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Technology Entrepreneur Gives Prizegiving Address

Friday, 30 June 2017

  • Presentation Evening - Guests
  • Presentation Evening - Old Boy Rod Dobson
  • Presentation Evening - Headmaster
  • Presentation Evening - Chair of Governors
  • Presentation Evening - violinist
  • Presentation Evening - guitarist
  • Presentation Evening - singers
  • Presentation Evening - Head Boy
  • Presentation Evening - Rob Dobson presenting prize (1)
  • Presentation Evening - Rob Dobson presenting prize (3)
  • Presentation Evening - Rob Dobson presenting prize
  • Presentation Evening - Rob Dobson presenting prize (2)

The Great Hall was filled with an audience of parents, family members, staff and current pupils for the annual Prizegiving, which traditionally celebrates the wide variety of academic and extra-curricular achievements which pupils have accomplished in the past year. This year’s guest speaker was Old Boy and technology entrepreneur Rob Dobson.

After a warm welcome from the Headmaster, Mr Philip Britton, there was an address from Chairman of Governors Mr Michael Griffiths. He offered his sincere congratulations to all of the prizewinners in the Hall, and his thanks to the parents and staff who have supported the boys in their academic, sporting and extracurricular endeavours. Recalling the past year, he spoke of the strong links with Old Boys and how technology, in the form of talks via web links, has made it even easier for alumni to impart their knowledge and advice to current pupils. Mr Griffiths referred to the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which was recently awarded to Bolton School, and the important work that all pupils perform in the community. He also made mention of the excellent Inspection report received by the Boys’ Division earlier this year, and the fact that the Inspectors even seemed to enjoy their time at Bolton School. Coming to the end of his address, Mr Griffiths thanked two retiring Governors, Catherine Buckley and George Holmes, for their long service at the School, and finally offered his closing remarks to all boys leaving this summer: wishing them good luck, and advising them to follow their instincts, try to make a positive difference in the world and have fun.

This year saw the introduction of the Leverhulme Salver to the Prizegiving roster: a new award for the boy who most embodies the academic success, self-reliant independent character, connection with the community and wide ranging interests that the school seeks to instil in its students. This piece of silverware, which was originally presented to the School as part of Lord Leverhulme’s legacy, was received by Year 13 pupil Adam Shine. Its inaugural presentation marks the 70th anniversary of the commissioning of the salver and the centenary of Sir William Hesketh Lever becoming Baron Leverhulme.

Old Boy Rob Dobson returned to Bolton School to present the awards at this year’s Prizegiving and to offer his thoughts and advice to current pupils. Since leaving Bolton School, Rob has had a prosperous career in technological entrepreneurship, beginning in the fledgling mobile phone industry. Now, in addition to being an investor, he holds a number of non-executive director and chairman roles.

Addressing the Great Hall, Rob made reference to his day spent in the Boys’ Division, touring the School and meeting with pupils interested in technology. He also spoke about his career and also how he hopes that technology will help to resolve the challenges that his generation has left behind, in particular the issue of climate change. The particular focus of his talk was on work and its relationship with technology, from current concerns about robotics, AI and automation and the effects these will have on jobs, to the thriving job market in sectors relating to technology, not just in the fields of maths and computing. He said, “The tech industry is crying out for great design, great user experience, great communicators and great business skills, so why not go into technology and be great?”

Rob also gave his thoughts on what work will potentially look like in the future, and ended his address saying, “I’d like to recommend to you all, whatever your chosen field of study, that you should set out to learn about technology and embrace it, because if you don’t there’s a strong chance that the future won’t be the one you want it to be.”

After Rob’s speech, Mr Britton gave a brief overview of Rob’s time as a pupil based on his School file, and revealed that there was one further presentation to make before he made his remarks. Rob had never collected his A Level certificate 35 years before, and therefore he was finally presented with it on the Great Hall stage to laughter and applause from the audience.

The Headmaster then discussed the position of independent schools nationally: though maligned in the narrative of the public domain as part of the problem, he argued that this could not be further from the truth. He described how Bolton School embodies two slogans which have been recently used by political parties, ‘strong and stable’ and ‘for the many, not the few’. He recalled independent schools’ involvement in campaigns on fairness of exam marking, mental health issues for teenagers, and speaking out against absurd university initiation ceremonies: moving forward the discussion on these issues for all pupils. He said, “The strength of independent schools is a strength for all schools, because we give voice to educational issues that affect everyone.”

In reference to the School being ‘for the many, not the few’, he discussed the School’s diverse social mix, which is made possible through the bursary fund. He went on to mention the outreach and partnership in which the School is involved, which also makes the School ‘for the many, not the few’: not only having a local impact but leading the way nationally with a model which is now being followed by others. Examples of this include the Bolton Sports Alliance, the Ogden Teaching Fellow, strategic partnerships with schools such as Smithills and ESSA, charity work and community action.

He admitted that although it may not be possible to continue with this argument on a national scale, it is important to prevail locally. He added, “Our impact on our hometown is so much larger than educating 900 senior school boys. … Bolton School is a force for good in our local community.”

Moving on to his Review of the Year in School, Mr Britton recalled the excellent Inspection Report; the Boys’ Division this year becoming an Apple Distinguished School, one of 50 schools globally and 5 independent schools in the UK; and colleagues leading national INSET on e-learning. He congratulations the team of boys who this year won the national Royal Society of Chemistry Top of the Bench competition, several teams which have made it to Regional rounds in their varied competitions, and numerous other individual accolades. As well as celebrating pupils’ intellectual curiosity, their creative work was commended: next week, Adam Hall in Year 12 will have his artwork exhibited in London as one of 20 finalists in the Saatchi Gallery Art Prize for Schools 2017; and the Headmaster also mentioned boys’ achievements in music and in Wonder, Miss Saigon, and through the year-long partnership with the Boys’ Division’s Theatre Company in Residence, RoughHouse Theatre. Moving on to sport, Mr Britton talked of the trophy cabinets as a representation of the boys’ sporting achievements and recalled some of the highlights of the year, including the U12s taking the Town Cup, the First XV reaching the semi-finals of the Nat West Bowl competition, and finally the ‘triple triple’ for the School’s Water Polo teams: winning all three ESSA titles for the third year running. Looking back on outdoor pursuits, the Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions were remembered and the Headmaster touched upon the 10th Anniversary of the completion of Tenacity of Bolton, “the boat the boys built”. Community Action and charity fundraising efforts were also commended, and the importance of Old Boys offering advice and mentoring to current pupils and recent leavers was discussed with gratitude.

Finally, Mr Britton offered his personal thanks to his colleagues, echoing Mr Griffiths’s earlier statements, and celebrated their achievements over the past year. He paid special tribute to several members of staff who are leaving the School this summer: Mr Spooner and Mr Pollard, who move on to other posts, and Mrs Greenhalgh and Mr Pledger who are retiring after 28 and 33 years with the school, respectively.

The evening was interspersed with music performed by pupils, all of which were accomplished and entertaining additions to the programme. One of the School’s Organ Scholars, Ben Chowdhury in Year 10, was playing as the audience entered the Great Hall at the start of the evening. Elijah Egun from Year 13 gave an exquisite violin solo, playing ‘Meditation’ by J. Massenet. Matthew Kay in Year 13 and Adam Whitmore in Year 10 sang a vocal duet which combined Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud with Sam Smith’s ‘I’m Not The Only One’; they were accompanied by Owen Critchlow on the Bass Guitar, Mr Forgrieve on drums and Mrs Whitmore on piano. The final performance of the evening was ‘Dark Matter’ by Stuart Ryan, Kung Fu Drummer and Henry Thomas, played by Year 12 pupil James Stevens. Prizegiving was brought to a close with a rousing rendition of ‘Jerusalem’.

Afterwards parents, guests and prizewinners were invited to join members of staff and the guest speaker in the Leverhulme Suite of the Riley Centre for a convivial round of refreshments.


Click here to view Rob Dobson’s Prizegiving Address.

Click here to watch the Headmaster’s Review of the Year.

Mr Britton's remarks on independent schools being ‘strong and stable’ and ‘for the many, not the few’ begin at 4 minutes 12 seconds. A video of just this section of his address can be found here.

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