Headmaster's End of Term letter
3rd July, 2020
So: we are finally here. Many of the usual landmarks of the passage of the year have been obscured by the irresistible fugue of the Covid-19 crisis and, yet, we have nevertheless reached the end of the summer term, and the passing of one academic year into another.
I, for one, regret that we have not been able to hold our traditional prizegiving ceremony (though you can see our sports awards here) – we will have to do that another way, when we return – or our Year 13 leavers’ event, the academic crescendo of the public exam season, or the countless sporting events, concerts, activities and gatherings that were scheduled. But I do not regret for a moment how the AKS community has shone over recent months, how our extraordinary students, talented staff and dedicated parents have risen to the challenges before us; in turn, I feel privileged to have witnessed and enjoyed the events that did happen, from the amazing Addams Family show, bracing and increasingly-victorious Saturday mornings on the touchline and, literally as I write, the live Virtual Summer Concert (which you can watch here). For all of the challenges, we are, as they say, where we are, and I will reflect on the year with huge pride in our fantastic school.
The guidance published yesterday by the Department for Education provides a roadmap for our return in September. The details of the implementation will be a focus for the summer; however, the broad takeaway is that we expect to be able to return as a whole school, together on site, next term. We will maintain the focus on safety that has characterised our approach thus far. Things may change, of course, and I will write to parents with further details a couple of weeks before we recommence.
August will see the release of this year’s public examination results. I am sure you are all aware of the disruption to this process, and I commend our Year 11 and Year 13 students for their forbearance in the context of this change. We have used our knowledge of the students, and our suite of assessment and tracking data, to inform the grades we have submitted to the examination boards. We look forward to celebrating the achievements of our A-level and GCSE students on 13th August and 20th August respectively. I would also like to note the spirit shown by Year 11 in engaging with the new pre A-level courses, and the work of my teaching colleagues in developing these: this is an innovation that will linger after the pandemic recedes. As they enter Year 12, this cohort will benefit from the usual outstanding teaching but also the reformed wider extension programme overseen by Mr Maund as Head of Sixth Form.
We say goodbye to a number of members of the school staff: to Mrs Ward, who joined Queen Mary’s in 1992 and has remained a stalwart of the History Department across KEQMS and AKS ever since; to Mr Richardson, in Mathematics, who assures us that he really has retired this time (I’ve known enough teachers purportedly at the end of their career to believe it when I see it); to Mrs Westcott, whose inspirational approach to languages has benefitted students in the Prep and Senior School; to Miss Lucien, who will be taking up a teaching post in London after a super year in the English Department; to Mr Matthews, who is hanging up his sporting studs to follow a long-standing ambition to join the police force, and to Colin Rose, our Estates Manager, a man who knows more about the hidden workings of the school buildings than seems reasonable, who will be retiring after a quarter of a century at the school. Every incoming Head should take a tour round the catacombs of their new school, and I thank Colin for providing exactly that eye-opening experience.
The closing of the school year remains a poignant and bittersweet time in the world of education. Everyone is ready for a break, but it can be hard to see it come to an end. For all of those departing, I wish you the best of success: we will miss you, and you will always be welcome should you want to visit. Don’t forget to keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
After a year at AKS – is it only that? – my final words must be ‘thank you’. I cannot hope to list here everyone who has helped to make this school what it is, or those who have contributed to the year’s journey. What an extraordinary time, what an extraordinary place: I look forward to the year to come, and wish you all a superb summer.
With best wishes
David Harrow, Headmaster.