Benenden says farewell to Sixth Formers Back to archive
17th July 2017

This year’s Speech Day was the first to be overseen by Anna Birkett as Chairman of Governing Council – and she wasn’t the only new addition to the event.

The weather was lovely and even more enjoyable were two musical performances introduced specially for this year. The Saxophone Quartet welcomed guests as they made their way up the path to the marquee, and two Six Two students had the audience in tears with their beautiful song about life at Benenden.

Mrs Birkett (pictured below), who is the first Senior to become Chairman of Governing Council, opened proceedings by sharing her own experience as a Speech Day leaver 40 years ago. She said: “There was no Floral Arch or marquee but instead the School Hall and a rather low-key walk through the Seniors’ Door – and I suspect that had our parents tried to take photos of us walking through it they might have met with some disapproving looks from the Headmistress and Housemistresses.

“Today, however, you are about to walk under the Floral Arch to well-deserved cheers and applause and with the moment recorded for posterity by your parents, to become Seniors and take your place in the world.”

Mrs Birkett formally welcomed four new Governors who have joined Governing Council during the year – Anne McNab, Rupert Evenett, Chris Nicolle and Laurette Gallagher – and thanked Mike Goolden, the Finance Committee chairman who is stepping down from Governing Council after 10 years, for all his hard work.

Mrs Birkett closed by saying: “I will offer one final thought for our leavers – someone said to me recently ‘you don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You do have an obligation to play the heck out of the ones you are holding’. First, I hope you feel that coming to Benenden was a pretty good card to have been dealt. Secondly you leave here today with a handful of cards and your mission now is to go out and play the heck out of them – in doing so I wish you health, happiness, success and fun in equal measure.”

View our Speech Day photo gallery

Headmistress Samantha Price then spoke about the theme of making the most of your talents, and incorporated into her speech a montage of photos with some of the very many highlights from the year.  This met with much cheering from the girls!

She listed some of the main achievements of the year, including winning the National Schools Lacrosse and the Chapel Choir performing in St Paul’s Cathedral, and set the Benenden year in the context of a turbulent year nationally, with terrorist attacks, political uncertainty and Government pressure for the independent sector to work with the state sector. On this latter point, Mrs Price said: “I am proud to say we contribute and provide a strong voice and response to the public debate on education, and in particular the place of independent education, more widely in our country.”

Turning to the main theme of her speech, Mrs Price said: “Within this community are strong, intelligent young women brimming with potential to leave school and not only develop their talents further in a myriad of professional landscapes but also to have a voice in tackling the real issues our society face: they can be leaders of tomorrow.”

Mrs Price urged the girls not to let the fear of not being good enough hold them back, saying: “To my mind, this is one of the single most important factors that we need to keep considering in preparing our girls to not only meet the challenges of our times but to place them in a position to have the confidence to be those really positive contributors to our society, which they are equipped and talented enough to be.”

She added: “Do not worry about not being perfect – what honestly does perfect look like? - but rather celebrate being who you are, and strive to be the very best version of that self.”

Referencing a line from Mrs Birkett’s speech, Mrs Price concluded by saying: “As you play the heck out of the cards you have been given here, play them cleverly; use those talents that you have and make a very positive contribution.”