Five Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge people share their New Year’s resolutions

Read a Q&A with five people who live and work locally on how their 2017 unfolded and what they are hoping for next year. 

Ian Bauckham: Executive Head at Bennett Memorial Diocesan School Tunbridge Wells and Chairman of the Tenax Trust, a Church of England Multi Academy Trust

Can you sum up 2017 for us, please?

Busy and fascinating. I have the benefit of a wonderful team of colleagues, and it’s a privilege to work in an organisation where there is such unity of purpose and preparedness to go the extra mile for our children, young people and their parents and families. There are three significant positives from 2017. The first was the opening of Bishop Chavasse Church of England Primary School in Tonbridge in September, under the leadership of its new Head Teacher Donna Weeks. The second was the opening of the new Bennett Memorial all-weather floodlit sports pitch – a long-term ambition fulfilled at last. And the third highlight was when I was told I had been awarded the CBE for services to education. The trouble is, I was not allowed to tell anyone for nearly seven weeks. It was, though, a humbling and very affirming experience.

What would you like to see happen in 2018?

Getting the permanent building for Bishop Chavasse underway will be very exciting, and we hope to make progress with the other approved free school we have, to be named St Andrew’s, in Paddock Wood. Finally, it’s really important to keep on improving the professional development for our teachers. If you don’t invest in teachers and give them constant access to high-quality development, then teaching received by children will not be the best it possibly can be, nor will you be able to recruit or retrain great teachers.

How will you make that happen?

Constant hard work, pressurising key decision-makers, and keeping ahead of educational research myself so I can give pointers to others in our group of schools.

What would you like to see change next year?

The improvement of the flow of traffic along the A26 in Southborough, near where I live, and no more temporary traffic lights there! Secondly, to do something about the old cinema site in the town centre. It is an eyesore and an embarrassment for a town like Tunbridge Wells.

Liz Orr Member of the Tunbridge Wells Women’s Equality Party

How was 2017 for you?

It has been a really interesting year for me. I have always been politically aware but felt, as a woman, my voice wasn’t really being heard, and I felt disappointed that women still don’t have equality with men. So, when I heard about the Women’s Equality Party [WEP], I knew it was for me. I signed up fast and helped to make a little bit of history by leading canvass teams to support the first Women’s Equality candidate to stand in Tunbridge Wells for both the Kent County Council and General Election. Connecting with residents over some of today’s big political issues as they painted their sheds or fixed their motorbikes was an absolute highlight. And we got great results for a first outing, which has shown me that people do really care about equality.

And the worst moment?

The low point was when the BBC published their salaries and it became clear that, 47 years after the Equal Pay Act, women still earn significantly less than men for doing the same job.

What would you like to see happen in 2018?

In the centenary year of women first getting the vote, I want to see Tunbridge Wells Women’s Equality Party getting their first borough councillor elected in the local elections in May.

How are you going to make that happen?

Next year I’m going to stand as a councillor in the local borough elections in May in my ward, Culverden, where I have lived for 18 years. Sometimes you have to stand and be counted.

Which one single thing would you like to see changed in 2018?

I would like to see more breakfast and after-school clubs for pupils in primary schools to help facilitate women getting back into full-time work.

Annabel Guye-Johnson A student at Kent College, Pembury, and a member of RTW Monson swimming club. 

How was 2017 for you?

It has honestly been an amazing year. It was early this year that I found out I had been selected to compete for Team GB at the Junior World Championships to be held in Indianapolis, USA, in August. After that, there was a lot of hard work to prepare for the meet. I competed in the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke. The 50m and 100m I was happy with, but they weren’t quite where I was aiming – though I made it to the semi-finals in both. Then it was the 200m breaststroke. This wasn’t my preferred event, but it was my last of the meet so I wanted to make it count! I managed to make it through to the final, claiming a bronze medal after a three-second personal best. It just shows that anything is possible if the mind is in the right place. I was recently named Talent Athlete of the Year for swimming by the sport’s national governing body, Swim England.

And what about 2018?

I would like to continue to improve in the pool and hopefully make another GB team.

How are you going to make that happen?

The key thing is hard work: As Mahatma Ghandi said: “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” It’s about making sure I make the most of every session and put my all into each one. Success crowns effort, as they say. Lastly, I will be focusing on the finer details.

What would you change next year?

Something I would like to change next year would be to live next door to the pool!

Gareth Withers The Head of Academy at Tonbridge Juddians Rugby Football Club

How was 2017 for you?

We are reaching the end of a pretty special year for Tonbridge Juddians. 2017 saw the Academy win the Under-17 National Cup, the Kent League and Cup double and the South-East Divisional title. Meanwhile, the 1st XV won promotion to National Two, and also won the Kent Senior Cup for the second time in three years. 2018 has much to live up to, but – as always – the target is onwards and upwards. The memorable victory in Worcester was the Academy’s second national triumph in three seasons, and came with a completely different group of players. The 2017-18 season has started well with the Academy top of the Under-17 Kent League following a significant victory over Old Elthamians. And the Under-18s are into the second round of the newly formed RFU National Cup, following a resounding first-round defeat of Dartfordians.

What would you Iike to see happen next year?

To better the achievements of last season is a daunting task. The last time TJs Academy won a national title it took two years to win a second, so the challenge now is to defend it and win back-to-back championships. It is also a major target of the Academy to produce more homegrown players for the National League 1st XV, and there are several prospects in the system at the moment, with a couple already training with the 1st XV squad. The new 3G training ground, the strength of the coaching team, sports therapy provision and the attention to detail brought by resident sports psychologist Mark Healey all make the Academy a thriving part of the club and a very special environment to be part of.

On the bigger pitch of life, which one single thing would you change?

The ridiculous traffic in Tonbridge High Street.

Paul Mason Member of the Tunbridge Wells Bicycle Users’ Group

How was 2017 for you?

Excellent. The best bit was seeing the A21 cycle path open with a proper tarmac surface, not crushed aggregate. It is also good to see the change in mood within Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Kent County Council and even at government level as people realise they cannot build their way out of congestion and are starting to take walking and cycling seriously as an alternative means of transport.

What would you like to see happen in 2018?

A revamp of the Pembury cycle path according to the detailed improvements we have suggested. These include: Raised tables and stop chevrons at side turnings to give cyclists priority, and induction loop operated Toucan crossings.

How are you going make that happen?

By politely but insistently putting the case for such investments at every meeting and to every town and county councillor – with the aim that Britain should emulate and surpass the Dutch in transforming our villages, towns, cities and countryside into welcoming and pleasant environments for pedestrians and people on bikes. In the UK, 60 per cent of car journeys are less than five miles.

Which one single thing would you change next year?

In a small, overcrowded island, we would like to see the government take control of the roads and railways and all forms of transport so that our society can exercise joined-up thinking to create a transport system and network which works for everyone, protects our environment and is conducive to health and happiness.


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