Last hurrah for Year 6: sadness and celebration

18th July 2008 at 01:00
It's the end of another summer term and time for the Year 6 leavers' concert
It's the end of another summer term and time for the Year 6 leavers' concert. Music and drama are high priorities at our school. The idea of a leavers' concert started five years ago, when a handful of children thought it might be nice to entertain the school with a few songs, a couple of dances, and a sketch lampooning the staff, which, since they were leaving that day, they knew would not entail them being told off.

The event just seemed to grow each year. As our standards of music and performance climbed higher, so did the quality of the leavers' concert. Our 2008 preparations began early because last year's cohort had set a high standard, and - a first - in 2007 Year 6 parents were invited too. Many came because their children had talked excitedly about the concert, but mostly because their sons and daughters had been very high achievers. The adults were grateful and wanted to share their children's last moments at Comber Grove.

The entire school crowded into the hall that we've made into our little theatre, the lights on the stage fired up, and the chattering died down to an expectant whisper. As the show began, I realised just how accomplished our children had become during their years with us. With the help of their teachers, they had designed an enormously varied programme: Indian dancing, comedy wrestling that had the infants in fits, African songs and dances, genuinely funny sketches, solo and group singing of current songs, which were tuneful and beautifully choreographed.

The staffroom sketch was, as usual, greeted with hoots of laughter. But this one was cleverer than before. How well these children know us, I thought. Our mannerisms, our personalities, but this performance seemed to convey greater affection - and a little sadness. They knew we liked them, and they liked us too. The sketch ended with a child impersonating a retiring member of staff, cartwheeling across the stage and shouting "I'm free! Oh God, I'm free!"

Then, back to the music, and most moving of all, the five girls we called our Camberwell Beauties. One of our teachers heard them singing together in the playground two years ago, inventing harmonies to a song we'd taught them in choir. She took time out of her lunch hour to work with them, finding songs that would suit their voices. When she left, other teachers took over, pushing the boundaries and not letting them get away with merely regurgitating fashionable pop songs. And now, watching this concert, I was hearing a stunningly beautiful rendition of "Down to the River to Pray", each of the five singing a different harmony. How sad that they were leaving.

And then the children lined up on stage for their finale. "I want to be ... a footballer," said Michael, the first in the row. "I want to be ... a designer," said Rachel. And so on, round the circle, each child voicing hopes and dreams for the future. A few would live their dreams. Many wouldn't. But for this brief moment in time, the world was theirs.

The concert ended, the rest of the school went out to play, and Year 6 climbed down from the stage, quiet and subdued. The moment had come; they were about to leave us. Many were in tears and I hugged each one. They were my children, I would miss them, and I was reminded, once again, how privileged we are to be teachers.

Mike Kent Headteacher at Comber Grove Primary, Camberwell, south London.

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