Today, 9th November, 2012, Sandymoor School celebrates it's opening with it's first Founders' Day. There's lots of exciting things going on during the day and the official opening is at 3pm, with speeches, food, drink & fireworks.
And there is a lot to celebrate. Two posts today, the first being the Assembly I gave this morning to the school. I will follow this later with my official speech for the opening ceremony.
Today is a special day. Why? Why not!
But today we celebrate the founding of the school. Today we celebrate what we have here and what we have achieved.
Why today? Again, I say why not! We chose today for a lot of reasons, none of them, in themselves, special. Today is the first Friday after 1/2 term. It was the date a VIP said they could make. That's about it.
It's a birthday for some people. In fact, around the world, for quite a lot of people! Apart from Jess, here, it's the birthday of a hero of mine: Carl Sagan. He actually died in 1996, but if he was still alive today, he would be celebrating his 78th birthday today. Carl Sagan was sort of the Brian Cox of my youth. When I was your age, he had written a book which was turned into a TV series called Cosmos & it blew my mind away! It was one of the things that made me want to go into Science. He recalls a similar experience. To quote from him:
I went to the librarian and asked for a book about stars ...And the answer was stunning. It was that the Sun was a star but really close. The stars were suns, but so far away they were just little points of light ...The scale of the universe suddenly opened up to me. It was a kind of religious experience. There was a magnificence to it, a grandeur, a scale which has never left me. Never ever left me.
For all his life, Science was a passion, that excited him and inspired him to do his best.
The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counter-intuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But or preferences (our wants) do not change or determine what is true.
But back to today, here, and now. Today is a celebration of what we have achieved. What we have done, together. And it's no small thing.
18 months ago, a group of ordinary people decided to have a go. They had a desire to do something big, something grand, something special. They didn't think that at the time (& probably don't to this day), but that is what they did. A group of five ordinary people, like you and me. Like your parents. They decided to say that they wanted to make a difference & start a school here, in Sandymoor. Because they wanted to provide more choice for the people in this part of Runcorn.
Now, starting a school is not a simple task! They had to pass a huge number of tests set by government, to ensure that the school is fit for purpose. And that, in itself, is good, because we don't want anyone opening up a school.
After all, you are the future of this country. Of this planet! And your experience in school will shape how you go on into adulthood.
And so these parents, just like your parents, with busy lives, things to do, jobs, kids, and everything else, took on another task. Founding Sandymoor School.
Countless meetings long into the night, sometimes overnight, many long trecks to Sheffield, Leeds and London to meet with officials, and here we now are.
I've said this before, but it is worth saying it again. These five ordinary people, through determination and persistence, have achieved something extra-ordinary. And as an inspiration for a school, I could not wish for better. It proves that any of you could, in fact should aim to, go on and do something extra-ordinary!
But we have also had to turn the dream, the idea, into reality. I know a lot of you were looking at this site during August and wondering how the school would be ready! But as you know, it was. We were running off generators to start with, with water in a temporary supply (in fact that is only being sorted today), and only mobile phones, but we opened.
And to me that also tells us something; it's not about fancy buildings or things like that, but people who make a difference.
And I am so excited to be leading such an inspirational team of people in making a difference. It has been an incredibly tough journey for every member of staff here, and I want to publicly thank them for all the hard work they have put in to helping me make the vision a reality. They all inspire me. Thank you.
It is about you, however. This is all about you. Our students. Everything about us, and all the planning, long nights and heart-aches, it's all about you.
This is all about giving you the best possible opportunity we can give to help you become the very best you can be. That is what education should always be about and it's a shame that it sometimes isn't, because politics or personal ambition gets in the way. But I promise you here and now that here, at Sandymoor, that is what it is all about. You. And helping you become the very best you can be.
And now I am going to apuse and read a poem. One of my favorites, by a poet called Louise MacNeice and it is called 'Prayer Before Birth'.
I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
club-footed ghoul come near me.
I am not yet born, console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,
with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.
I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
in the back of my mind to guide me.
I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words
when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me,
my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,
my life when they murder by means of my
hands, my death when they live me.
I am not yet born; rehearse me
In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when
old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains
frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white
waves call me to folly and the desert calls
me to doom and the beggar refuses
my gift and my children curse me.
I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
come near me.
I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my
humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
one face, a thing, and against all those
who would dissipate my entirety, would
blow me like thistledown hither and
thither or hither and thither
like water held in the
hands would spill me.
Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.
A prayer, or a cry out, for us to do everything we can to make this world a safe place, a good place, for all children.
Which leads me to another reason why today is special. Or at least Sunday. Because Sunday is the 11th November. The 11th of the 11th. In most of the world also known as Remembrance Sunday. The day where we remember those people who have lost their lives in conflicts around the world from the first world war up to today and soldiers losing their lives in Afghanistan. It's not about glorifying war, but remembering those people who paid the ultimate sacrifice for just what that poem by Louis MacNeice is all about - trying to keep the man who is beast or who thinks he is god come near innocent children.
And so I would like to end with a traditional act or remembrance. I am going to say a short poem and then I would appreciate it if we could then hold a minute's silence in honour of everyone who has died in conflict or war:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Thank you. Now, let's have fun today!