Headteacher’s Prize Giving Speech 2017

Good morning everyone and welcome to the 2017 Beaconhurst Prize Giving.

Thank you Bethany and Cameron for your reflections this morning. The content of your speech perfectly exemplifies the possibilities at Beaconhurst.


Welcome to the families who are here to support the pupils and the school today.

Welcome to our special guest: Emma Bell, our speaker.

Welcome to the Governors.

Welcome most of all to our pupils, resplendent in Beaconhurst blue blazers this morning. Whatever your prize today we are very proud of your accomplishments.


Now, I am going to start this morning at the end. And with a list.

  • Gap Years – including through Round Square to one of our new partner schools in Australia
  • Apprenticeships – including at the highly coveted Jaguar Land Rover
  • College courses in the Creative industries: Performance; Screen Writing; Music Technology
  • In Sports Coaching
  • At Glasgow University: Primary Teaching; Early Learning and Child Care; Business; Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics
  • At Edinburgh University: Law (looks like 3 this year); Languages; Psychology; last, but certainly not least, Medicine

What are all of these? They are, of course, some of the positive destinations that our class of 2017 have achieved for the next step of their education journey.

So, we have pupils taking gap years, starting apprenticeships, taking up college and university places – and many of these places, on highly competitive courses.


We look forward to celebrating all of this with the class of 2017 at our leavers’ reception later this morning. The diversity of their interests and successes is, as you would expect, reflective of the wider pupil population at Beaconhurst.


How did they get there? They are, to a greater or lesser extent, a product of a particular model of education. I feel confident in this bold claim given that our leavers have between them a combined 194 years at Beaconhurst!


What is that model of education? There are many views about the purpose of school education. At the centre of this debate, for me, is this premise: that a school education has one purpose – to unlock potential. All else follows from there.


In my career in Education I have taught in the state sector, the international sector and the independent sector, in very large and small schools, and I have come to see very clearly that we can never know what young people can achieve unless we offer them opportunities to do so. Unless we have high expectations that they can all succeed. We take that responsibility very seriously.


Yes, we understand that exam results are important. Exam results have opened doors for our leavers, as we can see. But any education which selects on the basis of a paper entrance test or follows a curriculum which teaches to the test, and therefore which relies on a very narrow range of indicators of success, fails pupils.


You have chosen a school which believes that all children can succeed – we just have to find out what their interests, passions, skills and abilities are.

You have chosen a school which believes that many of those crucial life skills are learned beyond the classroom, as well as in it.

You have chosen a school which develops character in its young people, through living by our shared values.


HMI told us last year, and again this year, that although many schools talk about values and have the words on posters on the wall, at Beaconhurst we live it. The word HMI used was ‘embedded’.


We understand that we need a flexible route for our pupils – a varied curriculum to make sure everyone CAN succeed.

We understand that participation is such an important concept – taking part, in whatever the activity, develops young people. A small school environment enables any child to be involved in any activity.

We understand that a responsibility we have is to produce, at the end of their education, active and engaged all rounders.

That is Ex Alto Lux – the bright light that is a Beaconhurst education.


Since I spoke to you this time last year, Beaconhurst has continued to develop. Our stated aim of bringing Expressive Arts in line with Sport has been a clear focus this last year. We have had more shows, more events, more opportunities for pupils as part of the curriculum and also as part of the extracurricular programme: Drama and Music workshops, work with the Scottish Opera, the Shakespeare Festival, links with the network of Scottish Theatres, including the Conservatoire, and so on. Our investment in the new sound and lighting equipment in the Cameron Hall will allow pupils access to yet more new opportunities and skills.


I have to mention our end of year show at this point. It was great to see the pupils have such a lot of fun on stage on Wednesday evening when I was there. The atmosphere was electric. Of course, pupils were also involved back stage, making costumes and so on.

I do have to mention Danny Vevers who did have the lead part of the Captain but has been very unwell since a few days before the show. The understudy performed instead. This is particularly hard to bear as Danny is leaving us to go to Glasgow University in the Autumn and after years of performances at Beaconhurst missed his last opportunity. We wish him well.

His understudy Felix Mackle deserves a mention as he stepped in at the last minute and did amazingly well. Felix is a former pupil. It says something that a former pupil would come back to his school and step up like this. He did really well!


Another development – the new golf facility – has caused much excitement. This is another initiative which is increasing participation. Beaconhurst golfers have gone from 6 to 45 over the last two, three years. There seemed to be even more excitement when Mr Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient brought the claret jug with him to the opening. There were a lot of selfies!


Our membership of the Round Square organisation is gathering momentum. This global network of 180 schools, across 50 countries, offers exceptional opportunities for pupils. We enjoy the advantages of a small school while offering global opportunities to pupils. There has been pupil involvement from Transition to S6:

  • 8 conferences – to UK destinations, Transylvania, Germany, and India
  • 4 of our pupils have gone on educational exchanges – to Canada and Australia
  • There are more coming up – to Florida, the Himalayas, and Japan
  • There will also be the first Round Square Gap Year – with many more to come.

It is not hard to understand why we are so closely aligned with Round Square when you consider our view of education and the Round Square motto – ‘There is more in you than you think’. There are only two schools in Scotland which have fulfilled the Round Square criteria.


So, what’s next? The school’s current Improvement Plan comes to an end at the start of 2018. Our new plan is now in draft and ready for consultation during the Autumn term. We have just had our routine, annual visit from HMI, who have approved the contents of the draft plan and expressed continuing full confidence in Beaconhurst. The contents of the plan are a result of:

  • Our own reflections and evaluations as a whole staff and as SLT
  • Suggestions from HMI
  • Parent feedback – through the Parent Forum and through feedback from individual parents whom we talk to on a regular basis

We will also be asking for feedback from a group of pupils during the Autumn term. I look forward to working with the Parent Forum on the new plan.


This is also the time of year for some thank yous.

Thank you governors for the work you do behind the scenes, the initiatives you support, on the school’s behalf. The work of governors most often goes unnoticed and yet is such an important aspect of a small independent school.

Mr Preston especially has been very busy this last year. Thank you for your efforts behind the scenes to support the school.

I would like to say a special thank you to David Clark, who has just retired from the Board and as Chair of our Education Committee. We thank you for your years of support and wise counsel, especially from the Senior Leadership Team.

Having said that the work of Governors is so important to the school, I can announce that the Governors are on a recruitment drive. We are seeking governors to work with the Board, myself, SLT and the school more widely. So, if you see the Chair of the Board walking towards you with a purposeful stride, and you do not wish to be on the Board, you know what to do. Seriously, we will be writing to parents with details of the recruitment process.

I would also like to thank our two staff leavers. Mrs Meldrum, our Art teacher, has worked with us for 11 years. We would like to thank her for the work that she did for the school.

Mrs Vekic is retiring today as Head of Business Management after 16 years at Beaconhurst. Mrs Vekic established both Business Management and Young Enterprise and has had great success with both of those over the years. Many of her pupils have gone on to pursue Business studies and go into business as a result of her nurture of them. We thank you for being such an excellent teacher and colleague and wish you a happy retirement.

We are also celebrating long service today: Mrs MacCorQuodale, Mrs Differ and Mrs Vevers have all been at the school for 10 years and Mr Milligan for 20. Thank you for a combined 50 years of hard work!

Thank you to all staff for your commitment to the pupils in and beyond the classroom. The rich and diverse educational experience our pupils enjoy is as a result of your work, your willingness to go above and beyond.

Thank you to parents for continuing to support Beaconhurst. Many of you contribute to the school in a wide range of ways: on the developing parent forum, Expressive Arts and Sport, organisation of and support for events and so on. Your contributions in this respect are very important to the school.

Thank you to Mr Wright who has returned again to play the organ for us this morning.


And, thank you to our wonderful pupils.

For having the ambition to succeed

The resilience to persevere

The empathy to understand

The integrity to commit

And the respect to value all.

You are excellent ambassadors for your school and your education.


So, finally from me, I would now like to introduce our guest speaker. Emma Bell was a highly successful corporate lawyer for 17 years and then a Judge for 7. Emma is now a coach, author and public speaker on the topic – among others –  of fulfilling personal potential. Emma’s first book, ‘The True You’ explores authenticity, fulfilling personal potential and creating remarkable relationships. Emma has worked with teachers and the Scottish Council for Independent Schools on the topic of leadership for over 15 years. Emma is currently working in partnership with schools, training teachers on the topics of Resilience and Relationships, with the objective of having those topics form part of the syllabus for 2nd, 3rd and 4th year pupils in schools throughout Scotland. Emma will also be speaking at the ASSET Conference in Stirling in September, aimed at building the network and confidence of young women in S5 year groups. Emma has also coached young people as part of her ‘pay it forward’ programme.

We discovered in our discussion about today’s celebration, a shared view of the nature of potential. Emma’s view of education is very much aligned with our own at Beaconhurst. So, it is with great pleasure that I hand over to Emma Bell.

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