The River Thames outside DLD College London

From The Principal #166

15th December 22

And so another Autumn term comes hurtling to an end. I have always defined the arrival of the end of this term by the completion of reports (and Christmas cards), and this year it has certainly come early … then I remember that the majority of the world does not break up for a week yet, at least, and that I should pipe down a little. It is, after all, only Thursday the 15th. It is always an oddity in schools like ours that the Christmas tree goes up at the end of November, and the Christmas lunch occurs in the first few weeks of December. In fact, it took place yesterday and my compliments to our Chefs and the Global Kitchen Team for going that extra mile. And by the time the month is half over, I will have attended three carol services, attended a nativity, had the Christmas Spotify playlist on repeat, eaten innumerable mince pies and drunk a fair amount of mulled wine.

My ‘bah humbug’ traits can rise to the surface, just as much as they do, as Christmas advertising hits our screens almost as soon as the previous year stopped (or so it seems). But the festive spirit eventually holds sway as it always does, fuelled by images, for example of the Christmas Jumper Day, which took place last Thursday, ice skating at Somerset House, Christmas Lunch on Wednesday, the Winter Awards Ceremony, Secret Santa and of course, the DLD Christmas Party – a DLD tradition, where the boarding community put on their Sunday best and celebrate the end of term in College with festive activities, bucking reindeer (don’t ask!), mince pies and lashings of hot chocolate! This further demonstrates how strong (and fun) the DLD community is, and I thank all our selfless Houseparents for putting on such a great event last Friday and for making boarding what it is at DLD – an authentic ‘home-from-home’ experience for our students and staff.

A true diehard Scrooge would have been hard-pressed to avoid a sense of festive occasion at our Awards Ceremony earlier this week. My thanks go to Sean, Paul, Mike, Richard C, Richard M, Rachel, Sarah R, Maria and the DLD College Band (The Basement People), who took to the stage with such energy and verve to entertain and celebrate what has been a successful term. What was extraordinary was the brilliance of the drummer, Alina S, who had only started to learn how to play the drums back in September!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all our fantastic staff (and Governors) for all their commitment, hard work and dedication in ensuring that DLD remains at the top of its game, both pastorally and academically. From the ELT and SLT, HMs, HoDs and SLs and all the teachers at the chalk face who inspire and motivate our students every day to seize the various learning opportunities here at DLD. Our vision is to ‘Create Unique Learning Opportunities’. The new Structure of the Day has put CCAs at the heart of what we do, and this is what we celebrated earlier this week, providing our students with an all-round, holistic education to help them grow, develop, and learn. Just like Alina S.

And our brilliant support staff who, without DLD, will simply not operate – thank you. I am indebted to all our staff and Governors for their professionalism, work ethic and dedication, a fine common room and a Governing body on all accounts.

There have been several highlights this term. There are far too many to list, but I’ll give it a go! Our outstanding exam results – some of the best the College has seen in its 90-year history, the new House System, numerous awards we have won and been nominated for in boarding, wellbeing, mental health, pupil voice, pupil development, pupil experience, equality, diversity and inclusion; the poignant Remembrance Day Service, the special Winter Awards Ceremony; House and World Cup football, netball, Black History, Student Council events, Universities Fair, milestone tests, Open Evenings, Oxbridge interviews (good luck to all our candidates), Elf The Musical in the West End, Christmas Carol at the Old Vic, Battersea Park Fireworks, Halloween Party, Harry Potter Experience, England vs Germany at Wembley, Movember, Charities Committee….and I’ve only just scratched the surface.

After all, in the midst of all that goes on in this fine institution of ours, it is the community spirit that matters and the willingness of students and staff to put themselves out on behalf of others, both within and beyond DLD. In a year that has seen real challenges both locally and nationally due to the travel disruption, weather issues, cold and flu, those core values of tolerance, respect, academic curiosity, community and kindness, which underpin all that we do, have remained paramount and we have seen them in abundance, again and again, this term.

We also bid farewell to some staff who will be leaving us at the end of this term, and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their loyal service and all that they have done to make what DLD is today. Departing staff include Emma-Jane Whitton (Art), Manija Hanifi (Computer Science) and Rachel Hall (Marketing & Communications). We wish them well on their respective adventures and journeys.

So, at this time of year, as we come together as a community, as a family to celebrate this annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ as a religious and cultural celebration here and around the world, it seems a good place to pause and wish you all a very Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Irfan H Latif