A SCHOOL community has won high praise for its ‘Herculean efforts’ to maintain outstanding learning during a pandemic.

Barnard Castle Preparatory School ended an unprecedented year with a music festival, prizegiving and sports day for its Year 6 pupils before they embark on the next chapter of their lives at senior school.

Parents were treated to the first ever virtual speech day as headmistress Laura Turner, senior school headmaster Tony Jackson and chairman of governors Peter Mothersill reviewed the ‘Herculean efforts’ involved to maintain learning under lockdown.

Mrs Turner praised the whole school community of pupils, parents and staff for responding to the health crisis with kindness, positivity and gratitude.

She recognised that everyone had quickly had to co-ordinate new routines of working from home, looking after loved ones and helping their children access their learning online.

“The Prep School spirit has shone through,” she said. “Microsoft Teams is now an integral part of daily school life and by embracing it we gained our community back.”

Technology and the programme of learning, house events and challenges, all taken in a friendly competitive spirit, had enabled everyone to stay connected.

“There has been no better test of children’s resilience than this year and their caring, supportive and kind attitude has continued to astound me,” she said. “They embraced the learning at home with ambition, adventure, determination and creativity and I am unashamedly proud of children and staff for their resolve and spirit in such trying circumstances.”

Mrs Turner said it had been crucial to get every year group back to school in recent weeks. “The smiles, jumps, leaps of joy and the playground chat as the children returned was a priceless sound and a sight sorely missed,” she said.

She praised her teaching, administrative, grounds, catering and cleaning staff for their imagination and dedication and for adapting to everything thrown at them, while juggling their own family lives.

On the penultimate day of term Year 6 pupils enjoyed a ‘Glastonbarney’ festival with live music, DJing, food and entertainment organised by teacher Nathan Joy.

Years 6 pupils and Reception class also took to the sports fields for a competition of track and field events, with Grenville house taking the honours.

Prizegiving, with awards sealed in cellophane, was staged in chapel for Year 6s recognising their achievements in academia, improvement, endeavour and citizenship.

“Looking ahead we will seize the opportunities that have come across our paths to develop our educational offering and look forward to September with high hopes,” Mrs Turner said.

“There is no doubt that the heart of Prep School beats stronger than ever. The support offered throughout shows the strength of Barney that no pandemic can take from us.”