History

Somerset College was established in 1997 as an independent English-speaking, co-educational high school in the winelands of the Western Cape. The Founding Head of the school was Mr David Wynne who was appointed by the Governing Body in 1996 to oversee the establishment of the school on what had been Vredelus farm.

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Mr Wynne decided on the school motto of ‘Pietas’ meaning ‘Duty to one’s family and community’, or more simply, ‘Do what is right’. The core values were recognised as Respect, Integrity, Care, Diligence and Gratitude. The acorn was adopted as the emblem for the College badge, and Mr Wynne wrote the College Prayer and the words to the College Song. In its early days, the administration of the school was conducted by unpaid founding parents and staff who worked tirelessly to establish the school. The first assembly of 11 staff and 70 founding students took place on 15 January, 1997. Within 10 days the first cricket match had taken place between Somerset College and SACS in Cape Town, thus launching the sporting programme at the school. In the early years of the College students were transported to various venues so that sports practices could take place whilst the school’s fields were being established.

In keeping with the key focus on outdoor education, the first Trek took place in January 1999. This is a unique 27-day outdoor educational experience for Grade 9 students that has since been emulated by other schools wishing to provide their students with similar formative experiences. By 2000, barely three years after opening its doors, the Somerset College Rowing Club was established and has since gone from strength to strength as students compete in annual regional and national competitions.

The first Arbor Day took place in April 1998 with 130 indigenous trees planted on the school premises. In the same year the Boonzaier Centre, a multi-purpose hall, was built with funds donated by generous benefactors. Also in 1998, the boarding house was established and the first boarders were enrolled at the school. 1998 proved to be a pivotal year as the first student Exchange Programme was launched by Ms Kruyshaar, forging relationships between Somerset College and about 10 schools across the world.

On the academic front the school selected the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) as its Grade 9 and Matriculation examination provider, while following the National Curriculum Statements published by the Department of Education. The College has attracted and retained the most talented teachers to ensure high quality educational experiences for students at the College. Since the first Matrics of 1999 there has been a 100% pass record at the school. The Somerset College Library has been integral to academic achievement since it was established in 1999, building on the foundations laid by Mrs Wynne.

From its inception, many of the policies of the school focused on the creation of a caring and safe environment for students, and structures such as the tutor system, house system and Grade Heads were put in place to proactively facilitate the students’ development. Also, from an early stage in the school’s history, students have been empowered to initiate and to manage much in the school, and the development of leadership is vital to the structure of the school. Portfolios have been developed which are responsible for a very wide range of activities that take place during the school year.

Leadership positions in these Portfolios carry significant status at the College and represent important opportunities for students to involve themselves in life outside the curriculum. These include the Academic, Cultural, Eco, Public Relations, Sporting and Social Responsibility Portfolios. The latter coordinates numerous continuous outreach initiatives such as Macassar Maths, Outreach Hockey and Sandwich Spread. These initiatives aim to support poorer local communities and to instil in every student at the College an awareness of the needs of the people in our greater society thus nurturing a culture of social responsibility and active citizenship.

The year 2001 saw the first enrolment of pupils into the Preparatory School as well as the beginning of the annual Somerset College Combined Schools Orchestral Festival. In 2003, the dedication of Saint Matthew’s Chapel took place, marking a key moment in the history of Somerset College as the Chapel has come to hold a central role in the life of the school. Mr Cordery was appointed Chaplain of the school in 2004 and Somerset College would later become a member of the Church Unity Commission in 2006. Currently the Chaplain and the school’s Christian Union are assisting the Bridges of Hope Academy in Franschhoek through the Give Thanks Campaign. At the end of 2003, the Founding Head of Somerset College, David Wynne, retired. His post was taken up by Mr David Campbell at the start of 2004. However, Mr Wynne continued to contribute to the school after his retirement by supporting the establishment of the Old Oaks Union at the end of 2005. The vision was to create a fellowship of past pupils, teachers and parents that encapsulates and promotes the founding principles of Somerset College.

Mr Campbell appointed Ms Visser in 2005 as the school’s Counselling Psychologist and she began the task establishing the Student Development Unit (SDU). Today the SDU assists the College with its professional responsibility to support and extend students, and to act as a resource for the teachers. The SDU supports students with any emotional, behavioural and learning challenges that they may face during their time at College.

With regards to Information Technologies, the integration and development of the School’s computer network was expanded with the appointment of Mr Loubser as the School’s ICT Manager in 2005. There has been a constant drive to upgrade and develop its facilities, and the College now has a fully functioning computer network which is based on a Microsoft platform. The network utilises 22 servers that currently manages 350 domain computers and 1200 mobile devices.

The College opted to be a BYOD (bring your own device) institution that does not prescribe any particular mobile device type or brand. An enterprise wireless solution was rolled out in 2012 to all buildings to facilitate wireless connectivity to mobile devices across the campus. In 2014 Somerset College joined the power of Google Apps for Education which opened the door for online collaboration in the true sense of the word.

Mr Campbell led the school until 2010 when Dr Nuttall became the new Head of the Senior School in January 2011. Dr Nuttall initiated a wide range of projects and placed strong emphasis on academic excellence, and over the past years our Matric results have placed us as academic leaders in the Western Cape and on the national level. Dr Nuttall led the school with great success until he ended his tenure in July 2013 to take up a senior position as Rector of St Stithians in Johannesburg. The current Head of the school is Ms Meg Fargher. Since her appointment in mid-2013, capital projects such as the new Arts Centre and Astro Hockey Field in particular, are well advanced. Ms Fargher has also focused on achieving excellence in all areas of endeavour within Somerset College and creating a place that demands an aversion to mediocrity. As she has put it, “Somerset College has been built on courage and generosity, the grace of God and the power of the dream. … Somerset College determines to be a great school in and for South Africa, and indeed Africa.”

Mr Stephen Ramsay
Head of Department: History