Our 2020-21 academic year may have involved bubbles, online learning and face coverings but it has also involved hard work, enthusiasm and success, in the classroom and beyond.
Our Trinity term 2021 ends with over 90% of our Year 13 holding offers to start university this autumn, almost half for top Russell Group institutions like Durham, UCL and Imperial College London. Ms Dennis, our Head of Sixth Form, reflected the views of all at Westminster City School when she said: “We’re so proud of our outgoing Year 13, who have overcome the challenges of the global pandemic and aimed high in their university aspirations.”
Further academic achievements in the last academic year were also acknowledged at our recent Celebration of Achievement Evening. Due to pandemic restrictions, this year’s event was held at our School and live-streamed, meaning parents/carers could watch from the comfort of their home.
Our final week of the academic year has seen our young people take part in a range of enrichment activities, from trips to the University of Sussex, Thorpe Park and Chelsea Football Club to on-site workshops in architecture, steel pans, design and technology, and more. In addition, Years 7 to 10 took part in our annual Sports Day at Battersea Park, which saw two School records broken and a lot of fun had by all, despite temperatures rising to 31°C!
Other sporting success in our Trinity term include a Year 10 pupil competing in a cricket match at The Kia Oval, our Year 8 rugby players working with coaches from Saracens at the StoneX Stadium, and interviews on our website with many of our pupils who are signed with top London football clubs.
Our Trinity term also saw the launch of our Westminster City School Tutor Reading Programme. This initiative aims to inspire and enthuse young people about literature, with tutors reading aloud to their forms twice a week, picking an age-appropriate book from our chosen reading canon.
Our Lent term 2021 began with the majority of our community working remotely, to help curb the spread of COVID-19, but ended with all back at Palace Street. Our School’s remote learning was much praised by parents/carers with comments like: “All teachers have adapted well to online teaching and made their best efforts to keep students engaged” and: “Teachers respond very promptly to queries. Form times are great for connecting with classmates and form tutor”.
During the 2021 lockdown, our School received some incredibly generous donations from nearby investment company Polar Capital, our Old Westminster Citizens’ Association, and others that ensured all in our community had exclusive access to a laptop to support remote learning. Support from Polar Capital is set to continue, with the launch of the Polar Capital Aspire Scheme (PCAS). This means all joining Year 12 this autumn will be gifted a new laptop and a further one to two will be awarded a PCAS bursary, worth over £20,000 per year, for each year of their future university study in the UK.
Throughout the 2021 lockdown, staff worked hard to ensure other aspects of our usual school day continued, with assemblies and extra-curricular clubs (including Army Cadets, Latin and Cybernauts Coding) moving online. Our young people were encouraged to take part in our weekly Westminster City School Wellbeing Challenges, with different activities that promoted outdoor activity and creativity, while our PE Department provided regular exercise challenges via our School’s Vimeo channel, to help our young people stay active.
Starting our Lent term 2021 in lockdown was a stark contrast to the start of our Michaelmas term 2020, when all returned to Palace Street (following the 2020 lockdown). Our Michaelmas term began with a reminder for all our young people about the new safety measures in place, such as year group ‘bubbles’, hand sanitisation stations and one-way systems around our School.
Our Michaelmas term usually sees all attend our Re-dedication Service at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey but, since the pandemic made this impossible, only Year 7 took part in a socially distant service which formally welcomed them to our School.
Pupils enjoyed getting back into sport during our Michaelmas term, walking to nearby Green Park for their PE lesson, with the fresh air, positive conversations and healthy walk beneficial for all. Once there, lessons consisted of a high intensity fitness session, long distance running and football. As Mr Huxley, Director of Sport, said: “In normal circumstances we teach table tennis, basketball and handball during our Michaelmas term and so the way pupils engaged with new sports, not necessarily to their expectations or personal choice, was admirable."
A number of events moved online during our Michaelmas term, including parents/carers’ evening, our Headteacher’s Forum and our Remembrance Service, which featured The Last Post by current Year 9, Riksen. Our carol service at St Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey, also took place online, raising funds for The Passage. A film of this was available for parents/carers to watch from home.
In addition, our sixth formers and Year 11 enjoyed WCS Insights, our online careers programme featuring professionals in fields ranging from politics to engineering and from science to law. Our first webinar saw Westminster City School alumnus, Wes Streeting, talk about his career. Wes has been Labour MP for Ilford North since 2015 and, in October, was appointed Shadow Minister for Schools, conducting his first interview about this, with The Guardian, at Westminster City School! In May 2021, Wes was made Shadow Secretary of State for Child Poverty. He is currently taking a break from work, to receive cancer treatment, and all at our School wish him a swift recovery.
Wes was not our only alumnus making headlines this year, with actor John Boyega taking the lead in Steve McQueen’s acclaimed Small Axe film, Red, White and Blue. He won a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award for his portrayal of police reformer, Leeroy Logan. Yet John was not our School’s only connection to McQueen’s powerful work! Roshawn, in Year 10, appeared in the final episode, Education.
Reflecting on our 2020-21 academic year, our Headteacher, Mr Broughton, said: “Despite the challenges that we have all faced at this time, our 2020-21 academic year has been successful and there has been much to celebrate, as well as much to look forward to. It remains clear that our young people value the opportunities provided by Westminster City School, whilst ongoing encouragement from parents/carers has been vital and is appreciated by all.
“I would like to thank all staff, pupils, students and parents/carers for their continued support and understanding as we look ahead to the 2021-22 academic year.”