39 boys and 43 girls eagerly returned to the school gates one fine September morning. They were the Class of 2021, ready to embark on their final year at The Blue Coat School, Birmingham. Following a tumultuous year in which the first national lockdown in March 2020 enforced school closure and an abrupt end to onsite schooling for all but key workers, there was a renewed air of optimism and a steadfast hope that this academic year would be different.

Different it certainly was; with adaptations including year group bubbles, additional dining spaces, designated play areas, face coverings and social distancing, the children happily settled back into the classroom. At Blue Coat, the children were able to continue with their after school clubs in bubbles and they remained connected with the rest of school via weekly online assemblies and chapel services. Although inter school fixtures were off limits, there was still plenty of sport taking place: the teams of Thunder, Lightning, Hurricane and Storm proudly donned their new team strip and took to the rugby field and netball court to compete for the Intra School Cup. Even Forest School was adapted to house Santa’s grotto and along with a live nativity, the children were able to celebrate a socially distanced Christmas and hang decorations on the Christmas trees planted by the School’s Eco Committee.

In this key year of academic study, our Year 6 pupils quickly made up for lost time in the classroom. They worked diligently to prepare themselves for the rigour of the senior school examination season. A demanding schedule of assessment in a normal year, but this year was to be even more challenging for both candidates and their future schools. Outside of school, life remained very much ‘locked down’ and this undoubtedly took its toll as normal socialising was curtailed. It was an even deeper blow when the New Year dawned and COVID-19 was still ever present, despite it now being the year 21! On the eve of the new term the Headmaster and his staff were required to draw up another plan of action as the inevitable news hit – across the nation school doors were to close once more. This time the bespoke BCS Distance Learning programme was further enhanced to include live on-screen teaching for Reception age upwards. Luckily our younger nursery children were able to attend in person due to Early Years’ settings remaining open whilst the rest of the school continued to dress in their school uniform and replicate the timetable at home as much as possible through their virtual classroom.

Fast forward several months and the playground and school corridors are very much alive again, lateral flow testing is in place and activities in year group bubbles are now second nature. Year 6 are delighted to be back with their peers and are now seeing the fruits of their studies. A record-breaking set of results have been awarded to this most deserving of cohorts. With months of disruption to their normal routines they have cheerfully persevered, not once letting their heads dip or giving less than their very best. With on average at least two offers each, from selective senior schools, our Class of 2021 celebrate 165 independent school offers and 52 grammar school offers; including a record 68 Scholarships for academic, music and sporting talent. Far from being held back, these children have excelled in the face of adversity and acquitted themselves with aplomb. They can now enjoy the forgotten pleasures of ‘school life as they knew it’ – working towards their senior drama production, practising for sports days and an enrichment week to hone their life skills as they prepare for their journey beyond Blue Coat. Good Luck Year 6, you have shown great resilience and we are so proud of you all.

Mrs Dredger