Shifting landscape prompts reshaped structure and leadership changes at Hurst College, as Absolutely Sussex discovers
Hurst College has grown and developed significantly over the last 15 years. It has doubled in size, strengthened academically and become one of the leading independent schools in the south east for co-curricular engagement. There has also been a shift away from full boarding to weekly and flexi boarding (which it pioneered many years ago) as well as a move to an almost equal split between boys and girls. In short, the college is a very different school and very different community to what it was at the turn of the century.
Over the last three years, Head Tim Manly and the governors have been considering the best structure for the college as well as the leadership team. As a result, the decision was taken a year ago for the college structure to be reshaped. Instead of the traditional Pre-Prep (Reception to Year 2), Prep School (Year 3 to Year 8) and Senior School (Year 9 to Upper Sixth) model, it was felt that a new structure was required to reflect the shift towards an 11 to 16 educational curriculum, as well as the way in which children grow up faster than in the past.
Hurst has introduced a Junior Prep structure (Reception to Year 6), which echoes that of the maintained sector, followed by a separate Senior Prep (Year 7 and Year 8) that focuses on these interesting developmental years. The college recognises that 11-year-olds are too young to go to a large secondary school and that much can be gained by having Year 7 and 8 pupils at the top of their prep school. By the time they leave, they are prepared for a senior school environment. As a result, the appointments of separate heads for the Junior Prep and Senior Prep have been made, with dedicated teams of staff in both sections.
The school has also been developing a local Multi Academy Trust. A pioneering initiative, known as the Hurst Education Trust (HET), will ultimately include a small number of local primary schools and a secondary school. It has long been felt that schools such as Hurst are in danger of becoming too inward looking, and somewhat removed from the world around them – this is not healthy for pupils or staff. It is early days but there are already three primary schools in the Hurst Education Trust and the hope is that this will grow in a considered and intelligent manner.
Given these changes, it should come as no surprise that the leadership structure has also evolved. Tim Manly has become principal of the college with a clear line of responsibility for its strategic direction, culture, staffing, finances and operations. In addition, he has become CEO of the Hurst Education Trust with responsibility for leading the initiative, supported by a small team from within the college.
Dominic Mott, previously Head of the Senior School, has now stepped up to become Head of College and taken on many of Tim’s previous day-to-day responsibilities with pupils, parents and staff. His profile will be much greater both internally and externally with a clear remit for the successful operation of the college across all year groups and all aspects. His previous role as Head of the Senior School will now be taken on by Lloyd Dannatt, who was Deputy Head Academic. Lloyd was, and has been, key in developing the very successful linearisation of academic programmes across the entire college, raising standards of teaching and learning as well as driving the broader academic culture. This role will now be taken on by Michelle Zeidler, who also acts as the Director of Education for the Hurst Education Trust. The result of all these changes will enable the college to cater very clearly for the particular needs and ambitions of each school section; with a shared and coherent set of values and ethos, underwriting all of them.
Although many changes have been introduced, and came fully into play in September, the transition to this new world has been carefully and intelligently planned. Above all, it is key to everyone involved in Hurst – from governors through to staff, parents and pupils – that the school continues to develop strongly, stays close to its vision and values and does not experience any sort of turbulence that can so often arise from significant change. The ethos of the college will remain the same even though, at times, it will need to adapt and change in the face of challenges – Covid, economic or otherwise. The college will continue to provide an experience to pupils, both at the college and in the broader Hurst Education Trust, which enables them to achieve the best they can according to their ability – and to develop into successful, well-grounded independent adults who make the right things happen not just for themselves but also others.
An exciting new chapter is beginning at Hurst College, one which is not so dislocated from the recent past but rather an evolution of it.