It’s been a year like no other I can remember in my lifetime, and I know that your children’s memories of the academic year 2020-21 will remain with them for life, too. It is extraordinary to think they have witnessed and been part of what will be seen as a significant moment in the history of the world. Indeed, as we continue to live through the aftereffects of Coronavirus it is hard to comprehend the scale of their experience and quite how it will affect their future perspectives.
I know, however, that within our school community, our shared experience of the Coronavirus pandemic has been far-reaching: the challenges we have all had to face have been both new and overwhelming on many occasions but they have strengthened us in so many ways.
Online learning was far from an ideal medium to facilitate the best quality learning experiences for your children, but they, and we, came out triumphant! We made the best of the situation and decided that no mountain was too high to climb. We taught not just English, maths and science through Teams, Zoom and Seesaw, but also art, dance, drama, music and sport so that your children continued to receive the full curriculum experience. We had children performing Shakespeare in breakout rooms on Teams, interactive art lessons with Mrs Richmond from her dining room table, whole-school singing and assemblies via Zoom from my kitchen and Ms Stocken’s balcony, and circle time with our 2 and 3-year olds from Miss Salter’s seaside flat! Mr Schneider and Mr Williams set sports challenges for the children and Mrs May had everyone dancing through their houses with her live lessons from her dance studio.
Academically, the school has flourished again this year. We saw every child in the Early Years Foundation Stage meet or exceed their learning goals and we celebrated numerous grammar places and scholarship awards for our leaving pupils in Years 6 and 8. You will see in these pages ahead some of the wonderful work your children have undertaken over the year, but for the first time ever, many of you were able to experience at first-hand the lessons and teaching your children receive at Yarrells via the online platforms we used to broadcast into your homes. I know this was an unwelcome challenge for so many parents who were juggling work with child-care arrangements during the various lockdowns, but I also know from letters, emails and conversations with you over the past eighteen months, that this window into your children’s education impressed and gave you even more confidence in us.
As restrictions lifted in mid-May, we were able to expand our ‘bubbles’, hold more outdoor events and trip children off to various places on local excursions and residential stays. The excitement was palpable every time buses were filled with chattering, back-packed individuals to leap off high ropes, orienteer through forests, indoor sky-dive, coasteer down cliff faces or camp in wooded Purbeck glades! It was wonderful to be able to extend your children’s educational experiences in this way and you will see from some of their form pages in this yearbook that the ‘residentials’ are often the highlights of a child’s school year.
In the final two weeks of the academic year, we were able to run live performances of the children’s summer shows either in Swan or in the marquee. We were able to go ahead with our Sports Days and Swimming Galas and it was emotional to watch the school return to full life in this way. When the curtain came up on the first performance of ‘Dragon Days’ by Year 5 at the end of June, we cried with joy at the colour, vibrancy and dynamism that the children’s story-telling conveyed to the audience. The importance and benefits of human connection and collaboration were brought into sharp focus during these final weeks of term and reinforced what we knew all along: that no matter how good your online platforms are, they simply cannot replicate the face-to-face full teaching and learning experience.
As you know, I love every aspect of the Yarrells experience for your children, but the strength of our community and our desire to support not just each other but those less fortunate than ourselves have really come to the fore in the past eighteen months. Your children have been stoic in coming to terms with their own challenges, but they have also camped out at home and completed the 7 Wonders of the World challenges for Julia’s House, raising thousands of pounds for children with life-limiting illnesses; they have completed ‘swimathons’ and donated their takings from the ‘Lions Lair’ projects to #Willdoes, thereby helping other young people find support for suffering mental health and they’ve continued to fight for the protection of our environment, whether through raising awareness on ‘World Ocean Day’ or running stalls at the Spring Fair to highlight the importance of sustainable living.
Your children are superb young people and every single individual is a key person in our happy community. They have worked with such enthusiasm and zest in what have been the most challenging of circumstances in their young lives so far. Every child has achieved something they didn’t believe possible this year and we are extremely proud of their positive mindsets as well as their successes.
We say goodbye to a fabulous group of Year 6 and 8 leavers and we wish them all happiness in their future schools. You will leave a void and we will miss you! Some of our children are also moving to different parts of the country and, for all our leavers, we hope that their love of Yarrells and the strength of our bonds with them will hold them securely as they spread their wings further afield.
Once a Yarrellian; always a Yarrellian!