From Your Chairman

As regular readers of the WA Newsletter will know, this is our last!

Going forward, the School’s alumni office, under the stewardship of Thomas Northcote, is to assume responsibility for the production and dissemination of all news and magazine content, as part of a wider undertaking to fundamentally reset the School’s relationship with its alumni. We wish him and the School every success in their endeavours.

Such future output as is generated by the School – to be primarily digital in format, we understand – will be addressed to you an Old Whitgiftian in the wider sense, not as a member of WA.

At this time, then, it is wholly fitting for me to thank all of those who have contributed to making this and previous editions of the Newsletter so interesting and informative. Particular thanks must go to its editor, our President, Richard Blundell, and to our publishers, Smarter Reach, under the stalwart stewardship of Vicky Burley.

So, whither now WA?

We have long recognised that the School’s intent to fulfil on a universal basis the functions previously occupied by WA on a subscriber-only basis would ultimately mean the demise of the latter. Equally, whilst WA has a proud history and has served its purposes and members exceedingly well, the reset to which I have referred is an exciting prospect and deserves to command the widest possible support.

The direction of travel, that is to say a managed dissolution of WA, is therefore clear. However, that leaves us with big decisions around the commencement and timing of that process and WA’s asset base, not least the Clubhouse and grounds at Croham Road.

One of WA’s primary objects is the “[promotion of] the interests of former and current Whitgiftians and of the School”. In pursuance of this object we have publicly stated our preference for a settlement at Croham Road involving a form of joint endeavour with John Whitgift Foundation (‘JWF’). We are currently engaged in dialogue with JWF with a view to determining the nature and extent of its interest and the basis upon which, if at all, it might be prepared to make an investment in the site.

We and any other interested parties who might be looking to JWF to make such an investment must bear in mind that while it has charitable status, it is not a grant-making organisation. It will only commit funding to Croham Road if it can be demonstrated to be in its commercial interests to do so (which will involve more than the occasional use of the rugby pitches by Whitgift School boys).

Equally, JWF understands that WA cannot sanction a ‘mere giveaway’ of the site. These parameters established and respected, we remain hopeful that a mutually agreeable set of arrangements can be negotiated, for the benefit of all existing and future users of the site. For obvious reasons, not least out of respect for our negotiating partners, we are not going to provide a running commentary of our discussions. If we are able to agree terms, those terms will be put to you for agreement at an AGM or EGM. Other stakeholders, including the playing sections of Whitgift Sports Club Limited, will also have an opportunity to express their support or disapproval of any such terms.

In truth, then, it is the pace and nature of our deliberations in respect of Croham Road that are likely to determine our approach to WA’s winding-up. Your committee will ensure you are kept informed of all material developments as they arise. These next few months are likely to be WA’s last as an active organisation, but will without doubt be among its most important. Your Committee greatly values your interest and support at this crucial time.

John Etheridge OW (1981-88)