(*See more of Mr Fell's speech below)
Head of sixth form, TERRY FELL:
Firstly, I’d like to thank parents for your support during your child’s school days, you’ve paid us a great compliment by trusting your child into our care and it’s a responsibility we take very seriously. I hope you feel that we’ve fulfilled our responsibility.
And, to our wonderful students, the Class of 2023, it’s been an eventful few years, but we made it.
Here we are, very nearly at the end of this adventure. For me it’s always a bittersweet feeling. Sweet is easy, you are an amazing year group. Look at yourselves, you are fantastic, you’re lovely, amazing people. We have been privileged to see you grow and develop in confidence over the years and we share huge pride in who you are now, what you’ve become, which is incredible and talented young men and women. And that’s the rub, because alongside this pride is that slightly selfish sadness that we must lose you to those bright futures ahead of you, so bittersweet to be saying farewell but so very proud to see you here now ready to set out on that journey of the rest of your lives and you leave us with memories of a year group who are obviously and genuinely deeply caring about one another and about the younger students who look up to you. You’ve been incredibly fun, you’ve made us smile a lot over the past two years, very often intentionally.
From lunchtime tomorrow is the weirdest part of the whole year for us as your common rooms will empty, the corridors and classrooms and fields aren’t full of you anymore. You will be deeply missed. Please keep coming back.
A huge thank you to the school officers, who have always represented you as a year group to the very highest standards and have managed a sometimes very demanding role speaking for you as a year group, and as a school and for the school itself at the same time. Your school officers have been outstanding this year, led by Adam and Aleena with great pride.
You may remember two years ago at the start of your lower sixth year I set you two challenges.
1. The first was to leave our school an even better place than when you joined it – so let’s consider your contribution:
The school’s reputation for sporting excellence has been burnished mightily by your year group whether by individual efforts of some incredible sports stars or by teams which have inspired the next generation.
Your celebration of music, your contribution of music over the past two years has been stunning and anyone who’s heard our bands, our choirs, our solo performers will understand the passion and commitment the performers have dedicated to their art and it’s so wonderful to see House music resurrected in the House music competition by your year group’s energy.
Head of art Mrs Henson is clear that this is a cohort of talent that is simply breath-taking for the range and the beauty of your work, and so much fun to work with. Drama too has had a fantastic couple of years, from the joyous exuberance of Beauty and the Beast to the amazing productions on show in our House drama competitions.
You’ve embraced new challenges and opportunities, with Freshers’ Fair events, support activities for younger students in mentoring with so many of our lower years and within our local community and care homes.
This is where I’ve seen your year group’s influence so frequently, looking after one another, contributing to the community around you, near and far as your incredible leadership during Charity Week demonstrated, raising a huge sum for WaterAid and its vital work.
So, what impact has all this had – is it a better school for your intervention? Yes, yes – I think we can say: challenge obliterated!
2. Which leads to my second challenge. We want our students to seize opportunities, to take the leap of faith, to aspire, and the challenge is as ever that you should be able as you leave to look in the mirror and have no regrets at all.
Before you decide for yourselves, a couple of observations. Firstly, your year group care about one another, we see it every day, you look after each other in a way which guarantees lifelong friendship. There are those amongst you who’ve had to cope with unimaginable challenges over the past two years, but you have I think taken comfort and confidence from the friendship and laughter of your peers, and you can never regret that. And you’ve seized the opportunities which have come your way, whether academic or social.
Only you can answer the ‘No regrets’ challenge for yourself. But as you look around you tonight at your friends, at the staff who’ve worked so closely with you as you realise, I hope, over the coming months the incredible things you’ve achieved and you’ve done, I truly hope you don’t regret a single thing about your time here and that you leave us with deeply happy memories, prepared for the amazing adventure in front of you. And it is amazing, because you have the potential to shape your lives in any way you choose, the capacity to achieve anything to which you set your minds and, more important than anything, the capacity to make the world around you a happier place for those with whom you share it – and that is something you’ve proven.
So good luck, all the happiness for the future. Not goodbye but au revoir. Come back, see us a lot and remember, in the words of Uncle Walt: “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age and dreams, dreams are forever.”