Our Visit to Villiers Park
17 Feb 2013
Our visit to Villiers Park confirmed that Mike’s memorial fund (now at a staggering £15,000) is in good hands. Louise and Rachel, my gorgeous girls, came with me and we met Mike Sparkes and Jonathan Turner (close friends from Mike’s university days and mostly gorgeous!) and when we arrived, Richard Gould the Chief Executive gave us a guided tour with a thorough and impressive explanation of Villiers Park Educational Trust.
Meeting some of the students over lunch was fun and their enthusiasm was infectious and heartening. One girl said to me “all my friends were jealous that I was coming to Villiers Park”. This impressed me particularly as going away to work “really hard” for a week is not every student’s idea of fun. They do have fun though, make new friends with similar interests and are truly inspired and motivated in the relaxed atmosphere that Villiers Park creates.
Richard told us many of the teachers at the schools sending the students have noticed a positive impact on the ethos and culture of their schools. The ripple effect in action!
Jonathan wrote after the visit: “After out visit and long discussion it was easy to see why Mike had developed such a belief in, and commitment to the organisation. Their purpose is clear and simple: to enable the potential of those with fewer opportunities than most, through education and learning. Their approach is radical: to encourage independent thinking, by giving students a combination of the very best thinking about a topic and the space, time and highest quality support to find their own way. Their results are exceptional, and they can prove it: highest measures of improvement, deep satisfaction, progression to higher education and pure appreciation. A quote from an ex-student has stayed with me, “my time at Villiers Park was the best weeks teaching I have ever had and I know it changed the way I looked at my life and what I wanted to do with it.””
How we spend the money was discussed at length and some pretty firm decisions made:
1. Six prizes for “scholar of the year” with Mike’s name embodied on the award. There will be more details on Villiers Park’s website in due course.
2. Part funding of two Year 12 Journalism Stepping Stones to Excellence courses. These are each two days and take place in January.
3. We may also be funding an online extension activity for journalism – more discussion needed about this but we are all keen to set it up if we can. Anyone who would like to help with this online resource please feel free to get in touch.
It all feels a little scary but we are determined to fundraise each year to maintain the pot of money and continue to help the students.
Villiers Park will be doing a web page dedicated to Mike’s memorial fund so watch this space for that.
I am off to Australia to see one of my oldest best friends who knew Mike well and it won’t be long before spring is round the corner which will cheer us all along.
Love Chrissy, Louise and Rachel