Friday, 08 September 2017
The Girls’ Division Great Hall was filled with students, family members, staff and friends for the annual Presentation Evening. This year’s guest speaker was Ingrid Murray, an Old Girl who has built a stellar career as an entrepreneur and consultant. Highlights include the creation of Britain’s first price comparison website, building a data-focused management consultancy, and advising media, government, retailers and insurers how to navigate digital disruption.
The Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Roger Hayes, and the Mayoress, his wife Jaleh Hayes, also attended Presentation Evening as part of the platform party.
The evening began with a report from the Chairman of Governors, Mr Michael Griffiths. He welcomed everyone to the Great Hall and congratulated all of the girls receiving prizes. He spoke about the School's exceptional commitment to community service, which has been recognised this year. In June, Bolton School received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, and the week before Presentation Evening Mr Griffiths and Miss Hincks attended a ceremony to officially receive the Award from The Lord-Lieutenant of Greater Manchester. Mr Griffiths also paid tribute to two retiring Governors, Catherine Buckley and George Holmes. Finally, in closing, he wished the Class of 2017 good luck and offered three pieces of advice: to follow their instincts, stick to the values they have learned at Bolton School, and to always try to make a difference for good.
Girls’ Division Headmistress Sue Hincks then took the podium to give her address. She offered her congratulations to all of the students on their excellent GCSE and A Level grades this year, which she said were proof of the girls’ hard work, the diligence of their teachers and the support of their friends and families. However, academic achievements were not the only successes to celebrate. Following on from Mr Griffiths, she mentioned the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and spoke of the impressive number of volunteering hours on average achieved by each girl in Year 12 during the 2016-17 academic year. In addition, Miss Hincks recalled the many sportswomen who have been selected for regional squads, competed at regional and national levels, or won trophies for the school, in Lacrosse, Netball, Hockey, Swimming, Tennis, Cross Country, Football, Athletics, Badminton, Water Polo, Cricket, Horseriding and Ballet. She also paid tribute to the leadership and example of Mrs Heatherington and her department. Moving on to other extra-curricular activities, Miss Hincks remembered the spectacular Joint Productions of Miss Saigon and last year’s Dr Faustus, younger girls’ involvement with dramatisations of Wonder and Animal Farm, the multitude of spectacular concerts throughout the year, and the strength of creative writing within the School. She added that although Presentation Evening’s focus is on the grades and plaudits received, these do not dictate whether the girls will have a happy and fulfilled life. She therefore ended by advising girls to take Bolton School’s values with them, as they will form a strong foundation with which to lead their lives.
After the Headmistress’s address, the audience sang ‘I Vow To Thee My Country’. This was followed by an enchanting performance of ‘Les Roses d’Ispahan’ by Fauré from Year 13 student Caroline Blair.
The certificates and prizes were then distributed by Ingrid Murray. In addition to A Level and GCSE certificates, girls received academic prizes and their achievements in many other areas were celebrated, including music, creative writing, drama and community service. For the first time, Gold and Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards were included in the programme and the Headmistress led a special round of applause for all those who fulfilled the criteria required to receive these awards. The presentations were followed by a rousing rendition of the hymn ‘Jerusalem’.
Ingrid’s Presentation Evening address was split into three sections: “the biggest cause for celebration”, “highlights of my career” and “four tips that I have learnt on my journey”.
She began by paying tribute to the life-long friends she made while at Bolton School. She reminded the assembled students that Presentation Evening is not only about the awards and certificates, and that it should also celebrate the friendships created at school. She said, “It has been a pleasure, and an honour, to accompany my friends as they have blossomed, like me, from socially awkward teenagers into mature, accomplished, strong women at the top of their game both professionally and personally.”
She then asked the girls to stand and hug the girls sitting on either side of them “to acknowledge something that no one can ever take away from us, that wherever you go and whatever you do in future, we are members of the Bolton School girls’ community in the big wide world.” The girls enthusiastically embraced their friends in this lovely moment.
Ingrid went on to talk about her career, from her A Levels and Business Studies degree, to learning about brands in her first job at PZ Cussons, to setting up marketing analytics consultancy Ninah Consulting with her sister, Sarah. After working with insurance companies with Ninah, she observed how the car insurance market operated and went on to found Confused.com: the UK’s first price comparison website. In both instances, she was driven by a strong need to champion change for a specific segment of people. She has since advised the BBC, Selfridges and the British government to leverage the digital opportunities in media, retail and public services. She has also continued to work with the insurance industry as a consultant, and more recently car dealerships and estate agencies.
Finally, she offered four tips to the girls, particularly the departing Year 13s. The first was to “earn your own money”: she admitted that this sounded obvious, but also warned that she had seen smart, ambitious women end up living someone else’s dream and subjugating their own. She also added that being able to stand on their own two feet makes a woman more confident and interesting. Next she advised the girls not to get a job, but to work for a cause: make sure that they understand the higher purpose and intrinsic value of what they are doing each day. She asked, “What drives you? If you don’t know now, explore until you find out.”
The third piece of advice was a Warren Buffett quote: “Earn money while you sleep.” Ingrid advised the girls not to be trapped by the 9-5 world of office work when they can access the digital world, e-commerce and the ability to work at any time, to suit their needs and lifestyle, as she has done. Her last comment was to “be adaptable” and “ride the waves of change”, saying that the next thirty years will see just as many changes as the last thirty. She said, “Look for the signs, follow your instincts, but most of all, like riding a rollercoaster, put up your hands and feel the thrill of it all because life is for living, and boy what a life you can have if you choose to embrace it.”
A vote of thanks was proposed by the Head Girl, Priya Guhathakurta. In addition to thanking Ingrid, she commented that she found it incredible that Ingrid once described herself as “an average girl, who didn't shine at any one thing”!
The evening drew to a close with the singing of the School Song, accompanied by the Senior Choir, after which the departing Year 13 students processed out of the Great Hall to applause from the audience. The Year 13 leavers and their families were invited to the Dining Hall after Presentation Evening for a celebratory reception with members of staff.
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