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A bright, new decade

My blogs often start with the phrase “at the end of a very busy term” but on this occasion I can use the phrase “at the end of a very busy decade”.

In our final assembly of the decade, I reflected on some of the key themes of the last ten years. The passing of time was brought home to me as I realised that not a single one of our pupils would have been in secondary school a decade ago and many of them would have been unable to read the news let alone take an interest in it.

In 2010, as I told the school this morning, I was buying my first iPhone, an iPhone 2, at the recommendation of a colleague who spoke with evangelical zeal about a phone that could access the internet. Apparently this meant one could check email away from one’s desk. I have to confess that this did not exactly sell the iPhone to me but I was rather taken with its sleek design with the Apple logo on the back so I went out and bought one. How funny that ten years on some people’s top well-being tip for work-life balance is not to have their work email on their iPhone. At the time I remember one senior leader, who shall remain nameless, getting criticism from the pupils because they were too busy checking messages to watch the House Gymnastics competition. Pupils were well ahead of their teachers…

In 2010, planning permission had not yet been secured for the new Senior School building at Maresfield Gardens. An inspection report for South Hampstead in 2009 is revealing. Generally inspection reports make reasonably achievable and sometimes rather bland recommendations. The 2009 ISI report, however, recommended that the school: “Improve the quality of the senior school building, as a matter of urgency!” The new Hopkins-designed building is now just over five years old and in January 2020 we will have put the finishing touches to it with completion of the new Waterlow Hall.

In 2010 I was still a Head of Department and only just wondering whether I should apply for a senior leadership position. I remember being in quite a quandary about it as moving into senior leadership in schools means a significantly reduced teaching timetable, and I love being in the classroom. Little did I imagine that seven years later, in January 2017, I would be embarking on what have proved to be the most fulfilling three years of my career so far.

In 2010 the world did feel like quite a different place. We didn’t seem to talk about The Future quite as much. We didn’t seem to worry quite as much. And we didn’t seem to shout about things quite as much. No doubt my musings are a classic example of rose-tinted glasses and a certain nostalgia for what I perceive to be a simpler way of life… or possibly a sign of approaching middle age. But whether I am right or wrong, I do think that the world feels like a more exciting, if a less certain place. Quite what South Hampstead will look like in 2030 I don’t think any of us knows. We know where we’d like to be, as we have outlined in our Towards & Beyond 150 vision, but great strategic plans, like great schools, never stand still and no doubt we shall have to adapt as the new decade unfolds.

Of one thing I am certain: we have some of the most energising and inspiring young women in London in our midst and some of the most dedicated staff. With those two raw ingredients, and with parental support, I’m sure the next decade will be even brighter than the one to which we are about to bid farewell.

With best wishes for the festive season and a bright, new decade ahead.

Blog post by Vicky Bingham, Headmistress from 2017 to 2023.  

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