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News > From the Chalkface > A message from James Priory

A message from James Priory

The Headmaster updates the Tonbridge Society community on plans for Tonbridge during these unprecedented times.

Dear Old Tonbridgians, Parents and Friends, 

I do hope you and your families have been able to enjoy time together over the Easter period. It has certainly been a very beautiful start to Spring here in Tonbridge.

Easter is a festival of renewal and hope, and it has been heartening, even at this time of ‘lockdown’ and social distancing, to see how swiftly our community has come together. Whether it’s been via online platforms such as Skype and Teams or through the old-fashioned use of a telephone, everyone has been taking time to speak to friends and family, offering encouragement and support. E.M. Forster's epigraph, “Only connect,” could not resonate more at this time, affirming our belief in the essential need for human contact and relationships.

I am immensely proud of how our whole community has risen to the challenge and shown its willingness to help. There is no better example of this than in the fantastic efforts across the school to assist the NHS. More than 120 volunteers have been involved in supporting the NHS Assessment Centre, which continues to operate at the Tonbridge School Centre, in roles ranging from staffing reception desks and managing traffic to providing catering and laundry services. A Tonbridge team, led by our innovative DT Department, has manufactured and distributed more than 3,000 protective face masks to NHS centres, care homes, surgeries and pharmacies. We have donated a large supply of equipment from the Barton Science Centre, such as safety goggles and surgical gloves, to those working on the NHS front line; and many members of the school community have volunteered support to our most vulnerable local residents.

The creativity of our teaching staff has also helped ensure that the remote learning environment for the boys is as stimulating as possible over the coming term. We recently launched a guide to Tonbridge Online, which sets out the educational programme we have created to support our pupils and parents. We are, of course, committed to ensuring that the boys benefit from the best teaching and learning experience that we can offer, wherever they are in the world, and whatever stage they are at in their educational lives at Tonbridge.

We are continuing to teach A-level, Pre-U and GCSE courses to the Upper Sixth and Third Year respectively until the May Bank Holiday, following which we will be generating centre assessed grades to support the final award of grades by exam boards in August. Second Year and Lower Sixth boys will continue their existing GCSE and A-level studies. From Monday 11 May, the Novi will begin introductory GCSE courses. From Monday 18 May, A-level courses will be launched for the Third Year, whilst the Upper Sixth will begin pre-university enrichment in subjects most closely related to their chosen specialism for university. We are also providing the boys with lots of opportunities to get involved in co-curricular activities, including running The CRAS virtually while at the same time supporting the charity West Kent Mind.

You may be interested to hear that, as part of the Summer Term, we will be offering a series of seminars and modules in ‘life skills’ to support the boys in life at university and beyond. If any parents or Old Tonbridgians think that they may be able to offer expertise in contributing to these courses, which we are preparing for our Upper Sixth boys, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please do contact the Tonbridge Society at tonbridgesociety@tonbridge-school.org and our team will pass this on to those organising the modules.

This newsletter contains several stories about how parents and Old Tonbridgians in our community are supporting one another. I do hope that you enjoy reading them. It also includes a short film, recorded as an Easter Chapel Talk for the boys, in which I reflect on the experience of lockdown from one of Tonbridge’s more secretive hidden spaces.

We are aware that this remains an extremely challenging time for many in our community, especially for those families who have been affected by the virus either in terms of personal health or because of the economic impact of the crisis. We send our thoughts, prayers and very best wishes to you all.

The school is facing its own challenges and has taken the decision to reduce Summer Term fees for current families. This comes at a time when it will be difficult for the school to reduce its costs proportionally, and when our commercial revenue has also reduced considerably. However, we remain fully committed to sustaining the life of Tonbridge throughout this period and to ensure that we emerge strongly from it.

Thank you all for your continuing support and I hope you and your families stay safe and well in the coming weeks. Please reach out to us via Tonbridge Connect if we can help you, if you can offer help to others, or if you have a story to share. We will do our utmost to facilitate connections and celebrate good news, to help us all through the challenging times ahead.

Yours,




James Priory

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