Our pupils, staff and alumni have been outstanding in their charitable initiatives this year. During lockdown they have volunteered, sung, run, climbed, walked and cycled vast distances for charities, designed cards, worked in testing labs, made PPE, published a children’s book and much more besides. Earlier in the year, pupils supported a danceathon in aid of Hurricane Dorian relief, contributed to a copper trail for the Australian bushfires, gave generously to the Harvest Festival foodbank, gathered books to found a library in a Nairobi slum and, along with their teachers, helped numerous other causes. Nobody chose to move our tribe online in March, but how well pupils and staff have negotiated this. It has not been without difficulties of course, but the resilience shown by so many will stand them in good stead for the future. By the same token, the dividends of greater digital fluency and the independence that online education have mandated are significant. LQ – the ability to learn – will be essential for this generation so greater ‘agency’, or ownership of their own learning, is a real investment for their future.
We know that the Upper Sixth and Fifth Form would have acquitted themselves really well in their exams, as these are two able cohorts who will now gain strong grades in a different way. Deprived of that opportunity to prove themselves in the exam room, many have launched themselves impressively into different opportunities this term. Several of our leavers have shown this to great effect by launching themselves towards the world of work and university. Ollie’s engineering, Molly’s creative writing, Jack’s golf, Liv’s social media work, and Tom’s music, for example, have all opened up career opportunities, whilst a huge array of courses have been completed by their peers, including Languages, Coding, Psychology, Accounting, Excel, Biochemistry, Wellbeing, Interview Skills and more.
The historian, Yuval Noah Harari wrote that ‘If somebody describes to you the world of the mid-21st century and it sounds like science fiction, it is probably false. But then if somebody describes to you the world of the mid 21st-century and it doesn’t sound like science fiction – it is certainly false’. On the threshold of this changing world young people need versatility more than ever. So do adults. How much I admire the teachers who have become learners again this term. Their learning has undoubtedly enhanced their teaching, for, as Thomas Arnold suggested, ‘he is the best teacher of others who is the best taught himself.’ Having suggested a year ago that there is no app for great pedagogy, I have witnessed during lockdown that pupils value the interaction of live teaching very highly. This is not just habit; it reflects the skills of outstanding professionals who have rapidly mastered a different approach to motivating pupils, and new models of engagement and assessment.