Head of School Speech

Sixth Form
14 Jan 22

During the Headmaster’s Assembly today, Katherine Sawyer (Upper Sixth) delivered her Head of School speech, which you can read below.

‘Good afternoon School.

I hope everyone had a restful break and managed to have as near to a normal Christmas as possible. I would like to start by thanking Mr Thomas for the opportunity to be Head of School this term, I feel honoured to have been given this role.

Standing up here in front of you all, it would seem easier to talk about the more positive aspects of my journey at SVS and perhaps the things I am most proud of. However, I would instead like to talk to you about an important lesson I learnt along the way. With that, I hope to communicate this lesson to the people in our community that perhaps see my new position as one that is beyond reach and completely unattainable for them. This was the mindset I was in for much of my time here.

In life, not just School, it is very easy to be put into a category of people, which is a natural concept that happens in society. Whether that be the so-called ‘nerd’, the sporty one, the popular one – everyone has a stereotype, whether that be perceived as good or bad. One mistake I made in the early years of School was letting a stereotype define me. I let myself believe that this was who I was. As a result, I deliberately tried to portray myself as someone with a ‘don’t care’ attitude in every situation. This not only consumed me socially but academically as well. It was a limiter to my success.

However, the lesson I learnt is that your stereotype and your reputation are not things out of your control, you have the choice to change them and improve yourself in the process. Therefore, my advice to you would be to better your attitude and the way you portray yourself to the people around you. For some people this is easy, something which comes naturally, to be positive, hardworking, and carefree about the opinions of others. However, this is not everyone. If you find yourself becoming someone who is unhappy with the way people view you, change it. Change the mindset you walk into the classroom with and really think about the way you speak to people because as soon as you do that, success will come your way.

A lot of people listening to this speech today may not see me as the typical candidate for Head of School. I am someone who has made mistakes, someone who is not naturally academic and has not always had a perfect reputation. Not only might other people think this, but it was what I thought of myself as well. Nevertheless, over the years, Sutton Valence School has proved to me, through the support of teachers and the community, that it is how you counteract those mistakes, how you prove yourself and how you make strides in all areas of your life that matters the most.

SVS is the perfect place for us to learn these lessons and the perfect place to practice our success. So, I encourage you to not be afraid to make mistakes, because it is those mistakes that allow you to learn vital lessons that you need to take into your adult life. Additionally, I encourage you, when you find your success, to thrive with it in this environment we are so lucky to be in. Please do take the opportunity to talk to me, Theodore or any prefects about our stories or if you need somebody to talk to. We are always here to talk and help you.

As is tradition, I will end with a quote by Nancy Kress, “A stereotype may be negative or positive, but even positive stereotypes present two problems: they are cliches and they present a human being as far simpler and uniform than any human being actually is”. I hope everyone can take something from this message, whether it is to change your reputation for the better or to further improve your already positive perception. The attitude you give out is what you will get back.

Thank you all for listening.’