Our Heads of School for the Lent Term are Grace Bartleet and Ethan Wynne. You can read their insightful Head of School speeches below, which were given during Headmaster’s Assemblies over the last two weeks.
“I hope you have all had an enjoyable Christmas, though it seems a long time ago now, and a well-deserved rest. I cannot believe I am up here speaking to you all today, sharing my experiences at SVS, but here we are. Before we begin though, I would like to take a moment to thank those in the senior management and Mr Thomas for allowing me to have this privilege. This is a position that only a few of us are fortunate enough to achieve, and it has certainly not yet hit me that I am one of the lucky few. Also, a huge congratulations to Ethan; though it may be difficult for him to balance the 1st XV Rugby Vase team and this responsibility, I am sure we can all agree he thoroughly deserves the role.
So today, I would like to share my experiences throughout my five years here and show the importance of being an individual, not afraid to follow your own path. I arrived in Third Form, shaking like a leaf, but knowing that all would be fine thanks to my two older brothers, both at SVS at my time of arrival. They assured me that the atmosphere here would be unexpected, and they were not wrong.
My very first encounter has firmly stuck with me since entering the glass doors of Reception for that first time; Mr Jones, walking me from the Quad to Clothworkers dayroom. We made polite conversation, as you would expect, and then he said to me, “I have heard you are the best Bartleet”. Well, to say I was lost for words is an understatement. I suppose you could say I have learnt from my brothers’ mistakes, and perhaps have lived up to that title.
Ironically, many people only know one of my brothers, it depends on the person which sibling they may have encountered. I have to deliberate in conversation about which one is being referred to. The elder of the two, Alex, strived in all areas of school, besides those in a classroom. Whereas Oli remained very much under the radar, only being detected by those who put in the effort. To put it simply, I have not taken either of their approaches to school, but I have chosen to devote time and effort into aspects I know I will cherish in years to come.
One of these is Music. This is a side of school thatyou either pursue or do not. Those involved will agree that it is a circle you become entirely immersed in. We claim, it is never too late to start, and if that is the case then I encourage you to give it a go. It really was a full circle moment when a month or two ago, me and a few others in the Music department travelled to Clothworkers’ Hall in London to perform for the members there. The school was originally founded by a member of the Clothworkers’ company, William Lambe, so it was hugely daunting, yet so rewarding. Personally, looking at the painting of William Lambe with Sutton Valence in the background, the overwhelming feeling was pride. The comments we received after we played were heart-warming, and it proved to me how the society of SV goes so much further than we realise.
My brothers have most certainly influenced my time here. First and foremost, they prevented me from taking Physics A Level… My parents were weary from the numerous harsh talks at parents’ evenings, after both brothers had fallen behind in the subject, so I was strongly advised against it. But more importantly, they gave me copious amounts of advice. It may not surprise you to hear that being their little sister, I did not listen to a word, but instead, stubbornly, proceeded to mould my own journey and memories.
For one, neither of them took sport seriously, whereas I could not imagine my life without it. Back in Third Form, I did not even make the A team for Hockey, battling against another Grace who was supposedly better than I was. Now, I can proudly say that I have been in the 1st team for the last two years, playing alongside some incredible individuals and solidifying friendships in the process. It is easier said than done, but I would encourage you to enjoy that time in your week outside of a classroom, even if sport may not be ‘your thing’.
Take my brother Oli’s method: he would stand in defence with his closest friends and laugh around, hoping that the ball would stay up the other end of the pitch. Whether it be Rugby, Football or Hockey, they relied on the stars of the team to make up for their lack of ability. It did not take him long to decide sport was not his forte, but he had a laugh in the process, which is a different yet equally important approach to take towards sport.
In my family’s time at the School, there have been many changes, mostly due to the pandemic and a change of headmaster. One thing though that has not been altered is our sense of togetherness. In my opinion, much of this comes from within our houses and tutor groups. When describing this fact to prospective parents and students on open days, it is difficult for them to understand the benefit of mixed-age tutor groups without experiencing it themselves. I feel I have landed on my feet in that sense; in a tutor group full of contrasting individuals, yet somehow we all communicate and joke together most mornings. Singing happy birthday to one another, even if that was over Zoom for a certain period of time, and supporting each other in any way possible, has been hugely comforting in times of worry. If you are ever in doubt about a situation and do not know whom to turn to, remember someone in your tutor group has experienced the same difficulty. So if you feel able, ask another member for advice, or you can always turn to a prefect – I promise they are less intimidating than they look.
Our choices at school can influence our future. I was reminded of this at a Parents’ evening last year, when a teacher mentioned how my role in the CCF had aided my journey. I was astonished. That particular teacher had taken the time to notice my dedication and enjoyment in the army section. She then went on to tell me how useful the experiences could be in my career. I had certainly never thought of it like that but I suppose she was right. At first, the years of discipline may seem tedious, but as you gain skill, respect and therefore authority, the process seems to click into action. As it transpires, I am the only girl in my year to have continued CCF, and so, I have been very tempted before to leave. So I suppose this is my story of perseverance, to never give up on something even if at first it makes you feel vulnerable. I have now learnt that through the CCF, I have made the most unique friendships that would never have surfaced if it were not for Wednesday afternoons. Not only with fellow pupils, but with staff members too. You must cooperate to aid one another, and you soon realise the distinct roles that we all have to play. The CCF would not function without all of the members involved, which is why it symbolises the unity of SVS so well.
As you have probably gathered by now, I am the third and final Bartleet child to come here. Having been competing with my brothers the whole way through, trying to beat their achievements and feeling the sibling rivalry the whole time, I wanted to share their responses when they heard I had been made Head of School. They both said on the phone, in the same proud yet irritated manner, “you have really out done us this time”. Though it was never a true competition, it does feel great to outshine them on this occasion.
As is tradition I will end with a quote. Finding this was strangely the most difficult part of writing this speech, so I turned to a female of inspiration, Maya Angelou, a civil rights activist promoting the power of knowledge. She said: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Thank you for listening.”
I hope that you have all had a good Christmas break, and that you are well-rested for the term ahead. Firstly, I would like to address how honoured I am to have been given the role of Head of School, and also to express how grateful I am to be in this position. I would like to congratulate Grace for being appointed as Head Girl, and I am looking forward to working alongside her. Her speech last week set a very high standard, so bear with me as I try my best.
As we enter a new year, and I approach my final full term at Sutton Valence, I have taken some time to reflect on what school life has offered me, the countless lessons I have learned from my experiences at school, and the challenges I have faced and overcome. However, it is important to reflect on all of these memories with gratitude and appreciate how lucky I have been to be given so many opportunities, and to have been surrounded by such an amazing community.
I could not have imagined thinking seven years ago, when I was just starting First Form, that I would be standing here, speaking to all of you. I don’t think anyone else did either. Nor my brother, who when I told him, asked if there was some sort of a mix-up.
My time at school has graced me with two important lessons that I would like to share with you today. The first is perseverance.
Perseverance is our persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delays in achieving success. Persevering towards your goals can be challenging and can even come with failure. However, at the end of one’s goal, the reward pays off highly. My goals have always been set high at school, and something that I have learnt is that perseverance is the main driver for success. If you stop, you will never get where you aim to be.
The second is Failure. Failure for me was often associated with not only letting down everyone else but letting myself down. From losing endless Rugby matches as a junior, to losing at Twickenham in the National Vase Final, I have been through every ounce of defeat. Although the Vase final was a tough loss, I believe it changed the lads’ perception on failure, and especially shifted my mindset towards feeling more grateful and taking pride in my progress. With that said, what I have learnt from failure is that it is only temporary, and we must learn from it. Overcoming failure is one of the greatest accomplishments.
In the approach to my final weeks here at SVS, looking back I can say that I have loved every aspect of school life. From performing in school productions to playing an exceptionally high standard of Rugby, I have utilized every opportunity I have been offered, for which I am most thankful . So, one thing I would urge you all, whether in the First Form or Upper Sixth, is to always put a foot forward out of your comfort zone. Ex-navy seal, David Goggins, puts this simply…
“Denial is the ultimate comfort zone”
How can you say you do not want to do something or think you can’t do it if you haven’t even tried it yet? So, I say take the risk, and pursue every opportunity, because when you leave (whenever that may be) and enter the real world, you do not want to regret not pursuing everything this school has to offer. Eliminate regret… then you can leave the past in the past, stop letting it rule your mind and destroy your future.
So, what have I learnt in the seven years I have been here? A principle that I have adopted through my time at school, was to live in the moment. It is important to be aware and mindful of what is happening at this very moment.
Whether that is inside the classroom, or out on the Hockey pitch, enjoying every aspect of school life is precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Blink, and it may all be over.
So, as I will not be here for much longer, I wanted to pass on these lessons to you, in the hope that you will carry these through your journey at SV and create your own legacy. Something that one day, you will look back on with pride.
As tradition goes, I would like to end my speech with a quote by Winston Churchill: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”. Thank you for listening.”