Sir Simon McDonald visits St. Mary's
This afternoon, we welcomed a very special visitor to St. Mary's. Our most famous former pupil, Sir Simon McDonald. Sir Simon is the Permanent Under Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service.
Sir Simon started the afternoon by introducing himself, telling us a little bit about his work and also about his life at St Mary's. He used to attend school at St. Mary's during the late 1960's and early 1970's, when Mr Woolf was the Head Teacher. Sir Simon enjoyed his time as a pupil at our school, and his future achievements were built on the foundations of the education he received here.
Mrs Raynor shared our five core values with Sir Simon, whilst Sir Simon told us that the most important thing that we can all do is to work hard to achieve and inspire others. Any of us could be the next Prime Minister, or could be the person who discovers the cure for cancer, or could find a way for us to travel further into space than we have ever gone before. We all have to work hard, take in as much information as we can whilst we are at school and aim high, and anything is possible.
Next, Archie from Year 6 explained how our School Council works. He explained:
"Our School Council is based on a democracy for all the children in our school, where everyone has the chance to have their say. We believe that everyone has a right to have their own ideas, be listened to and be respected for what they think. Our democracy begins in classrooms, where we have Class Meetings led by our School Council Representatives. They gather together our ideas about what we think can be improved, and take these to the School Council Meeting.
"At the full meeting, all the Councillors share their ideas with one another and Mr Johnson. Recently, our School Council asked for tropical fish as a pet and for better dictionaries and thesauruses to help our work in English."
Our School Councillors then got to ask Sir Simon some questions about his life and work, followed by more questions from the rest of the school. We learned that:
- His favourite subject at school was History. After leaving St Mary's, he went to De La Salle College in Salford and then on to Cambridge University.
- He wanted to be a pilot when he was at St. Mary's, because he wanted to see the world. However, when he was at De La Salle he read a leaflet about working in the Foreign Office, and realised that he could do a job in one destination for three years before moving somewhere different in the world and doing another job for three years, and so on. This really appealed to him.
- He started work in the Foreign Office in 1982 when he was 21. He had to do three different sets of tests before he got the job! He spent the next 37 years working hard and has been in his current position since 2015.
- He loves his job even though it is difficult, because when he does it well he is able to help a lot of people.
- Sir Simon meets Her Majesty the Queen once a week when he takes new foreign diplomats to see her at Buckingham Palace.
- He works closely with our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and his Foreign Office base is on the opposite side of Downing Street to Number 10.
- He has met lots of famous people, including the Pope!
- Sir Simon was one of five children, who also came to St Mary's. He now has four children of his own, who are all grown up. He also has a famous pet cat called Palmerston, who has a Twitter account and 93,000 followers!
We all had a great time meeting Sir Simon, and we are honoured that he came home to visit us and we are so proud of him and everything he has achieved. Thank you Sir Simon - you are an inspiration to us all!