Speech Day Headteacher's Address

07 July 2010

Speech Day Headteacher's Address
Please find in this article the full text of the 'Headteacher's Address', Helen Mackie, on Speech Day 2010.

Lady Smith, Consul-General, Ladies and Gentlemen, Upper 6 Leavers, St George's Students,

Leavers of 2010, I have known some of you almost all of your life as some of you started in nursery.  Others came in Junior School, or Lower or Upper School and some of you joined us for the sixth form.  Whenever you began, you brought to the school your unique personality, skills, talents and interests and St George's is the better for it.

It is my privilege tonight on behalf of your teachers, fellow students and friends to thank you for all that you have given to the school.

We are extremely proud of you and all that you have achieved and share with you the excitement of anticipating what you will go on to achieve in the next stage of your lives.

You have done well in very individual ways, and have given much to our community.

You have helped make St George's what it is today - a successful school, with an excellent reputation nationally and internationally, with high academic standards, an incredible range of wider opportunities and where there is no glass ceiling for women whatever direction they choose to take.

However, what you will carry with you for the rest of your lives are the friendships you have forged here with each other and with us, your teachers. How you value these friendships is reflected in your Year Book which you will receive when you cross the platform. I have had a sneak preview, admittedly in the first instance to remove some of the more colourful observations but it really reflects the values you place on your friendships.  You are a wonderfully cohesive and mutually supportive year group, and may recognise someone in some of the comments you have made about each other. I quote:

  • She is a very caring and nice person who will make each day more memorable than the last one.
  • She is one of those annoying friends who seems to be good at everything.
  • She can be relied upon to be completely unpredictable.
  • She is small but has big ambitions.
  • She is God of Maths and Queen of badminton.

She is the best kind of friend, the kind you can sit on a porch and sing with, never say a word and then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation you ever had.

Speech-Day-2010-Mid-BannerNever was your empathy and compassion more evident that in the support you showed for students and parents of St Margaret's when they visited St George's the other week.  St Margaret's was founded on similar principles to St George's to provide choice and opportunity for women and when those choices and opportunities were taken away from them, by the closure of their school, you showed great solidarity and I admire you for that. 

You have embraced so many opportunities with enthusiasm and excelled in so many different areas.  Your involvement and commitment has been outstanding as evidenced in the many memorable music and drama performances.  Who could forget the  many remarkable productions, most recently the phenomenal achievement of a very professional and original production of 'A Doll's House' with the involvement of so many on stage, backstage and front of house.

Your contribution to music in the school has been significant from individual expertise with instrument or voice, to participation in so many groups, whether it's the Jazz Band, Concert Band, or Orchestra, Kalinka, senior choir or St George's Singers. You have performed like professionals on many public occasions and enjoyed tours to Spain and Italy, and most recently the Jazz Band tour to Toronto. Carmina Burina involved so many of you and was a real triumph. Your performance always sounds polished and professional and belies the fact that you are usually pulling it off at the last minute and that the performance is in fact the first full rehearsal.

You are not only talented musicians but talented sportswomen in a vast range of sports. 

Amongst you there are those who have represented Scotland in athletics and cross country, in hockey and lacrosse, and in table tennis and skiing. The range of sports in which you participate is impressive and this year to the long list, we added archery in which you also have a champion. 

Speech-Day-2010-Icon-2.jpgYou have been ably led by an inspiring student leadership team in Ailsa, Fiona, Georgia and Kathryn who reinvented the outdated student council and gave it fresh impetus as "Pow Wow".  The whole notion was embraced by the school with our first cross-year PSE sessions so that all students felt involved, consulted and most importantly, empowered. The fact that the focus was on learning was a real breakthrough in student engagement in the school and some of the feedback to teachers has been enormously useful in creating more effective and efficient learning in the classrooms. 

An outstanding Head of School, Ailsa also led on the sports field and took the first XI hockey team to the Hockey Cup Final.  The focus, discipline and commitment of the playing at that final with the whole school behind you blew away all the talk of St George's being non-competitive. Just like league tables of exam results, the objective from the outset is not solely to win or be at the top, but to be the best you can be and you have done that in so many ways in your career at St George's.

Your leadership skills are also apparent in your success in Young Enterprise activities, in the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme,  and the CCF where one of you won one of only two army scholarships to be awarded in Scotland.

You are well travelled and I have seen some of you out of your comfort zone in China and in Antarctica,  and many of you have participated in tours and exchanges to Canada, USA, South Africa, Chile and most of the countries of Europe.  You are truly global citizens committed to your fellow human beings world-wide. The Amnesty Group broke all records this year with the number of cards and letters written. 

Your work for charities has been admirable.

You raised significant sums for disaster relief in Haiti as well as a host of local and national charities. The boarders are to be congratulated. There were 20 of you in the Race for Life for cancer research and those not running supported by baking wondrous cakes which were sold to swell the funds. The magnificent sum of over £1,000 was raised.

At the same time you have enjoyed life. Your ball was a sophisticated and glamorous occasion, and the Burns' Supper was pure entertainment enjoyed so much by staff and students alike that it over ran the official end time - unheard of for a school function.

You breathed new life into the Old Girls by engaging with them in Tea Through the Ages and a colourful Vintage Market.  It is wonderful to see the joined up journey as you engaged with former students of all ages and stages from a range of careers and in retirement. Never was it clearer that the St George's journey is a continuum and does not end when you leave school.

Speech-Day-2010-Icon-3You will have a lot to look back on and I know that you have been vocal in your appreciation of staff who have supported you through the highs and lows.  

I would like to thank too your parents and guardians who are to be congratulated on negotiating their way through the adolescent journey.  

Parents, you too are very much part of our community and we would urge you to keep in touch. We have come through a lot together and there may yet be crises and changes of direction ahead. 

We will always be here to help, advise and support our leavers, now, next year, or at any time in the future.

On behalf of us all, I would like to thank Lady Smith, and members of the School Council who give so generously  of their time and expertise in support of the school. I thank my colleagues who work so incredibly hard.  I thank them for their dedication, their commitment and professionalism, and their support for individual students as well as their commitment to innovation and continuous improvement, all of which, makes this such a great school.

Some colleagues are moving on this year and I wish them well,  but we thank particularly three colleagues who are retiring.

Jean Forbes who retires from the Primary after 34 years of dedicated service.

Edwina McIlmoyle, who has not only been a committed geography teacher for 16 years, but has also done stalwart service for charities over many years.

And, Lesley Danzig who has supported groups and individuals in their learning in the Junior School for 10 years.

Class of 2010, you have developed and demonstrated the skills which you will need to be successful in the 21st century - you are adaptive, flexible and versatile, competent and confident, but most of all I hope, happy and positive in your approach to life and to others.

I hope the friendships you have forged here at St George's,  and the experiences you have had will give you the strength of character to face all of life's challenges with enthusiasm.

With all of your talent and abilities the world needs you, so go out there and make it a better place. 

Good Luck!