Principal's Speech Day Address 2019


Speech Day 2019
Chair of Governors, Vice Chair, Governors, Trustees, parents, guests and, most importantly, our pupils, welcome to our review of the successes of this academic year.
I would like to start by thanking all members of our School community for making me and my family so welcome since we moved to Fulneck last August.
It is certainly great to be back home in Yorkshire. My family still live in York and my in-laws are in Dewsbury, or as I call it, “a bit too close”.
I would also like to thank our estates team, led by our Bursar Karen Thompson, and our marketing department, led by Director of Business Development, Deborah Ward, who have made today happen.
I am thrilled to introduce Fran Scott as our guest speaker. Fran became famous in our household as a judge on Channel 4’s Lego Masters. If you haven’t seen the programme, think British Bake Off but Lego. You may also recognise her from her work with some people called Dick and Dom or a programme which chimes with the content of her speech today – How to be epic at everything.
By background, Fran is a scientist, engineer and pyrotechnician, as she proved earlier today in the Junior School Speech Day. Fran, we are delighted to have you here and look forward to hearing you speak later on.
From the beginning, I have tried to redefine what is important in life at Fulneck, what we mean by high expectations – “Work Hard, Be Kind”. If our pupils can do that, it will do me.
Our school exists with academic success as its core purpose. Results in 2018 saw a 100% pass rate at A Level. Particularly impressive was the achievement of our pupils in the Btec qualifications where every entry attained a Distinction *, the top grade available. Overall, the average university points per candidate was the equivalent of ABB at A Level, sufficient to gain entry to most of the most competitive universities. Hats off too to our Head of Sixth Form, Ian Harrison.
This level of attainment is a reflection of the partnership between pupil, teacher and parent. In this brave new world of reformed post-16 qualifications, no pupil, regardless of ability, can achieve the top grades without a fine work ethic, the expertise and dedication of the Fulneck staff and the emotional support of you, the parent.
I would also like to mention the contribution in this sphere of retiring Governor, Mrs Lynda Johnson. A former Headteacher in Morley, Lynda joined the board to help drive up our standards six years ago. Under her watch, and I know that Mrs Carver would want me to recognise Lynda’s contribution, in both 2017 and 2018 Fulneck was placed in the top 5% of schools in England for progress made by pupils at A Level. She leaves our Board of Governors with our thanks and best wishes for the future.
There is, of course, more to education than raw results. We exist to promote a love of learning and value the process not just results. For many of our pupils, academia is one of their strengths if not their niche. It is therefore vital that we offer academic enrichment opportunities to challenge them. I have appointed Dr Caroline Neuberg, our Head of Science, to the Senior Management Team from September to ensure that our able and enthusiastic pupils are stretched.
 
 
That is not to say that we are not already offering many opportunities across all year groups. Looking back over this year, for example, we have seen a visit to CERN and the UN in Geneva, the Top of the Bench Chemistry competition at the University of York, the Physics Olympiad also in York and the Faraday challenge day for local schools here. Our Year 8 pupils took part in the Leeds University Festival of Science week, investigating what makes our weather system work. Sadly, they haven’t been able to affect the weather of the last month!
Our GCSE Spanish pupils visited Malaga as part of their final exam preparations and our A Level English Literature pupils enjoyed a weekend in London, including a viewing of The Woman in Black and a visit to the Globe theatre. Our Year 10 historians visited the Cold War bunker in York, not, I hasten to add, in preparation for a Boris Johnson premiership!
The “Work Hard” part of our ethos does not just apply to the classroom. We urge our pupils to give their best in every activity to which they commit. They are supported in this by a dedicated teaching and non-teaching staff. From time to time, much to our regret, for a range of personal and professional reasons, colleagues do move on.
Before I took up post, I knew that Kathy Dunn, our Head of Learning Support, would be leaving us at the end of the year as her husband’s job moved to north London. Over 27 years here at Fulneck, Kathy has provided a level of expertise that is unrivalled in my experience in the independent sector. We always knew that she would be very difficult to replace but are delighted that Sally Moore, a practising and qualified SENCo, joins us in September.
Steve Kitson and Silvia Bello also leave us this summer after six years apiece at Fulneck leading our Geography and Spanish departments. Both are now taking on roles in larger departments in bigger schools and we wish them success in the next stage of their career development. They are replaced by experienced teachers Beverley Elliott from Abbey Grange School and Amelia Milnes from Titus Salt School.
Ashfaq Ahmed and Iain Brazier joined the school at the last minute to cover absences in IT and DT. I would like to thank them both for providing stability and wish them well for the future. Rachel Duchovny and Elizabeth McHugh, both currently teaching in Bradford, take on those departments from September.
In my first address to staff back in September, I told them the story of JFK’s visit to the NASA space station. Seeing a janitor carrying a broom, President Kennedy asked him what he was doing. “Mr President”, the janitor said, “I’m here to help put a man on the moon.”
This is a good reminder that we have a unified purpose – to provide the best start to life we possibly can for our pupils. It is also a reminder that it takes a community to educate a child. It takes a community to run a school.
It also takes a PA to run a new Principal. At Easter, Judith Rhodes retired after 25 years at Fulneck. Appointed by the first Principal of the newly merged boys and girls’ school, Judith served every Principal thereafter; I know that Trevor Kernohan and Deborah Newman will join me today in acknowledging Judith’s contribution to Fulneck School. At her leaving dinner, we asked Judith who has been the most awkward Principal in her time. I take it as a badge of honour that Judith’s finger was pointed straight at me!
Julie Gabbitas departs for pastures new after 7 years leading our Girls’ Boarding House and 6 years as Head of Boarding. During this time, our boarding community has grown in strength and I know that the girls all have a great deal to thank Julie for. I know she would be happy in me saying that, above all, she just cares.
Helen Pickersgill also leaves Girls boarding after 6 years as Assistant Housemistress. We wish Julie and Helen well in their exciting new roles.
Robin Rhoades steps down as Head of Music to dedicate more time to his position as Housemaster of our Boys’ Boarding House. Heather Pennwood joins us, also from Abbey Grange School, to become our first whole-school Director of Music.
Lizzie Carrick and Billy Barter have now completed their year with us as graduate support in the PE Department. I would like to thank them for their contribution to our sport and wish them every success in their teacher training year.
Taking a new direction, I have appointed Andy Potter, Head of Games at Silocates School, to the PE Department which will be led across the whole school by Ryan Walker. Andy will lead on boys’ and girls’ football and golf.
Nathan Clarke, former captain of Huddersfield Town and currently playing at Halifax, joins us to head up the coaching of football for boys and girls. I know that Nathan will model the right behaviours and culture around our football. I am currently in discussions with Leeds Rhinos to secure a similar netball figurehead.
Part of our job as teachers is to model our expectations. Role models are so important to schools. I’m delighted that a role model of mine, a man for whom I worked in two very different schools across the best part of a decade is here today. Without his influence and belief in me, I wouldn’t be here today.
I could hardly believe my luck when I first met this year’s pupil role models, Heads of School, Chrissie and Angus, and their team of Senior Prefects.  You will hear later what this School has meant for them and I know that many former pupils in the audience will be nodding along as they recollect their own school days. This team has been simply outstanding; Chloe and Arran and their senior team have had remarkable role models, as have all the pupils who have witnessed their senses of responsibility and maturity.
Things are changing at Fulneck.
Dr Neuberg’s appointment is not the only change to the senior structure. From September, Gemma Carver will take up a permanent Vice Principal post, driving our academic processes. One of her first tasks will be to review our curriculum to ensure that it enables our pupils to develop the knowledge and skills required in the 21st century. She will be joined in this by Chris Norris who becomes Assistant Principal to drive staff development.
Rob Potts becomes our Vice Principal Pastoral. As well as responsibility for pupil welfare, I have tasked Rob with ensuring we have the right processes in place to move our mental health agenda forward. We have been working closely with Leeds Beckett University on their mental health programme but I still believe we can do more to ensure that our pupils know how to manage their own mental well-being before they leave us for university.
With Rob moving into this new role and Mrs Stewart focussing more on her role as safeguarding lead, Mrs Haxby will be joined as a Head of House by Miss Gosh and Mr Middlemiss. The emphasis of this position will also change in September from being largely pastoral in the past to being much more holistic, with each Head of House responsible for the academic and extra-curricular development as well as pastoral care of the pupils.
As you will be aware from the school newsletter, we have been working on our 5 Year Strategy for the development of Fulneck School. Early in the new academic year, there will be an opportunity for all parents to come into school to look at our vision, key pillars of the strategy and high level aims as the school moves towards its 275th birthday.
Without wanting to go into too much detail now, I can guarantee you that two principles will feature prominently.
Firstly, I have mentioned already my genuine concern, as a parent as well as a Principal, with the mental health epidemic and this can be twinned with the problem of child obesity. No doubt, the obsession with social media has much to answer for.
Research suggests that participation in extra-curricular activities, especially those that enable us to feel part of a team or band or society enhance our mental well-being as well as provide opportunities for character development. I believe that we can do this much better at Fulneck.
Secondly, as teachers we would never describe our pupils as the finished article. However well a pupil is doing, there will always be ways of deepening their knowledge, enhancing their skills or piquing their interest in a new topic. The same is true of us as teachers, especially as we now live in an era in which research into what works in education is so readily available.
For all members of our community to continue to grow, we will be exploring the concept of growth mindset next year.
But today is really about the pupils. Pupil achievements this year have been high in quality and across so many fields, in and out of school. Some of the individual successes are detailed in today’s programme. Accepting it is inadvisable to pick out an individual, I am going to highlight Sophie Hobbah’s achievements, partly because she leaves us today and partly because maintaining the training programme of an international swimmer at the same time as working hard on her A Levels is a powerful message to many pupils who claim they struggle for time.
The Duke of Edinburgh programme remains a strength at Fulneck and particularly important because of its emphasis on service and its demand of pupils that they leave their comfort zones. 14 pupils leave this afternoon for their Silver assessment and 5 pupils will complete their Gold next week.
Sport is an area in which we punch above our weight. This is particularly the case with our netball teams who certainly benefit from our two term approach to the sport. The First VII played some exciting netball; even more promising is the fact that the team was largely comprised of Year 11s who have two more years with us. The most successful team in the school this year was the U13 netball squad who were unbeaten in, and therefore winners of, the Leeds Schools league. Our rounders teams have also enjoyed a successful season.
Some of you will know my long-standing belief that cricket is the greatest game ever invented. Unfortunately, the weather gods have not agreed with me this term and our fixtures have been sadly limited. This included the cancellation of our first girls’ cricket fixture- but we will be back.
Our size is our strength. Our class sizes ensure a more personalised education than most schools can provide. However, this does not help us on the rugby field. In spite of the efforts of Sixth Form stalwarts, finding competitive fixtures that guarantee the safety of our children can be very difficult.
Our football enjoys much more success, with victories against many of the larger independent schools. I believe that our football success will be furthered by taking the same two term approach as we have with the girls’ netball.
In a moment, we will be inviting our prize winners onto the stage. You will see that several bear the name of generous benefactors. Unfortunately, over the years some names have been lost. One example of that is the Prize for PE, formerly named after a long-serving and inspirational teacher known to so many former pupils. I am so pleased that John Ramskill’s widow, Lindy, is with us today. Whilst we all know that change is inevitable for Fulneck, some traditions should be maintained and restored. For today, I hope that Fran won’t mind if Lindy comes onto the stage to present that prize to George Kelly now.
It is central to my philosophy of education, though, that there is more to life than self. Thanks to the sacrifices made by parents, our pupils receive a privileged education. The qualifications and life skills that our pupils develop will enable them to achieve university places and stable careers and lives. They do, therefore, also develop a moral responsibility to make a difference to the world around them, a principle that keeps us true to our Moravian roots.
In a world that will increasingly rely on Artificial Intelligence, it’s also important that our children develop those qualities that make us human – emotional intelligence, compassion and empathy – in short, being kind.
Last year, our pupils raised over £4000 for The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund. This year, pupils voted to support The Candlelighters Trust who support local children suffering from cancer. Fundraising activities have ranged from Christmas Jumper Day to community bingo (my favourite) to staff completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge and the Pudsey 10k run (my least favourite). I would like to thank Miss Humphries for driving this commitment alongside our Sixth Form charities committee.
Barack Obama was recently asked in an interview with Bear Grylls what advice he gives his daughters. “Work Hard, Be Useful”, he responded. For the pupils leaving us today, I don’t think I could offer you any better advice.
Thank you.

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