Head of School Speech – Jonny Russell (Lower Sixth)

Senior School
23 Apr 21

During the Headmaster’s Assembly at the end of Lent Term, we were delighted to hear that our new Heads of School were Jonny Russell and Isabel Bruce-Lockhart (both Lower Sixth). During this week’s assembly, we hear Jonny’s Head of School speech. You can also read his speech below. 

‘Good afternoon School,

I really hope that the Easter break was an enjoyable time for everyone and a chance to recharge before the final term of the 2021 school year. It was certainly great to finally meet up with family members who we had not seen for many months, even if it was outside and we froze!

I want to commend everyone on the work they put in over last term’s lockdown, sitting in the same room for countless hours plugging away. From my own experience, the need for a second lunch or a nap was sometimes tempting when fifth period was analysing waves, but pushing on was always made worthwhile by the remarkable teaching that Sutton Valence staff had to offer, so a very big thank you to you all.

I would also like to take a moment to congratulate Izzy on also becoming Head of School and I am very much looking forward to sharing this role with her. I am truly honoured to be standing here today speaking in front of you all in what is to be Mr Grindlay’s last term. When joining in the First Form and hearing the Head of School speaking, I could never have imagined myself in that role, and I do hope I can follow in the footsteps of my predecessors and do the role justice. Every moment and experience within the SVS community has led to this very position I am stood in today, so thank you, everyone.  

I am sure we have all learnt a great deal over the past unprecedented year and for myself, it has enforced something that I always felt very important; seizing every opportunity that comes your way as many are short-lived and can simply disappear.

Days after the pandemic had halted school learning as we know it and sent us all onto Zoom, Covid-19 made it into my family. After losing one of my grandparents, I then went down with it. I was expecting a few days of headaches and coughing, followed by business as usual. However, when I found myself with total shoulder paralysis and in immense pain, I was rather startled and my confidence of where my life was going just disappeared overnight. Months went by unable to even hold cutlery, and when a specialist told me the rare nerve damage that I had suffered would mean that my sporting career as I knew it was basically over, the reality of it all really started to settle in. Sitting in that room and hearing those words was a hard prospect to come to terms with, as the sports field has always been somewhere I have received and experienced a variety of opportunities, and where I believe true connections with people are discovered, so the prospects of losing everything I had built up in the 16 years of my life so far was something I just couldn’t comprehend.

If such events had happened to me at the beginning of my Sutton Valence journey, I am almost certain that admitting defeat would have seemed the best option. Small, 11-year-old me would never have become the person I am today.  I would never have represented my county and made friends all over the country.  Representing SVS in a variety of sports also includes those fun bus journeys with your teammates and teachers that would all have simply been missed. I am so pleased I took those invitations and played with such passion whilst I had the opportunity.  

Sutton Valence over the years taught me to never give up when things got tough, and this mentality was vital when a second medical opinion offered me the chance of rehabilitation.  It has been 12 months of relentless exercising and mental determination, but I am now nearly there. I may never be pain-free or able to bowl at the speed I used to, but I am grateful for what I can do.  I will certainly never take what I am achieving for granted again and I think this is an important message to everyone. It may not be an injury holding you back, but any barriers that you face can all be overcome with a positive mindset.

I have had a great deal of support from people within the School community and outside of it, and although it’s been a huge learning curve, I am now, hopefully, a more forgiving individual and someone who has more empathy towards those who are struggling.  I think it is vital to understand we are not all the same and although we all have different goals and opportunities in life, they are all very worthwhile and should be made the most of.  You really do not know what is around the corner!

I hope my experience makes you think about the opportunities you are being offered here in this incredibly supportive community, whether it be in the classroom, on the sports field, in the theatre or playing a musical instrument.  You may not have that initial talent or enjoy the learning process, but trying new things is so worthwhile as they may lead you to an array of open doors in life. When the going gets tough, you really learn a great deal about yourself and, although my frustrations got the better of me at times, it has taught me that I can really dig deep.

As Head of School this term, I would like to think I could give something back to the community that has helped and encouraged me so much throughout my School life.  If anyone is struggling with self-doubt or an injury, I hope that they could think of my experience and push through the barrier, overcoming what is troubling them. I am always happy to chat and help if you are in need of support.

Hopefully, we can all have a safe and relatively normal term enjoying all that Sutton Valence has to offer and celebrate Mr Grindlay’s final term after a very successful time as Headmaster.

As is tradition, I would like to finish with a short quote by William Arthur Ward:

“Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.”

Thank you for listening.’