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Farewell Summer Term 2020

As the end of this very strange term approached, it has been wonderful – after many weeks without the majority of our pupils and staff onsite – to welcome some pupils back to St John’s, just in time to say ‘goodbye’ as we head into the summer holiday.  

From mid-June, we were able to invite our Lower Fifth and Lower Sixth pupils back for some face-to-face teaching in line with government guidelines.  Thanks to careful planning, this has gone really well and both pupils and teachers have been thrilled to be back in school. While the current restrictions mean that we could not bring younger pupils into school for lessons, it is now possible to run sports clubs so we arranged Saturday sports sessions for our Lower Third, Upper Third and Fourth Form pupils on the final three Saturdays of term. 

Rowena Cole, The Head, explains: “I wanted to create an opportunity – if we could do so safely – for our pupils to be at school and reconnect with their peers before the holidays.  We are fortunate to have great outdoor space and could arrange small group activities, maintaining social distancing, thanks to the many staff who volunteered to run sessions. Throughout this term, we’ve delivered a full timetable of virtual teaching, and I’ve been impressed by how creatively our pupils and staff have kept the rich variety of school life alive online, but being back at the School site has a different impact on pupils. The feedback has been extremely positive – pupils, staff and parents were grateful to have this moment of ‘normality’ – and we look forward to the time that we can all be together as a school community again.”

Keeping pupils active, healthy and happy throughout the lockdown has been a major focus of the Sports Department. From weekly live workouts and a training programme for all abilities, to skills challenges set via social media, and an entertaining series of vodcasts, featuring interviews with school staff and international sportsmen/women, there has been plenty to keep pupils and staff connected.

While many events that normally take place at the end of term could not happen, the Performing Arts Department did not let lockdown hinder plans for their musical theatre cabaret – Infatuation - on 25 June. Determined to generate the energy and excitement of a live show, 11 intrepid pupils went ahead on the planned date and time but, instead of performing from the Old Chapel, they live streamed performances from home. A story was devised from a collection of songs from different musicals about the romantic trials and tribulations for the residents in the four houses on Cupid Close. Pupils broadcast directly from their homes, with computerised backdrops in place of sets and bespoke backing tracks. It was a wonderful evening, capturing the spirit of a live theatrical event and epitomising the ingenuity and maturity with which our pupils have adapted.

Director of Performing Arts, Ollie White, said: “Our live-streamed cabaret allowed us to present musical theatre in a completely different medium, and involved acting to a camera, and not a live audience. The pupils excelled with this task, responding to the different style of acting, and they all sang with aplomb. A fabulous way to keep live performance alive during lock down.”

We have been fortunate this term, thanks to the Performing Arts Department’s creativity, to enjoy everything from a Sherlock Holmes radio play released in instalments and weekly hymn ‘singalongs’, to lunchtime online recitals featuring the Jazz Band, a lockdown rock group, Brass Group, numerous ensembles and stunning vocal performances.

In the last week of term, the new pupils who will be joining St John’s in September had the chance to ‘look around’ the School site via video and met their tutors online during their virtual Familiarisation Days. Our new staff attended a virtual induction day and we were delighted to hold a live Q&A for prospective families who have been unable to visit the School this term. 

Speech Day, a chance to reflect on everything achieved and to celebrate together, normally marks the end of the academic year. This has not been a normal year but the achievements undoubtedly deserve celebrating. Pupils, staff and parents have worked together to maintain the spirit of school life, while adapting swiftly to a virtual educational model so that meaningful, high quality teaching and learning continued across all year groups. St John’s pupils are encouraged to be resilient, optimistic, kind and to contribute to their community: they have certainly demonstrated those qualities this term.