This evening, we will host the first event in our reimagined Temple building. The paint is barely dry, not all the furniture is in place, but we are all set for the Year 13 Leavers’ Prizegiving and Ball. It’s fitting this is the first event we will hold in the space: our Grade II listed building has been given a modern make-over. In the design, we’ve honoured the past and looked to the future, and this is exactly what we will be doing later: looking back on the many achievements of our Year 13s during their time at the school, and looking forward to an exciting future for them all.
Having read through the citations, I know that tonight’s audience will be struck by the range of skills and talents that belong to this group: dancers, photographers, entrepreneurs, engineers, medics, and sportswomen will be launched into the world, with gifts to cover a whole spectrum of possibilities.
One of the things that makes me most proud of the Sixth Form at Brighton Girls is the way in which our students emerge as individuals, with the strength of personality to be who they want to be, and the confidence to forge their own path. The citations include such lines as “stand firm in being the person you are” and “never change”. I think we see this in the range of pathways our leavers are set to follow – they’ve discovered already that life is not a factory line; that each of them is going out into the world with something special to contribute, something only they can bring. There is a lot to be said for the cliche, “be you – because everyone else is taken”. I sense that our leavers already understand this, and that gives me great optimism for the future.
In my address this evening, I will echo the words of a former Headmistress of Brighton & Hove High, Miss Fisher. Speaking at Prize Giving in 1922, Miss Fisher told the leavers that the world they were growing up into was an “extraordinarily interesting world” but it was “not an easy one”. She explained that their generation would have “many difficulties to contend with, and a good deal to think about” and her former students would not only “have to do the thinking and make the decisions” but they must “make the best use of the responsibilities and powers that would be theirs later on”. She went on to say that she hoped a lot of them were going to be “town councillors, magistrates, Prime Ministers, and members of the Cabinet” (at which point, according to the local newspaper, there was laughter and applause) and suggested that “if they did not do their work well in those capacities, their fellow citizens would have a tiresome time of it”.
In other words, Miss Fisher was exhorting the Class of 1922 to take up positions of influence, to use their powers to make the world a better place. A hundred years on, the number of possible pathways has grown, but the message to the Class of 2022 is the same. The journey will not be an easy one, but if they are true to themselves, if they nurture their unique gifts, they will change things for the better – and, let’s hope that, thanks to them, we will have a less tiresome time of it.