Category: School

Black History Month at Sydenham High

To start the final week of our Black History Month celebrations, Mr Catton gave an inspirational assembly centred on Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos and the 1968 salute at the medal giving ceremony of the Olympics which, rather than being a black power salute – as commonly quoted, was a global protest for human rights.

Fifty years ago on 16 October in Mexico City, Tommie Smith won the 200m final in a world-record time of 19.83 seconds. Norman came second in 20.06 seconds (his time means that he still holds the Oceanian 200 metres record), followed by Carlos. After the race, the three athletes went to the medal podium for their medals to be presented. On the podium, during the playing of the American national anthem, Smith and Carlos famously joined in a salute while Norman wore a badge in support of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). After the final, Carlos and Smith had told Norman what they were planning to do during the ceremony. They asked Norman if he believed in human rights. He said he did. They knew that what they were going to do was far greater than any athletic feat. Peter Norman said, ‘I’ll stand with you’. It was Norman who suggested that Smith and Carlos share the black gloves used in their salute, after Carlos left his pair in the Olympic Village. This is the reason for Smith raising his right fist, while Carlos raised his left.

Despite Norman facing backlash in Australia for his part in the protest, not being selected for the following 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich despite qualifying, and not being invited back in 2000 as a former medal holder, he did not regret his actions as he stood up for what he believed in.

In August 2012, the Australian Parliament gave a posthumous apology and Order of Merit to Norman. A statue is being built in Melbourne to honour him. In a 2012 interview, Carlos said: “There’s no-one in the nation of Australia that should be honoured, recognised, appreciated more than Peter Norman for his humanitarian concerns, his character, his strength and his willingness to be a sacrificial lamb for justice”.

It was a wonderful start to the day, reminding us all to stand up for our beliefs and stand by those who face prejudice and injustice.

Year 6 relaxation workshop

Our year 6 pupils are now well and truly into the swing of 11+ preparation. Everyone is working hard to refine their examination technique and polish their curriculum knowledge. Just as important as a clear revision plan and regular home study schedule is making sure that every pupil is taking time to relax and unwind during the preparation process. To support the development of a positive approach to wellbeing we were delighted to run a relaxation workshop for year 6. Led by our brilliant School Counsellor, Fiona Gray, the girls shared their experiences, practised calming breathing exercises and explored how affirmations and mantras can help you maintain equilibrium.

International Day of the Girl 2018

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.

Prep School Sporting Update

It’s been a fabulous week for our Sydenham Netball teams. On Monday Y6 played St Dunstans Prep and both our A/B teams won their matches 5-4 and 8-0. On Tuesday our Y4 girls had their first competitive match against Oakfield Prep. There was some excellent netball played with a win and a loss. On Thursday our Y6 A/B netball teams competed in the Lewisham Schools Netball Tournament. 18 Junior schools from across the Borough came to Sydenham High Senior school for an afternoon of Netball. Teams were mixed but we didn’t let this put us off with our A team winning their group and our B team narrowly missing out on the top spot by 1 goal! Our A team won their semi final and we were then in the FINAL against St. Stephens. It was a tense beginning as the score was 2-2 but then the girls found their form and we WON with a final score of 7-2. This means we will now go on to represent Lewisham in the London Youth Games held at Crystal Palace in March. This was a fantastic achievement for our girls as they had all worked so hard and given 100%.. Mrs White was immensely proud of them all and they thoroughly deserve their shiny new trophy! CONGRATULATIONS!

We finished the week with a Cross Country at Rosemead for our Y3-6 girls. We enjoyed some fantastic results in this event with Y4 winning their year group competition, Luna (Y6) securing bronze medal, Salome (Y4) securing silver and Holly (Y4) securing bronze. We are very proud of all our runners!

Huge congratulations to Juliette in year 5 who won a bronze medal at the White Rose Diving Competition in Leeds this weekend – competing against divers from across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Next week is another busy sporting week with plenty of teams in action. Y4 ABCD Netball teams are participating at the Croydon High U9 Netball Tournament on Monday and also participating in the Lewisham Netball festival on Tuesday which we are hosting at Senior School. Y6 girls will be representing us in the Lewisham Hockey Tournament also at Senior school on Thursday. Our week culminates with our KS2 INTERHOUSE CROSS COUNTRY on Friday afternoon which is held at Crystal Palace Park. Girls may wear their House t-shirts and all girls will earn points for their house. Spectators are very welcome at this event. We wish ALL our girls participating in sporting events next week the best of luck!


Mummies, Tombs & Treasures

Year 3 transported pupils, staff and parents to Ancient Egypt on Thursday morning as they presented their CONNECT+ learning with aplomb in the first assembly of the year. Combining Talk 4 Writing, drama, dance and song the pupils of year 3 regaled us with facts about Howard Carter, Tutankhamun and their visit to the Horniman Museum.

Performances from the pupils were upbeat, happy and energetic. Pupils new to the school impressed everyone with their confidence and we are left in no doubt that there is a bright future ahead for our year 3 Giraffe Girls.


Pupils celebrate Ada Lovelace Day 2018

Today year 7 pupils celebrated women in STEM for Ada Lovelace Day 2018. Lovelace is the founder of computing theory – a quite remarkable woman whose mathematical theories laid the basis for all modern computers.

In Maths the girls discussed the following women’s contributions and compared how the achievements might have been lauded had they been achieved by men at the time:

  • Katherine Johnson: led the NASA computing team that worked out the trajectory calculations for the first NASA space flights (as show in the film Hidden Figures)
  • Hedy Lamarr: a Hollywood actress and inventor who holds the patent for “frequency-hopping spread spectrum for use in torpedo guidance systems.” We know that now as… WiFi
  • Florence Nightingale: a superb nurse… but an even better statistician. Her statistical presentations to the British military completely changed the ways that injured soldiers were cared for, and radically changed survival rates. She was elected as the first female Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society.

The group discovered that ‘computers’ used to refer to a pool of female mathematicians who would test complex equations for viability, long before a machine was invented to do so. We also found out that Darcey in year 7 is the great, great, great, great niece of Florence Nightingale! An afternoon of discoveries for all.

Model United Nations 2018

Last weekend nine students from year 9, 10 and 13 attended the Model United Nations (MUN) conference at Cheadle Hulme School, known as MUNCH, near Manchester. This was Sydenham High’s first residential MUN conference and our delegates were representing Italy and Afghanistan in committees discussing a wide range of current issues, such as human rights, international security, youth and the problem of refugees.

MUN is one of the few opportunities for truly independent study, and for students to gain vital skills for their future. The students learn about countries around the world, and acquire the ability to clearly state an idea, and build consensus to achieve solutions to the global problems that will affect the students in later life.

Throughout the conference, there was a very high standard of debate with which all of our students managed to engage. The different committees all convened in the General Assembly at the end of the conference to discuss any resolutions that have been passed. If the resolution makes it through a committee (which requires a majority vote) and is then also is voted in favour of by the General Assembly then it is passed, but no resolutions achieved this on this occasion. The event was an excellent opportunity for our delegates to better familiarise themselves all the intricacies of UN procedure and language. As our first two day conference, attending MUNCH allowed for our delegates to hone their skills and learn from other more experienced students.

Our Sydenham High School delegates gave a good account of themselves and enjoyed their time together over the course of the weekend. To throw themselves in to such an event was an excellent example of the fearlessness of a SHS student and they are looking forward to taking the chance to put their newfound knowledge to good use at another conference in the near future.

Chocolate in the CONNECT+ curriculum!

This term’s CONNECT+ topic in year 5 is chocolate!

To support this study, the girls spent turned their hand to chocolate making at the Brixton Chocolate Museum. From designing the packaging to grinding the cocoa beans and blending a tasty flavour, the museum workshop deepened their understanding of how the Mayan’s developed the first chocolate.

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