2nd July 21
They think it’s all over; it is now!
No, I’m not talking about the historic England win over Germany in UEFA Euro 2020 (is football coming home?), dispelling some 50 years of collective hurt on the football pitch, but the end to one of the strangest school years of our lives. No one can deny that this has been a school 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 as restrictions begin to ease. Thanks to the UK’s world-beating vaccination programme, where some 85% of the adult population has now been jabbed, we can hopefully return to some semblance of normality when the new term starts in September. When we cast our minds back to a different autumn term, we remember the excitement of new teachers and students joining us and the new norm we found ourselves in. But this was unfortunately cut short by another national lockdown in the Spring term amidst the January BTEC exams, mass school Covid-19 testing and a return to online learning.
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 proved successful while maintaining a connected and caring community. Students had their regular personal tutor meetings and were given excellent pastoral care during the national lockdown. We 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 sat examinations too! Sitting internal exams remotely, or – as has been the case for our students in Years 11 and 13 – preparing for a race where the finish line has been removed is no mean feat when you think about it. To those year groups in particular, our Years 11 and 13, I say well done for your patience, perseverance and professionalism. They have shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity, and we salute them. The leaving events we managed to put on for them, including the Alternative DLD Summer Ball for the Year 13s and Year 14s, were well received and attended and offered much-needed closure for our students as many milestones were cruelly taken away from 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 the 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. The numerous national awards we have won this year are a testament to our staff’s hard work to provide a world-class education and our students’ resilience and adaptability too. 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 character traits such as flexibility, determination and kindness as essential tools for today’s young learners – tomorrow’s professionals – who will lead and shape the future of the world and hopefully make 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 to say goodbye over the last few weeks to the departing Year 11s, Year 13s and Year 14s – the next generation of DLD Alumni, and I talked about this at length last week. 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 Marie-Do Reza, Shoaib Ali, Peter Hopkins, Fahim Chowdhury, Sarah Diamond, Victor Glukov, Rini Mukherjee, Stanislav Larski, Nicola Borland, Shafiq Fakir, David Quinn, Alex McLintock, Eva Vajna, Yiannis Christofides, Vanessa Hutchinson, Anne Kennedy and Niccolo Fantini. We wish them all the very best in their future endeavours and look forward to welcoming our new staff in September.
And so, this strangest of academic year draws to an end – a year where we have learnt so much about ourselves and each other. The College will be entering a new phase this summer with upgrades and refurbishments when we hope to return to normal. We look to reopen our doors and welcome back all our students, new and old, and staff, with hopefully open arms (!) on Tuesday the 1st of September 2021 when the new term begins. I wish all our students the very best for the summer, particularly those awaiting exam results in August, and I hope that they all have a pleasant and relaxing break – they need it! Thank you also to all our parents, Governors and friends of the College for your continued support, encouragement and cooperation throughout this extraordinary year – it means a lot to me and my colleagues, but most importantly, to our students.
Come September, we look forward to welcoming them home.
Irfan Latif, Principal