Speech Day and Prize Giving 2019
Wednesday 3rd July 2019
On Saturday 29 June, the community of Queen Anne’s School came together for the school’s annual Speech Day and Prize Giving ceremony to celebrate the end of the academic year. We were greeted with clear blue skies and a warm breeze, perfect weather for this summer event.
Our guest speaker this year was science and wildlife presenter Liz Bonnin, whom we were delighted to welcome to the school. Liz Bonnin holds a degree in biochemistry and a masters in wild animal biology, and has presented over 40 primetime programmes, including Blue Planet Live, Super Smart Animals, Galapagos and Horizon. Her landmark BBC One documentary Drowning in Plastic investigated the ocean plastic crisis and raised the level of public debate on this important topic. Alongside her passion for preserving the environment and natural world, Liz in extremely passionate about girls pursuing ambitions in STEM subjects.
Speech Day began with energetic performances form our Concert Band, Jazzabelles and Saxaholics, followed by a charming dance performance of Steam Heat from our U6 dancers. Then came a dramatic performance of Skyfall, performed by our Concert Band, and sung by one of our new Head Girls Hazelle.
Students, parents, governors and guests were welcomed by Jonnie Noakes, MA, Chair of Governors. He spoke of the future development plans for the school, this time focussing on sport, and highlighted the great achievements the girls have had within the academic year, particularly since the opening of the new Scott Music Centre last summer. The opportunities that the Scott Music Centre has provided for Queen Anne’s girls was displayed through a beautiful vocal performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria, by Madeleine and Olivia, and music technology composition by Aoife and Charlotte.
For this year’s Speech Day, we were celebrating 125 years of Queen Anne’s School: our quasquicentennial year. Throughout her speech, Mrs Harrington reflected on how times used to be when the school first opened on the current site in 1894, when girls used to have permission from the school governors to stay on at school past the age of 15. Times have certainly changed since then, and this was reflected through the achievements of our ambitious and fearless girls celebrated throughout the day.
“As it was in 1894, we too strive to be innovative, and inspire girls as they seize the torch of life.”
In 1908, the University of reading appointed England’s first female professor, and Queen Anne’s Headmistress at the time, Miss Holmes, was quick to establish links with the university. This resulted in innovative teaching for girls being established, on electricity and magnetism, which at the time was intended for boys only.
Since then, Queen Anne’s has always played a huge role in inspiring girls to break glass ceilings and pursue knowledge without limits. However, as a community, we are still very much aware that in many parts of the world, girls are still not educated or even values. Raffiah’s powerful and moving monologue, from the perspective of a refugee child, reminded us of this, of how lucky we are to live in this country, yet how we must still be headstrong in the fight for equality across the world.
Within her speech, Mrs Harrington also touched upon Queen Anne’s environmental initiatives, often led by the girls themselves, and our aims to use science and technology to become a low carbon, sustainable school.
The performances from Queen Anne’s students also reflected these environmental initiatives, through dance, drama and music. There’s No Planet B, a drama performance by three of our Sixth Form Students, was a particularly impactful piece on how humans have mistreated their ‘mother’ earth, and that something needs to be done.
Students, parents and staff alike were extremely excited as our guest speaker, Liz Bonnin, took her place to address the Queen Anne’s community. Liz was charming, relaxed and kind, and spoke fondly of summers in France, where she grew up, observing the wildlife in her garden. “I used to spend hours watching the birds outside, wondering how their delicate eyes worked in their sockets,” Liz mused, “and how their fragile hearts could pump blood through their tiny blood vessels, to make up this creature as a whole in front of me.”
Liz recalled some of her earliest challenges, where, at 9 years old, her family moved from the sunny French countryside, to a dreary Dublin. At first, Liz didn’t speak a word of English, and had to slowly learn to communicate with her peers, first through actions and drawings on the blackboard in her classroom.
But through determination and the passion to learn and learn even more, Liz eventually graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, with a degree in biochemistry. However, after completing her degree, Liz didn’t feel quite ready to continue to a masters, despite receiving some enviable offers from top institutions. Instead, she took a year out, and was offered the opportunity of presenting a music awards ceremony in Dublin. It went well and she was asked to present more, from that she got into working for RTE Television.
Liz reiterated to the girls sat before her that it is okay to not be sure of what you want to do in life, of what your future holds: “Take the time to find out what you love, and what you want to do, and also what you don’t want to do – sometimes that’s even more important to know!”
After a whirlwind introduction to the entertainment business, Liz returned to her first love of science. She Masters in Wild Animal Biology and Conservation, which involved her setting up and carrying out a research project on the diet of tigers in Bardia National Park, Nepal, which saw her come first in her class.
From then on, Liz charisma and academic expertise has led her to becoming one of the most recognisable modern television figures when it comes to wildlife and the environment. She was recently awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the British Science Association, and continues to be a huge inspiration to many girls at Queen Anne’s. Liz Bonnin is an incredible example of an intelligent and ambitious woman, who did not let society’s prejudices of women in STEM dampen her passions and spirit.
Before the prize giving began, our Head Girls, Aoife and Evie addressed the Queen Anne’s community, expressing their fond memories of their time at the school, giving thanks to their teachers and peers, and advice to the future U6 students. They also re-introduced an old Queen Anne’s tradition, the Head Girls’ Book, which they presented to the new Head Girls, Millie and Hazelle.
As the prize giving ceremony commenced, there were so many achievements to be celebrated from Queen Anne’s girls. These served as a reminder of the incredible things that girls can achieve when nurtured with a no-limits approach. Here’s to another 125 years of Queen Anne’s School!