Head Boarder's Speech to the Community

Speech made by Head Boarder, Hannah, to the Annual Parents’ Dinner, February 2023 

Good evening, everyone. I hope you all enjoyed the dinner. It’s lovely to see everyone, especially since this is the first Boarders’ Parents’ Dinner we’ve been able to hold in the last three years because of Covid. 

My name is Hannah, and I’m Head Boarder here at St Catherine’s, which is a bit like a head girl, except I don’t get weekends off!  I joined St Cat’s as a full boarder back in 2016, in Upper 3, so I’ve been here for quite a while now. And I must say when I started out I never would have thought I’d be standing here speaking to you all today. I was really very shy when I first joined, very socially awkward — it was my first time in a boarding school, I was coming from a different country, coming to senior school for the first time — a lot of firsts for one event, and so I was totally overwhelmed and had absolutely no idea what to do with myself. But over time, and with lots of support from others, I found my feet and things quickly began to look up from there.  

Being in boarding gave me access to the wonderful music block and Anniversary Halls practice rooms which bolstered my music-making. It also helped me form many friendships I wouldn’t have expected, especially friendships across year groups, from participating in weekend activities and talking in the queue for dinner. The encouragement I received from older students really helped me feel welcome and gave me something to aspire to. Being Head Boarder means that I now get to do the same for the younger years, which is just wonderful, and it’s a real privilege to help guide the younger students and be part of their growth.  

This year, we have a total of around 170 boarders, and boarding is busier than ever. After two years of various Covid restrictions, we have finally been able to bring back our full weekend activities roster. Some favourites include trips to theme parks, shopping at Bluewater and the sixth form trip to Winter Wonderland. With the opening of our wonderful Art and Maker Space, we’ve also been able to host a variety of crafts and cooking activities in the new facilities there.  

We’ve become closer as a community through celebrating all the diverse cultures that make up boarding, with highlights including the Nigerian Independence Day dinner, and Lunar New Year dinner and dragon dance.  

It’s also lovely to see how the boarding community has become more involved with the local community in Bramley, especially with Holy Trinity Church, Bramley, where we have our Sunday morning service.  A big thank you must go to Revd Andy for all the work he puts into those services and making us feel welcome. We now have two of our students singing with their choir each Sunday, Chapel Choir sing for one service a term, and I know there are always a few students there just before the service helping out with handing out hymn books etc. which is just so nice to see. All this, and we’re only halfway through the year! 

I think it’s safe to say that none of this would be at all possible without all the hard work and dedication of our amazing boarding housemistresses: Mrs Harrison, Mrs Harkness, Mrs Evans and Mrs Street, and their assistants and the gap team. Special thanks go to Mrs Harkness, as she’s in charge of boarding as well as Symes BHM, and she puts so much effort into every single event, including tonight’s wonderful dinner. And of course Mrs Phillips, for all the support she gives to the boarding community in addition to all her headmistress’s duties.  

There is also all the cleaners, and estates team to thank who are always on hand if something goes a bit funny in the Six.  As you can see, there are an awful lot of people who are involved in making boarding tick, and they do it so incredibly well. I think they definitely deserve a round of applause as thanks. 

A special thank you must go as well to Sister Green and her team, for all the work they put in, working at all hours of the day, always being there when you need them, and always so friendly and kind, too. You might not know this, but Sister Green did an incredible amount of work while the school was running in the Covid era to keep everything running and looking after everybody, and we really couldn’t have done it without her, so let’s give her a really big round of applause.  

Of course, it wouldn’t be a dinner without food, and a huge thank you must go to the kitchen staff for all the work they put into preparing this excellent meal, and also the waitresses from Keller who served us.  

Another thank-you tonight goes to everyone who performed, and to Mrs Knight for organising all the entertainment and accompanying our performers.  

And a final thanks to all of you, our parents, for coming and making this event so lovely, but also for sending your children here!  We wouldn’t have a boarding community at all without them. And thank you for all your cooperation with sorting out travel plans and generally being lovely.  

Recording of last year's Head Boarder's Speech