Last year’s leavers returned to school to receive their awards before starting at universities. Courses they are taking range from Pharmacy, Medicine and Psychology to Geography, Chemical Engineering and Modern Languages.
The guest speaker was Portsmouth Police District Commander, Superintendent Maggie Blyth, who gave the audience an insightful look into the change in crime over the last decade, her career path and why it is never too late to make change happen.
‘Over the last decade in particular crime has changed significantly from the ‘stranger danger’ straplines of my childhood to threats to our personal space, linked to online and cyber-crime. We see an ever more sophisticated criminality at a time, as some of you will have heard in the media this week, when there is real evidence of reduced police numbers.
She continued with her reflections on leadership and learning:
‘Tonight’s thoughts reflect my career over the changing social, economic and political world of the last 30 years. They too centre on the changing face of crime. But most importantly they are my observations on what has equipped me successfully through my career to date. As a senior female leader, as a working mum and as a policing leader. Leading and learning goes hand in hand and so does the ability to make changes. Never feel you have to accept the status quo if things are not working.
‘I learned of the acronym VUCA — volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The term is used to describe the context in which we operate. While it can be applied to many situations, I’m sure many of my colleagues, those officers out tonight policing the city, would agree that it describes the extraordinary demands on those working across policing. The extraordinary acts by everyday heroes that happen on our streets every day in Portsmouth.
‘Over my career, I have learned the importance of remembering that it is also never too late to change direction. It’s never too late to make a change. The importance of a work and life balance has been central to the resilience I have had to find at times in my career. Sometimes digging quite deep but always finding it.
‘For me, as a young woman, very resolute and determined in my early youth, my purpose was to make a contribution to a more socially-just society; to make a difference. That is not everyone’s mission and you will all find your own. But it was important to me and set for me those early foundations of public service, doing my duty and making society a better place.
‘Change doesn’t happen alone. We need to co-operate, work as a team. Passing the baton means we co-operate, we trust and if we don’t drop the baton we make a difference.
‘It is never too late to make a change. And as young women; you can make the choices you want about careers, about children, about relationships. And when to make those choices. It’s never too late to make a change.’
Headmistress Mrs Jane Prescott, added in her address:
‘There is much still to be done to break through the glass ceiling – of the dancing duo it is said that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels. And whilst it should not be the case, it is still tough for ambitious women in certain fields of work. Coming to a school like Portsmouth High School, a single sex girls’ school, it is not always obvious to our pupils that inequality exists. I know that girls here develop the confidence to hold their own in whatever workplace their career takes them. Moreover, they have the voice to make themselves heard. A PHS girl will make her own mark in the world, in her own way, on her own terms. How do you recognise a PHS girl? You will note it in her success but you will see it in her spirit.’