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Presentation to students of Clyst Vale Community College for achievements in year 11

Friday, 12 January 2018 0 Comments by Claire

I meant to post this ages ago, so here it is.

I was honoured to give a speech at Clyst Vale Community College in November, to around 100 students, their families and teachers - and then present lots of awards to those who had gone above and beyond what was required.

Headteacher, Kevin Bawn invited me to the evening as I was a former pupil. Clyst Vale was my old school and it was the first time I had been back in the hall since I was about 17!  It was a great fun evening.

Here’s my speech…..

Great honour to be asked to give a speech to you this evening. Lovely to be back at my old school!

Firstly and importantly, I can confirm that this hall still smells the same as it did in 1992!

I was shown around yesterday by Mr Bawn. It was really strange! It has changed a lot but the overriding memories were the ones that left an emotional mark. Like when I was bawled out for eating an apple in a science lab, being sent to the Giraffe House (when the windows were all transparent) for eating that same apple… shivering and clutching the heaters in the temporary wooden classrooms ... and looking out onto the still amazing school field and remembering many summers of sitting with friends, playing rounders, hockey, athletics.  Watching the boys play football!

Walking into the main school yard and remembering the tennis games in the summer when the nets were up.

The canteen seems so much smaller these days, although Mr Bawn assures me it hasn’t shrunk!

I am happy that Clyst Vale has retained its best features, while adding some really impressive new ones such as the sixth form centre and the new…

I think if I was told 25 years ago I would be standing here giving a speech following two bids for parliament as an Independent candidate, I would have been utterly stunned.

Many people have told me that I must be tough and they couldn’t do what I do. 

But I am determined. I am feisty. And I loathe injustice. 

Greed and callousness, which is almost always at the expense of people or the environment I believe, is the scourge of our society and it is this more often than not that motivates me to act.

When Mr Bawn asked me to speak this evening I felt obliged to confess that I hadn’t been a model student.  I think he thought I meant I was a bit of a tearaway.

But actually I just didn’t really speak! And didn’t do very well in my GCSEs.

I was really lacking in confidence and didn’t believe in myself. At all.

Walking around the school yesterday made me remember the times I turned up with sheaves of petitions….

I wrote my first campaign letter when I was ten about the killing of dolphins. But it was a talk in English I did when I was 15 about vivisection that I was pleased to see shocked my fellow students, that helped propel me forward in my campaigning.

I left school after re-sitting some of my GCSEs, did a secretarial course and worked for an insurance company, before moving to the Express & Echo working in events, until I started working for the NHS where I was supported and funded through the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Diploma. I spent around nine years in NHS public relations and it was during this time that I really started to get interested in politics. As the NHS is heavily politicised.

A few war wounds and valuable learning experiences later, I was a more confident and self assured campaigner, attempting to prevent a Tesco store from opening on the edge of Ottery, saving a local maternity unit ... and leading a group to create West Hill’s first play park… that I realised that if I really wanted a voice I was going to have to join the world of politics. 

So I was co-opted onto Ottery Town Council in 2009, elected to EDDC as an Independent in 2011, Devon County Council in 2013 and then ran for the East Devon parliamentary seat (also as an Independent) for the first time in 2015, gaining over 13,000 votes. In June I ran again and achieved over 21,000 votes.  I was also re-elected to DCC.

When Mr Bawn asked me to speak this evening I found myself thinking that if I was my angst ridden 16 year old self what I would have found helpful to hear.

So here’s what I would tell my younger self:
- Firstly. Learn to love yourself. Not in a narcissistic way, but so that you have self-esteem and self-respect.

- Be grateful for what is good in your life. People who are grateful are happier

- Here’s one for the parents! Value them! They won’t always be around…

- When choosing a career, consider what you most care about. Do something that lights you up. It’s not good for your soul to pursue a big salary at the cost of everything else.  A friend of mine had an extremely well paid job with a big multi-national but he left earlier this year because the company’s values didn’t align with his own. It made him depressed. He is now training to be a teacher!

- You will spend a lot of your life at work, it matters that you enjoy it

- Write a list of the things that make you happy and do them. A lot. It will help you cope with life’s ups and downs.

- Be determined. It’s easier sometimes, especially when lacking in confidence or feeling low, to give up. But as Thomas Edison said: Success is 99 per cent perspiration and one per cent inspiration.  I have found that the harder I have worked and the more ideas I have pursued, the more doors have opened for me.  Opportunities become available to you.

- Look after your health. The way you live in your twenties and thirties will have an impact on how healthy you are later in life. And how quickly you age! It’s not all about avoiding the sun! Eat properly, get enough sleep and make sure you exercise regularly.

- Trust your gut instinct

- Finally, be true to yourself. Have integrity. Be assertive. Be kind


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