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Enjoy your summer, take advantage of the opportunity for rest and renewal.

The delay to Step 4 of the Government’s ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ has meant a quieter end to the school year than we had all hoped, but as another extraordinary school year draws to a close I do not want to dwell on the challenges, but rather to focus on the achievements of the past term.

Summer term 2021 has seen a return to something approaching the normal rhythm of life at Warwick School. Competitive sports fixtures have made a return, as have concerts, productions, educational visits and the now legendary Year 7 Charity Sleepout.

The Summer Concert Series brought live music back to Warwick Hall for the first time in exactly 15 months. What has been achieved musically remotely is remarkable, but it is no substitute for the real thing. Seeing the ear-to-ear smiles on the faces of the musicians as they came off stage has been an undoubted highlight. Given the long absence and the need to maintain year group bubbles the standard was remarkable and a testimony to the perseverance of all involved. 

Last Saturday afternoon it was my enormous privilege to watch three productions. The Year 7 devised piece ‘Bravery’ provided the audience with both rich entertainment and a remarkable insight in to the mind of a twelve-year-old boy! The Year 8 and 9 actors performed versions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It is testimony to the talented casts, that despite the circumstances and with minimal staging, they were able to so wonderfully recreate Dahl’s colourful characters and fantastic images. 

The long overdue return of the face-to-face co-curriculum has been welcomed with open arms, but it has been supplemented by the best the digital world can offer. Saturday morning parliamentary debates, virtual employability and work experience weeks and a remote Sir Ben Kingsley Lecture form Earl Spencer were among the range of new opportunities made possible by technology.

Summer term 2021 has also been a term of academic challenges with all boys sitting in person examinations and assessments. Teacher Assessed Grades have been the dominant feature of this unusual term for Year 11 the Upper Sixth and the teaching staff. The boys are to be commended for the courage with which they have dealt with the constantly moving goal posts of the past year.

Wednesday 23 June was National Thank a Teacher Day and I would like to take this opportunity to belatedly thank my remarkable colleagues. The demands of the past year have been extraordinary, and it is thanks to their creativity and perseverance that so much has been achieved and that the boys have enjoyed so many opportunities both inside and outside the classroom despite the restrictions in place.

Government announcements this week have confirmed that from September schools will no longer be required to keep children in consistent ‘bubbles’, and that children under the age of 18 years old will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.  Consequently, I remain optimistic that the new school year will finally bring the long hoped for return to normal. However, one thing we have all learnt over the past 15 months is that things change, often at short notice and that this change is frequently beyond our control. What we can control is our response to that change.

This week I listened to an interview with one of the world’s leading solo percussionists Dame Evelyn Glennie. She has performed worldwide with the greatest orchestras, conductors and artists. She is a double Grammy Award winner, a BAFTA nominee. Remarkable achievements, even more remarkable because Dame Glennie started to lose her hearing at the age of eight and by the age of twelve she had been diagnosed as profoundly death. Dame Glennie is an inspiration. Losing her hearing was not her fault. It was a change that was beyond her control but rather than searching for someone to blame she focused on what she could control and took responsibility for her response to that change. In her own words losing her hearing has made her a better listener and musician. Change is an inevitable part of life.  What is important is how we react to those changes. Dame Glennie’s response has allowed her to overcome a profound change and achieve something remarkable. Over the past 15 months the response of this community to the succession of changes to our daily lives has been nothing short of extraordinary.  There have been moments when we have all wanted to bemoan our lot and seek to apportion blame but ultimately, we have taken responsibility for our response to these changes and sought to find ways to overcome the challenges encountered. That is why I feel confident that whatever trials September presents, they will be met with courage, creativity and perseverance – the Warwick Way.

The pandemic has had an impact on us all.  For some it has been immediate and tangible. Others may be less conscious of the effect it has had. Dealing with change is demanding, it is physically and emotionally tiring. The summer holiday presents a valuable opportunity for us all to recharge. To emphasise the importance of rest and recreation Professor Damian Hughes, co-presenter of the High-Performance Podcast states that the pit stops are when Formula 1 races are won. The next eight weeks are an opportunity for the boys to enjoy a well-deserved rest. They deserve a break, but I urge them not to squander this precious time. Not to spend the days and weeks simply sleeping and gaming or looking mindlessly at their phones. One way of thinking about recreation is re-creation, a period of review and renewal. This time last year Mr Thomson and Mrs Quinn issued a challenge to the boys to use their summers productively, as a period of renewal, this year I repeat that advice. Each day try to do one of the following things.

1 Do something for your mind

Learn something. This isn’t about lessons, this is about finding something interesting in the everyday. Take a moment to look up something you have read or heard about and see where that knowledge leads you.

2 Do something physical

Walking, Running, Tennis, Golf, Yoga – there are so many things you can go that will get you active and moving.

3 Do something fun

A remote escape room, baking, playing a game, watching a film. Spend some time doing something that gives you joy.

4 Perform an act of kindness 

Something as small as making a cup of tea for a busy parent or sibling can make a massive difference. A random act of kindness does as much for the giver as the recipient. You should also use this time to be kind to yourself. Avoid negative comparisons with others, acknowledge that Social Media never shows the whole truth and remember that it is okay to feel sad and gloomy sometimes.

Enjoy your summer, take advantage of the opportunity for rest and renewal, do not let it slip through your fingers. I look forward to seeing you all in September refreshed and ready to make the most of the new school year whatever it brings.