Good Morning, and welcome to Speech Day 2023.
In a few moments, I will introduce our Chief Guest Mr Rohit Thakur, Old Cottonian,
Lefroy and the Education Minister for Himachal Pradesh – how amazing.
I will then invite the School Captain to say a few words
Our school mission statement reads:
‘Bishop Cotton School strives to achieve and maintain the highest
standard of excellence in its programme of total education
empowering men rooted in India’s heritage to live as committed
and good human beings contributing positively to the country’
Three years ago, we developed a BCS learner profile that
articulates the qualities we think each boy needs to achieve this
To be principled
To be connected
To be resilient
To be motivated
To be curious
To be reflective
To be creative
The most important quality anyone can have is to be principled. To
have a moral compass and to do the right thing – even when no
one is looking and everyone is doubting you.
All of the other qualities are important – but every school has
produced people who are clever, but unprincipled and self-serving,
and the world is a less good place as a result.
We have had another extremely busy year for our whole school
community, and when I say busy I mean busy.
Once again, we have run a full programme of sports under the guidance
of Mr Gurprit Singh. At least 17 sports are available at BCS and most
boys try most of them each year.
In 2023, a key aim for our cricket squad was to win the Goldstein trophy
after a gap of ten years. Lokpal Thakur, our head cricket coach
approached the pre-season in determined fashion, but victory in the
tournament looked a daunting task as we faced various teams of the
quality of Sanawar, Pinegrove, Vasant Valley, La Martiniere Lucknow
and YPS Patiala. In each of those sides were individual outstanding
players, but life at BCS promotes resilience and BCS were a team
captained by Daksh Singhmar who insisted on playing despite his
broken toe. Who was I to argue with destiny? As with the best teams,
our boys found a way through to the final against YPS and in the final
itself the boys chased down a huge total thanks to a monumental team
performance and an amazing knock by Kabir Ghezta.
Victory in the Goldstein Tournament was matched by two football
tournament wins in our own George Cotton event in the August
monsoon rains and a couple of weeks later where we emerged
victorious at St Edwards in a thrilling final where we came from behind
with only minutes to go against the hosts despite missing some of our
best players. Congratulations to the boys and thank you to Gurprit and
Lokpal for your dedicated coaching.
The love of football at BCS was reinforced by a successful tour to
Singapore and Thailand where we received excellent hospitality from
amongst others Rugby School, Thailand in Pattaya and Wellington
College International Bangkok – rather rudely our A team won both
matches against these hosts with some wonderful play from Joshua in
particular. I will struggle to pronounce his surname, but as with the best
footballers to use only one name is the way forward.
Elsewhere Mr Deb has brought considerable expertise to our Basketball
training and our boys continue to have significant district, state and
national success particularly in shooting and badminton.
On Sports day our own rivalry – not Ronaldo and Messi but Khandalwel
and Mansukhani and it is only right that this year they share the Victor
Ludorum at Sports Day. These two fine sportsman will no doubt wish to
settle the score next year.
Sport at BCS will continue to improve – during the winter vacation we
will begin work on our new Astroturf pitch on the third flat which will allow
us to have an even multi-purpose pitch and will allow us to develop BCS
hockey. Next year we will start the new swimming pool – I promise.
This is just part of an ambitious upgrading facilities which will see
heating installed in the Remove building and a complete overhaul of the
boarding and washing facilities over the next six months.
Wall climbing and obstacles fall within our sports programme, but they
also contribute to our outward bound programme and they certainly
celebrate the rich outdoor opportunities of life in Himachal. The pinnacle
for Class XII boys (literally) is to take part in our mountaineering
expedition. This year Mentok Kangri proved to be a formidable
challenge and the boys had to negotiate a very tricky ice wall just below
the summit (this was at 20,000ft where the air is thin and danger is
everywhere) – of course they had the training and resilience to do so
and five of them, ably led by Amod Talwalkar managed to summit. In
the last 25 years, these expeditions have created a very exclusive club.
Its tough at the top but not crowded.
Another exclusive BCS club with sporting roots is the Spartan club
founded in the 1930s for boys of good character who were excellent at
sport and staff who were excellent at coaching it. I am pleased to
announce that Mr Gurprit Singh and four boys have been given this very
special award – Zorawar Singh Choudhury, Kabir Ghezta, Krish Garg
and of course Sports Captain Daksh Singhmar. I am also delighted to
say that honorary membership has been conferred on Mr Thakur and to
Vikramaditya Singh who are working so hard to make our State a better
place and to OC Anil Mehra who has made sure that BCS has the
resources to support its sport.
Tours and Treks
In April, it was decided that the theme for this year Tours and Treks
programme would be to celebrate the natural beauty of India. Every boy
went on a safari and different batches travelled across the country to see
the fauna and flora of this amazing country. India did not let us down –
we saw tigers, lions, rhinos, dolphins, elephants, and crocodiles. I saw a
river dolphin it was pink – no one believed me – it made my year. By
chance the PM had the same idea as we did – we must do everything
we can to protect these for future generations.
UK tour 2023
In June, a number of BCS boys found themselves in the Gryffindor
common room – when I ask any Cottonian to compare their house to
one at Hogwarts house – they always say Gryffindor. These boys also
saw Gringotts bank and every other Harry Potter set at the Warner
Brothers studios in London. The same boys also got to see the many
historic sights of London including the Tower of London, Ten Downing St, the Houses of Parliament and Lords Cricket Ground (where the
current World Champions England won the trophy). We were also
privileged to see a production of ‘A Comedy of Errors’ at Shakespeare’s Globe
Theatre on the South Bank of the River Thames and to go on the
London Eye. Perhaps more importantly, the group were able to interact
with students at Rugby School and Marlborough College where there
are boarding houses named after George Cotton and also with our
friends at Bristol Grammar School and Kingswood School, Bath. As part
of the exchange of culture the boys performed a series of traditional
dances which went down very well with our hosts. The next cultural tour
planned is the US trip next June – we are ready to go with this and
interested parents will be contacted about this today.
Whilst that cultural tour took place three Class XII boys visited Wrekin
College near Birmingham where former Headmaster Mr Drake had
worked before coming to BCS in 1946. Kabir Sharma attended Culford
School near Cambridge for a term by kind agreement with their
Headmaster. In April, we had previously welcomed five students from
Wrekin and are determined to extend our exchange opportunities next
Performing Arts 2023
The performing arts have enjoyed one of their best years with a fabulous
and closely fought contest in the House nights staged earlier in the year
and a joyous Junior/Middle showcase in the middle of the year. The
effort of the staff involved in supporting these events is amazing – very
few of them are trained in teaching dance, music or drama but they
clearly have a gift for it. In recent weeks, we have seen the ground
breaking joint production of Grease with Auckland House School. The
musical was a labour of love – particularly for the Headmaster, but
special mention must go to Reuben John, Chriselle Fernandes and
Indira Thakur (and many others) for turning a dream into reality. The
quality of the production was outstanding and I have never heard better
singing or seen better dancing in a school production.
The talent show at the end of the Slater Debates revealed the extent to
which BCS boys have gained confidence from performing over the last
few years and their joy in performance was shared by the audience. A
joy evident in our fabulous brass band which has been revitalized by Mr
Sharma in his short time at the school and which thoroughly impressed
the Chief Minister, Sukvinder Singh Sukho.
Another unforgettable event were the 26th Slater debates organized and
hosted by BCS last month. This was another summit – the summit of a
year where BCS teams trained hard to improve their debating and
elocution and travelled around India representing the school. The
quality of debating was excellent. Many congratulations to the winners –
Mallinson School, Srinagar. All credit must go to Mrs Rose Lal for
organizing such an inspiring event.
Academic results 2023
I have left Academics until last because they are the bottom line for most
people. Having said that a percentage score in Class X or Class XII is
not the be all and end all – none of the BCS billionaires were academic
In the future AI will diagnose illness, plot financial strategy and design
our buildings, but it won’t reassure the ill, win over new clients or
motivate the team.
Our academic programme this year has included over 20 guest
speakers who hopefully have lit fires rather than filled buckets.
Our first students have also started the Cambridge international course
as an alternative to the ICSE
All boys from Class IX to XII have all received significant university and
careers counselling. The Board examinees of 2023 had their own
unique set of circumstances Class XII boys didn’t take an exam in Class X – Covid robbed them of the experience. This made the Board examinations a challenging
experience for them, we were therefore delighted with the outcomes.
The topper was Naunidha Sawhney whose school resume of awards
and achievements runs to five pages. Naunidha topped with 98%, the
all-time school highest score. He is not here today because he is
studying Computing and software engineering at Purdue university in
Indiana, USA. The next four boys on the list all took sciences and the
top four all with 95%+ would have been placed first in most years. There
were 37 in the batch and 34 have begun university courses at excellent
universities across the world. 7 are in the US, 2 in the UK and I in
Canada. The rest are in India with six at Delhi University. We wish them
well Class X results were excellent. The average of 84.3% was the second
highest on record exclusive of the pandemic years. Nineteen boys scored 90% and above, and an additional eighteen boys scored +85- 89.99%.
Everyone in the batch of 67 boys passed.
Scholarships and Exhibitions
We are delighted that four of our best performing boys who scored over 90% have received awards
from the Anand Educational Foundation – set up by OC and Governor
Mr Deep C Anand. Viraaj and Vihaan Kakkar (no relation) both received
scholarships, Japmann Bhasin and Kirtimaan Khandelwel were awarded
exhibitions. Significant financial awards that will help the support them
during their last two years at BCS.
Our current Class XI is the largest in memory. These are young men I
have had the privilege of getting to know over the last four years. It is
therefore my privilege to announce the Prefectorial team for 2024 today.
Academics captain will be Aditya Raj Singh, Chapel Prefect will be
Laldinmowia, Bayliss Captain will be Srijit Halder, Sports Captain is
Sarthak Khandelwel. The House Captain of Curzon will be Vedant Patel
with Vikrant Lather as House Prefect. The House Captain of Ibbetson is
Japmann Bhasin with Vihaan Kakker as House prefect, The House
Captain of Rivaz is Vansh Rajta with Rajveer Bragta as House Prefect,
the House Captain of Lefroy is Manhar Arora with Kirtimaan Khandewel
as House Prefect. The School Vice Captain is Viraaj Kakker and the
School Captain is Mitansh Mishra. An exceptional group of young men
– there are many boys not on this list who in other years would have
held significant posts – that I am afraid is the result of a big and healthy
Sixth Form but all of those bother boys will have a chance to make their
mark. We wish them every success.
This morning, I am delighted we have welcomed Mr Rohit Thakur – an
old boy of this school. I cannot think of a more important role that
running the Education system. It is an awesome responsibility and we
look forward to hearing his thoughts about life at BCS.
First though – it is my pleasure to introduce Yatish Bansal – our School
Captain. Rather like our Mr Thakur, Yatish has the qualities of a
politician – emotionally intelligent and able to handle multiple
responsibilities and bring different types of people together. He has
developed into a real leader and a consummate manager – he was
crucial for the success of Grease and showed his bravery in the boxing
ring. He was the unanimous choice to be School Captain last year and
he has proved everyone right.
Thank you, Yatish and thank you to the prefects for their continued
support in the running of the school under the leadership of yourself and
our vice captain Krishiv Chhabra.
We should also take time today to thank our Governing body who have
been meeting regularly to ensure the continued stewardship of the
Thank you also to the teaching staff who have endured our experiments
of extending teaching and walking up and down the hill, tinkering with
the school day and have embraced technology
Thank you to the hostel staff and medical team – our primary care
Thank you to the admin staff, our new catering team led by OC Mr Anil
Walia and the ministerial staff who keep us functioning.
Simon D Weale, Director
Bishop Cotton School, Shimla