I frequently use the cyclical nature of school life to highlight new beginnings and fresh starts. Of course, by its nature, the academic year also generates endings and conclusions.
As we broke up for summer half term, our Year 13 boys were in school for the very final day of lessons of their school careers. A number of them had been at NSB – or one of its predecessor schools – for their entire school lives; others had joined at various later stages. For all of them, the day marked a significant rite of passage.
A tradition has emerged at NSB that on their final morning, our Year 13 leavers deliver their own final assembly. For some schools and headmasters, this might be a nervous occasion. Ours, however, was a gratifying one as each of our leavers addressed the Senior School sharing favourite memories and expressed their appreciation for their teachers nominating them for warm and humorous awards.
It was then on to a barbecue lunch and a few games of cricket and rounders enjoyed by leavers and teachers together before the boys left knowing that their only remaining visits to The Grove before Prize Day would be to sit A level papers.
The concept of the ‘muck-up’ day faced by some schools is one I’ve never quite grasped. I’ve known of high performing independent schools responding to obscenities daubed overnight on their front doors deploying security guards to defend their premises. It is perverse to me that leavers would feel the need to mark their departure with anti-social acts against their school. It always suggests a school hasn’t been entirely successful in developing the right values in its leavers or that the relationship between the leavers and their school is not a wholly positive one.
For NSB, once again, the departure of our Year 13s was a very well-judged and humbling occasion that demonstrated to the younger boys how to leave well.
In my tribute to them in their leavers’ yearbook, I quoted the following words from a poem: The Station by Robert Hastings that I have used in Senior School assemblies:
Sooner or later, we realise that there is no station – no one place to arrive at once and for all.
The true joy of life is in the journey.
The station is only a dream. I
t constantly outdistances us.
So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles.
Be bold and courageous with yourself.
Climb more mountains,
Eat more ice cream,
Go barefoot more often,
Watch more sunsets,
Laugh more, cry less.
Life must be lived as we go along.