MR NEESON’S PRIZEGIVING ADDRESS

We all received childhood messages growing up. Some of them will have been positive. Doubtless some were negative. But whatever they were, as sure as eggs are eggs, those childhood messages will never go away. Mums and Dads first. What was your main message, I wonder? Was it the conservationist: “Waste not, want not.”? Perhaps it was the inhibiting, “Don’t try to run before you can walk.” Maybe the economically vigilant, “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.” Or the egalitarian “A cat can look at a king” or “Jack’s as good as his master.” One that I remember particularly well is the terse four-word dictum: “I want never gets” with the emphasis equally weighted on the two verbs. Pithy. But so easy to misunderstand.

And now I am addressing the younger section of my audience. Of course there is a way of asking for something politely – a way that is much more likely to work with Mum and Dad. “I want to play on my X-Box tonight” may be just about acceptable. But “I want an ice cream” is ugly. Ladies and gentlemen, Governors and guests, today I want to get beyond the manners and explode the myth of this timeworn message. Yes, there is something crude about the word “want”, but there is also something  dynamic about this four-letter word.

Wanting something really badly promotes drive. That drive points us down the pathway to success. Take Andy Murray as an example. Without the ‘want’, there would have been no such thing as ambition. And without ambition, he would never have become a Wimbledon Champion. Yesterday, the School took delivery of 100 hard-backed Year Books. I have one right here. Together, our leavers and the staff have combined to create something for the Year 6’s to keep and to treasure. When asked to write down what was their ambition for the future, this is what a sample dozen of the Year 6 boys and girls replied:

I want to be a lawyer or a member of parliament. I want to win an Olympic gold medal in Judo. I want to be the best neurosurgeon in the world. I want to study medicine at Cambridge. I want to become a human rights lawyer. I want to be an author and illustrator of a book. I want to become an architect and create amazing award-winning buildings. I want to be a paediatrician and work for the NHS. I want to become a marine biologist. I want to become an ethologist – a scientist who studies animal behavior. I hope one day that I will be able to lead my own research team. I want to become a great pianist. I want to make peace in all the world.

Plenty of variety there. Ambition aplenty, and not the slightest hint of inhibition. So let’s hear it for the new message “I want always gets.” Yes, the children at BCS are hard-wired to succeed. And, with the assistance of my dedicated staff,  they will do so. In concert with you Mums and Dads, we refuse to acknowledge what have become known as glass ceilings; We strive to help the pupils make the very most of their abilities.

And how we have seen this happen during the past 12 months. Academically, BCS has reached the high notes once again. A total 186 independent places awarded, 52 Grammar School places and 55 Scholarships and awards. This is an excellent return from our Year 6 children. Most important,  they gave their best to be the best they could be. They preserved and focused with a determined attitude and repeated the rewards. These things don’t just happen. I must thank your teachers past and present for their guidance and strong teaching. To you the parents and any outside of school support, thank you for helping the children achieve their goals.

Year 5, you have big shoes to fill. Next year is a significant one as you move to Year 6.  There are big exams ahead, but you have all the support and guidance that you need. Meet the challenge head on and do the best you can. In my eyes you are all incredible in different ways. Now, you must make the most of the opportunities given to you and create your own legacy!

Throughout the year our Seniors have excelled in a vast amount of academic competitions. Too many to itemise. Particular mention must go our magnificent Year 6 Mathematicians who narrowly missed out on the National Mathematicians Quiz Finals. And of course the astonishing level of Physics, which helped us win the prestigious National Ogden Trust Physicist of the Year award. The opportunities here set Blue Coat apart from other Schools. Our reputation is growing and so much of this is this is due to our amazing staff and children. They go above and beyond.

One major development this year is the enhancement of the co-curricular programme. The gift of opportunity is well and truly embedded! Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better or more varied, Mr Newman ups the ante further, with activities such as fencing, British military martial arts and jump rope.

The development of BCS music, and the festival in particular, has been a revelation. The finalists were phenomenal. Feedback from our guest adjudicator, former pupil Philip Dukes, underlined this. The standard of music, in all disciplines, was way beyond his expectations. Bringing together all children across the Prep School, the House Shout allowed all the children to revel in singing for their respective Houses.

House Charity days have proved a great innovation. Again, the family feel created a real sense of belonging, with children working with staff and parents in a different context. Together, we raised over £8000. What an achievement!

And meanwhile Sport is going from strength to strength. Swimming has brought more national success. Our Under 11 squad retaining the ESSA freestyle trophy. Our girls in both Year 5 and 6 have showed great aptitude – and attitude – at all team levels. The boys have had lots of fun and in both year groups have showed much better focus and determination. This has produced some really gratifying results. Next year, with maturity and even more intensity, further success will be achieved. Good luck boys.

Over the summer the School will continue to develop further and create yet more first rate facilities. Projects include development of a new sports pavilion overlooking the  astroturf. We will also see the introduction of two new upstairs studios to develop our health related sports programme. A new outdoor playground will open, and the development of our state of the art Year 6 Hub will prepare our eldest children even better for life after BCS. And then there is the refurbishment of the girls’ Houses, too. BCS is motoring!!

At the end of any academic year we must say our goodbyes. Firstly we say a fond farewell to Mr Wurr, who has been such a loyal servant to BCS. With his dedication, industry and total trustworthiness, Mr Wurr will be missed by all. He goes to Warwick School with our very best wishes and blessing for a long and successful career. Miss Drage, what can I say? You have seen it all and, with your caring  and respectful manner, you made such an impact on the lives of so many. To Mrs Fletcher-Jones, thank you for all you have done for the children of Pre-Prep. We wish you well in your new venture working with your husband. We are also very sad to be saying goodbye temporarily to Mr Matthews who has been an exceptional support to the School and we look forward welcoming him back next year as he pursues his move into teaching.  Please know you have all played a significant role in the life of BCS. Thank you from all the staff, parents and children here. We also wish Miss Scullion all the best as she goes on maternity leave.

As staff, we see it as our responsibility to bring out our children’s talents, to broaden their interests and to develop their personal qualities. We aim to foster confidence, to enhance communication skills; to embrace creativity; to encourage teamwork; to promote an open-minded and outward-looking approach to learning. School should be fun. We all know that happy, sunny children are more likely to be successful children.  So, I want to thank the staff and my Senior Leadership team for their support and commitment, and to tell the Governors how grateful I am for the wisdom of their counsel.

Meantime, have the happiest of holidays. We look forward to seeing you all again in September – when (and you can ask Year 6 about this) your dreams and your ambitions come one step closer to reality!

MR NOEL NEESON | HEADMASTER