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Life Lessons From Selina Scott at School Awards Night

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Bolton School Girls’ Division was delighted to welcome television presenter Selina Scott as guest speaker at this year’s Sixth Form Presentation Evening. Always a special date in the School calendar, the departing Year 13 students were thrilled to receive their awards from Ms Scott and to listen to her incredible life story.

Selina said she was “thrilled, totally thrilled” to share this night with the girls as they collected their awards and “launched themselves” into the world. In an upbeat, insightful, revealing and humorous address, she told girls how she had “lived an adventure”, having lived on both sides of the Atlantic and having met all sorts of famous and inspiring people. Quoting Aristophanes who said young women “need to make hay while the sun shines”, Selina pointed out that in many ways this ageism and attitude to women still remains and she told the girls it is now a new millennium and it is their job to break down these entrenched attitudes.

The former TV presenter recapped her life, talking about how she found herself to be one of only a few women at university and that how, back then, it was expected that women would go into careers such as nursing, secretarial work or catering. Following the “family tradition”, she trained to become a journalist and started work on The Sunday Post in Dundee for £5 per week. She was the only woman on the team and was responsible for the horoscopes; she said her back-street one-bedroom tenement with a mouse was a good preparation for all the rats she would meet in later life!  

After becoming a news reader for ITN and helping launch the BBC’s Breakfast Time programme, she moved to the US to work for CBS.  A feud began with Donald Trump after she presented a critical documentary about him. She wondered just how serious his current campaign to be President is and said he will certainly be very aware that it is adding zillions to the Trump brand. She told the girls how he initially tried to impress her with helicopter rides over Manhattan, showering her Plaza Hotel room with red roses, flying her off to Florida and claiming he owned the Empire State Building. Ultimately, she had to tell him to stop stalking her!  

She told the girls that Bolton School will have endowed them with honesty and integrity and that they should stick to these values: her advice being “protect your self-esteem, it will allow you to sleep well at night later in life. Stand up for yourselves in a world of double-standards.” Again referencing Trump, she said bullies will try to bend you to their will, particularly if their ego or pocket is threatened. She also told them that you will make mistakes and recalled one of her own when she asked a top Booker Prize judge whether he had read all the books on shortlist; she was not invited back after that! She also recalled agreeing to meet Adam Faith to discuss a “business proposition” which ended up with him chasing her around the bedroom! 

Throughout her talk, Selina illustrated how prejudice against women still remains, even when she was presenting Breakfast Time her co-host Frank Bough was paid three times as much as her. She said that, along with fellow female news readers Anna Ford and Angela Ripon, she was constantly scrutinised for the way she looked. Looking back now, she rues wasting so much time worrying about how she looked. She told the girls we live in a society which hates age and that big business exists on the myth of selling product which makes you young! She warned the girls that if you kow-tow to this view then you give yourself a sell-by-date. Recalling her friendship with Lady Diana, she told the pupils that each of them has the potential to change the world: “Don’t wait for somebody else to do it; they won’t!” She told the departing class to support one another but to reach for the stars and “when women succeed, we all succeed!” 

Earlier in the evening, Chairman of Governors Michael Griffiths had opened proceedings with a review of “another fantastic year”.  He reflected on February’s ISI Inspection Report which heaped glowing praise on the Girls’ Division and was a truly outstanding report. He commented on how it was crammed with superlative adjectives; “pupils’ behaviour is exemplary” and “teachers go the extra mile” were two that particularly pleased him.  The report also found that there was mutual respect between teachers and pupils and picked up that sport, drama, music, volunteering and outdoor pursuits were all essential features of a Bolton School education. He told the audience that the Girls’ Division is a truly extraordinary school. He spoke of how education is a treasured asset and there is no greater investment that a parent can make. With one in five pupils at Bolton in receipt of a bursary, the School is also an engine for social mobility, something which it has maintained despite no government funding for 20 years. The School’s bursary fund of £2.5m per annum is one of the most generous in the country. He reminded girls that this is a continuing community and extended family and that Old Girls keep in touch for the rest of their lives and they would always be welcome back. He told the students that young people will attempt the impossible and quite often they achieve it and that they should go out there and “make us prouder than we already are”, closing by wishing them good luck, and telling them to have lots of fun and that they are the future! 

Headmistress Sue Hincks reviewed a remarkable year, praising pupils’ achievements in a wide range of activities. She congratulated them on outstanding GCSE (71.2% A*-A) and A level (72.4% A*-B) results and also recognised the great support they had been given by their teachers and families. Miss Hincks highlighted the girls’ varied extra-curricular achievements, with outstanding music concerts, stunning acting in a number of productions, some joint with the Boys’ Division, and their achievements in a wide range of sports. Seven girls had been chosen for the England Lacrosse Regional Academy and pupils had competed on the national stage at swimming and athletics, at golf and water polo, and at taekwon-do and ballet.  Regionally there had been representation in horse-riding, gymnastics, climbing, cricket, badminton, football, tennis, cross country, swimming, netball and lacrosse.  The girls were also lauded for their Duke of Edinburgh participation and their volunteering work in the community. She recounted how even on their last day when they dressed on the theme of “childhood memories” they had brought in their unwanted toys and games so that they could be donated to charity. She finished by reminding the girls that “the world is your oyster”. 

Selina Scott then presented GCSE and A level certificates, AQA Baccalaureate, EPQ and Grade VI to VIII music awards as well as various special School prizes given to girls from Year 7 to Sixth Form for their outstanding contribution to school life. 

Throughout the evening, pupils showed off their talents through various musical and spoken word pieces: Rebecca Butchart played Concert Piece Op. 88 on trombone and Natalie Henderson recited her own poem, Gilded Lens; there were uplifting versions of Jerusalem and The School Song and Head Girl Zoe Stirzaker offered a Vote of Thanks. The event culminated with drinks and canapes for the celebrating pupils and their parents.

You can watch Selina Scott's address here.

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Selina Scott is welcomed to Bolton School by the Chairman of Governors, Headmistress and the Head Girl and her team

Selina Scott is welcomed to Bolton School by the Chairman of Governors, Headmistress and the Head Girl and her team

Rebecca Butchart performed Concert Piece Op. 88 by Alexandre Guilmant

Rebecca Butchart performed Concert Piece Op. 88 by Alexandre Guilmant

Selina Scott offered lots of advice and lessons learnt to the girls in an inspiring address

Selina Scott offered lots of advice and lessons learnt to the girls in an inspiring address