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King's Worcester

7 September

‘You are Vigornians’ – First School Assembly of 2021/2022

‘You are Vigornians, pupils at The King’s School, re-founded here in Worcester in 1541. And what does that mean? In addition to working hard, you must embrace our six core values: ambition, resilience, humility, love, kindness, compassion.’

Inspiring words from Mr Doodes this week, as we kicked off the academic year with the Whole School Assembly and the first procession out of College Hall for our new school monitors.

Embracing school values, having the determination never to let failure stand in their way and understanding the true value of our wonderful surroundings in shaping who they are were the key messages shared with pupils across the foundation.

To read and listen to the full assembly see below.

Alongside all the staff at King’s, who have been working hard over the last five days to ensure that our school is ready for a new term, I want to welcome you to this new academic year.

Firstly, to our new Lower Sixth, a warm well done on your GCSE results. I know that most of you worked extremely hard over the last year, and this was reflected in the grades that you were awarded. Whether you studied at King’s, or come to the sixth form from elsewhere, you can be proud of what you have achieved in challenging circumstances, and, as I urged you yesterday when we met on your induction day, the sixth form opens before you filled with opportunities that could genuinely change your life forever. You alone are the Captain of your fate; you alone are the master of your soul.

I would like to say a large thank you to Mrs Beever, the Heads of Department and all the staff who oversaw the Teacher Assessed Grades process. Mrs Beever worked tirelessly, and King’s owes her a debt of gratitude. I am very lucky as a Headmaster to have wonderful people to work with, and I’m proud of what was achieved during such a challenging time.

Across the whole school, we welcome a very large number of pupils who were gently welcomed into King’s life over the last few days. We have some wonderful pupils joining Lower Fourth from a huge number of different schools in addition to our two prep schools. We have the largest intake of Upper Fourth pupils in memory, and the new members of Lower Remove bring the total in the group to over 140. As I explained to the new Lower Fourth yesterday, everyone was new once, and to that end, I ask all pupils across the school to make new pupils welcome, giving guidance to those who look confused, and support to those who may at times feel overwhelmed.

A new year heralds the arrival of new staff. I am delighted to welcome some exceptional new members of the Common Room whom you will all meet in time. On behalf of the entire community we say a warm hello to Mrs Kent, the Head of Psychology, Mr Low, the new Head of English, Mr Booth in DT, Mr Williams, Miss Knott and Miss Collins in PE, Mr Ward in History and Politics, Mr Fyfe and Mr Buckner as Music GAPS, Mr Shone in SEN, Mr Green who joins the PE Department, and our new GAP students Milly Short, William Chapman, Harry Flockhart and Oliver Timlin. I know that you will make them feel welcome, and they are looking forward to meeting you.

I am delighted to introduce the new Monitors to you, and a warm congratulations to our Heads of School, Charlotte Morgan and Josh Richardson. We will be having a welcoming ceremony for the Monitors in next week’s assembly, and wish them luck for the new year in their new roles.

Although we have rightly relaxed COVID restrictions around the site in terms of no longer having bubbles, we are still very conscious that your lives at school will not be like the days you experiences before the pandemic. Your wellbeing and health is central to our plans for this year and we still have some precautions in place that will be familiar to many of you.

Firstly, you will notice that we have increased the amount of Bag Racks around the school, and that Locker Rooms no longer exist. COVID reflections and pupil questionnaires undertaken last year taught us that the Locker Room culture has had its day, and it makes more sense for you to come into school in your games kit on days you have games than bring in excess baggage. The Bag Racks have been clearly marked, so please use them, not simply throwing your bags in their general direction like a lazy shot putter determined to get to the changing rooms. Bags found on the ground outside Bag Racks will be presumed to be lost property and removed.

Secondly, each year group has designated lavatories that are clearly marked around the school.

Each Year Group also has a designated outdoor space where we want you to remain in breaktimes. The marquees have gone, but especially during the last summer period, you must enjoy being outside. We have increased the number of outside benches for you to sit at, and these will grow in time. You will be collected from here by your teacher the first time they teach you and they will show you how to enter and exit each classroom. You will have found the designated areas in your ‘Keeping King’s Safe’ brochure that was sent to parents last week, but as a reminder, the L4 Playground is for the Lower Fourth, the Parade Ground outside the Science Building is for the Upper Fourth, the Upper Gardens and area outside School House facing the Severn is for the Lower Remove, the Library Quad is for the Upper Remove, and the Lower Gardens next to the Boat House is for the Fifth Form. The Upper Sixth are based on the Mulberry Lawn, and I will speak to them after this assembly to give more explanation about this.

Last year as your new Headmaster was at times a strange experience. We were surrounded by marquees, had changing Government advice, had to manage the move away from exams to Teacher Assessed Grades, were required to wear masks, and had numerous restrictions on socialising. However, as I worked alongside some quite superb colleagues in the thick of it, I kept reminding you of a mantra that I have used a few times in the past but somehow resonates so strongly with the past 18 months.

What I explained was simple: success in life is measured not by how high you fly, but by how well you bounce. It’s about how well you come back from adversity and upset, and how you don’t every let the fear of failure stand in your way.

The King’s Foundation and you, the pupils within it, have this last year bounced back with immeasurable chutzpah, I believe surpassing the heights it has reached previously. You have collectively proved to be the most adaptable and resilient of people, impressing your teachers at every turn with your constant determination and can-do attitude.

In the Open Day information that is currently being sent out to various people across the County, I state that we shape our surroundings, and then our surroundings shape us. Clearly, I was in part referring to the buildings in which we study and learn. This magnificent College Hall, the former Monastic Refectory. The Cathedral where we worship. The buildings of various ages around College Green. The Boat House jutting out majestically over the Severn.

But dig deeper, and I’m referring to something far more cerebral than that.

Stones and cement, lime and mortar act as a mould to the understanding of our place in history.

But it’s how we mould ourselves, as people, as individuals, which ultimately moulds our surroundings and, in turn, how we mould each other.

You all are Vigornians. You are pupils who study at The King’s School, re-Founded in 1541, an institution that can trace its roots back to the 8th century. When you leave you will be Old Vigornians, but now you are Vigornians.

What does that mean?

It means that you are expected to work extremely hard. Your teachers and I will never accept mediocrity.

We will never be satisfied with the satisfactory.

It means that we expect you to have a love of learning, to be inquisitive, to be positive.

But most importantly, in addition to hard work and determination to achieve exceptional academic results, it rests on six values.

You will be constantly reminded of these in the months and years ahead. You’ll find them on posters and inside calendars, and they will serve as a foundation for how we believe you need to live your life at school, and how you subsequently live your life when you leave.

Ambition, resilience, humility, love, kindness, compassion.

If you embrace these values, if you show ambition in everything you do, whether it is in Geography or Hockey, if you keep resilient and determined whatever challenges life throws at you, if you’re humble and can walk with Princes and paupers, if you show love and care and kindness in all your dealings, and if you can really support others in their darkest of moments by showing compassion in your words and your actions, you will not just simply be a fine young person, you will be Vigornian, a visible badge of honour which, through your actions and deeds, will stay with you your entire life.

I finish with the words of Teddy Roosevelt, the 25th American President at the turn of the 20th Century. He wrote a piece called ‘The Man in the Arena’. It sums up our six values. It sums up the determination of someone who never lets the fear of failure stand in their way. It sums up the important of bouncing back from adversity. It sums up what being a Vigornian is all about. And this year,

This year, and for evermore, be remarkable Vigornians.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I wish all the Vigornians present today in College Hall and around the school a hugely successful, happy, productive and enjoyable academic year.