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Thursday, 11 September 2014
Old Girl Lesley Ainsworth, who left the School in 1976 and is now a panel member of the Competition and Markets Authority after many years of experience in competition law, returned to Bolton School as this year’s Guest Speaker at the Girls’ Division Presentation Evening.
As a former Head Girl, Lesley is no stranger to the Girls’ Division stage, and indeed remarked that many things about the School and the Great Hall in particular have not changed. However, in her address, she noted that change is often positive, and remarked on the “brilliant” new Riley Centre outside. Beyond the boundaries of Bolton School, during her lifetime she has watched options and opportunities for women open up more and more.
“Even at my most exhausted moments, trying to juggle many different commitments, I’ve been grateful to live in a time when women have so many opportunities and combining a family and career is normal,” she said. “This is very different to my mother’s experience, as she left her job when she had children.”
She went on to speak about how these additional choices open to young women can present a challenge, as they may seem daunting. However, she reassured the girls that few decisions they make are irrevocable, and advised them that the key is to keep their mind – and their options – open wherever possible. She said, “I read recently that, with the explosion of IT and the internet, 65% of jobs people will have in ten years haven’t even been invented yet! So it’s best to think broadly and widen your CV. Academic results are important and will get you the interview, but it’s your other skills – ‘soft skills’ as they’re often called, though they can be harder to acquire than A Levels – that will get you the job.”
Lesley praised the many extra curricular activities on offer at Bolton School, which allow the girls to develop, but had a few suggestions of her own.
She proposed a ‘circus skills’ society, complete with plate-spinning, trapeze, lion taming, and taking turns at playing the ringmaster or even the clowns. Although the audience laughed at this prospect, Lesley pointed out that all of these areas could contribute to their ‘soft skills’. Plate-spinning would promote a great ability to multi-task and keep life’s many different priorities balanced. The trapeze requires teamwork, while lion-taming teaches the value of forward planning: making sure the lion is well fed before facing it! The ringmaster would be a great role in which to learn leadership skills and the ability to coordinate different people. However, she pointed out that perhaps the most valuable lesson comes from the clowns. Lesley told the girls that having a sense of humour and being able to laugh at their own mistakes is important; but the clowns really teach resilience, the ability to bounce back when things have gone wrong. This was always one of the most important skills she looked for in the people she worked with, particularly graduates and trainees.
The Great Hall filled with students, family, teachers and friends who gathered together to celebrate the girls’ achievements. Presentation Evening was opened by Mr Michael Griffiths, Chairman of the Governing Body, who looked back on the century of tradition underpinning the Bolton School Foundation in his Report. He also spoke about the principles which encapsulated the wishes of William Lever, who later became the first Viscount Leverhulme. These were identified by the surviving trustees of the school after his death in 1925 as quality, accessibility and autonomy. He further discussed how these are still relevant today, from the implementation of iPads and the building of the Riley Centre, to ensuring accessibility and social mobility through bursaries, to the educational model used in the School today. He also added: “Tonight is about celebrating outstanding success and we are going to hear about some amazing achievements, but it’s also right that we should recognise and sincerely thank our highly talented and dedicated staff, led by an outstanding Headmistress, who work so very hard to encourage our students to maximise their potential.”
In the Headmistress’s Address, Sue Hincks further applauded the girls’ achievements in all aspects of school life: “In a period when the examination seasons has got harder, with the abolition of modules and the end to much teacher-assessed work, your results at GCSE and A2 were excellent, and the number of Girls’ Division students getting into their first- or second-choice university remains at an all-time high, so well done to you all.
“Your grades are commendable, but ultimately they are just one aspect of school life. I hope that whilst you have been with us, you have learned the importance of kindness and integrity, commitment and perseverance, community and friendship, and, in the words of the school prayer, of giving back all that you have been so lucky to receive. If these are the values which your time at Bolton School has taught you, then your education here has been complete.”
She went on to talk about the many individual sporting successes the girls have enjoyed, with many girls competing on a national, regional and county level in a wide variety of sports, as well as competing for the school.
Miss Hincks lauded the girls’ musical achievements, mentioning the high standard of performance during concerts and recitals throughout the year; she also praised the eighteen girls who received Grades VI and above in their music examinations, and in particular Jessica Ryan and Natasha Lomas who achieved Diploma standard. She went on to commend Natasha Lomas, Holly Holt and Katie Hurt have attended Halle Youth Orchestra; four pupils who have been selected to take part in the Halle Youth Choir Programme; and the three girls invited to joint the Junior RNCM. Girls have also won various musical accolades, from the Jazz Band’s gold medal in National Concert Band Competition to Zoe Stirzacker being named the Regional Rotary Young Musician.
The superb Romeo and Juliet joint production was also praised by Miss Hincks, who noted that the girls’ performance in the music and dance routines and dramatic exchanges were particularly energetic and enjoyable.
She also reminded the girls of the importance of taking advantage of all of the opportunities available to them; and she spoke briefly about the various highlights of the year’s extra curricular activities, which have allowed the girls to learn from each other and from experts in a wide range of fields, from geography to law, creative writing to mathematics, and many more besides.
Miss Hincks echoed Mr Griffith’s words in paying tribute to the hard work and dedication of the school’s staff, as well as the girls’ family and friends for supporting them throughout their school careers.
The evening ended with a vote of thanks from Head Girl Jessica Melling and, for the leavers, a final rendition of the School Song. The celebration continued in the Arts Centre, where girls, staff and guests enjoyed refreshments and the opportunity to exchange memories and reminisce on past times.
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