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Head’s Prize Day Speech – Friday 29th June 2018

Deputy Lord Mayor of Exeter, Mr Mayor, Madam Mayoress, Governors, Councillors, Guests, Ladies, Gentlemen and Kingsley pupils, welcome to Kingsley School Speech Day 2018. For those of you placing bets on the length of my speech today, that’s 15 seconds already.
I would like to give a very warm welcome to Claire Moodie, who has kindly agreed to present our prizes today and speak to us later. Claire is one of the SW representative for Surfers Against Sewage and the joint founder of Plastic Free North Devon. Claire has a background in Marine Geography. She is a keen surfer and has a deeply held and genuine passion for protecting our coastal environment. This is a cause very close to our hearts as a school and we are very proud to have been awarded “Plastic Free Status” by Surfers Against Sewage this year as we seek to reduce as much as we can the amount of single use plastic that we use in the school. Claire, thank you for joining us today and we look forward to hearing what you have to say a little later.

Please indulge me as I select some of the highlights of this last year here at Kingsley.

Academic results
Last summer’s academic results which were released in August 2017 were some of our best ever. In particular our A and A* % grades at A level were 39%, almost identical to the 40% at West Buckland and significantly better than the 26% at Shebbear. We are a small school and therefore these figures can and do change significantly from year to year but we must give retrospective credit and congratulations to last year’s Year 13 leavers and their teachers for these fantastic results. The bar has been set high for the current crop of Year 13 pupils and we wait with bated breath for the results to come out later in the summer. Early indications are encouraging, as we have already had confirmed that all of the Year 13 pupils studying for their Level 3 BTEC in Hospitality have been awarded starred distinction grades. These are the highest possible grades that can be awarded for this qualification and a starred distinction in a BTEC is worth the same number of UCAS points as an A* in an A level. Huge congratulations to Edison, Woo, Brian, York, Ruby and Charlotte and a massive well done to Sarah Gosai who has taught them. Our flexible 6th form programme that allows students to combine A levels and BTECs is a wonderful feature of our 6th form and provides pupils with different routes into University that would not be available at many other independent schools.
Our GCSE results last year were also very impressive, with 30% of all grades being awarded at A*/A. This year’s Year 11 have had the unfortunate experience of being guinea-pigs for the wholesale introduction of the Government’s new 9-1 GCSE specifications and we all wait with bated breath to see exactly how the students are going to be graded on the new system compared to the old. We can only hope that the new
exams and the new grade criteria that have been introduced will be fair and proportionate and will reflect the tremendous efforts made both by the Year 11 pupils and their teachers.
Many of the pupils sat in front of me now have spent the last 6 weeks enduring what must have seemed at times to be an endless procession of public exams. No one can deny that for pupils in year 11 and year 13, this summer term will have been a very stressful experience for them. By and large they have coped with it well. Only they will know how much revision they have actually done and, as Caesar said as he led his troops across the Rubicon in 49BC: “alea jacta est” – the die is cast. There is nothing more that you can do except enjoy the summer and then seek advice from us in August if your results are not what you had been hoping for.
Of course, Kingsley is not just an exam factory. There are many schools that will be able to outperform us in the League Tables by having a more selective recruitment process, by reducing the extra-curricular activities available to students and even by entering students who might “upset” the exam results as private candidates so that they do not appear in the school’s results (yes, some independent schools actually do this, so don’t believe everything you read in the League Tables). We acknowledge that achieving to the best of your ability academically is an excellent and laudable goal, but it is not the be all and end all of why students come to school. I have spent much of this year talking about character in assemblies, in public meetings and in articles that have been printed recently in magazines like Manor. I do not do these things because I think they make for good sound-bites; I keep on talking about character because I believe it is of critical importance.
Character
We live in a world where the so-called leader of the Free World, the President of the USA, regardless of what you may think of his political and economic philosophy, believes it is acceptable to objectify women, dehumanise them and refer to them as pigs, slobs and even worse. It is into this world that our young people are growing up. It is vital that they understand that the example set by Trump and others like him is not one that they should be following. This is more than us simply tutting our disapproval at the behaviour of a man whose power has clearly gone to his head; this is much more important. This is about us as educators and parents helping our children to understand that this kind of behaviour is morally bankrupt, offensive and wrong. We all of us have a duty to encourage Kingsley pupils to develop good character habits.
Christian life
As a Methodist school we have been working hard this year to develop and strengthen the Christian ethos of the school. We will always remain a school that welcomes pupils of all faiths and of none but we will also always remain a school that is not ashamed or embarrassed of its Christian ethos and we will always seek to embed Christian principles into how we treat each other.
We will continue to start and end each term with a church service held at the Methodist Church in Bideford and I would extend an invitation to all parents, relatives, Governors and friends of the school to attend these services when the whole school gather together to worship as one. Our service to celebrate the end of the year will be at 2pm on Friday 6th July and you are all most welcome.
We have had some wonderful and moving services this year, most notably for Remembrance week and for Christmas, but the highlight of this year has been the creation and dedication of a small Chapel space right
at the heart of the school (turn left as you come in through the main doors). We were delighted to welcome Rev Paul Glass, the MIST Pastoral Visitor, to open the Chapel space and we are really pleased to have a copy of a stained glass window which was part of the old Grenville College chapel on the wall of our Chapel. This window was commissioned by my predecessor, Simon Woolcott and a copy was made by the Rev Andrew Johnson, a renowned stained glass window artist who made the original window when he was a pupil at Grenville.
Our Chaplain, Kat Timms, has already begun to develop a range of lunchtime activities that take place in the Chapel, including quiet reflection, worship and Bible study and I look forward to seeing the Chapel becoming a quiet place where many pupils might chose to go and sit and take a quiet moment in their busy lives.
We have also been putting a lot of effort into improving the quality of our collective worship in school and I am delighted that what we are doing is being recognised both by MIST and the wider Methodist Church. News of our rendition of a modern worship song called “My Lighthouse” has reached the uppermost echelons of the Methodist Church and a video and sound recording of us singing the song is going to be used alongside similar footage of a Methodist Primary School in Oldham as part of the daily worship at this summer’s Methodist Church Conference. We are delighted that our corporate worship is being recognised and acknowledged as a really positive feature of school life and myself, Kat and Andrew Trythall, our Prep Head, have already made plans to hold more whole-school assemblies next academic year when we can get all of the pupils from reception to Year 13 together more frequently.
Sport, music, drama etc
This year has been as busy as any other year at Kingsley from the point of view of sport, music, drama and a whole host of extra-curricular activities which strengthen and enhance the academic curriculum and which provide so many wonderful opportunities for the character development of our pupils.
We have joined the Independent Schools Association (ISA) this year and this has opened up a whole new world of events for Kingsley pupils to take part in. This year our newly formed prep School choir took part in an ISA choir and music competition in Dartmouth and some of our pupils also took part in the ISA cross-country races. Next year we are already looking at getting involved in the annual ISA Art competition for schools in the SW and we are also exploring the possibility of entering the ISA dance competition, alongside the competitions they hold in many other sports and activities.
This year we have seen some very impressive drama performances, including the senior school play, “The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe” and our National Theatre Connections play, “The Free 9” which was performed at Kingsley, in Torrington and in Plymouth. We loved the Prep School Christmas offering that was called “Gabriel’s Big Break” and we enjoyed the prep school play “The Magic Snake” which took place last night and which was written and directed by Ms Rae Wilson.
This year also saw the start of the Headmaster’s Poetry recital Competition for all pupils in Year 9 which will become an annual event to encourage pupils in the art of public speaking. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the pupils recite the poems they had learnt and, in some cases, the poems they had actually written themselves. I look forward to seeing what Year 8 will produce next year.
DofE continues to be hugely successful at Kingsley under the energetic an enthusiastic leadership of Linda Stella and her team of staff volunteers. This year has seen many hours of successful expeditions both in the local area and, at the end of next week, the Gold students heading off to the Picos Mountains in Spain for their assessed expedition. I am also delighted to be able to report that Kingsley entered a 35 mile team into
this year’s Ten Tors event. The preparation for this took up huge amounts of time at weekends and the commitment of the pupils: Lottie, Sophie, Kitty, Pepe, Ben & Reuben (and Justin who also took part in many of the training walks) was commendable. Many of you will have taken part in this event yourselves when you were younger and you will therefore know just how physically and mentally demanding the whole exercise can be, so we are immensely proud of the team and all of their efforts and we hope that other pupils will step up to take on the challenge of the Ten Tors next year as well. Many thanks are due to the staff team who worked so hard to prepare the pupils for the challenge: in particular Gordon Sochon, Sarah Huxtable, Kat Timms & Steve Whaley.
For a small school we continue to punch well above our weight when it comes to sport and this year has been no exception. Our Games and PE team led so ably by Simon Mathers and Gemma Braunton with the unstinting support of Simon Ward, Kat Timms and many other staff, have provided dozens of opportunities for our pupils. The BB team have had an unbeaten season, even beating local rivals West Buckland and they have been led all year by Ken Lei who has been an inspirational player and captain. Towards the end of this year we have celebrated the National selection of Ruby Ivory, Megan Wray and Alice Beresford in handball and we continue to enjoy a close working relationship with the Bideford Blacks Handball team. Our gymnastics and judo teams have also had fantastic years, seeing much individual and team success in both local, National & International tournaments. I have fond memories of standing in the freezing cold of last winter in various locations in north Devon, cheering on Kingsley pupils who had entered the Gliddon and Squires cross-country races and I would love to see more of our pupils entering these races. I repeat the promise I gave last year: if more than 6 Kingsley pupils sign up for the races, I will enter myself and run in the “old man” category.
The Local community
I am very keen for Kingsley to play a significant role in the local community. Torridge is not a very wealthy part of England and the local economy faces many challenges in the years that lie ahead. We are already one of Torridge’s largest employers so we are already making a significant contribution to the local economy. We also offer a wide range of means-tested bursaries and scholarships to try and help families who might not otherwise be able to afford independent education. Last year these amounted to over £590,000 in value.
I always enjoy our sponsored matches at both Bideford Rugby Club and Bideford AFC, The Robins as well as our sponsorship of North Devon Cricket Club and Bideford Cricket Club. On Saturday 7th July Debs and I are very much looking forward to being involved as representatives of Kingsley School as we sponsor the Appledore Pilot Gig Rowing Club Regatta, where our very own Linda Stella, Head of Boarding, is a keen rower and cox who saw fantastic success at the World Championships on the Scilly Isles earlier this summer.
We are members of the Bideford Chamber of Commerce and I look forward to getting much more involved with their activities this coming year, especially with our new Mayor of Bideford, Doug Bushby who is a very active member of the Chamber of Commerce and the Town Centre Partnership. It is also good to see the former Mayor, Councillor Dermot McGeough with us today and I thank him for his support of Kingsley during the past year and I wish him and his wife Sarah a wonderful summer enjoying watching Atlas grow up.
We also had the absolute pleasure this last year of helping to host some of the events which formed part of the Appledore Book Festival and those of you who were there will remember two wonderful evenings in the company of the novelist Ian Rankin and then watching the Two Jeremies, Vine and Paxman, in
conversation in the school theatre. We hope to have further opportunities to collaborate with the Book Festival Committee in years to come.
Kingsley Friends
I would like to extend my grateful thanks to all of the parents (and staff) who support the Kingsley Friends. The Friends work tirelessly to support school events like Bonfire Night, the Christmas Fayre and the Children’s Festival and they also arrange social events like the very popular Quiz night (my team was robbed – we only came second!).
This year the Friends have been incredibly generous and have donated items to the school totalling several thousand pounds in value. These have included class sets of ukuleles and a cajon which Mr Crossman has already put to very good use, 10 new tents for use by DofE and Ten Tors pupils, some wonderful sets of Robotics programmable LEGO kits which are being used extensively in the Prep School, new folders for the school choir so that we look even more professional when they enter competitions and sing in public, an iPad for the Maths department to enhance teaching and learning and some interactive science T-shirts which will be used next year and which have to be seen to be believed.
We are very lucky to have such a committed, hard-working group of parents supporting the school and the pupils and I am very grateful to all of them. They have a wonderful Chair in Gordon Jobbins whose energy and enthusiasm know no bounds and I would like to thank all of the committee members and other parents who step forward, give up their time and help to make so many school events go with a bang. As ever, Gordon is always on the lookout for new parents to join the Committee so please do speak to him or come and let me know if you are interested in helping. At the moment the committee is slightly Prep School heavy so it would be lovely to see some more parents of senior school pupils volunteering.
Leaving staff
In every school there are staff changes each year and Kingsley is no exception. This year we are saying goodbye to Mandy Bateman, our SENCO and Head of the Learning Development Centre. We wish her and her partner (and soon-to-be-husband) Chris and their family all of the very best as they head to Egypt to work in an international school.
We also say goodbye to Matt Child (Head of 6th form and maths/further maths teacher) and Dr Jen Cousins (LDC, ASDAN, THRIVE, Prep School languages etc) who are emigrating to New Zealand this summer. Finally, we are also saying farewell to Barbara and Gordon Sochon who have been wonderful houseparents for the boys in Carisbrooke and have been such terrific supporters of all that Kingsley stands for in all of the roles they have carried out over the years they have been here.
I would like to thank all of them for everything they have done for Kingsley and for the pupils and we wish them all the very best as they head off to start new adventures. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank every single member of the Governing Body, every staff member and every volunteer who has helped the pupils this last year. Working in a busy boarding school is exhausting. The hours are long and the pay is not brilliant as we are under constant pressure to keep fees as low as we can for the benefit of pupils and parents. I have a fantastic team of staff here at Kingsley from the support staff (cleaners, groundsmen, handymen, laundry ladies, catering team) right through to the teaching and boarding team which encompasses all of our pupils from the Nursery to the 6th form. I thank you all for all that you have done
and will continue to do as we strive to make Kingsley an even better school.
Lastly, it is a privilege to say goodbye to this year’s leaving pupils. Last year at Speech Day I had only known the Year 13 leavers for 2 short terms but this time I have known the current leavers for 5 terms and I want to wish them every success and happiness as they leave school and head off. Most will go to University; some will go straight to work; some will be taking a Gap Year. I would particularly like to thank this year’s prefects who, apart from helping to supervise the mundane aspects of school life like the queue for the dining room, have also been superb ambassadors for Kingsley when they have shown prospective parents and visitors round school, as have other 6th form pupils who have assisted with this important role.
I have genuinely enjoyed the company of the outgoing Heads of School, George Robinson and Eleanor Barker and their Deputies, Ellie Spurling and Ken Lei. We have met most Fridays throughout the year and I have really come to appreciate their insights, their aspirations and their desire to see Kingsley thrive as a school that cares for each pupil. I am very grateful for all that they have done and I know that Kingsley’s new prefects have a tough act to follow. I look forward to working closely with next year’s Head Boy and Head Girl, their deputies and the prefects.
To all of you who are leaving Kingsley this year, whether you have been here for 1 term or, in some cases, 18 years, whatever you are doing next, I wish you every success. You leave us with all best wishes and please keep in touch with us. God bless you all.
Student Charter
Earlier this year I asked tutors to discuss with students what adjectives might best describe Kingsley pupils. Here are the responses I received from one of our 6th form tutor groups:
Kingsley students are: kind-hearted, tolerant, and happy; they walk generously through life. They are quirky and diverse; cosmopolitan and multi-lingual. Kingsley students are tolerant and approachable; they relate to one another like a happy, extended family. They are lively, creative and optimistic. They are committed to their studies and their goals. Kingsley students are articulate, keen to debate issues and they strive for equality. Kingsley students are vocal, active seekers of justice.
I think that says a lot more about the calibre of the pupils at Kingsley than any fancy words I might be able to come up with. I look forward to working with next year’s students to develop this charter further and to hold it in front of all pupils like a mirror so that they can measure themselves against it.
Thank you all for your support throughout this year. Thank you to those of you who have not always been happy with how we do things and who talk to us constructively about how we can improve the school. Thank you to those of you who have, unprompted, written in letters, cards and emails of thanks to me and the team. It means a lot to all of us when parents are pleased with the work that we are doing here at Kingsley. We will continue to strive to improve the school and, at the risk of repeating myself, if you do ever find the perfect school, please don’t join it because you will spoil it. We are all human; we are all flawed; we are all of equal value; we are all therefore worthy of receiving the same level of respect. If our pupils leave with ideas like this firmly imprinted on their hearts and minds then I will consider my own job to have been successful. Have a great summer.

 

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