Children, Honoured Guest, Chair of Governors, Governors, Ladies and Gentlemen and every member of The Blue Coat family.

In this hot-off-the-press Year Book 2022 which all of you Year 6s will be taking home with you, there is not only a sense of fun; there is a wealth of ambition and self-confidence, which we like to think that the Blue Coat School has helped to generate.

For instance: in reply to the question ‘What is your ambition for the future?’ There is a wide range of answers. Among them: ‘to become a neurosurgeon’, ‘to become a lawyer or a barrister’, ‘to become a veterinary surgeon’, ‘to be a space engineer’, ‘to become an engineer or a coder’, ‘to learn about dark matter’, ‘to travel the world’, ‘to become a doctor and even – rather wonderfully – to be a kind person………

You know. Being a Headmaster suddenly seems rather dull!

In this splendid Book, kindly sponsored by the Friends of the school incidentally, it is clear what your teachers think of you all. Let me read what some of them have written about this Year 6; a group that had to soldier on in the battle against an unprecedented pandemic and which came out the other side successful and stronger for the challenge.

Wrote Mrs Andrews: “The magic key with Biff, Chip, Kipper (and of course, Floppy the dog) provided a world of adventures to different countries and distant times as you shared stories with us and learnt to read and write independently. Now, with your knowledge and skills in so many areas secure, you are ready for the next step in your education at your secondary schools.”

Said Miss Stanford: “Your journey in Prep hasn’t been the smoothest of rides: two years spent in and out of lockdown would certainly take its toll on any child but you have come out the other side, thriving and striving for success. To be at the top of the school as we celebrate our 300th birthday is a memory that you will never forget: you’ve become recording artists, actors, sporting stars and even time travellers all in the space of one year!”

And Mr Coley recalled: “The quiet, shy children I met on ‘Meet the Teacher’ day had certainly disappeared by the end of the first week in September, but it is thanks to your bright personalities that the year has been such a fun one.”

Mrs Redfern remembers this year as one “where every pupil has demonstrated their ability to contribute: achieving personal targets, supporting their Houses, strengthening friendships and developing teamwork.”

As for Mr Matthews, he is still admiring your spirit. “After two years of Covid lockdowns, online learning and all the difficulties associated with it, you entered Year 6 delighted to be in the classroom once again! It was great to have you back with passion and drive, showing this in abundance whether in sport, music, ‘Bugsy Malone’, the 300th celebrations let alone in everyday lessons.”

Talking of lessons:  if the past year has taught us anything, it has taught us the importance of resilience; how it is our reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how our lives stories will develop.

Certainly, this year has been jaded a little after the pandemic. But that has not prevented our children from reaching for the stars.  And much of the credit must go to the Mums and Dads in this audience. Thank you for your fortitude and support.

Yes, all of our children have had a chance to shine over the last year whether it be academically, in a sporting context, in the wide range of concerts, on stage in Bugsy, or simply being a role model to others. And in the 300th year of the school I cannot think of a group of children who have achieved so much. For that I congratulate and commend you.

Without the right attitude, their achievements would not have been possible: not once during the past 12 months have I come across a child who has felt sorry for himself or herself.

The excellence of my team here has again been demonstrated in abundance over the course of this academic year. They have gone above and beyond in trying to support the children’s individual needs. I would like to say a special thank you to Mrs James, who has undergone a baptism of fire this year as Deputy Head of Prep. She has looked after Prep wonderfully well while Mr Newman was engaged and focused on the brilliant 300 years celebrations. Together, they make a strong team.

I would like to thank my staff, one and all, for the individual roles that you have played in helping the great ship BCS stay so firmly on course. Individually strong, Unbreakable as one!

I want to thank my wife, Jules, and my children Bea and Jasper, for their support. Thank you for being you! I think your patience and kindness helped me through this incredibly special and tiring year.

My Senior Leadership Team has been the most supportive and loyal team imaginable. And the Governors have never wavered in their support of our determination to be the country’s leading Prep School which I genuinely believe leads by example in breaking through the glass ceiling in all that we do.

And I want to pay tribute to a lady who retires at the end of this academic year after 26 years of loyal and selfless service to BCS. A diamond that shines brightly, her name is synonymous with all things Blue Coat. Mrs Andrews, we will miss you and give a send off tomorrow but on behalf of all the children you have selflessly cared for we thank you sincerely for all you gave to our school.

So what’s next? I believe this school is very well placed to achieve my goal of being ‘exceptional’ in all that we do. We must never take our eyes off the ball. The road is long and rarely straightforward but all the decisions I make will be for the greater good of the children.

As I anticipate this move for our Year 6 children, my hope and prayers go with you on your exciting educational journey. Work hard, keep showing determination. But first of all, have a fun summer. You deserve it!