Earlier this year, Year 5 found themselves faced with a pile of sticks. They had not to build a fire, as they were later to do at Bushcraft, but to construct something altogether more significant. The children were challenged to explore what structures they could build – using just that collection of sticks, and a pile of bands. To start with, to warm up, they created the predictable 3D shapes, but then the course provider posed the question ‘Can you recreate the Taj Mahal out of these shapes?’ Several elastic bands later, coupled with collaborate discussion (and a few sore fingers), Year 5 stood back to admire their handy work. The fact that all the children, faces wreathed in smiles with smiles, could fit comfortably inside the structure, was a testament to their sense of achievement. The impressive structure under which they found themselves illustrated so clearly that with imagination, determination and teamwork you can achieve anything.
Or, to put it more succinctly still………….. ‘Believe It, Achieve It.’
When asked what they want to be, what is their ambition for the future, this is what some of the Year 6’s have written: I want to be a paediatric oncologist, a scientist, a politician, a financial analyst, an astronaut, an archaeologist and even a professional footballer. I can understand the lure of medicine; the attraction of a filled soccer stadium, and even the attraction of outer space. But to want to be a politician. Even post Brexit, that is surely masochism bordering on madness!
Having said that, the important thing, of course, is that while we are all different, we are all pulling in the same direction. The kind of unity Jesus prayed for among his followers is not one of conformity, but of harmony.
John Twist, a Jesuit preacher and writer, used the analogy of three musical notes. The three notes may be different, but if you harmonise them they make one perfect sound. Just look at the Apostles; what a mixed bunch of men Jesus chose. They had their disagreements but worked in harmony. Twist concluded: thus “So this is the blessing that Jesus prayed for. That we would be very different, fascinating in variety, and yet all harmonise, integrate into unity and thus be one. As God is one.”
Look at the example of Paul Cowland are guest speaker at Prizegiving last night. His boundless enthusiasm for any motorised conveyance has given him a 20-year career writing, selling, tuning, restoring, photographing and creating almost every kind of car currently known to man. Paul is a classic example of the idea that we can achieve if we believe. Yes, we all have different aims, interests and skill-sets. But, in combination and harmony, as Twist said, we can make the world a better place.
In my generation, children were supposed to be seen but rarely heard. How that has changed. Some may disagree with the idea that youngsters cut school to march and protest about global warming and the like. But I dare say that nobody in this room would challenge their right to make their voices heard, to shape – even save – their own futures.
Every Year 6 child here has been offered a place in a Senior school, with excellent results once again. A record number of Scholarships and awards were accepted to King Edward’s School, Birmingham reinforcing our academic performance. We are entitled to be proud of this statistic, but we are prouder still of the variety of interests catered for and successes achieved during the past academic year.
Where do I start? Well, so many of the children have raved about STEM. This is not just Science, Maths, Engineering and Technology, it is an application of many areas of the curriculum to address real life issues – problem solving, like building the Taj Mahal out of sticks and bands. The Practical Action resources are superb and really bring in the Humanities too.
Yes, we like being adventurous and creative here. And the strength of our Creative Arts programme was evident in pupil success at the Malvern St James and Warwick School Art Exhibitions. Nicky Lambert-Green and Janine Lynn hosted staff from Prep Schools around the country who are linked via the ‘Prep Schools Baccalaureate’. This continued our aim of raising the profile of the school nationally.
We also like seeing our children taking responsibility – and increasingly – as they move up the school. The profile of our School Leaders has been raised, as they have undertaken many activities in the various roles asked of them. Whether that be supporting Charity days or setting an example to our youngest children.
As a staff body, we know how much sport enhances lives. How it increases self-confidence, encourages a team ethic and builds up fitness levels. Again raising the profile of the School, our children have hosted both ESSA (English Schools’ Swimming Association) and IAPS (Independent Association of Prep Schools) regional swimming qualification rounds with excellent results.
There have been significant sporting successes elsewhere: especially from our Cross Country runners but also from our U11 sides in regional and national football and netball competitions as you will hear in a moment or two.
On the theme of pupil leadership and personal responsibility, our Digital Leaders programme and Science Leaders programmes are booming under the tutelage of Mrs Simmons, Mr Hill and Mrs Burns.
We continue to look for ‘whole school’ opportunities, and World Book Day provided a great opportunity for this with a buddy reading session. In addition, Pre-Prep pupils had the benefit of visiting the Year 6 Science Fair, and some of your children will have become role models for the younger ones.
In the world today, there are so many amazing opportunities for children but being part of a world record attempt is still something very special that the children will always have as a memory of their time at The Blue Coat School.
The Year 6 Leavers’ Enrichment week, just ended, focused on life skills and collaboration, Team Work – Risk and Challenge, Internet Safety, First Aid, Money Matters, Spiritual Awareness, STEM Activity Day and Making Safe Choices.
And many of the same children who, within the past fortnight, have relished this innovation, will remember with fondness a very successful tour to York, singing at Beverley Minster, and the BCS Young Musician of the Year competition.
I don’t propose to bore you with an extensive list of the myriad musical events, trips, visits and activities enjoyed by your children over the past year but there has been something for everybody’s taste.
Do you remember that KES Author Day with Peter Bunzl; seeing ‘War Horse’ at the Hippodrome; competing in the Junior Language Challenge; taking part in those Aztec Outdoor Adventures; being part of the Birmingham Children’s Hospital visit; seeing Racing 92 versus Leicester Tigers; watching The Young Shakespeare Company’s mesmerising performance of Macbeth, listening awestruck to The indigenous Taiwanese Choir; participating in WW1 Workshop; spectating at Edgbaston’s Nature Valley Tennis Classic; warming to the ‘Polar Exploration Lecture; going back in time at the Anglo Saxon Workshop?
Life at BCS may sometimes be too busy, but I challenge anybody to call it dull!
And the variety goes on…
The Year 6 drama production, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, directed by Mrs Redfern, and with a new score composed by Mr Nicklin, brought C. S. Lewis’s famous story to life.
Our Under 11 team lost in the plate final of the IAPS girls National Hockey but the growth of these girls who have only been playing on Astro since October 2017, is phenomenal.
Our outstanding U11 Boys’ football team were losing finalists at the Aston Villa Tournament, and winners of the King’s Hawford Tournament.
And our Under 10 Rugby team won all four matches at the Moseley Festival and had an exceptional cricket season. Also our Year 5 girls got in on the act showing some great cricketing skills this season.
Year 6, you stepped over the threshold and into the redesigned and renamed Hub…… and did it proud!
You have all taken on board the philosophy which goes, “Dig deep and believe. Focus on what you want. Listen to the advice we give you, and reach for the stars.”
And so, on to the sad bit. There’s always a downside. This term we say goodbye to several members of staff that have given so much to our School.
Laura Scullion and Taahirah Ebrahim are leaving us. We wish them every happiness in the future whether that’s changing nappies or in retirement.
After 18 years of distinguished service, Bláithín Burns is taking time out. Mrs Burns has inspired many children and has always been at the centre of supporting IT developments in the classroom.
Nicky Lambert-Green retires after 22 years. Nicky is not only an art teacher she worked closely with her great friend and colleague Mrs Lynn creating memorable events for the children whether that be in the classroom or on the stage. Nicky is never scared to get her hands dirty. We will miss your fun loving humour but I am really excited, if not a little jealous, that you may possibly be retiring to my beloved South West. One child described you as an angel, I believe that sums you up perfectly.
We wish these ladies every happiness for the future, as we do to our Pre-Prep leavers Sheila Hopson and Pippa Whitehouse. Please know that you are always welcome here at BCS.
We are ready to welcome Tom Clements, Jack Matthews. James Wood and Baden Hulbert to the Prep School, who will add to what I consider to be a winning team. Collectively, we will continue to build up a culture of self-confidence where children are encouraged to think for themselves, to reach their academic goals and develop the so-called soft skills. I am convinced that, with our formidable current staff and new recruits, we will continue to flourish.
Finally may I thank the Governors for supporting the School’s vision. My outstanding Senior Leadership team; Mrs Andrews, Mr Newman, Mrs West, Mrs Palmeri, Mrs Dredger and our Bursar, Mr Morgan for the support and wise counsel given to me over the past academic year.
To my very able and supportive staff and our amazingly talented children, who make all the hard work worth while. Children please know you drive us to be the best we can be and make your learning experience first rate.
To you the parents, thank you for the support given to your children and to the School. It is greatly appreciated and we are very excited about the next stage of our development.
Year 6, be true to yourself and please treat others with dignity and respect. I like to say treat others how you would like to be treated and you won’t go far wrong.
To finish I leave you with a poem by Mother Theresa called “Anyway” which was written on the wall of her former home in Calcutta: I hope you heed the words and carry them in your heart always.
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of being selfish, with ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
Thank you! Have a lovely summer.
Mr Noel Neeson | Headmaster