A year of celebrations begins at Stonyhurst this September, marking the college’s 425th anniversary. Founded in 1593 in Saint Omer, the school moved to Bruges and Liège before settling at Stonyhurst in Lancashire in 1794. The oldest Jesuit school in the world, Stonyhurst is one of the great survivors of English Catholic history.

Stonyhurst’s history is one of constant evolution and innovation. For things to stay the same a lot has had to change. For example, today the school has a strong lay executive and an independent governing body. In 1999 it became fully co-educational and in 2009 it became an independent charitable trust.

Stonyhurst is thriving: its roll has increased over the last five years and its prep school, Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall, has grown by 25 per cent. My children will soon walk to school across an open field and country lane, rather than arriving at London preparatory schools after a 45-minute commute in an Uber. My wife, a NHS general practitioner, will swap a three-hour trip each day around the M25 for what the AA Route Planner tells us will be a 4.1 mile drive, duration 11 minutes, to her new country GP practice.

For our great Catholic independent schools – Stonyhurst, Ampleforth, Downside, Worth, St Mary’s Shaftesbury, Ascot and others – to thrive in the 21st century, a new approach to endowment, fundraising, international partnerships and external relations is required.

My role at Stonyhurst will focus initially on working with the executive on advancing Stonyhurst’s ambition and planning in these three areas.

Many independent schools are excellent at this. Schools as different as Dulwich, Wellington and Manchester Grammar are exemplars to learn from.

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