Heads of School Speeches

Senior School
2 May 24

At the start of this term, our Upper Sixth prefects handed over their duties to their Lower Sixth counterparts and, accordingly we welcomed our new Summer Term Heads of School – Rosalie Parsons and Jack Hills. As is tradition, they started their tenure with speeches at successive Headmaster’s Assemblies. The transcripts of these speeches are below.

Rosalie Parsons – Head of School Speech

I hope you have all had a relaxing Easter break and are ready to take on arguably the best, but also the busiest term of the year. First, I would like to thank Mr Thomas and Mr Farrell for giving me this opportunity. I would also like to congratulate Jack Hills on the role of Head Boy.

As many Heads of School have said before me, the hardest job is the first – the speech. When I first joined the school in Third Form and I heard the speeches given by the Heads of School at the time, I remember telling my mother that I did not think that I could ever do something like that – well here I am.

When looking for inspiration for my speech, I turned to past speeches and realised each one had a common theme, a message to pass onto the school of something that they had learnt through their time at Sutton Valence. I tried to think of what my message would be, and I initially came up short of a definite idea.

Then last week, I embarked on my Gold Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition, and the inspiration hit me – along with the wind, the rain, a tent pole and my over-packed rucksack. On the first day, after 20 kilometres of walking, laughing and trudging up through rivers I realised that it was the combination of teamwork, courage and determination that was going to see us to the end of the week and many many more steep hills and kilometres of walking. It is these values that not only take us through our time here at school, but through life as well.

At Sutton Valence, we are given so many opportunities to excel, whether it is in sports, music, drama productions, art, or other activities such as CCF or Duke of Edinburgh. It is often easy to forget how much you have achieved during your time at the school, however it is guaranteed at some point, whether you are doing something you love or something you hoped you could avoid, you must dig deep and put the extra effort in to succeed. It is that little bit of extra effort that is recognised at this school and often rewarded. Taking part in any of the schools’ activities sometimes takes a little bit of courage and determination and being part of a team at Sutton Valence often makes it even more rewarding.

From Mathematics lessons that had me, the class and Mrs Mitchell-Nanson pulling out our hair, to being part of the team that won the Under 16 National Hockey Cup last year, I know that I can reflect on these memories in fondness which is only made possible by my friends and teammates.

We must all have the courage to try new things and say yes to as many opportunities as possible, but we must also have the courage to fail and the bravery to learn from our failures. It is only through failing that we can learn beyond the safety of the classroom. Personally, I have learnt that a marathon or even the 800 metres sports day race is unlikely to be in my future as well as drawing and painting, to which Mr Thompson can attest to. However, it is after trying things like my first nerve-wracking performance with the choir, I realised I could do it again and enjoy it.

I started my education at a small village school with no real clubs or sport. Moving to a school that is packed full of sport and activities was certainly overwhelming at first. However, as I progressed through the school I became more and more determined to grab at every opportunity and that has shaped me into the person that I am now.

You will no doubt be faced with difficult challenges but it is how you overcome those challenges that will define you and, even if it takes a while, try not to compare yourself to your friend’s achievements. We are all different.

Determination is something we face every day. It is finishing homework in tutor time one minute before it is due or trialling for a sport in a regional or national team. We will all face challenges big and small, at school and in life, that call for us to dig deeper, put on our brave faces and try to get the job done no matter how hard it may seem.

I am sure all of us will look back on our time at Sutton Valence and realise how lucky we are to have the teachers we do, who help us in the classrooms, on sports pitches, in theatres and encourage us to pursue opportunities outside of school as well.

It is often said that hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I am sure that will be true when looking back on everything we have achieved, the friends we have made and values and lessons we will take with us from our experiences.

I would like to wish those taking exams this term the best of luck and to finish (as is tradition) I will end with a quote from one of my favourite films, the Princess Diaries – ‘Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; the brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all’.

Jack Hills – Head of School Speech

I hope you all had an enjoyable Easter break and are fitting back into the usual school routine well. I would like to thank Mr Thomas, Mr Farrell and the other members of the Senior Management Team for this role. I would also like to congratulate Rosalie on being chosen as Head Girl. Together with the other prefects, we will give back to this community that has given us so much.

For those who do not know me, my name is Jack. I am now the third generation of my family to attend Sutton Valence. During my time here, from when I joined the Prep School in Year 3, the school and the teachers have helped me mature into the person I am today. When I started the Senior School, if someone had told me I would be standing here in front of you today I would not have believed them, but it is an honour to do so. During my school life, I have been lucky enough to get various opportunities. But when I look back, I regret not grasping all the ones I could have done in my time.

To the younger pupils at the early stages of your school life here, Sutton Valence has many opportunities available from sports, academic, music and drama. This is not common to come by with all of these in one place. Take those opportunities that are presented to you but also present yourself to the ones that are not at arm’s length.

From these occasions, you may think you will only take away classroom knowledge however, you create memories with people around you and trust me, making memories during your time at school makes it much easier to get out of bed on those Monday mornings.

Look around, look at this School and look at your friends and think how fortunate we are compared to others around the world in times of despair. We are privileged to be here and have the lives and the opportunities we do.

At the end of your school life, whatever you decide to do, we will all go down different paths and experience different things. After all we are a dot on a spinning circle so you should not worry too much about every decision you make in life. At the same time, do not be afraid to fail as you learn more by failing than succeeding.

A study was done about the average 18-year-old and how long they have left. After taking away sleep, education and eating, they are left with 334 months. On average, they will spend 93 per cent of that remaining free time on a screen. So put the phone down, live life to the fullest and write your own story.

To do something different to your everyday life and to step out of it might seem too far. However, after you do and then experience it, nine times out of ten, you will be happy with yourself that you did it. If you are unsure or concerned about taking something on, usually the thought of doing it is much worse than actually doing it. You are more likely to regret those things you did not do rather than things you did.

In conclusion, for our lives here at school but also out of the classroom and in the future, we should embrace every opportunity that life throws at us even if some are not what we want but may have to do.

As is tradition, I will end with a quote by the deaf and blind American Author Hellen Keller, ‘Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all’.