STUDENTS returned in force to celebrate officially the end of their school days after a 21 month wait for their rite of passage.

Barnard Castle School’s class of 2020, most of whom are in their second year of university, attended a leavers’ valedictory service and ball.

The ceremony marked the official transition from Barnardian to Old Barnardian which was celebrated by the presentation of school hymn books for the last time by retiring OB secretary Dorothy Jones.

Former school chaplain Father Darren Moore returned to officiate. He told students: “This is a valedictory like no other. We are here to pay a fond farewell after some considerable time and I can never remember before performing such a service in the company of a Christmas tree.

“This marks a full stop in your careers as Barnardians and the formal transition to Old Barnardians who will now go into the world embracing the school’s qualities of resilience, pragmatism and humility.”

Headmaster Tony Jackson added: “I remember vividly the moment we were together in the sixth form centre in March 2020 and we had to break the news that your A levels could not take place and all your hard work would not come to an end. That was one of the most difficult messages I have ever had to deliver as a senior leader.

“As Old Barnardians you are joining a vast network of people around the globe who are there, I’m sure, to help you personally and professionally.”

Mr Jackson also read a message from the former head of sixth form David Creswell who told them: “Being at Barnard Castle School made me understand why I am a teacher. I am genuinely proud of each and every one of you as you have changed, as I have, because of life at this unique school.”