As a member of the Upper Sixth, I wasn't quite sure what to do when I had my last day of lessons on Thursday 7 May. At 3:59 pm, in my last ever lesson, I clicked the red 'end call' button on Zoom and sat back in my chair, unsure of what to do next. Looking back, I'm pretty sure I sat there for at least five minutes, simply staring at the wall, wondering whether I should be celebrating or crying about the fact that I was officially finished with school-based education. Eventually I got up, cleared my desk of all my school things and put them away in a cupboard. For me, the action of putting my calculator and textbooks away was both incredibly poignant and a bit of a let down. On the one hand, I felt by closing the door on my school belongings, I was closing the door on Farnborough Hill and perhaps opening the door for the next stage of my life. However, on the other hand, the simple action of putting these objects away was insignificant and nothing I could do would help me to grasp the fact that I was leaving.
I now look back beyond all that, to 2019, on the final day of Lower Sixth, when a friend and I walked down the hill, across the grass, towards Farnborough North station. Just before opening the gate to Highgate Lane, we stopped and turned around to see the school for one final time that academic year. I think every member of our little community would agree the view from the bottom of the hill is the best view of Farnborough Hill and I am sure you can all picture it while reading this. While taking in the view, we joked, trying to hide our emotion, about how a year later we would do this same thing for the last time and say goodbye to what has been our school and home for the past seven years.
Now a year later, I realise we won’t get that same chance to say goodbye properly and so, if I could relieve my last week of being physically in school, I would.
On the Monday morning at 8:30 am, I'd be sitting with my friends chatting as we hear the fire alarm test. Knowing I would be hearing the sound for the last time, I would appreciate hearing this annoying noise! Later we'd trek to assembly and sit in the tribune. I'd sing the hymn at the top of my voice and clap harder than ever at everyone's achievements. Each lunch I would race to the Ref in an attempt to grab a crumble before they all disappear and I would probably go to the tuck shop every day to buy a Freddo, just for the sake of enjoying a Farnborough Hill tradition. When the sun shines, I would sit out on the Empress's Lawn in the shadow of the glorious building that is our school but when the rain pours, I would huddle in the library, watching it out of the huge windows and trying to spot the foxes that live in the grounds.
I would appreciate every moment, no matter how small, and I would encourage all the current students at Farnborough Hill to do the same because, one day it will be your turn to say “Goodbye”. Take every opportunity that comes your way: audition for the play and act your heart out, as I did as a weasel in Year 9; join as many clubs as possible, which I regret not doing to the fullest extent; don't be disappointed if you get into the B team or the C team, instead enjoy singing with your friends in the minibus on the way to a match and then playing together as a team; don't be embarrassed by your achievements but celebrate them; and try your hardest in everything you do.
If I could relieve my last week of school, it would end exactly as it did in summer 2019. On the final Friday at 4.00 pm as the final bell rings, I’d walk down the hill, look back at school just before opening the gate to leave, and smile because, to quote my Hustings speech, Farnborough Hill has been my home for the last seven years, and I know it will continue to be so for many more, wherever I happen to be.