Click for the Cookham News Front Page

Theresa May MP at Herries' Speech Day


(Posted 17 July 2012)


Home Secretary, Theresa May was the special guest at Speech Day at Herries Preparatory School in Cookham Dean on Friday 13th July 2012. Mrs May told pupils that they had all been given an "excellent start" at the school and should always aim high and  be ambitious for themselves and overcome any hurdles which might come their way. She revealed to the teachers, pupils and parents that she had not initially been a natural public speaker at school, but needed to "learn the technique" because her dream was to be a Member of Parliament.

 Pupils at Speech Day          

Theresa May MP, Sophie Green Herries Head Teacher and Nicki Coombs Chair of Governors

Ms May explained that whilst she was at secondary school, her history teacher had organised a debating society, and on the first day each pupil had been given a topic to talk about for 3 minutes. Ms May’s topic was whether pupils should wear a school uniform:

“I turned around to face no more than 10 pupils and I couldn’t think of a single thing to say,” she conceded.

“Not a very promising start for someone who wanted to be a Member of Parliament and who would have to stand up in the House of Commons and give speeches like I am today. But I had to overcome that obstacle and actually learn the technique about speaking in public because it was a central part of what I wanted to do.” Click here to hear Theresa May's Speech (©2012 Marlow FM Ltd). By kind permission of Marlow FM Ltd.

Nursery Pupils          

Theresa May MP with Andrew

The Home Secretary spoke to a packed hall of pupils, teachers and parents. Other speeches were given by Chair of Governors, Nicki Coombs and head teacher, Sophie Green. Pupils were awarded prizes for various educational, sporting and arts achievements, and the afternoon culminated in pupils performing some songs from  the recent production of Annie.

Jessie McPhee and Ann Bedford HPA Leaders

Theresa May MP with Ruben

Head teacher, Sophie Green, who took up her position last September spoke of the importance of Speech Day. "This is a very important day because it allows us to recognise all that the school has done,  it celebrates Year 6 successes and it gives the younger pupils something to aspire to.“

My first year at Herries has been full of new experiences and challenges (some expected and some not!) but ultimately it has been a privilege to have the responsibility for Herries pupils’ education.“ A transcription of Sophie Green's speech can be seen below.

Year 6 Pupils were then allowed to ask Mrs May some questions.

Mila What is your average day like? How often do you go in to Parliament? Do you have time for a social life?

I usually have a very busy day, sometimes from 8am to 1:30am, particularly if I have lots of documents to read in the evening. I often go to Parliament to vote or to speak in the House of Commons, but it depends on the Parliamentary schedule. At the weekends I am in the constituency, often attending events or meetings, so I do not have very much spare time.

Lilli What inspired you to become an MP?

I wanted to make a difference for people and communities.

Jamilla How has the job changed you?

I don’t think so!

Tasmin What’s it like to work with lots of famous people?

It is very interesting to meet lots of people from different backgrounds and communities, some who are famous and some who are not. It is always useful to understand different people’s views and opinions, particularly when you are a politician.

Renee Are you allowed to eat in the debating chamber?


Danielle What’s the Prime Minister like? Do you like his wife?

I have worked with David Cameron for a number of years, both in Opposition and now in Government. He is very good to work for and is doing an excellent job. I have met Samantha a few times and I always find her to be very friendly. It is particularly admirable that both the Prime Minister and his wife work very hard for the country whilst raising a young family. 


Theresa May MP with Sophie Green Head Teacher


Ladies and Gentlemen, Honoured guest, Ladies and Gentlemen boys and girls, welcome to Speech Day at Herries.

Today we celebrate the achievements of the pupils at Herries. Some of you will receive awards and prizes but each and every one of you have worked so hard and achieved so many important things this year and that is why we are her today.

So much has gone on this year that it is hard to know where to begin but what is clear is that it has been a year of looking forward and not looking back. Herries has turned a corner and there is much to celebrate.

Sport at Herries has been varied and challenging with pupils having the opportunity to take part in a wide variety of sport. This year we have offered Cross Country, Netball, Tennis, Football, Swimming, Tag Rugby and  Keep Fit to name but a few. Herries  pupils have also been out and about  taken part in a variety of sporting  fixtures and festivals locally-

Year 2 Football festival at St George’s School in Windsor in October where, they played against St Pirans, Bishopsgate and St George’s and came first in the novices category.

Years 3 and 4- Coaching afternoon at Queen Anne’s School in October, Netball fixture against St George’s in October, In the spring termThe Year 4 netball team was nominated for the Berkshire Netball Awards for best new team and in recent weeks Year 3 and 4 pupils took part in the Biathlon at Hurst Lodge school in Ascot.

Year 5 and 6 pupils- Tag Rugby Festival in Marlow, Football Tournament at Ridgeway, Football tournament at St George’s, Hockey training at Leighton Park, and the various fixtures associated with the Maidenhead Netball League. Our swimming team took part in the IAPS swimming  competition and latterly our Sports Day and Tennis Tournament gave the pupils a chance to  consolidate some of what they had learnt over the year.


Drama-  always has been and continues to be a strength of our school. From weekly class assemblies culminating in our class assembly this week in which our very youngest children demonstrated to us the importance of recognising change as a good thing, through their version of the Ugly Duckling,  to the nativity performance Born in a Barn in December. Harvest Time, Christmas and Easter were all celebrated at St John the Baptist Church, each celebration being accompanied by a dramatic illustration of the festival. In the New Year Herries became a LAMDA centre again and 32 of our pupils took an exam in March. Each and every child passed and was awarded either merit or distinction by this prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. And of course only last week in this very place our Year 3,4,5 and 6 children delighted us all with their production of Annie Jr: an ambitious venture which really paid off. Later we shall hear the children singing some of the songs from Annie.


Music also continues to be a strength of the school. The Key Stage 2 choir has gone from strength to strength- coming second in the Marlow Choirs Festival. Herries pupils have been building their instrumental skills also- drums, piano, singing, guitar violin and recorder are all popular choices for our pupils and our music assembly on Monday of this week gave us a wonderful demonstration of all that the children have been learning. Many Golden Assemblies on Friday mornings have seen the presenting of certificates for the passing of grades in these instruments.

Now I turn to the academic

Academic- this year the pupils’ academic achievements are considerable. With the move to subject specialist teaching for our older pupils we have been able to take advantage of the teachers’ areas of expertise. I am a firm believer that pupils learn best from a variety of teachers and teaching styles and from teachers who are experts in their field. This has been evidenced over the last two terms.

I am delighted to be able to inform you that as our Key Stage One pupils move into Year 3 they take with them some very high results indeed. Every pupil in Year 2 has exceeded the expected national curriculum level for English, Maths and Science, for the most part by quite some amount.

The results for Years 3,4,5 and 6 are just as promising. Our Year 6 leavers take with them some very high National Curriculum levels also. Out of all the levels awarded for Maths, Science and English 65% are above the expected level for that age group and indeed a little under half of the levels awarded to our Year 6 pupils place them amongst the top 15% of Year 6 pupils across the nation. These are achievements indeed to be celebrated!

It is not only within the classroom that our pupils have been learning. Our  curriculum enrichment programme  continues to thrive:  to name but a few- Marsh Meadow visit for Year 5 and 6 where the pupils carried out various pond dipping experiments , Herries European Day of Languages  in September, Years 3,4,5 and 6 and Music from the Movies visit to the Barbican centre in October, Year 5 Hughenden Manor visit in November where pupils celebrated Christmas in Victorian style,  the whole school visit to the Pantomime at the Wycombe Swan in December (this one as much for the benefit of staff as for pupils!), KS1 visited the River and Rowing museum in February, World of Maths Day  took place for  whole school in March as did the French verse Speaking competition. Year 4 undertook their trip to Hampton Court also in the Spring Term. Year 5 went on their Legoland Trip in May (education purpose there somewhere I was assured), and of course the residential trips – Years 3 and 4 to Flatford Mill to practise orienteering (and also waking up Mrs Bell at 5.00am in the morning) and years 5 and 6 on their PGL trip where they had the opportunity to try a wide variety of physical challenges. And to end the academic yearthe wholdeschool went to see the Olympic torch pass through Bisham sports centre on Tuesday and the Year 6 pupils spent the day at Bray Lake yesterday enjoying the wind surfing, sailing and kayaking. There are many different ways for pupils to learn and I am convinced that all of the trips and acitivities that I have just mentioned contribute just as much to our pupils; educations as do their classroom lessons.

As a small rural independent school Herries has made great efforts this year to get out into the Community and also to support charities. In the Autumn Term we held the Macmillan Coffee morning here and also celebrated the Jeans for Genes day. We held the usual Bags 2 School to raise money for charity and our choir went to sing at local Senior Citizen homes. In the Spring Term the Year 6 pupils visited the St John the Baptist churcn and also went to a toddler group in the Holy Trinity church where our Head Girls helped entertain the little ones. The Herries Jumble Sale opened its doors to our local bargain hunting community in March too. Herries pupils invited other local schools to join us in celebrating the Olympics Herries style in March. Only last week we joined with the other three Cookham Schools in celebrating the work of the local artist Stanley Spencer by changing some of his paintings into works of drama and music.

Leavers- I turn now to our Year 6 pupils who are leaving us. They have made such tremendous progress over the year and it is now time to celebrate their successes as they move on to their next school. Three of our pupils have gained places in grammar schools; Mila, Tasmin and Danielle are all moving to Sir William Borlase in Marlow, Jamilla is going to Talbot Heath, an independent school in Bournemouth, Renee and Lilli are moving to Newlands school for girls in Maidenhead, Emma is going to Leighton Park school in Reading and Shannon is going to be relocating back to the states and attending the The Norman E. Day School . Girls, we send you away from Herries with our very best wishes and we look forward to you visiting us from time to time.

Sadly at the end of a year there are generally a few staff farewells to be made.

James Gillespie- joined the school in September 2011. Mr Gillespie has been the Year 6 class teacher and has taught English to Years 5 and 6 and ICT and Art and DT to Years 4, 5 and 6. Mr Gillespie’s hidden talents were soon revealed as he became the school’s music, sound and light technician as well as his. Mr Gillespie has been a real constant for our Year 6 girls and they have become very very fond of him as the year has gone on. Mr Gillespie is leaving us now to take up the post of Head of ICT at Sherborne Qatar – a new outpost of the old school in Dorset

Lesley CurleyMrs Curley started working at Herries in January 2008 and has been here for four and a half years. Mrs Curley has been the most marvellous school secretary during that time. I tried to make a list of all the things that she does but it was far too long. Here are just a few: answering the phone, planning the newsletter, sticking plasters on cuts, printing off reports, bring me biscuits, cake, tea and coffee on demand, although never the gin and tonic that I have requested from time to time! Designing advertisements for the school, reminding me to phone people back when I forget with just the right tone of voice between polite and bossy…well the list just goes on and on. Mrs Curley will be moving away from this area to Devon where she and her family will be managing a small holding and living the rural dream!I know that we are all agreed on one thing and that is that she has been a very important part of Herries for such a long while and she will be very much missed.

Now we come to say our farewells to Mrs Dimishky.Maureen Dimishky started working at Herries in 1992 and has been here for 20 years. She has contributed so much to the environment and ethos of Herries and has played a large part in making it the strong community that it is today.

Mrs Dimishky has held several different roles during her time here. She has been Year 3 form teacher and also a subject specialist teacher for Years 3-6, teaching Art and Design and Technology, which at that time included ICT as it was not yet a stand alone subject. Some of Mrs Dimishky’s early Herries pupils are now grown up with children of their own and some of them went to famous universities such as Oxford and Cambridge.

Mrs Dimishky has done so much for Herries and perhaps one of the most important things was to bring Herries into the world of technology. She set up the computer network and planned the ICT curriculum. This year she has revised the whole ICT programmes of study at Herries and the ICT that we have taught this year has been one of the most uptodate school curriculums that I have seen.

Mrs Dimishky is going to retire to Sherbourne in Dorset where she and her husband have bought a new house. I know that they have an exciting programme of travel planned and we wish theme very happiness their new life.

Finally on a more personal note- This year has been a year of new experiences and challenges for me. Some I expected and many I didn’t.  However along the way I have had the support of so many people who I would like to now thank. I would like to thank Nicki Coombs the Chair of Governors and in fact all of the Governors of the school for their continued commitment to Herries and for the advice and support that they have given me.

Moving on, I simply cannot thank the staff at Herries enough for all of their hard work, team work and love, care and dedication that they give to our pupils. Mrs Dimishky, Mrs Bell and Mrs Castell, Mrs Senior and Mrs Hailstone, Mrs Ballinger and Miss Taylor and Mr Gillespie. All of our staff have been so committed to the education of our pupils, whilst Mrs Sharpe and Mrs Forrester have supported our very youngest pupils in the first and crucial steps of their education. Mrs Stevenson the bursar and Mrs Curley the school secretary have worked so hard to keep everything together and the school running so smoothly. The staff  here are so committed to Herries and it is largely down to them that this year has been such a success.  

I would like to thank you the parents who, I am sure, greeted yet another new head with a good deal of trepidation, but who have ultimately trusted me with the education of your children. And of course I would like to thank the pupils for being so enthusiastic and endearing, it is you who have made this year such a pleasure. 

I would also like to thank my close friends and family who have put up with an awful lot this year. My friends who have stepped in at the last moment to pick up my own children after receiving a panic stricken text about an urgent meeting that I simply have to go to, or, almost  as importantly to offer a glass of wine at times of need. And finally I would like to thank my two sons Ben and Joe. They have never complained about the time and effort that I have put into my new role and they have unfailingly supported me and been there for me.

Finally, I hope that, after hearing this report about the year, you will agree that our pupils are privileged to be at school at Herries and to be able to take advantage of all that is on offer here. It is certainly a privilege to be their Headmistress.


Click for the Cookham News Front Page

home    top of page You may need to click more than onceback    any suggestions