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Moving on - five years at Heywood Prep

A baking hot afternoon in May this year saw the whole Heywood Prep community out in force for Sports Day, held, for the first time, on the playing fields in Biddestone. There was a cheerful buzz, as pupils, parents and teachers enjoyed an al fresco lunch. The younger boys and girls, having competed in the morning, spilt into the playground, while older children prepared themselves - with just the right amount of posturing and bluster - for the keenly contested races to come. Biddestone village’s sports fields have been Heywood’s home turf for cricket since 2016, and now the immaculately kept pitches were marked with lanes and scattered with skipping ropes, sacks and other competition paraphernalia. 

Teachers' Race 2017 from Heywood Prep on Vimeo.

Headmaster Guy Barrett did not win the staff three-legged race, which is a shame for him, as he is a competitive fellow and, as it turns out, it was his last Heywood Prep sports day. After five years at the helm of Wishford’s first school, he is moving on to lead the newest member of the group, Prior Park Prep in Cricklade. Heywood’s Deputy Head, Rebecca Mitchell, will be stepping up to fill his shoes at Heywood.

It has been quite a five years. For the vast majority of parents relaxing on the colourful patchwork of picnic blankets on that May afternoon, Guy is the only Head they have known at Heywood Prep. Even for those who remember a time before Heywood joined Wishford Schools, the memories are increasingly hazy. You very quickly get used to a new status quo; there is a standard we have come to expect and it is hard to recall what came before. And yet so much has changed. Watching our accomplished sportsgirls and boys, you forget that on Guy’s arrival, sport provision was an area parents wanted drastically improved. Competing against other schools was rare and the idea that we would need a home ground for junior and senior boys’ and girls’ cricket teams would have been ridiculous. Building ever-stronger links with the community led to Heywood adopting the high quality sports facilities here and at Corsham Rugby Club as their home grounds.

At the beginning of Guy’s headship, parents took something of a leap of faith. They loved the school, even if some of its idiosyncrasies drove them around the bend. They wanted someone who would protect what they valued and address what needed addressing. Guy’s clear vision and swift action in key areas repaid their faith, and the school roll steadily increased in response to a growing confidence. His strongest asset, he will tell you, is his team of exceptionally talented teachers. Clearly news of what was happening at Heywood was spreading among the teaching profession as well as parents, and soon they had up to 50 teachers applying for each advertised teaching role. Guy’s knack for identifying the best candidates and then getting the best out of them paid off. This team of bright, enthusiastic teachers brought an energy to the school that had been missing. As well as providing a top-class learning experience for the children, they were able to feed into the direction the school was taking, bringing their experience and specialisms to bear on a quickly broadening curriculum.

Hand in hand with this core of high-quality teachers came investment and development across the curriculum. There is barely a square inch of Heywood that has not developed and grown, providing new opportunities and new expectations. Within months, it became a market leader for its technology provision, the curriculum including programming, coding and Lego robotics from the earliest years. Children were designing, engineering, and bringing their designs to life with the 3d printer. New classrooms were built, new educational resources added. Heywood is in the vanguard for educational developments; concepts such as supporting the whole child, developing leadership skills, a holistic and healthy approach to education.

It’s quite a legacy for Guy Barrett’s five years in charge.

‘I think we have been able to demonstrate that you can provide the best possible education without it costing the earth,’ he says. ‘We tend not to talk about it, because the word ‘cheap’ has such negative connotations, but we are still more affordable than any other independent school in the region. And yet the quality of the education our children experience, our aims and purpose, our desire to produce learners and leaders, these are second to none.’ 

He leaves Heywood Prep a robust and happy school. Its new Head, Rebecca Mitchell, is a safe pair of hands certainly, but she is much more than that. She has been, as Guy warmly attests, his right arm during his time at Heywood, and much of the impetus for developing and extending the curriculum has come from her. She is a force of nature, ambitious for her pupils and her staff. A small but revealing insight into her determination to inspire and engage the children can be found in the creative, eye-catching classroom wall displays around the school. Such is the importance she places on the environment in which our children learn and grow, that she has written a policy document outlining what she expects from them. And this determination to maintain the very highest standards is borne out in everything she does.

Since joining Heywood Prep in 2013, she has also benefited from Wishford’s Leadership Development Programme and she is more than ready to take up the mantle of Headship. It will be exciting to see where her vision leads us. Whatever the future holds, she will be supported in school by her superb team of staff. Wishford’s Director of Strategy and Education, Director of Compliance and the Advisory Board are also on hand, as are the family of Wishford Heads with whom she can share ideas and chew over issues.

Exciting times ahead, then, for Heywood Prep. In due course, we look forward to welcoming the children of Prior Park Prep into Wishford’s happy community, with inter-school projects and competitions and, of course, the ever-popular Wishford Weekend. And perhaps that will provide an opportunity for Mr Barrett to arrange an inter-schools teachers’ three-legged race. Mrs Mitchell, you might want to get your staff in training now!