Category: Senior

Christopher Lloyd brings history to life for Socrates pupils

On Thursday 7 February pupils on our Socrates Programme were treated to a day of discovery with author and lecturer, Christopher Lloyd.

The first session was about developing a lifelong love of learning. Christopher told his own personal story and outlined his theory of learning based on the 5 WOWs which goes into evolutionary biology focusing in particular on the human brain. It focused on the importance of developing an interconnected framework for learning (which is how the brain works), mentioning Socrates in the process!

This was followed by a session taking the pupils on a journey through the history of Absolutely Everything!  – one of his fantastic books – demonstrating how you can connect the history of nature and humanity into a single sweeping narrative. He used his new book and a series of everyday objects in a multi-coloured coat of many pockets!

During lunchtime Christopher signed many books for pupils across the school and then the Socrates workshop continued with the final session where the girls divided into teams to make their own timelines and presented them back to each other in groups.

It was an enlightening day and much knowledge was gained, all whilst having fun!

Students triumph at MUN

Last weekend, nine of our students attended a Model United Nations conference at St Paul’s Boys’ School, beginning Friday afternoon and concluding Sunday.

There were over 200 delegates from schools across London, including Eton, Westminster, Godolphin and Latymer, Merchant Taylor’s and City of London.  Five of our delegates represented the Ukraine (Daisy Pope, Nina Mattinson, Kaisha-Wade Speid, Evie Winter and Katie Charlton) and four represented Venezuela (Olympia Agapiou, Eleanor Press, Olivia Snaith and Zehra Sami).

All of our girls gave an excellent account of themselves and did themselves and the school proud. Congratulations, however, must go to Olivia Snaith (year 11), who won an award for most accurate representation of her country, and to Zehra Sami (year 12 ) who won an award for being the best novice speaker in her committee. These awards are a real accolade since out of over 200 delegates, only about 15 are awarded and Sydenham High pupils were awarded two.

Well done to all our delegates who were outstanding ambassadors for the school and who worked so hard for the event. Thank you to Mr Stevens and to Mrs Saunders who gave so generously of their time to support this conference over the weekend.

Rowing goes from strength to strength

On Sunday 13 January, five crews from year 9 to 12 raced on the river Ouse in Bedford. From year 9 (J14s) Leah Collins, Elisa Morris, India Charlesworth, Xanthe Hudson and Julia Ortiz-Merzweiler (cox) raced 1500m.  The quad came second in their division beating not only seasoned opposition but also crews that train on this particular stretch of river. The year 10 (J15s) quad, consisted of Jessica Lunt, Molly Penketh, Alice Dutton, Emily Coulson and Grace Dudzicki (cox) for the 2000m race and the J15 quad rowed achieved a new PB. The J15 double, Esme Burke and Morgan Lee, raced 2000m and showed great potential  by coming third in their division. Our J16 double of Scarlett Angel and Felix Hornby raced over 2000m and they too got a new PB. Last but certainly by no means least was our J17 entry for the 2000m single, Sophie Hudson (year 12), who had an extraordinary day with two races, one in the J17 category, and the women’s adult crew race, coming a remarkable second in both.

– Mr Angel, Head of Rowing

This was an amazing day for our rowers and we share Mr Angel’s pride in these amazing athletes who have worked so incredibly hard to get to the standard they are at. Well done to all. Follow @sydrowing on Twitter to keep up to date with the team’s progress.

Giving back at Christmas time

Today’s assembly, given by Deputy Head, Mr Batty, was the culmination of our Reverse Advent Calendar where pupils and staff have been donating different items each day. The donations were placed in containers that stretch for 15 metres! We are very excited to be shipping all of the donated items to Lewisham Food Bank, which believes no one in our community should have to face going hungry. That’s why the Food Bank provides three days’ nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who are referred to them in crisis. The Food Bank is part of a nationwide network of foodbanks, supported by The Trussell Trust, working to combat poverty and hunger across the UK. The Food Bank were incredibly appreciative – and impressed with the generous amount! Well done and thank you to everyone who contributed!

We also participated in Christmas Jumper Day for Save the Children and our sixth formers are eagerly preparing for the annual Revue in aid of Crisis, which supports those homeless at Christmas time. It is wonderful to see our pupils getting involved and giving back to the community, and remembering those less fortunate at this special time of year.


Jo Elvin inspires with Socrates Lecture

Our Socrates series of lectures continued with an inspirational talk by Jo Elvin, current Editor of the Mail on Sunday’s You magazine on Thursday evening. Ellie and Nina, year 11, tell us more:

Jo Elvin, long time editor of Glamour magazine and Sydenham High mum, visited us to discuss her very successful career as part of our Socrates Programme.

Starting from very humble beginnings, Ms Elvin worked her way up to the very top and held the prestigious position of launch Editor of Glamour magazine for 17 years. She began by working for an Australian magazine called Dolly, which began as work experience, and persevered until becoming Editor of Sugar.

Her move to London, with little experience, was a terrifying and risky manoeuvre but, in her own words, it was best “just to go for it”. Through various positions and ups and downs she managed to get the job at Glamour, with highlights including attending Glamour’s Woman of the Year and interviewing many celebrities.

For us, her most important message was to throw yourself into everything wholeheartedly, and realise that no career path was a straight incline – to reach the top you had to experience the bad as well as the good.



Borneo adventurers share their story

Borneo 2018: Introduction 

Last summer we went to Borneo with World Challenge from 7 July to the 7 August. World Challenge is about getting students to take the lead on their trip, including everything from fundraising the money to organising our activities in Borneo and taking turns being leaders each day. For the whole trip we all took it in turns to be leader and accountants. We all dealt with the stress and enjoyment that came with the responsibility. Borneo is a large island in Southeast Asia inbetween the Philippines and Singapore. Our trip had 5 phases; acclimatisation, jungle trekking, community project, rest and relaxation and cultural and exploration phase. We all spent about 2 years preparing for this trip, and each of us had to raise £4,350, but it was all worth it.

Treks at Similajau

After more than 25 hours of travel, with stops in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and following our first orientation day in Miri one of Borneo’s most important cities, we arrived at Similajau on the 10th July – which was Jamie’s birthday – for our acclimatisation treks. On the first day we settled in our lodged, had a group meeting and explored the area. In the evening,…after Kathryn fought with Alex the caterer for around 30 mins we were finally fed – cold chips and cold curry…yum!

On day 2 a tropical storm started at 4:00am. During the night the electricity cut out due to the storm, which meant the clothes we washed the night before didn’t dry and our room was hot, very stuffy and smelt like mouldy cheese. The next day we then had to complete a trek in torrential rain which meant lots of leeches, especially for Jamie who collected a total of 15 leech bites and this resulted in Tiger singing a song about The Leachy Lady. Lucy and Issey had an impressive total of 60 mosquito bites each from the evening before and were not very happy at having itchy legs all day.

On day 3 it was Sophie’s birthday and we started walking to Turtle Beach 1 which was around 9km, the longest trek so far! We didn’t make it all the way there, but still enjoyed the beautiful sights of the beaches. After a day of exhausting trekking in the heat, we headed back to our lodges at Park HQ where we all had a well deserved snack and rest. Then a few of us went a wrote ‘Happy Birthday’ in the sand for Sophie on the beach and just before dinner we went and watched the sunset.

Project at Long Atip in Sarawak

We spent our second week in Borneo doing our community project in Long Atip. The main focus of the community project was to help build an extension to a church and we also helped in the local school as well as helping on Lajim’s farm. Whilst at Long Atip, we played football, duck duck goose, and hide and seek. Our hosts were called Lajim and Martha and we stayed in a Long House which took 21 minutes to get from one end to the other (and which you can see in one of the photos). At the end of our week we had a goodbye ceremony where we all had to perform their local dance and try to play the drums.

Treks at Gunung Mulu National Park

Following our community project, we had to take a 20 minute flight to Gunung Mulu National Park. Once we arrived we went straight to our homestay and then we began a small trek, which we all enjoyed it but we didn’t know how hard it was going to be. We then headed for dinner, and ate at an open restaurant with bats flying across our heads, resulting in Issey and Lucy screaming a lot.

On day 2 we completed a trek to an amazing waterfall and paddled in the stream. We enjoyed lunch there and then headed back to out homestay. And during the evening we all had a nice chat to get to know each other better.

The real challenge of the jungle trek began on Day 3. For the next two days we knew that it would be tough, it started off with a boat journey. We first stopped off at at a rural village where we bought many items from the market there. Afterwards we had a 30 min boat ride to another destination where a few of us went into the caves while the rest of us played in the water. We eventually started our main trek which was 9 km, it was difficult due to the temperature, humidity and our heavy backpacks. For many of us it was one of the biggest challenge of the trip. However, the wildlife that surrounded us was spectacular and distracted us from the gruelling walk. It took us around 5 hours to complete the trek and we were very relieved when we arrived at our destination.

On Day 4 we now knew what to expect and that we would have to have a positive mental attitude as the day promised to be tough. The 11km walk would difficult with our big rucksacks. Tiger had a traumatic experience of finding a leech on her. She was so terrified that our guide claimed that she had woken the jungle voodoo spirits and so he ran off and left us!! After we finished the walk with many of us complaining about blisters or pain we were able to relax on another boat ride. This time three hours long which included many of us falling asleep due to how tired we were.

Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu is the tallest mountain in South-East Asia which is 4095m above sea level.  It was definitely one of the hardest things we have all done but one of the best things in our life! Mrs Sookdeo, and our inner biologists, noticed the changing vegetation as we got higher. We started our ascent on the 31st July and reached the summit on the 1st August. On the first day we started walking at 7:00 and it was fair to say that even after walking we started to feel the side-effects of the altitude but we were prepared with our group snacks which included many cookies. The further we climbed the mountain the more surreal it became. After around 6 hours of walking, and many steps, we arrived at our accommodation ⅔ up the mountain. Unfortunately, Sophie fell over and badly hurt her arm. Matters only got worse as the accommodation was freezing which meant lots of layers were worn we then prepared for an early night going to bed at 6:30.

On the 1st August, we woke up at 1:30am and we were walking by 3:00am. We walked for 2 kilometers in the pitch black fighting against altitude sickness. The further we ascended the mountain the steeper it got which meant we were walking on slate with only a bit of rope for support. After 3 hours of walking we finally could see the peak!! Even though it was hard work it was definitely worth it, we were literally above the clouds and were able to watch the sunrise. It was the most surreal view we had all ever seen and we made sure that we took plenty of photos. We then prepared ourselves to climb the peak and this was a struggle as we were so high up so altitude was hitting us hard!!! But we finally got to the very top of the mountain which was everyone’s biggest and proudest achievement of their life.

We then began to head down the mountain which was actually harder than ascending as it was tough on our knees. Unfortunately, Ester became very very sick and had to be carried down in a stretcher, while Sophie kept fighting the pain from her arm. And despite walking in the pouring rain, we were all strong and made it down. We finally reached the bottom where waiting for us was a buffet with many of us drinking lots of hot chocolate. Climbing the mountain was hard for everyone and it was important that we had a positive mental attitude many, of us faced our fears including Ms Gonzalez Lens conquering her fear of heights. It was completely worth it as we are now able to say that we have climbed the highest mountain in Southeast Asia and for many of it was the highlight of the trip.

Rest and Relaxation

Our final phase was R&R. For this we went island hopping around islands off the coast of Borneo, visited the Sabah State Gallery – which had a women’s art exhibition and other local art. Other highlights of our Rest and Relaxation Phase included Ziplining and Snorkelling around the nearby islands of Kota Kinabalu where we got caught in a tropical typhoon! It was awesome but scary.

We also visited a Handicraft market, Sabah State Mosque, food markets, the Orangutan Rehabilitation centre and Sunbears at Sepilok. And, in addition, Sophie and Amaia spent some of their rest and relaxation visiting the hospitals and were very proud about their x-rays.

What we got from the trip

We all learnt different things from the trip this included learning how to manage people as everyday one of us was leader which included booking accommodation or taxis or finding food for everyone to eat.

For the physical side of things, it was important that we worked as a team and had a positive mental attitude as the expedition was both physically and mentally demanding. Some also learned that you shouldn’t shower in your clothes when they get smelly.I think it’s safe to say that this is the best trip of our lives where many great friendships have been made.

Video to follow!


Sydenham mathematicians join UK maths challenge

Four students took part in the Senior TEAM Maths challenge competition event run by the UK Mathematics Trust on Wednesday 28th November at Queen Mary’s University, London. They competed in a series of 3 rounds of Mathematical problem solving tasks against the clock and the other 38 teams from a wide range of schools from all over London.

The setting in the Octagon Room at the university provided an appropriate setting, previously being the Library for the university. The students enjoyed the challenge and look forward to competing again next year with the chance to practise as a team more rigorously than for this inaugural year of participating at the senior level. Well done to all four girls.


Parliament Week 2018

The theme for this week was Parliament Week. In the week of Prime Minister Theresa May unveiling the proposed deal for Brexit, it was very timely indeed! It was an opportunity for our students to engage with the UK parliament and how they can actively involve themselves in promoting and supporting the Fundamental British Value of the Rule of Law.

Friday’s assembly heard Mr Guest talk about the history of the UK parliament, and the remaining four laws set up in the Magna Carta, which set out the powers of the monarchy. He also spoke about making our votes count and being part of making a difference for our country.

In addition to the Senior School Assembly on Friday, throughout the week tutors discussed with their tutees aspects of the Rule of Law and the British Parliament itself and the impact Parliament has on our daily lives. Year 7-9 discussed Vote 100 as 2018 marks 100 years since Parliament passed a law which allowed some women, and all men, to vote for the first time: the 1918 Representation of the People Act. As part of Vote 100, women shared their personal stories of how laws passed by Parliament have changed their lives for the better. Pupils watched three films from #YourStoryOurHistory, focusing on laws that have contributed to women’s rights and continued to empower them. Pupils created a list of reasons why it is important to vote, what voting allows us to do and why it is a privilege, as well as how Suffragettes won women the vote. Throughout the year we are celebrating this important milestone in the UK’s democratic history.

Following on from Black History Month, Year 10 and 11 discussed diversity and parliament, exploring the changing nature of representation in the UK. Pupils were shown clips to find out more about Parliamentarians’ experience of changing diversity and to consider what diversity means to them. They discussed the reasons why a greater diversity is important for Parliament, what can be done to encourage greater diversity in politics, how they could encourage diversity and heard about role models from Members of Parliament, including both personal and famous people.

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