Sydenham girls channel Socrates

In this technological age people are increasingly losing sight of the importance of independent research, lateral thinking and long-term memory in favour of absent-mindedly using online search engines, and the tendency to only find out what is necessary to pass an exam or be offered a job shows a worrying reduction in curiosity and knowledge-building for the sake of interest or passion. “The unexamined life is not worth living”, so said Socrates, and here, over 50 girls in years 7-9 heartily echo this statement. They have spent the best part of a year hearing from expert lecturers in fields of forensic science, entrepreneurship, classics and more, as a pre-cursor to choosing and researching a topic of their choice, all in order to present their findings to an audience of family, friends, staff and special guests.

We are delighted that our girls have taken to enrichment beyond traditional classroom teaching, nurturing a love of learning, through our new Socrates Programme. Coined in the great philosopher’s name, it intends to foster that mentality in our girls from year 7 onwards and this week we were thrilled to see the fruits of our girls’ hard work at the first cohort’s celebration evening. Throughout the programme pupils gained valuable skills: confidence, the ability to think critically, conduct independent research and plan effectively as well as the ability to communicate their research engagingly and succinctly. The most important premise was for their final piece to reflect their chosen interest and for the 2000-word essay to demonstrate the development of an initial idea with reflection of their journey throughout the process, from concept to fruition.

During the celebration evening the girls had the opportunity to showcase their projects, speaking with such pride and passion on topics from depression to social mobility to the impact of exercise on memory and the brain. We were joined by two guest speakers, Dr Kevin Stannard, Director of Innovation & Learning at the GDST, and author Christopher Lloyd, both of whom praised the girls’ work, independence of mind and creativity and well as their in depth research skills. The participants competed for awards of first, second and third in each year group and, as the quality was so high, two additional achievement awards were given. Congratulations to Ella McGovern, year 7, Ruby Gratrick, year 8, and Esme Burke, year 9, for being awarded first place in their year group.

Headmistress, Mrs Woodcock said “It was wonderful to see how much they had gained from being part of the programme. They are developing into confident, well-rounded young women who are highly competent, articulate and have the strength of character to think for themselves. I could not feel more proud.”

All of the girls showed such dedication to their topics, working tirelessly outside of their academic and co-curricular activities to produce final pieces of real quality and gain such a level of expertise in their subjects. Quite a feat for young people aged 11-13 in a world filled with the temptations of social media and other distractions! Each girl showed diligence and curiosity, researching and challenging the world around them, and their passion for their chosen topic was infectious and truly inspiring.

Well done to all girls involved.