Principal’s Assembly 17 Sept 2018


Last week’s assembly was, on the face of it, all about making choices. Let’s hope you never find yourself needing to make a decision on the scale of the one that faced John McCain.

One of the choices I gave you, however, was about whether you will work hard at all you do or waste this amazing opportunity that you have been given, and that is the theme that I want to continue with today and next time.

Today, we’ll look at why it’s so important and then we’ll move onto how to do it.

You will be entering a much more exciting world than the one I did. For people in my time in my city, if you had a degree you might enter one of the traditional professions, like medicine, law, accountancy or teaching. If not, the options were more limited. In York, that meant the railways, chocolate or tourism.

If you talk to your families, they will tell you about the traditional industries where you come from.

But, the world has changed. York no longer has its railway engineering works and there’s only one chocolate factory when there used to be three. Those jobs have gone. Much of this is to do with technological advances and firms moving abroad where labour markets are cheaper.

On the other hand, especially in IT and Artificial Intelligence, the opportunities for you are so much more exciting.

This will bring its challenges for you. For example:

  1. The fastest growing country in the world is … the 250 million people who live outside the country of their birth. People are willing to move to get work. Most of my friends from school are still in York. It’s far less likely that you will live in Yorkshire.
  2. A child born this year will likely live into the 22nd century. You won’t be far off. Imagine how ridiculous they will think our technology is. Just as ridiculous as a black and white TV was for my generation.
  3. Quality healthcare, better nutrition and compulsory education are spreading across all countries. Girls are getting equal opportunities in more societies. My point is that there will be many more children as skilled as you competing for work with you.
  4. Power will shift in my lifetime from West to East, from USA and Western Europe to China and India. Will you be able to compete in those countries? America is projected to have a non-white majority by 2050 and most will speak Spanish. Think about that every time you have a Spanish lesson this week!

This all sounds like a challenging and complex problem so it’s tempting to think that there must be a complex answer. Sometimes, actually, we over-complicate things.

What you need to succeed are the best qualifications possible and well-developed personal skills.

Where you are now (whether that’s in Year 7 or Upper Sixth) can always be improved, and here we move onto the “how” to work hard.

In 1964, the Beatles conquered America. Very rarely do British bands do that.

Yet, in 1960 they had just been a small, struggling north-western band. Lennon and McCartney started together in 1957. For years, they’d been playing the same old songs to just a few fans in Liverpool.

In 1960, they were invited to play in Hamburg, Germany and this was their turning point. It didn’t pay well, the acoustics were poor and the audiences were unappreciative.

But, the clubs were open all night and the band played for 8 hours each night. They experimented, they made mistakes, they improved and they fine-tuned.

Lennon put it this way: “We got better and got more confident. We couldn’t help it with all the experience of playing all night long.”

You can do the maths: 8 hours per night, 7 nights a week. In total, they played for 270 nights in an 18 month spell.

That was the making of them and the same process of practice will be the making of you too.


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