Christmas message from Caroline Derbyshire, headteacher of Saffron County High School

PUBLISHED: 10:00 25 December 2016

Caroline Derbyshire

Caroline Derbyshire


2015 ended with the retirement of John Hartley, headteacher at the school for 12 years and 2016 heralded my arrival... or should I say my ‘return’ to County High (SWCHS), having been a deputy head at the school ten years earlier.

I can now reflect on a full year as headteacher and I must say it has been both a huge honour and a great pleasure to have been at the helm of this inspiring school during this period.

It speaks volumes for the community ethos of Saffron Walden that I was so warmly welcomed back to work in the town. My first encounters with staff, students, parents, governors and wider partners have all been positive ones.

The good citizens of Saffron Walden are so proud of County High. Parents often tell me how grateful they are to live in a town with such an exceptionally good school in it and how well their children have all done. I have found that their children really are a joy to work with.

Many people will look back on 2016 as a difficult year and yet for us at SWCHS it has been one of our most harmonious, in all senses of the word.

In the spring we staged the extraordinary work that is ‘The Glass Knight’ in Saffron Hall. Children from partner primaries provided the chorus for this specially commissioned opera by Philip Sunderland about a local town legend, while the leads came from the SWCHS student body working alongside professional opera singers.

Visually and musically it was ambitious and spectacular. It showcased what can be achieved when you have a glorious concert venue and talented staff from the school and Saffron Hall working together on a project.

At the end of the summer term, Dave Crosby our farm manager of over 30 years retired from the school and many worried that this might signify the end of the school farm.

However, we were fortunate to appoint Esther Blakey who comes from a veterinary nursing and college lecturer background to replace him and now the farm has been revamped and relaunched as the Agricultural Science Unit. Animal Care courses for sixth formers are now running there and the animals are thriving.

We even have some new additions to the menagerie in the form of pythons.

August brought golden examination results with it. The schools GCSEs placed County High as the best in Essex of the non-selective schools in terms of attainment, and our A-level results place us in the top one per cent nationally for student progress with 42 per cent of all grades at A or A*. In combination, these were our best ever results.

The end of the year climaxed with a winter concert and the chance for families to hear how much our choral work grew during the year. More than 150 children and staff have regularly sung in the various choirs that have been led by specialist singing teachers and directors since September.

We can now proudly announce that we are a ‘Singing School’. I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring.

From everyone here at SWCHS, best wishes for a very happy Christmas.

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