The Head Master addressed the school, including our 2017 Leavers, for the final time this year in our final assembly in the Cathedral:
Shakespeare talks of the “whirligig of time”, not in our play this term, The Tempest, but in Twelfth Night. In the Tempest, Katie Cary as Prospero spoke the famous line “Our revels now are ended” before going to talk about the fleeting nature of performance and even of life itself. It certainly feels that we have been in quite some merry-go-round. Gather 17 has seen a flurry of activity, most recently with the simply magical Cloister Play just mentioned and a serene Choral Vigil in the Cathedral last night sandwiching an epic Gala Night on Lower Close. You are talking about a serious operation when the stage set-up has come from Glastonbury and I was proud of all the opportunities to perform, watch, organise and record these cultural activities. However, the whirligig comes to an end with this service. One can feel the tension and excitement, particularly with the presence of many leavers’ parents whom we welcome to share in our final assembly of the year.
School years are repetitive so the image of whirligigs and merry-go-rounds is appropriate, but the length of the revels depends on you. You may have been flat out over the last few weeks with a combination of public exams, university applications, Gather 17 events, sporting tours and are counting down the hours to a good sleep. You may be new to the school this year, pleased to have got through one full academic cycle and confident now that you know what to expect when you return in September. For me, it is the end of my 6th year, though I still had two people address me at the Royal Norfolk Show as Norwich School’s new Headmaster. Will that ever end?
So, I have seen some of you through your time but certainly not all: you may be preparing to leave after 2, 5, 7 or 11 years at the school. You may even be preparing to complete your connection with the school after an even longer period; we know of families who have been Norwich School parents for 13, 14 and 17 years. Even they might not be a record.
I invite us all to share a moment of calm reflection at this ending of your revels, however long they have been, and enjoy the powerful stability of this wonderful building. We are going to have some music and, as we do so, think of your highlights, the moments your friends have made you laugh, register your disappointments but think of how you moved on from them, consider what you are grateful for, reflect on who you want to thank.
Adam King is going to play Siciliano by Bach…Thank you, Adam.
I tried to slow things down and use the stability of the building not just to appreciate our immediate situation in this service. I hope it symbolises what Norwich School has been for you: somewhere which has offered some constancy in changing times, both for you as individuals and the world around you. I do not need to labour the uncertainties of the modern world, globally or domestically, while some of our public examination candidates know all too well how quickly the educational world has been changing.
You have heard me talk before about the importance of adaptability and lateral thinking for your generation and I hope you feel that, whichever stage of school you are at, we have given you chance this year to explore, try new things, to have a go and to expand your horizons. Yet I also hope that such opportunities have been given in a context of supportive routines.
I hesitate to mention our ethos and aims for fear of starting a game of Head Master bingo, where you tick off my most repeated phrases, but these values bear repetition, particularly now as we prepare to send our leavers symbolically out of the great West Doors as they move from Norwich School into the wider world beyond. Norwich School stands now for what it has long stood for: academic depth, co-curricular breadth and preparation for a lifetime of leadership and service in the context of a loving, compassionate community. Wouldn’t it be great if at a future Royal Norfolk Show today’s leavers could recite our ethos and aims to me, probably after referring to me as the new Head Master of Norwich School after 26 years?
Today’s reading talks of giving generously because you have received generously. If we have got things right, you leave now with an understanding of our values to take with you, wherever you go and whatever you do. In the world in which you will move from today, unmerited privilege and entitlement are rightly viewed negatively, so you will need to work harder than those around you to prove your worth. However, I think we have given you an outstanding rounded foundation for life, not least the connection between service and leadership, so I am confident that you will use your many talents and interests in exciting, positive ways. Good luck indeed!