The Association of Junior Independent Schools is a vibrant organisation with 32 member schools across the North West of England.
The Association of Junior Independent Schools is a vibrant organisation with 32 member schools across the North West of England. AJIS (as it is known) was founded in 1987 when David Franklin (Head of Prep at Birkenhead School from 1977 to 1990) organised and hosted an initial meeting of 14 Independent Junior School Heads. The Association soon established a constitution, new members joined and termly meetings took place.
Harry FitzHerbert joined AJIS in 2013, on his appointment as Head of Prep here at Birkenhead School and, having just relocated with his family from Madrid, he recalls hosting the Association’s 79th Heads Meeting in his very first term. “This ‘surprise’ was a parting gift from my predecessor, Janet Skelly, and it turned out to be the start of a fascinating journey for me. We had an excellent meeting and the Heads particularly enjoyed their three course lunch with table service –something Birkenhead School is renowned for! Everyone was so warm, friendly and supportive and I realised this could become a valuable support network for me in my new job.”
Mr FitzHerbert, Head of Prep, Birkenhead School
At the AGM, which took place the following term, Mr FitzHerbert was invited to join the Steering Committee. He took a keen interest in developing further opportunities for pupils through fixtures and events and for staff through subject meetings and training courses.
In September 2018, Mr FitzHerbert attended the AJIS Conference in the Lake District. By that time, he had served on the Steering Committee for 5 years and the position of Chairman was about to become vacant. The outgoing Chair asked him if he would be interested in the role. He felt honoured and excited to be asked and said he would be delighted to take it on if elected. At the AGM, he was unanimously voted in and found himself chairing the Business Meeting and then, that very evening, having to make an after dinner speech!
He thoroughly enjoyed his first year as Chairman and hosted another meeting at Birkenhead School – and of course another amazing lunch. AJIS launched a new series of Maths, English and Science courses for staff and these proved very popular. Various long-standing Heads reached retirement and new Heads joined, so the Chairman was often busy sorting out role allocation within Steering as the Secretary, Activities Coordinator and Courses Coordinator positions all needed filling. It was decided at Steering that, with the 100th Heads Meeting due to take place in May 2020, there ought to be an event to mark this milestone. A year in advance, Mr FitzHerbert set about organising a conference in the Lake District. He invited current and former Heads and arranged a key note speaker and a formal dinner. Sadly, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event had to be postponed and it is still yet to take place. In the meantime, Mr FitzHerbert has been chairing regular video meetings for the AJIS Heads and these have proved an invaluable way of sharing practice and discussing approaches as the Heads guide their schools through these unprecedented times.
At this year’s AGM (which had to be a virtual meeting), having completed 2 years in the role of Chairman, Mr FitzHerbert was unanimously re-elected. With three new Heads joining the association, the latest initiative is a buddy system – experienced Heads within the association making themselves available to provide support and advice for new Heads. As Mr FitzHerbert embarks on his second term as Chairman, he can’t help wondering if he will be able to host the 100th Heads Meeting as planned. However, what he is most looking forward to is the day when matches, tournaments and cultural events for AJIS pupils can resume: “At the heart of AJIS is the commitment of member schools to provide great opportunities for pupils through the collaboration of our schools. The other Heads and I can’t wait to receive the Government go ahead for our inter-school fixtures and events to resume, but rest assured the safety of our pupils and staff will always remain our top priority.”
Birkenhead School is a leading independent school within the North West of England. Places are currently being accepted for 2021 intake and further information on the opportunities available is available via our Admissions Team:
Seniors & Sixth Form Admissions - Ms Julie Hopper - firstname.lastname@example.org
Prep Admissions - Mrs Helen Askew & Mrs Bev Farlam - email@example.com
Early Years Admissions - Miss Jenny Hughes - firstname.lastname@example.org