Principal celebrates 25 years at St Mary’s

8 January 2021

Marking 25 glorious years of working at St Mary’s School, students and staff congratulated Principal, Mrs Hilary Vipond on her landmark anniversary on Monday 4 January 2021.

Mrs Vipond began working at St Mary’s Senior School in January 1996, initially as the Head of Personal, Social, Health and Education (PSHE), becoming Vice Principal and going on to secure the role of the seventh Principal in St Mary’s 113th year history in September 2006.

Remarking on her 25 years of working at St Mary’s, Mrs Vipond said “I am delighted to be celebrating many enjoyable years at St Mary’s. I joined the school when I was new to the area, having moved from a school in London and had no idea I would end up staying so long! I had a four-month-old baby and a three-year-old and was returning to work after maternity leave. I had not anticipated it would be such a lovely place to work, it really was unique, something I think many staff still say today. Excellent, well qualified, happy staff make a successful school.” She went on to say: “I am incredibly proud that the school has never lost sight of the core values of providing an outstanding education for young women as well as the life skills that we teach and in turn, the fun the girls have – this is what makes the St Mary’s education special. A plaque on a bench recently donated in memory of a former student, encapsulates this feeling; the words… ‘We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just thought we were having fun’ rings very true for me. I really want the girls to have valued their education and remember it with fondness.”

During her quarter of a century at the school, GCSE results have been consistently high and in November last year, the Lower School was ranked 12th highest performing prep school in England by the Sunday Times Parent Power listing. Hilary has spearheaded many nationally recognised accolades for St Mary’s, such as becoming an Eco School, International School and receiving National Wellbeing and Healthy Schools status.

Over the years, Hilary has introduced a large number of successful events, initiatives and projects including the annual St Mary’s Senior School Activities Week where students visit other countries to experience new cultures and challenges and the Year 7 Induction Weekend at Mersea Outdoors. Hilary also initiated the fantastic Forest School area and Secret Garden at the Lower School, which provide a wonderful outdoor learning space for the Kindergarten children and Lower School girls. The Kindergarten itself is new and building developments have also come to fruition during the time Hilary has been at the school, with the Arts Block being built at the Senior School and more recently, a new multi-sensory play area for the Kindergarten and Prep children and an extensive expansion to the Senior School Dining Hall.

St Mary’s has become a global member of Round Square, an international network of schools whose ethos mirrors everything about education that Hilary believes is important. Their key ideals of learning: internationalism, democracy, environmentalism, adventure, leadership and service opens the students’ eyes to the world around them, it teaches them inclusivity, humility and the feeling that the sky is the limit.

St Mary’s has a fantastic relationship with their school community. Former students and parents often return as Governors, or to teach, and many past students send their children to the school. Staff turnover is extremely low with some current staff having been at the school for a similar number of years as Hilary. This is testament to the positive working environment provided at St Mary’s; it is a great place to work and study and is often referred to as one big family.

Adam Hildred, the Chair of Governors of St Mary’s Colchester, congratulated Hilary Vipond for having completed 25 years service to the school. “We are all really grateful for all of the hard work and direction that Hilary has given over her time at St Mary’s and acknowledge that she has done an excellent job in her time here.”

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