Category: Prep

Author Susin Nielsen ends UK tour at Sydenham High

On Tuesday 16 October year 6-9, and some visiting pupils from Sydenham School, were lucky enough to hear from author Susin Nielsen about her latest book, No Fixed Address, and the journey from her teenage years, being encouraged by her seventh grade teacher, to becoming a published author.

Susin began by sharing a photo of younger herself and reading an extract from her teenage diary where she stated that if she was to be a famous author she ought to start writing a diary for when she reached stardom! At this time she moved from Chatham to London, Ontario, during the summer holidays and, with her mother at work all day as a nurse, she found herself with a great deal of free time to develop her writing. She wrote poetry and tried submitting it to various magazines but was rejected for being “too depressing” but, still persevering on the path to writing, she started temp jobs as a runner on tv shows, and started writing some speculative scripts. One of which was eventually successful and her writing then formed episodes of Degrassi Junior High – she even took on a bit-part character on screen, who was sadly later killed off! She knew that she would one day write Young Adult literature and talked us through each of her books.

There were many questions from the audience about how Susin came up with the themes for her books (often in the half-awake, half-asleep 5am periods but sometimes from other books or news stories), who her favourite authors are (Lisa Williamson, Zadie Smith, Marcus Zusak, Emily Bronte to name a few) and the long process for writing novels. It was interesting to hear that she is proud of all her books but she has a soft spot for Word Nerd as it was the first that she finished and published and that she sometimes puts characters from other novels into stories as secondary characters. She even has an idea of exactly where all her characters live – we wonder if the owners can sense that they share their house with a fictional character?!

As a teenager she read Judy Blume and was delighted to discover that she wasn’t the only one feeling how she felt and being able to explore experiences – both her own and of others, through books. The idea of being able to do this for other young people made her want to pursue her writing career. She also emphasised the importance of learning more from your mistakes than your successes. It was an excellent start to the morning and we hope to see lots of inspired young writers having a go at their own literary masterpieces. Susin even made time to come and see our year 7 “bookshelf” lockers – and found one of her titles!

To find out more about Susin Nielsen please visit her website.


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.


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.

Year 4 explore the National Gallery

The National Gallery provided a beautiful backdrop to the first day trip for year 4 this year. All three classes travelled by train to Charing Cross to Trafalgar Square and spent a fascinating morning seeing just how different artists have depicted famous myths and legends in their paintings. The very well-informed staff from the gallery’s education department, regaled the girls with tales of what had inspired the beautiful paintings and helped them retell Homer’s Odyssey.

Year 1 visit to Leeds Castle

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to live in a castle? Since their visit to Leeds Castle on Wednesday, our Y1 pupils are castle experts. During their visit to Leeds Castle they acquired lots of new knowledge and facts about one of Kent’s most famous attractions. Leeds Castle was once a Norman stronghold; the private property of six of England’s medieval queens; a palace used by Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon; a Jacobean country house; a Georgian mansion; an elegant early 20th century retreat for the influential and famous; and in the 21st century, it has become one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain.

The girls loved every moment of their day out and we would like thank all the parent helpers who supported the trip.

Get in touch

Contact us