Our Journey to Prep School of the Year
The last time we travelled to the TES Awards the trains were cancelled due to snowfall. Admittedly that was February 2019, but the journey to the TES Awards 2022 could not have been more different – and we don’t just mean the weather.
In 2019 we were incredibly honoured to be shortlisted for Prep School of the Year in the TES Independent Schools Awards (as it was then). Back then, Greenfield was a very busy single-form entry school which was bursting at the seams of it’s converted Victorian home. Not only were pupil numbers high, but an ambitious and passionate body of staff alongside an increasingly enthusiastic community meant that Greenfield was going places. We didn’t win in 2019, but the acknowledgment that came from being shortlisted alongside only 8 other schools in the country gave us the confidence to continue pushing forward with our vision for education.
It was the summer of 2019 when we announced that Greenfield would be moving to a new home, offering the school the space and opportunities to grow that had long been required. We became 2-form entry as of September 2019, and our community grew more quickly than we could have ever imagined. A term of joy and excitement unfolded as we made plans for all the opportunities we could facilitate for the children in our new home. March 2020 and the weeks, months and years that followed were an uphill climb for everyone. Educators faced a completely new style of teaching and learning and the emotional impact on everyone was palpable. How were schools meant to innovate, inspire and embolden children through online learning and lockdowns?
In amongst the ups and downs of 2020, we had been working hard at refurbishing a corner of the school to open our brand new 50-week nursery, Greenfield Little School, in January 2021. By this time, every industry, institution and organisation on the planet was experiencing delays and difficulties as a result of the pandemic and it was touch and go as to whether we would be able to open the doors as planned. Once again, our dedicated staff and the hard-working contractors came through and suddenly it was like the babies had always been here with us!
During this time, despite the constant chaos brought about by the things going on around them, it was our teachers, teaching assistants and the incredible children who continued to embody The Greenfield Way and prove that there was a light at the end of this tunnel. The children showed resilience and robustness that quite astonished us all and gave us a daily dose of positivity. And as for the teaching staff, it became ever more apparent that each and every one of them has the words Greenfield running through their centre like a stick of rock. Community spirit, comradery and a dogged determination to succeed meant that our children continued to make progress. As we put pen to paper to enter the TES Awards once more we were incredibly proud of our community and our culture, but wondered whether the judges would be able to grasp the magic of Greenfield through an application form.
In addition to the difficulties that we all faced during the pandemic, a large-scale building project had been approved and was due to commence in late 2020. Inevitable delays meant that work didn’t start as planned, but the dedication of those involved pushed the project forward despite various setbacks. Opening the doors to the new extension in April 2022 was a huge milestone but, as ever, there was no time to stop and reflect as we hurtled into the busiest term of the school year and made up for many months of missed opportunities to celebrate the children.
Shortly after the start of the Summer Term, we discovered we had been shortlisted for the TES Prep School of the Year Award 2022. This time was different somehow. We knew we had weathered a particularly turbulent time reasonably well, but we were exhausted. In 2019, Greenfield was the absolute best version of itself in its current state of being; there was nowhere else for us to go. In 2022, we were only just getting started but everyone was feeling the effects of a tricky period in history and we knew that there were many fabulous schools out there achieving incredible things.
Friday 17th June 2022 was a scorcher. Working, as we do, a mere 25-minute train ride from London Waterloo, we optimistically decided to work the day as normal, duck out a bit early for a quick change (and cold shower!), before hopping on a train to the city. Much as we discovered in 2019, Britain doesn’t operate so well in extreme weather. The trains were unbearably hot and Mrs Botting point blank refused to get on the tube! A long queue for a taxi (before you ask, the wait for an Uber was the same) had us all checking our watches – the drinks reception was vanishing before our eyes.
After a slightly dubious taxi ride, we arrived at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane and were ushered, dripping hot, to our table… right at the front. We had booked the tickets quite promptly, we thought, that’s all it is. Mr Brown was still nowhere to be seen. His inspection had been delayed and he was running late. It just wasn’t our day.
A delicious meal appeared before us and shortly after the awards ceremony began. The fabulous Richard Ayoade presided and had us all feeling happy and relaxed, until our category was up! We watched our short film play up on the big screen. Did it sum us up? We think so, but how much can you really get across in 20 seconds? Had we done enough? We watched the other films with nervous anticipation. So many good schools from right across the country. Were we crazy to think we could win this?
After the rest of the films had played the winner was announced. As the words “Greenfield” floated across the room Mr Brown (who had arrived just in the nick of time) threw his hands up in the air and shouted “YES”. We were all on our feet and up on the stage before we could really take it in. WE HAD WON!
Disbelieving is probably the most accurate word to describe how we all feel. We have always believed in Greenfield and what this school stands for – that’s why we are so passionate about it - but we are in utter shock that what we do, day in and day out, should be recognised on this scale, in front of hundreds of other incredible educators and for the world to see.
The journey to this year’s TES Awards was quite different from the last, but it really has been just that, an incredible journey and one that is only just beginning.