Summer 2018: A season full of exciting education events to add to your diary

ISBA Conference

Education events, conferences and exhibitions provide an excellent opportunity for those involved in this sector to build relationships and to discuss key industry topics.

There are several exciting education events taking place across the UK in the coming months. These events have been designed not only for schools, colleges but also businesses working in the education sector.


Boarding School Association Annual Conference for Heads – 1st-3rd May

The BSA Annual Conference for Heads brings together an array of headteachers and senior leadership teams from across the UK to look at all corners of the boarding school environment.

The three day conference is being held at The Grand Hotel in Brighton with an exciting lineup of speakers including Reverend Steve Chalke MBE, Founder of the Inspire Project, Vice Admiral Ben Key CBE, Commander of the Fleet, former boarder and boarding school governor and Bettany Hughes, English Historian, Author and Broadcaster.

We are looking forward to having a stand at this event so don’t forget to come and visit us to discuss how our services can benefit your boarding school.


Independent Schools’ Bursars Association Annual Conference – 9th-10th May

We will also be going to the ISBA Annual Conference, a two-day conference which attracts over 400 bursars and senior management staff from member schools.

The conference will be covering an array of themes from Brexit and future proofing school as a business, to the introduction of GDPR and how this will impact the education sector.

We have been an exhibitor at this annual event for 20 years as it provides us with an opportunity to catch up with schools we’ve had the pleasure of working with before as well as meet new faces.

This year is going to be particularly special for us as we would like to celebrate our 20th anniversary with both new and familiar faces attending.

Make sure you join us on our stand during the afternoon coffee session on Wednesday 9th which also happens to be the Chairman Chris Jones’ 60th Birthday.


Boarding School Association Annual Conference for Nurses and Matrons – 9th-11th July

This year’s BSA Annual Conference for Nurses and Matrons will be taking place at The Queens Hotel, Leeds from the 9th-10th July.

This conference provides people working in these roles to network with one another, whilst offering a range of exciting speakers and breakout sessions focusing on work/life blend, key policies and protocols.

This will be the first time that we have exhibited at this conference and we are looking forward to meeting the people working in these roles to learn more about the role they play in the wellbeing of students.

Summer 2018 is certainly a busy few months with exciting events catering for people from all corners of the education sector. Keep an eye out for us if you will be attending any of these conferences and exhibitions.

Putting safety first with AkzoNobel – Going Formaldehyde Free one School at a time

Bromsgrove School furniture

Keeping children safe in school and providing fit for purpose, sustainable furniture is a mantra that schools we work with adhere to.

Gone are the days when dangerous, chemically-coated furniture and fittings were all-too prevalent in the UK market place.

Bromsgrove School is a co-educational independent public school in Worcestershire who has a legacy of only using suppliers who can always deliver fit for purpose quality products and meet their exacting standards every time.

Today, Bromsgrove with 1600 pupils is one of the country’s bigger independent schools providing a unique micro-environment within the larger school for every pupil. As with most school’s development the actual infrastructure of their buildings is also key to both growth and sustainability.

We have built up a close operational relationship with Bromsgrove School spanning over nine years, working on a wide variety of projects; from single pieces of furniture through to furnishing whole boarding houses and classrooms

Working closely with the across their estate, we always ensure that their requirements are met in delivering the highest quality furniture for their students.

science laboratory furniture at Bromsgrove School

In producing these high-quality products we ensure that our manufacturing methods would be free of formaldehyde in any of the lacquering processes to safeguard both own workers and the end user.

We now use AkzoNobel Duracid FF products for all our products that require a lacquer finish. It’s a product that we prefer to use even when our clients don’t specify the need for formaldehyde free lacquer.

Using Duracid FF forms part of our commitment to continually improve the products that we manufacture.

We use hardwearing products and components, and as the furniture is being used in a school environment it’s essential that only non-harmful products are used. This is exactly where the Duracid FF range of products from AkzoNobel really come into their own.

Clive Dove, Technical Service Manager, Wood Finishes and Adhesives from AkzoNobel Wood Coatings said:

“The advanced chemistry of our Formaldehyde Free coatings is a good technology fit for this market, and it’s always a privilege to work with other specialist firms like Witley Jones who take safeguarding the school environment seriously”. Clive added, “there is a real synergy between the formaldehyde free coatings we can offer and the school furniture and fittings they manufacture, and this move is one that we at AkzoNobel wholly commend and support. Providing the right product for the right application with our Duracid FF range is actively helping companies like Witley Jones to meet a host of stringent demands”.

As part of our aim to continually improve our processes and furniture, we have chosen these products because they are hardwearing which is ideal for the heavy use of our products in a school environment. We use the lacquer range because we want to create products that do not contain harmful materials.

Mark Garnier MP opens Witley Jones Furniture Manufacturing Unit

Mark Garnier MP opens Witley Jones

Wyre Forest MP, Mark Garnier, officially opened Witley Jones Furniture’s new factory unit on Friday 16th February marking a vital milestone in the next stage of company’s growth.

We have built a dedicated 5000 sq. ft. assembly line which will create 11 jobs in the local economy.

“This is a great success story of how a family business in Wyre Forest have continued to invest and innovate to create a successful business providing vital employment opportunities for our local economy.

I was delighted to be invited by Chris Jones and Simon Downes to officially open the new unit” commented Mark Garnier, Wyre Forest MP.

We invited our suppliers, long-standing clients and associates for the grand opening of the new unit. Guests included Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, Councillor Ken Pollock and Boarding School Association.

Witley Jones welcome visitors for a tour of Stourport factory

After securing £100,000 grant from the Worcestershire Growth Fund with the help of Birmingham based Central Finance, we refurbished the unit to create a dedicated assembly and packaging space which will increase production by 20 percent.

Guests were taken on a guided tour of the factory to see how the bespoke furniture is manufactured. From the inception of the design in the drawing room, guests were shown the machine shop and paint and lacquer finishing booth before visiting the new assembly unit.

“We would like to thank Mark who kindly came along to our event to officially open the new factory unit as well as all of our guests who have supported us over the years.

The hard work and dedication of our staff has been essential to the opening of our new space and the continued growth of the business.

This marks the beginning of a key chapter for Witley Jones as we plan for future growth. The new factory unit has increased production by over 20 percent and will aid our continued growth over the coming years.” commented Chris Jones, Chairman, Witley Jones Furniture.

Guest visited Witley Jones Furniture assembly unit

Wycliffe College Increase Boarding House Provision

boarding furniture

Wycliffe College embarked on a project to increase their boarding house provision, providing a wider and flexible offering to boarding and day pupils.

Wards’ Boys House was rebuilt along with the Ivy Grove Girls House being repurposed for much needed classroom and office space.

The school now have a new mixed-use boarding facility for 13 to 18 years olds accommodating full time, flexi and day boarders in Gloucestershire. The house has been designed to provide shared social and communal areas for both boys and girls with the accommodation areas securely separated.

The aim was to move away from the dormitory style accommodation with shared facilities to create an agile accommodation and education environment.

Our design team worked with the school and Buttress Architects to achieve a modern look which was more homely than previous the dormitory arrangement. It was important to optimise the space available for studying, activities and storage.

The flexible design provides an easily adaptable space that can be transformed depending on the school’s requirements. Modules and furniture have been made to create a sustainable environment allowing the school the adapt their boarding options as required.

This was driven by a need to be able to respond to uncertainty in the type of boarder and mix of age and sex that is reflected in the different room layouts. The ability to adapt and interchange the room use with the same furniture gives a huge scope for flexibility.

The furniture design was integral to the planning of these modules and ability to adapt to different configurations and layout of furniture required for full boarders or day/flexi boarders.

During the project, we designed and manufactured bespoke bedroom and en-suite furniture for the boarding facility including beds, wardrobes and storage furniture to ensure that the available space was maximised, and to create a comfortable environment for the students. We also worked with the school to design items for the linen and laundry rooms in the dormitory.

bespoke boarding accommodation furniture

We designed and fitted a sample room according to the plans that had been agreed by Buttress Ltd and the client. This was essential to get a true feel for the furniture and how each piece integrated into the space.

“Witley Jones have worked with both the client and Buttress on numerous independent school boarding projects, which provided the confidence that they would deliver an excellent service, a collaborative and integrated approach as part of the client, design team and construction team with their long-standing Knowledge and experience of the bespoke furniture market.” Chris Whelan, Buttress Ltd.

“Witley Jones recently manufactured and installed over 65 bed spaces for Ward’s Boarding House here at Wycliffe. They also provided vanity units for each of the room’s en suites, dining furniture, trophy cabinets, common room furniture and furnished the cleaners/ linen store.

“They met our specific requirements for each of these area, particularly the level of detail involved with the intricacies in each of the bedrooms; they were flexible and able to adapt to the conditions of the build during their delivery and installation programme, as well as manufacturing everything within the agreed timeframe.

“We are delighted with the final outcome and the level of aftercare Witley Jones offer and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them for future projects.” Mick Rickard, Estates Bursar.

Epsom College complete next stage of Refurbishment Programme

During the summer of 2017 we supplied bespoke furniture for the latest phase of the refurbishment of the boarding and day houses at Epsom College which began in 2012.

The two projects being Fayrer and Robinson, have followed on from Granville, Carr, Propert, Newsome, Holman and Forest Houses.

The Fayrer project is a phased transformation from the current use as a boy’s boarding house, it is to be split into two day houses for both boys and girls, with the new girl’s day house being called Murrell.

We were asked by the school to help with the work in the Robinson House, which included work in the large common room, the kitchen area, extensive seating spaces and IT areas.

We have worked closely with NVB Architects on the design and development of the bespoke furniture for each stage of the programme.

From onset, innovative integrated electrics were installed into all furniture for the student’s personal space, providing each pupil with a study area that included storage and lighting as well as an integrated power supply and USB charging point.

The furniture has been designed to incorporate the character for the intended use depending on whether it is for a boarding house or a day house.

The items of furniture match the colour scheme of each house, this included other fabrics used throughout the spaces, curtains and bed linen.

“NVB have thoroughly enjoyed working with Witley Jones who are a very adaptable and friendly organisation.

“The development of the furniture design was a truly innovative process and the engagement of the client was considered throughout each stage of the design process.

“NVB have worked with Witley Jones on a number of projects and would recommend them to any school for the design and supply of their furniture.” commented Bill Button, NVB Architects.

“Witley Jones provide an excellent design service and this is supported by a flexible approach to installation.” Commented Sarah Teasdale, Bursar at Epsom College.

Sarah continued, “I would definitely recommend Witley Jones to a colleague. Given the majority of work is carried out over the summer, and inevitably there are unforeseen issues that cause delays to the construction phase of the refurbishment, Witley Jones are proactive in working around these challenges, thereby ensuring that all furniture is in place by the start of term.”

Dave Manser appointed as new Business Development Manager

Witley Jones appoint Dave Manser as Business Development Manager

Dave Manser has been appointed as Business Development Manager to support the next stage of our growth.

Dave will be working alongside Simon Downes and Matt Jones to deliver our high quality bespoke furniture to the independent education sector.

“I am delighted to have been offered this opportunity during an exciting time for Witley Jones. Since I started here nearly 10 years ago, I have been able to learn a variety of skills in all areas of the business and this new role represents the next step in my career.

“There is certainly a sense of achievement and I can only thank Chris, Jane, Simon, Matt and Tim for giving me this opportunity. I am looking forward to the future and the challenges that lie ahead.” commented Dave.

He started life at Witley Jones in the machine shop on a temporary basis before being offered a permanent position by Tim Whent who had joined as Operations Manager shortly after Dave started with us.

He soon moved onto the assembly benches before progressing into fitting and installing furniture which resulted in Dave becoming a lead site fitter.

“Meeting new people and building relationships is something that I have always enjoyed, working on site and installing the furniture allowed me to meet clients and ensure that we continually meet their requirements and expectations.

Dave continued to build a wide variety of skills and in 2014 moved into the drawing office to work alongside Nick Jeffs.

This move allowed Dave to develop an understanding of the design and pre-manufacturing side of the business and Nick was a real help in that respect.

Dave has enjoyed working in a family business which has helped him both professionally and personally. “I’ve been encouraged to have confidence in myself through freedom and trust and I think that’s been a key factor in my transition.

By the time I had reached the drawing office, I had experienced most areas of manufacturing at Witley Jones which is the beauty of working in a tight-knit family business. There is a real need for an agile and flexible workforce which has allowed me to continue learning and challenging myself. Although my time will now be spent working with clients and managing projects, those previous experiences will stand me in good stead.” stated Dave.

Over the last 18 months, he has been shadowing Chris, Simon and Matt on education projects as well as being responsible for Witley Direct, manufacturing bespoke home office and bedroom furniture.

During his time managing Witley Direct, Dave has been given freedom to win business and manage a wide variety of projects. He has also gained experience in working more closely with our clients in education.

“From his early days with Witley Jones, Dave has always had ambitions to progress within the company, from becoming our lead site fitter a few years ago to his latest new role as Business Development Manager. The recent changes within the company gave us the perfect opportunity to offer Dave this role to support Simon and I, and we look forward to working with Dave on the sales and project management side of the business.” commented Matt Jones, Director.

At Witley Jones, we have an ethos of promoting from within, providing our team with the opportunity to develop their skills and build a career with us and Dave is certainly a prime example of this.

“We are pleased to have been able to offer this role to Dave and to once again promote from within the company. We all wish Dave every success on his new and exciting role with Witley Jones.” continued commented Matt.

Since joining Witley Jones Furniture, Dave has seen a great deal of change in the type of furniture that clients require as well as the manufacturing process.

“The furniture we are now designing is in stark contrast to the wood grain pieces we were producing when I first started when the only requirements were for furniture to be robust and formal.”

“Whilst those designs still have their place, there is now a focus on the look and feel of furniture with architects and interior designers joining the process quite often. We have also added plenty to our manufacturing and installing repertoire over time and are prepared for new challenges as a business” commented Dave.

Dave is relishing the new challenge as Business Development Manager as we begin 2018 and is looking forward to meeting new and existing clients in the months to come.

Giving back to the Community: Witley Jones donate services to local charity

Witley Jones manufacture storage lockers for YSS

Last year we were delighted to give back to our local community by donating our services to West Mercia based charity YSS.

YSS is a charity providing community based support services for vulnerable people with complex needs, and who face difficult life challenges, including Young Carers. The charity  strives to seek a society where all people feel safe and have the opportunity to lead positive and constructive lives, and to achieve their potential.

We were contacted by Sharon Toy, YSS Assistant Accountant, as she was looking to purchase storage lockers for their new offices in Blackpole, Worcester. After learning about the work that the charity does, Dave Manser, Business Development Manager at Witley Jones Furniture, decided to support the charity by providing the lockers free of charge.

The 12 bespoke lockers that we donated to the charity were needed to provide their keyworker staff with somewhere they could lock away their valuables and have a personal storage space.

Lorraine Preece, Chief Executive at YSS was “overwhelmed to learn that Witley Jones Furniture offered to pay for the cost of new bespoke lockers for use by YSS staff at our new offices in Blackpole, Worcester. This news has been really exhilarating and the lockers will be enjoyed and used for many years, particularly by our key workers who are often out and about in the community as well as working in the head office in Worcester”

“I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to everyone at Witley Jones Furniture for deciding to support YSS. Such generosity in what are tough times for the voluntary sector, where demand for our services has never been so great yet funding is constantly being reduced, is so greatly appreciated. You have given us all such a wonderful boost, thank you.”

It has been a pleasure to deal with everyone at YSS, and be able to provide something tailored exactly to their needs without having to worry about cost. The lockers look great and it’s only a small way of us thanking them for the great work they do.

Witley Jones Furniture plan for the future appointing new Chairman and Managing Director

Chris Jones has recently moved into his new role as Chairman of Witley Jones Furniture with Simon Downes being appointed as Managing Director.

Chris Jones is appointed Chairman, Witley Jones Furniture

After celebrating 20 years in business with steady growth and a settled management team, it is the perfect time for Chris to hand over the day-to-day running of the family business to Simon who will be assisted by Chris’ son and Director Matt Jones and Operations Director Tim Whent.

Chris will still be closely involved with the business working 3 days per week and helping the team to plan for the future as well as looking after several key clients.

Simon has been linked to the business for 20 years and was the first unofficial company guarantor, eventually buying into the business in 2007. Working alongside Chris, they have built the business to become one of the most reputable bespoke furniture manufacturers in the education sector.

Witley Jones Furniture

Chris Jones commented that “now is the right time for me to step away from the day-to-day running of the company that I started alongside my wife, Jane, in 1997. We were delighted to celebrate 20 years in business on 6th November which marked a huge milestone for both the family and the team that we have assembled over the years.

With the support from myself, Matt and Tim, Simon is now in a position to grow the business whilst working closely with our existing clients.”

Newly appointed Managing Director, Simon Downes is “delighted to have been appointed Managing Director. I am looking forward to taking the company to the next level by continuously improving the high-quality bespoke furniture that Witley Jones designs, manufactures and installs all over the country.

With the recent purchase of two more factory units, this completes the plan to streamline our machining, assembly and despatch to meet growing demand and enable us to drive the business forward and to create even more job opportunities in the local area’’

We have also appointed Dave Manser as Business Development Manager who joined the company almost ten years ago. He has worked his way through all departments, initially on the factory floor, then as the on-site lead fitter, through to the drawing and design office. He has latterly lead our home furniture division Witley Direct as the main design consultant. Dave is ideally qualified to assist old and new clients alike, we wish him every success in his new role.

Swanbourne House Case Study

Science lab Swanbourne House School

Established in 1920, Swanbourne House is an independent, co-educational preparatory boarding and day school for children aged three to thirteen years of age, located on a site of 55 acres in Buckinghamshire.

Witley Jones have worked with Swanbourne House over a number of years on a variety of projects. In 2013, we won a contract to provide bespoke pews as part of the first of a number of refurbishment projects planned at the school. The working relationship has continued to grow with the installation of storage furniture and lockers as well as boarding furniture in the main school building.

Following open tender, we were contacted by the school to provide a wide range of furniture to support the refurbishment of the Fremantle Building including furniture for Science and Technology classrooms, and furniture for the Languages and Computing classrooms in the Walker Building. Two complete bespoke science laboratories, an art room, a DT room and two computing suites were delivered in addition to a significant amount of loose furniture over summer 2017.

IT classroom furniture at Swanbourne House

Throughout these projects, a close and productive relationship was established with the Business Manager, Paul Jochimsen, the architects and the main contractor to design furniture to the client’s requirement to create a safe and innovative learning environment.

At the outset, the client was keen to see other classrooms and to be able to talk to colleagues in other schools about the design and function for the furniture. Witley Jones arranged for the Headmaster and Business Manager to visit Prior’s Field School which had recently completed a science lab project in their Arnold Building.

At each stage of the design process, the Business Manager sought teacher input to reach the final requirement. This required proactive and agile delivery by our design team who supported the client closely at every step along the design journey. As a consequence, each room was tailored to meet the needs of the teachers to enable them to deliver coherent teaching and learning.

Science lab design

The design of the science labs was based on the client’s review of many other schools, the final outcome was a lab has two separate functions in the single room – a theory space and a practical space that was also seamlessly linked to the preparation room.

Witley Jones supplied all taps, sinks, gas taps and electrical pedestal boxes, working alongside the M+E contractors for their integration in the furniture.

Part of the design consideration was to suitably house the existing ICT equipment within the theory area of the classroom and, also, to ensure that the unit housing the 80kg CleverTouch Smart TV was robust enough to carry this load.

Swanbourne House School classroom furniture

Clever use of a combination of materials ensure a long lasting, robust range of units with a keen eye on maintaining budgets, all doors were manufactured in laminated MDF with Trespa being specific for all worktops.

Paul Jochimsen, Business Manager at Swanbourne House, commented on the personal and close interaction with Matt Jones:

“His knowledge and leadership of the design team have been key to us over the past 8 months for our latest build projects and without which we would not have achieved such a satisfactory result. Also and as part of our due diligence prior to letting the contract it was very pleasing to note other customers comments about Witley Jones and the warmth with which they spoke about the company. This was a key ingredient in deciding to place the contract with Witley Jones.

The work last summer has taken the school forward significantly and we are very proud of the new facilities which place us at the cutting edge in education. We look forward to continuing to work closely with Witley Jones as the refurbishment programme continues.  As a result, I am more than happy to strongly recommend Witley Jones to others.”

Witley Jones assist Prior’s Field School with their largest capital project

Prior’s Field School is a vibrant and successful independent girls boarding and day school, set in 42 acres of stunning Surrey countryside located south of Guildford.  It is a place where individuality is celebrated and uniqueness embraced, a happy positive place where 450 pupils, aged 11 to 18 enjoy learning.

Science laboratory in Prior's Field School Arnold Building

Witley Jones have worked with the school for a number of years on a variety of projects, from small single classroom refurbishments to the fitting out of the Arnold Building, the largest capital project in the School’s history.

“Witley Jones’ attention to detail is exemplary, with the same level of focus going into each project, regardless of size.” commented Leonie Ranson, Bursar at Prior’s Field School.

The Arnold Building comprises eight state of the art Science laboratories, a Music School (including an eighty seat recital room with adjacent recording studio), a Food Technology Suite and several general classrooms.

The initial design for the project was driven by the School and their architect NBW Architects. We were tasked with manufacturing and installing furniture throughout the Arnold Building.

During the design and manufacture of the furniture for the Science labs, a key design feature was to ensure that the lab furniture was compliant with CLEAPPS, an educational industry standard adopted to ensure that laboratories offer a safe and effective learning environment.

The designs for the laboratory furniture were achieved after extensive consultation with the school’s teaching staff and involved double sided fixed student desks with a theory side facing the front of the classroom with a practical side complete with integrated storage for apparatus. The labs in the building were quite wide and to ensure that all students had a good view of the teacher, demonstration benches and interactive smartboard the desks were angled at each end.

A secondary design consideration was the School’s requirement to maximize the availability of suitable storage space requiring us to take a more considered approach to layouts; in many cases a bespoke solution was required.

The project was carried out in 2 phases, working closely with both the client and main contractor W. Stirland. The first phase and larger section of construction was carried out whilst the school continued to use their existing Science labs for lessons. The school then occupied the new part of the building whilst the original structure was extensively remodelled. This involved careful planning around delivery times and access to the buildings.

“Communication from Witley Jones was excellent throughout all stages of the project, from the initial discussion around design, through to installation and aftercare.”

“All projects face difficulties, but Witley Jones communicated and dealt with every issue or question immediately. We are delighted that the furniture provided by Witley Jones was manufactured to perfectly meet our specifications and finite requirements resulting in a truly bespoke final product.” Leonie Ranson, Bursar at Prior’s Field School.