Clearly, it has been an extraordinary term, where students and staff at the Senior School have had to get used to a very different environment, where the necessary but cumbersome year group bubbles, staggered lunch times, face coverings, hand sanitisers, social distancing, seating plans, virtual meetings and one-way systems have all conspired to constrain and frustrate us to varying degrees.
And yet, students and staff have demonstrated impressive spirit, skill and application in ensuring that the SPF values of excellence and creativity in teaching and learning, as well as those of personal and social responsibility, have remained at the heart of school life, in spite of all that we have faced collectively, serving to create a purposeful yet caring environment in challenging circumstances.
Promoting reading at the Senior School
The Autumn Term has started with an exciting new collection of books in the Senior School library. The Classics, History, English, Biology and Art departments worked together to choose books which would encourage students to think about interesting questions; the giant bookcase in the N-block has been a great place for a display of super-sized book covers to inspire and encourage students to visit the library and get reading and thinking.
All are agreed that our fantastic new Year 7 pupils have adapted brilliantly to their new surroundings, supported by their tutors and teachers as well as the Year 11 Mentoring Committee. They have enjoyed assemblies on what it is to be new and what that means for them in their current context. They have also heard from tutors about what new things they learned or taught themselves during lockdown, concluding that it is good to ‘stay new’ - to keep our minds open to new possibilities, new friendship circles and new clubs as we go through the term. Year 7 pupils also have a number of fun activities to look forward to between now and November - poetry reading, an art competition, a pumpkin ‘carve-off‘ and a fun filled last Friday of half term where students will be guessing the circumference of the pumpkin in order to win sweet prizes.
Our amazing Year 8 pupils have enjoyed assemblies on adapting to the not-so-new and not-so-normal return to school, with a particular focus on socialising and keeping mentally healthy. They have engaged with the five fundamental components of healthy living: Sleep, Hydration, Exercise and Diet as well as considering effective ‘screen hygiene’. Assemblies have also encouraged students to engage reflectively with how to learn from mistakes and the importance of kindness, reinforced through practical activities and competitions. Year 8 students also enjoyed constructing their own face masks from @cammakespace as part of their sewing machine induction during Textiles lessons.
Our brilliant Year 9 pupils have considered the challenges and unexpected benefits of lockdown, and what we have learned about how to maintain friendships and family ties while physically distant, as well as practical things they can do to promote positive mental health. They have also devised monthly charity events, including sponsored Miles for mental health, outdoor concerts and a whole school quiz planned for later in the term.
Year 10 assemblies have embarked on their GCSE courses with gusto, demonstrating ever-increasing proactivity and maturity. I was impressed to see so many receive LAMDA certificates and to hear about the plans for Duke of Edinburgh expeditions in the months ahead. I know that the Year 10 pastoral team has also been looking ahead with pupils to life beyond GCSEs, including understanding how the UK economy is structured and engaging pupils in thinking about what part they themselves will play, and what skills they may need, when they enter the working world.
Year 11 Committees have hit the ground running. The Art Committee have run a successful competition with Year 8 students dominating the prizes, while the Charities Committee have kept up what I have learned (and very much appreciated!) is a strong SPF tradition of bake sales. I am excited (and slightly daunted!) to know that an eagerly anticipated dodgeball tournament is only weeks away. Year 11 students also produced an excellent assembly for Black History Month.
In assemblies, Year 11 have been reminded that their GCSE years are a marathon, not a sprint and all are encouraged to pace themselves in these busy weeks around half term. “Be more tortoise” has been the mantra in these last few weeks.
I have really enjoyed meeting all of our impressive Year 11 pupils in focus group meetings in this first half of term, to hear their reflections on what they have enjoyed about their time at SPF, how we have helped them to prepare for life as sixth formers, and how we might improve the school for those who follow them. I have been impressed by their articulacy, candour and insight and their ideas and thoughts will be invaluable to me as I take stock of the Senior School as it is now and begin work with colleagues and students to shape the Senior School and Sixth Form going forward. I look forward to further focus groups with Year 10 in the second half of this term and meeting and getting to know years 7, 8 and 9 over the course of the rest of the year.
Senior School Sport
Sports fixtures have been suspended for this term but the Sports Department have continued to offer a broad curriculum, focusing on developing skills, fitness and tactical awareness.
Alumna Imogen Grant returned (virtually) to SPF to give an inspiring talk to our sports scholars. Imogen, who left SPF in 2012, is now studying medicine at Trinity and has rowed as part of the winning Cambridge University Women's Boat Race crew. We can't wait to cheer Imogen on at the Tokyo Olympics 2021 @SPFSport @imogendaisyg.
Many congratulations to Sirisha who made her debut for the Cambridgeshire County Women’s First XI recently. A fantastic achievement and we look forward to hearing more about her cricketing journey.
Senior School Music
The return to school has seen the music department once again filled with students rehearsing in instrumental ensembles, singing in choirs, taking their individual instrumental and singing lessons, and of course learning music in class. The guidelines for rehearsing mean that all music activities take place with musicians from the same year group, so although our large ensembles are currently on hold, there is intense activity in smaller groups of all types. Each week, 14 instrumental ensembles, 7 choirs and 9 rock bands have been rehearsing, and they have covered an enormous amount of repertoire already.
Items as diverse as Legrenzi’s Sonata for 2 violins and bassoon, Holst’s St Paul’s Suite, Telemann’s Concerto for recorder and 2 violins, Elgar’s Quintet and Bach’s Double Violin Concerto can be heard from some of our instrumental groups, whilst strains of I love Rock n Roll by Joan Jett, Stand by Me by Oasis, Valerie by Amy Winehouse, Xanny by Billie Eilish and Riptide by Vance Joy have been heard from the rock bands.
The choirs have covered a wide range of repertoire, including Cy Coleman’s The Rhythm of Life, The Elements by Bob Chilcott and the Spanish song Cantar!. Not being able to perform any large-scale concerts has allowed some of our older groups to focus on more extended repertoire items than time might normally permit. In the second half of term we will be making audio and video recordings of various groups in order to release online concerts. In December, some of the choirs will go to Great St Mary’s church to film a carol service. In addition to all this group activity, the full range of individual lessons continues as normal, with 40 students recording for the ABRSM online exams.
Senior School Drama
Rehearsals for all four of our casts of Little Shop of Horrors have been going tremendously well and we are really excited to see the finished extracts performed in November. Our Year 10 and 11 casts are both rehearsing scenes and choreographed musical numbers from the first half of the play. Each year group also has its own live band - all four of which are busy rehearsing separately, and all of which have their own very different musical style!
While students in Year 13 are creating a number of man-eating plant puppets of various sizes, our Year 11 backstage enrichment group and club are helping to design and paint the set and source and assemble the costumes. We are also making a series of films and stop motion animations to project during the musical numbers and more gruesome moments of the piece. Some of our tech students have been exploring ways of distorting and manipulating sound so that we can alter the sound of the ‘plant’s’ voice; another group are learning projection mapping techniques.
We can’t wait to see the musicians, actors and production and technical elements brought together for what promises to be a very interesting week of performances! And while we are not able to invite an external audience to attend, we are very much hoping to be able to share edited films of our performances with parents later in the term.
Megan Young Poetry Competition
We are delighted to announce the winner and runners-up of the Megan Young Poetry Competition:
Winner - Genevieve E, Year 8, with her poem Antispetera
Second Place - Manuela J, Year 9, with her poem The Ride to School
Third Place - Caitlin M, Year 9, with her poem Change
Many congratulations to you all.
Thank you to everyone, parents, pupils and colleagues for all of their forbearance and positive support of one another this term, as we have faced these challenging times together. It has been a tremendous community effort, from which I think we can all take a great deal of heart. I hope that the half term break provides an opportunity to rest, reflect and reinvigorate and I look forward to us all reconvening on the other side of the break for what I hope will be a similarly rewarding second half of term.
Mr Richard Girvan
Principal and Head of Senior School
Technology Acceptable Use Policy
The Foundation has moved to a combined Technology Acceptable Use Policy for all pupils aged 3 and above. There are otherwise no significant changes to the policy. The policy can be accessed through our website.
Book Amnesty: Y8, Y9 and Y10 students
If any library or text books that would normally have been returned at the end of the summer term are lurking at home, could they possibly be returned to school, either to the rightful department or to the library. We will welcome them back with open arms!
We were delighted to welcome Dr Adrian Boyle to Stephen Perse, consultant emergency physician at Addenbrookes Hospital, to talk to Senior School and Sixth Form students about communication skills and how they impact our effectiveness at school and work regardless of our future ambitions or the caree...