19 July 2017
Prize Giving Speech
Everywhere you look in Preston at the moment, there are new houses springing up on every available patch of land. Except they don’t exactly spring up, do they? My daughter and I have driven along Eastway each school day this year and the slow moving traffic past the D’Urton Manor site has allowed us plenty of time for observations and a running commentary on the progress they are making.
For a long period we witnessed a great deal of machinery, an immense work force, frenzied activity and a lot of noise but only about a foot of brickwork. What were they doing? What was taking so long? Where were the houses? In order to attempt to answer some of the many questions that were being fired at me each morning, I did a little research.
I discovered that the foundations, which are hidden from view, are the core of the house – they support everything. The most crucial work takes place in the early stages: the preparation of the ideal, stable site; the digging of the trenches; the measuring and levelling; the constant inspections; the laying down of drainage systems, damp-proofing and insulation; and putting in cables and pipes for electricity, water and gas. The foundations ensure that the rest of the house can be built – it’s all about getting the first stage right to support the rest of the house.
I’m sure you can see that it didn’t take me long to draw parallels between the work of the site management team at D’Urton Manor and the work we are doing here at Highfield: it’s all about getting the first stage right to support the adult that the child wishes to become.
Looking at this Year Six class in front of me today, I can see that we are getting that vital first stage right and I know that we are going to be immensely proud of the adults that our Year Six will grow up to be.
Our Year Six’s time at Highfield has been full of frenzied activity and, it has to be said, a fair amount of noise, and they have so much to show for their efforts.
On the academic front, their NCT results have been outstanding with all of them achieving Expected in English and Maths and 98% in Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar. That is a very firm academic foundation on which to build at Secondary School. This year, 21 children passed the Grammar School examination and 8 achieved scholarships. This is the highest number of Grammar School places and scholarships we have achieved in recent years. Our results have once again placed Highfield Priory School as 13th in the country this year, which is our highest position on record, and first in the North West. It is an incredible achievement for Highfield to maintain this level of attainment year on year and this success is due to our hard-working children, supportive parents and very talented staff.
On the sporting front, in Years 5 and 6, every child has been given the opportunity to compete in matches and tournaments against other schools. Our swimmers were the ISA Regional U11 Boys and Girls Champions with 4 swimmers qualifying to compete in the National Finals at the Olympic Pool. They brought home 6 Golds, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze medal. In Athletics, five children qualified for the ISA National Athletics Final in Birmingham, bringing home a Silver and a Bronze. Our Netballers have been attending the Sedbergh Netball tournament since Year 4 where they were memorably several feet smaller than their Year 6 opponents. This year, they went for the first time, meeting them at head height, and were delighted to take second place in a hard-fought contest. The Year 5 and 6 boys and girls have made their presence felt at the ISA Regional tournaments this year, gaining top four finishes in Cricket, Football, Netball, Athletics and Swimming.
I am always delighted that our children’s Can Do approach to sport yields such successful results.
Since Year 2 our Year 6 class has performed in a wide array of dramatic and musical shows, starting with their Nativity, Jesus’ Christmas Party in Year 2, Pandora’s Box in Year 3, The Witches at The Charter Theatre in Year 4, Archibald’s War in Year 5 and culminating in the futuristic, Sci-Fi extravaganza that was The Blue Crystal just last week. They have gone from strength to strength, showing that they are not afraid to stand up in the spotlight and be noticed. I thought they took this a stage further in HPSED with their ‘I have a dream’ speeches in which they not only demanded to be noticed but they commanded attention. They said ‘listen to me, I have something important to say’ and we did. They showed us their vision for a better world and they gave us all hope for the future. They made us proud.
Our Choir has been bursting at the seams this year with 76 members and 29 Young Voices just waiting in the wings! We have also had 42 instrumentalists who are learning an instrument at school and who have impressed us with their progress in our termly Musical Assemblies. We have taken our music out into the community performing at Bethany House and Barton Grange as well as a stunningly beautiful Carol Concert at St Maria Goretti Church.
Visitors to the school this year have commented on the wide variety of activity they see taking place at Highfield and how much enjoyment the children seem to take from it, whether that is in Art learning about and painting like Van Gogh; or designing websites with Mr Turner or composing letters to French pen pals with Mme Morrice. This Year Six really highlights a year group that has taken full advantage of all the opportunities on offer, aiming high in everything they do and giving themselves the best possible foundation for secondary school.
Any successful construction project requires a site management team and at Highfield I am proud to say that we have the very best; starting with our Parent Teacher Association. Our PTA has worked tirelessly for the school, providing amazing experiences for the children and raising funds for school development projects. This year events have included film nights, roller-skating, Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day shops, a Cabaret Evening and a very successful Summer Fayre just to name a few. These fund-raising events have helped to buy two outdoor Cricket and Rounders nets and new interactive white boards. Thank you PTA, your efforts are greatly appreciated by us all.
I truly believe our teachers at Highfield and staff are second to none and our results and happy children attest to that. They pack so much into the school day and regularly give up their free time to offer extra support where it is needed, either to individuals or to school events or activity weekends off site. I would like us all to take a moment to show our appreciation to the Highfield teachers and staff.
Unfortunately, we are losing two members of our team today. Mr. Murray leaves us after three years, during which time he has made a big impact on Highfield with his Nativities, Cabaret Evenings and Young Voices as well as being an excellent Year 2 teacher. I would like to wish him the very best of luck as he starts his new post as Head of Junior Music at Oldham Grammar School.
Mrs Hewins retires today after 15 ½ years’ service to the school. She started at Highfield as a specialist teacher in maths and a teacher of Year 5. Her passion, eye for detail and drive to get the best out of every child became apparent very early on and these attributes have helped to drive the school forward to 13th in the country. Seven years ago she was appointed as Deputy Head and she did an excellent job supporting staff and supporting me in my role. In the last two years, in her role as Director of Studies, she has helped to maintain standards across the school and helped us through a very successful Inspection last year. I would like to wish Mrs Hewins all the very best for her retirement. She has agreed to remain a part of Highfield and join our very experienced cover staff …when she is not off sunning herself in foreign climes! Mr Murray, Mrs Hewins, we shall miss you both very much.
We are welcoming a new member of staff to our Highfield family as Mrs Prince joins us as Director of Studies.
Story Homes visited the school this year and spoke of their core values in building homes: family, quality, passion and pride. Once again, the parallels between building homes and educating a child at Highfield spoke to me. Family –at the root of everything we do; Quality –academic excellence and aiming high in all things; Passion – finding the talents within you and having a passion for life; Pride –in yourself, in your friends, in your school and in everything you do.
Returning to Preston after half term, my daughter and I were shocked to see that houses had sprung up all along Eastway. However, we had watched the process, we knew that this had not just happened during half term. We knew the hard work had been done amidst all the diggers and noise and earlier activity. We had watched the foundations being laid and we knew that this had taken time and effort. These houses would be good; their foundations were strong.
Year Six, we hope we have prepared you for the next stage of your development. Your foundations are strong; you have the skills you need to embrace all the opportunities that are presented to you at Secondary School; you have faced challenges and you have conquered fear; you have shown robust strength and stability; you are ready. Now build!
Farewell from Mrs Hewins
After 15 and a half years at Highfield, it is with great sadness that I say goodbye today. Since joining Highfield, I have seen many children come and go but Highfield’s ethos has always been to give our children the best start on their educational journey, and I have been proud to have been a part of that. I have loved my years here but the time is right for me to move on. It wouldn’t, however, have been the same without the people who make Highfield what it is. So I say ‘thank you’ to the children - for your enthusiasm, your commitment to be the best you can be whatever your ability, your confidence, your humour and your willingness to help others. ‘Thank you’ parents - for your support, your kindness, your generosity, your understanding when things were tough and your total belief in your children. ‘Thank you’ to my colleagues and all the staff at Highfield - for being a great team, for your friendship, your hard work, your support and your total commitment to the school. I wish you all the very best and I look forward to seeing you at some point in the future. Mrs Hewins
Thought for the week in which we say goodbye to Year 6
“Growing apart doesn't change the fact that for a long time we grew side by side; our roots will always be tangled. I'm glad for that.”
J M Duke