St Edmund's

Junior School Head’s Speech Day Report


Lord Mayor, Chairman, Mr O’Connor, ladies and gentlemen and children.

The lights are gone, and we are in darkness – which leaves me with a question.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience a dream, to have your imagination so quenched by the insatiable thirst for knowledge, for learning, for friendship and… for magic…

Even as an adult, hearing Hedwig’s theme takes me back to the first time I watched – and more importantly – read Harry Potter. I wouldn’t want to give you any spoilers about the story, but I can tell you that we all, through learning at St Edmund’s, have a lot in common with Harry Potter’s school –  Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Whilst parts of the Junior School, and indeed the wider site, might appear to be more modern, the original building dates back a good few hundred years and, much like Hogwarts, has seen a lot of magical learning and much excitement. Let’s give Rafa a round of applause for allowing us to hear magic.

For those of you who know me well, I frequently say… if I had a magic wand…

If there were a recipe to enable the creation of a magical school, what would it be – perhaps Shakespeare could provide inspiration…

The intrigue and unexpected nature of learning has been so wonderfully brought to like by Violet, Laila and Poppy. Let’s do give them a round of applause.

But the question remains – is there a recipe for a magical school?

Music has an incredible power to make us all feel, act and believe a certain way. There are many musicians here today – in fact, we are all musicians. However, the ones who excel in performance and seem to be successful, rely on hard work and dedication. What does this look like? More importantly – what does this sound like….

Perhaps the recipe for our magical school would include hard work and dedication as seen by Ami. Before we give her a well-deserved round of applause, it is my great delight to announce that Ami has been awarded the ABRSM Diploma in Music Performance, making her an associate of the royal school of music with distinction. Let’s give her a round of applause.

Steven Spielberg understood the power of music when referring to his friend, John  Williams – Without John Williams, bikes don’t really fly, nor do brooms in Quidditch matches. Dinosaurs do not walk the earth, we do not wonder, we do not weep, we do not believe.

As we all know from Head’s Lines and newsletters, success requires sacrifice – and this comes in the form of hard work. Ami has, since a very young age rehearsed for approximately 2 hours per night. Not only does this show immense dedication, we can also hear tangibly the impact of this work; then, of course, we can also feel the emotional power of music.

It’s not just music that can inspire such emotional responses. The magic brought to us by our drama department can take us further on an emotional rollercoaster. Perhaps the ability to bring out emotions is also on the recipe for our magical school. Let’s see…

How lucky we are to come to a school where magic extends significantly beyond the classroom. For those of us here in the Colyer Fergusson, that magic extends with Etienne…

For those of you on social media, you can see – almost daily – how much fun, laughter and love is shared in school house. Thank you to the staff team at school house and to all my staff for supporting the Saturday activities. Perhaps we should therefore include fun and laughter into our recipe for our magical school….?

Why? for us as adults, it is incredibly important to keep a sense of perspective on everything we do; therefore, we try, as much as possible, to put a childish lens onto the decisions made. This ‘lens’ was completely evident earlier on during the St Edmund’s Festival.

It would be difficult to talk to you about the magic of learning without mentioning the amazing Festival this year. There were so many outstanding events, including world class adults and, of course, world class children. The power of the ‘Language of Art’ concert elevated us all to a place of greater understanding and a huge sense of pride for our pupils about the world we are living in. The beauty of St Edmund’s is that all children get a chance; an opportunity to showcase their talents in a wider variety of disciplines – this was epitomised so well with the St Ed’s Go Dancing competition when the dancers (who were all excellent), were also the singers! Huge thanks to all involved, both behind the stage and in front of it. They were amazing.

Comedy can really take us on a journey, and for some in the school the past year has been trickier to navigate. As a collective unit, the staff are focused on one goal – to provide our children with outstanding learning opportunities. They do this from consistent practice – although there are many occasions when escapism plays a part.

Examples can be seen throughout our curriculum – whether through experiencing, as much as anyone truly can, Ancient Britain through trips to Bigbury Woods or Form 5’s visit to Hindleap Warren where they all managed to challenge themselves.

Real life experiences really do help to bring our learning to life – take, for example, traditional cooking at the school’s tepee as part of the Native American topic, or children in Form 3 learning the value of food during their Fairtrade unit.

Learning in upper school has been equally exciting, with fantastic teaching in the classrooms, including working, in ICT, with industry professionals from Google, Spotify and LEGO, or travelling to Greenwich University to participate in a STEM Challenge day workshop. In PSHEE, children learnt about healthy relationships and careers, and they particualrly enjoyed the chance to win £250 as part of the Road Safety workshop. The renaissance featured high up the learning ladder for Form 7, whilst RS provoked much thought and questioning – with children using their own experiences to support their understanding and knowledge. Learning was stretched further with the teaching of 4 languages with much fun, laughter and general hilarity to support progress.

Many experiences have been provided to our children through our enhanced curriculum – whether the Michaelmas litter pick as part of our duty during St Edmund’s Day, or more recently through our excellent enrichment week, including many trips and visitors. These all help to contextualise learning in different ways, so that the educational journey our children travel on, is exciting.

This excitement was seen through the return to parents on site for events – whether those organised and led by the St Ed’s Association – thank you to them – or by the sports team, who really provided our children with outstanding learning opportunities.

Of course, this is all possible because of my staff’s ability to use their imaginations. Perhaps a sprinkling a imagination is needed in the recipe.

We all enjoy a good book, and our library and all of the reading events this year, whether Captain of the Ship or author visits, have really helped to grow our imaginations and to allow us to escape. After all, reading is the metaphorical front door to a house of learning – without it, how can you explore or escape…?

For a number of our pupils, escapism is what they are tasked to provide on a nearly daily basis. Our Cathedral Choristers enhance the worship of so many people throughout the world – they are, after all, daily youtube stars!

Many thanks to my staff at Choir House, led brilliantly by Miss Morley. Choristers work throughout the year, often when the rest of the school is on holiday.

The magic of music can, once again, transport us through a range of emotions, or perhaps to our living rooms when we would sit back and relax to watch the Vicar of Dibley.

St Edmund’s really is a school for all. If our passion is for music – well, we’ve got that more than covered; if drama, we’ve got that too.

Mr Comfort has provided such outstanding work as our deputy head and I am thankful that he will be continuing our shared hard work next year as acting head – so that our magical recipe simmers nicely.

Well done to all those who won prizes. We are incredibly proud of you, but of course, we are proud of all our pupils and their hard work during this academic year. Your successes are down to your hard work, but also to the support of your parents and the dedication of the teachers. This year, we will be saying thank you and farewell to:

  • Louise Chenu
  • Sam Barnes
  • Fabienne Dieppedalle

This year we will also be saying farewell to Mrs Burden, or as many of us call her – Aunty Jacquie!

Mrs Burden joined the school in 1998 and her time in the school has definitely been a full family affair – with her 3 children, many animals and a tractor or two. Mrs Burden, please do come down for a gesture of our gratitude.

Well done to all our pupils and thank you for your speeches and performances.

Alas, it has come to the time when I ask the Form 8 pupils to stand.   Form 8, you, like us all, have had an interesting academic year with the return to a greater sense of usual following the lockdowns caused by COVID19. There is so much pride from all the staff in the Junior School – and throughout our wider school family.

The wonderful thing about Magic is that it is unexpected. No one ever knows what is round the corner and what the future will bring. The staff are working hard on an exciting new curriculum that will build on from the experiences you have had this year in a way unlike any other school in the country. This means that your school, your learning… is unique and very special indeed.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here at St Edmund’s and am hugely thankful to you all for teaching me many things. My staff team have showed huge resilience and excellence throughout my headship and I am sure that this will continue next year.

After all – How can you say ‘the sky’s the limit’ when there are footsteps on the moon?

Well, here at St Edmund’s, we don’t. Everyone wants you to excel and to fulfil your unknown potential. Parents, thank you for your support and for the realisation that we are all trying to do our best for the things we hold so dear. To my staff, thank you… and keep going – not just for tomorrow, but for the journey ahead. To Mr O’Connor, Exec and the governors, thank you for your support during my time here.

Every night I lie in bed
The brightest colours fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make

For the world we’re gonna make

The education we provide is more than just academic – it’s social and emotional – with a focus on ensuring that you become the change makers of the future.

Dumbledore put it best when he said– it is our choices Harry that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. St Edmund’s will give you plenty of opportunities to learn and showcase your abilities – and, as much as possible – will help you with your choices… but this ultimately comes down to you with the role modelling of your parents.

So what does magical learning look like? Simple, a St Edmund’s education.

Thank you.