Last Wednesday, the Chamber Choir performed Benjamin Britten’s ‘A Ceremony of Carols’ at the Church of St Nicholas in Hove – a blissful, mid-afternoon interlude which allowed those of us fortunate enough to be present time to pause and draw breath before the madness of the final week.

Britten’s 1942 work is a delight. Originally conceived as a series of unrelated songs, it is at once simple (with imitations, echoes and sections of call-and-response) and complex in its use of Middle English, Latin and Early Modern lyrics and varied rhythms. The accompanying harp adds colour and texture but, as Mr Walton explained to me, offers the singers very little help with the notes.

As I was listening to sections of ‘A Ceremony of Carols’ again at Tuesday’s Carol Concert, it struck me that this piece provides a fitting metaphor for the term which is now drawing to a close. The Autumn Term is often the busiest term in the academic year. Like the Procession at the start of Britten’s work, it begins slowly, quietly, as students file in and find their place in their new classrooms and with their new teachers; at the start of term, there is no time signature, no set tempo. Quickly, however, we are thrown headlong into events, trips, sports fixtures, competitions; there are moments of harmony and moments of discord; parts seem steady like plainsong, others polyrhythmic. The last few weeks feel like one great accelerando as we charge towards the finish line, fuelled by mince pies and early Christmas lunches.

Looking back on all we have achieved this term makes me immensely proud. Year 8 and the Sixth Form enjoyed trips to our Field Centre in Boughrood; Year 10s took part in exchanges to Nantes and Seville; we squeezed in some Duke of Edinburgh expeditions before the weather turned, and in assembly today both Bronze and Silver Awards were celebrated; and some 2160 physical clubs (Sports and Dance) were attended by Senior students this term. We’ve had some superb music concerts, featuring talented soloists and singers with gusto – those present at the various Christmas concerts over the last two weeks will testify to this. We’ve celebrated coding challenges, Temple Projects, Maths challenges, and weekly brain teasers. Clubs have grown in both number and popularity and the sense of purpose and engagement around the school has been heartening to see.

It has been wonderful to see students enjoying the new spaces in the Temple. Whether reading quietly in the library or tapping away on a Chromebook in the Hive, it has been lovely to see this flexible space coming into its own, and yesterday evening the space once again became a social hub for the entire community. Thank you to everyone who came to the Carol singing and enjoyed a whistle-stop tour of the Temple. What a wonderful event, full of festive spirit, music and merriment!

As the term draws to a close, we are all ready for a change of pace. We are ready for the last movement in our Ceremony of Carols.

In Benjamin Britten’s work, The Recession is performed as the choir exits the stage and the melody gradually fades. This final movement is a near mirror of the Procession – a chant in unison, providing a frame that binds everything together. This week, above all others, has shown the importance of having something to unite us, something to cling to and come back to when our sense of order and stability is shaken.

As a community, we are still coming to terms with the loss of our colleague, Mrs Kellie Donley, who sadly died on Monday following a short illness. As ever, the strength of the Brighton Girls community has been a wonder the behold – as tributes to Kellie pour in and offers to help are made, we end the term feeling thankful for Kellie’s life and the many contributions she made, and thankful to be part of such a community, where warmth and kindness provide a comforting refrain.

Merry Christmas, everyone!