Meet The Head of Saint Ronan's

Headmaster of Saint Ronan's, William Trelawny-Vernon, on his and his School's past, present and future.

Where did you go to school?

I was educated in Oxford. I was fortunate enough to go to the Dragon School and then on to St Edward’s Oxford, often known simply as ‘Teddies’. Both of these schools were quite some way away from my family home on the Hampshire coast so I was a full boarder from the age of eight.  This was at a time when full boarding was ‘the norm’ . Both were tremendous schools which suited me well and gave me opportunities and choices then as well as in later life.

Why did you choose teaching as your profession?

I toyed with a number of ideas from going into medicine to a career in finance. I even considered, for a while, joining the Navy. In the end, on graduating I went to the bright lights of the City and had a fascinating three years stockbroking but it didn’t take long before I realised that my heart was in teaching. My parents ran a Prep School so at the weekends I would  muck in with games or other activities. Often I would cover lessons on a Saturday morning. I realised I would never make myself rich or famous through teaching but was drawn to the fact (and still am) that it is varied , fun and utterly worthwhile . Twenty years later, I have never looked back with regret. Add to which it would have taken years, if ever, for anyone in the City to call me ‘Sir’!

What is your favourite subject and why?

I am one of those who sit on the arts/science divide and did two arts and two science A levels. I had offers to read History or Biology at university and chose Biology but retained an enduring interest in History. I taught Biology at Stowe to A level standard for twelve years but have now hung up my lab coat in favour of the intrigue of the past.  I enjoy  unravelling the twist of historical events and imagining life of yesteryear.

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Tell us about your school?

It’s a gem. It was founded in 1883 in Worthing and moved to Hawkhurst in 1946 after war time evacuation in Devon. Over the years it has evolved into a co-educational day and flexi boarding school for children from 3 to 13+.  It is set in the magnificent Tongswood Estate which offers  acres of excitement and adventure. The epicentre of which is Tongswood House, a large rambling Victorian mansion once home of the Gunther family of ‘Oxo’ fame.

Whilst retaining its Hogwartian charm, the school has undergone a renaissance in recent years with a new Pre-Prep, Music School, School Farm and Sports Hall having been constructed; new areas provided for Science, Art, DT and the Nursery and the swimming pool, tennis courts and golf course re-vitalised.

Most stay with us until the end of Year 8 and about half remain in the independent sector moving on to a range of Public Schools; the other half go to the grammar school in Cranbrook which is just down the road from us.

There are a lot of great schools in Kent – why should parents send their children to your school?

It’s a competitive market and this competition cautions schools about becoming complacent and resting on their laurels. For those who like to make decisions on strictly objective measures they should look at the recent inspection report which rated much of what we do as ‘outstanding’ and  the fact that the thirty four leavers last year achieved seventeen scholarships (four in each of  academic work, sport, art and five in music). Ten of these children achieved Grade 5 and above in music. For those, like me, who are more subjective they should visit and witness and absorb the family atmosphere and character created by the people and the place that is Saint Ronan’s.

What are your school’s plans for the future?

The ‘big moves’ have been made –location, size, gender, age range. We are spoilt with a remarkable site in a glorious setting and over the last ten years Saint Ronan’s has become fully co-educational and now has very similar numbers of girls and boys. It has extended its age range down to the three year olds and doubled in roll to that of a medium size Prep School. It is now big enough to provide all the opportunities it should, but small enough to retain the attention on the individual. Going forward we look to continue the development of the facilities and rising high on the ‘to do’ list are to build an all weather pitch for hockey.

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