FOUNDERS' DAY 2016
Founders' Day 2016 – Headmaster’s Speech
Your Royal Highness. It is an absolute pleasure to welcome you here today and I thank you most sincerely for visiting the school of which you have been President since 1974. I will not embarrass you by recalling all your many visits to this school but I cannot fail to mention that you have visited us in 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013 and now today. Might 3 be your lucky number?
I will return to this topic later but, if I may, I would now like, very briefly to welcome everyone else.
If I followed correct protocol, Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff, Madam Chairman, Madam Mayor, Bishop, and used your full titles and the correct forms of welcome we would be here for quite some time. So may I simply say: welcome to the many friends and supporters of Royal Alexandra and Albert School, Governors and members of the Board of Management, my colleagues, parents, former pupils and, most importantly,currentpupils of Year 7 and the Sixth Form as well as the Prize-winners. You are very welcome.
As Headmaster I rely on my PA, Mrs Sally Herrtage, to sort me out, tell me what is happening and what appointments I have every day. Mrs Herrtage tells me I am retiring this summer. And if she tells me I am retiring, then it has to be true.At this point I would like to pay tribute to my PA. It is difficult to define exactly what Mrs Herrtage does, but it makes my life so much better (and more efficient) when my meetings and papers are sorted out for me and everyone gets the impression I am pretty organised ! Mrs Herrtage: thank you very much indeed.
I am very impressed by how many people there are here today and how full the Chapel is. It reminds me of a very old American film I saw once. Huge numbers of members of a "mafia gang” turn up to the funeral of another Mafiosi they all hated and somebody asks: Why you here? "To check that it is true” the main baddie answers. Well I can assure you that it is true. I am retiring at the end of this term.
So now that we have got that out of the way, what do I want to say to you before I go?
It is traditional to look back and talk about the past on Founders’ Days.
Well, very simply, I can tell you that it has been a very good year. We might have lost the Sovereign’s Cup Rugby this year – but my goodness I did enjoy winning it last year and making a gracious speech to the Head of Gordon’s School and his Rugby Captain at the end of the match!
I have to tell you, Your Royal Highness, that we have not yet won the Duchess of Gloucester Trophy for netball. But you cannot believe how hard the girls have tried – and the count of broken fingers rises year-on-year.
In contrast to the Founders’ Day in 2004 when there were five hundred and something pupils in the school and you made a speech, there are now over a thousand pupils – and you, Your Royal Highness, are not being asked to make a speech!
But instead of looking back I want to look forward and to talk of my ambitions for this school, its pupils and its staff and, Your Royal Highness, I would like to do this by referring to the speech you made in 2004.
You talked of "the co-operation amongst teaching staff, management, pupils and their parents”. I can report that this school has a highly dedicated teaching staff, and I am often left in admiration of their skill in teaching when I observe lessons. The Senior Leadership of the School is hardworking, very effective and brings vision to the development of the school. In passing I must congratulate Mrs Kathryn Hobbs on her promotion to a Headship. I can also assure you there is strength in depth in the team. The positive behaviour and politeness of pupils will be highlighted in one of the two Ofsted reports that is about to be published and, contrary to what is believed about young people today, pupils here generally have a very positive attitude to learning and to taking responsibility for their own progress. We also have a hugely supportive set of parents.
My ambition is that this should continue and that results should continue to rise under Mark Dixon my successor who is here today and whom I welcome most warmly.
Twelve years ago you said "We have to remember what a large place this is, but it takes time and huge funds to get around to completing it all.” By completing it all you meant renovation of boarding houses and other buildings as well as extending the IT network. What has been achieved by Governors and the Board of Management in the last 12 years has been extraordinary and represents a huge investment of funds. My ambition for the school is that this work continues as fast as funds allow to provide more sports pitches, more boarding places to meet the huge demand for Sixth Form boarding and, eventually, the replacement of our many temporary classrooms with one or two teaching blocks- though actually the temporary classrooms are excellent to work in though perhaps they are not visually very attractive. I don’t think that we will ever "complete it all” to use your expression, but I look forward to hearing of continued development over the years to come.
In 2004 you referred to the core purpose of this school "the education of children who would not otherwise benefit from a quality boarding education”. I am delighted to be able to tell Your Royal Highness that we currently have some fifty boarders and another thirty or more Flexi Boarders who benefit from this scheme, many of whom are present here in Chapel as well as quite a number of former Foundationers, as we call them, who have come back for this event. My ambition is that such numbers will continue to grow and that we will continue to see successful young people move on from this school to realise their full potential as young adults.
Finally, in 2004 you said "Royal Patronage was considered to make a huge difference”. I have to tell you that it still is considered to make a huge difference. Your visits to this school and your focus on talking to young people is massively appreciated by so many young people and I would like to conclude by thanking you for making such a difference to this school and the lives of many young people over what is now 42 years of President. Your Royal Highness: Thank you.