As everyone is now aware, this is my final term at Ashbourne where I have been Director of Studies for exactly ten years. And what a ten years. A rollercoaster ride of phenomenal change and progress.
People ask me what will I remember, what do I look back on. I always find this question so difficult to answer, I have so many fond memories of my decade at Ashbourne, the Revues, the European trips and the many, many events that bring people together in a positive way, and just the day to day interaction of students and staff. Ashbourne is a remarkable and vibrant place so full of life and activity. For my part I have at one point or another taught people to sing, dance, to chant in Afrikaans, model on a catwalk, about the architectural and artistic features of major European cities, how to say "I love you" in a range of different languages, how to enter a room, how to shake hands, how to blag yourself a place at medical school and occasionally a bit of biology. I'm qualified to do almost none of those things, but I've certainly enjoyed doing them! I have happy memories of all of this and of the wonderful people I've worked with, students and staff alike.
The thing that gives me the most pleasure however, is learning about the impact that Ashbourne has had on the lives of the young people I have helped along the way. Just last week I was stopped in the street by a really quite impressive looking individual. Immaculately presented, confident and business-like. After a double take I realised it was a former student with us from 2008-2010. I firstly embarrassed myself by asking if she'd graduated (of course she had nearly 2 years ago) then asked what she was doing. "I work for a development organisation promoting human rights in Libya and I'm just back from a conference in Turkey" was the matter of fact answer. I couldn't have been more proud of her and of the role Ashbourne played in helping her achieve her ambitions. It made me feel privileged that Ashbourne and therefore I, have helped students like that one achieve their ambitions and have had a positive impact. The careers and destinations of Ashbourne's leavers must be amongst the most eclectic of any sixth form or school in London and indeed the whole of the UK, and I feel proud to be a part of that.
Academic success is important. I really believe that it opens doors and creates opportunities. However, it is never the be-all-and-end-all and I get as much satisfaction and pride from the non-academic success of our wonderful student body. It's always very humbling to know that I have made a positive contribution to someone's life, and perhaps taught them a skill or built their confidence. I hope that I've always tried to do this and sometimes been successful.
So to every single Ashbourne student past and present, please know the enormous impact you have had on me, and how much you have made me the person I am today. Please forgive my mistakes, I am sure there have been many, and thank you for the benefit of the doubt, your many kind words and your very good humour. To everyone who has appeared in a Revue - I told you you wouldn't regret it! And to every upper sixth biology student, I hope I served you well. I truly wish you well.
And to the class of 2015, I'm sorry I can't be with you until the end, you are a wonderful bunch! Perhaps you will invite me to your leaving do?? Please believe you can achieve anything you put your mind to, and do your best to get there. Take the odd risk and never let anyone tell you that you can't do so something. Be proud of where you come from and be proud of where you've been. I'm proud of you all and I won't forget you. Good luck and my best wishes always.