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Speech Day 2019 - Headmaster's Speech

15th July 2019

Mr Chairman, Governors, guests, parents, staff and pupils, welcome to Speech Day.

My first thank you for the day goes to our musicians for showcasing their talents, courage and making us all proud. I once read that music, as an art form, is essentially playful. We say, “You play the piano”, not, “you use the piano”. In this way music is different to travel. When you travel, you are trying to get somewhere, and in our compulsive, purpose-driven society, we are obsessed with getting everywhere faster and faster, until we all but eliminate the distance between places. And what happens as a result is that the two ends of your journey become the same. So you reduce the distance, and you reduce the journey, but the fun of a journey is to travel, not to eliminate it. In music, the end of a composition is not the point of it. If that were the case, we wouldn’t sing - and we all know how much I love good hymn practice! If the end of the hymn was the purpose then when we sing The School Hymn at the end of today’s celebration it would just be one word and the final chord. Where is the enjoyment in that? Similarly, in dancing, one doesn’t dance to end up at a specific point in the room – the point of dancing is the dance.

Just as in music, I believe that education, and indeed life, should be all about the journey rather than focussing purely on the destination.

You have in front of you our latest edition of The Trinitionian which also contains the order for the day and importantly the words for the hymns we will sing. Please take your time to enjoy it now, later and in years to come. Those of you who are old hands at these events will hopefully have a collection of these and note that the front is different every year. This year the attempt was to try and demonstrate just some of the opportunities that our pupils can enjoy – there was not enough space to include everything!

What you will find is that this is a busy and successful school. This is in large part due to the commitment, professionalism and drive of the staff team. ‘The Individual Approach’ of which we are very proud can only be achieved by our staff – from teaching to administrative, technicians to support; all trying to ensure that we live out our school vision with all those key life skills we believe are so important. Thank you staff, for all you do in and out of the classroom, before, whilst and after the children are here. I appreciate it, the governing body appreciate it and I am aware our families here value it. Please join me in showing our thanks.

There are a few staff leaving this year, details of whom are in the Trinitionain. I wish them all the best in their next adventures but know you will hold Trinity pupils and staff close to your heart.

Some of those that are leaving have been here for a significant period of time. The first is our lead Science Technician, Jackie Jones, who has prepared, supported and cleaned up more practicals than I care to imagine. Without Jackie, the Science department would have struggled to run as effectively and we certainly would not have Science Buskers being as successful as they are. On a personal level, when the Coen’s joined Trinity, Jackie was the first to make us feel welcome and help us settle into life in Teignmouth and her support has not waivered since.

Debbie Birt, our lead school nurse, arrived here 22 years ago to a medical office, not a centre, located on the first floor of the main building. Hardly the most accessible place for when you are ill! Everybody in here will have at some point had something to do with Debbie and for that we are very lucky. I have worked closely with Debbie over the past few years and trust her implicitly with her judgement, motivation and ultimately her desire to do the best for the pupils in our care. She is calm, approachable, understanding and compassionate but definitely not a push over! Debbie, we wish you well in your retirement, which I know Nigel has been badgering you about since he left a couple of years ago. Thank you for all you have done for the school, the staff and most importantly the pupils who have been lucky enough to be in your care.

I would also like to thank all those here that support me and the school in this role – yourselves as parents, the pupils, staff, the governing body, my children and wife Natalie. I could not do this job on my own.

I started today by talking about music and enjoying all of it, not just the final chord, essentially enjoying the journey through the song. What is clear though is that as adults, we struggle to enjoy the journey. As children, we live life at our own pace oblivious to any sense of briefness. When we were 5 years old, a year seemed like an eternity. Why? Put simply, a year for a 5-year-old is a fifth of their time alive. As we age a year becomes an increasingly smaller and smaller fraction of our total existence. Suddenly decades become a blur and we often regret opportunities not seized or moments not savoured.

Steve Jobs likened each experience in his life to a dot on a map – he said that his life had been a series of such dots and he realised many years later that; “It is not possible to join the dots looking forward, only looking backwards.”

How many of us here can recognise that reflection of life? Did you plan to be here, doing what you do, having done what you’ve done? If so, have you followed the plan from when you were at school? How did you get where are you are now? I think the point that I am making is that it is only when we look backwards can we identify the experiences that have shaped us, directed us and made us who we are now.

As parents, if we become obsessed with a school’s results and that becomes the sole purpose of education then there is a risk that the journey is rather straight, bland and ultimately unsuccessful. When the pupils then look back on their journey they will have little to reflect upon.

When travelling – by car or train – it is easy to look at a screen and be distracted. Especially if it is deemed to be a long and boring journey. However, how much do you miss by not looking out of the window? The same applies to our pupils’ journeys through school – they need to look up, take on board what is going on around them and most importantly get involved and be curious. Indeed in the news, outside of Brexit, you may have seen that more companies have been moving towards removing the requirement to have a degree. This does not devalue a degree but recognises that the straightforward, traditional journey through higher education is not enough and these top companies are starting to acknowledge that experiences, life skills and a holistic education are crucial for success. Exactly the type education we aim to provide at Trinity.

I can often be heard saying that the range of destinations of our leavers should be held in higher regard than how many Russell Group universities they go to. Pupils heading to do dentistry or apprenticeships, from disaster management degrees to joining the armed forces, shows that pupils have placed their markers on their maps, that their routes are not the same but that they are happy with their current destination.

I always ask this but pupils, please do reflect on what you have achieved this year. Often we go straight to results or grades which is common. The question is what else have you done as this may well influence your academic progress and success. Confidence is key to success and you can only gain this by putting yourself into situations where you may go out of your comfort zone.

Our Young Enterprise team this year have really come up with an excellent product and achieved success in a variety of ways. Part of the success was their development as a team, coming together in the Lower Sixth as a group of students who did not really know each other that well, some new to the school and some only here for a short time. They all had different roles and grew into them as the year went on. Whilst talking to one of them I asked how they had become such an amazing salesperson – especially as they have never been the most gregarious of students. The answer was inspired – “Well, we were stood around our stand in HSBC in Exeter with very few customers and not much energy. I decided we needed to change it and so I went on to the High Street and started to approach people.” I commented on what courage that took but also asked how it went and how did she sell so many. “Well, every time somebody ignored me and said no it made me more determined to sell more.” And sell more they did! There is definitely a dot placed on the journey but time will tell where that journey ultimately goes.

You may have seen or heard that three of last year’s Year 13 went to the Palace to collect their Gold DofE award of which we are very proud. Indeed they are here today. What dot has this placed for them? I imagine that they can’t see where that dot links on the map but am sure that in years to come they will be able to make the connections – something they could not do if they did not grasp the opportunity. In the Prep Department we introduced a prep version of DofE, the Civic Award, with great success. In years to come will this be the dot that set them on the journey to the palace? We don’t know yet but placing as many dots as possible gives a more enjoyable journey with a greater range of destinations.

Here today we are a member of staff short! This is because Frau Fischer has had to go to London to a reception at the German Ambassador Residence as she has been shortlisted for German Teacher of the Year. For those of you who have come into contact with her or been lucky enough to be in her lessons, you will know why. Did she plan this or had this as a goal when she moved from Germany? No. But what a great dot to place when looking to make the connections later in life.

At the end of proceedings you will hear from our Head Boy, Harry Hingston. I know that you will support him as today is possibly the biggest challenge he will have had at school. Indeed, when he joined us in Year 7 I know that this day would not have been in his wildest dreams (possibly his nightmares!) but as he comes to the end of his journey at Trinity what a fabulous marker or dot to place. I am not sure Harry sees this at the moment but in years to come he may look back at this dot and realise that this experience has influenced what he did next. How apt it is as well that as he finishes his journey with Trinity it is his final Design Technology project, the fabulous Canadian canoe, that you saw on your way in.

How many of us will truly reflect on the highs and lows of the year, academically, personally and socially? Too few I suspect. In the Tent Service on Monday I asked all pupils to reflect on the year and pick a highlight. Did you manage it? Instead of doing this we often look forward to the next hurdle or challenge, the next exam or sports fixture; the next promotion at work or the upcoming summer holiday.

You often hear how many adults live to retire and put those savings away for a grand future endeavour, only to be overtaken by events and never achieve any of those ambitions. Despite the travails and stresses of modern-day life, it must be lived – for better or for worse – in the present and on purpose. This applies to all of us, whatever stage of our personal journeys we may be at. There can be few worse emotions than reaching the long anticipated end of something – a week, a term, time at school - only to find that the best part is already behind you.

To paraphrase the philosopher Alan Watts and return to where I started: “the journey was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or dance while the music was being played.”

Go from this place today and make sure you make the most of the journey you are on. Look out of the window and appreciate all around you rather than let it pass you by. Take the opportunities, be curious about learning and finding new experiences. Place the dots down on your journey; enjoy the moment and make it is varied as possible so that your destination means you are the best version of yourself.


Lawrence Coen

Wednesday 3rd July 2019