On Monday evening, we were treated to an uplifting and also very humorous talk by one of the first female RAF fighter pilots in the UK, Flight Lt Mandy Hickson. Mandy, or “Big Bird” as she was rather unflatteringly known for the duration of her seventeen year flying career, thrilled us with the amazing journey that led her through failing her RAF entry examinations (twice), gaining her flying wings after overcoming numerous obstacles and then, finally, achieving her dream of a flying career pursued at staggering heights, speeds and unimaginable G-force.

Her story was not one of following an easy path to success in her pursuit of what many of us would perceive to be a “Top Gun” job; instead her story was one of an ordinary young girl who had a dream and who had the courage, strength of conviction and resilience to keep striving to succeed, in spite of the barriers that lay in her path. Grit and courage in the face of adversity, in whatever form this takes in our daily lives, are attributes that we, at Taunton School, strive to foster in all of our students. We are clearly not all cut out to be fast jet Tornado pilots flying at mind-blowing speeds in excess of 700 mph, but Mandy’s inspiring message was a simple one: if you do have a dream, then hold on to it and be prepared to work hard, think outside the box and, above all, be prepared to face the prospect of failure in pursuit of your ambitions.

Mandy’s humour, energy and engaging style captivated many of the students in the audience. The queue of students who stayed behind at the end to ask questions and to thank her personally for her talk was a testament to how well received her message was. I think we can all of us take away much from her final message: “Dream it, believe it, do it”.

Val Burnett
Head of Academic Enrichment