Further Statement from the Headmaster on the OFA Clubhouse Lease
"There has been a good deal of miscommunication about the School, the City of London Corporation, alumni relations and the OFA Memorial Clubhouse in the last ten days. I wish to provide some clarity on a number of issues, in order that alumni can have a fuller picture.
- The Memorial Clubhouse is owned by The City of London Corporation not the School, nor the OFA, nor the Governors. The 2008 Conservation Management Plan signed by the then Chairman of Governors, Robin Eve, made it clear that the OFA Memorial Clubhouse was not ‘compatible’ with the school site and that short-term assistance should be given by the School to enable it to function ‘for a few more years’.
- It has been suggested that the School/Governing Body does not support or care about the Old Freemen’s Association.I would agree that the School has not always built the relationships that it ought with the whole of its alumni body in recent years and I have been in discussions with Governors – who are supportive of stronger connections – and the Chairman of the OFA Committee since my appointment in September regarding a Development Office.
However, the OFA Committee has been tangibly supported by the School since 2008 in the form of the previously mentioned ‘short term assistance’. During this period, the School has paid for all pupils to join the OFA at a cost of £102,057.50. This is an unusual model; usually pupils/parents opt into paying for alumni membership. I support clear positives brought, by ensuring that all leaving pupils join. The OFA Committee will be able to confirm with its alumni how this resource has been used. The School donated a further £10,000 to the OFA Committee in November 2011 for ‘costs incurred designing changing rooms’.
- It has been suggested that the School and Governors no longer want to see its alumni on site using facilities, which is simply not true.The School will be limiting all term-time lettings on its site though aims to continue to support alumni activity. Although an enormous amount of time is put into managing security and risk at the school, site security is a prominent issue at the moment and a recent security audit, commissioned by me, at the Governors’ request, has identified areas that need improvement, which are currently being prioritised.
- It has also been suggested that comments mentioning concerns over the safeguarding and welfare of children in the statement issued are not relevant.
The Governors have ultimate responsibility for the safeguarding and welfare of children at the School, including 24/7 care of a growing boarding community. In 2003, there were close to 40 regulations by which Independent Schools were brought to account; now there are 400. As you will understand, both legislation and regulation of safeguarding has been given heightened prominence since 2006. The School has no control over the membership of the OFA, which is not solely an alumni organization. Activity in the OFA Memorial Clubhouse cannot be purposefully regulated by the School and site security is compromised by the licensed activities that often take place late into the night, especially problematic during term time. There are four National Minimum Standards for Boarding, two Independent Schools’ Standards Regulations and two Independent Schools’ Inspectorate regulations which are pertinent to activity in the Clubhouse and against which the School must assess and reduce the potential for risk.
The Governors and the School are both aware of and sensitive to feelings regarding the memorial element of the Clubhouse and are keen to engage in a dialogue about how best the important memory of the fallen is preserved. As the OFA Committee has for some time been raising funds for a new Clubhouse independently, I am sure that the dedicatory element of the current building has been prominent in its members’ thoughts and it will be helpful to understand how it had envisaged managing the sensitivities of a new build.
As Headmaster of the School, my role in this situation is to form a connection between the Governors and the OFA Committee whilst maintaining the interests of current pupils and ensuring that regulatory compliance requirements are met.
I should like the school to be able to continue support of the affiliated sports clubs of the OFA but we will need to discuss changing facilities. Current pupils will, of course, have priority on facilities.
Our Development Office will be the direct link between the School and our alumni and we will work very closely with the OFA to grow and develop their membership, as well as ensure that all Freemen’s alumni continue their relationships with their School. I very much hope that this professional support will be an asset both to alumni relations and to the OFA.
It is regrettable that in the period since 2008, long-term alternatives have not been worked through regarding the Clubhouse. However, the Chairman of the Board of Governors has asked for a meeting to be arranged for us to talk to the Chairman and Development Officer of The OFA along with key members of the Committee and it will be important that this meeting is entered into by all parties as a conversation about future support."