Sixth Form Graduation Ceremony

Year 13 Graduation Ceremony Friday 26th May 2017

Friday 26th May was Year 13’s last day in school before embarking on their public examinations after half-term. Students and parents/guardians and all staff were invited to a graduation ceremony and breakfast that morning in the Adelaide Hall, which was packed full.

There were speeches from the Head of Sixth Form, the Executive Headteacher and the Headteacher as well as from our guest speaker, Christopher Barrow, the Chair of Governors, who also presented the Leathersellers’ Exhibition Scholarship Awards to the four successful students. Music was provided by two Year 13 students who introduced us to Flute Looping and George Gershwin on the piano.

The tutors presented certificates to each of the students in their tutor group, as well as their prizes, and announced their intended destinations.

A full list of prizes awarded can be found in the Programme.

All gathered for the breakfast at the end and there was much talk of the Prom to take place that evening on a boat up and down the Thames in glorious weather.

Here is a copy of the speech which the head of sixh form presented that morning:

"Good morning everyone and welcome to the Year 13 Graduation ceremony and breakfast.

Very briefly, the order of the ceremony is as in the programme:

Year 13, when we come to the presentation of certificates and the tutors call you up, they will also say what you intend to do next and where you hope to go. Most students have now confirmed their choice of university and a few are taking a gap year or pursuing different career opportunities. Those who applied for Art college have secured their places.  It is only when all these are read out and we listen to where they intend to go and what they wish to do that we realise the collective scope of their achievement. It is vast and it can only be achieved through talent, flair and a significant amount of hard work and determination.  In the process, you develop into the confident, articulate, independent young people who now leave us and move on to the next stage.

By rights I think you should feel it is time to go, time to move on. The last two months or so of Year 13 are not a lot of fun: mainly it’s the sheer grind of preparing for examinations and completing coursework. Some of you have been sitting AS re-sits in the last two weeks, but the real business of final A Level examinations begins after half term. And then, suddenly, after that, your time is free. We look forward to seeing you and celebrating your successes on results day in August.

On your behalf, I’d like to offer a huge thank you to all those people in this hall and elsewhere who have helped you in any capacity to reach this point.

Each year, I try to make some connection with a text, and this year is no exception. There will be a certain Wildean flavour and the odd passing reference to other texts.

I am going to start with an epigram from Oscar Wilde:

‘The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything.’

Where would you place yourself? For me, it suggests I am firmly middle-aged – although most likely born middle-aged. However, would the young here today claim to know everything? I doubt it.

In Wilde’s satirical comedy of manners The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Bracknell claims that, ‘We live, I regret to say, in an age of surfaces,’ as she bemoans in the young the ‘lack of any really solid qualities, any of the qualities that last and improve with time.’ And what are those qualities? Material wealth, connection, class and status. Perhaps at no other time since should we be more aware than ever that we live in an age of surfaces, in which the truth seems ever more difficult to discern. We live in an increasingly globalised world of instant mass communication, a visual world like never before. In just the last year we have seen the result of a referendum at home; we have seen the unexpected results of presidential elections in the United States and France; and we have an unexpected forthcoming general election in which many of you will be able to cast your vote for the first time. We have also seen the enormous potential for cybercrime, fake news and new forms of manipulation. And, of course, we have witnessed some unspeakably atrocious acts of violence both at home and abroad.

Back to The Importance of Being Earnest, the pun on the name and discovering the truth  - Jack discovering in the end that ‘it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth,’ finally reveals his society in all its hypocrisy.

So, what about your society?  What are the genuinely solid qualities? Perhaps, I might suggest, you need look no further than the school motto: ‘Truth, Honour, Freedom and Courtesy,’ taken, of course, from Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale. We could have some discussion about the changing meaning of words over time but the key point is still there.

The first novel I ever taught in school was Hard Times, by Charles Dickens. The opening is a salutary reminder of what education still could become over 160 years later: the classroom of ‘Thomas Gradgrind, Sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculation...Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchers before him, who were to be filled so full of facts.’  Girl number twenty, poor Sissy Jupe, who is flummoxed when asked for the definition of  a horse, and the boy Bitzer, who can recall the facts, the parts of a horse, but has no real understanding at all of the animal. How dangerous is that?

In The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Bracknell goes on to exercise her views on education and her preference for a state of natural ignorance, for, she says, ‘Ignorance is like a delicate, exotic fruit, touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately, in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.’ That, I think, still resonates today. We know there still exist significant pockets of inequality, injustice and deprivation. And the implicit method? The loaded gun? Control and compliance. And the source? Fear.

Finally, another quotation from Oscar Wilde:

‘Education is a valuable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.’

What does he mean by that? Very simply, I think, that we can be taught but to no effect unless we are prepared to learn, to scrutinise, and to interrogate in a rigorous attempt to discover the truth. The genuinely sound qualities can be taught but ignored. They have to be learned by each of us.

So, to end, I’d ask you -the young – to put away for the next hour or so Chemistry, History, Mathematics, Psychology and so on and take something else away, some solid qualities: the message is in the motto.

The very best of luck to all of you."


Posted on 13th June 2017