The Principal’s first speech of the year

Mr Taylor meets the new pupils.The Principal’s first speech of the year – the annual “state of the union” address – during staff training is always crucial. It is a chance to welcome new faces to the community, reflect on pupil achievements in A Level and GCSE exams and praise the activity of the non-teaching staff who work so hard during the summer “holiday”.
In his first speech to staff as Principal of Fulneck School, Paul Taylor also outlined what he believes is important in education and what he wants to see retained and developed at Fulneck.

  1. One School, one aim

I love the story of President Kennedy’s visit in 1962 to NASA. Apparently, he bumped into a janitor, carrying his broom down the corridor, and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What do you do?” The man responded “Mr President, I’m here to put a man on the moon.”

As a school, we also have one purpose: to provide an exceptional education for every individual. Whatever our role in school – teaching and support staff – we have a contribution to make to that aim. Moreover, our roles are totally inter-dependent. Without our groundsmen, we have no quality fields on which to play. Without our catering staff, we have hungry children and adults!

  1. High Expectations

Find me a school that does not tell you that it has high expectations! Find me a school, though, that actually explains what that means!

I want to spend this term’s assemblies explaining to our children what we mean, in two key ways. Firstly, we are old-fashioned about behaviour and manners. The way that children talk to each other and the way that they talk to adults – be they teachers or not – is so important. Learning to value and respect everyone around us is an important part of a Fulneck education.
Secondly, some of our pupils will leave Fulneck with straight A*s at A Level, be offered places at top universities and will consequently getting a big pat on the back from us. Other pupils won’t get those grades, but, if they have worked incredibly hard – “blood, sweat and tears” – they will get just as big a pat on the back. All we want is for our pupils to work hard at everything they do – parents and teachers can’t ask for anymore.
  1. Community
The strength and warmth of the Fulneck community hits you as soon as you enter the site. However much the school grows over the next decade, we must never lose that.
We want our pupils to appreciate the value of what we achieve together, to celebrate each other’s successes and commiserate their defeats. As adults, we know that teams can be so much more powerful than the sum of their parts – look at England during last summer’s World Cup as a classic example.
  1. Service
Our society needs great leaders and I believe that Fulneck pupils have that role to play whilst at school as well as after university. Whilst I wish them every individual success, I do believe that serving their communities – local, national and international – provides a greater purpose for their lives.
Providing help for those in need has always been at the centre of all the major world religions and it is our duty to ensure that our pupils have the opportunities to develop their leadership skills and become outward-looking, empathetic and humble people.
  1. Resilience
I am first a Dad and then a Principal. In a way, then, I’m no different from all parents who constantly read stories in the media about the challenges facing our children, from mental health to obesity to social media.
It is crucial that our pupils build up resilience whilst they are in the safe environment of school. Sometimes this will mean a failure, other times lessons learnt from an error of judgement. The greater danger is that our pupils leave school without the experience of bouncing back from defeat and then suffer the first time they meet an obstacle in life.
I am delighted to see already that Fulneck School is proactive in training its staff and aiding its pupils to thrive in our exciting yet challenging world. Like any teacher or parent, I just want to see happy, flourishing children.
  1. Inspiration
I don’t come from a particularly political family; we didn’t spend Sunday lunch discussing politics, we spent it discussing football – and back in the 1980s, that was always a painful experience! I chose to study A Level Politics at school because I had heard good things about the teacher. How often that is the case for pupils when making A Level or GCSE choices!
Almost from the moment I met Mrs Stephen, I was mesmerised: her sheer passion for the subject, the stories she knew and the advice she gave, she is the reason that I only ever wanted to teach. (Almost true – I wanted to play cricket for Yorkshire but faced the challenge of not being very good at cricket!)
All my colleagues have a Mrs Stephen, the reason they do their jobs today. My challenge to all our wonderful staff at Fulneck is to do their best to be our pupils’ “Mrs Stephen”.

Go to the blog & news homepage

© Fulneck School