Farewell to Jonathan as he retires from King's

Jonathan is retiring, after serving as Director of Finance for 20 years.

A former King’s pupil, Jonathan took the bus in from Over Peover aged seven in 1971, and left in 1982 to study Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College, London. He has been front and centre of the school's visionary rebuild.

After qualifying as a chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse, he worked in corporate finance in the City with Charterhouse Bank for 5 years. Jonathan then returned to live in Macclesfield working for Norweb and United Utilities before being headhunted by civil engineers John Kennedy, experience that would prove to be vital later at King's.

It was when he became a member of the King's Former Pupils' Association, that he was first asked to look at the school's financial structure, and so impressive was his analysis that the school's then bankers NatWest, recommended he be appointed Finance Director in 2004.

After boosting the school's financial position partly by building a new Sixth Form Centre that helped to increase the school roll up to a record 1502 pupils, coincidentally the date King's was founded, stormy waters created by the financial crash of 2008/ 2009, determined more extensive plans.  

"During the crash there was a lot of belt tightening," remembered Jonathan, "and what became increasingly apparent was that we could not continue to operate with the running costs of two aging town centre sites.”

In 2014, then Governor and East Cheshire Councillor, the redoubtable Hilda Gaddum, got the Council and the Head at King's at the time, Dr Simon Hyde, to work together on Simon and Jonathan’s ‘2020 Vision’ to re-unite the school on a single purpose-built campus. "East Cheshire wanted 500 new homes on brown-field sites in Macclesfield rather than see surrounding villages impacted by many new homes and King's needed to identify a suitable green-field site, for a single campus new build," said Jonathan. "It required a change of policy from the Council because at that time schools were not allowed to be built on greenbelt sites, but when 55 acres adjacent to the Derby Fields in Prestbury became available, it seemed ideal."

The landowner had been related to William Brocklehurst, a former Chair of Governors, and agreed the sale, with Simon and Jonathan approaching former pupil William Jackson, who - like the School’s founder Sir John Percyvale - had carved out a successful career in the City. William provided a generous donation to enable the Governors to secure the land for King's.

“We then needed to sell our two sites, on Cumberland Street and Fence Avenue, raising a total of £35 million and secure planning approval before we could begin the development of the new campus in August 2018."

All was going well, or so they thought, when COVID struck and Jonathan had to persuade the builders to continue to push the project forwards as the school had to vacate its old sites. "To meet the COVID restrictions, workers had to spread out across the site and we held our site meetings out in the fields."

Jonathan added: "We finished only a few weeks behind schedule in August 2020, just ready for the start of the new school year. But subsequent lockdowns meant schools nationally ended up closing their doors again."

"This is when we saw the King's at its very best, countering adversity. The staff rallied together; we invested in the latest IT and adapted what we did, to ensure we were able to offer a full academic curriculum remotely, using Microsoft Teams and other online applications."

Now, nearly four years later and King's £60million campus is the envy of the independent sector with facilities bar none and academic performance dramatically improved. "We have waiting lists at every age level and numbers are back to 1330."

"As well as topping league tables for academic results, the sport, music, drama and D of E programme is excelling making use of our great facilities. We’re currently rank in the top 25 schools in the UK for sport and are regularly winning national championships across a range of sports for both girls and boys."

"Our governors are still looking ahead and are continuing to invest in our facilities, with projects such as a new sports pavilion and new solar panels to generate a third of our energy needs. It would be more if the sun came out more often in Macclesfield.”

"So now, after 20 years, I feel is the perfect time to step aside. I've had a fantastic time at the school as a pupil, parent and as Director of Finance and it's someone else's turn to take on the daily challenges and develop the school."

Head of King’s, Jason Slack added: “The school owes Jonathan an enormous debt of gratitude for his commitment over such a long period.  Jonathan’s legacy of a thriving and vibrant school housed within incredible facilities is something of which we can all be proud.  It will be strange not having Jonathan around and we will miss his wise counsel as well as his appreciated camaraderie.  However, Jonathan’s hard work leaves King’s School in a strong position and we can look forward with confidence and optimism.”