The Prescotian Webzine

The prime responsibility of the Foundation Governors of the School is the administration of the School Endowment Fund. Since little seems to be known of the Fund we commissioned the following article.


ARTHUR R. WHITAKER Foundation Governor 1980 -1995

Cerrigydrudion is a small village situated in one of the most beautiful parts of North Wales. It is from here, provided that you have found the right road, that you will eventually find yourself on a narrow un-made track leading deep into the Clocae/iog Forest where ultimately you will reach Tan-Y-Graig, a small farm nestling on a hillside where the peace and tranquillity is matched only by the splendour of the surrounding countryside. Here you may come across the happy but unobtrusive sound of young and excited voices as a small group of pupils from Prescot School clamber among the rocks of a tumbling waterfall. Oblivious of their icy soaking, they strive to reach higher levels, encouraged by their teacher and those who have already completed the climb. You will meet other young people attempting the miniature but challenging assault course of rope-bridges and other obstacles high in the trees surrounding Tan-Y-Graig.

These are but two of the character-building activities which engage the pupils in this idyllic setting, for Tan-Y-Graig is no longer a working farm: it is the new activity centre of Prescot School, It was in 1992 that Tan-Y-Graig was acquired by the Prescot School Endowment Fund and with it came an opportunity to provide for the School a lasting asset which would benefit not only the present pupils but their successors for many generations to come.

A considerable sum was needed, not only to purchase Tan-Y-Graig, but to meet the professional fees of the architects, engineers and builders who would eventually be needed to adapt and refurbish the farmhouse buildings to make the superb activity centre which exists today. So, what isThe Prescot School Endowment Fund; from what sources were its finances raised and who are its administrators ?

The Fund was first known as The Prescot Grammar School Endowment Fund and was regulated by the Minister of Education in 1958. In 1975, this was changed by a scheme under the Charities Commission and in 1989 its title was amended to The Prescot School Endowment Fund. To describe the manner in which the finances of the Fund have been built up would require more space than these columns permit. However, a full account may be found in F.A. Bailey's history of the School which was so spendidly updated by Pat Bailie at the time of the 450th Anniversary of the Foundation of the School. It perhaps suffices to record that the monies available today have accrued over several centuries from the sale of property and land, from wise investments and from benefactors large and small who, since the School was founded so many years ago, have shown such obvious interest and generosity.

Today the Fund is administered by eleven Foundation Governors who represent the following three groups:

Group 1 1 ex-officio member Head Teacher
Group 2 7 nominated members 1 King's College, Cambridge
4 Local Authorities
1 Prescot School Association (Parent/Teachers)
1 B.I.C.C. Ltd
Group 3 3 co-opted members Prescot residents or those with special knowledge of Prescot

It was in 1980 that my own involvement with the Trust began when I was nominated to serve as a Foundation Governor in my capacity as a Prescot Councillor on Knowsley Borough Council. The fact that I was an Old Boy of P.G.S. added special interest and-when I found that the affairs of the Foundation Trust were at that time under the chairmanship of Geof Dixon, I really began to feel that I was back in class ! This initiation was to be the beginning of a long period as a foundation governor and when I relinquished council affairs I continued to serve the Trust as a B.I.C.C.-nominated member. After retirement, and much to my pleasure, I was invited to continue as a co-opted member.

The special charitable status of the Trust Fund has enabled the Governors to invest the capital of the Trust in the Charities Official Investment Fund which enjoys the benefit of high interest tax-free earnings and brings an income of some 12,000 per annum into the Fund. It is the responsible distribution of this money for school use, together with the investment base of the Fund, which is the prime responsibility of the Foundation Governors.

The Foundation Governors meet twice a year and it is through the Headteacher that all requests for financial assistance are directed. These are for benefits of any kind not normally provided by the Local Education Authority and include any or all of the following:

a. Travel Scholarships
b. Assitance to School departments [ special equipment, musical instruments etc. ]
c. Fieldwork and related activities [ supply and maintenance of mini-bus etc.]
d. Purchase and maintenance of Property for the exclusive use of the School.

In the last of these categories, the Foundation Governors embarked in 1968 on an investment strategy which was to prove without doubt of immense advantage to the Fund and of immeasurable benefit to the School. This was the purchase of White Hart House situated in the centre of the lovely Yorkshire village of Dent. This property became the first field study centre and was used by the School to the benefit of hundreds of pupils. Because of structural problems on the upper floors and limits to any possible extension of the property, further major renovation was not possible. Consequently the property was sold in 1988 for the sum of 44,000.

It was now the intention of the Foundation Governors to purchase a larger property in a more remote area and a search began in earnest to locate suitable premises quickly. However, this time it was not going to be easy to find another property and indeed four years were to elapse during which time several premises were seen and dismissed as unsuitable and those which became of interest were refused the appropriate planning consent from the Local Authorities to enable an Activity Centre to be established. During this period, the School had the use of rented property, again in Yorkshire, near Nidderdale, but this was only a short-term expediency even though it maintained the enthusiasm of the School to possess an Outdoor Pursuit Centre of its own.

In 1992, four years after the sale of the Dent centre, the break-through came when Colin Wilson, Head of Outdoor Pursuits, brought to the notice of the Foundation Governors what he believed would prove to be a perfect location for the new centre. At a cost of 75,000, it was an opportunity too good to miss. A small working party of Foundation Governors and senior staff of the School was soon assembled and before long we found ourselves entering the gates of Tan-Y-Graig. Here, surrounded by five acres of its own ground, was indeed the ideal location: a haven of peace and solitude which we hoped would soon enable the young people of Prescot School to breathe the pure, clean air of the beautiful Welsh countryside. This time there were no objections from the Local Authorities and the legalities of purchase were quickly finalised.

The property consists of a substantial two-storey farmhouse which has the advantage of an adjoining large shippon and barn which, whilst in a dilapidated condition, possess excellent potential for future expansion. It was evident from the outset that major alteration and restoration would be required and this became the first priority of the Foundation Governors.

The succeeding months were not free of worry as the Foundation Governors faced ever-increasing costs regarding the work necessary to make the house suitable for our purposes. Fire and safety regulations added to the financial burden and the necessity to completely rebuild the roof was a major worry, particularly as this had not been revealed in the initial surveys.

The proceeds of the Dent sale, invested over a period of very high interest rates, virtually met the purchase price of Tan-Y-Graig. Nevertheless, a mortgage had to be raised to cover the additional renovation costs and this ultimately added approximately 90,000 to the original purchase price of 75,000. This has stretched the financial assets of the Endowment Trust Fund to the limits and has understandably reduced the sum now available from the fund for the other special requests normally required for the school. It also means that the renovation of the adjoining shippon and barn will have to be indefinitely deferred because it is now completely outside the financial scope of the fund to pay for the cost of this refurbishment which is currently estimated at 100,000.

Nevertheless, this splendid and valuable property is now held by the Foundation Trust for the exclusive use of Prescot School. Already more than one hundred pupils have enjoyed the 3-day courses which are run throughout the year. The accommodation is capable of housing three staff members and twelve pupils at any one time although this can be increased in the summer months by the use of camping facilities in the adjacent fields.

Tan-Y-Graig Activity Centre has been in use since December 1994 but it was on 17 July 1995 that Eddie O'Hara, M.P. for Knowsley South and a Foundation Governor, officially opened the centre. A gathering of invited guests and officials from various bodies who had been associated with the work of conversion and renovation was present. It was a source of great personal pleasure that on my last day as a Foundation Governor I was able to be present on this special occasion and to reflect that the pupils of Prescot School now have their own superb Activity Centre which we trust will flourish for many years to come..

Arthur informs us that Old Boys of the School are welcome to visit Tan-Y-Graig. Intending visitors should telephone the school beforehand to obtain directions and details of occupancy times.

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