Head’s Speech for Prize Day on 5 July 2014   

Head’s Speech for Prize Day on 5 July 2014 It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to our 2014 Prize Giving today. Can I also extend a warm welcome to those watching the streaming of this occasion live on your computers and other devices, many thousands of miles away? Thank you to Ian Tyler for your kind words and to all the governors for their support throughout the year. You may wonder how I managed to break the bone in my foot which causes me to look so particularly elegant today. In my rush to get to the exciting WPSA Ceilidh, I tripped as I left my house and landed on the ground. So no, the rumours about alcohol are not true! I am wondering if it something to do with this being my 13th Prize Day as a Head…. Today I would like to begin by recalling a saying of Janet Stuart, whose 100th anniversary of her death is celebrated this year by the Society of the Sacred Heart – ‘In no order of things is adolescence the time of the simple life’. I think that parents, teachers and students will agree with her. Woldingham School aims to be a place which prepares, supports and leads the girls through adolescence whilst at the same time providing an excellent education, a vast array of activities and a beautiful home where love and care top the list of priorities. Academic: Let me give you a whistle stop tour of some of the highlights of this year. The academic life of the school continues to flourish and expand. At A level last year, nine girls achieved a fantastic 3 A* grades or more and 84% of all the grades were at A* ‐ B. At GCSE, 11 girls achieved 10 A* grades or more, with Emily Moon and Lucia Keijer Palau achieving 12 A* grades. Overall, 39% of the grades were at A*, and 69% of the grades at A* and A. There have been some outstanding individual achievements this year. Isla Anderson in Year 11, our talented poet, had one poem selected for the commended list in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year competition and another was awarded third prize in the prestigious Basil Bunting Poetry Award. Two of our L6th students have also achieved notable successes in prestigious national essay competitions. Susannah Peppiatt came second in the Keble College Competition for Theology and Religion and Lucia Keijer‐Palau was highly commended for both the Newnham College Woolf Essay Prize and the Peterhouse Vellacot History Prize. Drama: There have been many exciting, moving and spectacular performances during the past year from the Drama Department. The year started with Phil Young’s innovative and visually stunning production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. At the beginning of May bloodcurdling screams could be heard coming from the auditorium! The Junior Production brought to the stage the terror of The Sweeney Todd’s Shock ‘n’ Roll Show. Just sitting in Mr Todd’s barber’s chair led to certain death via a trap door to the pie factory. Finally and in complete contrast, Catherine Nasskau directed ‘Whale’ by David Holman. Year 7 students gave a moving and surreal performance retelling the plight of three grey whales trapped under the ice in North Alaska. 1 Music: Music continues to flourish at Woldingham. Apart from the stunning musical performances in the school concerts and at the Carol Service, in January the whole of Year 7 took part in singing at the O2 as part of Young Voices 2014 – a first for Woldingham. Face the Music too – a performance of musical theatre, was for me the highlight of the musical year. The Amaris Choir excelled themselves by reaching the finals in the Music for Youth competition and Pasha, from Year 10, joins the Junior Guildhall in September. We have just heard that Maya Suen from Year 9 has achieved a distinction in her ATCL diploma on the piano. Congratulations to her! Sport: The exciting news for sport is that Woldingham teams have come first or second in 13 events at District Tournaments this year. 7 girls have been selected for the Surrey Schools Athletics Championships and Ellie Arnfield is representing the county in the 300m hurdles. Holly Castle and Steph Webber have places in coveted County Academies for both hockey and netball. Catherine O’Connor, our Sports Captain, is now in the top 24 goal keepers in England in the U18 category. She has secured sponsorship and looks set to go far. What a fantastic athlete! Community Outreach: Nick Waite, assisted by Lesley Cox, has initiated a new community outreach programme to go alongside our charitable fund raising. This initiative includes donating items to the recently established food bank at the Sacred Heart church, visiting local nursing homes, working in charity shops and helping at the local Disability Sports Club at De Stafford. Sixth formers help with reading in local primary schools, assisted by parents who have volunteered to drive them there. Yesterday, for the first time, we hosted a day of lessons and activities for 120 children in Year 6 from local schools, with the help of the older girls and staff. Going back to Janet Stuart: ‘In no order of things is adolescence the time of the simple life’ I would like to take some time today to reflect on Janet Stuart’s thoughts on adolescence not being easy, and speak to you from the perspective of a Head and a parent. Because we think that training for a good adolescence is so important, Woldingham is starting a new programme of Character and Resilience Education which will incorporate study skills. We want to prepare the girls even better for the stress they face and to build up their resilience so they can cope with obstacles, failures and challenges. So what causes the stress on our daughters? Between the ages of 14 and 18, students face four years of relentless working towards public examinations which are their passport to universities and careers. With universities demanding ridiculously high grades (sorry Mary), there is no doubt in any student’s mind that good results are important. League tables and competition between schools also push us to want the very best grades for the students in our care. Woldingham is now receiving real recognition for the improvement in its academic profile in recent years. But what does this mean? 2 It means that girls here at GCSE and A level, work with many teachers who each want them to succeed. It is the nature of girls to want to please their teachers and their parents and not ‘let them down’. They work for hours in the day, evenings and weekends to achieve the best that they can. For some, the work is very arduous indeed with little pleasure. In addition they are expected to excel in other activities such as sport, music and drama. Their lives are absolutely packed with activity. Most flourish under this challenge, but for some it all gets too much. Some will become over anxious and display particular mental health issues connected with this. Some just become very tired with their physical health suffering along with their ability to sleep well. Some start to think that exercise is more important than food and seek to regain control of their world by strictly controlling the amount of food they eat. Others sadly find relief in self harming. These are some of the serious consequences. In addition to the pressure of public exams girls are also expected to look and dress in a particular way from quite a young age. This is at a time when they are fighting with changing hormones and a heavy workload. The biggest pressure is to be thin. But, of course, the catch is that if they reduce their food intake they will not have the energy to cope with a packed life here at school. All too quickly they could head for some type of eating disorder. Just a hint to parents, do not be caught out by your daughter’s wish to eat a ‘healthy’ diet. This is often a euphemism for eating very little indeed. The girls’ lives are complicated too by the need to be in a state of perpetual communication with their friends through their smart phones. This takes precious time every day. We need to encourage some time away from mobile devices particularly when they are eating, studying and going to bed. We know from research that any social networking or use of computers and TV before bed has a negative effect on the quality and length of sleep. The answer for all of these issues is for us to be alert to any changes in our daughters, to communicate promptly with the school and take any appropriate action quickly. The job we have as parents is the most important one in our lives. It gives us huge pleasure and sometimes a lot of worry. At the end of the day, our children must know one thing – we love them no matter what happens and we always will. This love must be consistent and can never be linked to any worldly success – including those examination results. Let us work together, as parents and as teachers, to ensure a balanced and happy life for our daughters. We pay tribute to Nick Waite’s work as Deputy Head for the last five years even though he does not leave us for another term. In Nick, the parents, the staff and the girls have had an advocate for their concerns. His even tempered nature, bright smile and huge sense of humour has meant that we all felt safe and happy when he was around. He is too a superb administrator, a brilliant Physics teacher, a wonderful hockey coach and an all‐round fantastic schoolmaster in the best sense of the word. We will say our formal goodbye to him in December. Just to reassure you, I hope to send a letter to parents very soon about the new Deputy Head. Before I say goodbye to the staff who are leaving today, I would like to offer my thanks to Mike Stockdale who has chaired the WPSA Committee for the last five years. I have been grateful for his willingness to carry on beyond his allotted time and for his support and friendship. 3 Today we say goodbye and thank you to several staff who have been at Woldingham for a short time: to Matthew Lakin, who has taught Politics, to Cleon Manz, who has taught Physics, to Norman Marshall, who has taught English and to Alice Heywood, our learning mentor. We also say goodbye to Beatriz, Aline, Lena, Marie and Morgane, our language assistants. We thank them all and wish them all the very best in the future. We say goodbye to Frankie Paul, who teaches PE, after two years here. She has been hugely popular with the girls for her skill and infectious enthusiasm for sport. We wish her well as she takes up her new post as Head of Hockey at City of London Freeman’s. We say goodbye to John Ware, our very stylish, witty and inspirational RS teacher who has been with us for five years. We wish him well as he takes up his new post as Head of RE at St Mary’s Ascot. Mrs Audrey Lewis, formerly the Head of French, leaves us after five years to take a job at Guildford High School closer to her home and baby Juliette. We will miss her dedication to her pupils, her wonderful smile and warm personality. Michelle Bonnici, our Year 7 Housemistress, leaves us after five years to return to her beloved Malta. With Michelle in charge of our new boarders, we have never worried about their care. Her calm and efficient manner combined with her love and care of the girls will be much missed. We wish her all the very best. Kim Howison leaves Woldingham after seven years as Head of the U6th and Art Teacher. Kim’s vast experience in education has meant that she has always chosen the right balance of discipline and encouragement of independence for girls in their last year at school. We wish her and her husband Chris all the best for the future. Our School Nurse, Denise Glenister, will also be leaving us after seven years. We thank her for her excellent clinical treatment and calm care of the girls in this crucial role and wish her all the best. Jenny Taylor, the Head of Japanese, has taught Japanese at Woldingham since 2001 with huge enthusiasm for her subject and her students. Jenny’s other love is sewing and she will have more time to pursue this professionally. We wish her all the very best. Dr Anne Tuffill has run the tuck shop for the last seven years, following 28 years as the Head of Biology. It may seem a small job to others, but the love and the pastoral care that Anne gave in this role, particularly to the boarders, was second to none. She left us suddenly, following a serious illness, but is now making good progress. We thank her from the bottom of our hearts for her service to the school. Helen Rowe, the Head of Marden, music teacher and member of SMT – will be much missed. I met Helen in 2008 and headhunted her for this brand new role in 2009. She has exceeded all my expectations and has brought a cohesion and lightness of touch to Marden, along with a great sense of calm and good humour. A sincere thank you from the girls, staff and parents who have been through Marden in your time here. We know that you will make a super Deputy Head at Beechwood and we’re glad to have passed you on to another Sacred Heart School. 4 Today, of course, we wish the U6th girls all the very best as they venture out into the world, to university and beyond. They were my first Year 7 and we have all come a long way since then. We congratulate them for all that they have achieved and thank them for the contributions they have made to the school and wish them every success for the future. I would like to thank the staff, both teaching and support staff, for their hard work and dedication to this school and the students. This is a team effort and every person contributes to make this school a wonderful and happy place to be. Thank you to the parents for coming today and for your support of your daughters and the school. You should be very proud of them as you share in their success at the end of another academic year. My final thanks go to the girls for your enthusiasm, your fun, your hard work and care of each other. I end today with a question that Janet Stuart felt parents had the right to ask each Sacred Heart school: ‘What have you done with my child, for my child? Show me the trace of your influence on her mind, heart, character and conduct’. Nothing better could sum up what we are trying to do at Woldingham School with your precious daughters. I wish you and your families a wonderful summer holiday and I pray for God’s blessing on you all. 5