Dan Jarvis Gives Key Note Speech at the Barnsley College Excellence Awards

On Thursday evening, Barnsley College held its annual Excellence Awards evening, celebrating the achievements of students and staff over the academic year. A transcript of Dan's speech follows:

Tonight is about celebration.

Celebrating the hard work and achievements of the students at Barnsley College.

I feel privileged to have the opportunity to be with you this evening at your 2012 Excellence Awards and I am delighted to see so many young people here to celebrate with their peers, or to pick up an award themselves.

I am also particularly enthused that despite the semi final of the Euros, we have packed the Metrodome in celebration of our young people’s success – a clear sign that in Barnsley, we get our priorities right – although maybe it’s just because England have been knocked out!

England knocked out on penalties – who’d have thought it?!

“Together We Achieve” – as you know – this is the motto for our fantastic College here in Barnsley and it sums up very neatly what tonight is all about.

We’re all here because of this motto and what it means in practice – the parents, the teachers in schools across Barnsley, the dinner ladies, the administrative support, the facilities staff, the career advisors and of course, the fantastic lecturers and the governors at Barnsley College.

It’s invidious to pick out individuals – but I’m going to do it anyway!

I believe the trio of Frank Johnston as Chair of Governors,Colin Booth as College Principal and Phil Cook as Deputy Principal all provide outstanding leadership and have contributed a huge amount Not just to the College, but to our town.

So tonight’s success belongs to every one of you.

And it is evidence of the support, encouragement and hard work given by people across Barnsley.

But, the most important people here tonight are our young people – and my words tonight are for you.

We can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it would have mattered unless you showed up to those schools and college; paid attention to those teachers; listened to your parents – well, some of the time! - and put in the hard work which has put you in the position you are in today.

Tonight is NOT about politics but I wanted to reflect just for a moment on one of the Government’s favourite adages –
that we are in an “Age of Austerity”.

Looking around – and remembering some of the winners from a year ago, students such as Ben Mason and Cara Stacey,

I am reminded that this may be the Government’s “Age of Austerity”, but for us in Barnsley, it is the Age of Achievement - it’s the Age of Aspiration for our young people.

When I was 8, I wanted to be an astronaut – you can see how that turned out!

But a few years ago – quite a few years ago(!) – I was in your place; I’d worked hard, enjoyed my time at school and college, and was looking for the next step to take.

And once I’d reached 18, I had a much clearer idea – I knew with a clarity and a forethought that I wanted to serve our country and to join the Army.

I was lucky in that respect but if I could give some advice to an 18 year old Dan Jarvis – and be brutally honest and frank – I would sit him down, and would begin not by asking what career he wants, or what job he wants, but rather; what does he really want from his life?

Maybe I would have answered with; a nice house, a family, building a business, working for a charity, looking after my parents, travel and seeing the world, having a smart car... going on a date with Kylie ...! Definitely going on a date with Kylie...

I would tell him – and I tell you - that these should be his reasons for working hard and achieving; because it is not just about the 9-5,
it is about your ambitions for your life.

And it’s about having the courage and the commitment to fulfil those ambitions.

Many of you will not yet know what you want to do, in fact I expect the majority of you won’t,because in today’s world you have more choice, more opportunity, and more options to take.

Looking around me, this celebration isn’t just about the future business leaders, the future head teachers, the future managers, the future creative thinkers and the future entrepreneurs, the future astronauts... !

Instead it’s a celebration of everything you have learnt – that you’ve achieved and a celebration that from our Town, you have harnessed the opportunities the world today offers.

It is a celebration of the choices you have and you will create.

I know from my current job, that Britain still leads the world in opportunities – from the health service, the leisure industry, to highly skilled manufacturing, to business, to our creative industries – film, music, art and design.

Revolutions in technology and communication are creating an entire economy of high tech, high wage jobs.

And I can see that the College is embracing these changes, making the most of the latest developments in Information Technology.

I also know that if you are a young person sat in the audience tonight and you do not feel that you have achieved your potential,
there are still numerous routes to take:

A different course at college, an apprenticeship, a training course, a new job to learn new skills.

No young person sat here tonight is without:

Opportunity and

And if you are one of those people who is sat here tonight, thinking maybe they could have done better, maybe they’re on the wrong track, then don’t just sit on your hands

Do something about it – talk it through with somebody you trust and come up with a Plan B.

But, it isn’t just about the new opportunities in this new world, it’s also about the opportunities that present themselves from values we learn from a young age, here in Barnsley.

I learnt those values too.

Like many of you, I worked hard at school, and later – at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst - very hard(!).

I tried to learn something new every day, my family, friends and teachers were behind me and I never wanted to let down my fellow soldiers that I had the privilege to serve and to lead.

And I know from my previous job that those lessons I learnt such as the importance of:

Commitment and
Hard work

will be the same principles and values that you have also acquired and applied yourself to.

These are values that you will always be able to fall back on over your lifetime.

For me, those were lessons that were sometimes learnt the hard way.

As a soldier – I’ve experienced some tough times

Some truly black moments

In war: scared,

Under extreme pressure – split second life and death decisions …..

Why? Not for medals or for glory, but because I believed it to be right.

Because I believed it to be right.

And if you take just one thing away from what I’ve said tonight then it is simply this:

Always do what you know to be right.

But of course you also have the benefit – the honour – of coming from Barnsley!

Our Town is a place with a great history of achievement and has enormous potential, with its future in the hands of the achievers of tomorrow – You.

We are fortunate to have an enormous reservoir of talent, and have seen many success stories come from here –

  • Broadcasting legend – Michael Parkinson;
  • Best selling novelist – Milly Johnson;
  • World renowned artist – Ashley Jackson;
  • The former Barnsley FC goalkeeper and now England footballing coach – Dave Watson
  • Footballing legend Mick MacCarthy
  • Hugely talented award winning actress, Katherine Kelly.


  • the Amazing singer – Kate Rusby.
  • And of course not to forget – our own umpiring legend – here with us tonight – Dickie Bird.

We have also had the benefit of the biggest school building programme in Europe and brand new, state of the art college facilities.

This gives all our young people a good start and whilst there are challenges to face in education here, I know an enormous amount of work is being done to make sure that our young people have the best life chances possible, starting with the best education they could receive.

When I was elected to Parliament, I made it my mission to change some of the preconceptions that I heard from people when I mentioned Barnsley.

This was one of the reasons behind the Proud of Barnsley initiative.

Because I want everyone in our town to be able to say they are - Proud to be of Barnsley and in Barnsley.

And I want people to know – what we know, that Big ideas DO come from Barnsley

So when you go home tonight, whatever you decide to do, whether it’s working here, or working elsewhere; always make sure you remember the values you’ve learnt – they are exceptional, and must be cherished.

In conclusion, I wanted to mention one of Barnsley College’s former students; the award winning actor Shaun Dooley.

Shaun recently starred in the BBC TV Adaptation of Charles Dickens’s – “Great Expectations”.

Some of you will have read the book and will know, that Dickens tells the story of an orphan boy named Pip.

Some of the major themes of Great Expectations are crime, social standing, tradition and ambition – But I also believe it talks to us about hope.

In this country it is education that allows our young people to hope for something extraordinary.

And as the twenty-first century unfolds, we need to make real this hope – to meet the new challenges of a global economy, carrying forth the ideas of progress, aspiration and opportunity.

Looking back on my own life and experiences to date; I have experienced personal triumph and personal tragedy – success and failure
highs and lows.

And you will as well.

But by facing these challenges with belief in yourself, your talent and the right values – by doing what you know to be right; you can become whatever you want to be.

You can become whatever you want to be.

As Charles Dickens wrote in Great Expectations;

“So, I must be taken as I have been made.
The success is not mine, the failure is not mine,
but the two together make me.”

So I say to you tonight:

Believe in yourselves.

Embrace the future.

A future – there – for you to shape.

You’re the future of our Town and I really hope you make the most of it.

Congratulations on all you’ve achieved to date – we’re very Proud of you.

- enjoy the rest of the evening.

To keep up to date with my work, sign up here.


Sign up for updates from Dan Jarvis