Head of School speech – Isabel Bruce-Lockhart (Lower Sixth)

Senior School
6 May 21

During this week’s assembly, we heard Isabel Bruce-Lockhart (Lower Sixth), deliver her Head of School speech to the School. You can also read her speech below.

“Good afternoon School,

I hope you are all well and have had an enjoyable first few weeks of term. It’s been an interesting year, to say the least, and with COVID-19 restrictions now starting to ease, I hope everyone is beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I would like to start by thanking Mr Grindlay for giving me this opportunity and congratulate Jonny on becoming Head of School too. I am honoured to have received this role alongside him.

It is amazing the amount of time we all spend at the School. For many of you, you will have been at School now for nearly 15 years. Throughout these 15 years, and during the time we have all been here, some huge events have taken place which will be remembered in history, such as Royal weddings, Brexit, the London Olympics or even England winning the Cricket World Cup. However, the biggest one being something we are living through at this very moment – COVID-19, which has brought so many challenges. It has robbed us of so much. However, I think it has made us appreciate everything we have in our lives, opening our eyes to the importance of friends and family. Most of all, it has made us grateful for the lives we led before, regretting opportunities we didn’t take advantage of earlier.

I look back to last summer when restrictions were eased, wishing that I would have taken advantage of this time more. I did not properly consider that we could be put back into lockdown, so when that time came, I, and I am sure most of you, felt very deflated by the news. Being in lockdown, I realised how much I actually had missed School. Only now do I recognise how easy it is to take for granted what you have. All the same, rather than dwelling on the past, look forward because you can only control the present, focusing on the things you can change and control, rather than on the things you cannot change. These past 12 months have taught us all how much we are unable to control our lives, but when we can take control, we must do so.

In the 15 years you are at School, starting as young as three years old to leaving as an adult, you will develop, change, mature, and grow as a person. It is strange to think that in the next 15 years after leaving School, we will be 33. Take some celebrities who are this age, for example, Rihanna – a winner of nine Grammy awards or Lionel Messi, who has a salary of 71 million euros and won a record-breaking number of awards. Seeing what these people have achieved can be overwhelming and it is perfectly normal to feel frightened by the future. I haven’t much idea what I want to do when I am older, so I definitely find it daunting to see everything some people have achieved. However, money or fame aren’t what matter. What matters is finding what you love, and School is the perfect place to do this.

I have been at Sutton Valence for almost five years and, within this time, I have understood what an amazing place it is and how much it has to offer, which is why I urge you to make the most of your time at School. Find what excites you – it could be Art-related, Music, Sport, Drama or academia. Finding something you love will help you get through the harder things you have to face, like stress from examinations, issues with family, or friendship problems – anything you may be going through. It will act as an escape, something that takes your mind off everything else going on in your life and helps you get through whatever challenge you might be facing.

Having said this, I understand that sometimes we all struggle to do what we truly want because we worry about other people’s opinions, their judgment or criticism. This is often the reason why many of us do not take up opportunities that are given to us and we conform to what others do instead, but you must be genuine to yourself and follow your inner voice. Otherwise, you will have the fear of losing who you are in the process of conformity, forgetting what makes you unique and what makes you, you!

Be open, try new things, you might struggle at first, but you will learn from your mistakes and better yourself in the process. More often than not, we do not know what we are capable of until we try.

If I had not pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, I would not be standing in front of the whole School right now. When I was first told that I would be Head of School, the first thing which entered my mind was the speech and how daunting it is. Public speaking isn’t something that comes naturally to me; I never thought I would have to talk to you all as I am now and, being dyslexic, reading and writing are not always easy. However, I have learnt how tempting it is to avoid obstacles coming your way. I know in the past, that I have often chosen the ‘safer’ option if I have had the choice. But stepping out of your comfort zone and facing a challenge head-on are the keys to growth and development.

Nonetheless, I understand that the challenges we face in life can be overwhelming. Therefore, naturally, we get a negative, glass-half-empty mindset, leaving ourselves with little self-belief. For example, only last year, when I was preparing for my Mathematics GCSE, I didn’t think I was capable of passing because of how difficult I have always found the subject. It has definitely never been a strong point of mine, so when I opened the letter from the examination board confirming I had passed, I gained more confidence in my ability for the subject. It made me comprehend the realisation that often it is your mind which is the barrier to your success, and not that you physically cannot do something. Simply, having a positive mindset can eliminate unnecessary stress you might have otherwise had.

Not only this, but SVS is a place where you get support for every obstacle coming your way, however big or small. There are many who will help you at times in need. When I was younger, I was quite nervous about coming to School, I never particularly liked it much. But as I have grown older, and throughout my School journey, I have come to realise how much of a community SVS is, not just a place where you get a grade and leave. It is a place where you make friends and memories, alongside some amazing opportunities. So, make the most of your time here because you will not know what you have missed out on until you have left.

Saying this, I now hope I will be able to give something back to the SVS community and will do my best to help everyone with the term ahead.

Lastly, and as it is a tradition, I would like to end with a quote. Abraham Lincoln once said, “it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years”.

Thank you all for listening.”