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Riding a bicycle

14/7/16: Speech Day last week was, as usual, a day of mixed emotions.

Joy that the summer was in sight (the weather even stayed fair for us!) and, because our fully-fledged A2s were setting off on new adventures; sadness, perhaps a little sentimental I grant you, at saying farewell to another talented, feisty, and ‘inwardly weird’ (as the Head Boy described his wonderfully varied year group in his own speech) set of A2s. Inwardly weird might not make it into the prospectus, but it does say a very great deal about this very great school in my view. Thank you to this year’s Head Boy and Head Girl, Sam and Nancy, who upstaged the Chair of Governors and myself with their own, highly individual speeches in the Greek Theatre.

In my own speech that day I, much more predictably perhaps, talked about confidence. The right sort; not the ghastly over-confident sense of entitlement to which I earnestly hope all Bryanstonians are allergic. Instead, the sort of confidence that breeds hope; the confidence that means you know you can and should get stuck into life and contribute to the society around you; the confidence that allows you to make your own way in the world without constant support (or even, dare I say it, interference?) from parents.

I know the poem below is, again, sentimental, but it does seem to me to sum up the business of children leaving our immediate parental and tutorial reach and their learning to do the things they must do themselves with confidence. And I think I’m allowed to be sentimental once a year.

Learning the Bicycle…for Heather:

The older children pedal past

Stable as little gyros, spinning hard

To supper, bath, bed, until at last

We also quit, silent and tired

Beside the darkening yard, where trees

Now shadow up instead of down.

Their predictable lengths can only tease

Her, head lowered, she walks her bike alone,

Somewhere between wanting to ride

And her certainty she will always fall.

Tomorrow, though, I will run behind

Arms out to catch her… she’ll tilt, then balance wide

Of my reach, till distance makes her small,

Smaller, beyond the place I stop and know

That to teach her, I had to follow

And when she learned, I had to let her go.

We very much hope that all our A2s will stay in touch with us and will have great fun beyond Bryanston. We hope they will enjoy all the challenges, get stuck in wherever they are required to, and hopefully make things better than they found them.

I wish them all a lovely summer and fine starts in the next chapter. And I wish you all a sunny summer too. See you in September