...of my little girls junior school life (or career, as they now refer to it, strangely) was today. It was her Leavers Assembly. Its been something that she has been talking about for two years and I have to say it was by far the most traumatic moment I have seen in the kids school experience. This goes beyond nervous steps into stage productions (that was last week) or exam results (the week before). It even goes beyond that moment when you realise that not everyone is going to be your friend.
It was a half-hour long class retrospective of the years they have spent together since nursery, recounting in that rather twee manner that school 'performances' do, the ups and downs. It was very funny in parts and showed off some of the talents of the kids. It involved a lot of singing. A lot of singing. With the entire year there in front of you, you could see where genetics was playing its tricks. There were the rapidly maturing young woman standing alongside girls who would have looked at home in Reception. There were boys who were clearly approaching 'those difficult years' and others that looked like your stereotypical waifs. Some of the kids were very confident, others were nervous, others were paralysed with fear.
And then, at the end, they had to sing 'The Greatest Day' by Take That. These are the opening lyrics:
Today this could be, the greatest day of our lives
Before it all ends, before we run out of time
Stay close to me,
Stay close to me
Watch the world come alive tonight
Stay close to me.
Tonight this could be the greatest night of our lives
Let’s make a new start,
The future is ours to find
Can you see it,
can you see it in my eyes
Can you feel it now,
can you hold it in your arms tonight
And tears. Floods of tears. The adults in the audience - teachers, parents, grandparents, classroom assistants. Crying. The kids, one by one, started to cry. And the little buggers were still banging out the tune with the tears streaming down their eyes. Even the lads were crying!
It came to an end, the headmaster said some platitudes, as did the headmaster of the high school that 95% of them will be going to and then some prizes were handed out. And then, in a move of the most barbaric, cold-hearted and unsympathetic sort, the headmaster asked them to sing the song again as the lower school kids trooped out.
It was carnage. Really, it was too much for some of them. Boys openly crying and hugging other boys. Girls with their arms around each other. Teachers passing out tissues along the rows to try to add a veneer of dignity to the occassion as parents saw their children put through mental torture. It was like Torchwood had prepared us for this moment!
In the end, of course, everyone was fine. Everyone always is - and the words of the High School head resonated. "You know you have a good school when the kids are crying because they are leaving."
The silly thing is, they will all be popping into each others houses over the summer and then seeing each other in seven weeks time. I tried to broach this topic and suggest that it wasn't the people she would miss but the teachers and the school itself. I was soundly told I was wrong. It was still an amazing, slightly harrowing and yet somehow hilarious and uplifting sight.
Mr Baines. You sir are a class one bastard, but you do run an amazingly good school!