Cheltenham College Westal Boarding House Opening Melinda LettsAt the end of the Easter holidays Westal, the latest boarding house for girls at Cheltenham College, was officially opened.

During a well attended evening, guest of honour Melinda Letts OBE (OC), one of the first girls to attend College in the 1970s officially opened the House in front of guests that included pupils, parents, staff, donors, planners and developers.

Melinda began life as a Classicist, reading Literae Humaniores at Oxford and subsequently worked as Research Assistant to Professor Keith Hopkins, with whom she collaboratively authored a chapter of his book Death and Renewal (1983). Following this she decided to pursue her other major interest, voluntary action for social change, and worked in the not-for-profit sector for two decades, including five years with Voluntary Service Overseas, where she became South Asia Regional Manager, and fifteen years in patient advocacy as Chief Executive of Asthma UK, Chair of the Long-term Conditions Alliance, a member of various Department of Health advisory bodies, and Chair of Parkinson’s UK. In 2009 Melinda resumed academic life, returning to Oxford to take an MSt in Latin and Greek Languages and Literature at Christ Church. She is now pursuing doctoral research under the joint supervision of Professor Chris Pelling (University of Oxford) and Professor Helen King (The Open University) as well as teaching undergraduate Latin and Greek as a Retained Lecturer at Jesus College. 

During a fascinating and inspirational speech, Melinda praised the co-educational ethos of College and urged the pupils to make the most of the wonderful opportunity afforded to them by an education at Cheltenham College. 

Cheltenham College believes that school is a preparation for life, and life is co-educational. Learning to live, work, interact and socialise with members of both sexes is all part of the challenge of adolescence. Co-education is fundamental to the interpersonal and social development of all children. Developing leadership and life skills is far more meaningful in a co-educational environment. 

Dr Alex Peterken, Headmaster, speaking during the opening evening stated:  “40% of College’s pupils are now girls, and we can be proud to call ourselves a truly co-educational school, rather than a boys’ school with some girls allowed in. The completion of Westal means that Cheltenham College is now at the forefront of co-educational schools. Heath Avery Partnerships have designed a fabulous building that will surely become the standard that all boarding schools will aspire to in the future.” 

Cheltenham College Westal Boarding House Opening

Westal is named after the family home where artic explorer Edward Wilson (Old Cheltonian) grew up. It initially opened in September 2013 to a cohort of 50 girls, Third Form to Sixth Form, including 12 Fourth Form Founders’ Scholars. The project has surpassed aspirations and was achieved 1 year ahead of schedule and under budget, a fantastic achievement for all involved.

In September 2014 Westal will be home to 70 girls achieving its full complement. 

Lauren Bennett (L6, W) who joined College in September 2013, commented when asked about the facilities: “Westal is lovely. The common rooms are really good because we can all spend time together and make friends.”   

The £3.6 million building, which sees younger girls in small dormitories of four, Fifth Form pupils in twin rooms and Sixth Formers in en-suite single rooms, is part of a continuing programme of development and refurbishment at Cheltenham College which started with the £1.5 million refurbishment of the Chatfeild-Roberts Library and Big Classical theatre in 2011.

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