170 Old Sedberghians, parents past and present, staff and friends gathered at the House of Commons on Friday 17th November. After a guided tour of the Parliament buildings guests enjoyed a drinks reception and 3 course dinner in the Members Dining Room. There was a wide age range of Old Sedberghians who attended the event ranging from 18 years old to 87 years old, with a great number of Old Girls as well as Boys. It was also great to have the new Headmaster of Sedbergh Prep School, Will Newman and his wife Liz as honoured guests. The event was kindly sponsored by Powells of Sedbergh, Konnexx, (Simon Morris SH 67-71), MFP Wealth Management (Michael Adams W 46-50) and Simonstone Hall (Jake Dinsdale H 05-07).

Jan Van der Velde, Chairman of the OS Club delivered a welcome speech in which he gave an insight into what the OS Club is currently focusing on. First of all, he spoke about the OS Club being one of the first school alumni associations to launch with the Graduway Platform enabling alumni to connect, facilitate jobs, internships, and mentors as well as delivering news. Another first was the girls’ alumni hockey tournament, the Dean Close Sixes, in which the OS team were runners up. He informed guests that OS Club is carrying out more events than ever before, working alongside the school in supporting OSs and current students with career internships, advice and jobs. Ben Collins, Alumni Director, is aiming to set up 30 new internship programmes for the summer of 2018.

Jan also mentioned the success of the OS Pilgrimage and that we have now visited 200 graves of the 259 graves of Old Sedberghians who sadly lost their lives in the Great War. He thanked Neil McKerrow (S 58-63) for all his hard work in initiating and creating the inspirational Pilgrimage and encouraged people to join us in the final Pilgrimage in 2018.

The Headmaster, Andrew Fleck then gave update from the school:

On Thursday last week I read a news article which argued that Britain is riven by self-interest, inequality, political division and that the country is becoming ungovernable. Soon after, I listened to the Chaplain speak in morning Assembly about the journey of the Unknown Warrior from the battlefields of France to the tomb in Westminster Abbey. It was a moment when the rich and powerful stood alongside the whole nation in respect and appreciation of their fellow countrymen.

Out of war and crisis, came unity.

History warns us that cataclysmic events arise in deeply divided societies, we are privileged beyond measure to live, work and study at Sedbergh School. We educate our pupils to be strong in mind, body and spirit – but to one purpose – to raise up those less fortunate and more vulnerable than they.

Our pupils are thriving, and I believe preparing for that purpose.

After many years of work, we are placed on the 88th centile of performance in the country meaning that in only 11% of schools do pupils make more progress than at Sedbergh. We remain proudly diverse in our intake and are delighted with the achievements of our pupils. Last week, new applicants sat scholarships, we are significantly oversubscribed in many categories.

And much of that remains due to the breadth and success of our offering. Rugby and hockey teams are unbeaten, the cricketers won the national T20 competition and our shooters cleaned up at Bisley with one 14 year-old girl winning the International Imperial Open Meeting at 600 yards. Perhaps the first pupil ever to win a World Championship? Our tennis players were national semi-finalists, our netballers’ quarter finalists and our runners’ multiple champions.

On the stage we presented 75 plays and musical performances last year and for the first time, I can record real excellence in our art department which is growing in popularity, number and an increasingly diverse and experimental provision.

To a high degree, these achievements stem from the development of the School which you have supported in recent years:

  • The development of the Thornely Studio and Guldrey
  • The opening of Carus House
  • The expansion of the Prep School at Casterton
  • Roger Lupton Scholarships
  • The Old Sedberghian Gradway programme, Business Groups and Careers programmes

Looking to the future, the Hirst Sports centre is on time and on budget – due to be opened in May 2018. It will provide a greater range of opportunities for more diverse pupils as well as facilities for elite athletes of all disciplines. We are working to open Rong Qaio Sedbergh School in Fuzhou, China which adheres to the same philosophy and will provide for 2000 boarding pupils. It opens in September 2018.

Sedbergh has purpose, is successful and is forward looking.

Which brings me to my most important comment. You play the most important part; through your careers and the examples you set, your advocacy of the School and the encouragement and generosity you offer us in support of our work. You have given £7 ½ M to the foundation during my tenure alone.

So, if this dinner is about anything, it is to say Thank You – Thank You to you, our greatest supporters.

Jeremy Bedford, Chairman of the Foundation, gave the Vote of Thanks. He particularly thanked the generosity of all the Old Sedberghians, parents in their willingness to help less fortunate youngsters experience the opportunities that a Sedbergh education offers. He went on to state that Roger Lupton Scholarship scheme had raised a staggering £1,000,000 over the last 5 years enabling 11 youngsters attend the school. He then reminded attendees of the Big Give Christmas Challenge in aid of the Roger Lupton Scholarships which starts on the 28th November 2017.

The evening was finished with a rendition of ‘Winder’ which filled the Members Dining room and the hallways beyond!

Overall, it was a great success and OS Club and Foundation will be doing a similar event in London every 2 years.