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News > School News > Farewell Mr Blond

Farewell Mr Blond

March was Oliver Blond's final month as Headmaster, after 10 years at Roedean.
29 Mar 2023
Written by Grace Chaston (Cather)
School News

This month we said a fond farewell to Oliver Blond, our Headmaster for the last 10 years. During that time, Oliver and his family have called Roedean their home, as well as their workplace and have contributed widely to the development of Roedean into a true school of choice. In recognition of this, the final week of term, was jam-packed full of activities and events as every part of the school community took an opportunity to say goodbye and thank Oliver for his time as Headmaster.

Perhaps the most obvious development over the last ten years, and the reason why the girls' farewells had to be split into separate Key Stage activities, is that we have so many more of them now. In the last ten years, our pupil numbers have doubled, and we now have just over 700 students. This would be an exceptional achievement anyway, but against a national backdrop which shows a downward trend in girls only education it is made even more so, and given that being positioned on the South Coast, our catchment area is half that of other schools, it is truly remarkable.

A major part of the growth, has been in the number of local day students. This has been fuelled by a huge level of investment in Bursaries and Awards, which has seen £24 million spent on these over the decade. As well as ensuring that Roedean is a full and dynamic school, most importantly, this means that a Roedean education is now much more widely accessible to all girls. This is a reflection of Oliver's ambitions to revive the school, and also of the Founders' original aims, which saw them open the school with "ten students, six paying and four for show".

The growth in pupil numbers has also been helped by the various developments to the School site of which the completion of the Boarding House renovations was just the start. During one long-standing member of staff's farewell speech for Oliver, she noted that she has worked under many Heads, but Oliver is the first to have opened a farm. Opened in 2016, the farm is now home to sheep, goats, chickens and ducks, and provides an opportunity for our students, and visiting students from St Marks Primary, to enjoy time outdoors looking after the animals. It is also somewhere staff and students can go to enjoy time outside in the fresh air that is abundant at Roedean.

Keswick House, which many ORs will remember as Junior House, was also transformed in late 2016 into a stunning 6th Form Centre. Great care was taken by Oliver and his team to ensure that this space became more than just a practical study and communal space, but also a warm and welcoming area for the girls to enjoy. Since then it has seen many 6th Form socials, assemblies, talks, movie nights and study sessions.

An all-weather hockey pitch has been a long held ambition of the Sports Department, and in 2017 they finally got their wish when we broke ground and started the immense task of flattening the slope below the Swimming Pool and turning it into an all-weather pitch. The development also included re-surfacing all of the tennis and netball courts, installing floodlights, and developing the visitors car park at the front of the school. These new and improved facilities have made a huge difference to the girls, with training time increased as they no longer have to travel to external training facilities, and greater scope for hosting matches at Roedean. The new facilities have also meant we have been able to take full advantage of another new intiative - ambassadors who are experts in their field coming in to support the girls. This has seen several visits from our Sports Ambassadors, Olympians Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh, to lead masterclasses for current and prospective students on the all-weather pitch.

Our fantastic Roedean Theatre, built in the 1990s, has long been a focal point of the School, and Oliver's ten years here have seen countless school Productions, Concerts, Dance Showcases, House Drama and Dance competitions and talks. Its long deserved refurbishment, led by Oliver in 2021, has transformed the space into an even more exceptional place to showcase the student's talents. It is perhaps therefore very fitting that the first of our events to bid farewell, was a showcase gala performance in the Theatre, where students performed pieces covering music, dance and drama.

Beyond the developments to the buildings, Oliver's tenure has also seen us develop much closer relationships within the local area. From a school that seemed to be not just physically on the edge of the city, we are now firmly embedded in the local community. Every year the Roedean Academy sees students from many of the state schools across the city come together at Roedean for a programme of academic enrichment. A project particularly close to Oliver's heart is our partnership with St Marks Primary, this sees their students visit every Thursday to enjoy our facilities, and the visits are returned multiple times a week by our students to volunteer for various projects, including as language buddies, reading buddies and as sports leaders. 

Each year group now has a dedicated year group charity, and so far this academic year they have raised over £23,000 for local and global charities. As well as donations, these charity links have also included; visits to our closest neighbours, Blind Veterans, who have a long-standing relationship with the School, hot meals provided for Off the Fence, a local homeless charity, and an annual easter cake gifted to the staff supporting sick children at the Royal Alexandra Children's hospital, through our relationship with Rockinghorse.

All of these developments and initiatives, mean that Oliver is leaving Roedean in a far stronger position than it was in when he took over in 2013, and for this we are exceptionally grateful. Thank you Oliver for all your hard work and dedication to Roedean.

The Old Roedeanians' Association sum this up perfectly:

Valete

Those in the position of Headmaster or Headmistress of Roedean School act as guardians of the aims andvision of our Founders, before passing on to their successor the baton of providing a high-quality, all-round girls' education.

As Oliver Blond leaves, the school is in a significantly better position than when he started a decade ago. 

The drivers and influences contributing to the success of any educational establishment which is both a charity and a business are both internal and external, complex, challenging and interwoven.   We have seen a doubling of pupil numbers and an improved academic, sports and performing arts offering, augmented by a broad co-curricular programme.  The delivery of the access and public benefit aims of the charity through the school’s bursary policy and outreach activities has also been enhanced.

On behalf of the ORA, I would like to say “Thank you” to Oliver.  The achievements under his tenure as Headmaster have laid firm foundations for the school’s future and we offer our very best wishes to him and his family for their life after Roedean.

Mary Henderson
President, Old Roedeanians’ Association

 

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