As the Summer Term and academic year 2020-2021 draws to a close, we reflect on a remarkable year. With the return to school in the Spring Term, and moments that have felt ‘almost normal’, there is a strong sense that life is beginning to feel happier. Whilst we reflect on the end of term, we also look forward with optimism to the start of the new academic year in September when we will see the return of the much-loved and missed house system, among other precious elements that make St John’s a special place to be.

When the sun finally made a bright and albeit brief appearance this term, the School community breathed a collective sigh of relief and contentment as we began to hear laughter and enjoyment throughout the site again. Pupils were able to relish in fun moments together within their bubbles, with barbecue lunches, glorious sports fixtures, and an exciting range of events for all year groups.

Upper Fifth enjoyed a fun-filled couple of days preparing for life in Sixth Form and experiencing A level taster sessions. Alongside welcoming and getting to know our new pupils who will join in September, they enjoyed a tasty BBQ in the sunshine. The highlight was seeing the joy and laughter as pupils took part in team challenges on the thrilling assault course, group dance and rounders!

Upper Sixth celebrated a fantastic final two days at St John’s preparing for life after Sixth Form: from cooking lessons with our wonderful catering team; first aid and CPR; money management; careers and renting advice; to fun on the assault course and playing croquet on The Quad!

It was wonderful to hear the laughter and excitement during both the Lower Third and Fourth Form Familiarisation days, which took place in the final week of term. Ahead of September, pupils were welcomed safely into school and alongside the excitement of activities and sports, it was a great opportunity for pupils to start making new friends, get to know their tutor and ask questions before September.

Across the term, alongside our Sports Department we were thrilled to see the return of sporting fixtures, albeit mostly without spectators! With over 250 fixtures taking place, we were delighted to see more than 85% of our pupils taking part, including our departing Upper Sixth pupils embracing their final chance to represent their respective teams. Furthermore, we were pleased to welcome the OJ Cricket team back to St John’s for their annual fixture OJCC v 1st X1.

The Performing Arts Department have been as busy as ever, bringing richness and excitement to St John’s in the most challenging of times – keeping the performing arts alive! With regular recitals, spell-binding concerts, virtual weekly congers, the Lower School Play, and the unforgettable musical Miss Saigon, which saw 1,600 viewings across four nights.

‘Huge congratulations to everybody concerned with this vibrant, captivating and poignant production of Miss Saigon. Amazingly achieved despite all the challenges of the last eighteen months, it is inspirational to those of us who are still waiting to be able to perform again.’ – Audience Member

Even though house life has been different this year due to year group bubbles, the sense of belonging they provide and the opportunities for competitions – from water polo and filmmaking to singing and virtual pancake races – remained.  The culmination of the variety of competitions, saw the 2020-21 House Shield won proudly by Gloucester House.

In the final week of term, pupils were able to enjoy two fantastic Enrichment Days!

Lower School pupils enjoy a day of fun at Chessington World of Adventures, followed by a day of activities based on their theme park experiences, including learning about motion, friction and G force by exploring roller coaster design, creating adverts for their own theme park and creating water rockets!

Fourth Form spent time learning about the variety of inspiring A level subjects they can look to enjoy in years to come such as psychology and business, and on the second day enjoyed a thrilling time at Thorpe Park! Whilst Lower Fifth pupils went on their first CCF overnight camping adventure, Upper Fifth were also away from St John’s, completing their Silver Duke of Edinburgh expedition!

Lower Sixth pupils spent time learning about their future options and developing their UCAS applications.

On Friday 2 July, the School year ended in real style at our first whole-school Sports Day. The competitive spirit was brilliant, and the cheering could be heard throughout the David Weir Centre.  In a year where carefree fun, and opportunities to be together as a whole community have been in short supply, it was incredible to see such fun and enjoyment being had by both pupils and staff. With races for all abilities, from the egg and spoon race to the 1500m, the supportive atmosphere was a delight to behold – especially in the final two races of the day, which saw staff members race in a brilliant medley relay against pupils! Our thanks go to everyone who made the day such a success and special thanks to the Old Johnians and the SJPA for sponsoring this event. The SJPA provided an ice cream van, was a real treat!

‘What a really fantastic way to end the school year – huge thanks for the massive amount of organisation that will have gone into this!’ – Parent

Whilst we hoped to have invited parents to celebrate the multitude of pupil successes achieved this year, the easing of restrictions delay meant that our plans were thwarted, and therefore prize giving took place in bubble formats over the final weeks of term. Upper Sixth leavers enjoyed their leavers dinner on Saturday 3 July, and it was specially adapted to feature the exciting Euros 2020 England fixture!

Rowena Cole, The Head commented: ‘At the beginning of the year, I said that I did not want the 2020-21 academic year to be defined by the pandemic. While we cannot gloss over the impact of lockdowns, social distancing, bubbles and face coverings, I wanted the year to be about so much more and, thanks to the efforts of our staff and the wonderful attitude of our pupils, I believe we have achieved that.’

We wish you all a wonderful summer and look forward with excitement to the 2021-22 academic year.