Headmaster’s Address - Speech Day 2017
17th July 2017
At the beginning of the school year I asked students, and staff, to dare to push themselves, grab every opportunity and take a risk. Part of the challenge that I set everybody was to make sure that they did not get to the end of the year and think ‘Oh, I wish I had done that’ or ‘I could have done that but….’
The Trinitonian that you have today shows some of the highlights of the year. I hope you enjoy the new format and can associate with many of the sections as well as getting a flavour for the vibrant life of Trinity. However, this is not just a publication for today. There are photos to flick through and reports to read, which may be tempting to get distracted by in the next ten minutes, but I would urge you take it away and read it at your leisure.
In addition to what we have achieved this year, there are sections on past pupils and recognition of those staff that are leaving us this year. I will leave you to read more about individuals but I would just like to thank and recognise those Senior staff with long service medals – Sandrine Haytread, Dave Cole, Henrietta Farr, Bob and Louisa Davies. The vibrancy, success and development of Trinity would not be possible without the commitment and excellence of all staff. They continue to strive to do the best for our pupils and have also embraced the inevitable change a new Headmaster brings and my Headmaster moments when I announce that ‘I have an idea’! Thank you all very much.
The challenge I have set the pupils for the summer is to reflect and then try and identify what they can do next year. Even those that have not let the opportunities pass them by can think, what next? An early Christian theologian, St Augustine, in one of his sermons, stresses the importance of keeping at it and moving forward. He says:
Make progress; examine yourselves honestly again and again. Put yourself to the test. Do not be content with what you are, if you want to become what you are not yet. For where you have grown pleased with yourself, there you will remain. And if you say, 'that's enough', you are finished. Always add something more, keep moving forward, always make progress.
So my advice would be to congratulate those who are celebrated here today and acknowledge their effort, commitment and endeavour but not get too disappointed if you are not one of the recipients – to the victor the spoils but tomorrow is another day and all of you here right now have achieved and will continue to achieve. Sometimes those achievements appear to be small, but all are significant. If you go home each day having achieved something new, then you go home a winner. In this life, we should aspire to be the best that we can - but not get too caught up in what others are up to.
Interestingly, a quick search on Google showed that the top five inauguration speeches for US universities in the last couple of years dealt with the subject of failure: these included Steve Jobs, Michelle Obama and Will Ferrell. Each suggested that failure had made them stronger and importantly unafraid of failing in the future. None of you here have ever really failed but only in the years to come will you understand that Trinity has prepared you as best it can for tomorrow – for any of you who do stumble or fall, you still have each other, your experiences, your families and of course, your school.
We live in uncertain times with a huge amount of often unbelievable change taking place around the world. I often wonder what news I will wake up to. Back in 2002, Donald Rumsfeld, the former US defence secretary, advised the world of the following:
There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.
Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with the background of the basis of this conundrum, the sentiment resonates with me at the moment. All of us – governors, teachers, parents, grandparents, have a responsibility to prepare children for an ever increasingly uncertain world so that they are ready for the unknown unknowns.
Who would have thought that just a year ago, the UK would actually be leaving the EU, that both the US and French presidents would have arisen from populist movements; that we, for the moment at least, have our second female Prime Minster; that Ofsted would admit that they would like to focus more on a holistic education than league tables; that the British and Irish Lions would be in a series decider on Saturday and most dramatically and worryingly of all, that Mary Berry would leave the Great British Bake Off!
What I do know is that preparing our pupils for rapidly changing world is absolutely crucial. Knowledge is vital – but, as important is the ability to adapt, reflect and lead. The world that most of us here grew up in and remained constant for so long is not what our young people are heading into anymore. It has been suggested that 7 out of 10 jobs that some of you here will be employed in don’t even exist yet.
Traditional jobs in the City, motor industry, energy and manufacturing are shifting and new challenges will face the UK economy and our children. A ‘career’ is less common, many jobs over a lifetime will be the new norm.
In short we need to prepare pupils for life, not just for exams.
At Trinity our aim is to enable them to be successful after school, not just at school.
We get them the grades to go on the application form, but we also give them the people skills to engage the interviewer.
Experiences at Trinity not only develop life skills, they also give us stories to share and make us more interesting.
Of course it is important to develop enabling skills in Maths and English but in the same way that Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, we have a responsibility to focus on the individual; to nurture and develop their unique potential. We must continue to equip our pupils not just with knowledge but with skills for life.
To finish with, I want to share a short story which may ring true with those of us that will not have a shiny trophy to take home today.
In the early 1990s, around 25 years ago, a young woman, who came from a middle class British family and who had attended Exeter University to study Classics found herself struggling to get by. She was recently divorced, living in council accommodation in Scotland, was an unemployed, single mother relying upon welfare benefits – in her own words she said:
By any metric you care to apply I had failed – my parents had expected more of me, those around me expected more and frankly it was only me that was unsurprised.
Two years later, she produced her first book about a boy wizard and the Philosopher’s Stone – the rest, as they say, is history. JK Rowling never received a prize in school or walked on to the stage to receive an award – her success lay well into the future.
Congratulations to you all for today and this year and in equal measure to your parents who support you this morning and will continue to support you as you move through life. You may be surprised to learn that it is your parents that you will continue to wish to impress most throughout life, irrespective of your age. Indeed, my own parents are here today and even now I really hope they are impressed!
There are a few final thanks. The first is to my family! Without them and the sacrifices they have made I would not be able to do the job I do - so thank you so much Natalie and kids, I may even be about when you wake up tomorrow!
And finally, may I thank you all - pupils, parents, governors and guests - for your support, advice, engagement and acceptance over the past year. It has meant a lot and I look forward to many more fruitful and exciting years.