Prizegiving 2023

Prizegiving 2023

Dr Stephen, Mr Hirst, Colleagues, Parents, Students

Alongside all the staff at HGS, who have worked hard over the last few weeks to ensure that our school is ready for a new term and indeed new year, I want to formally welcome you all to Prizegiving 2023.

I would like to extend a very special welcome to our Chair of Governors – Dr Bob Stephen as this is his last Prizegiving as he relinquishes the role of Chair of Governors. We still have him on the books until the end of half term so we will make the most of his expertise as he guides HGS through the appointment of a new Head. Thank you for all you have done for our school – we all owe you a huge debt of gratitude for what you have done publicly for HGS and perhaps more importantly what you have done behind the scenes for HGS. I would like to award you Full Colours for all your hard work and support!

Also deserving of special thanks and gratitude is Mr Hocine Idjer – Chair of the Trustees of our Charity. Hocine and the Trustees have been extremely supportive of me and HGS over the years. He became a Governor in my first year as Head so I will take the credit for ensuring he joined our LGB and Charity! Like our Chair it is the unseen work behind the scenes of our Charity Trustees that is of paramount importance to the sustained success of HGS and it benefits us all – Staff, Students and Parents. Thank you Hocine and thank you Jim the Charity Vice-Chair in his absence. I would also like to award you your Full Colours for all your hard work and support!

I would also like to especially welcome Mr David Wheeldon who was Bailiff last year but couldn’t attend our Prizegiving but attends tonight as a Foundation Governor, Trustee and Vice-Chair of the Academy Trust. We also welcome Mr Fazle Kinkhabwala who is the Bailiff this year as well as being a Foundation Governor and Trustee.

12 years ago, at my first HGS Prizegiving we welcomed a lawyer as our special guest so it is very fitting that at my last HGS Prizegiving we welcome another – Karl Hirst. Karl is a barrister at NO. 5 Chambers in Birmingham. He is described as a real star in the senior-junior group, (not to be confused with the Danish pop duo Junior Senior who had a global smash hit in 2003 with Move your Feet) an excellent counsel in every respect. Karl is the perfect combination of technical excellence and a genuine passion to help claimants. Superb with both clients and opponents – he is a pleasure to be against. Karl was appointed as a Deputy District Judge in 2019 and is authorised to hear cases in the family, county and high courts. Welcome Karl and Claire, I just wish I had known you a few weeks ago as you might well have got me off my speeding fine and I could have avoided my speed awareness course in a weeks’ time!

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Turning specifically to our students: it is lovely to be here together again; I hope you have another really successful year in a whole host of areas, inside the classroom and out, academically and socially…and I hope you have a very happy year.

Now, having said just a moment ago that my wish is for you to have a happy and successful year – I want to move on to struggles and in particular to talk about an oak tree, cycling and Nelson Mandela.

Many years ago, when I was much younger in the Bronze Age, I used to enjoy travelling and cycling. In my late teens and twenties, I travelled a lot – Europe, Africa, USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong, China and so on. But I fondly remember cycling with a friend, cycling all day carrying what we needed with us on the back of our bikes. There was a lovely sense of achievement when we arrived in the town where we were staying late afternoon, reflecting on how far we had travelled, the difficulties we encountered, getting lost briefly and so on…and planning the route for the next day. My son loves cycling around our local countryside too – so he has caught the bug!

And then, for many years, there was a lot less cycling but more recently, I have enjoyed exploring some of Worcestershire on two wheels. At this juncture, I should point out that there will be many people here who are far more accomplished cyclists (Mr Ward being one) than me; who go further and faster on machines that are far more sophisticated than mine. Some even combine cycling with running and swimming but, that aside, perhaps once or occasionally twice a week, I have enjoyed going out as soon as it is light and pedalling along quiet roads and getting back before most people – including some members of my family notably my teenage daughter – are even awake.

As mentioned I travelled through Africa and have family in South Africa. Robben Island in South Africa is famous and it is where Nelson Mandela was kept in a tiny cell for 18 of the 27 years he served in prison, during the apartheid era. For much of that time, prisoners were treated brutally, but Mandela had learnt the poem Invictus, which I read a moment ago and it became a source of inspiration for him and the other inmates of the prison. I am the guardian of my fate; I am the captain of my soul…in other words, it is me who determines what my future will bring – not others; I will take responsibility for me, even when I’m struggling; I’m not going to blame anyone or anything else. I’m in charge of me.

Coming back to me and the cycling, over the weeks I tried different routes and towards the end of one is a steep hill with an oak tree on the top. Initially, tired at the end of a (not very long) ride, as I huffed and puffed up the incline, getting slower and slower the oak tree never seemed to get any closer. Eventually, there was nothing else to do it seemed, but to pause for a rest and then try again, gradually creeping to the summit. The next time was similar, if ever so slightly easier and then came the first occasion when I got to the top without stopping…and then that repeated…until it became an enjoyable challenge and I found myself looking forward to the oak tree, trying to reach it quicker and without changing down through the gears…you get the idea. I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.

Over the coming weeks and months, all of us will have our hills to climb, our oak trees to reach. Sometimes, it will seem as though we will never do it; we will look for excuses, our struggles, we might think, will be the fault of others. But that isn’t right; because we’re in charge of us… what may seem impossible at times, isn’t… because in almost every case, we can find a way to improve, to achieve what we are capable of not least by seeking the help of others we’re the masters of our fate, we’re the captains of our soul.

So, I hope you all have a superb year full of success and happiness. But in amongst the good times there will undoubtedly be struggles; enjoy those too. We can all find ways to overcome difficulties and to achieve more than we thought possible and by doing so, we grow. I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.

Some inspiration for the year ahead:

  • At GCSE – some 60% of all grades were 9 to 7, 100% gained 9 to 4 including English and Maths. A8 score is 71.21 and P8 score is 0.67.
  • At A Level – some 50% of all grades were A* to B, 98% of all grades were A* to E.
  • LSE, Manchester, Nottingham, Leicester, Bristol, UOB, Aston, Warwick have all been universities of choice this year. Our leavers have pursued Apprenticeships. Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Law, Engineering – (Mechanical, Civil, Aerospace), Computer Science, Biomedical Science, Maths, Economics, Psychology, Architecture, Optometry, even some History, Geography and English!
  • Look at our Honours Boards and all these wonderful Prizes to be awarded tonight. It could be you!
  • £1000’S for Charity, Legacy teams, Sports, Music, LAMDA, Prefects, Mental Health Ambassadors, HGS CARES, House Captains and Vice Captains, Trips, Visits – just read The Bridge Magazine! So much goes on in our rich, diverse and vibrant community. Be a part of it and be a Force for Good.

Stay well and safe.

Be kind to yourself and others.


Dr Bird


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