"Recently I won the Mensa Child Genius Competition and I believe that it was possible because of the academic skills and the skills to perform in front of an audience and to keep calm under pressure that I acquired at Hesketh House."

Sharon Daniel, Girls' Division pupil

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Girls Celebrate Prizegiving with Michaela Strachan

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Bolton School welcomed television presenter Michaela Strachan as the Guest Speaker at this year’s Girls’ Division Presentation Evening. The evening was a fantastic celebration of the girls’ achievements, particularly those who have just received GCSE and A Level results, but also an opportunity to praise individual and team successes in a dozen different sports and excellence in music.

Michaela is now well-known as a wildlife presenter and has worked on programmes such as ‘The Really Wild Show’, ‘Michaela’s Wild Challenge’, ‘Countryfile’, ‘Springwatch’, ‘Autumnwatch’ and ‘Winterwatch’. She is also famous for presenting ‘The Hitman and Her’, as well as a variety of children’s television programmes including ‘The Wide Awake Club’, which as she explained in her address was her first job on television.

However, she went on to explain that her career as a wildlife presenter could not have been further from her original aspirations at school. She left school at 16 with a passion for dancing, planning to eventually work in musical theatre. She combined numerous part-time jobs with a musical theatre course at Arts Educational College in London. Michaela talked about the huge importance of working to support herself during this period: even though the jobs were not glamorous, they were character building and helped her to succeed by developing her work ethic. She encouraged the girls not to see part-time work that they might do now or while at university as a core, but as an important part of their journey towards adulthood.

After finishing her course, Michaela toured with a production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but then had the opportunity to audition for ‘The Wide Awake Club’ and decided to take it. She even gave the audience a taste of the ‘talent’ portion of her interview, which proved to be very entertaining!

This led to other jobs on children’s television, and eventually ‘OWL TV’: her first wildlife programme. She explained that although she didn’t have the conservation and wildlife knowledge at the time, she had always loved animals, and the producers wanted someone who could present to children. Her success led to work on ‘The Really Wild Show’, which she presented for 15 years. During that time and since, she has learned more and more about wildlife conservation through presenting a wide variety of different programmes. She described some of the amazing wildlife experiences she has had through her presenting career, including the amazing year in which she managed to visit all seven continents – including Antarctica – in just six months.

Michaela explained that when she was the age of the girls who had received prizes, she could never have predicted where she would end up. Her passions have changed, and although she still loved musical theatre, wildlife conservation has become her new passion.

She has only been able to discover this through taking opportunities when they were presented to her. She advised the girls that they should do the same, whether their passions change, stay the same, or even if they haven’t found their passion yet. She recommended thinking outside the box and being flexible if their original plan doesn’t work.

Her final advice to the girls was that, no matter what they decided to do, they should make the most of it, be proud of their work, and most importantly do it to the best of their ability rather than settling for ‘good enough’.

Michaela presented GCSE and A Level certificates, Grade VI to VIII music awards, and a number of special School prizes which were given girls from Year 7 to the Sixth Form.

Chair of Governors Mr Michael Griffiths gave his annual report, congratulating the girls on their many achievements and speaking about the various highlights of the previous twelve months. He made particular mention of the 100th Anniversary of the Foundation, which was celebrated in April, and spoke about the vast differences between 1915 and the world today. He commemorated the Girls’ Division’s contributions to the war effort, particularly the girls’ hard work responding to charitable appeals and writing to prisoners of war. This led him to talk about the School’s ethos of ensuring that pupils are not only academically successful but also aware of the real world around them and conscious of the line in the School Prayer: “Much is required of those to whom much is given.”

He went on to mention the pupils’ incredible volunteering efforts, which have not only made a huge difference to the local community, but also won the School an award from national charity vInspired for having the most students who logged the necessary number of hours to be awarded a vInspired Certificate. Mr Griffiths also highlighted some of the current pupils’ recent charitable endeavours, notably the Year 10 trip to Tanzania over the summer and the Sixth Form trip to SKCV in India last October, and the incredible impact their fundraising and visits have made to these communities. Finally, he paid tribute to recently retired governor Mr David Brookes and the enormous amount of time he has given to the School, before again offering his congratulations and best wishes to the girls receiving prizes.

Girls’ Division Headmistress Sue Hincks also addressed the parents, pupils and staff gathered in the hall for Presentation Evening. She too offered her congratulations as well as looking back at the various highlights of the past year, from the Christmas Post and Prefects’ Panto to the Easter Extravaganza, the Pancake Race, and Year 13 girls’ last day in School. She also talked about students’ achievements outside the academic sphere, and praised the creative writing group for producing some excellent and impressive poetry over the course of the year. She then invited Elizabeth Dillon was invited to the stage to read her hugely entertaining poem ‘It’s my Jam’.

Miss Hincks concluded her talk by thanking the staff, particularly the heads of Year 11 and the Sixth Form, and led the audience in a round of applause. She also thanked the Head Girl team and prefects from the previous year for acting as excellent role models and providing support.

Finally, the Head Girl Sarah Ibberson offered a vote of thanks to Michaela Strachan for her inspirational address.

The Presentation Evening was punctuated by the hymns ‘I Vow to Thee, my County’ and ‘Jerusalem’. Year 12 pupil Zoe Stirzaker gave a fantastic musical recital of Bach’s ‘Sonata in G Minor’ on Saxophone. The evening closed with a rousing rendition of the School Song.

After the ceremony, the audience was invited to the newly refurbished Girls’ Dining Hall for tea and coffee, cakes and canapés, and even candyfloss for the girls! There was a very convivial atmosphere in the Dining Hall throughout the remainder of the evening.

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The Head Girl and her deputies welcome Michaela to the School

The Head Girl and her deputies welcome Michaela to the School

The girls received their awards and qualifications from Michaela

The girls received their awards and qualifications from Michaela

Musical performances punctuated the evening with entertainment

Musical performances punctuated the evening with entertainment