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Prize-giving Celebrates Outstanding Achievements

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Recent leavers returned to Bolton School Girls’ Division to join Year 12 students and prize winners from other year groups in a celebration of outstanding achievements from across the last academic year.

Former pupil and now Girls’ Division Governor, Miss Amanda Valentine, was one of three speakers on the night. Addressing the School’s most recent alumni, she advised them to ‘remember to embrace everything that is on offer to you as you embark on the next stage of your career; be bold and make a difference in your world.’ She credited the cohort, and their parents and teachers, on achieving such excellent results given their A levels were the first public exams that they had sat.

Addressing the newest members of the Sixth Form, she said that she hoped they were enjoying Year 12 and the new freedoms and responsibilities that it brings. She recapped how they had also been affected by Covid, which hit just as they were choosing their GCSE options. She told the girls to enjoy their Sixth Form years and to thrive on the academic and enrichment activities available to them and to be excellent role models for younger pupils.

Miss Valentine spoke of the Girls’ Division’s reputation for its commitment to volunteering and commented on how the sheer number of girls completing the Duke of Edinburgh Award each year was quite incredible. Community work, she felt, is important in developing students as well-rounded individuals. She was also delighted to note that the Girls’ Division had set a new record for raising funds for charity in an academic year – breaking through the £20,000 mark. Before leaving the stage, and on behalf of the Governing Body, Miss Valentine thanked all the teachers for their dedication and work during the challenges of Covid.

Head of Girls’ Division, Mrs Kyle, recounted how it had been a strange start to the school year – excitement on the first day back, the Wednesday, followed by profound sadness on the Thursday at the passing of the Queen. She explained how there had been a debate over whether to hold tonight’s event but that it had been decided, with a few adjustments, that it was important to send the Year 13 leavers on their way in style. She was, she said, delighted to see so many attendees on this special evening.

Mrs Kyle told the girls that all their teachers and parents were extremely proud of them, as they had coped, worked hard and shown a determination to succeed during an unprecedented global pandemic. The Head also lauded her teaching colleagues for enabling the transition to remote learning, which meant, from day one, there was no break in formal teaching. Both the A level and GCSE year groups, she said, had dealt with so much and there were simply too many success stories to mention them all. She told the audience that academic success is just one part of what we do – from sports to drama, from music to debating, from trips to educational lectures – there really was something for everyone. Pastoral care here is also excellent, said Mrs Kyle and she spoke of the new pastoral and learning support area in School that had just opened called the Hive. She also referenced the many bursaries that the School offers as attempts continue to make it as accessible to all as is possible.

The Head recapped the structural changes to the School over the last academic year. She told how her own appointment as Head of the Girls’ Division had brought her great joy and how she was very proud as she began her thirtieth year in School. She also spoke of last year’s first Founders and Benefactors’ Assembly, which commemorated the School’s beginning in 1877; the inception of a new annual lecture series, the Platt-Fisher lectures; and of an assembly celebrating the lives of Mrs Margaret Spurr (Headmistress), the Reverend Elizabeth Plant (Head of Classics) and Miss Margaret Dickinson (Deputy-Head). Mrs Kyle also recalled how two new memorial boards were also unveiled in the Girls’ Division which recognised former headmistresses and long-serving staff.

Mrs Kyle told the students that they were lucky to have such dedicated staff in all areas of the School and went on to express her thanks to the Governing Body and the many hundreds of, often unnoticed, hours that they give. She also praised the Parents’ Association and all the hard work it does, singling out those whom had left at the end of the academic year. With her own son having finished in Year 13 during the summer, the Head also related to the journey that parents had gone through – commenting that it was a sad but exciting time as their teenagers flew the nest. Mrs Kyle took pleasure in reciting a range of humorous anecdotes from the school yearbook, noting that the girls had a great fondness for one another. She finished her talk with a story that had been shared with her by a current parent. He had said that the clincher for him after attending Open Morning was coming across a group of Sixth Form girls that he’d seen earlier in the day, enjoying a meal at Middlebrook and being impressed by the way they conducted themselves and interacted. At that point, he was sold as he knew that was how he wanted his daughter to turn out. Mrs Kyle left the stage by telling the girls she was so very proud of them.

The gathering then sang the hymn ‘I Vow to Thee My Country’ and enjoyed a musical recital performed by Eli Collins. The awarding of prizes to mid-stream winners was followed by GCSE and A level presentations and the communal singing of ‘Jerusalem’.

Head of Foundation, Mr Philip Britton, reflected on a year well spent and told how it had been a pleasure working with Mrs Kyle as he came to understand more about the Girls’ Division. He told how, this year, there had been no need for an erudite and witty Old Girl to share life lessons with the girls as they could look to the Queen for inspiration. Picking out a number of themes, he spoke about the Queen’s duty and service to the community and her continuous intellectual curiosity. Imagine, he told the girls, having a sufficient cultural hinterland to be able to say something sensible about almost everything in almost every situation. He also spoke of the longevity of her reign bringing constancy but also of her ability to change as she oversaw an extraordinary sweep of history. Mr Britton said that she had a constant and guiding set of moral principles and she knew what mattered. He believed the Sixth Form leavers also left Bolton School with a sense of what matters. Another life lesson that the Queen provided, he said, was to have private interests – she found time to pursue what makes her happy and fuelled her with emotional energy to carry out her duties. The period of national mourning, he said, had also involved some looking forward too and he concluded his address by reading some words about the new King which had been agreed upon by all of the major religions.

The evening ended with the singing of the National Anthem, followed by the School Song.

You can watch the Prize-giving Ceremony in its entirety through this link.

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