Eleanor Grylls, Head of School

Good day or good evening everyone depending on when you are watching and thank you for taking the time to consider Biddenham as a school for your children. I hope that you have already gained a bit of an insight into our school, from Mr Bailey and Ms Simpson and particularly our Head Girl and Boy and our lovely new Year 7 students.

My name is Eleanor Grylls, and I am Head of School here at Biddenham. Choosing a secondary school is a really big, important, exciting and a little bit scary decision to make – for young people and for parents. This is true even at the best of times, but perhaps it feels even more important at this time. A time when so much has been asked of us and we have and still are learning how to adapt in new and sometimes innovative ways. To help you with making the right decision, my main aim is to share with you a bit more of the uniqueness of Biddenham – exactly what I think makes our school so special.

As Mr Bailey mentioned, I started working here 18 years ago as a Head of Year and Head of Dance. During this time, there has been considerable upheaval in the educational landscape with schools having to respond to a raft of changes in school structures, curriculum, qualifications and assessment, funding and of course a global pandemic, to name but a few.

I have felt privileged to be part of a strong, resilient school community such as Biddenham that has weathered the storms of political and societal change. From these strong foundations I believe the school is well placed to thrive in the face of adversity and continue to move forward to a bright future.

In the 18 years that I’ve been here I’ve also become a mother to 3 girls. Now I always thought that I was a committed and passionate teacher before having children, but I have to admit that having my own children added a whole new dimension to my professional purpose – my reason for doing what I do.  In short, my hopes and aspirations for my own children are the very same hopes and aspirations that I have for your children.

So what are these aspirations that I have? I believe in the power of education to transform lives for the better and create leaders of the future. I want our children to be inspired to love learning and develop as a whole person and it is my view that Biddenham is an exciting environment where this aspiration becomes a reality. It is vital to maintain an unwavering focus on fostering high levels of achievement in order to make sure that students progress to where they want to be in the next phase of their lives and fulfil their dreams and ambitions.

Learning in the 21st Century needs to equip young people, our sons and daughters, with skills as well as knowledge to prepare them for the challenges of a global society – now more than ever it seems. Biddenham does this and much more. We are also about building strength of character within a secure and embracing family ethos that celebrates diversity in all its richness and is underpinned by a culture of sporting and performance excellence.

At Biddenham we cultivate and value positive relationships between staff and students, between students themselves and amongst the staff team. We pride ourselves on knowing students; knowing the young people behind the numbers. Students at Biddenham have every opportunity to develop their unique talents and therefore have every opportunity to succeed.

All of the senior leaders continue to teach, keeping us connected to the young people in our classrooms. In the time that students are with us at Biddenham I personally will come into contact with all of them, either through teaching, through tracking their progress, pastoral work or at the other end of the spectrum in the sixth form. Every single student should leave this school being able to point to teachers that ‘got’ them, understood them and inspired them.

Something that I believe makes a massive contribution to the ultimate success of young people is the partnership with parents. Each time that our children move on to the next phase of their schooling, as parents we can be overwhelmed by a sense of them slipping away from us. We go from the everyday contact at the school gates at lower or primary school to the relative distance that seems to come with the teenage years. However, teenagers need their parents just as much, only differently. We see it as our job to work closely with parents to ensure that our young people get to where they want to be in life. Parental engagement and involvement with students’ learning can have a significant impact on student achievement and at Biddenham we want to foster that involvement and harness the benefits that it brings. Increasingly over the years we are seeing more and more parents who are ex-students entrusting their own children to our care. This is an honour and something of which we are incredibly proud.

As Mr Bailey said, we both chose to send our own children to Biddenham, and other members of staff have done the same. So, what was and is behind these decisions?

There is an exciting curriculum and the opportunities to balance academic rigour and the acquisition of knowledge with project based, connected learning that develops students’ creativity and fosters engagement. We want our children to continue to enjoy and be enthused by school.

The year 7 and 8 buildings were purpose built to facilitate a creative, transitional curriculum and ensure that each child is known as an individual. In this safe space students are encouraged and supported, through our Oracy curriculum, to become articulate speakers, able to express themselves through talk, in order to take a full and active role in a society of the future.

Friendship and compassion are core values at Biddenham and the importance of teaching young people to be kind is vital, particularly in turbulent times that can sometimes feel quite the opposite.  Biddenham is a place where students are guided ‘to be the best that they can be’ within a safe and supportive environment that provides the opportunity to build friendships for life. Why wouldn’t we want that for our own children?

The sense of family, the dedicated and well qualified staff team, the innovative curriculum, the commitment to the arts, technology and practical subjects alongside the academic core, the importance of educating the whole child as well as achieving examination success, the celebration of diversity in all its forms – these are all the things that make Biddenham so special and are major factors in our current success and popularity.

Thank you for listening.