Joy and Thanks

On behalf of ELT and the COVID Task Force, I would like to apologise to the Wellington Community for not organising a back-to-school song today. My social media feed has been full of Heads and leadership teams of other schools performing a variety of musical numbers, with lyrics suitably altered, to mark the full reopening of UK schools and the return of pupils. Some have adopted an anticipatory tone (The Final Countdown by Europe and One More Day from Les Mis, for example) whereas others have taken the theme of return as their inspiration (I Want You Back by Take That).

If I had to choose a piece of music to accompany today, I suspect I would go for the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, better known as the ‘Ode to Joy’, which sets a text written by the German poet Friedrich Schiller to the most gloriously uplifting music. As the first Wellesley girls and Raglan boys arrived for their lateral flow testing yesterday morning, the sense of joy – and relief! – was certainly tangible, and the smiles on Wellingtonians’ faces as featured on various House Twitter feeds tells the same story.

Interestingly, there is some conjecture regarding Schiller’s original poem, with some academics suggesting that his initial intention had been to write an Ode an die Freiheit – an ‘Ode to Freedom’, I suspect that many Wellingtonians and their families feel that today is the first step in our long road to liberation both from COVID-19 and the restrictions with which we have become inured. Either way, today is a day on which to be joyful and, for those Wellingtonians who are currently unable to return for whatever reason, we look forward to sharing the joy of physical reunion in due course, whether that is at some point in the next three weeks or, indeed, at the beginning of next term.

With joy should come gratitude and there are so many groups of people to whom we owe a debt of thanks today. The first is you, our parental body, who have been required, once more, to balance your own personal and professional lives with overseeing the remote education of your children. You have remained supportive, communicative, engaged, and provided stability and shape to your daughters’ and sons’ lives in the most challenging of circumstances. Thank you.

The second is our staff, both teaching and College, who have kept the show on the road over recent weeks and months, and who have done so much to prepare for the next three weeks. In particular, I would like to single out Mr Brian Cannon, our Operations Bursar, who masterminded the conversion of our Sports Hall into a mass testing centre. We are blessed to have so many inspirational and committed teachers who go the extra mile at Wellington on a day-to-day basis, but we also have some remarkable College staff, too, without whom the school would simply not operate as efficiently and successfully as it does. I am deeply grateful that this is the case.

Finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank Wellingtonians themselves for their good humour, patience, perseverance, positivity, and indomitable resilience over the past two months. As I wrote a few weeks ago, they have been anything but the ‘snowflake generation’, a portrayal erroneously peddled by some elements of our media. As a generation, they will have developed a unique perspective on the world which will, I am sure, enhance their resilience, strengthen their character, and will allow them to flourish in the years to come.

For the sake of all teachers, staff, parents and pupils, I hope that the next 12 months is significantly sunnier than the past year has been and that schools never close again. As for today, let us all be joyful and thankful in equal measure.

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