You can download both speeches from this year's Prize Giving as a pdf or read the speeches below:
Prize Giving 2016: Chairman of Governors
Thank you all for making the effort to come and support, congratulate and celebrate our prize winners on a week night when I’m sure many of you are busy.
For the governing body this year a real of real progress as we have had the opportunity to work with Philip Wayne as our new headmaster. Having had a full year to plan for his arrival, the Head initiated back in September a self imposed mock Ofsted visit, and this confirmed that RGS would be highly likely to be still considered an outstanding school, but also gave some pointers on where RGS could be even better. So we knew we had a senior team who were building on solid foundations, but also there were numerous areas where RGS could improve. We have reset the school's vision and mission, and I know the Headmaster will touch on this later. We have also been really encouraged by the short term progress made in areas such as data being used for progress monitoring, parental communication, and a restructure of the senior team for September. All of these changes are designed to bring benefit to the boys.
So I am confident the plans are in place that will see RGS go from strength to strength over the coming years and see it become truly the UK state school offering the best all round education to boys from all backgrounds.
It would not be possible for RGS to offer everything you will see represented here tonight without the support of parents and others who give both time and money. The financial side is well documented and we do constantly need support given the squeeze on government finances, but time can also be given so easily by any body and is just as important. This generosity is much appreciated and on behalf of the Governors, I thank you.
Similarly, without the goodwill of the staff, RGS would not be able to offer this huge range of activities. They give so much time beyond the minimum. So tonight for me is also testament to the staff's achievements in nurturing the talent of the prize winners. Thank you all very much.
Finally I would like to add my own congratulations to all tonight's prize winners. You richly deserve tonight's applause and I hope you will enjoy tonight and be motivated to give everything you try your best shot.
Steve Ashton, Chairman of Governors
Prize Giving 2016: Headmaster
Thank you for the music.
Good evening to you all.
I am very pleased and proud, after a most enjoyable and rewarding year as Headmaster of RGS to address you this evening at our Senior Prize Giving. This is a very special fixture in the RGS calendar. As you entered the hall I am sure you could see that a lot of work has gone into the preparations for this evening. My thanks to Joanne Hewitt who has spent many weeks to ensure that tonight’s event is a high-quality celebration commensurate with the success of our students.
May I first of all offer a warm welcome to the Worshipful Mayor of High Wycombe, Cllr Ahmed and the Chairman of Wycombe District Council, Cllr Hussain.
I am also delighted to welcome our Guest of Honour, Commodore Mike Bath from the Royal Navy, whom I met a few months ago whilst he was leading of bi-annual CCF inspection. I know that the Commodore will have some thought-provoking words for us this evening.
Finally, to all of you – prize winners, parents, friends of the school (many of you have sponsored prizes) I do hope that you enjoy the evening. I plan, in the next 10 minutes or so to give a short review of the year, secondly to talk about our boys’ success and thirdly to talk a little about the future.
Well- what a year. I have written twenty ‘Headmaster’s Letters’ since September which have been designed to keep everyone informed about the sheer range of events which take place at RGS throughout the year. I won’t repeat it all, but will give you a short review. We started the year with the RGS community mourning the death of former Head of Classics, John Edwards, who taught at RGS for 25 years and also Sergio Gonzales, Spanish Assistant and boarding tutor, died tragically at a young age. John left a significant legacy gift to further the music of the school and Sergio is commemorated with a plaque near the boarding house. So in different ways we can remember two colleagues who died at different stages of their lives, will always be remembered for their contribution to RGS.
We started the year with 69% of boys having achieved A*/A at GCSE and 77% or boys achieving A*/B at A level. All boys qualified for higher education. We all know that Oxbridge is not for everyone, but it is one indicator of the health a school’s capacity to support high attainers –we are proud that 19 boys headed in that direction.
We have had a phenomenal musical year, with excellent concerts of fine music, outstanding participation. There will not be many state schools who can make up the significant core of a performance of Verdi’s Requiem or sing choral evensong in a Cambridge University College Chapel. That is only one dimension and we have all enjoyed solo, orchestral, guitar, vocal and jazz band performances throughout the year.
I always knew that sport at RGS was good. I don’t think I had fully appreciated just how great it was. Rowing goes from strength to strength. When I met some of the rowers, earlier in the year, to learn a little more about it, they unanimously told me that rowing ‘punched above its weight’ –it certainly does thanks not only to the commitment of the boys but also the staff, coaches and parents who give so much time and support to this sport as it competes with the top rowing schools in national regattas, and just this weekend, Lewis Howlett and Ethan O’Connor (Year 11) of the RGS Boat Club represented Great Britain in the annual GB vs France J16 match, rowing in the double scull category. Although Great Britain lost overall, Lewis and Ethan were victorious in their event.”
Our diversity in sport continues with a keen team of fencers and Eton Fives players. We have had considerable local and national success in athletics, swimming, squash. Our hockey season has been greatly enhanced by the new Roy Page all weather pitch (the new all-weather pitch, not the new Roy Page), with some excellent results at all levels. The U18s progressed far in the National Finals and runners up in the super sixes; younger groups are burgeoning which augurs well for the future. The Rugby season was a great success too, with the 1st XV progressing a long way in the Nat West trophy, runners up in the St Joseph’s festival (being one of only two state schools out of a total of 16), winning Sedburgh Tens. Well there we are, a potted history of sport at RGS in the 15-16 academic year. And this does not in any way give a true picture of all of the individual achievements throughout the year.
The CCF offers a great opportunity to our boys. I was pleased to pay a visit to Bramley camp to see one of the weekend training sessions in action and to hear how highly commended it was in recent inspection, led by the Commodore. The Duke of Edinburgh award provides for many boys to ‘go for gold’ –as I’m sure you know, all three awards are highly regarded and have a large take-up.
We have taken part in and had immense success in Model United Nations events, STEM competitions, Youth parliament elections, academic conferences with Wycombe Abbey, maths and science Olympiads and many other subject based opportunities.
Our trips, all over the world are indicative of the extra miles our staff will travel to ensure that RGS boys have the best opportunities. My own son, in Year 7, has just returned with muddy, damp clothes but full of the joys of RGS on his first residential – the Year 7 camp in Buxton. We have regular assembly presentations by boys who share their experiences with us all – be it the Year 9 French/History trip, ski trips, the summer tours – Cricket tour to Sri Lanka last year, the rugby tour to North America happening now – these are representative of a truly great school.
We do not forget others and during the year, our boys have raised many thousands of pounds to help local, national and international causes through our Benevolent Fund.
As ever, at this time of year, we have some staff leaving. The longest serving retiree is also the most senior member of staff to be leaving us. My Deputy Headmaster, Roger Pantridge, is retiring after 37 years’ service to RGS. He joined the school from Nigeria as a geography teacher and has steadily risen ‘through the ranks’. A highly respected colleague with a calm manner and great sense of humour, we will all miss you Roger. Roger really knows and cares for our students….in fact I have four days left to find a boy whose name you do not know!
Well – here are our other leavers…..it may look like a mass exodus, at first glance, but I am not taking any of it personally! We have a number of well-deserved promotions, staff moving to be closer to partners as they start their lives together and a number of retirements. As you will see, many of our retiring colleagues have given very long service to the school. We will miss you all but you can, each and every one of you know that you have influenced and inspired a generation of young people who will be forever appreciative of your support. What job could be better than that? This is my fourth school and I would say that RGS staff work harder and demonstrate levels of commitment than I have ever seen. So for staff who will be with us and staff who will not, I should like to invite you all to show your appreciation in the usual way.
A prize giving ceremony, gentlemen, in most schools is a recognition of those who have achieved well in a particular field. I have a little baggage about prize giving ceremonies. I attended a comprehensive school as a boy- nothing wrong with that obviously –but one, which having replaced West Bromwich Grammar School a traditional headmaster retired at the end of my first year and was succeeded by a proudly liberally minded Head teacher who set about dismantling the traditions of the place. It was a political appointment by a political council I seem to remember and governors, in those days would have been powerless to stop it but, bit by bit he transformed the school into a school without prefects, sports teams, commendations, house competitions and, indeed, prize giving ceremonies … .I could go on – even though he himself had attended one of the top Birmingham grammar schools and the University of Oxford and would, no doubt have benefitted from such things. There was a lack of aspiration and a lack of recognition all through my school days. This is one thing that has shaped my view since I entered the teaching profession, that whatever else I do, I must create a culture in a school where success must be celebrated and encouraged. Thankfully at RGS, though there is scope for greater recognition as boys progress through the school, this fine tradition of a Prize giving ceremony is intact. I am so pleased for you –in such a high performing school where, in some cases, teachers and departments will have had to choose between a number of worthy students –they have indeed chosen you. You should be proud of yourselves –we as a school and I know your parents are proud of you too. When you come forward this evening, I really should like you to reflect on what you have achieved and to savour the moment when warm applause greets your arrival on the stage to collect your voucher, book or trophy. I hope, too, that you will keep your prize safe –once you have read it, or used it, know where it is to show people. Tonight, gentlemen, you are RGS prize winners.
Finally, one of the great joys of leading an organisation such as this is to know that everyone wants it to be the best it can be. I have inherited a wonderful school but one which has the overwhelming desire to be even better. I tend to use the word ‘restless’. By restlessness, I don’t mean a ‘fidget’ like a bored child on a train journey, but more a place which is willing to confront areas where things can improve and will tackle them. Ultimately, this is a place where successful, restless staff can provide the best outcomes for restless boys and, indeed, themselves.
The governors and I have been working on a vision for RGS, which I should like to share with you now:
Our vision is to be seen as world-class through offering those most naturally able, irrespective of their background, the best all-round education offered by a UK state school.
We have an exciting five year strategic plan with four basic areas: Strategy for improved teaching and learning, improved outcomes, improved day and boarding facilities and community engagement. We expect to see our results further improve, over time –not at once- as we better monitor progress throughout the school, ensuring that all boys are fully involved in the extra-curricular life of the school; we will continue to recruit teachers and support staff of the highest calibre who will deliver high quality teaching and learning. Preparing boys for future careers , in the knowledge that some of our younger students will enter jobs which do not yet exist is a key area and one in which we may need to look beyond the education world to develop. I have spoken often of careers of influence, distinction and service –this is what we aspire to for our students.
When boys return to a considerably oversubscribed school in September, they will benefit from a newly refurbished dining room and will see the main block in greater splendour, following its redecoration. We will have improved our disabled facilities –including a lift up into this, the Queen’s Hall, the new rugby pitch will be ready for use. Every boy will be a member of a House, as our new House system is launched. Gradually parents will start to receive ‘real time’ information about their son’s attendance, behaviour, rewards and progress as we develop our learning gateway.
We will be reviewing our curriculum to ensure that it is meeting the needs and aspirations of 21st century RGS boys. Next year, when I deliver this address to you, I have no doubt that the new leadership team will be rapidly building on the successes of its predecessors, that the boys will start to feel the direction of travel but what will not change is that true spirit of RGS that makes Dads who are old boys want their sons to come here, old boys want to come back and teach or be governors here and people like many of you in front of me who return year after year for concerts, OW events and Prize Givings such as this.
Many congratulations once again, and thank you for coming along this evening
Philip Wayne, Headmaster