It has been an exciting week here in the lead up to the General Election. On Monday Year 13 students took to the stage in a whole school assembly to represent the major UK political parties in Election hustings. Wearing their rosettes with pride, candidates took questions from Senior school pupils from all years, ranging from climate change, the NHS to Brexit and responded articulately and confidently to all the issues raised.
On Thursday 12 December, the morning of the General Election itself, we held a mock election where all the students could vote. It was a nail-biting experience as pupils and candidates were able to watch the results coming in live, just as in a real election!
With an incredibly close-run result, the party that won, by a handful of votes, were the Lib Dems, with Labour a close second and the Greens hot on their heels.
This week we launched a new bespoke programme for years 7 & 9, whilst year 8 were on their activity residential at Ferny Crofts. Curioso has been designed with four broad areas in mind:
Being an active citizen
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
Languages (Modern and Classical)
The Arts: Creative and Performing
The programme suspended the usual timetable from Wednesday to Friday to provide pupils with exciting learning opportunities and experiences, delivered as a series of enriching events. The idea behind Curioso is to engage pupils in a challenging and engaging way that extends and enthuses their curricular appreciation, to further develop pupil employability skills and competencies, to engage pupils in thinking about potential careers in the future and to give pupils experience of university style teaching and learning. Some job roles do not exist yet, so future generations need to be adaptable and have a skills and competencies ‘toolkit’ that they can access.
A range of employability skills and competencies were focused on, including problem solving, communication, creativity, numeracy, digital skills, risk taking and reflection.
A group of pupils enjoyed a trip to The National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park as part of their studies. The Museum is an independent charity housing the world’s largest collection of functional historic computers, including the rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, and the WITCH, the world’s oldest working digital computer. The museum enables visitors to follow the development of computing from the ultra-secret pioneering efforts of the 1940s through the large systems and mainframes of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and the rise of personal computing in the 1980s and beyond.
The museum runs a highly successful Learning Programme for schools and colleges and promotes introductions to computer coding amongst young people, especially females, to inspire the next generation of computer scientists and engineers.
The guides were very informal and friendly. When they found out I was in sixth form they talked in more detail to me which was very good and I was able to see some extra parts of the museum. They explained all the information in detail and the activities, for example coding on the old and new computing, were very interesting and engaging.
– Bethany, year 12
I enjoyed the Bletchley Park trip because it combined history and computing. We were able to see what is inside computers and how they have evolved since they were invented. This was interesting as we could see the computing behind the programmes that we use in lessons.
On Monday evening the 21 finalists of this year’s #700STEMChallenge writing competition gathered to hear the final placing of their entries. We had even more entries this year, from schools across the country and so the judges had a hard decision to make as we had such a phenomenal range. The pupils had the choice to write around 700 words on any topic within Science, Technology & Engineering or Maths and then the entries were shortlisted into under 14, under 16 and under 18.
The evening kicked off with a fabulous presentation from Cyprian Njamma, Director of SEI Investments, discussing his path from school in Nigeria, through to Oxford University and how his passion for maths transferred to physics and then on to finance. He talked through the importance of maths to the financial industry and his passion for its universality, transferability and power in communication and was asked several probing questions about his role. Our year 12s launched a table quiz to test the STEM knowledge of pupils, parents and staff and we heard from our second judge, alumna and airline Captain, Olivia van Lieshout who spoke about the life of a pilot, from training through to receiving command and the decision making involved on every single flight that simply can’t be replaced by autopilot! She also shared easyJet’s campaign to encourage more women to train as pilots and how the airline now has 16% female pilots compared with the industry level of 5%. Her message was clear: if you’re interested, try a flying experience – you’ll catch the bug! As she had to fly early the next morning, she then presented her awards for the Technology & Engineering category. Our final judge, alumna, Consultant Cardiologist and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Professor Diana Gorog spoke about her journey to Medicine and how she chose to focus on cardiology & the importance of combining compassion and strong communication skills in her work. Final message: do what you enjoy & reach for the stars!
Nominees and essay titles
(listed in alphabetical order by surname) Science
Radiocarbon Dating The Shark That Time Forgot
– Emily Boland, Streatham & Clapham High School
The Discovery of a New Microscopic Vessel in the Leg Bone
– Gabrielle Hobson, Sheffield High School
What is changing as the Moon moves further away?
– Maya Vyas, Streatham & Clapham High School
Stress: its effect on the brain – Ashwini Garneti, Sheffield High School
The Periodic Table – Julia Grzywacz, Wimbledon High School
Why is glass transparent? – Asiya Qureshi, Northwood College for Girls
LIGO: The ultimate streaming app for Black Holes
– Samar Al-Haddad, Notting Hill & Ealing High School
Will doctors ever become extinct due to the existence of artificial intelligence?
– Madhulika Joglekar, Norwich High School
Neglected Tropical Diseases – Darcy Quist, Sydenham High School
Technology & Engineering
Is teleportation possible? – Tiffany Igharoro, Sydenham High School
Wind Turbine Rap! – Lara Kerr, Wimbledon High School
The Highs and Lows of Supersonic Passenger Planes – Elodie Owens, Sydenham High School
Light activated robotic stingrays: – Ella Bolland, South Hampstead High School
Virtual Reality: A giant leap for medicine – Aditya Chougule, Wilson’s School
Quantum entanglement and teleportation – Constance Harris, Norwich High School
Has the film industry accurately portrayed space? – Samah Mughal, Wimbledon High School
About Right – Eleanor Roberts, South Hampstead High School
Mathematics: The Order and the Chaos – Amia Guha, Oxford High School
What is the most beautiful equation? – Morgan Lee, Sydenham High School
Journey of the number zero – Elena Gupta, Wimbledon High School
Quantum computing – Joshua Soyke-Pinon, Dulwich College
As part of Science Week we held a fantastic STEAM Festival for parents, pupils and local schools, jam packed with lectures, a careers fair, live experiments and exhibitions. The theme was artificial intelligence and whether it is changing the world for the better.
Our lecture series was very well attended – clearly a popular topic! The first lecture was given by our Physics teacher & Digital Strategy Lead, Mr Llewellin, and sparked lots of conversation regarding learning about AI as part of the curriculum as well as developments which will impact our lives and new apps we can already test out! Our Head of Maths, Mr Brewin gave a fascinating history of AI, from rebirth of knowledge and perfection of the mind toward enlightenment, to the creation of autonomous machines to house human consciousness. The lecture made everyone think and started a slight existential crisis as we tried to work out how to use machines to enhance our humanity, whilst differentiating us from them. Our final lecture was by Managing Director at Accenture Digital, Conor McGovern, and took a positive slant on artificial intelligence as offering us the opportunity to extend human capabilities and showing us how pervasive machine learning already has become.
We had a hugely popular careers fair with exhibitors from a variety of STEAM professions. Huge thanks to all of our exhibitors:
Kit Carter, Solicitor, Carpmaels and Ransford LLP
Valerie Charlton, Design Director, Sebastian Conran Associates
Jennifer Geary, Chief Risk & Operations Officer, Asto (powered by Santander)
Titus Hill, Executive Producer – BT Sport Rugby, Sunset + Vine
Punita Hossain, Management Consultant/Non Exec Director
Sharon Lee, MICE CEng, Associate Director Project and Programme Management, Arup UK
Nicola Osinaike, IT Internal Audit Manager, Government Internal Audit Agency (GIAA)
Nigel Triner, Technical Director, Jacobs
Olivia van Lieshout (Sydenham alumna), Airline Captain, easyJet
Preya Wylie, Head of Support & Customer Success, pi-top
Ayo Abbas, Senior Marketing Communications Lead, pi-top
Women of the future STEM Ambassadors:
Laura Whelan, Programme Principal, Fibre First, Openreach
Alice Mooney, Business Manager to the MD of Service Delivery, Openreach
Hurvashee Gya, Risk Graduate in Conduct, Compliance and Operational Risk, Lloyds Banking Group
Haadiyah Fakira, Risk Graduate in Conduct, Compliance and Operational Risk, Lloyds Banking Group
Siobhan Randell, Education and Engagement Manager, WhiteHat
Dyson School of Design Engineering, Imperial College London
Oxford Brookes University
The University of Leeds
The University of Surrey
Even though we treat every day as a day for all of our girls, International Day of the Girl is special. We marked the event across all subjects, as part of our Sense of Self programme, and in accordance with this year’s theme: ‘With Her: A Skilled GirlForce’
The day began with a whole school assembly at Senior School, where Mr Guest spoke about how astonishing the power of girls really is – that it can save lives and transform futures, releasing the real potential of girls and their communities. He expressed that all of society – women, men, boys, girls, parents, families, schools, laws, policy makers – have a role to play in challenging and changing traditional and harmful gender stereotypes in order to end the poverty and lack of opportunity faced by girls.
Heads of Department designed some amazing and inspiring lessons based around the theme to mark such a significant day, including:
Year 8 thought about why it is often women in developing countries that are exploited.
Year 9 discussed the impacts of climate change and why in developing countries the least mobile (women and children) are often the most heavily impacted.
Year 11 reviewed the importance of girls’ education in stimulating economic growth (link to Rostow model) and compared the number of women in further education and employment in Mumbai and London.
Year 7 discussed gender stereotypes through the medium of advertising as well as thinking about stereotypes across the world of work. They listed the changes that have been implemented this century to bring more equality but decided there was still some way to go!
Year 11 debated the justification for protesting and the use of violence in order to enact change. This was then linked to the question of how to enact change for girls in the workplace and education in the future.
During all languages lessons students and staff started the lesson with a discussion on opportunities with Languages in the world of work.
All year groups looked at women writers, linked to the visiting authors we have met through this term and encouraged the girls to continue their journey as writers through entry to the GDST Creative Writing Competition.
Students built on the Ava Lovelace Day theme and looked at the diverse careers and impacts that women have had – and can further have – in STEM subjects. This happened via discussion in lessons, with examples of women who’ve done incredible things, and through asking students to ‘dream big’ about where they might take their career ideas involving maths.
The Student Council came together in the Lecture Theatre – with girls from Prep through to Senior, to devise a strategy on how to help one another speak up and speak out about the things that matter to them.
It was a great way to celebrate the girl – and a great way to celebrate how we at Sydenham educate the girl. To read more about the theme click here.
Wednesday morning saw the official launch of Black History Month at Sydenham High, with a fascinating assembly by Lolita Chakrabarti on the subject of Ira Aldridge.
As a RADA-qualified stage and screen actress and writer Lolita developed a passion for this previously forgotten actor and set about researching him for over 20 years. She produced a play about his life entitled Red Velvet, which premiered in 2012, and she explained that he should be considered one of the most important actors in British theatre’s history. The play won her the Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright at the 2012 Evening Standard Awards, Most Promising Playwright at the Critics Circle Awards and the AWA Award for Arts and Culture in 2013. Red Velvet was also nominated for an Olivier Award in 2013 and Adrian Lester was nominated for an Olivier in 2016 for his portrayal of Ira Aldridge. He said of the actor:
For Ira to have achieved so much at a time when society thought so little, is a testament to his tenacity and hard work.
As the UK’s first black Shakespearean actor he was honoured in 2017 with the unveiling of a blue plaque in Coventry, the city where he had been manager at Coventry Theatre after impressing the people of the city with his acting during a tour in 1828 aged just 21. The impression he made during his time there is credited with inspiring Coventry’s petition to Parliament for the abolition of slavery.
Lolita told us about his life story, from his humble beginnings in America in 1807 to his travels to the UK given the difficulties for him being a black actor during the time of slavery, and on to his many travels throughout Europe. She described his profound impact on reviewers as a phenomenal actor but explained that he was written out of history because of the hostile environment that he was performing in.
Outside of London, he played to crowded houses, but was boycotted by the West End stage. Undeterred by the hostility he faced, he became the first black actor to perform at Covent Garden, playing the role of Othello for two nights. Sadly he was hounded by a racist campaign and it is thought that the theatre reviewers were bribed to tarnish his reputation. He never performed at Covent Garden again and, in 1852, Aldridge and his family sailed for Europe.
After his death in Poland in 1867, he was given a state funeral – such was his standing in the community across Europe. Lolita also told us that he lived on Hamlet Road in Crystal Palace with his wife and children and that his youngest daughter, Amanda, gave elocution lessons to Paul Robeson in 1930 when he was preparing for his first appearance as Othello in London.
To find out more about this fascinating man please visit the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s online exhibition.
The U15 netballers travelled up to Northampton on Tuesday 2 October for a GDST Netball Tournament and played some awesome netball. The team’s best games included beating Blackheath and Royal Bath. We used defending strategies from training and their commitment has really paid off. It’s good to see players being really versatile and developing as a team.
We finished 7th in our pool but missed our first two games because we got a puncture on the journey, so I was really pleased with that result!