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Running your own race - advice for starting Year 7

Just a week into the new school year and already the summer seems like a distant memory. Every year on the day before the start of term we welcome our new Year 7 cohort and give them a chance to familiarise themselves with the site, spend some time with their tutors and generally get themselves ready for the move to secondary school and its accompanying challenges.

The day begins in the physical heart of the school, the chapel, a space grounded in the values and tradition of Warwick School. There it is my privilege to welcome them and pass on some tips to help ensure that they make the most of their opportunity, tips which are equally applicable to the entire pupil body.

1. Try your best.

It is all anyone can ever ask of you and all anyone wants from you. Your best. Not your friend’s. Not your brother who left school three years ago with top grades in everything and played for the first XV - Yours. Run your own race and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. It’s sometimes hard not to compare yourself to others. When your friends are getting work back and talking about the mark they got, remember - your future is not about them, it’s about you, doing your best, and being the best version of yourself. If you do, you will leave here free from regret.

2. Make the most of the opportunities.

The next year will offer you a huge number of opportunities both inside and outside the classroom. You are incredibly lucky to have these opportunities, don’t waste them and don’t turn down something interesting because your friends aren’t doing it, or it isn’t “cool”.

3. Don’t be afraid.

To try new things, to step outside our comfort zone, to answer questions and get things wrong. If we only attempt things we can already do, or answer questions whose answers we already know, then we aren’t learning or progressing. Perfection is not possible. You aren’t going to get every question correct, make every tackle, or hit every note. Mistakes are part of learning. If something goes wrong even though you’ve done your best, that’s fine, look at what went wrong, think about why, and consider how you can make sure you learn from the experience so that you do it better next time. Practice doesn’t make perfect but purposeful practice makes progress.

4. Get organised.

They’ll be homework, deadlines, coursework, assessments, exams as well as everything else that come with being a young person and enjoying your life. Having your time planned is important, so that you can make sure that everything gets done and you do yourself justice as well as giving yourself time to enjoy the things you like to do outside school.

5. Look after yourself.

The most important thing about you is your physical and mental health. If you’re struggling tell someone! If you’re not well, tell someone! If it’s getting you down tell someone! Only by talking can anyone help you, so don’t soldier on letting it get worse. Talk to someone who you trust and start to make things better.

6. Enjoy it.

Make sure that you take time to enjoy what you are doing in the moment. It is good to have goals but do not focus on the destination to the expense of enjoying the journey. In a recent interview two-time Formula One world champion and winner of the Le Man 24-hour race, Fernando Alonso was asked what he would change about his career. His reply wasn’t narrowly missing out on the world championship as a Ferrari driver or failing to win the Indy 500 and become only the second driver in history to win the elusive Triple Crown of Motor Sport, it was that he’d enjoyed it more.

Yesterday, one week later, I joined Year 7 on the annual bonding trip at Oaker Wood. For some of them it was the first time they had been away from home, and it was fantastic to see them acting, on at least some of my advice. To see them broadening their horizons beyond the classroom exhibiting and developing the school values of courage, creativity, curiosity, humility, perseverance and responsibility. Building new friendships and starting to make the memories that are such an important part of their school experience. I look forward to seeing them grow and celebrating their successes over the next seven years.