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Stephen Perse Foundation recognised in annual school awards Sunday Times East Anglia Independent Secondary School of the Decade

Published on 26/11/20

The Stephen Perse Foundation, a family of leading independent co-educational schools in Cambridge and Saffron Walden, has been recognised in the Sunday Times annual Parent Power awards as the East Anglia Independent Secondary School of the Decade, to be published in full on Sunday, 29th November.

The 2021 awards recognise excellence in both independent and state schools, at Junior and Secondary level in 10 regions across the UK. Although the criteria for the awards are not published, Alastair McCall, the editor of Parent Power, now in its 28th year, explained that all schools of the decade are distinguished by the longevity and inspirational leadership of the Principal or Head in charge. Tricia Kelleher, the long-standing former Principal of The Stephen Perse Foundation, retired after 19 years in post this summer and has been succeeded by Richard Girvan, latterly Surmaster of St Paul’s in London.

Alastair McCall, editor of Parent Power, said: “It is easy to be wise after the event, but it takes great vision to plan for something as yet unknown. The Stephen Perse Foundation took a giant leap into the future nearly 10 years ago when the then head teacher Tricia Kelleher decided that children would learn with screens as well as books. She so believed in online learning that she also posted lessons from her school online for children everywhere to access.

“The brilliance of that initiative bore spectacular fruit in March when schools closed down practically overnight and learning shifted online – or not. The children at Stephen Perse have benefited from Kelleher’s decision to embrace digital learning and place the school at the cutting edge, just as they have from her constant desire to develop the school academically, through the International Baccalaureate, and a more general quest for both a rounded education, excellent pastoral care and consistently high standards.

“Her successor Richard Girvan has inherited a school in robust good health and capable of achieving even greater things in the future. It thoroughly deserves to be our East Anglia Independent Secondary School of the Decade.”

Richard Girvan, Principal of the Stephen Perse Foundation said: “This award is a fantastic testament to the immense contribution of Tricia Kelleher, my inspirational predecessor as Principal, who retired this summer after 19 years in post. The award recognises how Tricia and her team have created a fantastic group of future-ready schools and nurseries, all with effective leadership and a distinctly innovative and purposeful ethos.”

In the awards Stephen Perse has also been distinguished by its forward-thinking digital strategy and the ability to deliver highly effective remote learning and teaching to the normal school timetable during the mandatory schools’ closures earlier this year, The award similarly recognises the sustained excellent academic results at A Level and the successful introduction of the International Baccalaureate. Stephen Perse has twice been awarded IB School of the Year by the Sunday Times, recognising the exceptional results of Sixth Form students in the International Baccalaureate.

Richard continues: “I have been hugely inspired by my new colleagues’ preparedness to innovate and adapt during the period of schools’ closures last spring, when all of our schools moved seamlessly to remote teaching and learning; parents have been effusive in their praise of the quality of online teaching.  The commitment to developing a digital strategy a number of years ago, with all of the requisite infrastructure and staff development across the schools of the Stephen Perse Foundation, has ensured our teachers have been able to deliver the full curriculum in spite of all of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Richard continued: “Since my arrival, I have been so impressed by the outstanding staff of the Stephen Perse Foundation, among them experts, authors and examiners across the academic spectrum.  Equally impressive has been their commitment to support and encourage students to themselves succeed, to become independent thinkers with a moral purpose and a sense of social responsibility.”

“While this fantastic award looks back, it is my job and that of my colleagues, to ensure a brilliant school for the present, and to look ahead to our future; to continue the momentum created by Tricia Kelleher’s legacy and to ensure that the next ten years at the Stephen Perse Foundation are even more successful than the last. All the evidence I have seen to date provides me with confidence that we are immensely well positioned to do so. For now, it is appropriate to pause and celebrate this award, and to take some collective pride in our schools, before setting our sights once again on the horizon.”