The St Augustine’s Priory Association

We are thrilled to announce the launch of the St Augustine’s Priory Association, which took place on the evening of Wednesday 6th September 2017 – thank you to all who attended. We hope that the evening gave you an idea of what we hope to achieve and an opportunity to catch up with teachers and fellow parents at this early stage in the term.

This initiative brings together past and present pupils, parents and staff in one association, a coming together of the community that is St Augustine’s Priory. At the launch, Mrs Marie-Helene Collins, Interim Headteacher, introduced the St Augustine’s Priory Association to a packed Hall of parents and staff with the following words:

Prosecco reception at the launch on Wednesday

‘Today we launch the St Augustine’s Priory Association.  This is in fact not the first time we have had such a thing, but we are giving it new life and formalising it a little.  For many of us here, perhaps current pupils and parents and more recent members of staff, it is new.  Let me tell you a little bit about it.

First, you will note that I will quite deliberately repeat the words ‘The Association’ many times.  This is so that we get used to calling it ‘The Association’.  Not the ‘alumnae’.  Not the ‘old girls’.  Its official name is the St Augustine’s Priory Association and we will know it as ‘The Association’; this will remind us that the organisation will be inclusive of all members of the St Augustine’s Priory community.

Our school was founded in 1634 with a central premise from St Augustine that young people learn when they are happy.  Educational psychologists have caught up with St Augustine and we know that a strong community based on this belief and a deep gratitude for the gifts we receive form this family and provide all of us with something unique to Catholic education. We are really excited about this next stage of the school’s development because the Association draws together so many of the reasons St Augustine’s Priory is a uniquely joyful and forward-thinking Catholic school.

Catholic education is about relationships and this is what defines us. The Association therefore has emerged from our strategy to make sure we broaden our Alumnae group to honour all relationships that come together in our very happy school. Parents matter to us because they have invested in us in so many ways and we miss them as well as their children when their daughters leave us. Staff and governors and trustees who have given their lives and talents also are recognised by this focus on relationships.

The longer I spend at the school the more I see just how unique it is – how powerfully different it is in what it does for its pupils, and their families in turn.

So what is its purpose of the Association?  Its objective is to create a supportive community to foster friendship and interaction between past pupils, parents, staff and all stakeholders of the School.

The proposal for the creation of this new Association is part of opening up the school to the wider community, visible and palpable examples being the new entrance and reception opened in May. With the removal of the wooden fences, at last we can be seen by the outside world!

The aim of the Association is to engender pride in all who belong to it with a welcoming ethos showing that the school is a wide-ranging and warm-hearted community.

So, what do you get from membership of the Association?  First will be the establishment of a social and professional network.  It will include opportunities for members to contact each other and connect via events off-site and in school and also via social media, for support, coaching, mentoring and advice; we will build on the success of last year’s careers evening and career events and invite members of the Association to take a leading role in introducing the next generation of St Augustinians to their chosen careers;  we will keep members up to date with news of the school and events;  and we will invite members to a range of social functions such as our annual lunch so that they can keep in touch or regain contact with each other.  We want you all to continue to be part of our journey. And remember that membership is for you and your daughter, and indeed granddaughters, for life.

Running throughout all of this is the philosophy that the Association is about “Friendship Raising before Fundraising”.

So, let me emphasise… friendship and community before fundraising.

But what about fundraising?  We still very much welcome and benefit from the Parents’ Committee to organise fun events such as the Quiz Night, Fireworks and the Christmas and summer fairs, none of which can go ahead without willing and able volunteers.  The funds raised from such event add enormous value to school life by providing some of the ‘nice to haves’ such as Bean Bags for the Priory 6 Common Room, extra staging for the new hall, iPADs for the PE Department and many others.  So the Parents’ Committee – with your support – will go from strength to strength.  And in order to ensure good links between the Parents’ Committee and the Association, the Chair of the Parents’ Committee, currently Vanessa Beadsworth of course, will be a member of the Committee of the Association.

We have a draft constitution for our Association, and we would welcome your comments on it before our Governors formally adopt it in November.  It is important to us that our whole community is involved in the final formation of this enterprise.  Please do send any observations or suggestions to our Bursar, Jonathan Powell, by the end of this month.

We are grateful to David Hurst for his assistance in developing this Association, who has much relevant experience, and who is with us this evening.  We plan that membership of the Association should be for life and that for past pupils it should be free of charge.  But we are going to have to ensure that its administration pays for itself and we therefore propose that a voluntary membership fee is charged on arrival in the Senior School – that is Form III or later.  It is planned that this will be added to the extras invoices for girls in the Senior School from this term but it will be voluntary, so anyone electing not to pay it will have the charge refunded.  This is subject to the agreement of the Board of Governors. I hope and believe that everyone will think it is good value for money, for membership of the Association will bring together, and keep together, people who love St Augustine’s Priory for the rest of their lives.

Please do ask any of us, Jonathan, David or me, any questions as we move around the Hall.  And please mark your diaries with a date to remember.  The first Association Day, when we celebrate and highlight all that is great about our St Augustine’s Priory community, will take place on Saturday 30th June 2018.’