“The lessons from the peace process…”

“The lessons from the peace process are clear; whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load…”

Queen Elizabeth II

The start of a new school year is a time for optimism. “This is the year I will not be late”, “this is the year I will stay on top of my homework”, “This year I will try my best” are all common refrains when you speak with young people in September. It is also a time of year when Heads reflect on the last year’s exam results, on last year’s achievements and think about what is to come. In short there is an air of purpose and recognition of the endeavour that awaits.

Our term started on Monday, and with it the school year. A five-day first week is always a challenge, particularly for the youngest members of our community and those who have become accustomed to a post-lunch summer holiday afternoon nap. I’m delighted to report that everyone was still coming into school with a discernible spring in their step this morning – a commendable display of energy.

Of course, the end of this week has been dominated by the sad news of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We joined as an entire school community this morning to reflect upon the lessons that we can learn from this remarkable individual. As one who did not choose her path in life her dedication to the service of the nation is an important example to follow. Her ability to reconcile communities in conflict, to demonstrate public forgiveness and to move on positively from loss are perhaps some of the less often recognised elements of her character. Her Majesty lived a life with purpose and in doing so provides our young people with a lesson that they would do well to heed. Perhaps just as important as these characteristics was her ability to put people at their ease and ensure that even some of the most important of occasions had their humorous side. How can we forget her cameo appearances with 007 and alongside my favourite bear, Paddington. Many of our pupils will go on to play a significant role in their communities in later life, I hope that they, in having had time to reflect upon this particular life, will follow the example we have been fortunate to witness.

President Macron’s words last night should also give us pause for thought. A kind-hearted Queen was how he described her. As we plunge into a year of excitement and possibility, we would be wise to put kindness at the core of all our endeavours. As a counsel to no less than fifteen British Prime Ministers the Queen was mindful to remind them to be kind to themselves, to ensure that they were not overwhelmed by the pressures of their role. Where challenges are faced, we should share the load, co-operate and support each other. These too are lessons for us to consider at the start of this new school year.

Our thoughts are with King Charles and his family as they mourn the loss of a family figurehead, a much-loved mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Her steadying influence will be missed as this the modern Elizabethan age closes. The success of a new age is in the hands of the generation I had the privilege of addressing this morning. They are indeed capable of taking inspiration from Queen Elizabeth and moulding a better future. There can be no more appropriate legacy from this most extraordinary person.

Nicholas Hammond