There is an ancient symbol, found across the world from Norse mythology to Ancient Egypt, that depicts a circle formed by a snake eating its own tail. The symbol is known as Ouroboros and symbolises all sorts of things, but mostly the cycle of life, renewal and rebirth.

Those ideas are always fresh in our minds at the end of the academic year, but this year they take on far greater significance, as we look ahead to a vast sense of renewal and release from the restrictions that have hemmed us in these many long months past. Not just the social rules we have been asked to follow and the physical restrictions on travel and on meeting those we love: but the restriction imposed by the sense of anxiety we have all felt.

What we might once have thought of as a joyous gathering may be transformed in our minds into a claustrophobic opportunity for viral load to spread. Simple things like eating a meal with friends are marred by thoughts of how far we are away from them and for how long. Above all hugs and handshakes have been weaponised, have become the opposite of the natural expressions of affection that mean and matter so much.

For us all, the end of this state of oppression should be simply joyous, but of course, in keeping with the insidious impact of this virus, it is itself laced with uncertainty. Are we moving too quickly? Will case numbers rise too high? Might we see the end of the dreaded bubbles only for them to be cruelly re-imposed if things seem out of control?

As a school we are deeply sympathetic to these concerns. Our lifeblood is the wellbeing of all our students, and of our wider community. For that reason safety and concern for students must always be first in our minds. We will keep the situation under close review; we will be assiduous in maintaining the controls that will stay in place next term, such as ventilation and a focus on hand and respiratory hygiene; we will always be prepared to act if needed and adapt precautions in the best interests of staff and students and families.

However, also in our lifeblood and DNA is joy. We feel joy every day in welcoming young people here and helping them grow and discover and explore. We want their first and last experience of school to be one of joy: to face the challenges that school presents, of course, but to do so with confidence and purpose and with a sense of wonder at the glory of life. For all its pain, of which we are so keenly aware; despite loss, and suffering, and sadness – it is impossible to spend five minutes among the students of this school and not see the joy of life, not believe in its renewal, not celebrate the future that these young people represent with hope and gladness.

So – with prudence and measure and care – we nevertheless look forward so intensely to increased freedom and to the resumption of all the activities and intangible sense of togetherness that make education what it is. Who knows what the future holds, and whether this is the beginning of the end, or, as Churchill had it, the end of the beginning. But we do know that for students making their journey towards adulthood; and, in the case of the Upper VI, to whom we formally bid farewell today, actually crossing that threshold – their future is freedom, however the next months pan out. Their future is wonderful and unwritten and full of opportunity. We wish them and you all a wonderful summer.

Will le Fleming, Head