Last night I had the pleasure of addressing our Year 13 leavers at our annual Sixth Form Ball.I’ve only been their Headteacher for six months, so it was an honour to be asked to speak to them. Here is what I said.
It’s a pleasure to see you all tonight at the end of your time as students of Churchill Academy. My biggest regret is that I don’t know you all better but you’ve been busy, I’ve been busy, and now here we are and it’s all too late…
I had a lovely light-hearted speech planned, but then things happened in the world and suddenly it feels like we’re living through a real life Game of Thrones episode. David Cameron is off the Iron Throne, Boris Johnson Targaryen was riding in on a dragon before being stabbed in the back by Tyrion Lannister Gove and the Labour party is doing a decent impression of the Red Wedding. Nobody seems to have a plan. The white ravens have flown, and winter has come. Perhaps if you’re a Harry Potter fan, Dumbledore’s words sum up where we are: “Dark and difficult times lie ahead.”
Think about how we are currently perceived around the world. Football hooliganism. Xenophobia. Intolerance. Racist abuse in supermarkets and on the street. A collapsing currency. Extremism on the rise. The constant threat of terror. Losing to Iceland. “Dark and difficult times” indeed; looking ahead, the future feels like a pretty scary prospect.
Right now, I’m ashamed and embarrassed by the way people of my generation and, if I can be so generous, those of the generation older than me, are conducting themselves and their affairs on the global stage. They appear to have forgotten that, if we are to succeed, we all have to work together, and that the human race is not one that can be won by just one group. This isn’t about leave or remain, it’s about decency. Liberty. Mutual respect for, and tolerance of, those with different faiths and beliefs, and for those without faith. It’s about honesty, fairness, and justice – and it’s easy to be disheartened when those who are supposed to lead us aren’t modelling the kind of behaviour we want, expect and need.
But I work in schools for a reason, and that reason is that every day I am surrounded by possibility. By what you could become. By hope. And when I look out at you, the Year 13 leavers of 2016, embarrassment and shame are far from my mind. I feel proud of the young adults you have become, and hopeful for the room full of yet-to-be-realised possibilities that you embody.
Dumbledore’s quotation ends: “Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” Looking at you now, I am filled with the hope that you will choose what is right over what is easy. It is those choices which will define your generation. I know you can do better than your predecessors. And you have to – it’s never mattered more.
So with that, Year 13, I hope you will raise your glasses to the future. Because you understand, I hope, that leadership is not about the next election – it’s about the next generation. Your generation. To the class of 2016: to the future!