Category: Senior

A feast of creativity at the Bake Off Final

We were delighted to host the GDST Bake Off final here at Sydenham High on Tuesday 10 December.  The competition included pupils from Croydon High School,  Putney High School, Kingsdale Foundation School, Sydenham School and Sutton High School as well as our own Sydenham High representative.

The girls were asked to create their own bakes based on the theme ‘Festival’.  The resulting efforts included cakes for a wedding, the Hindu ‘Festival of Colour’, a Galette de Rois for the French celebration of Epiphany and, of course, other Christmas-themed cakes.

The judges agreed that all the entries were a wonderful demonstration of creativity as well as a treat for the tastebuds.

The winner was Leila from Kingsdale (pictured middle, below) with a delicious gateau, with second place going to Annabella (left) from Putney High and third place to Lara (right) from Sutton High.

Headmistress Katharine Woodcock congratulated all the participants and the three winners at a prize presentation.



Mock Election 2019 – the results are in!

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.



Eco Week at Sydenham High School

From Monday 25 until Friday 29 November we marked ‘Eco Week’ at Sydenham High School.  Pupils from Reception to year 13 have participated in a range of activities designed to help them consider individual and collective environmental responsibility.

At Prep, the week started on Monday with an insightful assembly by pupils in Eco Club.  Following this, pupils participated in a range of activities during the week including tree planting, autumn vegetable planting, environmentally inspired art activities and talks.  Pupils also created a tree of promises which stands by the entrance to the Prep School Hall.  Thank you to all parents who have supported us with activities.

At Senior School, pupils learnt all about ‘earth overshoot’ day, which marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources (fish and forests, for instance) and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year, and it is getting earlier each year. An interesting fact was that London’s ecological footprint is 293 times its size and 42 times its biocapacity (the capacity of an area to generate an on-going supply of renewable resources and to absorb its spillover wastes). There was a lunchtime film screening of a talk given by John Francis on how we are to ‘Walk this Earth’, sharing the message of environmental respect and responsibility, and in form time pupils learnt about the impact of cosmetics on the earth, particularly through the use of palm oil, and how we can save the planet one mascara wand at a time! Please bring clean, empty mascara wands to the humanities office and we will send them to help orphaned animals. Pupils also thought about the importance of local action and supporting local business and the week culminated in a pledge making day where staff and pupils detailed what they will do to reduce their eco-footprint and push earth overshoot day back! There is a social media campaign #movethedate, and we encourage everyone to share their ideas. Some examples can be found here. Eco Club gave a fantastic assembly on Fast Fashion, telling us how much water it takes to grow the cotton for our clothes and how important it is not to buy into the throw away culture of fast fashion and to think about using charity shops or clothes swaps – just like the one we will be hosting on Friday 6 December! During our own clothes day we also fundraised £324.62 (at the latest count!) for the Woodland Trust’s Every Tree Counts campaign.

It was a very engaging week and helped us to think of even more things that we are able to do as part of our whole school eco commitment. Huge thanks to our Eco warriors, Mr Welch and Mr Wagg for their organisation of the activities.

Bewitching visit by author Katy Birchall

There was an early Hallowe’en treat for year 7s today as author Katy Birchall teleported in to talk about her new book Morgan Charmley: Teen Witch, about a 13-year-old witch who is finally allowed to attend a normal school after proving she can control her powers and is keen to make friends but struggling to keep her spells a secret. In a fun interactive session Katy talked about her love of reading as a child and how she has achieved her dream job as a published writer.

Originally from Essex, Katy talked about how the county’s fascinating dark history of 17th century witch hunting along with a childhood obsession with the television series Sabrina the Teenage Witch and a love of Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch books inspired her to write her Morgan Charmley: Teen Witch.

We took a look at the variety of witches in books and films, their different powers, their familiars and how they became witches before pupils gave wildly imaginative suggestions for creating their own witch character, complete with familiar and villainous counterpart, skilfully drawn by Alice at the front of the hall.

During the Q&A session, pupils found out about who illustrates books, the need to find a literary agent before an editor, how authors get paid, that Katy also loves funny books and thinks there should be more female comedy writers, has a rescue dog called Bono and her favourite ice cream is mint choc chip.

Thank you so much Katy for visiting us and Scholastic UK for providing the opportunity.

– Mrs Pett, Librarian & Careers Leader

Alumnae and parents join other Medical & Allied Health Professionals for Careers Event at Sydenham High

Sydenham High welcomed professionals from all fields to school on the evening of Monday 14 October for the Medical and Allied Health Professionals Careers Event, the latest in the ongoing careers programme series held on AHPs Day 2019.

Even the rain could not dampen the enthusiasm of the 136 visitors from 75 families who attended, from Sydenham High as well as other neighbouring schools; Sydenham Girls, Dulwich College, JAGS and Old Palace. Pupils from years 9-13 had the opportunity to speak one-to-one with representatives from a range of professions – dentists, therapists, doctors, paramedics, nurses, physiotherapists, radiologists to name but a few – and relevant course providers such as the University of Leeds and the University of Surrey, alongside Guy’s and St Thomas’, South West London and St George’s, South London and Maudsley NHS Trusts and other professional bodies.

In addition there were talks from NHS Health Education England (HEE) on Nursing and Midwifery and I See the Difference – a three-year funded initiative to help raise awareness of the range of Allied Health Professions among young people.

We would like to extend our gratitude to all visiting professionals who generously gave up their time to attend and who included many from the Sydenham High community. It was particularly wonderful to welcome back two alumnae – Dr Aysha Waheed from King’s College Hospital, and Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Gayathri Perera – as well as GDST alumna and midwife Sophie Carr, and Women of the Future Ambassador and Speech and Language therapist, Shermeena Rabbi.

One visiting professional said:

Sincere gratitude to Sydenham High for giving us this wonderful opportunity to speak passionately about our profession. I was impressed by the confidence and keenness of the girls.

Could you help?

We always love to hear from alumnae and parents who are willing to share their professional expertise and career experiences with current pupils and recent leavers. There are a number of opportunities throughout the year as part of our careers events, mentoring and enrichment programmes. Please contact us to find out more: .

Dean Atta’s poetry strikes a chord at Black History Month event

On Monday 14 October pupils were treated to a lunchtime poetry and verse recital by Dean Atta, a British poet of Greek Cypriot and Caribbean descent. He has been listed by The Independent newspaper as one of the 100 most influential LGBT people in the United Kingdom and writes poetry on topics such as questions of identity and social justice.

Dean read several poems (one of which is below) and extracts from his new book, The Black Flamingo, before answering some excellent questions from sixth formers, Junova and Ophelie, including his process for writing poetry and his experience of the intersectionality of being black and gay. They asked about what Black History Month means to him and listened with interest as he explained his perspective of being able to highlight the progress that has been made in society but to remember that it is not only about figures in the past, that we are making history. He noted some icons of the civil rights movement and how we can trace history through politics, music, education and other areas through to the present day when we must carry the torch. His advice to young black people growing up in today’s climate is to be yourself and not hide parts of who you are. Be proud and be a good role model, especially to those younger than you. Part of this can be to challenge those around you who say things that you find uncomfortable – they may not realise and those who bother to take the time to look into what you have flagged are the ones who are worth spending time with.

Truly inspiring insight into the life of Dean. His performance truly brought the book life and I will definitely be purchasing.


It was an enlightening experience and linked well to sociology as he spoke of his experiences with racism, homophobia and other personal struggles that he has faced.


Dean Atta’s performance of his poetry was mesmerising and really bought his book ‘The Black Flamingo’ to life. It was extremely interesting to hear him touch on topics such as identity and family.

– Kaliyah

It was a very interesting lunchtime session and we would like to thank Dean for joining us and Sydenham Arts for making his visit possible.

Sydenham Arts is a registered charity providing arts activities and events all year round from its permanent home and performance space at the Sydenham Centre. It is committed to providing a platform for emerging, local artists as well as bring in high quality, established artists to the area. Sydenham Arts relies on support to deliver an innovative array of artistic activities for the whole community and to achieve its charitable aims ‘to provide, promote and advance the Arts for the benefit of the public, in particular people who live, work and are educated in Sydenham and surrounding areas’. Times are tough – sadly its core funding from Lewisham Borough Council has been cut. To donate and support Sydenham Arts click here.

The Beckenham Festival of Speech and Drama 2019

The Beckenham Festival of Speech and Drama was held at the Westwood Theatre on Saturday 12 October. Prep and Senior Sydenham High School pupils performed at the competition alongside pupils from neighbouring schools. The visiting Adjudicator, Marcia Carr, who is Deputy Head of Examinations at LAMDA, was delighted with the high standard of work on display and the confident performances of LAMDA pupils! The delighted audience was treated to scenes from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Jane Eyre, Goodnight Mr Tom, Hansel and Gretel, as well as extracts from Shakespeare and a variety of poems.


Ruby Hogwood

Freya Harris

Orla Hogwood

Miller Buckley



Jess Scott

Alba Buckley

Christine Wilkinson



Allegra Carver – SOLO ACTING

Maia Bonney and Isabelle Harris – DUO ACTING



Daisy Morrissey – SOLO ACTING


Many other pupils were competing for the first time, gaining valuable performance experience as well as a sense of pride in their involvement.

Stewards helping out on the day were Nyama Swaray, Ayla Goldsmith and Lucy Johnson, each an excellent ambassador for the school.

Well done everyone!


– Miss Borge, LAMDA Teacher/Coordinator and Festival Organiser

Sydenham High is spellbound by Dr Shola

As part of our Lecture Series, and to kick off Black History Month, Sydenham High was treated to an exhilarating afternoon with Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, lawyer and women’s rights activist, as she fired up staff and students to believe in themselves and to be themselves, to be excited about their ethnicity, culture, background, as there is nothing to be ashamed of. She began by talking about finding a cause to fight for and how important it is to be passionate about things – whatever they may be. She reminded us all that there is no one definition to you and others cannot define you. It is so important to open your mind and embrace the opportunities as there is no full stop after your name, only commas: lawyer, mother, activist.

Dr Shola had an insightful message about comparing yourself to others, as when you see a successful person you only see the end package and not the journey to that point – everyone has moments of self doubt but they pick themselves up and it’s the journey that makes you stronger. Being vocal doesn’t always mean being loud, but making a stand for what you believe in. She also touched on the women’s rights movement, noting that is not just about yesterday but today, to create the way for future generations and how important it is to be cheerleaders for your friends and colleagues.

She had the audience chanting back positive statements, such as “I am worth fighting for”, “I am a girl with a dream! I am fire!” and inspired the girls to think about the dream in them as the world is waiting for them as the next generation of agents for change. The atmosphere was electric and it was clear that the girls are ready to show the world who they are and initiate the change that they want to see. The session was expertly opened and closed by our Head Girls, Saffron and Sophika and were joined by a Sixth Form Panel in the second half of the session, who asked some excellent questions, submitted by pupils over the past week:

What made you become a women’s rights activist?

I experienced inequality and was angry, but in truth, I have always been an activist. When something needs to change you need to do something, not just complain but bring a solution. Not everything will get your blood boiling but once you realise what does, then get up and do something about it.

Should 16 year olds have the right to vote if there is a second referendum on Brexit?

The youth should have more input as they are the ones who will be affected. There is so much that 16 year olds are able to do so why not vote? You definitely should campaign to get your voices heard even if you can’t vote.

What are the qualities I need to be leader?

Be you. Be able to identify issues you care about and why. It is important as a leader to listen and get different perspectives so that you have a balanced view. You may still end up with the same opinion but other perspectives help shape your thinking. When you make a decision, actively participate and learn from any mistakes. Lead from heart and the head and as a woman, embrace the power your gender brings. Be proud of what you bring and don’t conform – sometimes what stands out about you is your strength. Finally – you are always growing and learning as a leader.

What has been your biggest challenge in the world of work?

You have to prepare yourself with the skill set required for your profession – it is hard work and it is competitive. Stepping into a space where statistics are seemingly limiting you can be daunting so attitude is important. Even if it doesn’t go your way at first, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Be vocal about what you’re worth, build resilience and decision making and be authentic. Take every opportunity to learn and grow and bring others with you. To overcome challenges, you must support the next person – male or female. Together we can bring about change.

What was the largest battle you faced when giving a public talk?

On the March for Women, whilst trying to rally people around global legislation for violence against women, the teleprompter stopped working! Luckily I had read brief so I reverted to just being myself, got them up and engaged and then told them how to sign up to the petition. I also experienced heckling at the anti-Brexit protest from some vocal Boris fans…

Do you feel women are still perceived as less than men?

Yes, sadly, in some circles, but women’s voices are now amplified through so many platforms that we are changing the narrative and the conversation. It’s all about positively disrupting the status quo and being change makers. We cannot allow the voices from the dark ages to drown out our voices – you are all going to be agents of, and for, change.

Dr Shola spoke with real passion, authenticity and very much from the heart, connecting fully with her audience and inspiring us all. We were all very much spellbound by her presentation in the Longton Hall and I hope that her calls for the girls to believe in themselves and to be themselves will stick.

– Mrs Woodcock, Headmistress

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