Headmaster’s Prizegiving Speech 2023

Start Your Adventure

OriginalImage,OriginalHeadmaster’s Prizegiving Speech 2023


Good evening to you all and thank you for coming to our 2023 Prizegiving event.

We are delighted to welcome as our Prizegiver and speaker this evening Musidora Jorgensen. As the Chief Sustainability Officer at Microsoft UK and a key member of the Senior Leadership team there, she leads the company’s sustainability strategy and is responsible for driving ambitious sustainability outcomes both for Microsoft UK and for its customers and partners. Those ambitions reflect not just Microsoft’s impressive commitment to be carbon negative by 2030, but also by 2050 to have removed from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.

With over 20 years of high level experience in the technology sector, including at companies such as Salesforce and Oracle, Musidora is certainly well placed to lead on these vital developments and initiatives. She is a powerful advocate for the potential of technology to be a transformative force for good, noting that it [technology] “is paramount in helping organisations reach net zero without having to compromise performance” and adding that “a workforce equipped with the right skills will allow us to realise the promises of today’s technologies in an increasingly green future.” As Musidora wrote recently in an article on climate change: “we can’t drift our way to success – we’ve got to navigate our way there. And so we must collectively set our sails to certainty.”

Musidora’s achievements in her field have seen her featured on Computer Weekly’s list of the most influential women in technology in 2021, being named one of the top 100 female future leaders in 2020 by INvolve and Yahoo Finance UK, and being included in Kindness & Leadership’s Rising Star list, also for 2020. She was named in the top 100 Global Sustainability Leaders in 2022 and amongst the Top 100 Global Women in Sustainability 2023. Musidora is a fierce advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, with a particular passion for supporting and encouraging more women to join the traditionally male-dominated science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries, and as such she is an active mentor, coach and sponsor for women both inside and outside of her sector. Musidora: thank you for agreeing to be our Prizegiver this evening, and we very much look forward to hearing from you later.
‘Sustainable Goals’

I hope that Musidora would be pleased by the progress that we have made towards achieving our own sustainability goals over the last twelve months, and whilst I can’t promise to remove all the carbon from the environment that King Edward’s School has produced since 1552 – we are slightly older than Microsoft, after all – we are pleased with the initial steps that we have taken towards achieving our own pupil-led ambition of being ‘the greenest school in Bath.’ This has included installing solar panels on the roof above our very heads, which will generate around a third of the electricity required on the North Road campus, whilst all Estates and Facilities vehicles used on the North Road site are being replaced with electric alternatives; we have two electric vans already in operation, with a third due to join the fleet soon. In addition, the focus on locally produced organic food and certified sustainable ingredients, along with the removal of all single-use plastic items in our lunch offering, has already helped us to make significant strides in our school-wide food procurement policy. 

‘Charitable Endeavour’

My start of term message to the pupils in assembly two weeks ago was to be ambitious for themselves but also to make sure that they always look out for others around them, with an aim for this year to be to combine the two where possible. The KES community’s focus on doing just that through charitable endeavour last year was impressive, not just in the form of the £21,500 raised for good causes, but in the range of activities undertaken and causes supported. These included the ever-popular cake sales and non-uniform days, alongside a concert in Bath Abbey to raise funds to send generators to Ukraine and the always brilliant KES Unite concert to raise awareness and funds for our long term partner, the Moving Mountains Trust. We had staff and pupils abseiling down Bath Abbey on behalf of the Genesis Trust, whilst a rather different ‘Genesis’ sprang to my mind as we applauded Georgia Gale’s incredible 10 hour drumathon which raised nearly £7,000 for UK Scoliosis charities; you see, I had been planning to be the Chester Thompson to Georgia’s Phil Collins – for those of you of a certain musical vintage and orientation – as part of a final assembly percussive duet, but then I stupidly fell off a ladder and broke my wrist during my sabbatical, which rather spoilt the plan – sorry, Georgia. KES pupils also continued to do great work with the Bath Foodbank, making regular donations - including nearly 600 books – and also visiting the centre earlier in the year to see the charity’s vital work first hand. Meanwhile, our thriving Sixth Form Community Service programme continued to support a number of local organisations, with over 30 pupils every Thursday afternoon entertaining or talking to residents in homes for the elderly or serving refreshments on wards at the RUH or helping out in classrooms in local primary schools. It was certainly an impressive all-round effort, but I also know that our Charities Co-ordinator, Mrs Lascelles, is determined that this coming year will be even more fantastic, and I am sure that we will all be keen to support her in that ambition.

Careers Education Programme Goes From Strength-to-Strength

Another area of School life which went impressively from strength-to-strength last year was our Careers Education programme under the guidance of Mrs Rees-Roberts. The Inspiring Speakers programme continued to attract, well, inspiring speakers, covering areas as varied as editing and publishing, animation technology, hostage negotiation and working within government ministries – I don’t think that those last two are related! Our growing work experience programme saw 85 Year 12 pupils head off last summer to a range of placements, including at prestigious institutions such as Charles Stanley, CSquared, the Bank of Ireland and the European Space Agency. As well as a range of general workshops and information opportunities, every year group had a Careers specific focus looking at areas such as forensic science, marketing and advertising, finance, entrepreneurship and CV writing, amongst others, whilst this year sees the return of our biennial Careers Fair, alongside a new Ethical Careers event and the ‘Inspiring Women’ conference which, unfortunately, was snowed off last year. Given the huge range of fantastic careers-focused opportunities that are now on offer at KES, it is entirely deserved that our Careers Education Programme is a national finalist in the forthcoming Independent Schools of the Year Awards, for which I pass on my hearty congratulations.

Clubs and Activities

Last year saw many of our existing clubs and societies enjoy continued popularity and success, as well as a number of new endeavours joining the fold. Socrates Club attendees discussed issues such as ‘woke washing’ and the hosting of the men’s football World Cup in Qatar, whilst our Model United Nations delegates returned from the Bath International Conference with an impressive clutch of individual awards, having debated topics ranging from biodiversity protection to nuclear fusion. To these well established programmes were added a new series of parliamentary style forums and debating opportunities, with KES pupils entering both the Oxford and Cambridge Schools’ debating competitions and also the International Competition for Young Debaters held at the Oxford Union and securing impressive team and individual success at each. We were also well represented at the Bath Student Parliament, whose committee style structure reflected engagement in areas such as mental health, equality and diversity and the environment. Our Lego Robotics team showed great creativity and adaptability at the First Lego League South-West Finals, whilst a new Music Tech Club not only explored the power of music production software such as Logic Pro but also set about creating music using a headset that reads brainwaves – the mind boggles! The tech theme continued with our growing E-Sports offering, which saw us host a Minecraft Education session for pupils from a local primary school alongside competitive action in the form of our Rocket League team, whose undefeated season saw them promoted from the second to the first division of the ‘Student Champs’. It was perhaps a relief that one new club was more traditionally ‘low tech’, with the Upper School Chess Club nonetheless providing what its members described as an “interesting and thrilling” way to spend a Friday lunchtime whilst honing “organisational skills and sharp logic in the pursuit of chess glory.” Meanwhile, one of our long standing clubs and societies, KES Pride, were delighted to be deservedly recognised in our glowing ISI Inspection Report for their contributions to the rich environment at King Edward’s, with pupils being praised for their “mature understanding of the diverse needs of peers in their school community” and for their creative approach to “celebrating and promoting difference.”
Creativity certainly abounded in many different guises last year, with the Creative Writing Society welcoming such luminaries as best selling author, Joe Abercrombie, and award winning script writer, John Hodge. Young KES writers swept the board in three different categories at the Mid Somerset Festival, whilst two KES Sixth Formers were named amongst the top 100 young poets from amongst nearly 14,000 entries in the prestigious Foyle Young Poetry Award. Meanwhile, our own journalism, poetry and short story competitions once again showcased the incredible range of literary talent amongst our pupils, with the last two of these leading to our tenth – and quite possibly best yet – Anthology, beautifully illustrated as ever with our pupils’ own drawings and paintings and a fitting sign off for Mrs Bruton after a decade of creating, collating and editing what is always a wonderful collection of writing and artwork.

Performing Arts

Last year’s three major drama productions explored an array of imagined and semi-mythical landscapes. We Will Rock You was so much more than just a showcase for some of the best pop and rock tracks ever written and, with technical virtuosity and amazing set design, the show masterfully envisioned a horribly dystopian future where music is outlawed and creativity banned. The acting was inspirational, the singing did justice to the great songs and the house band, well, brought the house down. The Year 9 production of Rob Drummond’s thought-provoking short play, Flesh, asked how much we would be prepared to compromise our humanity to stay alive and was variously described as “’Lost’ meets ‘The Hunger Games’” and “’Lord of the Flies’ meets ‘Love Island’”, whilst the Year 7 and 8 production of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader featured no fewer than 75 pupils and beautifully recreated C S Lewis’s magical land of Narnia in all its mystery and wonder. 
By the end of the summer term, the KES music department had been involved in over 50 performances during what Mr Drury described as “a truly vintage year for KES music.” A very busy first term included a quite possibly best ever Autumn Colours concert and an inaugural musical theatre showcase, held in The Rose, but the highlight was undoubtedly a return to Bath Abbey, after a four year hiatus, for a superb festive Service of Nine Readings and Carols. The Spring Colours and Holburne Soloists’ concert were again quite possibly the most accomplished that I have had the pleasure to attend, and the second term also saw a plethora of distinction garnering performances at the Mid Somerset Festival and a range of ensemble and masterclass opportunities linked to our partnership with Bath Philharmonia, including an inspirational upper strings workshop with legendary violinist, Rafael Todes. Celebrating its tenth year last year, this unique partnership again produced an astonishing and uplifting Spring highlight in the form of the orchestral Gala Concert in the Guildhall, whose theme of journeys – taking on unabridged scores by the likes of Mussorgsky, Villa Lobos and our own composer in residence, Mark Boden – was a fitting note on which to round off a decade of wonderfully successful side-by-side projects. Last year also heralded an important new development in that partnership in the form of a community outreach project alongside Bath Philharmonia’s Creative Learning Team, which saw 80 pupils from St Martin’s Garden Primary School visit North Road during Activities Week to work with KES pupils and staff to create, perform and record an inspiring audio work in our sports hall, with an additional video recording of the performance on our Astro undertaken by drone – isn’t technology wonderful?! And that wasn’t the only amazing outdoor performance of the summer term, with Coronation Day being celebrated by a two hour concert from the balcony of the Wessex Building and featuring KES Soul, the KES Baroque group, our saxophone ensemble and a stirring rendition of the national anthem by pupils and staff gathered on the terrace and steps below. Having stood on those very steps just a few years ago, I am sure that Prince Edward would have approved of this tribute to his father!


Outward Bound

Of course, there are many other more traditional school activities that one might expect to take place outside besides singing the national anthem, and the great outdoors again played backdrop to a fantastic range of KES enterprises last year. It was a delight to be able to return to the challenging environment of the Ten Tors event on Dartmoor in the summer. The bonds amongst the 35 mile trekking team had been made stronger by lots of group singing, which clearly kept spirits buoyed when the dreaded fog descended on the Sunday morning of the event, whilst the 45 milers completed an incredible and apparently porridge-fuelled 39 of those miles on the first day alone, with the payback for that seeing them cross the finish line early the next morning in what might best be described as ‘hobbling’ mode. With 90 pupils undertaking the bronze award last year and 60 participating in silver and gold, KES remains one of the largest centres for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme in the South-West. The bronze expedition on the Marlborough Downs was blessed with glorious weather, whilst our silver DofEers thoroughly enjoyed the breathtaking scenery, flora and fauna as they canoed for 75 km through the beautiful Herefordshire countryside along the River Wye. Beautiful vistas were also part of the gold expedition experience in the Welsh mountains, although to enjoy them fully also involved avoiding being blown over by the fierce Snowdonian winds – no easy feat! Amidst all the physical and skill-based challenges that DofE demands, our pupils once again stepped up to the expectations of the voluntary and residential elements of the award, including several who took part in the National Citizen Service programme. Meanwhile, an action-packed year for our CCF included amongst several highlights a special invitation visit to Portsmouth for an unforgettable tour on board the flagship of the Royal Navy and largest ever British warship, the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth – captained by an Old Edwardian, of course! The contrast with HMS Victory, just across the harbour, as we stepped off the newest navy vessel and onto its oldest commissioned equivalent in the form of Admiral Nelson’s flagship, was an eye-opening and memorable experience. Other highlights in the CCF’s year included the Otterburn music camp in Northumberland, which showcased the growing size and proficiency of our corps of drums, amongst other areas, and a very significant moment in our CCF’s long history as we took receipt of a splendidly colourful and beautifully decorated new contingent banner, believed to be the first of its kind to bear the Tudor crown featured in the new cypher of His Majesty, King Charles III; it really does look fantastic!

School Trips

That life outside the classroom was a vibrant and colourful element of KES pupils’ experience last year could also be seen in the many trips and visits that took place: art and photography to Oxford and Amsterdam, a day at the Bristol Festival of Economics, a week in the Classical wonderland that is Herculaneum and Pompeii. There were trips to the London Design Museum and the Bristol Old Vic, Geography and Biology fieldwork in Dorset, Year 7 Historians to Chepstow Castle, Year 8 Germanists to Cologne and Year 12 Politics students to Westminster, where they chatted both to Bath’s own MP, Wera Hobhouse, and to Old Edwardian, John Glen, now Chief Secretary to the Treasury and also a recent Prizegiver in this very hall! There was even a virtual particle Physics masterclass at the Rutherford Appleton laboratory and a 6th Form Psychology trip to Shepton Mallet prison, a rather grim reminder that some punishments are far worse than a Headmaster’s detention! KES’ spirit of adventure was amply reflected in the 40th anniversary Activities Week programme, with trip destinations including Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, Venice and Kenya, the last of these as part of our ongoing partnership with Moving Mountains and whose highlights included climbing Mount Kenya and waking up to the sound of hippo grazing whilst camping at Lake Naivasha, which sounds delightful!

The Sporting Calendar

Last year’s sporting calendar was, without doubt, one of the fullest that I have known in my time at King Edward’s, reflected not only in the amount of fixtures and competitions on offer, but in the sheer numbers of pupils who took part in a huge range of activities. The Autumn term saw the School regularly field 14 rugby teams, with both players and coaches thriving on a very high quality and challenging fixture list. To the traditional boys’ programme was added a girls’ rugby club, with training on the Astroturf and in the sports hall focusing mainly on the technical and tactical aspects of the game. A reflection of the strength of the boys’ game at KES came in the form of the 26 players across different ages selected for the Bath Rugby talent pathway last year, with high praise for the School’s own development programme coming from Bath’s Junior Academy Phase Lead. The Sevens programme in the Spring term saw all age groups attend two tournaments ahead of the Rosslyn Park nationals, with the U12s emerging as runners-up at both Port Regis and The Downs, whilst the U13s won the Port Regis Plate. Going a stage further, the U16s beat some big name opposition to progress to the second day at Rosslyn Park, having earlier in the term beaten Millfield to win the Wycliffe 7s competition.
The Autumn hockey season saw over 100 fixtures played and over 250 girls representing the School, including 84 who signed up for senior hockey, necessitating the occasional 4th and even 5th team fixture – where we could find appropriate opposition! The 1st XI got better and better as the season progressed, reaching the last 16 of the National Plate Finals before losing on a penalty shootout to a strong Taunton side. Over 40 girls were selected for the Team Bath Buccaneers’ Junior Talent Centre, with 11 also representing Avon County, whilst Bella Lowton became the second captain of girls’ hockey at KES in as many years to represent her country, being selected for the Wales U18 squad and being named captain for the match against Ulster. In the same term, the boys’ U18 indoor hockey team finished runners-up at both the county and the regional finals, losing in the latter only on penalty shuffles to a very strong Katherine Lady Berkeley School.
The senior boys’ hockey season proper started with an early January training camp at Bisham Abbey, setting up a 1st team featuring four Talent Academy players for a scintillating season that culminated in a superb run all the way to the National Plate semi-final, losing out again only on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw with Bromsgrove. Amongst the more than 130 matches played across all the age groups, the U12 and U13 teams both reached the semi-finals of the Avon County Competitions, whilst the U14 and U15 squads produced excellent displays to become County Champions in their respective tournaments, with the U14s ultimately finishing as runners-up at the Regional Finals.
A netball season that had started with the county rounds of the National Schools’ competition in the Autumn burst into bloom in a Spring term which saw nearly 200 girls from Year 7 to 13 play in over 150 matches. The U19s had very nearly made it 8 county championships in a row, scoring an incredible 61 goals to just 13 conceded in their pool matches before narrowly losing in the semi-final, however the 1st team more than made up for that by blazing through a second successive unbeaten Spring term, a run which culminated in a breathtaking 39-39 draw in the final game of the season, the annual charity match against the Royal High School. The KES 1st netball team have now lost just 13 of their 129 fixtures played over the last 13 years, and with several players in the Team Bath Athlete Development and NPL Development squads, the future for netball at KES continues to look very bright. Not to be outdone, the 2nd team were also unbeaten throughout the term, with both the U15 and U16A teams coming close to following suit, whilst the U12s and U13s both finished as runners-up in the KES invitational tournament.

As with our other major sports throughout the year, the cricket term was characterised by a keenness to participate that saw 80% of the girls in Year 7 represent the School, surpassed only by a remarkable 90% in Year 8. Last year also saw a first full programme of 1st XI girls’ fixtures, as well as a greater number of boys and girls at all levels than ever before being part of the county pathway. Special mention must go to Ava Ojomoh, who was selected for the Emerging Player Pathway at Western Storm, one of the 6 Elite Women’s domestic cricket teams in England and Wales. As always, Cricket Week proved to be the highlight of the season, and this year included two matches against a very strong touring Australian school side. More even than the very entertaining cricket that produced a win apiece, what shone through those Ashes encounters was a sporting spirit that prompted the Director of Sport at Camberwell Grammar School to write afterwards:
“The respect shown by your players and their willingness to engage across the two days was a terrific advertisement for your School and Staff. You must be so proud of the young people you are producing”, adding that “the focus and professionalism demonstrated by your students (past and present) are standards that we would love to emulate ourselves.”

It is fair to say that that willingness to engage was very much in evidence in a range of other KES sports. Over 60 boys trained weekly with the senior football squad, with the 1st XI, in particular, often in free-flowing and free-scoring form, especially with the 7 goals put past Marlborough College, whilst over 40 runners took part in the BANES cross country event, with 11 pupils placing in the top 10 across various age categories. 7 of those went on to represent BANES in the Avon Championships and a further 2 represented Avon in the South-West Championships. A successful tennis season saw the U15 boys and the U15 girls placed 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Aegon League, whilst over 60 Year 7 pupils attended weekly after school training on a Monday evening. The KES climbing team again gave a very creditable account of themselves in the South-West bouldering league, whilst several pupils also enjoyed outstanding individual regional and national success in swimming, long jump, archery and golf, amongst others.

Team and Individual Successes

At this point, as I come to the end of my reflections on the last 12 months, it is usually perfectly reasonable to ask the question: ‘did the pupils actually do any work?’ Of course, the long list of very deserving academic and other prize winners sitting in the hall this evening suggests that they did, and beyond the subject focused trips mentioned earlier, there were many individual and team successes in a range of Classical Art and Essay competitions, the CyberFirst Girls challenge, the National Reading Champions quiz, the Intermediate and Senior Maths challenges, the Royal Society of Chemists’ Young Analyst competition and a clutch of bronze, silver and gold medals in the Biology, Chemistry and Physics Olympiads, to name just some. Our Year 9 DT team won three category awards in the South-West Formula One in Schools competition, whilst Hannah Blacker won the GCHQ prize in the National Cipher Challenge. Perhaps the clearest evidence that quite a bit of academic work went on last year came in the form of another set of outstanding public examination results, which once again saw KES pupils shine at both a regional and national level. One slightly mischievous Year 13 pupil, tongue firmly in cheek, asked whether my headline in this year’s press release might again read ‘record-breaking results’, on the basis that that is what we seem to achieve each year. Well, not for the A Levels, as it happens; with 66% of all entries graded A* or A, these were merely our second best ever results when compared with any of the pre-2020 years. However, the 84% grades 9-7 at GCSE, with two thirds also being at the top two levels, did indeed reflect a very impressive and record-breaking effort, not least in the benchmarked average value added uplift of a whole grade per subject entry. As I said in the start of term assembly, some of the greatest achievements in those public examinations again came in the form of grades that might not specifically feature in those previous headlines, but for which the pupils – and staff – had worked incredibly hard. And whilst it is a pleasure to pass on the heartiest of congratulations to all of our prize winners this evening, I also want to say ‘well done’ to that majority of KES pupils who are not here tonight, but who nonetheless continued to make outstanding and fulfilling contributions to the life of the School last year in many different ways.

I know that it might not have felt like it, but that really was just a snapshot of some of the headlines of the life in the year of King Edward’s that started way back in the hazy sunshine of September, 2022. I’ve tried to cover lots of different bases, and I am sorry if I have missed anything or anyone out. As I hope you can tell, this is a busy, vibrant, successful and, I hope, happy school, and it is so because of the amazing contributions that so many people within its community make: pupils, parents, Governors, friends and supporters, Old Edwardians and more, to whom I am extremely grateful. But I want to take this occasion to say a huge thank you in particular to my colleagues – on the teaching and support staff and across all the sections of the School – for the incredible work that you do – and the dedication that you show – that helps to make KES the school that it is today. I hope that everyone would agree that we have lots to be proud of as we look back over the last 12 months, but also lots of wonderful and exciting opportunities to look forward to in the months and years ahead.

In Tribute

I’m going to finish on what I hope is not too sombre a note as I pay tribute to two colleagues who sadly passed away in the summer. Helen Blakey was a serving colleague at our Pre-Prep School and a member of the management team there. She believed passionately in the power of education to change people’s lives and was completely dedicated to her pupils and to all aspects of the job that she loved. Helen instilled in our very youngest children a vital curiosity for learning, a hugely important awareness of what it means to be independent and a love of the outdoors which hopefully will stay with them for life. She is fondly remembered and will be much missed. Dr John Wroughton joined King Edward’s in 1965 as Head of History. He was Second Master for eight years before becoming Headmaster in 1982, a position he held until his retirement in 1993. He later served as a Governor of the School and remained very involved in life at KES, both through his many visits to the Pre-Prep and Junior Schools to enthuse eager young minds about the historical world and in particular through his sponsorship of the Wroughton Lectures over the last 20 years, a series which has raised over £30k for the School bursaries programme that was very close to John’s heart. I would say that I knew John quite well, but it was only a couple of days ago that I was given a copy of his first Prizegiving speech as Headmaster, back in 1982. It was typed, of course, obviously very elegantly written, a touch more philosophical than mine tend to be – and definitely a bit shorter – and perhaps as much looking to the future as it was retrospective. As I read through it, I asked myself if John’s words back then stood the test of time. To finish, here is an extract from it – see what you think:
“We believe in intellectual challenge. We believe also in books. ‘No furniture’, wrote Sydney Smith, ‘is as charming as books, even if you never open them.’ We do, of course, also believe in modern teaching methods – unlike the Headmaster of Rugby in 1956 who, when asked by a visiting inspector what he thought of visual aids, replied: ‘I suppose they are all right for those who can’t read.’ We believe that potential is best developed by a blend of encouragement laced with a measure of firm discipline …. We believe in high personal standards of courtesy, morality and appearance, just as we believe in the personal dedication of each pupil to their chosen academic course. Single-minded commitment is not easy for the young to achieve in a world of mounting pressures. The rhythm of study can too frequently be disturbed by the beat of the rock band or the throb of the motor bike. Perhaps Albert Schweitzer gave the best advice to both teachers and parents: ‘Example’, he said, ‘is not the main thing in influencing others – it’s the only thing.’

I suspect that there is scope to reflect on and interrogate the second part of that last statement, and I’m pretty sure that the beat of the rock band and the throb of the motorbike have been replaced by social media and the buzz or ping of the mobile phone, more’s the pity, but there is undoubtedly wisdom and good sense in there, and much of what John Wroughton said over four decades ago that I think still rings true today.

Thank you to you all for being such wonderful ‘examples’, and I hope that you enjoy the rest of the evening.