From the moment they join the school at 10+, 11+, 13+ or in the Sixth Form, the boys at Whitgift are made aware of the key values by which the school abides, namely diversity, respect, inclusion, equality, listening and learning. Boys are taught from an early stage the importance of a forward-thinking outlook in life, one which seizes opportunities and helps others, either within their community, wider society or closer to home.
In keeping with this ethos, Whitgift for All is a new bursary and fundraising initiative for future Whitgiftians. Originally set up as an endowment 425 years ago, the Gift of John Whitgift enables around 50% of all pupils to be on some form of bursary or scholarship. Now the school hopes to be able to increase that number by fundraising from within and across its alumni. “We want to increase the bursary pot,” explains Head, Chris Ramsey, “to be able to welcome more boys from diverse backgrounds into the school and offer them an exceptional education, all part of our giving back to the community. Our strength already lies in our diversity – we offer a true representation of the real world, and we want to strengthen that even more.”
In addition to offering more full bursaries, the fund will be used to set up additional community masterclassses and Saturday school sessions as well as the Community Summer School, where Year 5 pupils from local primaries are encouraged to reach higher academically through a specially designed week of lessons taught by Whitgift staff. Whitgift hopes to also grow the boys’ volunteering – sixth formers are already very active in the community, offering support in primary schools and homes for the elderly among other initiatives.
Chris Ramsey reflects on themes emerging in Junior Years around the idea of global citizenship; Year 8s working on individual research projects, taking ownership of their learning and communicating as a team after Covid-19 deprived them of that opportunity.
The school was very upfront with pupils post-pandemic. “We told the new Year 7s – welcome to Whitgift; you are here to gain from this experience but also to give back. The school was founded as a Gift and not only won’t we survive – but we don’t deserve to survive – as a school if we don’t give back.
“Our academic ambition,” Ramsey continues, “is that boys are independent in their learning, not just processed for exams. Increasingly, staff are more adventurous in their teaching, especially post-pandemic, a time which set us all an extraordinarily steep learning curve, one that we mastered and that will not be wasted.”
Meanwhile, the Whitgift Vision 2025 continues at pace. Great progress has been made with the digital strategy and all school years bar one have school laptops, increasing students’ digital literacy and instilling the importance of digital ethics.
The development of the school site goes on. Outdoor areas are being designed for year groups to make the most of being outdoors with their peers at breaktimes. Most recently a new basketball court has opened for the Fourth Form (Year 10) next to the long-established ‘Kick-About’ area, and almost all of the car parking is being moved out to the edges of the site to create an entirely pedestrianised school environment. Ultimately, a new Sixth Form/Academic Centre and wellbeing hub will be built and will include social space to talk with friends, resembling a campus-like atmosphere for the pupils, preparing them for life at university.
The all-encompassing and outward-looking grounded attitude of the Whitgift community helps boys to make real life connections and prepares them for a future in the real world.