This year’s Leavers’ Service was held this morning in the Chaplin Theatre.  The Year 8s, their parents and staff had to adapt to the current restrictions and were sad not to be able to sing together, but Katherine Jenkins’ rendition of Jerusalem started the pupils’ tears rolling and by the end of the service there was hardly a dry eye in the house.  Joff plunged the theatre into darkness, lit a simple candle and spoke of God’s light and how the children should shine a light in the world.  The Year 8s and departing staff read a variety of moving bible readings and inspiring quotations and Clemmie D and Honor F delivered a speech on behalf of their peers.  It was a beautiful and meaningful service enjoyed by all.

After coffee by the flagpole, the mood shifted to one of celebration of all that these wonderful pupils have achieved throughout their time at Vinehall.  Prize Giving is usually a huge community event in the sports hall (and bets are taken in the staffroom over the length of Joff’s speech); but, having marked the successes of the other year groups at special assemblies on Thursday, this year’s event felt very special devoted entirely to this departing year group.  Pupils received their shields and a huge array of prizes, cups, books and certificates, presented to them by this year’s speaker.

Charlie Walker, our Prize Giving speaker, inspired our children to follow their passions, to explore how to achieve all goals and to live with no regrets.  He held our children, parents and staff in the palm of his hand as he shared with us a remarkable expedition.

Aged 22, Charlie left home in search of adventure. Fleeing the boredom that comes with comfort, he set off on a second-hand bicycle.  The aim was simple: to pedal to the furthest point of Europe, Asia and Africa.  He didn’t train or plan.  He just started.

With humour and great skill, Charlie gave us a refreshing insight into the distant lands and cultures he encountered on his 44,000 mile trip. From hiking through sandstorms in the Gobi desert to navigating remote corners of the Congolese jungle, this perilous adventure, and Charlie’s many meetings along the way, took us to often overlooked places.

He was quite brilliant.