W/E 5th July 

As we celebrate achievements and wish our Leavers success on their onward journeys, I would like to dedicate this final 2018-19 Vinelines Introduction to my team of staff and to the Friends of Vinehall who all do so much for the community that is Vinehall.

Our talented children can’t develop on their own, whatever they may think!  They need support and resilience; and they need the expertise, the commitment, the passion and the inspiration from the adults around them.

In a world full of technology, even Bill Gates said, ‘Technology is just a tool – in terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher remains the most important’.

W/E 28th June 

Vinehall was at its absolute best today as Liz and I toured a prospective family.  Bustling with happiness and purpose, the children, the staff, the grounds and the facilities exuded a quite irresistible charm.

From the ‘wows’ of gymnastics in the Sports Hall, to the diligence of Year 6 product designers in the DT Lab, we entered the Space Shuttle of our Theatre – impressive beyond belief.  Next was the vista of the woodland-fringed athletics field, spotted with colourful House shirts as our Year 7s readied themselves for tennis. Our walk continued round until we overlooked the haha, the golf course and parkland, as I told tales of the allure of the magical Monkey Bush.

Finally, we entered the classrooms where the Year 6s were exploring new languages, the Year 7s were completing a computer-coding task and a fully engaged Year 8 were either murder mystery solving or ‘ready steady cooking’. Could there possibly be a finale to top off the tour?  Oh yes!  We were pulled into the Year 3 classroom to witness the first viewing of their poetry by heart – a truly spine tingling oration which not only reduced Carina Everist to tears (!) but was also the sweetest of icing on the cake for our visitors. Well done and thank you to the entire Vinehall family.

As we approach the fun of the final week, with fetes and further festivities, we must also start our goodbyes to those leaving us. I do hope as many of you as possible will be able to be here on Thursday morning for Prize Giving or for the Pre-Prep Moving On.

W/E 21st June 

Finally the sunshine has arrived and just in time for our whole school Sports Days! It has been a week of athletics, with many a pre-event to save time this weekend and the growing excitement amongst the children has been palpable. Whether this has been in anticipation of the House competition, the family picnics or the impending Exeat Monday it has been hard to tell, however I do know that the Sports Days remain a highlight of the school calendar and the wider community.

The inaugural Vinefest will follow the Prep Sports Day for all those who wish to join in and stretch the festivities out late into the afternoon and evening.

Safely into their schools of choice, the Year 8s are now busy rehearsing for their summer musical ‘Return to the Forbidden Planet’.  I do hope you have the evenings of either Thursday 27th or Friday 28th in your diaries to experience this Shakespearian Rock n Roll extravaganza.

Finally from me, I am delighted to be in the position to let you know that outstanding successors for Lucinda Sheppard (Assistant Director of Music) and Sue de Vine (Head of Learning Support) have been recruited and I look forward to introducing them to you further in my end of term letter.

W/E 14th June

At times this week, the Prep school has seemed deserted, with unaccustomed periods of quiet and stillness. However, all was not as it would have you believe, as on my travels I would suddenly discover pockets of activity, of fulfilment and of sheer delight … with our Years 3 and 4 still busy in their learning and play within a superbly designed Trips Week schedule.

The Pre-Prep have also continued about their business without a ripple, despite the deluges of our Great British summer on what has become known as ‘Wet Wednesday’. In fact I caught many of them dancing in the puddles … as one does of course!

I eagerly await the full reports from the various Trips when they return, having already thoroughly enjoyed the snippets of news and frequent social media postings over the week.
W/E 7th June 

Following a week in which we have been focusing on our ‘inner strengths’ in all tasks and challenges, the children can now look ahead to their much anticipated Trips Week and every escapade coming their way.

“When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.” (AA Milne)

Get out there, enjoy and bring back many wonderful memories!

W/E 24th May

Busy bees make the world go around!

Not only have the Wisteria and Honeysuckle been vibrating with energetic bees, but so has the Pre-Prep in our bee-themed STEAM week.  The buzz of activity has been exceptional and the excitement of learning contagious.  A special thank you to Louisa Bennett, our queen bee this week.

The greater Vinehall hive has certainly not been idle in comparison; however, a calm has needed to descend during the exam week for Years 5-7 and as our Year 8s start their final preparations for CE. We wish them well.

A visitation from Jonny Bairstow ahead of the World Cup Cricket certainly had the children swarming again on Thursday and I know we are all well and truly ready for the half-term break.

W/E 17th May 

From bluebells to buttercups, the grounds are telling us that summer is truly upon us.  I implore you to take a stroll around the boundaries when you are able.  My late evening dog walk yesterday took me down to the fishing pond, where the carp were basking contentedly at the surface.  Our children are so incredibly fortunate to grow up in these surroundings.

On Tuesday, we welcomed David Chaplin and a wonderful number of past Vinehall families to a morning coffee and a good old reminisce.  Tales of a family school ethos, woodland adventures and life-long friendships rang loud and true.  This legacy remains true for our children of today.

Off to inspect the school bees with Dr Kossuth now – all in a day at Vinehall!

W/E 10th May

What wonderful, long-lasting memories will the children have taken from this past week? As parents it is our great hope and expectation that memorable moments will come thick and fast in a child’s time at prep school.  By encouraging and instilling a positive mindset and a ‘have a go’ attitude, your children should be bringing home some lovely tales to share.

I know I should expect no end of surprises when working with children, and of course that is the delight in being a teacher; however, I was especially wowed yesterday at 3.31pm.  Returning from a conference, flicking between stations to find distraction from the awful rain and traffic on the M25, and suddenly none other than Steve Wright on Radio 2 shouted a huge ‘hello’ to Vinehall’s Year 2! Clever Miss B!

W/E 26th April

A short first week back that has been used to settle in again and to look ahead at all that the Summer Term offers.  My challenge to the children in our opening assembly was to Participate in Opportunities With Extra Resilience, an acronym for our first pastoral theme of term.

I have certainly witnessed such energy and inspiration in my walks around the school and must mention my morning in the Pre-prep surrounded by themes of dinosaur eggs in Reception, rockets in Year 1 and bluebells in Year 2.  On that note, please do take a walk down our grounds to experience the bluebell woods in our famous ‘gully’; families are encouraged to take a stroll this weekend whilst the bluebells are still out.  The smell is quite incredible!

I finish by welcoming Dr Kornel Kossuth to our team and our six new families to the community.  Here’s to a wonderful Summer Term!

W/E 29th March 

Looking out of my study window, I am reminded of so many joys as we look ahead to the Summer Term.  The blossom, the bulbs, the outdoor adventurous energy of the children and the warmth of the sunshine are all a sign of the greatest time for a prep school child.

As always, I urge the children to be as courageous as possible over the holidays and return to us full of stories of triumph and escapades.

Happy Easter!

W/E 22nd March 

I appreciate that we are all waning a little from the intensity of the short, yet packed term; however, I asked the children to find the energy and tolerance to share plenty of smiles this week.  Their ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ were to be accompanied by genuine smiles of appreciation for each other.  Good manners and looking out for those around you are at the heart of Vinehall’s ethos. I am delighted to announce another performing arts scholarship, as Toby M leaves us in July for a place at the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London.  He has had quite an exceptional year on the stage and we urge you all to see him in ‘Matilda! The Musical’ if you haven’t done so already.

On the home front, I look forward to seeing you at ‘Ye Ha!’ on Tuesday evening as we scout for our next Vinehall-grown star!

W/E 8th March 2019

An Introduction from the Headmaster:

An inspirational talk from Vicky Burford of Eastbourne College set us off on our week of ‘Mind Over Matter’.  Not particularly sporty as a child, her tales of running a marathon in Afghanistan to raise awareness of women’s opportunities in sport triggered many deep discussions.

Thank you to the hordes of parents who travelled to the White Rock Theatre to support our young choirs earlier today.  I know how proud we were of them all and how appreciative we are of the opportunity offered by performing in such a competition for our fortunate children.

Finally, I am delighted to announce that the Good Schools Guide will be visiting Vinehall on Tuesday 19th March to update our school review.  It will be a day of enormous marketing importance for us and we look forward to showing your confident and fulfilled children off to them.

W/E 8th March 2019

An Introduction from the Headmaster:

Random acts of thoughtfulness and kindness are abounding this week as Louise Payne and her helpers kick off this year’s Lenten Friends.  Surprise presents in book lockers, anonymous messages of friendship and spontaneous offers of support are cropping up all over to the delight of all involved.

Of equal delight has been the further scholarship news that Melisa A was successful in her visit to Ampleforth last week.  Not only has she won herself an Academic Scholarship, but she also greatly impressed on the netball court, securing a Sports Scholarship.  Our Year 8s can be very proud of themselves as a whole group so far this year.

It has been lovely to see so many of you at the recent Parents’ Evenings, matches and assemblies and I look forward to seeing many more of you at the upcoming events – keep an eye on the calendar as they come thick and fast.

Finally, we bid farewell and good luck to our skiing team as they head off to Italy to compete in the IAPS races.  Mr Butcher reports that there has been an exceptional dump of fresh snow!

W/E  1st March 2019

What a wonderful week to return to school as the children have been out and about in earnest – truly alive and kicking!  Our pastoral message has challenged every child to seize all the opportunities on offer at Vinehall by ‘having a go’.

Of great inspiration has been the recent scholarship news, about which we are all delighted and so very proud. Following Ludo G’s double success in drama and music before half term come Alistair M’s academic scholarship, Connie S’s all-rounders scholarship (academic, drama and music), Mia G’s drama scholarship, Noah P’s DT scholarship and Oliver L’s equestrian scholarship. Quite wonderful!

W/E  15th February 2019

As we reach the half-way point in the academic year, may I take the opportunity to express my delight at the reports I read and the reports I hear about how open our children are to their learning.  They seem to be enthused by life, which is surely what Vinehall is all about.  I look forward to seeing many of you at the forthcoming Parents’ Evenings and to discussing with you our new approach to reporting and assessment.  My thanks to Paul Borrows and our staff for their considerable contribution so far.

With accomplishment having been the pastoral theme this week, it is with great pride that I can announce that Ludo Green is our first Year 8 scholarship success of the season.  He has been awarded both a Music and a Drama Scholarship to Eastbourne College.

Many incredible plans for the half-term break were being shared at lunch today. I wish you all a wonderful time with your families.

W/E  8th February 2019

Resilience has been the key to a week where the winter illnesses continue to threaten our numbers.  The worst hit has been the Boarding House and I would like to take this opportunity to praise our medical and pastoral team of Sister Kate, Quelli Coles, Louise Barrett and Nicola Evans for their love and care for your children.

Ironically, it was our mental health that was intended to be the focus for the week, with Louise Payne to the fore in organising a series of quite excellent events for staff and children. Thank you to her for some eye-opening facts and plenty of life-changing thoughts.

W/E  1st February 2019

With the pastoral theme of the week being ‘Strength’, I asked the children to look to their inner strengths in all they have done over the past few days.  With a continued strengthening of our learning dispositions (or pals for the younger ones) throughout Vinehall, the awareness of what reflection, resilience, collaboration, inquisitiveness and courage look like as a child is ever heightening.

As I am sure you will all remember from your school days, cross country is one of the greatest tests of resilience and endurance.  A highlight on Wednesday was watching a trail of mud-splattered, red-cheeked children appearing over the crest of our hill to be greeted by buckets of hot chocolate from the kitchens.  A truly ageless prep school scene.

As we continue to be tested by the outdoor conditions, the school will remain open for business to the best of our abilities. In the event of proper snow, please know that you are all always welcome to come over as whole families to use our slopes!

W/E  25th January 2019

Last weekend saw Vinehall transformed into a real-life Olympic Village by ISGA, Nikki Towner and her crew of loyal volunteers.  Schools from throughout the prep school world, from as far afield as Brussels, Dorset and Warwick, descended on Vinehall to compete in this prestigious two-day Gymnastics event.  I lost count of the number of visiting parents and staff who mentioned not only how beautiful the school is but also how kind and welcoming our staff, children and parents were. Thank you again to all involved.

As we reach our first exeat of term, I know the children are ready for a good rest and I hope they are able to return to school of Monday illness free and fighting fit. We will certainly do our best to dance off the bugs at the Ceilidh tonight.

W/E  18th January 2019

It was wonderful to see so many of you here at school this week for the sports fixtures.  Whilst Wednesday afternoon’s weather likened to a squall in the Arctic, crowds of dutiful parents gathered for the Netball and Rugby matches and certainly earned their match teas in the warmth of the Drawing Room – muddy boots and dripping hair all round!

A Headmaster’s commendation goes to Toby M who treated us to a presentation of his experience in ‘Matilda the Musical!’ on Monday morning.  Now at home on the stage and in front of large crowds, Toby confidently shared his story of how he was able to make a dream come true.  Humble throughout, he was hugely inspiring and will have sown a seed in many other young minds to ‘have a go’.

W/E  11th January 2019

A welcome to the Lent Term. I hope by now you have managed to pick up your school calendar from the Front Hall and that you have had a chance to highlight the many events on offer over this short and bustling term.

The pastoral theme of the week has been ‘encouragement’ and so the children have been asked to consider how they can give more to those around them over the coming weeks.  A focus was given to a bright yellow bunch of energy-rich bananas in our assembly – please ask your children to explain the link!

I hope you have enjoyed your arrival at school these last few days, after all the clearance work done along the main drive by our groundsmen, Dave and Keith.  There is more to come around the Chapel and the Pre-Prep car park, as we open up the views and prepare for the Spring colours.

Read previous messages from Vinehall Headmaster, Joff Powis here 

W/E  14th December 2018

After the longest of terms, and with their last ounce of energy spent on the disco floor last night at the Year 8 Dinner Dance, our incredible Staff are certainly ready to release your children back to you for a while to allow for a spell of recharging.

Our final week has been simply magical, with childish laughter abounding.  Well done to you, the children, for making Vinehall such a rich and pleasurable community in which to belong.

Happy Christmas!

W/E  7th December 2018

With Advent calendars scattered throughout the Boarding House and much talk of a chocolate surprise each morning, I spoke about the lead-up to Christmas as a time of preparation in this week’s assembly.  My themes predictably return to personal values and I lingered on the need for peace in our hearts, for kindness to all and for charity to those in need at this time of year.

I am now delighted to announce that Miss Alice Roberts will be joining us for next term to cover Debbie Gearey’s English teaching.  Alice has recently been Acting Head of English at Ardingly Prep on her return from living and teaching in Qatar.  She is a first-class English practitioner and I know will rapidly become a favourite amongst the children.  In April, we will then be welcoming Mr Kornel Kossuth as our new Head of English.  Kornel has been the Head of English and Head of Scholars at Saint Ronan’s for the past eight years and will bring with him a deep understanding and a wealth of inspiration for English teaching and learning.

I look forward to seeing you all at our highly cherished Carol Service at Salehurst on Saturday.  Your children are bursting with good cheer – as always!

W/E 30th November 2018

The Tempest seems to have blown now for a Twelfth Night; however, it did not keep the theatre goers from enjoying the most memorable of Elizabethan Soirées this week.  How truly remarkable it was to see Shakespeare performed with such confidence and fluency on a Prep School stage.  Thank you Mrs Alderson!

Neither have the gales prevented our sports teams from playing, or our evacuees from baking, or our gymnasts from competing or our dancers from performing.  It has been a courageous week all round and there should be some mighty tired, yet thoroughly fulfilled children returning home.

I look forward to seeing you all next Saturday for the Carol Service.

W/E 23rd November 2018

Although relatively young at 80 years of age, Vinehall’s traditional values are thoroughly embedded in the oldest of Vines I had the pleasure to meet at the reunion last week.  Their tales of way back when and their deep gratitude for the friendships and opportunities offered to them was inspiring.

On my return, I delved into the school archives to unearth the mission statement for the school from the 1950s to discover how true we have remained to the original purpose, aims and values of Vinehall.  I am extremely pleased to conclude that the emphasis on life skills and resilience of mind remains; and I leave you with a couple of charming excerpts:

‘One aim of the school, constantly borne in mind, is to produce a manly and self-reliant outlook, with interests and hobbies to occupy leisure time’.

‘Outdoor jobs, including minor building and creative work about the grounds, are fitted in from time to time.  Boys are encouraged to cultivate gardens if they wish.’

W/E 16th November 2018

The traditional values of kindness and tolerance to others have been explored this week, with a hugely effective ‘odd sock’ day to complete our anti-bullying focus.  Thank you to all the children (and staff) for joining together as a community to emphasise this message.

As this edition of Vinelines goes to print, I will be heading up to our 80th Anniversary Vines Reunion in London.  Surely no prep school has a stronger alumni network than ours, with fully supported event after event.  I thank David and Sally Chaplin, Malcolm Gordon, Geoffrey Whitehead, Lorna Lambourne and Hannah Sassone for continuing these remarkable ties over the decades.

Nigel Hamley, also 80 this year, wrote to us from Australia to wish us well and to thank Vinehall for an exceptional start in life.  I wonder if some of our children would like to volunteer to write back to him?

W/E 9th November 2018

The traditional values of kindness and tolerance to others have been explored this week, with a hugely effective ‘odd sock’ day to complete our anti-bullying focus.  Thank you to all the children (and staff) for joining together as a community to emphasise this message.

As this edition of Vinelines goes to print, I will be heading up to our 80th Anniversary Vines Reunion in London.  Surely no prep school has a stronger alumni network than ours, with fully supported event after event.  I thank David and Sally Chaplin, Malcolm Gordon, Geoffrey Whitehead, Lorna Lambourne and Hannah Sassone for continuing these remarkable ties over the decades.

Nigel Hamley, also 80 this year, wrote to us from Australia to wish us well and to thank Vinehall for an exceptional start in life.  I wonder if some of our children would like to volunteer to write back to him?

W/E 9th November 2018

Welcome back to a second half of term and I hope you all had a wonderful two weeks with your children.

With the Year 8s returning to their practice exams, we spoke about resilience as we gathered together on Monday morning and of course many of the younger children joked that they had also shown great resilience in dragging themselves back to school!

We gathered again as a school for our Remembrance service.  The Year 8s led the service with poise, respect and great courage and I would like to thank our guest speaker, Father Michael Brydon, for his creative and wise message on this the 100th anniversary of the war to end all wars.  I would also like to thank Tracey Konyu for facilitating the most beautiful and moving display of ceramic poppies.

Finally, I look forward to seeing many of you out this evening for the fireworks display (and the disco if you feel brave enough).  Thank you FoV and all those supporting such events from behind the scenes.  The children are incredibly fortunate.


W/E 19th October

As the first half of term comes to a close, there is no doubt that all involved with Vinehall are ready for a well-deserved break. The children have conducted themselves wonderfully over the past two months, with a positive and courageous appetite for the opportunities and challenges provided for them here.  With the many new academic and pastoral developments this year, the children have had to adjust, but adapt and thrive they have.

I look forward to seeing the whole community together again at the Fireworks on the 9th November.

W/E 12th October

As the first half of term comes to a close, there is no doubt that all involved with Vinehall are ready for a well-deserved break. The children have conducted themselves wonderfully over the past two months, with a positive and courageous appetite for the opportunities and challenges provided for them here.  With the many new academic and pastoral developments this year, the children have had to adjust, but adapt and thrive they have.

I look forward to seeing the whole community together again at the Fireworks on the 9th November.

W/E 21st September

With the theme of the week encouraging the children to ‘Be Inquisitive’ both in and outside the classroom, there seemed more opportunity for excitement and curiosity than ever over the past few days.   From river walks to tricky opponents; art trips to travelling book fairs; maths challenges to swimming galas. There was even plenty for the parents…with reading talks and academic developments.  Something for all in the diary which has kept the community engaged and together.

W/E 14th September

Despite being an extremely difficult week for the Vinehall community outside, nothing has changed in the busy and diverse lives of your children here.  I know that what you read in this week’s Vinelines will come as a welcome distraction and help to bring us all back to focussing on what we do so well; putting the children’s happiness at the centre of all that we do. They are our purpose and they are our inspiration.

W/E 7th September

The blend of excitement and apprehension on a first day of a school year will ever inspire.  Such high emotions, insatiable energies and unifying camaraderie.  The children’s return has been a sensation and I know that once the apprehension has settled, the excitement will prevail, allowing for limitless opportunities to be seized.

Whilst the children are listing what is new to them this 80th Vinehall year, I have urged them to approach such change with an open mind, a ‘have a go’ attitude and an awareness of how they can support others who find new starts more challenging.  Pro alis optimum agere is a timeless message and very much still at the heart of all that we stand for 80 years on.