St Catherine's officially open nursery in honour of Headteacher's passing

By Jessica Durston - 1 October 2021

  • Bishop Declan Lang and Nursery teacher Jo Bailey with some of the nursery pupils

    Bishop Declan Lang and Nursery teacher Jo Bailey with some of the nursery pupils

Andrew Henstridge's legacy has been commemorated with a plaque and nursery dedication in his honour.

The commemorative plaque, created by Judy Guillery and Ben Edmonds

Andrew was the Executive Headteacher of St Catherine's, St. Mary's and Holy Cross. He passed away unexpectedly on 1 March this year, at the age of 51. His death came as a result of a short battle with cancer. 

Andrew was said to be the driving force behind the opening of the nursery and although it began operating on 19 August, the school felt it was not an appropriate time to celebrate, as it was still grieving. 

This month saw Bishop Declan Lang in attendance to say a prayer and bless the nursery at its official opening. 

Local artist Judy Guillery, and inventor and designer Ben Edmonds, worked together to create a bespoke commemorative plaque that will be placed within the nursery. 

St Catherine's Headteacher, Sarah Burke, said: “Andrew really was the driving force behind the opening of the nursery at St Catherine’s. In fact he was the one to convince me that this was the way to go. After losing him in March, we wanted to find a permanent way to remember him, and doing so through something that he was instrumental in starting, felt right.

“We wanted to honour him and keep him alive within our school.”

An assembly with all students and staff took place to welcome Bishop Declan Lang, and to reflect on Andrew Henstridge's passing and the significance of the nursery's opening. Bishop Lang spoke to the children about the importance of education and asked some of the pupils what their favourite things were about St Catherine's. 

A purple silk ribbon was held by two students as Bishop Lang said a prayer. The ribbon was cut and students and staff alike, applauded. The colour purple was chosen as it is the colour of the nursery, and school staff said it is the colour of aspiration.

Bishop Declan Lang said: “It has been important to commemorate the memory of Andrew Henstridge because he was very much at the centre of education and schooling within Swindon, and within the diocese as well. It was a great loss when he died so suddenly.

"It was good to open the nursery as it will be a place of care for children from three years old upwards. It’s great to open this place in memory of someone who was a brilliant headmaster, and who had a real deep love of education and for young people.

"This visit has been important, not only because it is one of the schools within our Clifton diocese, but because education is a very important part of the life of the Church. It’s a delight to see the children here, and to see St Catherine’s is a happy school.

"The last time I visited, I was gifted a bag with some goodies and on it were the words 'Be what God means for you to be and you will set the world on fire.' Those words really stuck with me."

After the ribbon was cut to signify the official opening of the nursery, the students sang the St Catherine's song. Headteacher Sarah Burke shared with everyone, the words on the commemorative plaque: "How lucky we are to have known someone who made saying goodbye so hard."

The children were then dismissed back to their classrooms for purple coloured cake, and Bishop Lang and Sarah Burke entered the nursery to conduct its blessing with holy water.  

A funeral was held for Andrew on 1 April at St Mary's Roman Catholic Church. Andrew was a parishioner there and also ran the First Holy Communion classes for the children of the Parish. 

His family said: "He was an amazing husband, dad, son, brother, friend and Headteacher. He enriched the lives of everyone he met."

Andrew worked in education for over twenty years of his life. He started at Holy Family School, moved to Wroughton Juniors as Deputy Head, went to St Sampson's as Headteacher, went to Peatmoor School as the Headteacher and then moved to St Mary's and St Catherine's in 2015, as Executive Head. Last year, Andrew also began to work as Executive Head at Holy Cross School. 

'Supportive, funny, inspiring, joyful, enthusiastic, generous, understanding, kind, caring and loving' were words chosen by children who knew Andrew, to describe him. 

Sarah Burke added: "He embraced fun in school, and was known to wear costumes - two memorable ones being his inflatable rocket costume and his Mr Incredible suit.

"He wanted children to enjoy being at school. He introduced them to different sports such as curling, frisbee, boccia, archery and go karting. Andrew also ran football teams."

Headteacher at St Mary's, Rachael Weaver, said: "Mr Henstridge was the pillar of light and strength at the heart of our school communities. All who knew him were shocked and deeply saddened by his death. His legacy lives on through the light he brought and shared so readily with everyone around him."

A total of £5000 was raised for Cancer Research UK via Just Giving, in Andrew's name. 

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