This is a letter I never imagined I would write, let alone send to you. It is Tuesday 28th April and under normal circumstances we would all be in school now, going through the final push for your examinations. Instead we find ourselves at home, in lockdown, as we live through a national emergency that is changing our lives forever. I find myself sat at home, looking out of the window at a very rainy and miserable day, trying to compose this letter and say all of the things I never had the chance to say before you left.
On Wednesday 18th March 2020 the Secretary of State for Education made a 9 minute announcement that changed your lives in a way that none of us could ever have predicted. Schools were ordered to close, exams were cancelled and your end of school celebrations taken away from you. Even now I still cannot quite believe that on Friday 20th March compulsory education for Y11 came to such an unexpected and abrupt end. But there are many things to celebrate about you and in this letter I want to tell you about what we are hoping to do to make sure that we say a proper goodbye to each other and to prepare for the next phase of your lives. I also want to reassure you as best I can that you do not need to worry about what will happen next as we will do everything we can to help and support you.
Firstly, many of you have already applied to our excellent sixth form and you are still able to do so if you haven’t done this already. We hope to welcome as many of you into Y12 as possible and we will be taking into consideration what has happened this year when we come to look at your grades. One of the great advantages of attending our sixth form is that you receive the same level of support and pastoral care that you have always experienced at Archbishop Ilsley; we know you and you know us. If you have not applied to our sixth form but are thinking about it, please contact Mr El’Habid who will be happy to talk to you about the courses on offer and the wide range of opportunities beyond the classroom. We are hoping that enrolment for sixth form will take place on Thursday 20th August and we will confirm arrangements once we have more clarity on what this process will look like.
Secondly, I know many of you will be wondering about the Y11 Mass and Prom. Due to the current situation, we have cancelled both of these events for now, but as soon as restrictions on social gatherings are lifted, we will look to rearrange these as quickly as we can. I want to make sure that you have the celebrations you deserve and we want to be able to say a proper farewell to your time in compulsory education. At present I cannot give any indication of a possible date for these events but please know that we will try and rearrange the Mass and your Prom as soon as we can. Don’t get rid of those sparkly gowns and sharp suits yet!
In terms of your grades for this summer, Mr McDonald and Mrs Stokes are hard at work collating all of the information from your teachers to send to the examining bodies. We are not allowed to share this information with you and you will receive your results on Thursday 20th August, which is the original published date for results. There are very rigorous checking systems in place to ensure that the grades schools submit are fair and I do think that what has been set up to ensure you receive your qualifications is very sensible. Mr McDonald is writing to you about this but please know that we are happy with what the government has decided in terms of how your grades will be decided.
Many of you will feel cheated out of the opportunity to demonstrate how hard you have worked and although exams are stressful, they are also a chance for you to shine. We know that so many of you have worked hard and have listened to the advice and guidance from your teachers. I want you to feel proud of what you achieved; all of the staff here are proud of you and how well you have managed this very difficult situation.
Finally, I want to say a very personal ‘thank you’ to all of you. The best part of my job as Headteacher is the time I spend working with the pupils and you have been a fantastic group of young people. I have been privileged to spend time with so many of you, including the Berlin trip last summer, conversations in lessons and cups of tea and mopping up your tears in my office! You have given me so much joy and laughter and I hope that our lovely school will give you everything you need to be successful going forward.
I have often said to you that I want two things for the pupils at Archbishop Ilsley; I want all of you to leave with the best personal academic success possible but I also want you to leave us as a fantastic citizens – saints of the 21st century. Whatever God calls you to be, I hope you will always be happy, successful and kind. Our school motto is ‘Just and Firm of Purpose’ and this is a motto you can take forward into the rest of your lives. Education is a precious gift and we give it to you with all of our love and best wishes.
I hope to see many of you return to our sixth form in September.
May God bless all of you