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July 12, 2021

President’s Report to the OPC AGM on 8 July 2021 – Brian Jones (1961-66)

This year’s AGM marked the end of Brian’s term as the Club’s President. Here is the full text of his report to members.

“This time last year not only did I welcome everyone to what was the first Old Pauline Club AGM held on Zoom – but also to one that I hoped would be the last! Regrettably, that has proved to be a forlorn hope, though tonight at least we have a hybrid version with a limited number of members here in person on-site, but others having to be on Zoom.

It has undoubtedly been a challenging period and definitely like no other. We have obviously not been able to hold the usual whole-Club social events such as the Annual Dinner – now planned for 14th October to launch the Club’s 150th anniversary celebrations. Nor have we been able to hold the Feast Service at St Paul’s Cathedral with supper afterwards at the Mercers’ Hall nor the various reunions that have proved to be to be so popular. Another impact of the Covid restrictions was that we were unable to say farewell to Mark Bailey at the end of his successful time as High Master nor welcome his successor, Sally-Anne Huang.

It has not all been negative though.

It was possible and a great relief, at last to unveil the portrait of Mark Bailey, thus maintaining the tradition of the OPC presenting the School with the portrait of retiring High Masters. We were able to have a small socially distanced group attend the unveiling in April. The portrait is now hanging in its rightful place in the Montgomery Room.

Lockdown has made both the School and the Club move on-line to a much greater extent than any of us thought likely. The School has undoubtedly led the way and many of us have seen some of the interesting and varied ‘Topical Tuesday’ webinars in which many OPs have featured – including Sir Mark Walport, Sir Mene Pangalos, Rory Kinnear, Nick Bitel, James Max and Philip Bernie. A number of OPs have also featured in the various on-line Network events including those for the Finance, Entrepreneurs, and Not-for-Profit and Social Networks.

The one event that we were able to hold, albeit in a different form, was when the Club broke new ground by having a virtual Feast Service. This enabled us to include various elements of the traditional Feast Service, which are no longer included in the attended evensong which now takes place in the Cathedral, and featured the High Master, the School Chaplain, the Captain of School and the Chairman of the Governors as well as a number of OP clerics, including Richard Atkinson, Bishop of Bedford. The on-line service was well received but particularly by those who lived out of London and overseas who would not usually have been able to attend if held at the Cathedral. For next year for the Feast, as with other events, the aim is to combine the best of the physical and the virtual elements so as to be accessible to as many OPs as possible.

The Pandemic Lockdown emphasised the benefits to be achieved from quality Communications. It is generally recognised that this is one of the great strengths of the Club not only because it engages with the greatest number of OPs but also because of its high quality. Monthly eNewsletters are sent out to over 7,000 OPs and the bi-annual Atrium magazine has a print run of over 10,000 and is sent to current Paulines and their parents as well as OPs. Both publications have flourished with Jeremy Withers Green as Editor – he has taken the quality and variety of articles and features to a new level of excellence in the last year.

It is pleasing to note that registrations on St Paul’s Connect, the Pauline Community’s version of Linked-In, continued to grow during the year. I would encourage all to join, as it is an easy way for OPs to communicate with each other for social, mentoring or business purposes.

The OPC Website continues to increase the number of postings with more than six postings a month in the last year highlighting the achievements of OPs and giving news of OP events. A recent addition to the OPC Website is a revamped Merchandise section with a streamlined offering of OPC branded items.

The most significant Old Pauline Club (OPC) events in the last year undoubtedly took place ‘behind the scenes’ and related to the Club’s Strategy Review. I mentioned a year ago that the Strategy Review Group (SRG) would be putting forward options and recommendations to the Main Committee later that year and this was duly done in November 2020 with a report entitled “The Case for Change”. The core assessment of the SRG, taking into account the responses from surveys of the membership and the views of stakeholders, was that the momentum of the OPC was swinging away from being a club whose principal activities revolve around sport at Thames Ditton, an Annual Dinner and the production of a well-regarded magazine to becoming an integral part of the wider Pauline Community living in much closer harmony with the School.

The main elements of “The Case for Change” were:

  • The OPC had not sufficiently recognised that the interests and requirements of Paulines and OPs had changed in recent years.
  • The current model of the OPC was established when OPs of working age had fewer choices for leisure and sporting activities, working hours were shorter, fewer OPs had working partners and were less involved in childcare. The OPC needed to change to reflect these cultural and societal shifts.
  • The OPC did not offer a wide enough range of events that appeal to more than a small proportion of the membership.
  • The OPC’s assets were not being utilised for the benefit of a meaningful number of OPs or SPS. In particular, its main asset, the land at Thames Ditton was under-utilised by OPs and ways should be found to use such an asset for the benefit of the Pauline Community as a whole.
  • Although Colets (the squash and health club at Thames Ditton) was established to provide facilities for OP cricket, football and rugby rather than provide a significant financial return for the OPC, its current structure and relationship with the OPC has restricted its development as a standalone business and without change will continue to do so.
  • For the OPC to remain relevant to more of its membership, it needs to become an integral part of the Pauline Community.
  • The OPC represents the largest element of the Pauline Community and this strong position can, and should, be utilised in a more effective way for the benefit of the School.

The SRG’s view was that maintaining the status quo was not an option and that it needed to change to focus on what should be its main purpose of being an integral and leading part of the Pauline Community. It did not need to change the long-established aims of the Club but needed to change the means by which it fulfilled those aims and objects.

The Report was considered by the Main Committee at a Strategy Day in November with much debate on the topics of governance; the land at Thames Ditton; the relationship with the School: engaging with OPs; communications; and sport. The proposals included in the Report to take the Club forward were approved by the Main Committee.

This led to two streams of work. Firstly, a Governance Working Party was set up to consider, inter alia, the roles of the Main and Executive Committees, how to make them more effective and more representative of the membership and generally how to bring our structure and oversight up to date. Secondly, a Joint OPC/SPS Committee is in the process of being set up. Its immediate role will be to explore and progress implementation of ways in which the OPC and St Paul’s School can work together better; to consider what the possibilities are for the Thames Ditton site and Colets: and generally, to build a consensus on the development of sports and other activities. The School is committed to co-operate, co-ordinate and collaborate to promote a vibrant OPC, which interfaces with the School at many points, which in turn promotes and supports the School. There are many issues for the Committee to consider and it will shortly be agreeing actions and setting targets for the next three years.

The Governance Working Party initially produced a draft Governance Proposals paper to the Main Committee in March and a final one in June. The main proposed changes to the Club’s governance were:

  • The Main Committee and the Executive Committee to be replaced by a reconstituted Executive Committee.
  • Membership of the new Executive Committee to have an age limit of 75 years.
  • Vice Presidents, who are currently automatically members of the Main Committee, would be able to join an Advisory Council.
  • The new Executive Committee would have representatives from each OP age group – those in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
  • The Executive Committee would include the SPS Director of Development and Engagement; a staff member and a parent member nominated by the High Master; and a SPS governor.
  • There would be a number of sub-committees, including a Strategy Implementation Committee, a Nominations Committee and a Sports Committee.

Following discussion at the Main Committee meeting in June, 56 members (66%) voted on the proposals with 51 (91%) voting in favour and 5 (9%) voting against.

Further, it was considered that, as part of modernising the OPC and attracting the involvement of younger members, the word “Old” and “Club” had negative connotations in the context of an alumni association, so that a change of name would be helpful. The change of name would not be imposed on the OP sports clubs, the naming of which would be up to the sports clubs themselves.

Accordingly there was an additional proposal:

  • The Old Pauline Club to change its name to the St Paul’s Alumni Association.

For this proposal, 46 (82%) voted in favour and 10 (18%) against.

The Main Committee therefore by substantial majorities approved both.

The next step will be to re-draft the Club’s Rules That draft will be reviewed by the Executive and Main Committees in the autumn with a final version of the new Rules proposed for approval at a Special General Meeting at a date to be determined.

Given the approval processes that need be completed, the changes in governance will not take place before 1st January 2022 at the earliest and the change of name not until 1st September 2022 at the end of the OPC’s 150th year.

I am confident that this review process and the implementation of the various proposals will ensure that the Club will be in a position to benefit not only Old Paulines, both young and old, both current and future, the School and everyone across the Pauline Community.

At this point I would like to express my enormous gratitude to others on the Strategy Review Group who have spent many hours meeting, discussing, drafting and reviewing strategy matters – Nick Brooks, Jon Morgan, Rob Smith, Sam Turner and Ed Vaizey have all made a significant contribution to taking the Club forward. More recently those also on the Governance Working Party – Nog Norgren and Brian Fall – have done a tremendous job in producing an excellent Governance Report.

I am pleased to report that the relationship with the School has continued to flourish during Lockdown, building on the relationship developed by recent Presidents with Mark Bailey. In her first year Sally-Anne Huang has shown much interest in the Club and in particular the proposals in the Strategy Review: she has spoken by Zoom to the Main Committee and visited Thames Ditton and Colets, as well as taking part in meetings with a number of OPs.

Even without the usual social events this year, we continue to rely heavily on Ellie Sleeman’s team in the Development & Engagement Office for most of the administration of OP activities as well as the maintenance of the OPC Website, the preparation of the eNewsletters and other communications. We are most grateful for their contribution to the Club’s activities. Ellie’s team has been particularly active this year on the School’s fundraising programme and I am sure that you are aware of the very successful Giving Day last month in which the School raised some £380,000, primarily for bursaries. This is an event that I hope that members of the Club can make a greater contribution in two years’ time.

During the year, after two decades of service, Tim Cunis has retired from his position as OPC archivist. The Club is immensely grateful for the tremendous commitment that he has brought to this role and the contribution he has made. The Club appointed Ginny Dawe-Woodings, the St Paul’s School Archivist, to succeed him.

Sadly, in the last year we lost a Past President, Basil Moss, who died in November at the age of 85; he was President from 1993 to 1995. He made an immense contribution to St Paul’s and the Old Pauline Community over more than 60 years but particularly to Colets, which he helped set up in the late 1970s and then served as Director and Chief Executive for 40 years, and to the Pauline Meetings.

On the topic of Past Presidents, I should like to record my thanks and appreciation for the wise guidance and support provided to me in the last two years by a number of recent Past Presidents but particularly to Richard Cunis, John Dennis and John East.

Today over 200 boys have left St Paul’s and become members of the Club. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to speak with them at the traditional end-of year events such as Apposition, the Apposition Dinner at Mercers’ Hall or at the Leavers’ Ceremony. They did, however, receive the usual gift from the Club of the much-coveted red laundry bag containing a number of OP-themed items and a welcome card detailing what they can expect from their Club.

Next year will be the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Club in 1872 and much thought has already been given to a variety of events by a committee chaired by Ed Vaizey to recognise this significant landmark. More details will be announced in the Autumn term.

Overall, with the imminent return to a more normal social life, a revised structure for the Club and a closer relationship with the School, and with Ed Vaizey about to take over as President, there is much for the Club and all Old Paulines to look forward to.”

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