2019 Withington Girls' School Founders' Day
PUBLISHED: 11:01 23 October 2019
Withington commemorated its 129th Founders' Day at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall recently with an evening of inspirational speeches, readings and musical celebrations on the theme of 'Sustaining People and Places'.
Ecological protection, a pressing issue of our times, was a recurring topic during the evening's speeches. Talks included insights into environmental advocacy by guest speaker, Dr Caroline Major, a former Withington pupil, a veterinary surgeon and eco champion whose world record breaking paddle-boarding mission from Land's End to John O'Groats helped to raise awareness of the perils of plastic pollution, whilst WGS Chair of Governors, Mr Malcolm Pike, outlined Withington's ongoing work in helping to reduce environmental impact. Current eco initiatives at Withington, he said, include an environmentally-friendly wild flower grass roof; LED energy-efficient light bulbs; a waste recycling compactor; appointing an environmentally-aware catering company and work by the School's eco group to encourage good practices and reduce single-use plastics.
Mr Pike and Headmistress, Mrs Sarah Haslam, also spoke of Withington's sustainability as a School for future generations. WGS is a community in which it is "cool to learn and do well, where the pleasure of learning is its own reward, where collaboration and personal challenge are the aim of every day" - and with one in six of its pupils in receipt of bursary assistance, it is also a place where inclusion and diversity are an integral part of the WGS ethos, they said.
Community engagement is at the heart of Withington life, said Mrs Haslam. A Citizenship Day sponsored walk raised £10,000 for The Christie - part of £32,000 raised by WGS this year for charities and a production of the Lion King Junior was performed for local senior citizens. A visit by Mayor of Greater Manchester, Mr Andy Burnham, further highlighted Withington's community work, which includes SHINE, a WGS Saturday morning programme that enables local state primary pupils to take lessons in subjects they would not otherwise be able to experience.
In keeping with Founders' Day tradition, guest speaker - Dr Caroline (Cal) Major - presented each Upper Sixth member with a book of their choice before addressing the audience. Her story was captivating as she told how, after leaving Withington in 2006, she went on to become a veterinary surgeon, an ocean conservation advocate, adventurer, world record paddle-boarder and people's champion against plastic pollution and waste. An ocean lover, she had been struck by the plastic waste on every beach she visited along the UK coastline, prompting her to run community beach cleans. Then, to raise awareness of the plastics problem, she undertook paddling expeditions around the Cornish coast and the Isle of Skye before accomplishing a world record-breaking 1000-mile solo paddle from Land's End to John O'Groats, picking up plastic and encouraging those she met to use refillable water bottles instead of a single-use plastic one.
In the final speech of the evening, Head Girl Kea Bell spoke of her own personal journey at Withington, drawing on quotes from Kung Fu Panda, as well as from Michelle Obama to emphasise the many benefits of her School experience. A quote from Master Shifu - "If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than who you are right now" - prompted Kea to reflect on individual growth "through the new skills, passions and dreams we discover whilst here," whilst a quote from Michelle Obama - "The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them" - had taught her "that nothing is too big to strive for".
Readings included Us Two by AA Milne, Daffodils by William Wordsworth and Hurricane Hits England by Grace Nichols. Music this year included the amazing Withington Harp Ensemble playing Coldplay's Clocks; Stage Band performed Sing, Sing, Sing by Louis Prima and the Percussion Ensemble - which included two Junior School pupils - played The Avengers Theme by Alan Silvestri. Senior Choir gave a heartfelt rendition of Fields of Gold by GM Sumner and the Senior and Third Form Choir sang together, a very poignant version of Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen.
Withington's next Open Days are on 7th and 9th November - visit www.wgs.org for details.