The school faced serious problems at the beginning of the new millennium. Numbers were in decline, due to the opening of two new independent schools, and Cooke’s plan to increase the size of the school and the staff complement was failing. Capital reserves had been used to build the new classrooms and to buy the head’s house, and the debt was increasing. David Mallett was faced with the difficult decision to decrease the number of classes and retrench staff. In the midst of the uncertainty and change, a small group of parents was challenging the governance of the school. Realising that a more democratic system was necessary, Mallett set about a process to draft a constitution for the school, in which the Board, parents, staff and even senior boys would be involved. This was successfully published in 2003, and followed by a Whole School Evaluation out of which a Mission Statement was formed. The Board now included elected parent and staff members.
2003 was a remarkable year: the school achieved unprecedented success academically, culturally and on the sports field, with many awards being won. The financial woes continued, however, with debt increasing. The Board asked Mallett to reduce his teaching and coaching, and devote more time to marketing the school in an attempt to gain more pupils. Mallett refused, as he felt his place was in the classroom and on the sports field. His views and those of the Board were irreconcilable, and, after much deliberation, Mallett resigned at the end of the year. The episode had been divisive and unsettling. Pauline Pearce, Mallett’s deputy, was asked to take over as Head until a new one could be appointed. The loyalty and commitment of the staff and the support of the parent body enabled her to take up this role with confidence.
In 2004, WPPS celebrated its 90th birthday with great gusto! Numbers began to increase and an anonymous donor came forward with an exceptionally generous interest-free loan, which enabled the debt hanging over the school to be considerably reduced. A rigorous selection procedure for a new head was put in motion, culminating in the appointment of Michael Hosty towards the end of the year.
Hosty took up the reins in 2005, with Pearce and Duncan Todd as deputies. His strong management style was evident from the start and he set to strengthen what he found to be good at WPPS, and tackle areas that he saw as needing improvement. His first major task was to address the remaining debt, and thanks to the generosity of the WPPS family, it was all but cleared by the end of 2005.
Hosty introduced many innovations, among them holding of prize giving in a marquee on the field rather than in the hall, enabling the entire school to attend. He raised the profile of Remembrance Day, encouraging parents to attend. He increased the number of camps for the grades from 4 upwards – a popular move. A major refurbishment of the fabric of the school was undertaken in preparation for the Centenary, and thanks to an extraordinarily generous single donation, the magnificent Centenary Pavilion rose from the foundations of the 1938 original. It was an immediate major asset to the campus. Michael Hosty’s mark was on all these projects.
He expanded the management structure, giving greater opportunities for leadership, and established a Senior Staff Committee to undertake forward planning. The Parents’ Association also assumed a more active role, with well-defined portfolios.
Michael Hosty is a man of vision, and, aware of the role that the school could play in the wider community, he started to plan the establishment of a satellite Teacher Training College to which WPPS could make a significant contribution. This and the further development of a Bursary Fund will ensure that the legacy of the school will be shared more fully in its second century.