Speech Day Celebrations 2019

18 November 2019

With Reflection Week at The Abbey beginning today, what better time to look back with fond memories at all that has been achieved in the past year. So, at our annual Speech Day event held on Friday, that is exactly what we did. With awards ranging from ‘Contribution to Abbey Life’ to The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, the day was a celebration of success.

One of the lovely things about Speech Day is that it isn’t just for current students; we welcome back friends and alumnae to celebrate together. This includes those who left us last year and went on to university education or other paths of life: they were awarded with their A-level and International Baccalaureate Diploma certificates.

As is tradition, the day was split up with the Lower School event taking place in the morning and the Upper School in the afternoon. Each ceremony began with opening remarks from the Chair of Governors, Mrs Elizabeth Harrison, who spoke about the ongoing development at the Junior School and commended the “work, commitment, imagination and dedication of all the staff at The Abbey.” It is this supportive environment that allows our students to achieve highly both in and out of the classroom.

An address from Senior School Head, Mrs Jan Cresswell, acknowledged the “busy and exciting” past year. She discussed sustainability and praised the girls for their contribution in helping The Abbey to become more conscious of this prominent issue. From meat-free Mondays to the banning of single-use water bottles, our students have campaigned for improvement across the school.

Then Mrs Rachel Dent, Head of The Abbey, went on to welcome everyone to Speech Day with a reflective talk about some of her most memorable moments at The Abbey. She summed it up well, saying “it’s been a blast but looking forward, the School has much to be excited about.”

Within the Lower School ceremony, guest speaker and former pupil and Head Girl, Ms Robyn Field, gave an insightful talk about the importance of being kind to oneself both in your successes and in your failures. Robyn now works in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a diplomat, which really embodies the international mindset that we encourage our girls to hold. She spoke of her “curiosity about the world” that stemmed from her time at The Abbey and how this has led to her living in Nepal, Hong Kong, China and East Africa. A poignant end to her speech, Robyn reflected on what she would tell her younger self and left us with the words “keep working because it will open doors for you, but be much kinder to yourself, you don’t have to be the best at everything.”

Our Upper School guest speaker was Professor Ester Hammond, who is a Professor of Molecular Cancer Biology and a Senior Group Leader at the Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology. Her talk gave an insight into what it was like to give a speech at prizegiving when she was Head Girl at The Abbey in 1990 and she spoke of the importance of friendship and self-belief; “An Abbey girl can achieve anything, especially when more than one are involved.”

The annual Speech Day Video took on the form of a news broadcast, with commentary from our Head of Drama, Leighton Martin. It showcased the brilliant achievements of our students, the development of the Junior School, and “girls venturing near and far on a journey of discovery with friends.” This is really the essence of life at The Abbey.

The joyful atmosphere of Speech Day still lingers in the corridors this week, and we hope that it encourages our students to keep challenging themselves and striving to achieve their full potential both academically and in their extra-curricular activities.