Category: Sixth Form

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.

Geographers learn from journalist turned author

On Monday, year 12 went to South Hampstead High School to listen to Tim Marshall talk about his books. Tim Marshall is a former foreign affairs journalist turned award winning author for titles such as Prisoners of Geography and Divided: Why We Are Living In An Age of Walls. He was Diplomatic Editor and foreign correspondent for Sky News. After thirty years’ experience in news reporting and presenting, he left full time news journalism to concentrate on writing and analysis.

The talk focused on why humans build walls, using lots of current and historic examples, including Trump’s wall, The Northern Irish border and Israel- Palestine walls to review the innate human need for space and ownership as well as the issues these create. The talk provided an excellent opportunity to meet students from other school and how to take their own knowledge and research to another level. We finished the an opportunity to buy signed copies of the book and a meal in Wagamama’s which provided an opportunity to discuss the lecture.

– Mr Wagg, Head of Geography


Westminster’s Central Hall hosts UK Politics students

On the 3rd December, hundreds of politics students from across the United Kingdom watched and engaged with MPs from across the political spectrum. The MPs reflected on issues and concerns in the current political system. From the likes of Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg to Chuka Umunna, the conference was full of passion, confrontation and realpolitik.

Due to the political situation our present government finds itself in, this conference seemed to express the frustrations of young, ardent politics students on the issue of the day – Brexit. The event left students feeling fascinated with the current climate of politics.

Jessica Rose Phillips gave an inspired speech on feminism and UK politics today. The Speaker John Bercow addressed his impact on parliamentary reform and the left leaning Chuka Umunna’s speech was exhilarating; it engaged the crowd and really encouraged me to be more active on issues like racism and sexism in our society. It was encouraging to see someone who looks like me represent our hopes and aspirations for a more equitable society.

The conference illustrated to me the reason why I chose to study Politics and how this is the most exciting time to participate in the subject.
– Laila Kyambadde, year 12

It was a very stimulating day and it really brought Politics to life. It was good for the A Level students from Sydenham to see that they are part of a wider learning community. There cannot be a better time to be studying A Level Politics in such interesting, if not turbulent times!

– Mr van der Spiegel, Teacher of Government & Politics

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.

For any further information – or if this is an area that interests you – please visit

Inspiring Q&A session with ‘Slay in your lane’ authors

Wednesday 17 October saw a fascinating lunchtime question and answer session with Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené, authors of ‘Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible‘, led by a panel of our sixth form students. It brought together pupils from across the school, of many different backgrounds, to discuss not only the process of producing the book but also the topic of prejudice and discrimination faced by black women, as told by the two south London born authors and the thirty nine trailblazing women interviewed for the book.

The book contains a rich mix of voices and is the first of its kind, which added a layer of pressure to ensure that it was not merely stereotypical anecdotes but filled with statistics and historical facts to validate the experiences of black women. They are passionate in their conviction that the book is for everyone, even though it is written about, and by, black women – it is key for other members of society to read about their experiences in an attempt to understand more than simply their own lived experience, especially decision-makers in positions of power.

Yomi and Elizabeth state that their book is designed to educate and empower rather than to depress with the sometimes startling statistics listed. They were adamant that it should start the conversation, rather than be a full stop, and allow other BAME voices to be able to share their experiences – especially as these are often different, sometimes opposite, to their own. They explained how hard it was to produce the book, whilst working full time, versus the high of being interviewed on television and in magazines once the book was finally published. They spoke about the challenges of initiating conversations with their list of inspirational women and how they took every opportunity to approach the women with whom they wanted to collaborate – from direct messaging on instagram to finding Diane Abbott MP in Parliament and June Sarpong at Afro Hair & Beauty Live. It was important to them to be authentic and tell their own story and they feel very fortunate that they were able to select a publisher who allowed this, without compromising their vision, and let them be hands-on even down to the cover and internal photoshoot.

The discussions over representations of black women in the media and how to respond to racism or microaggressions could have continued all afternoon but the session had to draw to a close. The authors signed dozens of books and we are sure that every girl will enjoy reading this powerful book of rare insights and destigmatisation.

Slay In Your Lane is available from all good bookstores.


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.

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.

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