Headmaster’s Welcome Letter Autumn Term 2021

15th September 2021

Dear Parents, Pupils and Friends of Stover School,

By the time you begin to read this welcome letter your children will be close to the end of their first week of the Autumn Term. As has been the trait for recent terms, all of our pupils are learning new routines, whether it has been their first days ever, here at Stover or whether they have moved up a year within the school. Thankfully, many of the Covid-19 restrictions of last year have gone (notably separation by pupil bubbles) and this means all are in a similar position in respect of learning how to operate in an open, non-restricted school and re-learning the systems, routines and norms that existed pre-Covid.

The atmosphere has been good, with pupils supporting one another and in general, appearing to be very happy to be back at school and back to some sort of normal. Most heart-warming for me has been enjoying seeing pupils of all ages sharing break and play spaces again and interacting without age barriers of enforced separation. As a staff we planned a number of gentle initiatives that would support the transition for our pupils back into normality during the staff training days of last week and, to this point, aside from the odd small ripple which is to be expected at the start of the new academic year, all seems to be very positive.

With all of this in mind, allow me to share a very warm welcome back with you. I must also thank you for being extremely supportive of the start of term pupil testing regime; I fully appreciate the fact that many of you travelled to school prior to the start of the term in order to allow the school to follow the latest advice from the Department of Education in keeping our community as protected as possible from the ingress of the Covid-19 virus.

This summer saw unprecedented GCSE and A level successes for our concluding Year 11 and Year 13 pupils; at GCSE level, 97% of grades were at level 4 and above (the equivalent of C and above) with over 40% of grades being 7, 8 or 9s (the equivalent of A and above). The Sixth Form cohort enjoyed a 100% pass rate, with 89% of grades being C and above and 47% of the outcomes being A* or A grades. The pupils in these year groups have worked through a tremendous amount of uncertainty, and coped admirably in the circumstance. I am so proud of their achievements. The examination data is mightily impressive for a school that is not selecting on the basis of an academic entry paper and should reinforce the position at both GCSE and Sixth Form level, that any child coming to Stover has every chance of achieving beyond their expectation.

As always, the Estates Team have been extremely busy during the summer months, both maintaining and improving our heritage buildings and enhancing facilities for our pupils. Most notably, the Preparatory School now has its own dedicated dining room; the large indoor space will also be really useful for indoor events like parents’ evenings, assemblies and more. This means Mr Noble and the Preparatory staff team can time their lunch to best suit the younger pupils and their curriculum allocation, rather than have to share the single dining space with the Senior School pupils. Additional classrooms have been refurbished in the Preparatory building, the library has been relocated and updated, along with the music and art spaces and the staffroom has also been moved.

This all forms part of a 3-year plan which will ensure that our younger pupils get the very best out of the Preparatory building. Staying with the Preparatory building, the south-western wing has been re-roofed and pointed as part of the rolling plan we have created in order to return the Estate to its former glory. As part of this plan, a tree re-planting scheme is underway; many thanks to the 40 families who have committed to supporting this scheme in the last couple of days.

In the Senior School, the girls’ changing facility has been expanded within Jubilee Hall, many more pupil lockers have been located around the site and our IT infrastructure plan has continued to be delivered with more laptops coming into the school and a raft of older desktop machines being replaced.

As well as a raft of new pupils, this term has also seen us welcome some new staff. Caroline Carroll, has joined our science department, along with Jane Mooney, who will also be teaching some mathematics. Alex Down and Holly Gunner have joined the Preparatory team and will both be taking care of a Year 2 class and Sarah Loughridge has joined the boarding staff as a House Parent. The support team have been enhanced by the arrival of Jon Wafforn, who will work with the Estates team and Donna Bovey who will add to our catering staff. All have undertaken a full induction into the Stover way of things and we wish them a happy and very successful time with here at Stover School.

As you know, we await an update on Devon currently being identified as an Enhanced Response Area and this has some impact on some of the dates in the school calendar. The New Parents’ Tea, is an important event at which we enable new parents to meet their children’s teachers and ensure that the first weeks at Stover have been successful. At present we are waiting to see when enhanced response ends so we can host this event at school, as it is important that it is a face to face occasion.

The Whole School Open Morning is taking place on Saturday 16th October from 10am to 12 noon and again here, we hope by then we will be able to return to a morning where new and existing parents can meet teachers and pupils here on the school site. Our annual Bonfire Night celebration takes place on Wednesday 3th November and it would be lovely to see as many of you as possible, enjoying a hotdog and the spectacular display. As a result of the summer works, the bonfire is already looking excitingly large! At 10.30am on Thursday the 11th November we will gather in Jubilee Hall for our Remembrance Service and again here, all are welcome to come and mark the occasion with us.

Finally, we are trying to work with Exeter Cathedral to find a suitable date for our Christmas Carol Service. This is a really special event but unfortunately, the Cathedral have not yet confirmed our booking date. As soon as this event is confirmed, we will let you know.

In addition to the above, sporting fixtures return this term along with the raft of other events that take place. Please check the school calendar on the school website for further information. I hope to see you on a touchline or in a concert hall at some point before Christmas.

With so many new parents joining the school, The Friends of Stover will be keen for new recruits from both the new and existing cohorts. If you would be interested in getting behind the team and their fund-raising initiatives, please contact Steve Waters, the Chair of the Committee, through either Mrs Martin, who can be found at the Preparatory School’s Reception, or Mrs Symons in the Mansion House Entrance Hall.

During the coming week Senior School parents will once again be receiving a welcome email from their Form Tutors. This is to confirm that lines of communication are open and ensure that ready communication can occur where necessary. If you do not receive an email, please contact Helen Symons (schooloffice@stover.co.uk) in the School Office who will make sure your email contacts are up to date and let the respective Tutor know. Preparatory School parents have already received their virtual Meet the Teacher event.

At the moment we are all enjoying the wonderful grounds at Stover and some warm early autumn sunshine, but before you know it, the nights will be dark and there will be frost on the ground. Do make the most of every day of the Autumn term and enjoy yourselves along the way.

Kindest regards

Mr Richard Notman
Headmaster

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