An interview with Mr Seth Bolderow, Headmaster of Wetherby Senior School

Mumsinthewood met with the Headmaster of Wetherby Senior School on 11th February 2020. He came across as a charming, affable and very grounded head. He was open and honest about where Wetherby Senior was currently placed and equally ambitious about where it was headed. He came across as a head with a vision and an ambition for the school that he was willing to work towards. He was generous in his praise of the teachers at the Senior school and spoke with enthusiasm about how the teachers worked collaboratively between departments and that success did not come at the school, at the expense of someone or something else. He also mentioned that he was keen to fine tune the offering both on the pastoral side and the academic side towards what the boys needed. Towards this end, Mr Bolderow was appreciative of the fact that boys needed to meet and work with girls which was a necessary part of their development. One thing that the school is currently progressing with, towards this end,  is a program where the girls from Queens College Senior school come over for some  lessons like drama. While there are no plans to make the school go in a direction of co-ed education, Mr Bolderow is doing his part to ensure that through the medium of partnership with other schools, Wetherby Senior is able to offer boys the same opportunities as a co-ed school would, without changing the ethos of the school.  Mr Bolderow was also keen to stress that the school had parents from diverse backgrounds and had an inclusive, community feel to it. He made special mention of the Parents Association who had, he stated, been incredibly warm and inclusive and were very keen to get as many parents involved as possible. 

Mr Bolderow, started off his career teaching summer courses and working with disadvantaged children. He then took a position at Blundell’s in Devon and then moved on to Uppingham, and King Edward’s in Bath before being asked to join Joh Lyons where he set up the sixth form. He then left the UK to go to Hong Kong for a short stint but being close to his family and having two sets of grandparents  who didn’t support his trip to Hong Kong, he decided that London was more suited to him, came back and settled here where he then took up a position as the deputy head at Harrow before moving to take up his headship at Wetherby. When asked, he mentioned that two of his biggest challenges thus far had been heading a new school in an extremely competitive London environment and how much it took to get the school name out there along with trying to get the senior school recommended by prep schools not by slick marketing but because of the academic standards they were able to offer.

He brings a wealth of diverse experience to the school and has clearly achieved much with the pioneering A/ level students of 2020  gaining excellent results, 58 percent of whom have received A* and As at the exam. 

 

 

Question:

In the three years that you have been heading the school, how do you feel the school has grown and changed (if it has) overall?

Answer:

As the school is in its fifth year, Wetherby Senior has grown as a community comprising the boys, teachers and parents. We’re now a complete school with all years from 7 to 13 and with our Trib (House) system fully bedded-in, we’ve developed strong vertical links across all years. Having a Sixth Form has made a real difference to the School and our first ever Head Boy and supporting team of prefects have embraced their leadership and mentoring roles. Although the School has grown in size, class sizes remain small, with a maximum of 20 pupils, ensuring that we continue to foster the individual. The ethos and values remain the same – community, character and respect, with effort, which underpins everything we do, at its centre. These values are the starting point of all our pastoral and wellbeing initiatives.

 

Question:

Wetherby Senior School is new to the family so how do you feel it compares on an academic level to the more established Wetherby Prep School in terms of boys it attracts? Is the School able to comment on the destinations for its first set of leavers? Are you able to make a prediction to prospective parents as to what the school is hoping for in terms of results?

Answer:

Similar to Wetherby Prep, we are an academically selective school. We have expectations of academic achievement from our boys and are proud when they achieve their potential. Our A Level offering reflects the interests of the boys and are those subjects that will allow them to make successful applications to the most competitive institutions for the full range of subjects at degree level.  As our first A-Level year, it is great to see out boys receiving the quality of offers they have, including Engineering at Imperial, Economics at LSE, Physics at Durham, History at Cambridge (Peterhouse College) and Law at Exeter.  For the boys applying abroad, there have been offers from UCLA and Notre Dame in the US, Bocconi in Milan and the IE Business School in Madrid.  It has been particularly gratifying to see boys being awarded academic and sporting scholarships in this country and further afield. A full list will be on the website in due course.

We also place great importance on the boys’ personal development and the Sixth Form co-curricular programme enables them to develop their interests and improve their leadership and teamwork skills. Many boys take part in MUN (Model United Nations), Young Enterprise and Community Service. We have high academic expectations of the boys, they are fully aware of these and we think this is best measured by the quality of the university offers they have received this year.

 

Question:

Given that the school is in its first year of A Levels, what level of support has the school put in place for helping the boys with University admissions and interviews? Is there a structure in place for encouraging boys to pick which fields of studies they would be most suited to as well?

Answer:

The boys are fully supported at all stages of the A Level process from choosing their A Level subjects through to the university selection and application process. We provide sessions to help them prepare their personal statements and also prepare for interview. We work with a specialist in US university admissions for those boys interested in applying to institutions in the USA. In some ways ‘the proof of the pudding’ for this support process is the quality and volume of university offers our boys are receiving.

 

Question:

What are the main schools that feed into Wetherby Senior? What percentage of boys come in from Wetherby Prep to Wetherby Senior?

Answer:

As we have two main entry points, Year 7 and Year 9, there are a large number of schools that feed into Wetherby Senior. Being a central London school, we are very accessible using public transport links and subsequently have a wide catchment area. To date our Year 7 entry is made up of both primary schools and independent schools. Our Year 9 entry is made up of London prep schools. To date approximately ¼ – 1/3 of our Year 9 boys have come from Wetherby Prep.

 

Question:

How is the school looking at preparing boys for a new Digital Age? Is it correct that the school does not offer DT but instead offers Graphic Design? How would you address concerns that DT is a stepping stone to Engineering?

Answer:

That’s correct – Wetherby Senior offers Graphic Design, but not DT. With regard to Engineering, the required subjects are Maths/Further Maths and often Physics or Chemistry. DT is generally considered helpful, but not compulsory. The boys that applied to read Engineering this year received offers from Imperial, UCL, Warwick and other Russell Group universities. We feel we are preparing our boys for the new Digital Age with our Computing option, compulsory for all boys from Year 7 to 9, that develops their understanding of IT and also their coding skills. It is also an option for GCSE. We have a range of co-curricular STEM clubs that offer the boys further exposure to all things digital from coding through to design.

Being ready for the Digital Age is also about being an independent and critical thinker, someone who is able to sift through the information that is now available and learn what to consider and what to discard.  Philosophy for all boys from Year 7-11 helps them to analyse and deconstruct arguments which is very useful when they are beset by so much ‘fake news’.

 

Question:

What is the school’s policy on boys who are Gifted and Talented and boys who may need extra support?

Answer:

Our curriculum is underpinned by a learning philosophy centred on the belief that a person’s talent, ability and performance can be improved. We focus on effort and developing self-awareness and self-challenge and there are always opportunities for the most able to stretch themselves in the classroom and in the co-curricular programme.

Regarding boys who need extra support, our Head of Learning Support and SEND Co-ordinator assesses the needs to these boys and arranges the assistance required. This is continually reviewed to ensure the pupil achieves his full potential, not only academically, but also socially and emotionally.

 

Question:

Does the school promote community initiatives? What community based activities are the boys involved in?

Answer:

We have many community initiatives that the boys are involved in – they carry out community service in St Mary’s Bryanston Square, a local primary school and shortly before lockdown I visited St Edwards Catholic Primary, Lisson Grove Marylebone, to talk to the Head Teacher about ways boys from Wetherby Senior can assist with his students.

Other community based activities include visits to Tower Bridge Care Home, in South East London and Urban Bee. We see this as being an important part of the boys’ education – being active participants in the local community helps them to become responsible and aware young men. At Wetherby Senior, the boys decide which charities to support through the School Council, ensuring one charity is local to our community, for example West London Mission and Steel Warriors. All charity events are led by the boys and range from bake sales to more recently, Diversity Day.

The boys are also encouraged to take part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and I know that those involved will be looking forward to completing their expeditions as soon as they are able.

 

Question:

Does the school operate a bursary or other financial aid scheme for boys who may not be able to access the amazing opportunities and advantages that Wetherby Senior School have to offer?

Answer: 

The Gold Standard Charitable Trust funds our bursaries with the aim of helping children from all backgrounds to benefit from an outstanding education. Requests for financial aid or bursaries are subject to performance in the entrance tests and interview and means testing.

 

Question:

What is the School’s approach to mobile phones?

Answer:

Smart phones have become such an important part of everyday life for most adults and are important for their work.  Our policy reflects that and places limits on how and where boys may use mobile devices in School with different rules in place for different ages.

 

Question:

Does the school offer work placements for boys to get a feel for a particular field of interest? How does the school operate this scheme?

Answer:

Post GCSE exams, we require all Year 11 boys to complete a week of work experience. In some cases the boys arrange this themselves and in other cases, we assist using our parent network and as our boys move on from the school, we expect from the alumni network as well.

 

Question:

How have the links with Queens College and Francis Holland being explored? Are there plans to make the 6th form co-educational?

Answer:

We have developed strong links with both Queens College and Francis Holland, Regent’s Park and are continuing to do so. Girls from both schools have taken part in our Upper School drama production for the past two years. Other shared extra-curricular activities include orchestra and climbing club with Queens College as well as a fantastic joint concert, the Brass Bash last year (sadly lockdown meant that this year’s concert could not take place). Earlier this year, our boys were invited to attend a careers evening hosted by Queens College and we share a Sixth Form lecture series with the girls from Francis Holland, which has proved very successful. In terms of a co-educational Sixth Form, we are committed to boys’ education at the moment and believe that this enables us to provide something that focuses on the challenges of being a young man in the modern world.

 

Conclusion:

The school is housed in two buildings in Marylebone.  Entered through the traditional red door, Wetherby Senior has been planned and laid out very well to accommodate energetic and enthusiastic boys with well lit classrooms and innovative use of space for drama productions with the larger productions being held at RADA. The sixth form common room and cafe are spacious and well used by the students and the study rooms and science labs are pristine. While there is no outside space at the school itself, the boys are driven to and from amazing sports facilities in Ealing twice a week for two hour sessions each time. The school uses both Regent’s Park and Ealing playing fields but feel the journey to Ealing is more beneficial for the boys due to the far superior facilities on offer and access to professional involvement in training and mentoring the boys especially with Rugby. The school is home to a large number of European families and has a diverse mix of international students along with a good number from state primaries. As part of the Alpha Plus Charitable Trust, the school also offers a good number of bursaries as well. All in all, well worth considering for bright, curious learners who enjoy a healthy mix of sport and academics. The school is clearly making great headway into the tables and if the first set of results are to be taken as a sign as to where the school is headed, then there is no doubt that parents will soon be lining up. 

 

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