St Mary’s Calne’s 143rd Founders Day’ 2016 took place on 2nd July and began with a wonderful Commemoration Service in the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin in Calne. This set the tone for the day perfectly; a day for the girls, their parents and families, teachers, staff, Governors and the local community to come together and celebrate, to reflect on the girls’ achievements and to bid a fond farewell to the UVI Form as they look forward to the next stage in their lives.
The School Chaplain, Reverend Jonathan Beach, led the service, which included readings by the Head Girl, Charlotte and by Helena (Head of Community and Chapel), while Deputy Head Girls Georgina and Isobel participated in the Dedication. Prior to the Address, Headmistress Dr Felicia Kirk delivered the Founders’ Day Prayer, remembering those who founded and built up the school. The Address was delivered by Guest Speaker, the Reverend Rachel Benson, a former pupil of the school, whose two daughters are also Calne Girls. Her distinguished career has included serving as a Justice of the Peace for Inner London, as well as being involved with the Probation Service and Home Office and in 1987 she was ordained Deacon in Southwark and priested in 1994. Reverend Benson spoke about the importance of values – of honesty, integrity, loyalty and service and focused on the values required to be a good leader, including the willingness to accept responsibility. She alluded to Lord Nelson leading his men and empowering them when he stated “no man has more confidence in another than I have in you” and stressed the importance of teamwork and the exchange of ideas in leadership. She urged the girls to trust their own judgement, to be articulate and to explain their vision carefully and clearly. Reverend Benson closed her inspiring Address wishing the girls well as they move onwards on their life-time journey.
As always, music played an integral part in the day. In the church, the Chamber Choir sang Johannes Brahms's setting of How lovely are thy dwellings in German, a favourite of Dr Kirk's, and something the girls really enjoyed learning, with its typically Romantic harmonies and elegant melodic writing. This was juxtaposed with John Ireland's Ex ore innocentium, sung by the departing UVI form girls, in a reference back to one of the first performances they gave when they joined the choir. The soaring descant to Sibelius's hymn, Be still, my soul, was a fitting end to the service. Many parents and staff commented on how moving the singing was. Mr Chris Totney framed the service with celebratory voluntaries, concluding with the Toccata from Widor's 5th Symphony.
After the Commemoration Service, refreshments were enjoyed at school, with the opportunity to view the stunning Art exhibitions on display and admire the display boards, highlighting the extra-curricular activities, overseas trips, sporting and musical activities which the girls had participated in over the past year. The girls and their families enjoyed picnics for lunch in the grounds, while the Leavers, their parents and teachers, Governors, Old Girls and Guests gathered for a Champagne Reception in the Dining Hall
During the afternoon, the Music Marquee was buzzing and the marquee audience was treated to some superb performances, commencing with the UVI Leavers’ performances. The 2016 Leavers presented an eclectic programme of their favourite pieces of music, starting with the school band, 'Misnoma', who rocked the marquee! Their performance of Miss Jackson is one for the record books! Beautifully personal interpretations included Lizzie and Frankie's Mary Hopkin's Goodbye, a Beatles medley and Juliet's poised Voi che Sapete. We even had a Trumpet Voluntary from Kirsten and Susannah. Mattie captivated the audience with her Laura Marling tribute and Bella, Eliza, Frankie, Hannah and Elsie performed songs by Lloyd Webber, Adele, Puccini and Lo Fang, reflecting the astonishing variety of musical taste amongst this year's leavers. Cynthia played The Flower Dance with precision and style and the moving concert closed with the UVI Vocal Ensemble's Don't worry 'bout me. The Leavers have supported the musical fabric of the school and their final performances were dramatic and poignant.
Chairman of Governors, Mr Simon Knight, welcomed everyone and praised all the girls, particularly the UVI Form Leavers, who have made immense contributions to the school. He thanked the dedicated teaching and support staff, fellow Governors and Professor Julia Buckingham, Governor and Chairman of the Academic Committee, who is stepping down this term after leading the Academic Committee for the last eight years. Mr Knight provided an update on the recent refurbishment of the facilities at the school, mentioning that the LVI Form House, Florence Dyas, won ‘Best Educational Building’ at the West of England LABC Building Excellence Awards. The newly refurbished Houses – St Cecilia’s and St Prisca’s – are now complete and provide a superb environment for the girls to live and relax in, including additional space, updated common rooms and new ‘boot rooms’. Mr Knight touched on the ongoing refurbishment over the coming summer months before paying tribute to Headmistress Dr Kirk for her outstanding and inspiring leadership of the school, her dedication and her passion in leading St Mary’s Calne, ensuring the very best outcomes for the girls.
Headmistress Dr Kirk began her address by thanking the Reverend Rachel Benson for her Address in the morning’s church service, echoing the importance of women in leadership. She thanked the Founders’ Day Committee and all of the staff involved in organising the day and expressed her gratitude to the Music Department and all of the wonderful musicians and singers. Dr Kirk praised the parents and families for their drive and support, the Parents’ Guild of St Mary’s, Governors and volunteers for their huge help supporting the shared purpose and vision for the school and the girls. She thanked the teaching staff, particularly in these challenging times, implementing changes in the A Level and GCSE courses. Dr Kirk then paid special tribute to the departing staff, in particular to Miss Helen Carruthers, Mrs Alta Ridgway and Mrs Sue Froggatt, who leave the school after many years of dedicated service; she praised the departing staff for their huge contributions to the school and the girls and wished them the very best with their future positions (and happy retirement for those retiring). Dr Kirk then addressed the UVI Form leavers – who have, if joining the school in LIV Form, enjoyed 13,000 lessons! She congratulated the girls and the Head Girl’s Team for their commitment and unique contributions to the school. Dr Kirk alluded to Janus, looking both backwards and forwards, and encouraged the girls to remember and look back on Founders’ Day in their futures. She reflected on her own High School times in the US and on how much has changed since, with radical shifts in social media in society and in schools and she noted a welcome shift in the mood away from schools as purely exam-result driven – with a focus on the importance of the whole person, self-belief, a sense of right and wrong and moral courage, something which is especially true, and has been for some time, at St Mary’s. She concluded the Address urging the Leavers to be true to the shared values of all those gathered on Founders’ Day and asked the girls to make us proud of them in the future, just as we have been proud of them and all that they have achieved at school. Dr Kirk then introduced the Guest Speaker for the afternoon, Professor Helen Atkinson CBE FREng, Head of Department of Engineering, University of Leicester (previously a Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering). Professor Atkinson was also elected the first woman President of the Engineering Professors’ Council in its fifty-year history.
Professor Atkinson referred to the ‘Girl Talk’ section on St Mary’s website, looking at the ‘Day in the Life’ of girls here, before then considering the ‘Day in the Life’ of her own job as Head of the Engineering Department. She highlighted the huge variety in her role, which saw her sharing a stage at a conference last September, with the famous American musician, entrepreneur and philanthropist, will.i.am – much to the admiration of her children, who considered it the pinnacle of her career! Will i.am, who comes from a poor area of L.A. believes that science and technology education can help to lift children out of poverty and has helped to set up science and engineering clubs (in 2013 he launched an initiative to boost the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths for disaffected and underachieving children, through The Prince’s Trust workshops). Professor Atkinson praised will.i.am and his understanding of science and engineering and the crucial role it plays in society; will.i.am spoke about engineering at the conference and its fundamental role in getting spacecraft into space. Professor Atkinson then mentioned an awards ceremony she attended recently, where a company was awarded for its engineering feats, for producing the most intelligent prosthetic limb, which is able to replicate the required communication between the ankle and the knee when walking across rough ground. She cited examples of other engineering in our lives: artificial hips, pacemakers and the iPhone. The latter proved to be an engineering challenge as Apple was determined the iPhone would not have straight corners but curved edges – a challenge which engineers took on, thus creating an iconic look for the world’s most celebrated smartphone. Professor Atkinson spoke about the importance of helping young people and young engineers develop wisdom, to use their insight, judgement and to gain the trust of others. She stressed that teamwork is key to developing judgement, learning how to work in a team and how to deal with difficult team members, while also being prepared to take risks in order to grow as a person. She urged the girls to grasp opportunities and to take risks which will enable them to develop. Professor Atkinson concluded by asking the girls to acknowledge the important role their parents and guardians play and to thank them with a round of applause.
The Address was followed by the Presentation of Prizes by Professor Atkinson and Senior Master, Mr James Rothwell. Congratulations to all of the girls and to those who received prizes on the day, which concluded with the presentation of the Company Cup, this year awarded to Grosstete.
The Vote of Thanks was delivered by Head Girl, Charlotte Paterson, with wit and reflection on the UVI Leavers’ memories of life at St Mary’s Calne. Charlotte joked about the UVI Form’s proposals to name the new Sixth Form Bar ‘Calneage’ or ‘Tipsy Lily’ rather than the selected, not quite so original name ‘The Bar’! She thanked the teachers and the pastoral staff for their time, patience and mutual respect which had helped to form their opinions and "helped to shape us". Charlotte expressed her gratitude to Dr Kirk and Mr Knight for their drive and commitment to the school and stated that the Leavers would be Calne Girls for life, despite today’s "Smexit"!
Dr Kirk then brought the proceedings to a close by congratulating all of the girls, wishing the Leavers well; “have the conviction to act at the right time and the tenacity to strive for your dreams”, before the Head Girl’s Team led the class of 2016 out from the Main Marquee.
The Teatime Concert in the Music Marquee included an array of ensembles and beautifully bespoke combinations of instrumentalists and singers. Big Band's rousing Hawaii 5-0 encouraged the attentive audience to enjoy the tea and cakes and the music! Eliza's final performance with the Band, Feelin' Good was dramatic and powerful. The gorgeous lullaby of Junior Consort, with Belinda and Amy accompanying on the flute, created a gentle atmosphere. Maia performed her winning entry in the inaugural Song Writing Competition and the Senior string Quartet, Worship Group and Clarinet Ensemble showed their stunning talents. Sinfonietta and Junior Choir filled the stage with their stylish performances and the concert closed with the fabulous staff choir's contrasting repertoire. There was definitely something for everyone in this year's Tea Time Concert ensuring appetites were tantalised musically and by the delicious traditional tea time fare. The perfect Saturday afternoon combination!
After a superb and uplifting day, the girls then prepared themselves for the evening’s fabulous Lily Ball; this year's Calne-ival themed event, capturing the true carnival spirit!