STUDENTS have been urged to ‘say yes’ to opportunity as they strive to achieve contentment in life.

Former Barnard Castle School boy Dylan Emery shared his route to success as a financial journalist and improvised theatre company director with students, families and friends at the annual speech day and prizegiving.

He told them: “Barney changed how I approached life. I loved drama and my teacher pushed us into improvised theatre games, which were scary, hilarious and exhilarating. It was absolutely brilliant.

“Fourteen years later I was working in London as a journalist but was unhappy. A friend suggested becoming involved with improvised theatre, which was scary, hilarious and exhilarating – and, just like Barney, was absolutely brilliant.”

He said he ended up working on a show at the Globe Theatre with celebrated writer, actor, director and comedian Ken Campbell, which he then took to the Edinburgh Festival. “Guess what? It was scary, hilarious and exhilarating – and brilliant, oh, and a sell out,” he said.

“So find out what you are passionate about and consider whether your chosen career will allow you to be happy.

“Just saying yes to the next thing, then seeing where it goes, has worked for me. But I wouldn’t have said yes to anything without Barney.”

Headmaster Tony Jackson said that students’ wellbeing was something the school took exceptionally seriously.

“Wellbeing is about happiness and we do a great deal to ensure we enjoy laughter as part of our daily diet,” he said. “It fills a great part of my day. Happy children and adults flourish. Our purpose is to ensure that those who spend time with us have good emotional health.

“I have never worked in such a happy community and we will continue to ensure that we can do all we can to support children and the wider community to achieve contentment.

“We need to prepare children for the lives they will live beyond these shores and our aim is to arm them with the tools they will need to clear the path ahead, not to clear it for them.

“We must allow them to try and fail in a safe environment because this is part of the normal learning curve. This will allow them to deal with success and disappointment, teaching them values which will help them achieve resilience and contentment.”

Mr Jackson said the school could not and would not be allowed to stand still and would continue to strive to be the best in the North.

Chairman of governors Peter Mothersill outlined the school’s 20 year development plan. “We are looking to the future with a host of new and exciting ventures. Now is the time to plan and develop and to move forward towards the upturn that will surely come along.”

Mr Emery presented students with a host of awards for academic studies, sport, drama, music endeavour and citizenship. The coveted Thompson-Richardson Prize and Barnard Castle School Shield went to Kira Meikle, 17, of Wolsingham.

“It was a massive shock when they announced my name and it is such a privilege to be so well thought of,” said Kira, who hopes to read management and marketing at Bath University. “Being at Barney has been amazing.”