While the 2019-20 academic year has been unprecedented for schools across the UK, at Westminster City School there has been much to celebrate, with achievements in and beyond the classroom by our inspiring young people.
Michaelmas term 2019 began with our Re-dedication Service at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, where the Reverend Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin (now Bishop of Dover) spoke. Our Headteacher and a number of pupils were then back at the Abbey in October for an historic event, in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen, to mark the church’s 750th anniversary. Our Cadets also attended the opening of the Abbey’s Field of Remembrance in November, in the presence of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and we returned to St Margaret’s Church for our carol service (which included our largest ever parental audience) and end-of-term service. We look forward to resuming our termly services at St Margaret’s Church as soon as possible.
Our young people continued to take part in exciting extra-curricular activities. Our popular Key Stage 3 Science Club made their own sparklers for Bonfire Night, while many of our youngest pupils tackled rugby for the first time, training at nearby Green Park. Our sixth formers even stood as different political parties and hosted a lively debate for younger pupils in our own election, before the UK general election in December.
Alongside this, our Michaelmas term saw four pupils undertake our life-changing Japanese exchange. As Year 10 participant, Akash, said: “Although it felt strange at first, staying with a different family, I soon settled in and the exchange helped me get a real sense of life in Japan and a real understanding of a completely different culture.” In addition, our musicians and our Choir continued to impress, with our Inspiring Musical Future concert to a packed audience at St Peter’s Eaton Square in November.
Lent term 2020 began with some our young people travelling further afield for their studies, whilst also building valuable life experiences. A group of sixth formers explored topics related to their A Levels in social science in Vienna, Austria, while almost 100 Year 7 got muddy in the East Sussex countryside, learning new skills and strengthening friendships at an outdoor education centre.
Creative arts continued to flourish during Lent term, with six of our Choir joining the Chorus of the English National Opera’s Carmen. Performing nightly on stage at the London Coliseum was a fantastic experience as Year 8 pupil, Theo, confirmed: “I felt like a professional singer. Initially it was intimidating and scary but, in the end, it was something I will cherish for the rest of my life”. In addition, our Year 10 artists studied the re-imagination of the London Underground roundel, by acclaimed artist Larry Achiampong, at a workshop that also saw art by one pupil displayed at Westminster Underground station. Then, in March 2020, our younger pupils took part events to mark World Book Week and further a love of reading.
Like all UK schools, Trinity term 2020 began with our young people and staff staying home to protect themselves and others, helping curb the spread of COVID-19. Our dedicated staff worked hard to ensure minimum disruption to learning, so our young people received high-quality remote learning that were much praised by parents/carers. We also maintained many aspects of our usual school day, such as mentoring of sixth formers to ensure they continued to meet their goals and ambitions.
As part of our remote learning plans, staff identified a number of pupils with no or limited access to computers at home. Thanks to support from our Governors and other donors, these pupils were given computers to keep up with their studies under lockdown. This included 40 repurposed laptops from Emanuel School, a member of our United Westminster and Grey Coat Foundation. Year 9 pupil, Cyril, said: “This computer, sent to me from Westminster City School, helped a lot during lockdown. I was able to do work set by teachers, as well as research subjects that I was not as confident about.”
Many of our extra-curricular activities moved online, including individual music lessons. This meant that, by making use of online technology, a talented group from our Music Department produced their own rendition of Maroon 5’s Sunday Morning during lockdown. This piece reflects the hard work, commitment and talent of all, and shows how keeping up with music during lockdown helped pupils focus and maintain some aspects of normality.
During our Trinity term 2020, Westminster City School Old Boy, John Boyega, drew worldwide attention with his passionate speech at a London anti-racism rally. We issued our own statement in support of this fight against racism, and we will continue to hold ourselves, our teaching and our learning to account. Racism and violence has no place at Westminster City School.
In June 2020, we followed government guidance to safely re-open our Palace Street site to Years 10 and 12 in very pleasing numbers. Our School was decorated with social distancing markers and signs reminding all to use our new one-way systems, to keep a 2m distance, and to keep washing hands. We look forward to opening safely and securely, in the autumn, to all our young people.
Autumn 2020 will also be an exciting time for our current Year 13, with 97% having applied to start university. Our sixth formers made applications within and outside of London, including to 21 of the 24 prestigious Russell Group institutions like Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College London. Degrees span traditional subjects in science and law, to more contemporary courses like games programming. Over the last months, we have featured many of these students on our website and social media channels, and we look forward to hearing about their future endeavors at university.
Mr Peter Broughton, Headteacher, said: “From music to sport to art and more, our young people continue to impress and academic standards remain high, with so many of Year 13 applying to university. Although 2019-20 will go down as a challenging year for everyone, I am proud of how we continued to provide an excellent educational experience to our young people, whilst ensuring their health and wellbeing, during such an unprecedented time. Our strong and supportive community of pupils, students, staff, parents/carers and governors remain united, while our School motto – Unitate Fortior – has never been more apt.”
Photo credit: ENO Carmen 2020 by photographer Richard Hubert Smith.