Full announcement: Dr Katy Ricks’ retirement and appointment of Mrs Kirsty von Malaisé as first Chief Master & Principal of KES and KEHS

Dr Katy Ricks’ retirement and appointment of Mrs Kirsty von Malaisé as first Chief Master & Principal of KES and KEHS
Dr Katy Ricks’ retirement and appointment of Mrs Kirsty von Malaisé as first Chief Master & Principal of KES and KEHS

The Independent Schools Governing Body, which governs King Edward’s School, Birmingham and King Edward VI High School for Girls has announced that Dr Katy Ricks, KES Chief Master, has decided to retire at the end of the 2023/24 school year after 22 years of headship and 39 years in education.

In a historic move, the roles of Chief Master of KES and Principal of KEHS are being fused to create a new role of Chief Master & Principal of both schools. ISGB has appointed Mrs Kirsty von Malaisé, KEHS Principal, to be Chief Master & Principal of KES and KEHS from September 2024. It will be the first time in the schools’ histories – KES founded 471 years ago and KEHS 140 years ago – that a joint headship appointment has been made. The future of the schools will see a further harmonisation of pupil and staff experience which has begun this year under the existing integrated leadership team, which brings together senior leaders from each school and some who work across both schools, building on the schools’ core strengths to offer the best education, within and beyond the curriculum. There are no plans to merge the schools into a single institution.

In 2019, Dr Ricks became the first woman to hold the post of KES Chief Master since the school’s founding in 1552, returning to where she had previously spent three years as an English teacher in the early part of her career.

Lucy Williams, chair of ISGB, said: “We are indebted to Dr Katy Ricks for her strategic leadership. She has instilled a forward-thinking approach to ensure that KES remains a leader and innovator in all the key facets of the King Edward’s experience: an approach to academic study based on curiosity and the pursuit of discovery, a broad and impactful co-curriculum, pastoral education that empowers students to live balanced lives with meaning and purpose, accessibility and inclusivity. She has led discussions on how the Edgbaston campus, shared with KEHS and the wider King Edward VI Foundation, can meet the needs of students and staff both today and in the decades to come, with this work now being brought to life by the recently commissioned masterplan.

“Katy has also reinvigorated the Chief Master’s parallel role of Headmaster of the King Edward VI Foundation, championing collaboration at the heart of this unique educational institution with a mission to make Birmingham the best place to be educated in the UK.

“Over the coming year, there will be many opportunities for the King Edward’s community to thank Katy for her service and I know that colleagues, pupils, parents and alumni will be keen to do so.”
Dr Katy Ricks said: “I will be 63 by the time I retire and one of the longest-serving heads in the independent sector. Before I accepted the position of Chief Master of King Edward’s, a second headship had never been part of my plan: however, the opportunity to join one of the country’s greatest schools – an institution steeped in history but developing its forward-facing outlook, and at the heart of a unique educational Foundation with a bold mission for its home city – was unmissable.

“KES and KEHS have a tremendous sense of shared purpose, for their own pupils, for pupils within the wider Foundation and for Birmingham, and having one Chief Master & Principal will enable both schools to fully realise this shared purpose. It has been a privilege to lead a school I love dearly through such an important part of its history, building on the work of my predecessors and with gratitude to all those who have encouraged us to think big and be innovative. I would also like to thank Governors for being part of this exciting journey and Kirsty for the close working relationship we have fostered, without which this next chapter in the schools’ stories would not yet have been written.”

Mrs von Malaisé joined KEHS as Principal in 2020, having been Head of Norwich High School, Deputy Head of Putney High School and at an earlier point holding a number of positions in co-educational state schools in London. She was educated at The Purcell School, where she is now a Governor, and then won a scholarship to attend music conservatoire, followed by Christ’s College, Cambridge, where she read English. A BBC Young Musician of the Year prizewinner, she has lately returned to this interest to complete a Master’s degree in Music. Her other interests include a variety of outdoor pursuits. Kirsty’s education since the age of seven was enabled by a full bursary, and she is committed to providing the best opportunities for bright students regardless of their financial background.

Lucy Williams said: “ISGB is delighted to appoint Kirsty von Malaisé to the role of Chief Master & Principal of KES and KEHS, a role which will also include being Headmaster of the Foundation, and we look forward to working with her as she leads the two schools through this significant period in their history. There will be much preparatory work between now and September 2024, when Kirsty will assume her new position, particularly on the development of joint and school-specific leadership structures, including Heads of School for both schools, to ensure that KES and KEHS have strategic and operational leadership that enables staff and students to thrive.

“Kirsty’s time as KEHS Principal has been characterised by energy, strategic vision and dedication to ensuring that benefits to students and staff are considered front and centre in all decision-making. Since Kirsty joined KEHS at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the school has recorded its best-ever A Level results in summer 2022, opened a new Design Centre in January 2023 to facilitate the broadening of the curriculum to encompass DT and Computing at GCSE and is advancing a hugely beneficial Digital Strategy. Kirsty has chaired the Girls’ School Association’s Future of Assessment group during this time, which contributes to national conversations around curriculum and assessment.”

Kirsty von Malaisé said: “I am thrilled to be appointed to the historic new position of Chief Master & Principal of two of the leading schools in the UK, as well as Headmaster of the Foundation. I look forward to working with staff, parents, pupils, alumni and supporters, to continue the schools’ long-standing traditions of intellectual and co-curricular excellence, and to build on the great strengths of these wonderful schools. The proposition to move forward together as one, under one leader and an integrated leadership team, will enable us to forge a dynamic, ambitious and inclusive model, which reflects what education in a modern Birmingham, a modern UK and a modern world needs to be. “I am deeply grateful for the great trust that has been placed in me, and am fully committed to doing everything in my power to ensure that KEHS and KES remain inspiring places in which to teach and to learn.”

Since Katy notified governors of her decision to retire, ISGB, with external support, has led a robust and thorough process to assess options for the future leadership of KES and KEHS, culminating in Kirsty’s appointment this month.

Lucy Williams said: “KES and KEHS are two of the country’s leading independent schools, and the fact that they exist within one Foundation and on the same campus makes their position all the more unique. There has been a tremendous move towards collaboration in recent years, led by Katy and Kirsty who together have sought to unlock the many benefits that this offers to students and staff, while also recognising that KES and KEHS are two schools with established identities. We are looking ahead to a shared strategy for KES and KEHS, and there are a number of bold and strategically important projects underway that will contribute to this, including the masterplan, conversations around how we can drive forward our commitment to accessibility, and the development of the schools’ role in the wider Foundation. Given this strategic context, Governors agreed that the time was right to formalise collaboration through the appointment of a single Chief Master & Principal for both schools.

“The future of the schools will see a further harmonisation of pupil and staff experience which has begun this year under the existing integrated leadership team. There are no plans to merge the schools into a single institution.”

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