When I was ten years old, my Classics teacher first introduced me to the Latin phrase “carpe diem”, the origin of which is believed to be in the Roman poet Horace’s ‘Odes’, published in 23BC. It can be translated literally as “pluck the day”… trusting as little as possible in the next one. Over successive years, it became a mantra of many schools and universities, gaining further fame when Robin Williams starred as a prep school English teacher in Dead Poet’s Society, challenging his students to see the world differently: “Carpe diem. Seize the day… make your lives extraordinary”.

In our morning assemblies this week, we have been reflecting upon the range of opportunities which a new school year affords. Many experiences on offer will be new or different, which in turn, may elicit emotions ranging from excitement of the unknown through to fear of failure. Our students have shared what the first week alone presented: Upper IIs courageously nominating themselves to be elected by their peers for a wide range of leadership positions – everything from Digital Leaders to Food Forum Representatives; Lower IIIs ascending dizzy heights on their outdoor adventure, taking a leap of faith with just a rope as their safety net; plucky Lower Is volunteering themselves at a moment’s notice to share their gymnastic prowess on a high beam in our assembly – each one of them reminding us to use different methods to support ourselves and to enjoy the view along the way!  

Sometimes, we know that we are going to have to do something for the first time, but we are not really sure what it will entail, or how it will feel. We acknowledge the place that these feelings have in our thoughts, without allowing them to get in the way of us trying new things and enjoying them – tackling something seemingly scary for the first time, with the resultant dopamine high of really achieving something good. As babies, it may have been the first mouthful of a new food. School time memories may include tackling a new subject or riding a bicycle without stabilisers for the first time. For our Nursery and Reception children, meeting Bodhi – our Emotional Support Dog – this week, brought immeasurable delight for many who had never come in close contact with a furry friend. 

As a school, we recognise that opportunities present themselves to us each day. We encourage our students to rise up, start afresh and see the bright opportunity which each new experience brings. It’s through curiosity and viewing circumstances in new ways that we map our individual paths at The Abbey. The stellar results and ambitious destinations enjoyed by our students are a by-product of their time with us. It’s a deep-rooted passion for learning, the development of meaningful relationships, the importance of giving back to society, a genuine desire to play an active role as global citizens and so, so much more, which equips them to step out into the world with confidence, purpose and joy. Active, self-reliant, compassionate individuals who in return, find numerous opportunities to make us smile too, through the rich diversity of our wonderful daily school life. 

Horace would be proud.

Nisha Kaura, Head of Junior School