Meet the Head

When I first arrived at Ballard, I was immediately struck by its busy, purposeful atmosphere and the warm welcome I received. The girls and boys I met shook me by the hand, looked me in the eye and told me everything I needed to know about the School.

At Ballard we encourage our boys and girls to express themselves confidently, to develop their leadership skills and to be ambitious, all within a nurturing and supportive environment. When I talk to young people here, they describe a Ballard pupil as one who will “enjoy the challenge” and “set the bar high”. Ballard is proud to educate pupils with a range of academic abilities, and we do so within a culture of aspiration for all; teachers here will stretch, challenge and support in equal measure. I have always been a great believer that happy, confident, respectful and busy children will do well academically so it is no wonder that our GCSE results continue to be at the forefront of comparable local schools and well in excess of the national average.

More importantly, this all happens within an ethos of respect, kindness and responsibility. The key to Ballard’s success lies in its values and culture, and in the positivity of its community. Whether it’s the staff who support and educate, the pupils who strive and delight, or the parents who so vitally connect home and school life, we all play a crucial role in shaping the School. Ballard’s ambition to instil in their pupils a strong moral compass, a respect for others, and an imperative to make a worthwhile contribution to the community all help foster a happy, supportive and successful School.

We were hugely proud of our “excellent & outstanding” ISI and OFSTED inspection report. The school was awarded the highest grade possible in every category; a real testament to the hard work and passion of all our staff.

…but don’t just take ISI’s or my word for it. Come and visit our stunning 34-acre site on the edge of the New Forest – meet the pupils, talk with our staff and view the fantastic facilities on offer.


Andrew McCleave, Headmaster

From the Headmaster’s Office

Extracts from Andrew McCleave’s Headmaster’s Office:

“All children start their school careers with sparkling imaginations, fertile minds, and a willingness to take risks with what they think.” – Sir Ken Robinson (1950-2020)

Dear Parents and Pupils,

Well, we have all made it through the first full week.

Things continue to go really well on our return to Ballard. Of course, we are still working through a few changes and challenges regarding uniforms, parking, lunches, break times and other areas, but overall the children and the staff have been brilliant and resilient in equal measure.

I have spent much of the week touring the School and touching base with classes and it is clear that everyone is so pleased to be back. For many years, I have read articles on the vision of a future classroom, with AI and computers replacing teachers and children learning from home remotely – a future of virtual classrooms in virtual schools has been painted many times. Whilst I was proud of the education Ballard provided in lockdown, what became clear, in my opinion, was that children need and love coming to school – Ballard pupils certainly do. Children need to have their teachers stand in front, to the side or even behind them; helping to guide and nurture them. They need to see their friends and peers, learn to get along with them and build and re-build relationships with them. They clearly need to run around outside, play rugby, hockey or netball, and play music, dance and sing together. Young people need to build, paint and cook. Young people need to have positions of responsibility and mentor our youngsters. Essentially, of course, children need to learn together and learn to be together.

We have learnt a great deal whilst in lockdown and even more opening up under such different circumstances, and we will harness some of this knowledge, but what has been confirmed, if it needed confirming, is that schools are the best place for children to learn, and grow up to be future leaders. I am not keen on the term “soft skills” but I do question how children would learn people skills, listening skills, empathy, teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, adaptability, conflict resolution and communication skills, unless they spend time together getting things right, and getting things wrong, and learning from both.

I can’t imagine being the Head of a virtual school, and I am not sure I would ever want to find out.

I hope you all have a positive and restful weekend, and I look forward to seeing all the children and staff in person next week.

With best wishes.

Andrew McCleave

“Music is the one time when my head isn’t filled with briefs and opinions. All that is put on a shelf and I just…. Enjoy.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020)

Dear Parents and Pupils,
Another positive week at Ballard. I want to start by thanking the Year 11 parents for their feedback after our virtual Parents’ Evening this week. It was, of course, a very different way of meeting, but both staff and parents felt the use of Microsoft Teams worked extremely well and it was undoubtedly a very useful and productive evening.
Next week we are introducing a new initiative, alongside our Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) programme. Once a week during tutor time, pupils will be encouraged to Drop Everything And Listen (DEAL). Whilst the Music Department will provide a little background information for the tutors, the idea is that pupils switch off and listen to a range of musical genres – a real boost for their well-being. Before half-term they will be treated to Nina Simone, Nigel Kennedy playing Brahms’ Violin Concerto, Stevie Wonder (song to be confirmed, but so many to choose from) and Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast. A lovely initiative, I think you’ll agree. Having mentioned DEAR, I have to note that it was heartening to tour the Lower Prep first thing this morning to find every pupil reading quietly at the start the day. Merlin and I arrived and probably disrupted them a little, but it was a fantastic and positive start to the day.
I hope you all received my GroupCall regarding Harvest Festival. As I wrote last week, it is a real shame that we are unable to collect the produce in the manner we did this time last year, but I hope you will give generously via the FOBS bank account. There will be a “Home Clothes Day” in the next week or two to support this great cause – details to follow in the near future.
Another initiative that is challenging our pupils is the Votes4Schools programme that our Upper Prep and Senior pupils engage with during tutor times. Next week, pupils will explore the relatively modern phenomenon of “Cancel Culture”, and the ease with which punishment and shame are dealt out online, particularly on social media. I have to confess that I had to Google “Cancel Culture” and found out that the term “refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (cancelling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.” They will be weighing up the pros, cons and consequences with the question: “Is ‘cancel culture’ unfair?” This will also provide them with the opportunity to think about what they post online and how they communicate with others – definitely a worthy topic for discussion and debate.
I hope you all have a great weekend.With best wishes,Andrew McCleave

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” - John Lubbock, The Use Of Life

Dear Parents and Pupils,

Another full week back at Ballard and it is all starting to feel a little more normal. Thank you to all of you who have contacted the School and the appreciation you have expressed to all the staff. I have passed on your comments to staff and can assure you that it makes a real difference.

I think it is important that we make sure, though, that we do not become complacent and that when we are all in School, we keep up with our hand washing and sanitising, wearing face coverings in communal areas and trying to socially distance as much as we can. There are reports today that we may lockdown for a fortnight over half-term, and the FT reported today that “The number of positive Covid-19 cases is doubling every seven to eight days in England.” Whilst we shouldn’t panic, following guidelines both in and out of School will keep our community safe and Ballard open, something that has become our top priority this term.

I hope you received several communications from Mrs Besley and myself this week – I hope the procedures and processes outlined clearly lay out our approach to dealing with staff and pupils who may be unwell.

Harvest Festival is fast approaching (4th October) and the community’s approach to collecting food and looking out for others has always been inspiring. This year we have had to think carefully how we will support our local foodbank in a safe and practical way. After several communications with Mrs Norris, who runs the food bank, we have decided to set up a system through which families can contribute to a fund which will then be handed over to the foodbank and used wisely to support those in need. I will send out further details early next week, but as ever your support is much appreciated and needed.

It looks as if the weather will hold for the weekend, so I hope you all manage to get out and get some fresh air and some proper downtime. I would always encourage our young people to spend some time reading a good book.

With best wishes,

Andrew McCleave


“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth” - Muhammad Ali

Dear Parents and Pupils,

It has been fantastic to welcome back even more of our community into School this week. The looks on the children’s faces when they arrived to see their friends and teachers were a delight. They really have missed Ballard, we have really missed them and it was great to have them back.

This week, we have had some fantastic news at Ballard; we have been nominated for Co-educational Independent School of the Year 2020. Last year’s winners included Dulwich College, Highgate, Tonbridge, Rugby, Fettes College and Millfield; so we are in very good company.  A huge thanks and congratulations must go to our dedicated and hard-working staff, Governors and, of course, our wonderful pupils. A thank you must go to the parents as well, who constantly support us in our endeavours.

This morning, I watched the Year 10 Head Girl and Head Boy applicant presentations. They were truly inspiring and they all came across as such team players. The most heartening sentiment was that they all wanted to undertake this important role as a way of giving back to the School that has given them so much. The School is certainly in very good hands next year. The current team have set the bar extremely high, and I want to thank them for the amazing job they have done this year.

Miss Miller, our new Deputy Director of Sport, has been running our Virtual Games competition and she emailed me this morning with the following:

“I just wanted to update you on the Virtual Games, which has been run by the Sports Department over the last few weeks. We have been overwhelmed to receive over 400 responses to the challenges from pupils, staff, parents, friends and families. The sheer volume of entries from the Wilverley and Holmsley camps in the final few days of the competition allowed them to create a gap far too big for Setthorns, our initial leaders, and Broadley to close down. Well done to our champions; Holmsley, whose podium finishes allowed them to accelerate convincingly to the top of the score board enabling them to be crowned Champions of the Lockdown Games 2020.”

Congratulations to Holmsley and a really big thank you to the Sports Department, and particularly Miss Miller, for organising this. It is so innovative.

I hope you all have a safe, restful and positive weekend.

With best wishes.

Andrew McCleave

“A sense of place is the sixth sense, an internal compass and map made by memory and spatial perception together.” - Rebecca Solnit

Dear Parents and Pupils,

I was looking over my daughter’s A’ Level Geography revision this week and I came across a definition of a “place” which made me think about Ballard. The definition is “a place is made up of its location, locale and sense of place. A sense of place refers to the attachment a subjective person or people have to a place.”

To describe the location and locale of Ballard is fairly straight forward. Ballard is in New Milton, “a market town in the South-West corner of Hampshire, England” (Wiki, I am afraid). Furthermore, our website will tell you that “we are set in 34 acres between the New Forest and Solent on the Hampshire/Dorset border.” It sounds idyllic, and it is.

Of course, our sense of attachment to Ballard and what Ballard means to us will be different for everybody. For some, it will be the sport, the music and drama performances, the friendships they have forged, the challenging activities they have taken part in, the caring staff or their inspirational educational experiences. For staff, Ballard is their employer, but we all know this place means so much more to us all than this – we wouldn’t all go the extra mile unless we held Ballard dear to us.

Last year, one of our Year 11s left at the age of 16, having first arrived at Ballard at 18-months old. For her, Ballard is where she grew up, and her memories of the place, the staff and her friends will bear testament to the length of her Ballard journey. Others may have only been at Ballard for a few years, but their memories will be just as special and friendships forged here will last forever.

It is, potentially, a good time to think about what Ballard means to us whilst we are away. The well-worn phrase, “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” springs to mind. Perhaps, while we are forced to be away from Ballard, it is a good time to reflect upon what it is we miss, what we are looking forward to doing and who we are looking forward to seeing when we return.

Parents have entrusted us with the most important of tasks – educating and nurturing their children. They must have toured the School and felt that special “sense of place” that so many prospective parents describe to me upon their first visit. They must have seen in Ballard something that made them decide that our ethos, sense of community and family, and vibrant teaching was what they wanted for their children.

Whilst we are away, we must remember that as part of the Ballard community, we have much to be thankful for and I am sure we are all looking forward to being together again in the not too distant future.

With best wishes,

Andrew McCleave

"How important it is for us to recognise and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” - Maya Angelou

Dear Parents and Pupils,

Whilst I am sure we are all looking forward to a long weekend and some time away from our screens, it is sad that we will not be able to mark VE Day together, as a community. Occasions such as these, I believe, really are powerful and meaningful forms of remembrance. It is important for our young people to come together in assemblies and at other times to reflect on the importance of such days and consider the losses and sacrifices of so many. In light of this, I will lead live, online assemblies for each year group over the next week or so.

I hope we all can continue to ‘clap for our carers’ on our front doorsteps and in our front gardens at 8.00pm every Thursday. Again, it is so important for our young people to reflect and consider those who put themselves at risk every day and make sacrifices for the good of others. I hope you have been following the progress of young Luca Summers in Year 2. He has been raising money for NHS charities and, at the time of writing, has raised over £6,000. I know his mum and dad are very proud of him, as are all of us at Ballard. A true Ballard citizen.

I hope the remote online working has gone well this week. I must say that all Ballard staff have been working extremely hard to provide an online education and I would like to publicly thank them for their huge efforts and dedication to educating Ballard pupils. Delivering online lessons is particularly intense for both staff and pupils and I do hope we all manage some non-screen time this weekend and make time to recharge our batteries. I have passed on your messages from the emails I have been receiving and staff have been grateful for all of your appreciation and support. We are all learning new skills and ways of working, and slowly getting used to a new normal. I am so impressed with the way everyone has adapted so successfully and feel proud to be leading such a positive and inspirational community.

With best wishes,

Andrew McCleave