Year 6 in the English school system, the final year of junior school. The year before they make the transition to secondary education. Most will have been at their school since the age of 4. It is all they have ever known. Now 11, they have outgrown this place. It is time to move on.
That final year. So important. Where memories are made.
They are top of the school. Young adults in the making. They’ve worked hard to get a place in their secondary school of choice and the rules are somewhat relaxed for now – the pressure is off.
It’s the year of the residential; the first time away from home for some. The team bonding, the friendship making, the creation of memories that will last a lifetime.
The Year 6 production, the leaver’s disco, the final summer fair… the last time for everything. There’s excitement about moving on, but trepidation too. And then there’s sadness, at leaving behind friends, teachers you’ve come to love and trust; comfort and familiarity.
What happens when all that is whipped away from you?
What happens when in the middle of March, when you haven’t even reached the Easter holidays, you suddenly find out it’s your last day – ever?
This was my son’s experience. In the week running up to the lockdown, his year group were supposed to perform their play, but it had to be done behind closed doors. We had already been warned the residential trip would likely be cancelled. It was something the children had looked forward to for as long as they could remember having witnessed previous year groups talking about how much fun it was. To have that experience taken away from you was a huge blow.
Then there was an overnight trip to France, a summer concert my son had planned to sing at, the incredibly moving final awards ceremony and speech day, the leaver’s disco… the list goes on.
Having joined in Year 3, my son hadn’t spent the entirety of his junior school years at this school. Nevertheless, he had loved every minute of being there and thought of it as his second home. They made learning fun, inspired the children to put their all into everything they tried, taught them values of resilience, bravery and courage, among others and had their own dog-in-residence. What wasn’t there to love about a school that has its own dog!
For the class of 2020, there will be no residential trip or leaver’s disco. There will be no final summer fair or awards ceremony. There will be no opportunity to say a proper farewell to teachers, peers and friends.
All that will remain to remind them of their time at junior school will be the memories they hold dear and the Leaver’s Book; that visual reminder of their time at the school.
The Leaver’s Book is lacking those images though. The ones from all the trips, the ceremonies, the parties, the final days. Instead, it will include pictures of them learning at home, alone, without their friends and teachers, without the camaraderie that is shared between people who have known each other for a long time and are comfortable enough to be who they truly are when they are together.
It will still be a book of memories, a reminder of trips and events in earlier years. It will still be something they will treasure, but there is an element of sadness about it, about what could have been. In its own way, the Leaver’s Book is a reminder of what they missed out on during those last few months of school.
The children of Year 6 will move on. They will settle in their new schools, make new friends, begin the next leg of their educational and life journey. But they will forever be the class of 2020. The year of Corona.