It’s a dangerous business, going out of your door… you step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. This wonderful line from Tolkien appears on our virtual events website. It is a lovely reminder that there is nothing quite like the start of a journey. The longer the journey, the more daunting the prospect – but the more exciting the possibilities.

It was impossible not to think of this over the course of the last week, when we have been doing all we can – in these necessarily restricted times – to welcome families facing the start of one of the most daunting but exciting journeys of all – the journey through secondary school life. The journey is long: seven years, for those who have only so far been alive for 10 or 11. It is consequential: it ends with an individual choice that will go on to shape every student’s future. And it is literally life-changing: young people join us as children and leave as adults. We hope they retain all that is best about their younger selves – their curiosity, their openness, their playfulness of mind. And our goal is to ensure that they have the opportunity to express that self on the free and independent canvas of adulthood, full of confidence, motivated to lead change where change is needed, and considerate and thoughtful to all around them.

It is not just in looking towards Year 7 that we think of a journey. At the Junior School we have focused both on welcoming new families and on Moving Up this week, turning our minds to all that next year will bring. At the Senior School, we have been able, with strict controls, to welcome smaller groups of students joining us for Year 8, Year 9 and Year 12.

It has been wonderful to watch their progress even in a short visit as a microcosm of what we and their parents want from the whole experience. Understandably, most students start off nervous, a little unsure. By the time they have had a chance to meet properly, to take part in activities, to feel at home, the energy typical of every day at The Abbey starts to emerge: chatter, laughter, zip, edge, liveliness of mind and quickness of wit.

Listening to new students talk really brings into focus the other key question that the idea of a journey prompts: where are we going? What is all this for? There are no fixed outcomes: we are proud of every student who gives their best, no matter what that looks like in a set of paper grades. And there are no fixed destinations: it is about the right next step for the right individual, whether that is the most competitive course at the most competitive university, straight into the world of entrepreneurship or business, or creative foundation courses and degrees.

Perhaps the only words to summarise the destination, the end-goal of the care, work and commitment that students, staff and families put into their school experience is the simple phrase that appears on our website and in our communications and strategic plan and that underpins everything we try to do every day: we are here to equip girls to live with confidence, purpose and joy. Every day, every piece of progress, every setback, every opportunity must always lead us towards that goal, and not just up until the end of school – throughout all of our students’ lives. There is no more rewarding road to travel. For us all, it is a privilege to help guide these wonderful young people along it.

Will le Fleming, Head