26th June 20
No one can deny that this has been a school term – indeed a year – like no other. A year that started with such optimism and excitement across the whole College, suddenly morphed into something wholly unexpected, a Coronavirus induced hibernation, from which we are only now beginning to awaken. When we cast our minds back to the autumn term, we remember the excitement of new teachers and students joining us, the competitive buzz of our sports teams, unique boarding activities, trips, academic challenges and Olympiads, art exhibitions, music performances, the Christmas concert, and our drama production, to name but a few.
For some, the focus was on university applications, interviews, and making plans for the next steps on their life journey. In some ways, a great many things have changed since then, but in other ways, perhaps less so than we might have thought. Lessons have continued apace – our seamless transition from face to face to online learning has proved successful while maintaining a connected and caring community. Students have had their regular personal tutor meetings, and have been given excellent pastoral care during the lockdown. We have continued to be innovative and creative in our approach, which has led to many initiatives that have crossed year groups, weaving together the rich fabric of life throughout the College. And our IFP students have sat examinations too! Sitting internal exams remotely, or – as has been the case for our students in years 11 and 13 – preparing for the possibility of sitting public examinations in the autumn, is no mean feat when you think about it. To those two year groups, in particular, our Years 11 and 13, I say well done for your patience, perseverance and professionalism. They have shown great resilience in the face of adversity, and I salute them.
This time last year, I reflected on the personal growth and development I had seen from students over the previous 12 months – our ‘excellent’ ISI inspection back in October was testimony to that (seems like such a long time ago!). As I reflect on our more recent experiences, I see further personal growth and development, but this time in terms of our students’ resilience and adaptability. We have all learnt so much during this unprecedented time of our history – lessons that we were not expecting, but which will stand us in good stead as we move forward. I often talk about traits of character such as flexibility, determination and kindness as being essential tools for today’s young learners – tomorrow’s professionals – who will be leading and shaping the future of the world, and hopefully making it a profoundly better and safer place. Without realising it, perhaps what we are all living through will make our students even more successful in this particular quest.
It has been a privilege saying goodbye over the last few weeks to the departing Y13 and Y14s – the next generation of DLD Alumni. Our virtual Graduation Ceremony this morning was an opportunity to say thank you to them on behalf of the College for all that they have done for DLD, but more importantly how they have navigated this pandemic and adapted remotely to a new norm – they have been a real source of strength and inspiration. My thanks go to Tim and Alramina, the Heads of the Student Council for their support during this crisis. They are currently enjoying their Summer Ball where Archie Collins has been announced Valedictorian for the Class of 2020 – a student who embodies all the great qualities of DLD. The atmosphere at both events was just right, and it says much about these year groups that they have left in such style and with such affection for the College – there were a few tears, and not just from the staff!
Of course, we have also been saying farewell to departing colleagues, and it was fitting that we said a few words this afternoon at the Staff Summer Reception. We bid a fond farewell to Val Stewart, John Taylor, Elise Dubois, Hubert MacGreevy, Dominic Rich, Maryam Sharifi, Homer Shahnamy, Len Lewell and Jabarti Abdi-Wai. We wish them all the very best in their future endeavours.
And so the academic year draws to an end. The College will be entering a new phase this summer when we look to reopening our doors and welcoming back all our students, new and old, and staff though, not entirely with open arms (!) in September 2020. We will share those reopening plans with you in due course. And we look forward to welcoming our new students and staff to DLD at the beginning of the new term which starts on Tuesday the 1st of September 2020.
I wish all our students the very best for exam results in August and hope that they all have a pleasant and relaxing summer. Thank you to all parents, Governors and friends of the College for your undying support, encouragement and cooperation throughout this extraordinary year – it means a lot to me, my colleagues, but most importantly, to our students. We look forward to developing the next generation of leaders to take their place in a challenging and diverse world.
I wish you all a very safe summer.
Irfan Latif, Principal