opportunities for wider experience, for developing self- reliance, leadership and a more mature and responsible attitude to society. The field days support the weekly activities which range from outdoor and expedition training, CCF, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Explorer Scouts to community service, drama, music and mountaineering. Complemented by an extensive sports programme, it is about having fun, trying something new, standing shoulder to shoulder in competition with one’s friends, testing oneself and understanding one’s passions, limits and self. We face academic and timetable pressures like all high-achieving schools, but our co- curricular activity is fundamental to who we are at RGS. It is an essential characteristic of the education we offer and will continue to offer into the future.
All schools face significant changes in the future and one of the major risks facing schools such as ours is isolation. The era of single schools which stand alone, relying on their own resources to innovate and develop, will soon be over. The future is about partnership, both locally, nationally and internationally. Closest to home, our focus is on developing our relationship as a school with our Old Guildfordians, building a mutually beneficial relationship in the long term. In recent years, we have cultivated important external partnerships. We are an active member of the Guildford Education Partnership and work closely with other local Multi-Academy Trusts to bring a range of outreach activities to a wider number of children and continue to work with local state and independent schools to broaden our influence and establish relationships to benefit local students. Further afield, since 2015 we have developed close international partnerships to enable us to bring students an RGS education globally, with RGS schools now operating in Qatar, China and, in September 2021, Dubai. In all these partnerships, our aim is to learn, to share our expertise and to enhance the reputation of the RGS by developing academic excellence more broadly.
Guildford’s Grammar School
We were founded in 1509 as a free schole for the benefit of bright local boys without means. We are still educating bright local boys, but we are only able to offer bursary support to 7% of the student body. I have seen the transformational effect of an RGS education, as have many of you. My ambition is full merit-based open access: that every bright boy who earns his place can take it up, irrespective of his financial circumstances. It will take time and the support of the whole RGS community, but this is now an aspiration I believe we can realise in a generation. Our first step has been to create 20 new and sustainable bursary places with our £1 million bursary campaign. I am privileged to be leading the RGS at such an important moment in our School’s illustrious 500- year history. It is a moment of change, of evolution. Holding firm to our values and inspired by a first- class staff and student body, I know that we are going in the right direction. I am excited about our future and the role we can play in the development of education. I look forward to sharing our plans in more detail with you as they develop. In the meantime, it is my pleasure to share my thinking and invite you to join us on the journey.
Dr Jon Cox