Head Master's Prizegiving Address
Friday 7th September 2018
I should like to add my welcome to you all; it is terrific to share such a positive occasion with you at the start of the year in this wonderful space. I am particularly pleased to have Claire Harvey as our Principal Guest. There will be more formal introductions later on, but even brief awareness of her experience makes it clear that she is a person of high calibre and I know that we will all enjoy listening to her. I was keen for Claire to address us because she has made me think differently when I have heard her in the past and it is good to be challenged in such a way.
First, it is good for us in Norfolk. I have never subscribed to “the graveyard of ambition” thesis, with Norfolk portrayed as a place for sleepy, backward-looking jobsworths. I have always found it to be a creative, open-minded, supportive community which will enable good initiatives and has a fierce sense of local identity. However, its location at the end of the line, literally and perhaps psychologically, means that we do have to work harder to ensure an appropriate flow of people and ideas. Norfolk should be challenged regarding national and international best practice, particularly on an agenda as important in modern times as diversity. Claire has been with us for most of the day and has already provided many helpful insights; I am sure more will follow.
Secondly, it is good for us to be challenged at a prizegiving ceremony. Partly this is because a key reason for this occasion is to recognise excellence, effort and eye-catching contributions to our community during the past academic year and it is lovely to see your pride, pupils, as you come up to collect your awards, though, having been to a few of these in my time, I have to say that your pride is dwarfed by that of your parents.
Pats on the back also help to set an example and motivate for the future. We want inspiration and action rather than complacency to emerge from our ceremony tonight and, almost by definition, a prizegiving audience contains much talent. I am not just trying to flatter you (ok, perhaps I am a little bit), but I think you need to be stretched. This is a rare opportunity to get together pupils, staff, parents, governors and others who think well of Norwich School, so here are with two thoughts from me and I know Claire will have more for us later.
First, literacy: as a nation much emphasis is going on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) and there is also much written about the need for young people to develop their creativity. I am proud that these areas are well-catered for at Norwich School: maths is comfortably our biggest subject at A Level while I should be surprised if there is a more effective Art & Design department anywhere in the country. And yes, Norfolk, I said country rather than county. However, amid this national need and local success, I fear that the importance of literacy is being squeezed and feel it is something on which there needs to be greater focus. We know that the next generation will need to be adaptable and collaborative; both are skills which will rely on excellent communication skills in person and in writing, probably in more than one language. Such command of language often comes from a love of words, how they are made, where they come from, how they can be manipulated for different purposes. I am delighted that our Literacy co-ordinator, now in her second year, is making her mark with us, including an innovative linguistics programme for the L4 (year 7) being delivered by the English, MFL and Latin departments. Yet there will have to be more to come if we are to establish the strong tripartite which must be in our children’s long-term interests.
The second issue is about the nature of 21st century challenges: Norwich School seeks to produce rounded individuals with a variety of skills to lead and serve when they leave Cathedral Close. Good exam results have always been a pleasant side effect of inspirational educational processes rather than the sole goal and I am again proud that of this year’s leaving cohort, 75% got their first choice route beyond school, 12% their second choice, while a further 9% got university places via clearing. Getting people to where they want to go is key and we are good at it. Yet I worry about what they will find when they get there: much of the current debate is relatively parochial and drawn up on the lines of party politics when we should be considering the global impact of issues such as Artificial Intelligence, climate change and population movement.
We must challenge ourselves as a community to offer leadership and models of good practice. I feel the right people are in the room tonight to hear this message and I look forward to sharing this debate in the future.
I am now going to hand over to the Head of School, Morgan Hardy, and her deputies, James Cherry, Jemma Luck, Emily Rash and Elizabeth King, to provide some highlights of the 2017/18 year…
I should like to close by offering my thanks to the teachers and support staff at Norwich School who work tirelessly on behalf of our pupils and their families. On so many occasions, they take extra steps to secure the best possible outcomes for the pupils in their care. We are all lucky to have their professionalism and care.