On Wednesday 6 October 2021, we were delighted to welcome Olympian and former World Champion Mark Foster as our guest of honour to officially open the St John’s Sports Centre!

Autumn 2019 saw the completion of our exciting project to replace the old swimming pool with a new competition-standard six lane, 25m pool, as well as exceptional new sports facilities including a new conditioning suite, studio and sports changing areas.

We were thrilled to see pupils’ enthusiasm as we opened the doors to the new sports centre at the start of the 2019-20 academic year; from the stunning pool to the brilliantly equipped fitness suite, pupils began making use of everything on offer. We’d originally hoped to hold an official opening in early 2020, however the Covid 19 pandemic quashed those hopes, resulting in the event taking place little later than intended. Nevertheless, we are tremendously excited about the Sports Centre and what it will provide to our school and the local community.

The Sports Centre is an impressive addition to the School, which has been nominated for a Royal Institute of British Architects award, and enabled us to offer opportunities to a number of local primary schools, including Leatherhead Trinity, St Peter’s, West Ashtead, Epsom Primary and West Hill, a special school for children with learning and additional needs. It has also provided a high-quality facility for the wider community and has already been used by local swimming, netball and cricket clubs.

Whilst the delays we faced were disappointing, they pale into insignificance compared to the struggles faced with the construction of the first ever St John’s swimming pool! Following the 1913 school fire and the Great War, the swimming bath was opened in 1925 as a memorial to the Old Johnians lost in World War I, some forty years after originally desired! In 1930, our swimming team entered the Bath Cup for the first time, and began, unbeknownst to them at the time, a lasting tradition, as the Bath Cup is still a highlight of the competitive swimming calendar and, in 2018, our boys and girls won their respective Dunelm and Aldenham cups, making St John’s the first school to ever win all four cups and setting new records in the process. (Read more about the History of St John’s here).

During the evening, The Head Rowena Cole spoke to esteemed guests about the Sports Centre and during her speech, commented: ‘We all recognise that buildings don’t make a school. It’s people – this wonderful community of pupils, staff, parents, and friends – who define us. But buildings can represent something powerful about our values and about what we’re striving for: they can represent aspiration; they can represent the commitment to do things to the very best of our ability; and they can represent a desire to give back to the wider community.’

The Head gave her thanks to everybody who contributed to making the ambitious construction project a reality. ‘I know what a difference it will make, not only to our own pupils but also to the many others who we’ll be able to share these facilities with, for many years to come.’

Olympian and World Champion, Mark Foster officially opened the Sports Centre, enthusing about the phenomenal facilities available to our community; Mark spoke to parents and pupils about the importance of perseverance and shooting for the stars. As one of the UK’s most successful competitive swimmers of all time, Mark is a true inspiration to not only our young aspiring athletes, but all pupils, becoming the fastest swimmer in the country at the age of 15. Whilst displaying two of his favourite medals, he discussed the previous ’23 years of not giving up, and keeping on believing!’

The Head often discusses the importance of aiming high, and that pupils should push themselves with determined effort to aim for and achieve brilliance, and this is something Mark Foster resonated with throughout his speech. Whilst Mark was encouraged and supported throughout his life by his committed family, just as our pupils are supported by their families and our school community, he stressed the effort that he invested to train, compete and win medals was something only he was responsible for. Mark summarised to pupils that ‘you get out what you put in – if you put in 1/10 effort, you will get a 1/10 results but with the right attitude and behaviour, and putting in 10/10 you can achieve anything! Whatever you do, whether it be sport or any other endeavours – you never know what is possible if you commit to something. If you don’t try, you can’t fail, so it is always better to give it a go!’

The Head closed the speeches by thanking Mark and concluded with the hope that our pupils should be inspired to ‘Be bold. Be brave. And look beyond what you know you can achieve, to find the edges of your brilliance.’