16th December 2020

As the term reaches its crescendo all pupils, but particularly Form 8, are to be congratulated on a spirited and composed conclusion to proceedings. 
At the beginning of every academic year, we ask our senior year group to set a tone around school that makes fellow pupils and staff feel at ease and supported.  They have done that beyond all our expectations, whilst coming to terms with a very different post lockdown term for themselves, too. 
This selfless energy and sense of community has been apparent more than ever before, further emphasised by so many warm and collaborative communications between staff and parents.  This powerful illustration that WE are all doing our best to make life as normal as possible for the pupils of St. Mary’s, has kept us all striding forward to this very different end of term.
Whilst I am hugely grateful to all, I want to thank Georgie and Patrick for all their hard work, energy and empathy.  Patrick stepped forward on the recommendation of FP Catrin Howell, and he has thrown himself in to life at St. Mary’s with full commitment and dedication.  His presence around the boys’ boarding environment, and in the classroom setting during the school day, has added an energy and support that has been welcomed by all.
Georgie left St. Mary’s in 2015 having been a most wonderful Head Girl, and she has returned as an equally wonderful GAP presence around school.  We have been reacquainted with her joie de vivre and, as expected, the pupils have all fallen in love with her.  It would seem the long, darkening days of the Michaelmas Term that see so many tire, have had little impact on this most positive of characters.  We are hugely grateful to both Patrick and Georgie for their contribution and wish them both well with their next ventures.
Today’s most unorthodox, but in different ways, brilliant Carol Service meant so much more than just a Festive conclusion to the term.  
For all sorts of reasons, it brought to mind so many challenges faced by different people, and with all your generous donations towards the St. Peter’s Foodbank (36 jam packed gift bags in total), the St. Mary’s community can feel a quiet sense of pride. 

Miss Wood’s Christmas card initiative has also seen many local care home residents receiving a card of good wishes from our pupils.  For all the good work done, pupils deserved to let their hair down this week, and their more contained Christmas parties certainly gave them that opportunity.
The parties followed two remarkable rounds of Christmas dinners.  Round 1 for the Pre-Prep took place in the dining room, and for the Prep School lunches were expertly delivered to every form room.  This could be described as a second sort of Christmas miracle, as no challenge has proved unsurmountable for Cheffy and his brilliant team this term (including the fabulous new recruit, Wendy).  They have kept us fed safely and substantially, whilst adding to their already considerable workloads, and always with their customary cheery smiles.
Form 8 provided post dinner entertainment, as did many of the staff (both pre-recorded) and a further stand-out highlight of the week was The Nativity so brilliantly performed by Reception supported by Kate Jeffrey (narrator).
However, I think we as a school community; pupils, parents and staff all have much more than the success of this week to be proud of after such a successful term.  Normality has been provided at every opportunity; Accelerated Reader opportunities, negotiation of assessments, carefully planned, orchestrated and delivered learning support, day to day curriculum delivery, additional administration processes, swelling Kindergarten numbers, an inventive and ingeniously adapted games programme and perhaps most incredibly of all, a fantastic term of boarding.  It is quite something to reflect on all these aspects of life at St. Mary’s since the beginning of term.
I cannot conclude this update without mentioning particular thanks to a few.  Mrs Rawson has proved a most able interim Form 1 Form Tutor and will continue on in her role next term, Mrs Bruce has made a significant impact as Form 7 Form Tutor, leaving our penultimate year group in little doubt that the work hard play hard ethic is all she will accept, and nothing less.  Learning Support has been expertly and wisely steered by Mrs Redmond who had the privilege of adding Mrs Ozwell to her hugely able team.  Mr Brydon joined us after half-term to take charge of Estates Maintenance and he has settled in extremely well to his role.
Lastly, whilst we have all been wishing the wonderful Mrs Currie back to full fitness, and thinking of her often, Mrs Lee has been the perfect stand-in for her.  Mrs Lee has demonstrated that essential kind, caring, happy approach to teaching our Reception pupils that makes it such a special year for all those who experience it.  We could not be more grateful to Mrs Lee for how expertly she picked up Mrs Currie’s delightful nine ‘elves’.
And finally, from me to all of you in the St. Mary’s community, on behalf of all the staff here at St. Mary’s, thank you for your constant support and messages of appreciation.  Many of you work in the medical profession, are key workers or through your own varied circumstances, have been hugely challenged by this most unusual time.  The fact that you have kept St. Mary’s and the education of your children at the forefront of your priorities, is truly humbling.
Have a safe and very Happy Christmas.
December 2020

Jules Birdsall, 16/12/2020

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