Last year marked a first for King William’s College – it was the first time in the School’s history that the annual Founders’ Day ceremony and prize giving had to be cancelled. With the occasion returning this year, it brought with it a new first – the first time the ceremony was live streamed, allowing international families and those unable to attend in person to be part of the event.

Principal Joss Buchanan reflected on the last eighteen months and the challenges brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic.  He thanked students, parents and staff for their support and adaptability.

“For the teachers, in many respects it meant learning how to teach all over again.  The preparation of lessons, the delivery of lessons, the assessment of work all had to be approached differently and the teachers worked outstandingly hard to make it a success. The students also rose to the challenge.  Time and again they went above and beyond and it was a real pleasure as Principal to call them up for commendations.  But can I also thank the parents.  There has been much in the media about the challenges of home schooling and in those households where parents were working online whilst their children were in virtual lessons it was difficult.  But that support from parents was crucial and it encouraged the students to really give of their best.”

But, Mr Buchanan reflected, despite the challenges and uncertainty, the pandemic highlighted the strength of the College community.  Although missing the usual day to day interactions, students and staff looked out for each other, island families opened their doors to international students and everybody showed their commitment to the school and its community.

In a further first this year Peter Clucas addressed Founders’ Day for the first time as Chairman of Governors having been appointed last year following Nigel Wood’s retirement from the role.  Mr Clucas thanked Nigel for his leadership as Chairman and his dedication and service to the School over many years.

He also reflected on the last year.

“Covid has presented an existential threat, both physically and financially, which impacted on every aspect of how the School operates.  As a governing body we faced up to challenges, not knowing what the future would present.”  He went on to express his gratitude to the parental body, whose ongoing support he said would never be taken for granted, and to the Manx Government, whose financial support schemes have been vital during the last year.

Speaking to the students, he praised their perseverance and their patience.

“The isolation of lockdowns – separated from your friends, the stresses and fear when our returning overseas students had to self-isolate in January, the cancellation of external examinations, these and many other concerns bring home to me just how hard the last year has been on our young pupils.  You should be proud of what you have achieved in the last year. Whilst I congratulate those of you who have been awarded prizes today – this year all our pupils deserve special recognition for their achievements in a time of adversity.”

The guest of honour was Dr Mike Hoy, MBE, former Head of English and Director of Studies at the College as well as archivist and author of the School’s official history A Blessing to this Island.  Dr Hoy addressed the students, both those in the tent and those who had joined virtually, and looked back at the pioneers in education whose vision saw the establishment of both King William’s College and The Buchan School – Bishop Isaac Barrow, Bishop William Ward and Laura, Lady Buchan – whose portraits all now hang in the Barrovian Hall.  Referencing modern day icons, Greta Thunburg and Captain Sir Tom Moore, Dr Hoy inspired the audience to pursue their own visions reminding them that “you are never too young and it is never to late”.

“Seize every chance you get to fulfil your dreams and, whenever and wherever you can, help those you meet along the way to fulfil their dreams too.  This has been a year like no other. You have all faced its challenges with resilience and resourcefulness and what you have achieved together is remarkable. You are amazing. You contain multitudes. So – search for the hero inside yourself, dig for the bravery you did not know you had, reach for your edges and push. Believe that you can achieve whatever you set your heart on – and be the best you can be.”

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