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Y11 Graduation goes online

24th June 20

The end of Y11 and completion of GCSEs is a big milestone in students’ lives. With lockdown measures meaning large gatherings are banned, the Y11 graduation had to go online this year. It wouldn’t be right to let this milestone go unmarked, and so staff pulled out all the stops to create a special (if virtual) experience.

Emma, Head of Year 10 & 11 started things off the way she has started every day in lockdown, with her guitar and a sing-along. Once the ceremony started she shared a heartfelt speech, which you can read below.

The form tutors took to their webcams to share memories of each and every student in their tutor groups.

Next up were Erica and Bela who gave a funny, touching and thoughtful speech from the students perspective. Many Y11 students had been at KAS since Reception so there were plenty of in jokes and shared memories, which we won’t broadcast here, but they finished with a series of thank-yous which we think are worth sharing.

Bela: “Thinking back to Lower School when many of our peers at other schools were sitting their 11+ exams, I sometimes wondered whether KAS was preparing me properly, often thinking I wasn’t learning enough facts, not doing enough exams. But now I know that aside from teaching me more than enough, education at KAS is so much more – it’s about learning about yourself, your interests, working with others, learning how you learn and then being acknowledged and recognised for it.”

Erica: “KAS is waking up in lockdown, to Emma’s singing. And I know for a fact that it was such a comfort to every single one of us alongside everything else. You are always positive and smiling, always there when we need to talk. For that, thank you.”

Bela: “KAS is an environment in which your teachers and form tutors are always willing to help, have a chat, always trusting and heartfelt. For that, thank you.”

Erica: “KAS is a little community where your parents alongside your teachers, Robert, Pam, the Estates Team are constantly organizing something for you, emailing and attending your every show and football match even when the result is already obvious. For that, thank you.”

Bela: “KAS is our year group of 50 different characters all with their own individual talents and interests. A positive group, all compassionate and caring. For that, thank you.”

Erica: “For many, today and when we meet in person will not be a final goodbye but instead more about marking a moment. In September, when a few of us will be at different schools, we’ll come back, to see those staying on, to admire the new Sixth Form common room and meet the new people, to see teachers or even just to pick up a younger sibling, because as Emma has told us countless times, we will always be a part of the community at KAS or in Emma’s words ‘always be KAS kids’. ”

Both: “For that – thank you. Thank you King Alfred.”

Rose performed a beautiful Laura Marling song and a slideshow of photos was accompanied by John singing a Radiohead song.

Congratulations to all our Y11s and see you all in August for results day!

Emma Sevitt, Head of Y10 & 11 – Y11 Graduation Speech

It is a true pleasure to welcome you here to our Year 11 Final Callover Graduation Ceremony – to honour this group of Year 11 students as they transition from Year 11 to the Sixth Form, and to raise a glass and really wish them well.

Many of you in Year 11 have been here since you were very little, and your parents have been part of the KAS community for a very long time. So today is significant for so many – and we are blessed that we are able to mark this point of transition.

But as I sit here in my own home here on Zoom, these are not normal circumstances as we all know and understand. This Year 11 group will be defined by the pandemic. The end has not been normal. There hasn’t been a Prom yet, nor did you spend the months of May and June sitting in the Old Library. But as a student wrote to me in an email recently: “Although it seems to most that the GCSE experience and milestones have been taken from us, I think it’s just been replaced by a new experience that is something greater and even more important than these exams”.

I couldn’t agree more.

When the announcement was made, that the school buildings would be closing, and exams would be cancelled, Min’s 16th birthday party WhatsApp group was quickly transformed to become the Year 11 COVID Year group chat and I was added as a member. Never would I have ever imagined what it would be like being the only adult on a WhatsApp group with 48 16-year-olds.  And 14 weeks later, I have certainly learned a lot more about you in this time.

I guided you through the murky waters of cancelled GCSEs, spending ages speculating with you – trying to figure out what the future would look like, and mostly realizing how hard it is to live with uncertainty, but also realizing how important it is to try and learn how.

I have seen how your year group has learned, over time, to love each other dearly, acknowledging differences and approaches to life. I have watched your friendships ebb and flow and mature and grow since you started Year 7. Through the anxiety of adolescent friendships, you have formed a tight knit bond that is evident and palpable. This commitment and loyalty to each other, especially in these few months, is evident in your care and consideration – and mostly in your ability to say sorry when mistakes are made, and to realise that everyone is really just trying their best.

And this love you have for each other is also matched in your love of life. Our school motto, out of the heart springs life is particularly fitting for you, Year 11. Especially the word spring. For never have I met a more lively, more veracious group of young people who are daring to embrace life with such a hard working, vivacious and creative spirit.

Community and teamwork are strong feelings that come to mind when I think about your year group. I have been so lucky to have accrued many wonderful memories having begun my own KAS journey with you as you entered Year 7. I became the Form Tutor for 7BE and took you to camp in those early September days hiking in the Lake District, and playing guitar and singing Fish and Chips and Vinegar– always together as a community. Your group was the first Witan in the Village, and your contributions in your Year 10 and 11 Enrichment Days to support charities across the city evidenced your thoughtfulness and strong motivation to contribute. You drew thoughtful pictures for the Royal Free Charity ICU hallways and continue to be industrious in your creations and productions. You will continue to remember your privilege and use it to help those less fortunate, and give purpose to your lives. I have no doubt.

The pandemic has forced many of you to express your vulnerability, and for me to do the same. What a hard thing to do to let your guard down, and express fear, and shame and sadness and anxiety. And in some way, connecting with you individually has been my favourite part of these past few months – the many phone calls just trying to figure out how to be during lockdown, how to make sense of it all, and how to navigate the emotions of uncertainty. And it has reminded me why I have loved being your Head of Year. For the past two years have been full of these conversations – discussing heartbreak, school choices as well as friendships, family and the pressure of exams.  Let alone getting up every morning and singing to you on the daily Callovers.

Over these five years I have appreciated your energy, thoughtfulness, laughter, chatter, genius, charm and huge creative talents in music, theatre, sport, art, dance, philosophy, languages, and DT. Your year group is significant in its contribution and I know that I speak for many teachers who feel similarly.

And now it’s all finished. Year 11 is over. And regardless of where you will be in September, today is a day to take stock. To thank those who have strengthened you to be here. Your family: your parents, your siblings are all those who have wisely counselled and guided you, and it is important to thank them and acknowledge their value.

You don’t become competent individuals without a lot of different investments from a lot of people in the school community. The great teachers of this school have taught you how to be self-motivated, active learners and productive analytical thinkers. I would like to really highlight the energies of your four superb form tutors and their co-tutors who, on a daily basis, have cared, organised, guided and taken care of you. It is a thank you to your coaches, tutors, 1:1 assistants, music teachers and so many others for believing in your skills and talent and for giving you that little push every time when it feels so hard to keep going.

So as you cross the threshold into the next stage of your emotional and academic development, I leave the students of Year 11 with a blessing for your journey ahead.

May you be led toward peace and health as you begin your journey in these days and weeks of transition. May the footsteps of your journey be guided toward peace, and that you reach your desired destination with sheer gladness.

One does not know what lies ahead, for the road turns and bends. But may this prayer be heard and may you be guided to make the best of whatever comes your way.

Good luck Year 11 – and lots of love.

Thank you.

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