The sporting provision at St Andrew’s Prep, Eastbourne can now be considered to be amongst the best in south-east prep schools following the official opening of its stunning, light and airy multi-million pound Goodwin Sports Hall and Dance Studio. The unveiling of the school’s refurbished Rugby Fives court followed just a few days later.
A fabulous building demands an extraordinary person to open it, so the school sought the services of the inspirational Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE, DL, crossbench peer in the House of Lords, speaker, broadcaster and athlete whose awe-inspiring medal tally includes 11 gold, four silver and one bronze Paralympic medal alongside her five gold, four silver and three bronze medals at World Championships. All those in attendance, including the Mayor, local MP Caroline Ansell, dignitaries associated with local sports clubs and organisations in the region, the whole school, staff, parents and governors were all rather agog.
After the silk ribbon had been cut, Baroness Grey-Thompson, clearly adept at addressing children and adults together, spoke honestly, humorously and encouragingly about key moments in her life and how she overcame hurdles to find success. She told the children that they must always aim high and set themselves targets and that they must concentrate on their own efforts and not worry what others are doing. St Andrew’s was honoured by her presence.
The sports hall was also blessed by Reverend Andrew Wingfield Digby, a former first-class cricketer turned Church of England priest who was the first paid employee of the charity Christians in Sport, an organisation which gained much prominence under his leadership. Rev Wingfield Digby was a chaplain at the Seoul Olympics of 1988 and he was the lead chaplain at the London Olympics of 2012. It is hoped the school’s prayers will be answered in all forthcoming high- and low-profile school, county and national matches and competitions!
While the ceremony was held to mark the opening of the sports hall, in truth, the school was celebrating so much more. It was celebrating all the possibilities that the building now brings to its pupils and those at Eastbourne College (St Andrew’s Prep is part of the Eastbourne College Charity) as well as local schools and clubs in the wider community.
In fact, the occasion wasn’t really about the building at all, impressive though it is. A great school is not great because of its facilities; it’s great because of its values, because of its relationship with its pupils and because of the ambition of the people within it. A school is great if it can inspire its pupils to better themselves and, in a sporting sense, the Goodwin Sports Hall will enable St Andrew’s Prep to do that.
A week after the school waved au revoir to Baroness Grey-Thompson, the school unveiled another sporting triumph: its newly refurbished Rugby Fives court which had been used for other purposes for some forty years. On a recent Open Day, the court was christened by four prominent players with a strong Eastbourne College Charity connection including the reigning national ladies champion, two Old Androvians and a former pupil at Eastbourne College.
However, the fast-paced game, often explained as ‘like squash but played with gloved hand’ has captured the imagination of our current school pupils, staff and parents alike who are queuing up to try out this vintage sport which dates back centuries.
So, with the new sports hall and Rugby Fives court, the lovingly tended lush green sports fields nestling at the foot of the South Downs, the school’s indoor pool, shooting range and gym complete with climbing wall added to the newly resurfaced netball and tennis courts plus the school’s daily access to the Eastbourne College AstroTurf pitches, sport at St Andrew’s Prep has never looked rosier.