Fun, warmth and celebration at this unique community school
John O’Gaunt students celebrated in style at their much anticipated Prize Giving Evening last week. Parents, carers, governors, local dignitaries and staff attended an evening to remember, with some very well-received guest speakers. The evening was opened with a beautifully executed song from High School Musical, sung by Year 7 Lacie Fisher and Joshua Stone. The lyrics, from ‘We’re All in This Together’ set the scene for the rest of the evening and indeed, reflected the unique spirit of this almost 60 year old school, at the heart of its town and satellite villages.
Head of School Richard Hawthorne and Chair of Governors, Lucy Lee, both spoke movingly, with pride (and humour) of the way the community and school had pulled together through the pandemic years and how it had strengthened existing bonds and forged new ones. Both speakers considered how John O’Gaunt School has a very special position as a ‘community school’ and acknowledged how everyone within that wider ‘family’ took that responsibility and the opportunities it provides, very seriously. ‘It’s how we grow; together’ one participant noted, ‘making connections that spread far and wide.’
There was barely a dry eye in the house as Y10 student Scarlett Slatter read her powerful, title-winning speech about her experience of the pandemic, having to live apart from her Mum, who works as a nurse. Scarlett had the audience in the palm of her hand, making every use of humour and dramatic pauses, as well! There was much lively conversation and laughter around the refreshments, provided by the Parent Staff Association, before students collected their well-earned rewards and trophies for their achievements and efforts. Last year’s GCSE students were also able to soak up the limelight in recognition for their fantastic results. They were warmly welcomed back in to the fold.
Guest Speaker was the very talented, very funny Toni Kent – stand up comic, writer, poet, and ‘woman in tech’ she both inspired with her story of active social mobility, believing in yourself and following your aspirations and dreams – and had everyone in stitches. Toni generously gave of her time, and a donation was made in her name to the charity Smart Works Reading, offering clothing, styling and interview coaching to unemployed women.
It was an incredible evening – the sort of celebratory coming together that, as one of last year’s Year 11 student’s put it ‘makes us remember one of the most important stages in our lives, our school days, with great warmth and pride.’ And a few fond tears.
Aria, Scarlett, Eve and Lexi Toni Kent and Governor, Mike Morecroft Thomas, Lacie and Joshua