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#58 - 2015

Following a full ISI inspection in April 2015, Shiplake College was judged as ‘excellent’ across every single inspection category, the highest possible grade of achievement. Commendation of this magnitude is rare in independent education, placing Shiplake amongst the leading independent schools in the country.

A team of ISI inspectors visited the College from Tuesday 28 April to Friday 1 May 2015. The inspectors observed lessons, conducted formal interviews with pupils and examined samples of pupils’ work. They held discussions with staff, observed extra-curricular activities, conducted a full assessment of boarding, reviewed exam results and analysed the responses of parents and pupils to pre-inspection questionnaires.

The inspection report gave a clear judgement on each aspect of the school’s work. These headline statements are based on a four point descriptor scale ranging from ‘unsatisfactory’ to ‘excellent’. After collating and analysing evidence in each of the nine domains, the inspection team deemed Shiplake College to be ‘excellent’ – the highest accolade – in every field. The full inspection summery can be read here.

On Saturday 25 April a celebratory dinner was held to mark 50 years on Welsh House. Staff, parents and Old Vikings gathered together in the Great Hall to celebrate the founding of a now-iconic Shiplake house. The guest of honour was Mr David Welsh, the founding Housemaster. He was joined by long-serving staff member Mr Peter Gould, Mr Alex Hunt, and then current Welsh Housemaster Mr Jonnie Howorth; indeed, four generations of Welsh Housemasters were together under one roof.

A drinks reception followed an open house tour of Welsh, with photos of alumni and current pupils displayed on the walls, before a sumptuous three course dinner was enjoyed. The Headmaster gave an entertaining speech on the traits of Welsh House boys - a commitment to sporting achievements being chief amongst these!

Jonnie Howorh, Alex Hunt, Peter Gould and David Welsh

Drama enthusiasts in Years 9 and 10 joined the entire Lower School for the 2015 junior school production of Oliver! Months of preparation, including line-learning, countless rehearsals and weeks of fine-tuning, culminated in seven superb sold-out shows in the Tithe Barn. The performances received a rapturous reception from parents and teachers in the audience, as the pupils’ hard work yielded a hugely entertaining spectacle.

In July, a small group of pupils headed to Kenya for a life-changing expedition, organised by the College Expedition Society in association with charity GapAfrica, and accompanied by Headmaster Mr Gregg Davies, Mrs Alison Davies and Mr Darius Bluck, and leaders of the tour Marcel and Sally Wagner. The trip had a great significance for the charity, as it marked 25 years since its founding. The trip was far more than just a holiday; put through the tough tasks of climbing 17,000ft up Mount Kenya, trekking and building classrooms in a local school, the expedition was equally gruelling and rewarding. Then Year 13 pupil, Anna Davies, offered the following report on the time away:

‘We reached Nairobi after two very long flights, and were greeted by our guide for the month, Mark Savage, who owns ‘Savage Wilderness’, in Sagana, the area we called base camp for the next few weeks. Although it seemed basic at the time, it soon became clear that the beds, showers and proper flushing toilets housed at Savage Wilderness were luxuries which we would be without… During the time at the base camp we were given the opportunity to trial different outdoor activities; mountain biking, rock climbing, zip-lining and white water rafting to name a few! Only five very brave group members tried their hand at the bungee jump, whilst the rest of us stood watch.

The first few nights we slept at Sanctuary Farm; a ‘safari style’ campsite with wild animals, such as hippos, hyenas, wildebeest and giraffes, surrounding us at night. We were fortunate enough to participate in two further safaris during the month-long expedition, seeing animals in their natural habitat.

During the trip, the group climbed two mountains. The first mountain was the Aberdares, where we climbed to 3,500m. This was used as altitude training and to give us an idea of what Mount Kenya would be like, although the training left us unprepared for the difficulties ahead of us. Mount Kenya was by far the most challenging event of the trip – indeed, in most of our lives so far! To celebrate the 25th year of the expedition, it was decided that we would tackle a new route to the summit, that had never been tried before. We spent five days climbing, and enjoyed hot drinks and wonderful dinners cooked by our porters during the difficult, arduous route. However, despite being unable to summit Mount Kenya due to the difficulty in the route, spirits were high when we reached the coast and had a few days to relax.

We were also given the opportunity to visit local schools. We spent three days at Kikunduku School, building desks and shelves, helping out in classrooms and meeting wonderful children who were so keen to learn. Headmaster Mr Davies opened a new classroom and kitchen, lending his name to the facilities!  The welcome from the children was unbelievable; they had come into school on a Sunday to greet us, two miles from their homes. We were treated to a Harambee; a community celebration of the group visiting the schools, where children perform traditional dance and songs.

We were also shown the Mango Project at another school, seeing how the mango trees and water systems had been set up. The schools in Kenya provided an extraordinarily eye-opening experience for the group.

Arriving back in England, we were all very excited to be home and see our loved ones, but exceptionally sad that we would not be spending more time with the group; the challenges and cultural experiences had formed an intense bond between us, and the whole group felt so grateful for the opportunity.’

Also in 2015:

- The Shiplake Seven teaching and learning framework was introduced, designed to foster and develop key interpersonal qualities in our young people. See more in the Shiplake Seven Video.

- A new management structure was introduced and the role of Deputy Headmaster was split into two domains, covering academic and pastoral responsibilities. Ian Munro was appointed Deputy Head Academic, while Nick Brown became Deputy Head Pastoral.

- Old Viking Anthony Berry, an innovative landscape gardener, was requested by multi-award winning horticulturist Alan Gardner to attend this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, to construct a show garden. The garden, sponsored by Viking River Cruises, won a silver award!