St Peter's School

5 September 2019

Boarding CTACongratulations to all those present and last year’s Upper Sixth on some excellent exam results this summer. The overall percentage of grades at A*-A and A*-B were the highest for several years and at GCSE there was a noticeable increase on last year with 11 pupils gaining all of their grades at 9 to 8 and a further 29 pupils securing grades 9 to 7 in all subjects.

It can be easy to focus solely on grades at the top end but I am extremely proud of all the pupils who worked really hard to gain their results and each of them have their own success stories. I am also very grateful, as I know they are, to their teachers for preparing and supporting them so well. Most importantly those grades have come alongside huge engagement and involvement outside the classroom.

Exam results are very important both in terms of gaining a wide knowledge base and developing a spirit of enquiry, intellectual curiosity and academic skills but they are by no means all you get out of your time at school and I thought I would share some thoughts about education and your time here at St Peter’s as we embark on a new academic year.

Your time at school should be busy, full of opportunity, serious intent and most importantly fun. Some say school days are the best days of your life and there is some truth in that but there is a deeper truth that they set you up to have the best days of your life as successful, confident fulfilled and amazing adults. When you think about what makes someone an amazing adult it comes down to a combination of four factors: Qualifications, Skills, Interests and Values.

‘Qualifications’ refers to excellent academic results – there is a reality that we live in a qualification-driven society and you need to do your best to open doors and get you started in life and we all know that this is best achieved through engaging with your learning. But that is only part of the story because while exam results get you interviews it is the person who walks through the door that gets the job. This is where all you do at school outside of the classroom becomes so important as this is where you develop much wider ‘Skills’ such as adaptability, getting on with people, being comfortable working in a team, taking the lead and managing the inevitable challenges of life. That in turn develops your personal ‘Interests’. You are fortunate in having so much on offer to experience here and those wider interests are really important in having a rich personal life as the years of work stretch out ahead of you. Finally, having strong ‘Values’ is of huge importance in keeping a true sense of what is right and important in your relationships and guiding you in making difficult decisions about to act and behave. Indeed, as you walk into Chapel and elsewhere around school you will see references to the Seven Values of St Peter’s, the cornerstones of our life lived in community: Friendship, Trust, Hope, Wisdom, Humility, Endurance, Compassion.

I spoke earlier this week to the Third Form and Lower Sixth about their year ahead so today I would like to close with some thoughts for the other year groups.

The Fourth Form

You are no longer the youngest and so need to set an example and step up a gear as the GCSE courses intensify. Beware what can happen if you don’t seriously knuckle down and keep yourselves organised but this is a great year to establish yourself at school. Make the most of it and establish good working habits early on.

The Fifth Form

You know that ahead lies a crucial few months. Trial exams await just after Christmas and by the end of this term the bulk of the GCSE syllabuses will have been taught. This is an important year and there is plenty of time to make a difference but no room for complacency. Plenty of opportunities are also there and, as you go through the year you enter the second half of your time at St Peter’s. There is a lot of talent amongst you and this is a great year in which you can start to shape the nature of the school as well as be shaped by it.

Finally, the Upper Sixth

Well, this is it. The top of the tree and the start of your last year at school. It is probably the most important year so far and I have to warn you that it will go by pretty fast. University and other applications to send off, work to get done and, sadly, everything is ‘the last’ such as the Carol Service, House events, sports matches, concerts, plays and Commem. I often compare it to a rollercoaster where it seems to take a long time to get to the top of the ride and then it can flash by at a rate of knots. However, the last thing you want to do is be melancholy about the passing of the weeks. Instead – grab it. Get every last possible bit of enjoyment form it. Savour it precisely because it is your last year at school. There is a great deal of work to be done in the coming months and as the most senior year group a lot is expected of you to set the tone of the school and to be an example but you should not be daunted by that. As a year group you have a huge amount of talent and you should be looking forward to this year and making sure you do not waste a single day.

Our school traces its origins and foundation to Paulinus baptising King Edwin here in York on Easter Day in 627AD making this academic our 1,393rd in existence and this gives us not just a sense of deep foundation but also the confidence to play our part in that long history. Now, some of you will have heard me make this point at Commem but I think it bears repeating today - it could be thought that our time at St Peter’s lacks significance against such a long history but if you could go back in time at any stage over that span of almost 1,400 years, St Peter’s was St Peter’s because of the people who were there at the time and St Peter’s is here in fine and strong condition today because of the accumulated efforts and progress that Peterites have made through the years. So be proud to be part of a school with such a heritage, don’t be over-awed by it but rather commit yourself to playing your part as we today ‘travel over ancient ways’. I wish you all a great term and a fantastic year.