“The greater prizes are to come…” Anne Atkins at Claires Court Senior Speech Day

On Thursday 18 September 2014, Claires Court Senior School celebrated its prize giving, and what an endurance feat it was too. It is never my intention for events such as Speech Day to last more than 100 minutes, but whilst I am the architect of Speech Day, and may lay some of the foundations and even dictate some of the methods of construction used, actually Speech Day at Claires Court is a construct of some 100+ voices of teachers and students whose contributions are aggregated into our annual celebration. You can whip through the main scripts of the Sixth Form Heads of School here – http://goo.gl/WUAFRp – and the powerpoint that goes with their work will appear here shortly.  We did have to wait some time for our guest to speak…prizes to award, don’t you know.

Central to the celebration though was our principal guest, the broadcaster and journalist Anne Atkins, whose presence was both stimulating and warming. You can hear her whole 10 minute talk to the students and wider audience here – and core to her theme was the concept that prizes won at Speech Day are just tasters for the bigger prizes to come. It is a lovely notion this, and one I have not heard in recent times. She makes clear to us that the arrival of marriage, children, career and progression too are just tasters of what is to come. In short, we must live life to the full, enjoy the rewards when they arrive, but set not too much store by them, because they can be false gods, to which we can fall prey.

Prizes are there to inspire and encourage, within everyone’s reach so long as they know how to persist and persevere. Anne Atkins drew our attention to 2 awards her children have made her – large pictures to remind her of the challenges in life.

Here’s the first – “The courage to ignore the obvious wisdom of turning back!”

Courage to ignore the obvious wisdom


The second picture she has to energise her says “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will bring us Victory!”

What endeared us all to Anne’s thinking is she made it quite clear she had never won prizes whilst at school, she had three great tops for the future adult in the hall.

1.  Dare to dream your dreams!

2. Let your dreams develop!

3. Never, never, never, never give  up!

(Courtesy of Winston Churchill talking at Harrow School, 29 October 1941)

“The prizes you will win in adulthood too won’t last, so they too are a foretaste of what is to come”. Anne reminded us of the words of the second most influential person the world has ever known (St Paul) “Many people strive for a crown that won’t last (ref Olympic games), but you can strive for a crown that will last forever.”

The reference is to the broader message from St Paul, asking us to strive not to be just great, but dedicate our lives to Jesus Christ and by doing so and really training hard, winning an everlasting crown into the next life.


Anne arrived from Bedford to Maidenhead by train and folding bicycle, and she took the same route home, via an early evening meeting in Marylebone. Even on her return to Bedford, her precious floral tribute from us remained intact. On cycling then back home, she was mugged, knocked to the ground and the presentation flowers crushed to the floor.  “I held on to it, fought and kicked and screamed blue murder. Not what the police advise but in the heat of the moment… It did at least frighten off the assailant and bring someone to my aid”. The police of course were involved and were both considerate and supportive, but really not bothered about her flowers. Fortunately her lodger was, rescued the bouquet and reset them in a vase.  Anne woke the next morning with a lovely floral tribute of her work with us in all their glory. By any measure this short story is indeed an inspiration to us all – it being all about persistence and perseverance despite circumstances.

Hannah solo: http://youtu.be/xdS_CBOyjnM

Staff choir: http://youtu.be/OeSInleCc3A

Ensemble: http://youtu.be/mJo-8ocvWic 

Year 11 boys choir: http://youtu.be/D0YyPLHklAE

Year 8-10 girls choir: http://youtu.be/9HQAcox2ofI

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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