Speech Day 2016

June 29th 2016

As chair of governors, and on behalf of the Principal and the governing body, it gives me enormous pleasure  to welcome you all- our students, our staff, our parents, and our former students and our visitors to our Speech Day 2016. I always think that it is one of the loveliest days in the school year – the College looks amazing and it always feels so celebratory, particularly as it is the only time  that our  community is able to come together in one place.

And our community – in all its glorious diversity matters. The EU Referendum decision is a momentous one - and it is our students who will be the inheritors of its legacy and whose lives will be reframed legally, constitutionally, economically and philosophically. Its implications will be uncertain for some time to come.Whatever your views on Brexit, and there will be a range of views inevitably in the audience this morning, for us as an international state boarding school , we remain convinced that our international intake of students gives us a linguistic and cultural breadth and depth that is unrivalled. If the purpose of education is to open minds rather than merely fill them – then the different flavours of internationalism, language, ethnicity and culture that pervade our school on a daily basis are a good start. And we hope that this will be as true of our student body in the future as it now.

This will be my last speech day as CoG as I will be passing the baton when my term of office comes to an end in November – it has been a privilege and profoundly humbling to serve what I think is one of the best schools in the country. Undoubtedly we are well-regarded academically at both GCSE and IB – last year we were in the national top 10 for our GCSE results (One of three Bishop's Stortford schools to be included) and we have topped the league tables now for almost a decade in terms of our IB results. 93% of our 2015 IB students secured their 1st choice university place and 76% of all their university destinations were to Russell Group institutions. Hockerill was featured in both Tatler and The Spectator  - and this week The Independent -and was voted the top IB school by the Sunday Times Parent Power list

But, for me anyway, this is a  small part of why Hockerill is so special. I think what defines us is that we are a nurturing, outward-looking and happy community.  I believe that we are a community which embraces the individual and values difference. a school which prioritises the happiness and wellbeing of our students, where the student experience is central to all decision making and where our students and staff care about one another. In consequence, I think, we produce confident and articulate students, who are intellectually curious and have broad based linguistic and cultural proficiencies. They are academically accomplished across the board, but they wear this accomplishment lightly and I  strongly believe they are equipped to thrive whatever the opportunities and challenges ahead. By the time they leave us our students  will have mentors, and friendships spanning international boundaries and  an international, horizon-scanning mind-set which will stay with them for life.

Education globally remains a privilege not  a right. When our Year 13s graduate today - and with many of them looking forward to another 3 or 4 years of higher education, they are occupying a present and future that could only be dreamt of by many of their global contemporaries.

58 million children don’t attend school worldwide and this number rises to 100 million if you include all those children who do not complete primary education. Progress in tackling global education has stalled since 2012 -largely because of armed conflict. Gender and poverty continue to impact education adversely: girls are still less likely to begin education than boys and the world’s poorest children are 5 times less likely to be sitting where we are all sitting now - In a secondary school.

This matters. We are facing the biggest diaspora of displaced persons since 1945. There are 5 million more refugees under the mandate of the UNHCR now than in 2010. Refugees are disproportionately children - 60% of all current refugees are believed by the UNHCR to be children - the same age or younger than our students sitting in this marque this morning. A worrying trend more recently has been for students and their teachers to become a deliberate target in conflict, as in the case of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haran in 2014. 276 of these girls are still missing and many of them are exactly the same age as our year 13 Graduands.

So I would urge all our students this morning to make the most of all the fabulous opportunities that are available to them here. There is a glorious array of sport, music, language and curriculum supporting clubs– ranging from the choirs and orchestra of which we have seen a just small part of this morning, through to athletics, early morning cross country and the CCF whose 15th anniversary dinner I was privileged to attend on Tuesday night. In fact, during the course of this academic year we have run over two hundred clubs and our students have skied, surfed, and undertaken scientific, anthropological and psychological research projects across Europe. Then there is our extensive exchange programme which allows our students to build friendships and experience school or work across three continents.  The exchanges are part of the DNA of Hockerill and the opportunity to live immersed with a host family for a couple of weeks is unparalleled- however much we travel in later life. If our students take anything away from their time at Hockerill it should be openness to opportunity. It was a message powerfully conveyed to our year 12s by a former Headboy, Harold Craston when he came back to speak at the GCSE presentation evening. Harold who has achieved what many might regard as Millenial nirvana by securing a job at Google, reassured his audience that it wasn't always necessary to have a plan and know what you were going to do. What was necessary was to remain open and create opportunities through active engagement. Although Harold may not have known it he was echoing the thoughts of one of our Equipe name-bearer's Leonardo da Vinci who said people of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them. They go out and happen to things.” 

This is a special and memorable day for our Year 13 Graduands. For many of them, Hockerill has been their home as well as their school and for others it has been their home-from home. They are a year group which I know well and , by a bizarre quirk of fate are also my exact Hockerill contemporaries (and those of our Chair of Finance Simon Somerville) as we all received our Hockerill places on the same day a long time ago now back in March 2009. Because of this perhaps, I have watched their progress through the school with delight and interest- I have a daughter and god-daughter in their midst and I have known our Head Girl since she was two years old!

It is poignant to acknowledge that  if our Graduands had lived 100 years ago we would have been sending them off after today's festivities as antagonists into the First World War and in particular In July 1916 to the Battle of the Somme which was one of the bloodiest battles in history. Inevitably will we have descendants from all sides in our student and parent bodies this morning, but a century on we are joined rather than divided by the power of education, internationalism shared humanity and friendship and it is friendships which is central to our year 13s most as they stand on the threshold of an adult life.

You will all have made some glorious friendships here often with people very different from yourselves and some of these friends will now travel with you for the rest of your lives. Friendship is one of the greatest joys that life brings us and our relationships with others are probably the thing that most define us. It is easy with results day looming to see results as the most central part of your hockerill experience. Yet, and particularly in the context of such a high achieving school, it is important to remember that a qualification is a one dimensional view of who you are  and it tell us nothing about what sort of person you are: your interests, your passions, your ability to work with, support, motivate and inspire others and most importantly your capacity for hard graft. A good education remains a broad and holistic one – not one that is reduced to a few letters or numbers on a piece of paper. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

So nurture your friendships, spend time with your friends and treasure and value them: because it is likely that it will be  your friendships which will be your most enduring Hockerill legacy.

In closing I would like to says  big thank you to those who have helped organise this morning - all our musicians and Mr Bond-  the music as ever has been exhilarating and has put a spring in our step for Hampers tonight. I would also like to say a big thank you to the only group of people whom I have never publicly thanked from this platform and they are my clerk and fellow governors. I am merely a mouthpiece for the men and women who sit behind me. They are a hugely talented, passionate and committed group and their support and vision for this school is unstinting. I am enormously in their debt and I couldn’t have begun to do this role without them.

Speech day should be a day when we applaud the talents of all our students. So Well done to all our students in the marquee this morning who have all made a unique contribution to the Hockerill community this year well done too to our prizewinners your diligence and application is contagious and an encouragement to all of us and

Goodbye and good luck to all our students and staff who are leaving us at the end of term and in particular our Year 13 Gaduands - you are embarking on a life of limitless possibility – enjoy the adventure.

Thank you.

Posted at 15:04 on 27th Feb 2019