Christopher Hirst became Headmaster of Sedbergh School in April 1995. A proud Yorkshireman, it was, nevertheless, a brave decision for an established Headmaster to move to a struggling northern school but it swiftly proved to be an inspired appointment on the part of the Governors. The School quickly gathered momentum, regaining its sense of purpose and redefining its identity. Sport flourished, new Teachers transformed the curriculum and the Arts grew in popularity. Christopher and Sara’s experience of full boarding ensured the development of pastoral care and the social life of the School.
In March 2000, Christopher announced that after 475 years, Sedbergh would become co-educational. On 5 September 2001, 40 girls started at Sedbergh and Sara Hirst was appointed as Senior Mistress. In September 2003, the second girls’ House, Robertson, opened. Sara’s charisma and energy provided the foundation for the success of co-education and the high standards that she set permeated the entire School over time.
Meanwhile in September 2002, Sedbergh opened Sedbergh Junior School at Bentham. It was an essential strategic move to secure the flow of pupils to Sedbergh School. The location, 21 miles from Sedbergh, made it a difficult project but the School flourished and the fortunes of both Schools grew.
When it became clear that Sedbergh Junior School would be better located in Sedbergh, Christopher made the difficult decision to close the original School and relocate it. Sara stepped into the role of Headmistress of the new Sedbergh Junior School, whilst still maintaining her role as Senior Mistress and teaching A Level English. There followed a whirlwind of activity to ensure all was ready for its opening at Sedbergh in January 2009.
Christopher and Sara took well-earned retirement in August 2010 and continue their lifetime involvement in education in a variety of different roles.
It is particularly appropriate to name our new sports centre ‘The Hirst Centre’. Christopher was a talented sportsman who played Cricket (for Cambridge University, Buckinghamshire and, uniquely, Chile), Rugby and Fives. He was also Chairman of the HMC Sports Sub-Committee. The School’s modern sporting reputation was established during his tenure. And it is also an appropriate acknowledgement of a couple whose combined energy, commitment, warmth and vision laid the foundations for the success that our School enjoys today.