24th November 2021 — Lord Patten attends the Academic Scholars’ Evening at St Benedict’s each year. He is Chancellor of Oxford University, a crossbench member of the House of Lords, the last British Governor of Hong Kong and a Conservative politician until 2011.
Lord Patten said he was delighted that St Benedict’s enjoys a “well-deserved reputation for academic excellence” and that, in addition to giving young people the opportunity to pursue and develop their interests and talents, it also continues to provide a moral education, helping them to be good people who contribute to society: “We are going to need a generation of well-educated, morally sensitive, determined young people”, he said, to address the many difficult challenges we all face.
Lord Patten spoke about the considerable and lasting influence teachers can have on their students, and the vital role they play in an individual’s formation. He recalled his grandparents, who had been teachers in the most deprived areas of Manchester, striving to change children’s lives and prospects for the better. He also contrasted his St Benedict’s History teacher – a Christian socialist - with the Marxist atheist historian Christopher Hill, who interviewed, and later taught him at Oxford, adding that, while Christopher Hill had been an outstanding historian and teacher, “He didn’t make me a Marxist atheist." Referring to the current debate around free speech on university campuses, Lord Patten said that it was "important to appreciate the difference between an argument and a quarrel."
Three of this year’s five Patten scholars also spoke, thanking Lord Patten for his generous support and interest in their academic interests. They each described how St Benedict’s had encouraged them to read widely, to be intellectually curious and open to learning about a wide range of subjects, praising St Benedict’s varied programme of talks and the many additional opportunities for debate and academic exploration.
This year’s award for the most successful scholar went to Niall Wynne, who intends to read Physics at university next year and has been researching Airborne Wind Energy, working alongside a consultancy that focuses on sustainable projects and environmental strategies. Niall said: “What does it mean to be a scholar? Many people would say it is to be hard working and intelligent, but I think what is most important is curiosity; the willingness to explore something with no goal other than the pursuit of knowledge.”
Finally, the Headmaster, Andrew Johnson, introduced the new Lower 6th academic scholars to Lord Patten, who congratulated them all on their academic success.