Principal’s Assembly 4 Sept 2018


Good afternoon and a warm welcome to you all. In particular, we welcome new members of our community – new pupils and new staff. It is a test of a community how well it welcomes new people – and that is a test that I know Fulneck will pass with flying colours.

It is an honour for me to be here and to give my first assembly as your new Principal. I am going to use assemblies this term to explore what I think is important about school and therefore how you can make the most of the amazing opportunity that you have been given.

You may not have come across the MacArthur Foundation. It is basically a mega-wealthy charity that makes awards – financial awards – to people who bring exceptional creativity to diverse challenges facing society. They call the awards “Genius Grants”.

To give you a flavour, in 2017, these were some of the awards given:

  • A project combating internet security challenges and cybercrime
  • An immunologist fine-tuning antibody responses to infection
  • Ideas to bring a love of opera to new audiences
  • A psychologist reducing patterns of destructive behaviour in contexts from American schools to post-conflict Rwanda
  • And a move to challenge poverty in Chicago through a Muslim-led community action group.

These are remarkable projects from remarkable men and women, people who are really changing the world. I look at the group of incredibly talented people in front of me and wonder what the future holds for you.

However, I don’t like the term “genius”. I think it almost demeans the achievements. It almost suggests that people are born with so much talent that they couldn’t help but succeed, that their achievements have been effortless.

I also don’t like the idea of “overnight success”. Perhaps it’s part of the X Factor culture that wealth, celebrity and beauty are easy to attain. (I don’t have any of those three things, by the way!)

The way that Rory McIlroy swings a golf club, Ed Sheeran sings and plays the guitar or that Nadiya Hussain bakes may seem effortless to us, but it’s an illusion. What we haven’t seen are the thousands of golf balls that McIlroy has hit in practice, many in the wrong direction, or the amount of time it took Sheeran to learn the guitar or the number of cakes or the number of cakes that Nadiya burnt!

Instead, success comes through hours of practice and hard-work. Those present who took exams last year know that. I do want to congratulate you and your teachers on that success.

At A Level, 53% of entries were graded A*-B, up 5% from the previous year. All entries in our Btec courses achieved Distinction*, the top grade available.

At GCSE, 86% of pupils achieved at least 5 A*-C grades and therefore a pathway into the Sixth Form at Fulneck.

So, for the wider school, how does this relate to you? I have three challenges for this New Year:

  1. Are you willing to set yourself high targets in everything you do? As Michelangelo put it: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.”Will you be challenging yourself this year?
  2. Do you accept that success does not come overnight? Do you accept that you won’t get everything right first time? Will you avoid even considering quitting?
  3. As important as individual successes are, can you see that there is a community here and a wider world that you have the opportunity to improve?

So, to finish, to succeed you don’t need to be a genius. In fact, you need two things: burning desire and someone to show you how. You bring the desire, we guide you.


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