Splendid Speech Day at Clayesmore
It was Speech Day with a new spring in its step as the academic year reached its magnificent end on Friday as well over 800 pupils, parents, staff and governors gathered to celebrate. At the Prize Giving ceremony at 2.30pm, Chairman of Governors, Dr Richard Willis welcomed the huge crowd to the largest marquee we have ever had and praised and thanked pupils and staff on the huge success of the year and spoke of the work the governors had been involved in during the year to develop the two 2013 building projects which are about to start.
Head Boy and Head Girl, Harry Beardsley and Cherry Baker then launched the main proceedings which turned out to be a multimedia review of the year by them and a range of their sixth form friends with other delightful contributions from across the age range. They explained that they had been tormented by the Headmaster’s magic ingredient of a joke or two at Speech Days past but they made up for this very rapidly as the audience was knocked flat by the style, charm and confidence as each facet of the presentation unfurled. Reminding everyone of Clayesmore’s central ethos to ‘develop the unique gifts of every girl and boy’ Corinne Cummings and Megan Fry introduced a short film – ‘Daydreams’ – by fellow sixth former, Jack Hayter, that he had made and developed exploring the issues of ADHD from which he has suffered.
In highlighting the sporting successes of the year, Lottie McDonagh – (later described by the Headmaster during the awards ceremony as the ‘fizz to Clayesmore’s buzz’) – spoke of the accomplishments and increasing performance of the girls’ teams across their major sports. Surprisingly, in what has been such a damp term, Lottie said that in tennis, the girls had played 153 sets and won 518 games. Harry went on to talk of much achievement in boys’ games, too, and drew a massive cheer as, once again, we fêted the all-conquering Under 14 side who had beaten Canford, Sherborne, Bryanston and Thomas Hardye’s to win the county cup.
Sam Bleach and Lauren Mellows then took to the stage to speak of the school’s charity endeavours during the year the apogee of which had undoubtedly been the 24-hour sporting event which alone raised over £4500. On top of this, the girls reported that a further £1200 had been raised through other activity but what they didn’t know was that only 36 hours earlier, at the Hampers and Champers concert, thanks to the help of an anonymous benefactor, a further £15,000 had been raised for the Katie Piper Foundation which Katie herself came to receive.
At this point, we had the first of five intermissions for the presentation of prizes which were made by members of staff leaving this term. Mrs Helen Farley, has been Head of LSC at Clayesmore for ten years, and she was first up to present the Effort Prizes to fifty selected students from across the school.
Two international students, both of them prefects, Veit Ulbricht and Franziska Ganz, introduced the next remarkable section of the event. Veit and Franziska had both joined Clayesmore for sixth form and they described (in beautifully spoken English) how life at school is not just about sitting in a room studying, and how a host of trips overseas complemented what had been happening this year. There had been trips to Iceland, Switzerland, Spian, France, USA, Italy, Germany and Norway, just in the last twelve months. They then asked eight young boys and girls to come and describe their foreign language trips which they duly did, speaking in excellent French, German and Spanish accents as translations appeared for the non-cognoscenti on the screens in front of us.
Veit explained that as well as exploring the world by going on lots of trips, our pupils had also been exploring new ideas in areas such as politics and international relations, classics, literature and science. And so, the audience then heard all about our Model United Nations General Assembly (MUNGA) that had involved 150 pupils from across the school the previous week which, in turn, had been inspired by a visit to a similar conference held in Taunton earlier in the year. Mikaela Belcher told us more:
"Just last Friday, this very marquee was the United Nations. Our day began with an inspiring address from Matt Jones who works for a human rights non-governmental organisation in the United Nations. Then we moved into the Committee Sessions, where individuals then had to represent their country’s views and solutions for today’s topical issues. Over lunch, emergency scenarios – that the delegations had never seen before – were introduced but the delegations took this in their stride and by the end of lunch were ready to debate them in the General Assembly which took place in here. It was fantastic to see all the students really giving it their all but what was particularly fantastic was when we called a nation up to speak –often with no notice at all – and a member of year 9 then stood up and delivered a brilliant speech. Then, when asked, went on to expertly field all questions fired at them - questions on a topic that they’d barely even heard of before lunch. Our own future depends on how well we work together and here at Clayesmore we have proved that we can do just that – which gives us great hope as students here today may soon be the men and women who negotiate peace tomorrow."
It was then time for another prize-giving session – this time, long-standing Geography teacher and Head of Careers, Mrs Meg Denning, made presentations to the 22 winners of GCSE subject prizes.
In terms of further new initiatives and projects, other senior students spoke of some new developments within the Science Faculty including the Health Care Symposium which had taken place in March. This had involved Old Clayesmorians presently studying medicine and veterinary medicine, current students and parents meeting to share thoughts and experiences about their work and studies with the aim of encouraging younger pupils in their pursuit of medical careers.
Moving from Science into Technology, the audience was amazed when Year 11 pupil, William Rolph took to the platform to tell us that he had made the very lectern that all the speakers had been using that afternoon! The lectern’s design encompasses the school’s new corporate image and cleverly combines the modernity of the logo with the tradition the school represents by using classic English oak as the material.
After Mrs Clare Storey had presented the A-level subject prizes, we were into the world of the creative arts. A round-up of the year’s theatre productions and LAMDA conquests led into a witty duologue entitled Much Ado about the Importance of Being Earnest involving a number of Year 9 and 10 pupils who were enthusiastically applauded for their excellent performances. Ed Bragg followed up with a beautiful Allemande on the violin after which Josie Ellis spoke of the year’s musical activities and paid tribute to retiring Director of Music, Keith Pigot who went on to present the Music and Art prizes.
As a brief aside, the headmaster then introduced Dr Joel Burden whose company, Third Millennium had just published the new book about the school – Clayesmore – a celebration – which marks the 80th anniversary of our arrival in Iwerne Minster which occurs next year. In the final part of the presentation, a number of senior students spoke of the exciting new initiative for the post-AS-level period and how the lower sixth had returned from half term to find they had been ‘enrolled in a high energy four week course of university style activities’ entitled Aardvark University. All in all, it was clear that they had had a brilliant time. It had helped them see that you get out what you put in and that hard work is best combined with lots of active fun.
After the final prizes had been introduced by the headmaster and awarded by Dr Willis, Harry and Cherry once again took charge, thanking the headmaster and the staff for the opportunities that had been provided for everyone over the years. Cherry said, ‘I have been a Clayesmorian for 12 years. I have grown up here and I love it! I think Clayesmore is a happy school, but it is also a school which is patient and supportive when you are on the rocky path through adolescence.’ She then introduced a final but moving short film by Jack to which many leavers had contributed their own thoughts about the school which touched us all.
In rounding up the afternoon’s programme, the headmaster thanked Harry and Cherry and all who had contributed to the afternoon's presentation, and Mrs Mary Bailey who had co-ordinated it all, and paid his own tribute to staff from all corners of the school and especially to those leaving. He thanked the governors for their unswerving dedication to the school’s wellbeing and their support of the new projects upon which work would start shortly. He congratulated the leavers on their manifold achievements and thanked all the girls and boys for making his job such an enjoyable one...
“You may be wondering, ‘Where has this year gone?’, and as you get older, that feeling only gets worse. We’ve loved having you at Clayesmore and through the Old Clayesmorian Society and through the Clayesmore Society, you and your parents can stay in touch with the place and with old friends for the rest of your lives. I hope you will come to things when you can and try to stay in touch. We will always be pleased to hear your news. One day, I hope you will play your part in the Old Clayesmorian Society and I hope some of you may even become governors of this school to help perpetuate the special qualities of Clayesmore that we all value and treasure.”