30 Jun 2021

Alex Hems: Speech Day Address 2021

Alex Hems, Head of St George's School, EdinburghExcerpts from Alex Hems' Speech Day Address:

"Leavers of 2021, I know that in so many ways, this has not been the year that you would have hoped for, or, until relatively recently, would ever have envisaged. I know that it has brought heightened anxiety, uncertainty and of course disappointments for you all, both individually and collectively. The events which usually mark your journey through your final year, Burns Supper, the Ball, your last day of lessons, none of these has been quite the same as usual, and we share your disappointment at that. We feel, however, that, despite, or possibly even because of these things, we have seen the very best of you this year. We have seen determination not to let circumstances overcome the things that matter; we have seen how very much you care about one another. Only yesterday the school raised funds for the eating disorders charity Beat, as a result of the energy and commitment of a member of your year group. We have seen how strong the bonds of friendship are between you– who will forget that ceilidh on the astroturf on Friday evening?

And of course, you have worked very hard indeed, and coped with internal assessments instead of the exams that you had been envisaging. Throughout this period, you have, however, carried yourselves with composure and remarkable maturity. Your affectionate, witty and very resourceful Revue, was entirely in keeping with the spirit with which you have met all of these challenges..."

"You are ready to leave us. The achievements that I have referred to are only an outline – the publicly visible face of what you do. Underlying this impressive array of activity is the hard work and personal growth that mean that you are now ready to take your places in the world. Proud as we certainly are of your achievements, it is first and foremost as a warm, funny, loyal, sparky group of young women that we will remember you. Many of you met with me in the summer term of 2018, when you were in Lower 5, and told me of your aspirations and in some cases of your anxieties too. In the Autumn of 2020 we met one-to-one again, this time to talk about your plans for the next stage – whether for university, gap year or college. And now, as we come together at the end of the year, those plans are about to become reality. These meetings are always a joy and a privilege. It is wonderful to hear from you about what St George’s has meant to you, and the pride and affection with which you speak about your school..."

"You speak to me of feeling as though you have been part of a family here, and of this being a place where you have been able to be yourselves. As you prepare to leave, I hope that you will take St George’s with you. Take that sense of being yourself – you will change and grow of course, but be true to yourselves and to what you know to be right. Take the spirit of adventure, and the warmth and sense of fun. You will be part of a network for life now, through the Old Girls’ Association and our Foundation Office. You have all heard me say before how important it is that women are there for one another in their working lives. St George’s will be here for you, as I hope that you will be for each other, to rejoice with you when you succeed and to pick you up and set you on your way again if you fall..."

Download the full Speech Day Address


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