As half term beckons, I can attest to the fact that your sons, daughters, and indeed you, will be glad of the break. The College opened a week earlier than usual to help pupils settle back into life at Epsom, and it was a life that none of us could have anticipated.
With one-way systems and government edicts determining our movements, masks covering our faces and guidelines seemingly changing by the day, this most irregular of terms has required a steadfastness and maturity from all members of the College community.
Finding joy in the past few months has required more effort than usual, but in my time as a Head few things have been more gratifying than the manner in which your sons and daughters have adjusted to these new strictures.
Behaviour has been exemplary, adherence to the new codes of conduct remains high and, most pleasing of all, the data indicates that effort and attainment across all year groups is at the level our Deputy Head (Academic) would have expected in a normal year. An exceptional outcome.
I am equally pleased with the way my colleagues have adapted. In March, lessons swiftly moved online and, the inevitable teething problems aside, Epsom College delivered a provision high in quality. This term we welcomed pupils back to the school and classroom teaching resumed, punctuated with the occasional hybrid lesson as pupils were forced to isolate.
Beyond the classroom, Epsom has been particularly active. We have held competitive block sporting fixtures for every year group; indeed, St John’s and Epsom are the only independent schools in the South East to have enabled this to happen.
Live music has resumed, with two concerts held in Big School and broadcast live to families unable to attend in person, our Cultural Hour has continued with talks from a Holocaust Survivor, illuminating lectures from ‘the science standup’, Ian B Dunne, and a full and compelling programme in support of Black History Month.
Behind the scenes, our support staff continue to work tirelessly to keep pupils safe, happy and well-fed. The Catering team work 24-hours-a-day throughout the term, to deliver a full menu of hot meals, endless deserts and snacks to all corners of the estate. Our grounds team labour from sunrise to sunset, sanitising goalposts, maintaining pitches, and their colleagues in facilities ensure buildings and classrooms remain spotless and Covid-free.
To date, the College has experienced only two positive cases of Covid-19. Thankfully, both asymptomatic and now fully fit and healthy. Sadly, our neighbouring state school, Glyn School, have been dealt a harder hand and, currently, their entire Upper Sixth are having to isolate at home. I sense that we, too, may have a hard road still to travel after half-term. However, presently, the measures that we have in place, the collective judgment displayed, and the manner in which our pupils and staff have conducted themselves has taken us to half-term in a relatively strong position. Over the break we have 29 international pupils remaining in our care in boarding houses and a full programme of activities has been fashioned to ensure they enjoy a diverting experience.
As this half of the term draws to a close, I know that everyone in this community is tired, the days, the weeks and the term are long. However, we have reason to keep going, like Samwise and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, collectively we can get the ring up the mountain. We did not ask for this task, but we have been given it, and I am hugely proud of the way everyone in this community, pupils, staff, parents and governors, are facing it.