The Head addressed pupils in the Cathedral on the last day of TrinityTerm. You can read his Address below:
"It is a great pleasure to be speaking to pupils, staff and parents of the U6 in the Cathedral for the first time since 2019. The school was flexible in arrangements to create memories for the leaving cohorts of 2020 and 2021; I am reminded of live-streamed events from the Blake, distanced garden parties on the Bishop’s Palace Lawn, and hastily arranged hymn singing outside the West Doors of the Cathedral. However, the leavers of 2022 get our plan A: this service in the Cathedral, culminating in the singing of Jerusalem and the school’s applause as you process out of the West Doors to mark your transition to Old Norvicensians. It is good to be back.
This service gives us all the chance to take stock at the end of an eventful year. The events of recent weeks suggest we are firmly back to the busy and varied life we expect in Cathedral Close. Alongside the return to externally set and marked public examinations, one thinks of the wonderful blend of participation and excellence in Sports Day last weekend or the spirit of collaborative celebration in the inaugural Sports Dinner on Tuesday. Also, one thinks of highlights from Gather 22: from the riotous Junior and Intermediate musical, The Twits, and disturbingly modern interpretation of Macbeth in The Cloisters, through the exceptional Art and Design exhibition and epic Gala Night on Wednesday to the exquisite Choral Vigil in here last night.
Yet even in a Trinity Term which has felt pretty normal, Covid has never completely gone despite what Boris might have told us (but, then, by the looks of things he has not completely gone either). Over the course of the year, many compromises still had to be made: for example, all pupils had to relearn sporting skills and rule changes in September; trips remained challenging to plan and carry out; Omicron hit at the end of the Michaelmas Term, leading to rising levels of absence in particular year-groups; and public exam groups had to deal with adjustments through advanced information and higher stake mock exams than usual.
I am so proud of the way that all involved with Norwich School have pulled together to maintain momentum in all areas of our practice. Pupils, teachers, support staff, parents, governors, alumni and other stakeholders have all shown flexibility and resilience to get us through a period which has simply been without precedent. And let us not forget that all year-groups sitting here today have been dealing with this for more than just this year; it is nearly 30 months now. If anyone tries to criticize our pupils for being part of an entitled, chaotic, indulgent snowflake generation, do remind them of the situation those in education have faced, including all the skills of adaptability and determination you have had to develop.
I should like us all to take a moment to enjoy this this wonderful space, reflecting with gratitude on collective and individual achievements this year. To help us, I am going to ask the Chamber Choir to sing The Gallant Weaver…Thank you, particularly for the solos from members of the U6: Millie Clark, Toby Hunt and Alex Dixon.
It seems fitting to be reflecting like this in the year of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and relatively soon after the national celebrations. Whatever one’s view of the monarchy, and it would not surprise me if there are some in the pupil cohort with republican-leaning sensibilities, the retrospective coverage of recent months certainly demonstrated two things: just how much things have changed during the Queen’s reign through its longevity; the sense of extended personal service from a remarkable 96 year-old. She has seen 14 (soon to be 15) Prime Ministers, yet she signed her Platinum Jubilee letter to the nation “Your servant, Elizabeth R”.
At the Queen’s Coronation, she gave the following vow: “God, give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve him and you, all the days of my life”. 70 years on and I would say that she has made good on those promises.
As our U6 sit on a threshold, it is helpful for them to consider looking both backwards and forwards. I hope you will take time to enjoy reflecting on their Norwich School journeys, whether they have been for 2,5,7, 11 years (incidentally, the same time that I have been at the school, though mercifully there will not be any retrospective photos of me in Lower School uniform). Yet I hope you also take time to think ahead, for the exciting world and experiences which await you beyond the West Doors. After all, here in the Cathedral today, you are both the oldest pupils and the youngest adults; you are simultaneously finishing a chapter and starting another. Perspective is all and we would want you both to look backwards fondly and forwards with excitement.
What might your vow to yourself and those you care about look like? You could do worse in setting your aspirations than take the advice from today’s reading in Philippians: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”. The reading itself invites a looking back and forwards; it is one of the readings that we use in the Joiners Service for new pupils at the start of September.
Your teachers and parents will enjoy reminiscing with you about your Norwich School days, but it is just one of several significant punctuation marks for them. They can also share their reflections of stages you are yet to meet: holiday plans, gap years, university experiences, the world of work, travel, first house deposits, even children, though that last one might close the circle of life just a bit too much today.
I don’t give that list of future events to frighten you but to excite you. If we have got it right at Norwich School, we have given you a range of skills, values and attitudes to explore these new experiences with competence and confidence. The procession at the end of the service will be of young men and women ready to make a positive contribution to the world. You cannot know exactly what that contribution looks like from this end of the lens but I hope there will be a moment when you can reflect on further chapters of what promises to be an exciting journey, just as you are doing today about your school chapter and just as the country did in celebrating the Platinum Jubilee.
What makes it even more exciting, particularly in the modern world when it is relatively easy to stay in touch, is that you and we get to do that together, both you as a group of friends supporting each other through the vicissitudes of life, and us, a school that will always be pleased to hear from you and to help where we can. We are so proud of all that you have achieved, sometimes in very difficult circumstances, and grateful for all you have given to our community, both this year and throughout your time in Cathedral Close. We wish you all the best and hope you will stay in touch."