A message to the U6th (Year 13) pupils at Shrewsbury School, June 2020
Dear Upper Sixth Leaver
This is not how we planned it. None of us imagined that your final term would be spent in bubbles of isolation. None of us thought you would be saying goodbye to the school through a screen. None of us thought that when you went home in March, you were leaving for good. There is no way to dress this up and make it look nice. This is not how we wanted it to be for you; and it is really very sad.
Some of you have been Salopians since joining the School in Third Form; others joined in Fourth Form; and others still became members of this community in the Sixth Form. Each one of you is valued; each of you has had experiences here that will shape and stay with you for life. Each one of you has been part of a house, teaching sets, sports teams, activities, ensembles, friendship groups. Each one of you has contributed to the richness and vibrancy of this School. Each one of you is a Salopian. Each one of you deserved a better ending.
This year, you have shown extraordinary qualities and never more so in this last term. You have embraced the new normal. You had to absorb the news that the public exams to which you had been working for 18 months were not going to happen. You had to decide how to play the summer term in remote. You could have disengaged. You could have been half-hearted; cynical; dismissive. Instead, you chose to be positive. You chose to turn a disappointment into an opportunity.
You kept going with your academic learning, running a race knowing that the finish line had been removed. You showed a proper love of learning. Then, we launched Shrewsbury U and the ILM course for Young Leaders. Again, as a year group, you seized this with both hands and the vast majority of you have participated, engaged and kept your minds active. This will stand you in great stead for whatever comes next. Well done indeed and thank you for all your endeavours.
We are now entering the final fortnight of the term. Normally, for the Upper Sixth, this is a twilight zone of post-exam fun, communal relaxation, soaking up the place before the finale. This has been denied to you. Again, there is no way of making this anything other than it is: a huge disappointment. None of us wanted you to be living out your final two weeks of school from home.
The Housemasters and Housemistresses, your tutors and your teachers, are thinking of you. They are in touch and wanting to do all they can to connect with you share memories of your time here and to celebrate with you. There is no way of replicating the kinds of real experiences they would like to offer, but they are doing their best and I know you appreciate this. And, as we move towards the end of term, our Virtual Speech Day aims to give you the very best send-off that we can right now.
Beyond that, you know that we have made a commitment to give you all the chance to be together here at Shrewsbury for a social gathering at which you can share memories with fellow pupils and staff. We don’t yet know when that will be; the Heads of School have taken your views, and the message we have is that you want to wait until we can do something properly. We will honour this commitment.
I often say that it is the Upper Sixth who set the tone of the School for the pupils. This is so true this year – you have done it brilliantly. Even in remote, this positive tone cascades and permeates through the year groups. You have been real leaders in so many spheres of school life.
The Heads of School and their Deputies have continued to guide and shape this term with their dedication, positivity and generosity of spirit.
Each leaving year group hands on the torch to the one that follows it. Your year group will have a unique place in Shrewsbury history. You have lived through unprecedented times: ‘the year they didn’t do exams’; ‘the year they weren’t at school for the summer term’.
But: we will not remember you as the year that ‘did not’. We will remember you as the year that ‘did’. You did manage the most exceptional of times. You did stay together. And you did the School and yourselves proud.
As each of you prepares to leave Shrewsbury, remember that the School is here for you – for life. We are all proud of you. You are the year group that did. And you will go on to be people who do.
Once again, thank you for all you have given to Shrewsbury.
See you again soon.
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
It may have been an uphill journey this term, but your years at the School will have prepared and equipped you to overcome its strange difficulties and to turn them into bright opportunities.
Besides, you are not really leavers, we never leave our Salopian family, we share the historic values and ethos of our School, which I cherish too and which first became part of my DNA in 1944, during World War II, when I joined the School House.
What a wise and wonderful comment, Eldryd. Thank you. Always good to hear from you. Your endorsement of Salopian ways is of high value indeed. Do hope you are keeping well. All good wishes. Leo