Sir John Cass’s School was originally established to provide an education to the poor children of Portsoken- a ward in the once populous City of London. This Independent Charity School split in the 1960s when Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Red Coat Church of England Secondary School was established. Both schools have flourished in the last twenty years. The secondary school is consistently one of the best performing schools in Tower Hamlets with a diverse programme of sports, arts and curriculum enrichment. The school is graded as outstanding by Ofsted and was also graded outstanding in its recent SIAMS inspection which considers how effective it is as a church school. It is an incredibly popular school with 1310 applications for 208 places for this coming September of which over half are 1st and 2nd choice preferences. The school regularly works with a range of local primary schools and is involved in a wider family of partnerships with other bodies.
Our own primary school nestled underneath the corporate towers of the square mile is among the top performing schools in London, if not the country. Our Nursery provides an exceptional environment for babies to 4 year olds and a range of family and children’s services to support child development and develop parent skills and understanding. We are consistently in the top 10% of schools nationally for pupil achievement. But much much more than that we offer an exceptionally rich curriculum featuring science, art, PE and music of excellent quality.
The great shame of the English Education system is that the most money is spent on those who need it the least. Did you know approximately three times more money is spent at independent day-schools per pupil than in state secondary schools? For all the talk of widening access, Independent sector schools are typically woeful at getting truly vulnerable or disadvantaged children through the door. The talk of money may be vulgar but it’s the assets Sir John left 300 years ago which still make the difference in 2018. Money– in the right hands– has a transformational effect on the lives of the young people in the Cass schools. The purpose of the Charity set up in Sir John’s name is to maintain these two remarkable schools- to invest in and support their work so that they flourish. Sir John’s money– through the Cass Foundation - adds a premium to every child who attends a Cass institution. Spent well, it provides opportunity and the chance for excellence in various areas of the curriculum. Lets name just two recent projects supported by Sir John Cass’s Foundation which have truly made an exceptional difference in my school. Our partnership with the inspirational Hampshire Cass Mountain Centre– funded by Sir John Cass’s Foundation enables children to fully immerse themselves in exceptional quality outdoor education. I think Roger and his team are here today. Second- our interactive whiteboards, science lab and technology project funded by Sir John Cass’s Foundation have helped to improve teaching and learning in the classroom so that lessons are well resourced and teaching makes very good use of the latest approaches. Money makes the difference and it is right and good to invest it in the each child at a Cass school for that was Sir John’s wish.
The final part of Cass’s legacy worth reflecting on is the idea of ourselves as independent schools. As a Head leaving the school- and the Country- at the end of this academic year I think it’s worth thinking about how successful schools are governed. The independence of voluntary aided schools is a real strength. Unlike academies we’re not stymied by contract law and new layers of bureaucracy. Voluntary aided schools are the original- and I would argue- best way to manage a school. The freedoms available offer Headteachers, governors and trustees an opportunity to forge their own way, drawing on what’s best from the local area but creating a school with true character. Our schools today- the fact they are thriving, successful institutions is informed by the thread of history which can be traced back to their foundations. This provides energy, life and ethos to our institution. Nor is it by accident that our two schools- as with most voluntary schools across the country - were provided by Christian charities, Churches or people of the Church. The very act of providing a school for those who were without education was a gift of enormous Christian benevolence. We’re both schools which proudly aim to develop children’s understanding of God, their spirituality and place in the world. Or to put it like Sir John- to provide instruction in the principles and practices of the Church of England. This independence informed by our Christian character is something to treasure.
With that I want to commend the life, the works and legacy of Sir John Cass to God. Let’s be thankful for the thriving schools we have today, be grateful for the money at our disposal and let us make the most of the opportunities offered through our independence.