Head Boarder's Speech to the Community

Speech made by Head Boarder, Olivia, to the Annual Parents’ Dinner, February 2024 

Hello everyone, welcome to the annual St Catherine’s Boarders Parents’ Dinner. It’s lovely to see that so many of you could join us. I can’t quite believe this event has come around so quickly! 

My name is Olivia and I am the Head Boarder here at St Cats. I thought I would start off by explaining how I got into boarding. I first started boarding in my prep school when I was nine years old, staying over just one night every week and gradually building up until, by my last year in Year 8, I was a full boarder.

I joined St Catherine’s in Upper 4 as a very shy weekly boarder. I remember being quite apprehensive on my first day because most people had joined in Upper 3 and had already settled in. At that moment in time, I certainly never imagined that 5 years later I would be standing here talking to you this evening. But the support I received over the first few days and weeks, from not only my peers but from staff as well meant that I very quickly found my feet.

Endless opportunities on my doorstep, quite literally, meant that by the first half term I had settled into Symes and made many friends. One of the best things about boarding for me, is not having to worry about fitting in travel time to and from home. Boarding has meant I have been able to make the most of my time here at St Cats. Many of us have busy schedules, participating in extracurriculars such as netball, lax, music and drama all while managing work time, though I’m sure most of us can relate to the late night, caffeine induced study sessions! Whether it is through school productions or netball tournaments, these opportunities have only strengthened my friendships with other boarders which I know will last well beyond our time here. On top of that, I’m a member of Charities Board and have completed Gold DofE, both of which have helped me develop my skills in leadership and organisation which has set me up well for uni. Boarding has definitely helped me become a more confident and independent person. This especially came in handy when some of us travelled to Cambodia last summer where we had to brave the jungle for 3 weeks!

The annual Boarders’ Party on the first Friday of the Autumn term, organised by me and the team of Senior Boarders, was a great opportunity for all the new boarders to get to know each other through team games and Just Dance, which is always a highlight. I know this event certainly helped me come out of my shell a bit more when I first joined St Cats and one of the highlights of being Head Boarder has been the chance to guide and encourage the younger years to take these opportunities and play a part in making their boarding journey as fulfilling as mine has been.

Every year boarders look forward to the activity packed weekends that the staff kindly organise and this year has been no different. There are many highlights including the Bramley bonfire and fireworks which many of the girls in Keller and in The 6 help out at. Many of us in 6th form have enjoyed the trips to Winter Wonderland and Bronte and Symes have loved their outings to Go Ape and donutting at the Guildford Ski Slope. Even during the week, we have had the opportunity to celebrate various events including Chinese New Year where we get to watch the dragon dance around the dining room and enjoy a different cuisine. The school’s annual talent and fashion show is also a great chance for students to showcase their skills, whether it's singing or dancing and it's amazing to see so many boarders take part. The Nigerian dance especially is a popular highlight and is always incredibly well choreographed. 

I’m sure that we can all agree that the boarding community would not run as smoothly as it does without our incredible house mistresses: Mrs Harrison, Mrs Harkness, Mrs Evans and Mrs Street, all of whom have helped me and many other girls on their boarding journey. Whether it's organising weekend activities or helping girls settle in at the start of a new year, they all play a fundamental role in making this school a real ‘home from home’. Of course, a special thanks must go to Mrs Philips as well who somehow manages to make time to support the whole boarding community as well as juggling Headmistress duties! A big thank you to you all. 

Thanks must also go to the Estates team who are always on hand to fix maintenance issues, and to our lovely cleaners as well. I know especially in The 6, we are so grateful for the amount of times they have magically made our snugs pristine again after countless pieces of toast!

Another big thank you to our kitchen staff, who work behind the scenes to deliver incredible meals to us 3 times a day, every day. We all appreciate all the hours you put in to ensure we are all catered for, and it doesn't go unnoticed.

To the school nurses, Sister Green and the rest of her team, who work around the clock to ensure that we are all healthy and well. Thank you so much for everything that you do and all the care you provide. We can always count on you to be there when we need something, even if it is just for an ice pack, and for that we are so grateful.

Boarding Prefects 2023-24

Boarding has meant I have come to know so many more people who I may not have met if I had been a day girl. To all the U6, we’ve grown up together and we’ve made so many incredible memories that I will always cherish. I’m thankful to every single one of you for making these years of boarding so amazing. 

Thank you all again for coming and I hope you have enjoyed this fantastic evening.