On the final day of the Summer Term and in line with government restrictions, Oakham School pupils, parents and staff were delighted to celebrate in person the end of an extraordinary year via several specially adapted Prize Giving ceremonies and Leavers’ events.
The Form 7 Leavers enjoyed a moving and uplifting Leavers’ Service in the School Chapel, where Headmaster Henry Price paid tribute to the resilience and courage that this year group has shown after so many disruptions to their education over the past two years, assuring them that they were “equal to the tests ahead to lead a fulfilled and fulfilling life”.
At the end of the service, the congregation filed out onto Round House lawn and joined together to sing a rousing rendition of the Oakham School favourite hymn ‘Jerusalem’. This moment was particularly poignant, as not only was it the first time since before lockdown in March 2020 that pupils had been able to sing a hymn together, but the last hymn they had sung at that final Chapel so many months ago was the same ‘Jerusalem’.
Following the Chapel Service, a socially distanced Upper School Prize Giving ceremony in a giant marquee on Doncaster Close took place, with a reduced audience of Form 7 parents, Upper School pupils, staff and Trustees. As well as the prize giving formalities themselves, there were speeches from Chair of Trustees, Neil Gorman and Headmaster Henry Price.
Reflecting on the challenges everyone has face over the past 15 months, Headmaster Henry Price said: “I hope we have gained a greater ability to cope with change and a greater appreciation of what really matters in life. The upskilling in remote, or blended learning is invaluable, but the ongoing question for us all is to how to protect and enhance the priceless quality of human traits and human interaction in a world of quickening technology.”
He continued, “The Summer Term has shown the power of face-to-face teaching, of social contact and the liberating force of the co-curriculum. Whilst much continued in lockdown, the last two weeks alone have seen Form 3 camp, CCF, Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, as well as wonderful dancing, singing, music and theatre. This learning is so important avenues for expression, for fun and friendship, as well as developing skills and confidence.”
Quoting stories of triumph and failure at different Olympic Games over the years, Henry advised, “for all of us in all our races, let the power come to see it to the end, not just from within, but from the support and strength of those around us.” before signing off most appropriately with our School Motto: “Quasi Cursores”, itself a reference to races run.
The formal part of the proceedings completed, there followed speeches of a more irreverent nature from outgoing Heads of School Gina and Ryan, who joked about their limited responsibilities as Heads of School during lockdown, the challenges of lockdown learning, and the ‘interesting’ advice given to them by their teachers.
In a fitting end to their school careers, Form 7 Leavers were able to enjoy the traditional House picnics with their parents at Round House and School House after the Prize Giving ceremony. This gave them the chance to collect their Leavers’ Bag – containing a Leavers’ Book and gift in the form of a beautifully engraved water bottle, welcoming them to the Old Oakhamian Club and our thriving alumni community.
In a change to tradition, the Leavers’ Ball was held on the day after the Leavers’ Day events. A fully Covid-secure event, the 2021 Leavers’ Ball saw Form 7 pupils partake in a four-course dinner, followed by a meal and a live band – a night that was enjoyed by all.
Beyond the Leavers’ events, the final days of the Summer Term saw a wide variety of additional specially adapted end-of-year celebrations, which were themselves a feat of logistical planning. The Music Spectacular saw Oakham’s finest musicians perform an outdoor concert to an audience of pupils and their families; the annual Sports Colours Presentation took place with the traditional ceremony of Oakham’s red and black caps being presented to Oakham’s finest athletes; there was a formal Middle School Prize Giving ceremony in the Doncaster Close marquee for pupils in Forms 3, 4 and 5, followed by informal Prize Giving ceremonies in the Middle School Day and Boarding House; and the week before there had been a highly enjoyable Lower School Prize Giving ceremony in the Doncaster Close marquee, followed by picnics and Sports Day relay races on Farside.
In a thank you message to all the support staff who helped to ensure that these events ran smoothly, Chief Operating Officer, William Hawkes, said, “The pupil events of the last weeks have reminded us all how important it is for us to be here on the campus, with the pupils, to make the School work as schools should – in the spirit of community, cooperation and celebration… we have managed to make the end of the academic year something special for pupils to remember.”