A lot has happened in the news over the last three weeks or so. The horrendous story of Mick Philpott – jailed for life for being the “driving force” behind a plot to torch a Derby home which led to the deaths of six children.
International tension continues to grow in relation to North Korea and their threats of launching a missile attack on South Korean territory.
Then, a week ago, there came the news that Baroness Thatcher, Britain’s first female Prime Minister, had died at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke, in her suite at The Ritz Hotel. She had been battling poor health for more than a decade.
In terms of education and a story really relevant to RHS, I was drawn to an article in the Daily Telegraph last Monday. The piece, written by Tom Rowley, described the circumstances of Sophie Strang, an independent School educated graduate of Keble College, Oxford who at the age of 21 cannot find any work. Her 2:1 in English was not enough to impress employers in her desired field of film and TV production, and she has now received nearly 100 rejection letters from a range of job vacancies. At the age of 21 and eight months after she graduated, she is unemployed.
This case study reinforces my view that whist it should every good school’s primary aim to secure the highest possible academic outcomes for its pupils, this is not always enough. Exam results and higher education qualifications open doors to university courses and job interviews. However, they are not enough to secure employment beyond the field of education.
As demonstrated by our Easter trips and activities, RHS offers all its pupils the opportunity to develop life skills which will make the difference at a job interview and, once in employment, allow you to progress and develop in your chosen career. As I look across this chapel I see the leaders of tomorrow. However, in order to realise my ambition for you all, you need to make the most of all the opportunities afforded to you at RHS and in doing so you will need to display some courage.
Courage is not a word one immediately associates with leadership. To many the word stirs thoughts of the physical acts of valour on the battlefield. However, to my mind, in the civilian world, courage is really mental, spiritual and moral. In the face of the unknown, potential risks and opposition, courage means being certain that you are right – in terms of fact and values. Lady Thatcher had this in spades throughout her political career. If you have that certainty then the possibilities are limitless. Conversely, without that kind of courage all your grand ambitions for your career and journey through adult life, all the good intentions you might have to make a lasting difference to people’s lives may never come to fruition.
Viscount Slim wrote eloquently of ‘moral courage’. Few people have it naturally, he believed, so it has to be taught. Most people learn it in their youth; in their school and from their teachers and parents.
I would not necessarily describe myself as naturally brave. Far from it; as I am often too cautious. I tend to only embark on a course of action when I think I am sure of the consequences and have assessed the risks. But I would admit to being driven by a fear of failure and a wish not merely to achieve one set of goals but to continue to succeed. Experiencing failure and still pursuing audacious goal is, in my opinion at least, a real form of courage.
Such demand for ambition – and courage – provokes the usual responses, ‘I haven’t the time to do anything else’ and ‘I can’t take on any more’. In my experience people are always capable of doing more than they think. This is surely well exemplified by the achievement of our D/W squad who have managed to balance their training and preparation for their marathon Easter weekend with all their academic and other school commitments.
The Victorian writer and thinker, Samuel Smiles, said of Napoleon that his favorite maxim was ‘The truest wisdom is a resolute determination’.
Napoleon was told the Alps stood in the way of his armies – ‘there shall be no Alps’, he said, and the road across the Simplon was constructed through a district formerly inaccessible. ‘Impossible’, said he, ‘is a word only to be found in the dictionary of fools’.
As you, the leaders of tomorrow will find out for yourselves, such resolution and determination is critical to make courageous aims a reality – so long as, and this is really important, that in the drive to achieve something, you do not forget your values. As a pupil of this school, more than any other, you should know a thing or two about values and the importance of being faithful to them.
Values govern how we behave, what we see as important and what we do when faced with a problem.