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Creating fond memories and bright futures at Stratford-upon-Avon School

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MAY half-term usually sees the symbolic changing of the guard in secondary schools as Year 13 and Year 11 students commence study leave and final preparations for their external examinations. A few extra periods of non-contact time beckon appealingly on the timetable of many teachers, though in reality they are soon accounted for by the myriad of additional activities and planning for the next academic year. Where does the time go?

As a young person, secondary school seems to last an eternity which is only natural given that it is approximately a third of their lifetime on the planet to date. To parents and staff though, it seems like only yesterday when our senior students were starting ‘big school’. Leavers’ assemblies invariably feature the cherubic images of wide-eyed Year 7 students before adolescent hormones
really kicked in. Some school photos produce ripples of laughter amongst friends at the sight of somebody who is unrecognisable from the young adult that they have grown into.

Other features of this time of year are more recognisable as the examination period marks the culmination of years of study. The overwhelming majority of students are well-prepared and just need to continue applying themselves in the same vein for a few more weeks; examinations are just another challenge to be successfully negotiated en route to sixth-form. Others are ready for pastures new and looking forward to thriving in a college environment where they can study more vocational options like hairdressing, plumbing or public services. A few experience the tangible sense of chickens coming home to roost and a sense of regret at not working harder over the previous few years. For all, there is the daunting realisation that their daily routines of the last five years will be no more. Schools work tirelessly to prevent students becoming statistical casualties known as NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and hopefully even those who have struggled in an educational setting have a positive destination lined up.

No sooner have Year 11 and Year 13 embarked on study leave, than our focus turns to incoming students.

Strong transition arrangements are vital to provide the reassurance and support some youngsters and their families require. This involves a series of visits to primary schools to meet with incoming pupils and their teachers, as well as planning induction days to host pupils so they can familiarise themselves with their new buildings, systems and key members of staff. Behind the scenes, timetables for next year are being constructed and all different areas of the school are planning and preparing for September.

This is also the time of year when extracurricular opportunities go into overdrive, utilising some of the greater staffing flexibility now that a couple of year groups are not being taught on a daily basis.

The last few weeks at Stratford has seen a Year 12 photography trip to Calke Abbey, a Year 10 geography fieldwork in Church Stretton, a Year 10 history trip to London, a battlefields trip to Ypres, a Year 7 scholars trip to the MAD Museum and two evening shows of Tales Through Time, our performing arts extravaganza.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, these experiences are a reminder of what we have missed and really value. Those few extra periods of non-contact time are soon put to good use! The faces may change but the challenges are perennial; to engage, enthuse and inspire young people so that they move on to a positive destination with fond memories of their secondary education.

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