Kenya Link

Kenyan Newsletter June 2015

Kenyan Newsletter March 2015

Kenyan Newsletter January 2015

Kenyan Newsletter October 2014

Kenyan Newsletter December 2013

Kenyan Newsletter June 2013

Kenyan Newsletter April 2013

Kenyan Newsletter December 2012

Kenyan Newsletter November 2012

Kenyan Newsletter September 2012

2013 was a landmark year for our relationship with Kenyan partner school Agoro Oyombe. In July, 19 West Buckland students visited Agoro Oyombe and in December, 8 Kenyan students spent two weeks at West Buckland School.

Video highlights of the West Buckland trip to Kenya are available here and see the photo album on our Facebook page for some highlights of the visit to West Buckland.

The next student visits are planned for 2015. The student exchange visits are the culmination of many years spent by both schools in developing the partnership.

In 2005, the Geography department first initiated links with Agoro Oyombe School near the shores of Lake Victoria in western Kenya. The school was founded in the late 1980s with one teacher and two pupils. There are now 14 teachers and about 500 pupils.

In January 2006, Fredrick Odhiambo, an English teacher at Agoro Oyombe visited West Buckland. Jack Dougall and Matthew Brimson from the Geography department visited Kenya in October 2007 to further develop the partnership, and since then the links have grown.

The main purpose of the link is for students at both schools to take part in joint curriculum projects. These have also developed in other subjects such as Food and Nutrition, Biology, English and Enrichment. The main Geography projects include:

  • A study of the flower trade in Kenya. Year 8 pupils at West Buckland have send letters entitled 'Would you want to work on a flower farm?'
  • A study of the weather and climate at both schools. Weather instruments sent by West Buckland have been used to collect data at Agoro Oyombe. This data has been compared with our own weather station data.
  • At both schools, students are to given a survey in which they have to describe their own lives and aspirations. They also complete the survey from the perceived point of view of a student in Kenya or the UK. The completed surveys are mailed between schools each year and the responses by the other students analysed.
  • Students at both schools complete carbon footprint surveys. This initiates discussion about the differences in energy use between families in Kenya and the UK.

A tree planting programme was undertaken as part of West Buckland's 150th anniversary celebrations and to offset the carbon emissions produced via the school's day to day activities. Several specimens were planted by students at Agoro Oyombe, including Gravelea, Eucalyptus/Blue Gum and Acacia. Agoro Oyombe has now planted 4000 trees in total. They will benefit from the trees in several ways including: a focus for lessons in agriculture, fuel for the kitchen, construction materials as the school expands, electricity poles that can be sold on the local market, a reduction in surface run-off, an increase in nutrient supply to the soil, a windbreak for the playing fields and shade for football spectators.

The December 2013 visit from Kenyan students to West Buckland saw more trees planted at West Buckland and to date both schools planted over 5500 trees between them.

For more information about our links with Agoro Oyombe, please contact Head of Geography, Matt Brimson: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Parents' Association

The Parents Association works to enhance the educational experience of the pupils by providing practical assistance and funding for additional academic and extracurricular activities at the school.

The Parents Association also aims to enhance relationships between the staff, parents and families associated with the school. This is done by organising a number of social events each year and offering support for other events organised by the school.

The Parents’ Association meet once a term to discuss, plan and prepare forthcoming events. All parents and guardians are members and are invited to meetings and events.

The Parents Association Constitution

Examples of events organised to date include:

  • Fireworks Night
  • Quiz Nights
  • Summer Fetes
  • Coffee Mornings
  • Race Night

Examples of distribution of funds include:

  • New pool table for the Boyer house
  • New Wendy house for The Early Years
  • Digital camera for the Art Department
  • Music stands for the music department
  • Support for the Kenyan Link
  • Garden items for the Prep School
  • Beanbags and common room accessories for the girls boarding houses
  • Books for the English department
  • Camping equipment for the CCF department.

Current list of committee members:

Pru Maskell (Chair)
Reggie Green (Vice-Chair)
Angie Bradshaw (Treasurer)
Alison Savory (Secretary)
Janelle Edwards-Spear
Helen Lee
Teresa Price
Denise O’Brien
Suzy Conchie
Justine Maunder
Barbara Hughes
Brenda Daly
Pippa Baines
Jules Templeton (Senior School)
Jan Palin (Junior School)


The Illustrated London News, Nov. 9, 1861

The Illustrated London News, Nov. 9, 1861

The West Buckland Archive was set up in 1998, and, as teacher, writer, and historian, Berwick Coates seemed an apt choice to run it.

Over the years, he has scoured the school to put together a fascinating collection of records which have accumulated over the 150 years of the school's history – books, photographs, governors' minutes, balance sheets, reports, confirmation lists, school magazines, old pupils' gatherings, celebrity visits, irate letters, architects' drawings, cups, caps, bats, blazers - anything which may give off a whiff of the past. They have been found in dusty cupboards, the backs of drawers, a ship's luggage trunk, old boys' lofts, a games pavilion, even a few (quite literally) underneath the floorboards.

He works to bring order and purpose to this collection, by making its contents available to anybody who wishes to inquire, and by making people aware of it. He places bulletins on the Archive corner of the notice-board - a regular dose of anecdote, curiosity, gossip, wonder, or scandal. He gives a talk every term at morning assembly. He has delivered many lectures around North Devon. Some of his discoveries are reported in the local press. He has appeared on national television. He has published three books about the school.


Staff & Monitors, 1881

He is a devoted believer in the value of the past, provided of course it is kept in perspective:

'You cannot get away from the past any more than you can pretend that your parents didn't exist. We must all learn the links between the past and the present. Luckily, most of us want to know how we started, what made us. It helps us to make sense of our lives, and to face what is in front of us. As President Chirac said at the commemoration of D-Day in 2004, "There is no future without remembrance."

Of course the present and the future matter very much. We want our pupils to look ahead, to take the world by storm, to reach up to the stars. But they also need to know where they come from.

The past and the Archive represent the school's roots. Without roots, nothing grows.'

Berwick Coates holds a Cambridge MA degree in History, and has been at various times an Army officer, a writer, an artist, a lecturer, a careers adviser, a games coach, and a teacher of History, English, General Studies, Latin and Swahili. He has published eight books.


The first Old Boys' match, 1881

His first book about the school is entitled simply West Buckland School.

It is not so much a straight history as a series of sideways looks at episodes in the school's past. These reflections might by triggered by a teacher's report, an old prospectus, a file of yellowing letters, a seventy-year-old blazer, a faded portrait, a conversation with a retired school servant or an old boy, or wood-dust falling out of the back of a hundred-year-old team photograph. Give anything a shake, hold a piece of paper underneath it, collect on it what falls out, stir into it some history, sympathy, and imagination, and you have a mixture of interest, amusement, sadness, and nostalgia which will provide compelling reading for anyone who has been associated with the school in any capacity - teacher, parent, pupil, servant, neighbour, even perhaps critic. The book is copiously illustrated in black and white with over 150 images.

It was published in 2000 by Halsgrove [now Ryelands], and costs £19.95.
The Ryelands Press is now at Halsgrove House, Ryelands Industrial Estate, Bagley Road, Wellington, Somerset, TA 21 9PZ.
Tel: 01823 653777


About the time of the First World War.

The second book is entitled The Natural History of a Country School.

It looks at the life and work of the school through the eyes of a wide spectrum of its inmates - a junior pupil, a secretary, a headmaster, a foreign student, a benefactor, and so on. By writing like this about one independent country school, one is writing about all independent country schools.Add in some essays on subjects like the origin of school exams, school heroes, changing fashions in the curriculum, and the impact of world wars. Decorate with little vignettes, anecdotes, coincidences, and generally useless information. Varnish with history, sympathy, and humour, and you have a mosaic of a vigorous, multi-faceted establishment which is far more than a few teachers and clutch of pupils.

Over a million parents send their children to independent schools; that is a sizeable slice of the educational life of the nation. It is time some of the schools in it were better understood - whether you send your children to them or not. A school does not have to be a celebrity in order to be interesting. It does not have to be perfect, or fashionable, or rich. It has simply to be human.

It was published in 2005 by Woodfield Publishing Ltd., Babsham Lane, Bognor Regis, West Sussex, PO 21 5EL.
It costs £15.00
Tel: 01243 821234


The School Workshop, 1914

The third book is entitled West Buckland, the Diary of an Edwardian School.

The School celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2008. This diary presents the School as it approached its 50th in 1908. Thanks to a remarkably varied set of surviving records, we possess the names of every boy in the School in that year, and every member of staff. We have a full school photograph, and many group photographs as well. We have their cricket scorecards, their exam results, their house match details, the titles of the books they won as prizes, the results of their unending cross-country races. We know what they talked about in their Reading and Debating Society - reform of the House of Lords and a Channel tunnel, for example. We know what their Governors did at their meetings. We know what the school Inspectors wrote in their report. We know who sang what songs at the Old Boys' Dinners and Socials.

We meet scores of Old Boys, whose careers were celebrated in the pages of the Register, the school magazine. One discovered a cure for leprosy; one worked for the Emperor of China; one was almost certainly a Government spy. We know quite a lot about what these pupils of 1907 did after they left school. Sixty-four of them served in the First World War. Twenty-four were commissioned. Eight were decorated. Eight died. This out of a school roll of under eighty. One lived to be ninety-nine. Another made it to a hundred, dying in 1995.

Put yourself in the position of a likely parent, and read the school prospectus. Share the drama of a year which saw the appointment of a new headmaster, the imminence of bankruptcy, the voluntary liquidation of the school company, and the re-naming of the school. The Devon County School became West Buckland School. Quite simply, make the acquaintance of a totally un-self-conscious community, secluded in an obscure, quiet corner of the Exmoor countryside, going about the absorbing business of living a hundred years ago.

It was published by Ryelands in 2008, and costs £19.99
Ryelands is at Halsgrove House, Ryelands Industrial Estate, Bagley Road, Wellington, Somerset, TA 21 9PZ
Tel: 01823 653777

School Community

There is much more to West Buckland School than the pupils, their teachers and the support staff. Parents play an important part, supporting their children day by day, and also taking an active part in many aspects of school life such as assisting with trips, lending help with drama, sharing their expertise in providing work experience or interview practice. The active Parents’ Association provides an opportunity for parents to get to get to know each other and enjoy social events.

A great many former pupils also maintain links with the school far beyond their school days – often throughout their whole lives. The Old West Buckland Association organises social events and sports matches, as well as provides a means for keeping in touch with old friends and the school.

The West Buckland School Foundation raises money for bursaries enabling more talented or disadvantaged young people to benefit from a West Buckland education that otherwise their parents could not afford, it supports the school’s capital development plans and so enhance the school’s academic, sporting and cultural facilities.