The meeting was held at Upton Court Grammar School, Slough. Apart from OPA Committee members, the meeting was attended by: the Mayor of Slough (Councillor Harmohinderpal Singh Sohal); the Head of UCGS (Mark Pritchard); the Deputy Head (Oliver King); the Head Boy (Pratik Doshi) and Head Girl (Nidi Hariharan); and Mrs Margaret Lenton (ex-President of the OPA). Apologies were received from President Emerita Mrs Mercedes Hernandez Estrada.
Welcome: Ron Fidler, OPA chairman, opened proceedings by welcoming those present. He explained that the purpose of the AGM was to communicate to members what goes on between reunions. Our aim was to ensure the success and longevity of the Association. Ron highlighted the need to attract new members and the enhanced website, which it is hoped will be instrumental in this respect. The OPA was endeavouring to build relations with current students by attending school functions and providing funding for school projects. Ron also mentioned that two current OPA committee members members were on the current school governing body, including the Chair of Governors ensuring a strong voice for the OPA on that body. Finally, Ron thanked members who had made donations to the Association.
Roll of Honour: the names of 12 alumni were read by Bob Moss.
School Report: the School Head, Mark Pritchard, welcomed OPA members. He spoke briefly about the history and traditions of the School. He detailed changes in curriculum, personnel and buildings, and explained the School’s mission statement and values. He emphasised that progress scores achieved by students were impressive. He noted the opening of the “legacy building”, adding that the final phase of the building programme was currently underway and scheduled for completion in the summer of 2019. Total cost would be £25 million.
The Deputy Head, Oliver King, spoke about the School’s curriculum and changes thereto. The new ethos of the School was “Aim High, Be Kind, Be Proud”. Points covered by Oliver relating to the curriculum included: the baccalaureate entitlement; cross-curricular lessons; challenges in modern society; timetable enrichment, often based on teachers’ personal interests; educational visits and visiting speakers; activities such as debating and the orchestra; and the OPA-funded essay-writing competition. Oliver concluded his presentation by describing several Pioneer Educational Trust projects, such as the “More Able Girls” project and Trust Development Day.
The Head Girl, Nidi Hariharan, and Head Boy, Pratik Doshi, spoke about a number of initiatives at the School: the Valentine’s Party; an Outward Bound trip, with canoeing and rafting; career visits; bhangra dance; an art project; the School’s Pioneer Parliament and a visit to the real Parliament; and the Performing Arts Spring Showcase.
Website Demonstration: Rajesh Sharma demonstrated the new website. He explained the history of moving the old website from Wikispaces and the differences between the old site and its successor. The previous site had principally been a historical depository and this knowledge would remain available to users. The new site must be capable of arousing the interest of prospective new OPA members, who would be able to join the Association online. Users would be able to add their stories to the site for others to read on a more timely basis than at present. There would be user forums for discussion. Invitations to join the website (involving the use of coupons) would be sent out. The archives would also be digitised. Suggestions on use of the new website were encouraged. Celia Johns raised a point about Facebook and Twitter accounts. Gloria Dean inquired about the security of coupons and the website, adding that she had recently seen adverse comments about the OPA (or the OPA Limited).
Membership: the Membership Secretary, Kav Benepal addressed the problem of reaching out to new members. Mobility (in the sense of not being local) was a problem for some people and so the website and social media were important aids to building a community. Groups of non-OPA members had formed in some areas and it was important to attempt to bring these people back to the school. The community should cover all ages. OPA members should be encouraged to come to the school to give students the benefit of the knowledge they had acquired in their careers. A new work experience programme should be built.
Election of Officers: Ron Fidler stressed the urgent need for more volunteers. He himself offered to serve another year as OPA Chairman. The nomination was proposed by Gloria Dean and seconded by Celia Johns. Approved unanimously. Kav Benepal, Jane Brown, Ian Cairns, Alan Forbes, David Rogers and Rajesh Sharma agreed to remain on the committee for another year. Their en bloc nominations were proposed by Jean Tyler and seconded by Shelagh Rothero. Approved unanimously. Ron appealed for volunteers to fill the Treasurer and Newsletter Editor roles. Celia Johns and Glenys Laws respectively expressed interest in these roles (since confirmed). Jean Tyler pointed out that the Head Girl used to be a committee member.
Open Forum: Debbie Wright suggested that committee vacancies should be notified to members in advance of the meeting, to provide more time for consideration. Shelagh Rothero stressed the importance of attracting younger members.
Before and after the AGM there was time for members and guests to enjoy a cup of tea, meet with old friends and view items from the archives as well a traditional meal. There were the usual generous donations of raffle prizes and tours of the newly refurbished school facilities were especially well received.
Full minutes will be available elsewhere on this site.
The next AGM and Reunion is scheduled for be Saturday 21st 2020.