The leavers’ assembly, even more so than Wednesday evening’s leavers’ play, is legendary. Legendary for TEARS. It happens on the very last day of school and Year 6 parents go along to watch.
And so, this morning, my time came. I will do my best to describe it. I want to remember it all and writing this will help me remember, as well as sharing it with people who have something similar to look forward to in the future – or memories of something similar in the past.
In the leavers’ assembly, every child gets to talk. And it didn’t take long for the tears to start.
The first set of children talked about ‘my earliest memory of being at school’. And a girl in my son’s class told how her first memory was when she joined the school in year 3 and for the first time she felt happy and as though she fitted in. I don’t know this girl, but I defy anyone to listen to a child say those words and not cry. In quick succession came my son’s two best friends – one who remembered asking another of their friends to ‘play polar bears’ in reception (how cute) and the other who remembered sitting on the carpet when he joined the school in year 3 and my son asking him if he would be his best friend. He said no.
Then their most embarassing moments – a fair amount of wee stories – favourite moments, greatest achievements and finally dreams for the future.
My son spoke in the ‘favourite moments’ section and I’m proud to say I knew what his favourite moment was going to be. Getting to the top of the climbing wall on the year 4 residential. When his friends couldn’t. And he had a broken arm.
The residential trips in both year 4 and 6 featured highly in all the memories – from the embarassing (seagull poo in hair) to the greatest achievements (a lot of conquering fear) and favourite moments, which really proves the value of these residential trips.
Each set of memories was broken up by a hymn. Chosen by year 6. So they weren’t all seasonal and they weren’t the most obvious religious choices. Lord of the Dance was the sensible option, followed by the harvest classic Cauliflowers Fluffy (broadbeans sleeping in a blankety bed), Mr Cow (how do you say to the Lord I love you – Mr Cow is then followed by Mr Pig, Mr Duck, Mr Fish etc, all with appropriate actions) and the world’s fastest hymn about God being enormous and awesome and gigantic and having no fear.
The choir performed a couple of songs – one chosen by the head as being appropriate to say goodbye to year 6s. And one chosen by the choir. One was Dynamite by Taio Cruz. No prizes for guessing who chose that one. Now I do know the other song (I think from listening to Heart) and believe it’s pretty recent, but for the life of me I can’t remember who sang it. And now I can’t even remember how it goes, but it’s lovely and is all about being there for your friends.
The head talked about how the seven Olympic and Paralympic values – respect, excellence, friendship, courage, determination, inspiration and equality – will help the kids as they move into their new schools. And he shared the stories of two truly inspirational athletes – Oscar Pistorius – aka the fastest man on no legs or blade runner and Derek Redmond. They showed a video to music of Derek Redmond collapsing in agony in the 1992 Olympic 400m and his determination and his dad supporting him to the finishing line. What better thing to show a room of choked up parents, than a dad supporting his grown up son. That was really the turning point for the parents who had stayed strong throughout the pant-wetting and bird pooing stories.
Then there was the bit which I strongly believe got to me worse than anyone else. I went to the same school as my kids. There was a girl in my class, who I became friends with on my very first day at school. She was a very poorly little girl who fought cancer from the age of 8. She was dertemined to go to school even though she often wasn’t well enough. She died just before her 13th birthday. Her parents donated a trophy to the school in her name to be awarded to the year 6 pupil who had achieved the most. Today was the 25th time it had been awarded. I know that girl’s story, but hearing it from her own mum, in a packed room, when I’m already choked up with emotion was hard. The poor mum barely made it to the end of her speech.
This year the school had decided to introduce seven new trophies for year 6s, which will be engraved and passed down, with photos of the recipients on the year 6 wall of fame.
The first trophy was for a musician. My boy is quite a good musician and has played some lovely solos in school concerts. Could it be him? No, it was a girl in the other class. Then there was a sports trophy, an art trophy, a lovely presentation of work trophy (there was NO WAY he was getting that one). OK, I admit it – I may not remember all seven.
Three trophies had been awarded when they came to the ‘compassionate student’ trophy. It was being awarded to someone who always thinks of others, is always caring and everyone always wants to be on his team. MY SON! I was stunned and proud and, I admit, a little shocked (these are not qualities he displays at home). In the end, all of the trophies apart from that one went to girls. (I think this is wrong, by the way.) I just kept looking at my boy with that trophy and thinking ‘The only boy to get a trophy!’ and crying again. The only boy out of the whole year (approx 30 boys). Sob.
By now, at least half the kids were in tears. So the head suggested maybe they would ‘like’ to sing the goodbye song from the show the other night. It was a car crash of kids in bits. Tears, tissues and hugging. But the compassionate student trophy winner wasn’t crying. Or comforting anyone. He was just grinning through his ridiculously long hair.
The whole thing ended with a gorgeous Powerpoint presentation to music of photos of the kids from this year – mainly from their residential. Looking happy, looking like they were having great fun and looking like CHILDREN. Not the nearly-grown-ups we sometimes see them as. It was lovely. Accompanied by music – first S Club’s Reach for the Stars (the third song at my wedding, interesting fact) and two tearjerkers – Sing – Gary Barlow’s Commonwealth track and Someone Like You.
As the lights went up, the carnage was revealed. Year 5s, years 4s and years 3 were all walking out of the hall crying, comforted by each other and their teachers.
The whole leavers’ assembly was a VERY moving experience.