Prize Giving is an important opportunity to celebrate success and service to the school. It is also a time to reflect upon the outstanding events, activities, victories, trips and triumphs of the past year. Of course, we celebrate achievements each week in assembly. We reward children throughout the year for their efforts and successes. We take part in competitions in all areas of the curriculum to inspire hard work and reward success. We recognise the unique value of every individual, whoever they are and wherever they have come from. We seek to develop pupils’ gifts and potential to the full. Prize Givings are an extension of that.
So why do we have Prize Giving? Throughout our culture there is a strong tradition of handing out awards. We only have to think of prestigious prizes such as the Nobel Peace Prize, the Carnegie Medal, the Oscars, the Brits, the Booker Prize. All these famous awards encourage and recognise excellence in their field and inspire others to do well. Such prizes are not awarded randomly. In a public ceremonial occasion they are handed out but beforehand much reflection and measured thinking occurs before such selections are made.
Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland, “Everyone has won, and all must have prizes.” The Dodo bird, in this story, had decided to issue a competition because a number of characters became wet and needed to dry themselves so everyone was to run around the lake until they were dry. Nobody cared to measure how far each person had run, nor how long. In this case there was no purpose to the award and therefore it was unnecessary. There were no winners nor did there need to be.
But that is not the case in school. Awards are motivational; they encourage success, excellence, hard work, determination, resilience, perseverance. They show recognition for someone’s efforts and allow individuals to be appreciated. Furthermore, they foster a competitive spirit – an innate human need that results in personal bests, higher results and an intrinsic desire to strive for better.
This year’s school production ‘The Witches of Oz’ saw a superb showcasing of the children’s drama and music talents. Yet not every child was in the spotlight. This is precisely how I see prize giving. At some stage in our lives we all hope to be the one taking the lead role, singing the solo, coming top in the year, winning a competition or scoring the goal to make your team victorious. However, that isn’t always going to happen to everyone. Sometimes it seems really unfair that your best friend always seems to nail success and you don’t. Yet that doesn’t mean that you didn’t try your best or you didn’t succeed. Nor does it mean they are a better human being. Year 6 were clearly in the limelight this week with their amazing performances. They can be applauded for their success, singled out for their achievements and most importantly looked up to by the rest of the school. Yet does their success make them any better or worse than others? No of course not – it is simply their moment.
Moreover, as I watched the ‘Witches of Oz’ this week I was really impressed with ALL the children and, in particular, how they supported one another. If someone forgot a line momentarily, another would mouth the words to help them out. And such perfect behaviour is the magic of Heathcote – our children simply get what is means to be a team and to be supportive for the greater good. They don’t see the bad in each other, what someone didn’t do – they concentrate on the positive through help, guidance, support and a genuine desire to care.
So next Friday not every child will win a prize… but that doesn’t mean they are any less than any other. It means they will all be inspired to celebrate learning, encouraged to celebrate everyone’s achievements and to congratulate each other on being who they are.