We stand with and behind, and wish well, our Year 12 as they embark on their final examinations, finish their coursework assignments, and they prepare for this very strange feeling of their days of studying running out. It is an extraordinary time. We remember how suddenly the world changes; the structures that sustained, innovated, frustrated, and inspired you for years are no longer going to be there. But the new horizons ahead are rich and promising, if a little daunting at times. So, the whole school will work to support you Year 12 as you enter this next phase of the end of this term, holiday preparation and examinations.
You have been a superb influence on the School and there will be plenty of opportunities to come to us with news of your achievements in due course. Today it is very apt that for this assembly we have wonderful music, and we’ve heard about transitions from Mr Farraway. We’ve heard the music set to Jerusalem adapted for our school hymn and this was written for us here by someone who loves and knows us. And we can refer to those words because they draw upon the Bible and support what Paul talks to the Corinthians about. The fact that we “see through the glass darkly”. If you look in the book that we have presented to each Year 12 on their leaving, that passage from Corinthians is there. It is one of the most moving, precise, inspirational, and true passages in the world of literature in terms of spiritual writing. It gives us hope because it celebrates in effect our ignorance as it talks about now, at the moment, we see through a glass darkly, but ultimately the whole mystery will be revealed to us if we have faith. It talks about moving on from being a child, towards maturity. It talks about love being the conqueror of all and I recommend that each of you reads this passage. It is short with all the genius of brevity, it crystallises a world view of the most extraordinary philosophy, the most encouraging of guidance and advice we could possibly receive.
First of all, we celebrate the fact that as yet, with all of our power, all of our knowledge, all of our science, all of our advances, all of our technologies, we don’t know everything. In fact, of course look at the statistics, the range of human knowledge, which is expanding rapidly, frightening rapidly in some ways. But what does that mean? It means we now know today much more than we knew yesterday, yesterday we had areas of ignorance. Sometimes this doesn’t stop humanity being arrogant. Sometimes mistakes continue to be made. Sometimes error continues to magnify and multiply. If you look at climate change, you look at injustice, you look at the relegation of the pursuit of truth, all of these things are very worrying challenges to us and to you as rising generations.
The magnificent conclusion of the passage concerned is that love changes everything. What does that mean for us in schools? Well firstly, you need to unlearn the embarrassment. Love who you are and who you can be. Embrace the mission to understand the world more fully, so that you can begin to address the challenges that face us all. We should return to the School’s vision and mission and think really hard about the integrity of difference. That means respecting, admiring, liking, and learning to like those beyond your circle of friends, those people who are slightly different, those people who you find challenging, those people perhaps you’ve walked away from. Your time in this community is an opportunity to broaden your range, to leave the dark mirror, the dark glass, behind. To think, to learn and appreciate the gifts and talents, and the spark of God, that exists within everybody. That is what a great school does, that is what fine students do, that is what Year 12 have enabled us to do, and therefore as we look towards these next celebrations, we can do so heartened by all the momentum that has been with us now.
An excerpt from an Assembly address given by the Headmaster on 6 September 2023