Today was an emotional day as I had my final day at South Hampstead.
The goodbyes were so thoughtfully planned by both the Junior and the Senior School. And last night’s farewells from staff were equally poignant. As we are a centre of learning, I thought I would devote my final blog post to learning itself. Education is both a right and a gift. It is enshrined in article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A right is not something we should see as a gift. It is something to which every human being is entitled. And yet the impact of a great education is truly a gift. I will forever be grateful for the teachers who shaped me as a teenager and rarely does a week go by when I do not reflect in some way on my own formal education at school and university. I am also grateful for the influence of my parents who brought me up in a household full of books and gave me an appreciation for learning that has shaped my life. They gave me a profound sense of duty to educate myself well beyond my formal schooling, a duty which still inspires me to this day.
At our staff farewells after final assembly today, Ms Jacobs gave an inspirational speech about two Latin verbs: educere (to draw out or lead out) and aedificare (to build). She talked about how at South Hampstead these verbs were at the heart of our strategy: we aim to draw the best out of pupils and out of each other as colleagues, and we try to build each other up. Last night at the staff party, I thanked colleagues for helping me to learn as a leader. There are countless lessons I have learnt from them over my six and a half years at the school. They have drawn out my strengths as a leader and I hope I have drawn out their strengths in their roles, just as they draw out the talents of our pupils.
Our speaker at our Sports Awards evening on Wednesday, the netball champion Eboni Usoro-Brown told us the story about her attempts at selection for the England Team as a teenage pupil at Wimbledon High School GDST. Her first attempt was unsuccessful but whilst she dried her eyes her mother insisted that she request feedback from the coaches. She worked on her bleep test and came back a year later stronger than before. Her strategy paid off, and whilst she was celebrating, again her mother insisted that she get feedback from the coaches. That story was a powerful demonstration of the importance of learning.
In my final assembly to pupils I ended with my last words of advice to them which were about the inspirational power of learning:
If there were a mindset I wanted you to take through life it would be that you have never finished learning. School is just the beginning. Learning something new every day is what gets me up in the morning. Learning brings us joy and inspiration. It brings us beauty and appreciation for the wonder of our world and the achievements of human beings. And it helps us to grow. If you can learn something new every day and aim to be just a little bit better at what you do every day, you will be utterly unstoppable. I wish you every happiness in a life filled with laughter and joyful learning, with friendship and with happy memories and dreams. Thank you for making so many happy memories for me from my time at South Hampstead. A part of me will always be blue and yellow.
I wish you all Mehr Licht and a wonderful summer.
Blog post by Vicky Bingham, Headmistress from 2017 to 2023.