In September 2020, the relocation of Ridley boys across the ‘heart’ leaves the ‘old’ Ridley and St Bridget’s empty and we have already begun work on repurposing those Houses into a day-and-boarding, mixed House reserved for Upper Sixth pupils and starting in September 2021. We are excited about the opportunities this radical move will create to provide a different boarding model that will prepare our oldest and most mature pupils for university and adult life and allow the possibility of more independent living.
We are creating a new Upper Sixth Form House for girls, boys, day pupils and boarders in a single house with two wings – one for girls, one for boys. The House will be on the site of what is currently Ridley and St Bridget’s. A Houseparent and a team of tutors, with experience in managing and leading Upper Sixth pupils, and expertise in the specific demands that are made of them, will guide the pupils through their final year at King Edward’s Witley. This change will also allow Lower Sixth pupils to assume greater leadership responsibilities in the ‘old’ Houses. To allow building work to be carried out in the current Ridley and St Bridget’s, our current schedule anticipates that Ridley boys will move across the ‘heart’ into old Queens’ House, in September 2020 thus effectively twinning them with Grafton House. However, we hope you will understand that we need to have the flexibility to manage changes brought about by future changes to government restrictions in responding to COVID-19.
Why are you doing this?
The world has changed since the advent of the traditional boarding House model bringing together 3rd Form to Upper Sixth so that older pupils can act as role models and leaders to their younger peers. Nowadays, expectations, especially social expectations, for 17- and 18-year-olds are quite different from those of 13-year-olds, and academic pressure on final year pupils continues to grow as they prepare to gain places at top universities in an increasingly competitive and global market. We can cater better for those pupils by bringing them together under one roof with stage-specific guidance, appropriate expectations and demands. We will consider, and consult on, many initiatives to take full advantage of the opportunities this offers to prepare boys and girls for university and adult life by developing enhanced self-management and life skills.
When is it going to happen?
In September 2020, Ridley House will have moved to old Queens’. By that point we expect to have architect and building plans well advanced and we will share these with all stakeholders at the earliest opportunity next academic year. During next academic year, the building work will proceed to create the ‘new’ House. The new Housemistress/ Housemaster for the Upper Sixth House will be appointed in good time to help the Lower Sixth prepare for their move. In September 2021 next year’s Lower Sixth will become the first year-group to join the newly refurbished final-years’ House in the buildings currently occupied by Ridley and St Bridget’s. Please understand that all these timings are contingent on future changes to government policy that may affect the return to School of some or all pupils in September, as mentioned above.
What will this new House be called?
This is a good question! Consideration of a name for this House is already under way but we expect to consult and garner views of many stakeholders, considering all aspects of the School’s and pupils’ heritage and traditions before deciding on this matter.
How are you going to manage a mixed House?
With great care! And respect for the specific requirements and wishes of young adults. Girls and boys will have separate ‘wings’ of the House with strict segregation and appropriate privacy. Infringement of these rules or being found in an area of the House that is not allowed, is liable to incur a significant sanction. Each wing of the House will have its own communal areas as well as a shared suite of rooms, in the same way as twinned Houses currently do. Learning how to live in a co-educational setting anticipates the Upper Sixth’s experience a few weeks after leaving King Edward’s Witley for university.
Will girls be able to visit boys’ rooms and vice versa?
In short, no. But there will be a consultation process in which we will hear the views of the pupils about appropriate measures and rules in many areas of life.
How will the Upper Sixth mix with the ‘old’ Houses for example in competing for the Cockhouse Cup?
This question falls into the category of those on which we will consult, taking best practice from other schools that have made this change, and considering the views of the pupils – those for whom this question is very dear to their heart! There will be many ways in which pupils will want to establish their ‘voice’ in whole-school matters and competition, but it may well also be the case that the Upper Sixth will justifiably want to do things differently. We will aim to strike a balance between keeping the Upper Sixth at the heart of the School community and acknowledging the demands on their time during their final year.
Will School rules still apply to the Upper Sixth House?
Yes. But not every aspect of communal living where there are 13-year-olds living alongside 18-year-olds will be appropriate. Provided that the pupils live up to the higher expectations of behaviour we naturally have of the oldest pupils, some school rules may have “local variations” in the new House. No doubt, there are certain restrictions that may be less appropriate for the Upper Sixth and which therefore merit relaxation. We anticipate announcing these, following a consultation process, next year. Nevertheless, as above, school rules still apply and, more importantly, where school rules are a codification of fundamental values and courtesy, they apply in a more adult context and expectations of behaviour will be high. The supervisory regime will try to apply a light touch whenever possible while retaining all the authority to act decisively if pupils’ behaviour falls short of adult standards and expectations.
Will there be extra privileges for Upper Sixth pupils in the new House?
As above, in the previous answer, we anticipate a slightly different approach but even higher standards of behaviour. There will be imaginative developments; for example, we are currently planning to provide facilities and opportunities for pupils to:
What if my child doesn’t want to leave her/his current house?
We anticipate the prospect of a House which brings together friends and peers from the same year-group across the School, offering a phased introduction to independent, university-style living and a high standard of accommodation will be very attractive. Some of the limitations of communal living with younger children can be foregone. Nevertheless, all the Upper Sixth will continue to be members of their old House as well and for certain inter-House competitions, they will rejoin them. A pupil’s ‘promotion’ into the Upper Sixth House will be conditional on their behaviour and performance, especially academic performance. We must have confidence that pupils will behave responsibly when given greater rights and freedoms. The space available for pupils who do not meet this threshold to stay in their existing House will be limited.
What about Prefects?
The details of the Houses’ leadership structure have yet to be worked out. We will consult with the current and next generation’s group of Prefects, staff and others to arrive at the best model to encourage leadership and devolved leadership, effective role-models and maintenance of School and House routines across all the Houses.
Who will be the Housemaster/ Housemistress and how much staff support will there be?
The new Housemistress/ Housemaster will be appointed during the next academic year, as above, in good time to help pupils prepare for this historic transition into an Upper Sixth House. We expect similar levels of residential staff support and leadership: a Matron and an Assistant Housemaster/ Housemistress and other tutors with interest, expertise and experience in the requirements of pupils’ final year of secondary school.
Will there be changes to the fabric and structure of the newly created House?
Yes. David Brazier, an architect with long experience and close knowledge of King Edward’s Witley’s built environment, has been engaged to work with the Head, Director of Finance and Deputy Head to create an attractive House with impressive facilities. The new Ridley-St Bridget’s will be substantially redesigned to create top-notch pupil accommodation for 17 and 18-year-olds. In addition to ensuring high standards of residential accommodation, we are intent on providing leisure and work rooms to meet the needs and wishes of both day pupils and boarders of both sexes. One way to envisage the intended ‘feel’ of the House is that, whereas the ‘old’ twinned Houses are two separate Houses with shared facilities, this House will be united under the leadership of one Housemaster/ Housemistress, with separate residential wings for girls and boys.
We have been blown away by the high quality of our 5th Form pupils’ Inquiry Projects this year. The Inquiry Project is an independent research project with the opportunity to explore whatever topic is of greatest interest to each pupil. It offers a chance for 5th Form pupils to develop their creativity, explore their motivation,...