Headmaster’s Speech Day and Prize Giving Speech 2017

Headmaster’s Speech Day and Prize Giving Speech 2017

Good morning and a very warm welcome to a celebration of Bickley Park School’s 98th year of existence. Thank you to the choir for giving their first ever performance at The Churchill Theatre and to the wind band for piping us in as we arrived. This is the first time the school has used this prestigious venue: a physical manifestation of the school’s aspiration to think big and aim high. May I give a particularly warm welcome to our guest speaker, serial adventurer and broadcaster, Ben Fogle.

I would like, on behalf of the school community, to say a huge thank you to our fantastic Board of Governors who put in so many unheralded, unpaid and largely unrecognised hours on behalf of the boys. A particular thank you to Mandeep who, in spite of significant work commitments, has been a huge support to the school and to me personally.

Speech Day isn’t just an excuse for the Headmaster to wear his academic gown for the one and only time in the year: it is a chance to reflect on a year of terrific endeavour, wonderful aspiration and impressive achievement. You may have noticed that, when the Headmaster isn’t wearing his gown, it hangs on the back of his office door. Mrs Wood came out of her office last month to find a Reception boy staring at the silhouette of the Headmaster’s gown outlined by the light shining through his closed office door. She asked him why he was looking so worried and he replied: “Darth Vader lives in there!” Darth Vader, the Demon Headmaster? Who knows? However, the real Headmaster will be doing the speech today.


In reviewing another amazing school year, we will look at the extraordinary array of happenings in Bickley Park’s unique educational concept: The Four Quadrants of Learning. As you listen to what the boys have undertaken and achieved, consider our vision: to be a world class preparatory school for boys and our aims at Bickley Park School: to develop boys who, rather like our guest speaker, will

  • stand out from the crowd in their future lives as interesting, characterful individuals
  • who will possess the skills set and mind set to make the most of a fast-paced future world
  • and above all who will make a positive difference in the world.


The first quadrant I will speak about is the Arts Quadrant. Bickley Park boasts a vibrant Arts Quadrant which aims to develop confidence and the ability to communicate well. Opportunities for music making have, yet again, increased this year. Instrumental music making has included informal concerts, alongside Strings, Piano and Voice, Brass and Woodwind and Guitar and Drums concerts which have provided musicians with an opportunity to perform in a relaxed setting. It has been great to see so many young performers play both in and out of school: five Year 1 boys played their ‘cellos at St George’s Church. Perhaps one day they could reach the giddy heights achieved by Alex Percival who gained a Distinction in his Grade VII this year and is responding to the Headmaster’s challenge by attempting Grade VIII before he leaves. It’s great to have our first ever double bass player, in the shape of Alexander Chambers. An exciting new initiative this year witnessed all boys in Year 2 learning the recorder for a term; all Year 3 learning the Djembe drums and all Year 4 learning a brass or woodwind instrument culminating in concerts by all three year groups. Further enrichment of the boys’ musical experience took place at The South Bank Centre when Year 4 played the gamelan, an ensemble of Indonesian orchestral instruments.  The choir has sung regularly, with fortnightly in-school performances supplemented by concerts and special events, including the Harvest and Carol Services and carolling in The Glades. Childs’ won the House Music Competition which featured a medley of songs from ‘Grease’: the musical. The musical year culminated in fine individual and ensemble performances at the annual school concert, featuring exciting performances by a string quartet, the brass and woodwind band and the school rock group: ‘Too Cool for School’.

Drama is flourishing at BPS. Children from as young as 4 years old have demonstrated splendid confidence in class assemblies, promoting the importance of key attributes such as a growth mind set, perseverance and honesty. Drama assemblies have featured on the programme for the first time, with spell-binding performances of gothic horror pieces alongside whimsical renditions of The Jabberwocky, The Jumblies and a unique art form: Commedia dell’arte. Children from Year 1-8 have been treated to theatre trips, including a fantastic version of Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man’, using puppets, and a visit to a special invitation only performance of The Lion King where Y6 boys were interviewed by The Disney Corporation. Many other dramatic happenings have punctuated the year. Nursery loved their Funky Farmyard drama workshops and delivered a delightful Christmas performance. Reception’s Christmas show and Year 1 and 2’s ‘Strictly the Nativity’ were great fun. Terrific whole school shows have included ‘Journey’s End’, a play usually performed by sixth formers; the joyous ‘Seussical the Musical’ and the atmospheric ‘Down to Earth’. Last week’s Journey into Imagination event embraced the work of Roald Dahl with a plethora of activities ranging from being taught dance moves by the children’s choreographer from the hit West End show: Matilda the Musical to creating massive willow sculptures of well-known Roald Dahl characters. The visual arts have been celebrated joyously in nursery and with variety and talent through the school, nowhere more so than in last week’s fantastic annual art exhibition. The boys have loved the outcomes of their Design Technology projects, with Alexander Chambers and Jake Langtonwinning the Y3 buggy challenge. Year 8 had to put their powers of persuasion to the test in the Dragons’ Den meets The Apprentice D.T challenge in which they pitched products they had made in Design Technology to four high-powered business men and women.


The Academic Quadrant aims to deliver a rigorous, boy-friendly, fun education to BPS boys. There have been some amazing achievements in the academic quadrant. All eight BPS boys who sat their entrance exams to Sevenoaks, one of the most academic schools in the country, were awarded places.   Collectively, this year, the boys have read 101 million words via the accelerated reading scheme, with our top reader being Alex Percival with a magnificent 4.8 million words read. Matthew Lee, and the two Freddies: Davis and Ellisdon, became published authors with their futuristic novel: ‘Timension’. The boys have been inspired by some fantastic visiting authors: Avril McDonald; Egyptologist: Rob Lloyd Jones; authors of ‘Football School: Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton and renowned author of the Roman Mysteries series: Caroline Lawrence. 24 boys achieved awards in a national Maths competition. Taisei Masumoto was ranked third in the whole world in the global Mathletics Maths Challenge. Science was brought to life in Science Week with boys creating the tallest structure using spaghetti and sweets whilst transforming themselves into mad scientists. Four Year 8 Bickley scientists entered the University College, London’s Salter Chemistry Competition and were amongst only a handful of teams which actually managed to solve the crime presented to competing schools. 70 boys have been regularly using iPads to support their learning this year: even more will do so next year. Boys have created their own on-line games in coding activities.  Modern Foreign Languages have been brought to life with events like the Year 2 French Village Morning and World Culture lessons in which they have learnt Hindi, Mandarin, Arabic and signing. At the beginning of the year, three boys who had taken their GCSE Spanish after three years of study, gained an A and two A* grades respectively. The Humanities have been brought to life by the Creative Curriculum in nursery to Year 3 through events such as Indian Day, when the Year 1 and 2 boys enjoyed a fantastic Indian market, kindly organized by BPS parents, and a ‘Pole to Pole’ immersion day with polar explorer, Malu. Reception loved seeing real chicks hatch in an incubator in their classroom as part of their ‘Out of the Egg’ topic and then handling different animals at Godstone Farm. Year 3 enthusiastically embraced their ‘Swords and Sandals’ Roman topic and loved being sea dogs aboard The Golden Hind in London. Expeditions Day was not thwarted by the Westminster attack, with Year 4 enjoying a river trip along The Thames in which they learnt about the fascinating history of our capital city. Year 5 found out about the Tudors in Knole House whilst Year 6 visited a Hindu Temple and crossed the Channel to Boulogne to practise their French and visit the Sealife Centre. Year 7 had fun with Spanish at The British Film Institute and learnt about different career choices at Kidzania. Year 8 learnt about the horrible history of The Tower of London. In spite of several regular members of the school’s quiz team being absent, BPS came a close second in the Rowland Constantine general knowledge competition. The quiz team went a step further when they achieved the title of South-East of England champions via The Junior Schools’ Challenge. The boys learnt the skill of presenting to an audience from local MP, Bob Neill, who spoke to Year 7 and 8 about democracy and British values. The boys’ educational experience has been further enriched with talks, for instance by holocaust survivor Rudi Oppenheimer who, as a 10 year old, survived internment in Bergen Belsen concentration camp in World War II. All boys in Year 1-8 entered the school public speaking competition, with the finalists delivering their speeches to ex-hostage John McCarthy and award winning BBC producer, Lisa Osbourne, in the wonderful setting of St Bride’s Church, in Fleet Street.


BPS has a Sports and Outdoor Education Quadrant to help develop team and leadership skills; to foster resilience and help boys to learn how to manage risk. All Y3-8 boys represented the school in at least one of the 183 competitive fixtures that took place in the rugby and football seasons, with a 61% win/draw versus loss ratio. Rugby highlights included a convincing 20 point win against Sutton Valence for the 1st XV which meant they won the plate competition at the Worth Rugby Festival; the Colts winning 80% of their matches in the St Christopher’s Tournament and the U9s enjoying an unbeaten season. In the football season, the U9As and U8Ds maintained 100% winning records and the U8s finished as runners-up in the St Dunstan’s Tournament. Many boys play for clubs outside school and some are on the books of Premier League clubs. Congratulations to Henry Griffin who won his first premiership winner’s medal for Fulham, beating Chelsea in the semi-finals and Reading 3-1 in the final. Henry scored 3 goals on the way there and has since been scouted by Arsenal. The boys were treated to an exciting demonstration and workshops led by multiple world record breaking free style footballer, Ash Randall.  The strongest performing main sport this year was cricket, with an overall win ratio of 62%. The combined A teams achieved an impressive 81% win percentage. The U8As were thrilled to be undefeated in their season, as were the U9As and Colts As. The profile of hockey at BPS has been raised with the opening of the new Astro Turf which has enabled the first ever home and away hockey fixtures to take place. Competitive cross country fixtures included the House competitions in which boys set off at a sprint, not necessarily to finish the same way! In spite of coinciding with the hottest June day since 1996, the records tumbled at the Prep Department sports day whilst great enthusiasm and enjoyment pervaded nursery and Pre-Prep events. Regular inter-school swimming galas have included seven wins and two losses, with outstanding performances from Jack Davies, Will Dennis and Michael Tzitzikakis. Jack was joined by Atrin Almasi and Ilias Prachalias in the Hever Castle triathlon, whilst Jack and Oliver Haycocks participated at national level in the biathlon. Bickley Park came first out of 16 schools in the first ever Aquila Taekwondo championships. Year 1 have loved their tennis coaching sessions with ex-British number 1, Richard Whichello. Freddie Davis, Alex MacPherson and Ayaan Ratnayaka represented Kent in a sport they play outside school: squash. Ayaan then went on to represent Kent in the U11 national finals. Finlay Horner participated in the London Youth Games in judo. 150 boys and male relatives and friends participated in the annual BPS Go Karting Grand Prix at Buckmore Park. Y6 and 7 received volleyball coaching from the coach of the national team. 30 boys had a wonderful time on the school ski trip to La Thuile, Italy. Outdoor education at Bickley Park continues to grow and flourish. Nursery have participated enthusiastically in outdoor learning, loving their outdoor classroom, mud kitchen and growing area. Forest School is always a highlight in Pre-Prep and Year 3, with boys enjoying activities related to Creative Curriculum learning, whilst developing a love of nature and an understanding that the outdoors can support mindfulness and inner peace. Reception loved den building with their dads in the Himalayan Gardens. Year 3-5 have loved the new timber trail. Adventure School has added a fantastic new dimension to the outdoor education programme. Come rain, or shine, the boys have demonstrated enthusiasm and resilience in Year 5-8 residential survival skills trips. Year 6 loved their recent axe and knife throwing and bug eating challenge. Year 8 had a wonderful time during their Adventure School trip to The Dordogne, particularly gorge walking. A selection of hard core Year 8s will be testing their resilience to the full next week when they embark on their 176 mile trek along Offa’s Dyke. Pob Luc (pawb look) boys – a special prize to the first boy who can tell me after Speech Day what I have just said and in which language! Perhaps our Offa’s boys will gain inspiration from adventurer, Charlie Walker, who visited BPS earlier this year. Charlie is currently doing the ultimate triathlon: Following the Line, an expedition along the boundary between Europe and Asia, which has included a first leg of a 2000 mile cross country ski trip through -30 degree temperatures in The Ural Mountains. BPS boys have actively participated in the expedition, through sponsoring his stove and undertaking email correspondence.

It gives me great pleasure now to invite our esteemed guest, Ben Fogle, to speak. It is appropriate that we are going to follow our focus on outdoor education with someone who is the living embodiment of the attributes we are trying to instil through this quadrant: those of leadership, team ethic, resilience and the ability to manage risk. Ben Fogle has walked across Antarctica, rowed across the Atlantic and crossed the legendary Empty Quarter, in addition to his many commitments in the world of broadcasting, writing and charitable activity. He is somebody who approaches life with an affable charm, yet someone who has achieved a great deal and from whom we can learn a great deal.



The beating heart of a school is its pupils, supported by a committed network of adults. The Community Quadrant celebrates the vital part played by many people who serve the Bickley Park community in many ways, but, equally, helps the boys appreciate the diversity and multi-faceted qualities and needs to be found in other communities. Many boys have fulfilled the role of school councillor this year, from Reception to Year 8, coming up with great ideas about how to improve the school still further. The boys have demonstrated a great sense of service towards others. Ryan promoted Red Nose Day, a cause eagerly embraced by his peers, and raised a lot of money in the process. Oliver and friends raised a magnificent £720 for McMillan Cancer and St Christopher’s Hospice, in memory of his granny. Luke Clifford and pals raised an impressive £1,158 through a sponsored swim for the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster and their families. Tyrese Ngegba and friends raised £254 for Breast Cancer U.K. through a fantastic fair they organised. The dedicated work of teams of Year 7 litter pickers, clearing local roads of rubbish, was recognised at a Bromley council meeting. Matthew O’Leary supported his local Salvation Army Band with fund raising. A great sense of service has been demonstrated by our fabulous BPSA in numerous social and fund raising events, including a Superhero Party for the Early Years; a Fun with Friends event for Year 1 and 2; film nights for Years 3-6; two social events for Year 7 and 8, a wine and cheese event, a Bingo Night and a hotly contested Quiz Night in which the teachers’ team was pipped to first place by the ‘No Brians’ team. The event itself raised a record breaking £1800 in the process.  The ever popular cake sale and competition was a big hit with Prep and Pre-Prep pupils. A huge thank you to members of the BPSA, to Stuart and Pei McKenzie-McIntyre for running the uniform shop and the association’s hard working president, Debbie Thorpe. Parents have supported numbers of information evenings, such as phonics night in Pre-Prep and parents’ forums. Parents have supported many other school activities: a special mention for Vicky Broadfield who has completed 14 years of service as an indispensable library mum. Year 3 and 4 boys organised a tea party, tour and entertainment for their grandparents. As we build up to our centenary, a growing network of old boys are populating our alumni Facebook page. The sad death of old boy Matthew Squires, at the age of just 22, was remembered by BPS teachers and friends of the family when a bench kindly donated to the school by Mr and Mrs Squires was unveiled. Speakers who have visited the school as part of the Community Quadrant have inspired the boys, none more so than ex-hostage Terry Waite. The wider community has been supported too, with the donation of Harvest gifts to Bromley Food Bank and Christmas presents to The Samaritans. Nursery and Reception children loved their Sponsored Wiggle which raised a stunning £1786 for the Happy Days Children’s Charity. No year would be complete without a visit from Santa Claus who discovered that children in Nursery and Reception had not been naughty, but in fact nice. One final essential part of the Community Quadrant to mention is the staff who have worked so hard on the children’s behalf to facilitate the massive array of opportunities outlined in my summary of The Four Quadrants. It’s not just delivering academic lessons, but a vast range of other educational opportunities. And it doesn’t stop there: it involves driving the minibus from Bromley High to BPS each morning; clearing snow long before the pupils arrived when the white stuff closed most other local schools earlier this year; treading the boards in the staff pantomime and dressing up as bunnies at Easter. Please join me in recognising the endeavours of the staff.

A particular thank you to the school’s exceptional senior leaders and to Mrs Wenham who must be the hardest working Headmaster’s wife in the land.

The end of the school year also marks the end of an immediate association with the school by members of the community.

We bid farewell to Chloe Randall who has decided to pursue her ambitions as a professional artist. Thank you for your contribution to Bickley Park, Chloe, and all the best with your exciting plans.

It is not just to staff that we say farewell at the end of a school year, but to some of our boys too. We wish our leavers all the very best as they move on to the next stage of their educational journey. Well done on all you have achieved in your time at the school.

And finally, it is to Year 8 I now turn – please join me on the stage boys.

The fine young men you see before you are the embodiment of Bickley Park: boys who have endeavoured, aspired and achieved in so many areas of their lives already. Some of these boys have been at the school since they were 2 ½ years old and will take with them, on to the next stage of their educational lives, countless experiences and memories that have helped shape the people they have become. We are all immensely proud of you boys and we wish you all the very best as you continue on your life journeys.

It is time for the mantle of responsibility to be passed on as I announce prefects and Heads of Houses for next year. Could I invite the Head Boy, Deputy Head Boys and Heads of Houses to remain on stage to present badges to their successors.

The following boys will be prefects and should come up to collect their badges and ties from me: Ben Parker, Milan Saramatunga, Izaac Moses and Tom Day.

The following boys will be prefects and Heads of Houses for next year and should collect their badges from the current office holders. They are as follows:

  • Head of House for Brandram will be Luke Clifford
  • Head of House for Childs will be Alex MacPherson
  • Head of House for Herbert will be Joseph Woodman
  • Head of House for Hunt will be Sam Almasi

The following boys will be Deputy Head Boys next year and should come up on to stage to collect their badges from the outgoing Deputy Head Boys: in the Autumn Term: Gajan Sivayogan; in the Spring Term: Finlay Horner and in the Summer Term: Alex Percival. And finally, Head boy for next year will be Oliver Deen.

Thank you for your attendance today. I hope you have enjoyed sharing another incredible year at Bickley Park. It’s been a great venue, hasn’t it, so a big thank you to staff at the Churchill Theatre who have been so helpful and to the BPS staff team who have organised the event: Mrs Marriott and Mr Poole, Patel and Brook. Thank you particularly to our inspirational guest speaker, Ben Fogle.

At the beginning of my speech today, I spoke about wearing my gown for Speech Day. It is a symbol of the importance academic endeavour played in my life, something I took away from my inspirational prep school Headmaster. He gave me this photograph as a 13 year old on my last day at prep school. I say to you boys: be proud not just of your achievements, but of the fine young men you are in the process of becoming. You have aspired, endeavoured and achieved and, I have no doubt, will continue to do so, as you travel on your life journeys.


I would like to wish everyone a very happy holiday and will look forward to seeing you all in September. This is an exciting time to be part of the Bickley Park journey, with just one year until our centenary. Three cheers for Bickley Park!