As I sit here writing this final newsletter of the term, and of what I have been thinking of as “The Year of Covid”, I have taken a moment to look back upon what we would usually reflect on at this time of year: and it seems to me that, whilst things have of course been very different in some ways this year, many things within our school community have remained the same, and we draw the same strength and reassurance from them at this time of year as we do every year. The turning of the seasons remains a constant in our lives, and that has been no different this year, with even a day of snow thrown in last week for good measure!
We have enjoyed all the usual aspects of school life this term; assemblies, productions, clubs, collaborations, celebration of achievements, house charity events, our end of term carol service, and even our staff panto. I hope that when we look back on this year we will see that though the breadth and depth of school life has been affected by the necessary restrictions and adjustments in place, we have nonetheless had a productive and enjoyable term, as you will see from what follows.
I would like to take this opportunity to express a heartfelt thank you to all the staff here at Dame Bradbury’s who have worked even harder this term than they usually do to ensure that the education and guidance that we have delivered has been second to none, despite the adverse circumstances we have found ourselves in. I would also like to acknowledge our pupils, your children, who have applied themselves positively and enthusiastically to their learning this term in the same way as they always do. And to all our parents I would also like to say thank you for the support and encouragement you have shown your children this term. A number of you have commented on the fact that you have become involved in some of the challenges that we have set the children in a way that you would not normally have done, and I think this is one of a number of unpredicted positive consequences of our current situation.
Looking ahead, and with the significant accolade of our Senior School having been voted the Sunday Times East Anglia Independent Secondary School of the Decade, I do welcome the approach of next year with optimism. With the vaccine rollout now underway, we can immediately look forward to the reintroduction of clubs when we return in January, and I am also confident that the PTA will be able to revive their programme of events next term, albeit possibly remotely to start with. Hopefully normality will slowly return over the remainder of the school year, and we can return to focussing exclusively on the things that really matter in the education of the children in our schools.
The Music Department has been a hustling hive of activity this term, having adopted several year group instrumental ensembles and ‘bubble choirs’ instead of the conventional Junior Choir, Senior Choir and other mixed year group ensembles. Nevertheless, we have had an incredible term with remarkable musical output. In addition to the weekly assembly singing in the form of choir recordings, Year 4 put on an excellent musical production of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” in October. Whilst it has been very strange not performing to large audiences (as we normally do!), all children rose to the occasion last Friday 4 December to record their contributions for this year’s carol service before an array of cameras, flashing lights and microphones. Each year group performed instrumental and choral items off by heart, and it was a real joy to watch every single child perform to the best of their ability and experience the true fulfilment of music during this festive period. Year 5 and Year 6 will be featured in Saffron Walden Choral Society’s upcoming online concert, ‘Spirit of Christmas’. We look forward to another term of enjoyable music making, in particular the Year 1 and 2 Production, the Year 5 Play, and our grand Spring Concert! Many thanks for all your support.
It has been a busy but enjoyable term in Year 6. Our new joiners have settled in fantastically well and just feel like one of the team now. This term marked the start of our year of ‘positions of responsibility’ and our captains and leaders have already shown they are up to the task. Librarians have organised the reading challenge to keep us inside our books over the Christmas break, and the Eco Team have been meeting and planning their year ahead. Although sports matches are temporarily suspended, team captains have been motivating their troops during PE and Games lessons and working hard at being the sporting role models they were elected to be. House Captains have chosen their charities and are working closely with house leaders to ensure information about their charity is presented to everyone. The end of term is always a musical highlight and this year has been no different, with carols being written by Year 6 composers and tunes and hymns learnt for our remote carol service. It has been a real treat to learn the new Christmas songs with the year group this year; they sound beautiful. The focus on language this term has been high, and the German and Mandarin taster days were hugely popular with staff from the Senior School joining us either digitally or in person to lead the sessions. The children are rightly looking forward to their break. It has been a term which will be remembered for so many reasons, but as always our children have shown great resilience and fortitude. What a great bunch they are!
Year 5 have continued to enjoy their learning and continue to show enthusiasm, curiosity and commitment during each learning opportunity. The collaboration shown throughout the year group has been a striking component of the term; students have risen to the challenges presented to them. This has been particularly evident during our games and PE lessons, where students have enjoyed working within form bubbles. In rugby, we have been delighted to see the maturity and resilience on display, as more experienced players have encouraged those who have played for the first time. The classes have worked admirably during their gymnastics lessons, taking creative risks and exploring creative ways of moving. The impact of this has been a growing togetherness and sense of community within the year group. The children have also enjoyed the ‘Crime and Punishment’ topic in thematic lessons and have demonstrated excellent reasoning and critical skills when looking at different sources of information. This has complemented our initial topic called ‘On the Move’, during which we enjoyed a virtual collaboration day in Rainey Hall with our friends from Rosedale House. We have made significant progress throughout the term, have stuck together, and have continued to enjoy learning inside our ‘bubble’. We have loved the build up to the end of term, especially our Christmas Jumper day!
Year 4 have enjoyed a very colourful and vibrant half term as they were learning about ‘Colours of History’ as their thematic topic, associating colours with times in history. They have gained an understanding into how colour has shaped our world and linked this to an array of things such as royalty and battles. The pupils have taken on the role of a designer to create their very own Roman vessel. They have used their persuasive language techniques developed in their English lessons to advertise and promote their vessel. Pupils enjoyed designing their own woad marking for their faces imagining that they were a Celtic warrior preparing for battle! They have also developed their mapping skills through looking at the scale and orientation. Both classes have shown great collaboration skills particularly in PE/games lessons where they have developed team strategies and tactics in hockey, football and rugby.
The year group have also been able to enjoy their acting endeavours at home on the small screen, watching their performance of, ‘The Snow Queen.’ Although pupils were not able to perform in front of a live audience, they enjoyed learning new skills and taking on the new challenge of acting for the screen.
This half term 4G enjoyed sharing their assembly with the rest of the school. They worked together to try and achieve something positive for the environment and each collected litter in their local areas. They learnt about the effect of litter and the importance of keeping the environment litter free. In collaboration with the Eco Team, we are hoping to roll this out across the school next term with our Pledgehog Challenge. Watch this space!
We have really enjoyed their first term in Year 3. Our thematic learning this term has allowed us to visit South America and also travel into different periods of history to see what people did for fun. We hope you managed to watch our assembly, showcasing lots of our exciting thematic learning. We’ve worked really hard thinking about ways to be kind and to support each other. This half term we enjoyed investigating what affects the force of a magnet or an elastic band and we have finally finished our long awaited African masks, after many layers of papier mache and experimenting with the best paints to use to decorate them. Another highlight of the term is having the opportunity for some pupils to run their own class clubs at lunchtime: mindfulness club, art club and hockey club have been great for our wellbeing. Thank you to our young teachers for sharing their expertise with us.
‘Into the Woods’ was such a brilliant topic to explore and Year 2 began learning about the role of our wonderful woodlands, the plant and animal life found in such habitats and most importantly the significance of looking after, and sustainability of woodlands. Looking closer at the plant life we learnt about food chains and did experiments to discover conditions that plants need in order to grow. We also looked closely at the mini beasts that play such an important part in this habitat too.
Soon after half term we were busy learning about everything that goes on under our feet, and what a surprise we had! Communication lines, tunnels, oil and gas, trenches, volcanoes and numerous pipes to name a few. We learnt about archaeologists and we would all love to unearth some dinosaur bones. That is probably never going to happen but we did make some treasure boxes and they contained hidden treasure in the form of gold and silver coins- what a find!
More recently there has been a celebratory buzz in Year 2. Christmas decorations of every sort adorn our classrooms and the children have been busy developing their practical and creative skills. Not only have we sent postcards from Bethlehem and have thought about special people in our lives and the gifts that we are given and can give, but we have also made a herd of reindeer, bright angels and wonderful tree decorations encompassing felting skills learned in Forest School. Our message is we hope that everyone has a happy and fun-filled holiday and we look forward to more exciting learning next term.
The term was kicked off in international style with Year 1s dressing up in costumes that reflected their choice of country or ideas linked to our theme ‘Around the World’. We have enjoyed exploring various places around the globe and using our research and map skills to learn more about the United Kingdom’s physical features, flags, capitals and surrounding sea mass.
We enjoyed reading ‘The Diary of the Wombat’ and creating fact files, puppets and recounts about this fascinating creature from Australia. In RS we have been learning more about Christianity and exploring features found in churches. We had great fun designing and making our stained glass windows as well as recreating the Nativity scene.
Year 1s have been using creative and critical thinking skills to further explore the relationship between materials and how air and heat have different effects on types of clay. Through this we turned our hand to creating sculptures that reflected a country or symbol from around the world, for example: the Statue of Liberty, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Welsh dragons, sea life and natural world creatures. Using the beautiful autumn leaves we explored ways of manipulating the clay to press and create Autumn bowls which then were fired in the kiln.
Forest school was full of splendid outdoor enjoyment with popcorn cooking on the fire, map making skills and of course hanging out in the hammock! We learnt how to use a map to find areas of interest on the UK map and then within our school field, using coordinates to locate Santa’s animal helpers.
It has been an interesting Autumn Term in PE and games. Pupils have experienced a wide variety of different sports and activities tackling them with enthusiasm and determination. It seems a long time ago since we were doing summer sports in September and the weather was certainly warmer. Recently, there have been some great attacking lines run in rugby, tactical play in hockey and some amazing goals scored in football lessons. This term the pupils have shown great collaboration skills when working in their form group bubbles with lots of pupils displaying leadership qualities. It has been very pleasing to see the uptake of the 30/30 challenge with lots of pupils (and families) taking part and enjoying the benefits of exercise whilst doing an array of physical activities. Thank you to all the pupils and families who rose to this challenge...and enjoyed it!
Despite the extra Covid-19 safety measures, pupils have still been able to enjoy a full and active programme of practical work in Science. The current situation has prompted a renewed focus on how we use our outdoor spaces to enrich pupils’ scientific learning. Fortunately, at Dame Bradbury’s we are blessed of course with extensive grounds, containing a rich variety of habitats for living things. This has provided our pupils with plenty of opportunities to explore what’s around us in our immediate surroundings. This has included Year 5 doing some exploring to find examples of flowers and seeds around school as part of their Life Cycles topic and seeking out plants and animals that make their home in various places for the Adaptation topic.
The weather station in the school garden also provided a superb opportunity for Year 4 to learn about this important example of the practical use of temperature measurement, as part of their Keeping Warm topic. Rainey Hall has also proved to be an excellent science investigation area beyond the classroom, with its extensive indoor space proving ideal for things like testing Year 5’s wind-borne seed models, allowing the pupils to control for random variables like wind speed.
We have still been able to carry out a varied and exciting range of practical and investigative work in the lab too: everything from Year 4 getting to grips with the intricacies of temperature measurement and filtering to Year 6 exploring the inner secrets of the eye (including seeing a pig’s eye being dissected!) and carrying out their own independent research into the factors that contribute to iron rusting.
I would like to wish you all a happy, restful and peaceful Christmas time in whatever guise that comes to you, and a very Happy New Year 2021.
The Stephen Perse Foundation, a family of leading independent co-educational schools in Cambridge and Saffron Walden, has been recognised in the Sunday Times annual Parent Power awards as the East Anglia Independent Secondary School of the Decade, to be published in full on Sunday, 29th November.