Steyning Grammar School Sixth Form's "Reflections Assembly"

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending Steyning Grammar School Sixth Form's "Reflections Assembly". The aim was to celebrate the pupils' achievements and to encourage them ahead of their exams.

I was asked to say a few "motivational" words. In fact, I found myself inspired by the sixth formers' enthusiasm and achievements - from the £7,000 raised for Save the Children, to talented musical performances, to a brilliant cricketing victory against MCC, to the finale of a terrific but absolutely deafening performance of the school Samba Band.

As one pupil remarked to me, so much publicity is given to problems associated with youth, such as the ongoing issue of antisocial behaviour, or a new report highlighting the problem of truancy, that all too often young people are unfairly stereotyped.

Their contribution can be undervalued or unseen. Another report this week highlighted the growing plight of 175,000 young carers in the UK. It is sobering that an estimated 1,570 children and young people in West Sussex help to care for a relative with a long term illness or disability.

So what advice could I give the school leavers? I had two key messages. The first probably wasn't terribly welcome - work hard. Success usually doesn't come without it. I didn't take this advice when I was at university - and I wish that I had.

But the second was to think about what success in life means. Einstein counselled: "Try not to be a man of success, but a man of value". I recounted that many of the most content of my generation were those who chose a vocation rather than the pervasive lure of material wealth.

I'm not sure how my talk went down. But the morning was certainly a reminder to me both of the value of good schools and the hope which a new generation brings.

Michelle Taylor