Cumbria’s only independent stand-alone preparatory school, Hunter Hall, wished a very special person ‘Happy holidays and happy retirement’ at the end of term last week.

Headteacher, Donna Vinsome is hanging up her cap and gown after 10 years leading the Hunter Hall School community. Her tenure there is the culmination of 37 years teaching – much of that time as a geography specialist ,starting in the state sector, before moving to the independent sector in 2001 taking up a post at Durham School. Then in 2003, a move to Warwickshire where she became Pastoral Deputy Head at Bilton Grange – a busy day and boarding school.

Donna started life in the North East, growing up in a coal mining family in County Durham. Fate would lead her to Cumbria in 2013, and safe to say, she and the school have never looked back.

The role of a Headteacher in a small, independent prep school is nothing if not varied. Beyond providing leadership and direction, Donna can also lay claim to a slew of other roles including, but not limited to : photographer, negotiator, counsellor, cleaner, catering manager, risk assessment reviewer, mother figure – and, oh yes – teacher!

Mrs Vinsome, affectionately known as ‘Mrs V’ has been a rock for so many, enthusing children about the world around us through her geography and religious education lessons. This has resulted in many of her charges going on to study these subjects at the highest levels, thanks to their interest being sparked by Mrs V.

Just some of the milestones and achievements which really demonstrate the depth of her leadership and dedication to the school include: 

  • Appointment of not one but three chairs of governors
  • Fundraising and development of a dedicated science centre
  • Launching a full school timetable of online learning through Covid-19 as well as maintaining the financial stability of the school
  • Two ISI (Independent Schools’ Inspectorate) inspections, the latest in February 2022 with another top result of ‘Excellent’
  • Launching an outdoor education programme along with her outdoor education lead member of staff to rival some of the biggest schools in the country
  • Over 2000 morning gate duties
  • Over 900 children through Hunter Hall
  • A thriving school community which continues to grow, with a superb staff , governor and parent body

Chair of Governors, Natalie Harling commented: 

“She is an inspirational lady who selflessly always considers the needs of the children above all else. Since arriving at Hunter Hall back in 2013, Mrs Vinsome has created a school like no other, opportunities for the children are endless, through her personal values and ethos she has always led the school with the greatest of compassion and dedication. She has touched the lives of so many families over her ten years and will be greatly missed by many. Hunter Hall now look forward to welcoming Mr Borrows to the school in September to step into her very large shoes!”

But even with the prospect of a lighter schedule, Mrs Vinsome already has a list of tasks and challenges she’s going to complete with her new-found, hard-won free time. She will continue her governor duties at Barnard Castle School as well as continue to sit as a trustee on the ITRUST board – helping children who would benefit, access to an education such as the one delivered by Hunter Hall. She hopes to resume completing the 630 mile South West Coast Path (she’s completed 190 miles so far in-between headmistress duties!), to getting out in the garden and spending more time with her own children and her first grandchild, born last November – her days are set to be busy and rewarding – perhaps just at a slightly less hectic pace!

Donna leaves Hunter Hall in a very healthy position and in safe hands as new Headmaster, Paul Borrows prepares to take the reins from September.  Hunter Hall’s next open week runs from Saturday 7 – Friday 13 October 2023. To find out more and register, visit www.hunterhall.co.uk. Hunter Hall is Cumbria’s only independent preparatory and pre-school for children aged 3 – 11 years and is located on the outskirts of Penrith.