I am delighted to have the privilege of extending the warmest of welcomes to all of you on this first morning of this new academic year at Rossall. There is a real sense of excitement in the air and, for so many of us, this morning represents the start of a new adventure. If you are joining us for the first time, then it is my heartfelt hope that you will quickly feel the friendliness and kindness of this wonderful community. My family and I have been at Rossall over the summer and we feel enveloped in warmth, kindness and happiness.
This is a School with a friendliness and generosity of spirit that results from its strong ethos and a clear set of values. It is a School where we care for each other and treat those around us with absolute kindness and respect.
Above all else, Rossall is a School where we expect you to work extremely hard in order to become the best possible version of yourself. It matters to us that you leave here ready to make a meaningful contribution to society. We want all of you to develop the skills and emotional intelligence necessary to lead happy personal lives and successful professional lives.
It is often difficult for us to accept, especially when we are young, that life really is not a dress rehearsal. It is finite. You get no second chance, there is no opportunity to rewind the years and have another shot at life. This should not be a source of sorrow but it should motivate us to live our lives fully in every regard.
I want us to inspire in you a lifelong love of learning. I want you to be endlessly inquisitive about this world and to have a hunger to know more about topics as diverse as history, astronomy, music and philosophy. I want you to see the world in all of its exquisite beauty. I want your hearts to skip a beat when you behold the beauty of a wonderful painting, a novel of intense profundity or a stirring piece of music. I want you to give as much as you can to this School but I also want you to have a real hunger for participating in all the activities and opportunities that being at Rossall provides.
This summer I have had the pleasure of talking to some of our recent Sixth Form leavers – in particular, those who have made an outstanding contribution to this school. They are confident, dynamic, energetic young people and it is clear to me that they absolutely love this School. However, at the same time, they are ready to move on to the next exciting stage of their lives. This is what Rossall does so well – it prepares young people to face the future with confidence, optimism and a real sense of joy. We are proud of the young people who pass through this school and you will not be surprised to know that, for many, the friendships that are formed in this place will last a lifetime.
Your primary purpose of being here is to learn and achieve academically. You need to know that my expectations in terms of effort and behaviour are very high. You are here to learn and it is my responsibility to ensure that you are inclined to do so.
At times you may well find academic work hard and there are occasions when we all feel as though we are failing. These feelings are perfectly natural and I want you to know that it is alright to feel nervous, anxious or disappointed. Such thoughts are natural and you are not alone. At times such as these, it is important to lean upon friends and I am convinced that communicating and talking with each other is incredibly important, so do always share your worries.
Ultimately, what matters is that you develop the resilience and determination to keep on trying not just at School but throughout your life. Your education is a journey that will never end. There is no full stop. Exams might serve as markers along the way, or even goal posts, but they are not the final destination in themselves. Our true purpose is much more exciting than that. Our true purpose is to try to become the very best possible version of ourselves in all regards.
I am ambitious for this school and I am ambitious for each and every young person in this school. A few days ago, I asked one of you what I should say to you all on the first day of term given that it is my first day as well. The girl concerned thought for a moment and then said, please don’t talk about yourself. Nobody needs to know the name of your cat, but we all want to know why you are here, I mean why you are really here. Tell us why you have chosen to come to this place. I think that was fantastic advice so thank you Tess.
So I would like to tell you why I was so keen to come to Rossall and serve this wonderful School. What did bring me to the Fylde coast and this special community? I first visited the School in the depths of winter. I was struck by the crisp air, winter sun and the snow glinting on the Cumbrian peaks. The majestic architecture of Rossall’s beautiful buildings took my breath away. Walking into this Chapel, one could sense the school’s illustrious history for this is a place which commemorates the service and sacrifice of those of our members who fought valiantly in the terrible conflicts of the twentieth century. I was struck by the international nature of this diverse community. Yet at the same time, I felt a very real warmth for this area of Lancashire and its people who are witty, friendly, kind and incredibly positive in all regards.
Above all, I knew that this was a body of young people whom I wanted to support. This was a School of pupils whom it is an honour and privilege to lead and to serve. On each of my visits, I have found you to be outstanding ambassadors of the school and you have shared with me your love of and pride in this School. This, above everything, makes being here an absolute privilege.
However, it is also the case that it is a School staffed by teachers who really care for you and for whom being at Rossall is much much more than simply a job. That makes this a special place indeed.
The palpable sense of anticipation and excitement that fills this beautiful chapel on this September morning should fill all of us with a sense of real wonderment and heartfelt appreciation for the gift of life and the countless opportunities to learn and to grow which this forthcoming year will present.
The other day, I was thinking about the future and the challenges that we will all face this academic year and I chanced upon a documentary on ITV which told the story of the Ben Fogle (the explorer and presenter) and Victoria Pendleton (Olympic Gold Medalist) as they attempt to climb Everest.
I would like to share with you what Ben said when he reached the summit of Everest:
“I am on the roof of the world. 8848 metres on the summit of Everest
You know what – I dreamed of this as a child. I never thought I’d actually stand here.
This is for all those people who are told they couldn’t, they wouldn’t, they shouldn’t. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it with the right stamina and grit and determination. I really hope some of this will inspire other people – not to necessarily to climb this mountain. I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend that – it’s quite hard. But I want you all, please promise me one thing, one thing – go climb your Everest. It is worth it. It will change your life. Promise me that.”
I want you to make the very most of the forthcoming weeks. Each academic year is remarkably short – less than 175 days long. Please make the most of every opportunity. Work hard. Give 100% to everything that you do and I hope that this term is filled with happiness and a sense of real accomplishment. You do only live once. Walk out of here determined to live life to the full. Go and climb your Everests!”