“Ancora imparo” – “I am still learning” – is a motto attributed to Michelangelo near the end of his long life. Whether he said it matters little, the key is to recognise even a genius can be a lifelong learner. It is increasingly apparent that LQ – or learning ability – is essential to flourish in today’s world. Whether it’s adjusting to COVID or to technology, we all know how important it is to be ready to learn and – better still – to want to. As Sir Richard Livingstone said more than 70 years ago: “The test of successful education is not the amount of knowledge that pupils take away from school, but their appetite to know and their capacity to learn.”

This is the principle behind our plans for the learning centre which we will establish in St Andrew’s Church. As many have commented following the announcement of our plans, it will enhance the excitement of learning. Do visit the website to discover more about it.

There is much for us all to learn and this moment of opportunity for change must be grasped.

LQ is just one of the qualities displayed by Bradfield pupils over the last year. Combined with their hard work, their digital intelligence, or DQ, and their IQ it has led to some very strong performances in assessments this term. At the end of a year when, like their pupils, our teachers have had to adapt to online education and constantly changing exam arrangements, I express my thanks to them for their remarkable professionalism, skill and care for their charges.

In other fields, Arion (G) and Herbie (C) have won places on junior courses at the Royal College of Music, the Senior boys’ tennis team won the Independent Schools League playing against some of the top schools in the country, Issy (I) climbed Everest twice at home for charity and had a Cortical Stimulator at Southampton University named after her, Tina (J) was named Berkshire LTA Young Person of the Year, Katherine (I) once more played The Last Post sublimely at a moving Remembrance Day service, the Under 15 cricket team won the County Championship, Megan (J) and Maddie (M) played in Welsh hockey teams and Tommy (F) was selected for the England Under 16 squad, Faulkner’s had a busy 24 hour challenge to raise money for Head for Change, Annabel (J), Max (F) and Matthew (E) were selected for the UK Rifle Team, Savannah (M) raised money and awareness about mental health with her Semicolon Project, our show jumpers qualified for Hickstead, the Christmas Radio Plays were featured on local radio, four OBs have been playing county cricket and recent leaver Angus Flanagan (H 12-17) played in the Walker Cup for the Great Britain and Ireland golf team.

Meanwhile, our pupils’ GQ – their understanding of the responsibilities of global citizenship – has never been more in evidence. The murders of George Floyd and Sarah Everard, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Everyone’s Invited website have asked important questions of us all. Our pupils and staff have responded purposefully and sensitively in the knowledge that there is much for us all to learn and this moment of opportunity for change must be grasped.

This year’s leavers have sought to build on the strategy of their predecessors, notably in the fields of equality and sustainability. They aim to ‘be the change we want to see’ and their activism has found tangible expression in several areas such as the continuation of the Leavers’ Wood project and new recycling arrangements. A focus on equality, diversity and inclusion has underpinned many talks this year. An assembly on gender equality led by the Lower Sixth came at the end of a year which has seen senior pupils setting a great example. Naomi (K) led the way, championing Black History Month with the energy which has seen her contribute in so many fields from drama to book club to CCF.

On another occasion, James (D) and Chloe (J), both multitalented all-rounders, starred in a video alongside all the JCR members, sharing their vulnerabilities to help other pupils understand it’s ok not to be ok, even if you are a deeply impressive Head of School, like Chloe and James have been this year. To them, their fellow Prefects and the Heads of House, I offer sincere thanks for their leadership of the pupil body.

A memorable series of assemblies and talks was led by Tom (G), launching Bradfield’s first ever Pride Week. Tom has been a leader in every sense throughout his time in the College. From his very early days in Faulkner’s foyer he has entertained us all with his music and engaged us all with warmth and generosity of spirit. Along with Holly (K), a multiple scholar equally talented in classroom, on sports field and in the concert hall, he has sung some unforgettable duets. Like so many Bradfield pupils, they bring the best out of each other and support one another superbly.

Pupils celebrated and supported equality during Bradfield's own Pride Week
A forum hosted by Tom (G) on decoding sexuality

Despite the upheaval of the last four and a half terms, the Upper Sixth have done an enormous amount for which we will remember them. Alongside those already mentioned, numerous others show the talent and ambition within the pupil body.

Jacob (G) has already begun his life after school as he has started training as a contracted player at Charlton Athletic Football Club, having had to choose between that and offers of places at British and American Universities. His leadership and his commitment to learning have been in evidence beyond the sports pitch, too, not least in dance.

Bradfield’s pupils have staff who are great at fostering LQ but who do so whilst caring about them as people and mentoring them to pursue their goals and dreams.

Keziah (M) is a superb dancer. She has also been a great environmental campaigner. She leaves with an offer to read Experimental Psychology at Oxford. Her focused efforts and excellence in varied spheres makes her, like Jacob, a superb role-model to those around her.

Leo (A) has also set a wonderful example to other pupils whilst featuring in every Carol Service, Remembrance Service and Music Concert during his time at the College. This year, Leo has come through a very rigorous multi-round selection procedure to gain a contract on the prestigious Deloitte’s Apprenticeship Programme.

I could go on but these three, who have distinguished themselves in extremely competitive and very diverse fields, exemplify the principle that whilst there is one Bradfield, there are many Bradfieldians and that there are many ways to flourish.

The identity politics of our times and an enhanced focus on individual rights mean we can readily lose sight of shared beliefs and common values. The legacy of our leavers is not, however, just in their individual achievements; it is in their collective resilience and optimism in the face of challenges on a scale the young have not faced for generations.

There are very few staff leaving the College this year but their quality is beyond doubt. The longest serving of all is Marge Drake, a member of the domestic team for some 37 years with the last 35 in The Close. Always positive, always smiling, usually rather loud, with an infectious laugh, she has cared deeply about the boys and her colleagues.

This was true of Kirsty Taphouse who lost a battle with illness earlier this term at a tragically young age. She was a treasured member of Stone House, where she worked, and will be sadly missed.

The retirement of Fiona Wilson, our inestimable Examinations Officer, reminds us of the crucial personal dimension to every function in the College. Since 1999 in different roles, Fiona has demonstrated a meticulous eye for detail combined with great empathy.

The same is true of Brigitte Bond, who joined in 1994 and has inspired generations of Bradfieldians to love art, in particular that of the Florentine Renaissance. She always goes the extra mile for her charges and leaves behind her a love of learning for its own sake in the form of the EPQ, which she pioneered.

And finally we say goodbye to Pauline Donnelly who has taught Religious Studies for some 31 years, having arrived as only the third female member of staff in a very different staffroom. The ‘wee bairns’, to use her affectionate term, know very well just how much she cares for them, as do the trustees of the various charities for which, on her watch as Head of Charities, upwards of half a million pounds has been raised. What a legacy that is.

A large American survey of the factors that make a successful education concluded that it is ultimately not where you go to College, but how that makes the greatest difference. Crucially, young people with at least one teacher who made them excited about learning and cared about them as a person, while also having a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams, have more than double the odds as adults of being engaged at work and thriving in well-being.

The pupils in this College are blessed with exactly these attributes in the staff who surround them. Bradfield’s pupils have staff who are great at fostering LQ but who do so whilst caring about them as people and mentoring them to pursue their goals and dreams.

Under the care of their teachers and inspired by their peers, alongside IQ, DQ, GQ and LQ Bradfield’s pupils develop the all-important EQ, the emotional intelligence without which all the other qualities are little worth. It remains a privilege to watch that development.