Dear Parents and Guardians,
This has certainly been a challenging time for the whole community. However, I am incredibly proud of all our students for the resilience, warmth and commitment they have shown during this period of remote schooling. I am also thankful to our teaching and professional support staff for all the work they are doing to support our students, both academically and pastorally.
Despite the relentless rain, snowy landscapes, and lockdown limitations, there have been plenty of opportunities during this period for our students to learn, create, enjoy and achieve, and I would like to take this opportunity to share some of the highlights with you.
During the Christmas break, Sarah M and Lily R were able to attend the Curwen Print Study Centre to gain a deeper understanding of a variety of printmaking techniques by working on an array of specialised printing equipment at the study centre. Techniques covered were Lithography, Monoprinting, Letter Press, Adana Press and Gelli Printing. Some of the techniques gave instant results whilst others were more involved, but it introduced Sarah and Lily to some techniques they had not used before. This experience has enabled them to develop ideas, leading into their A Level course and the new ‘Transformation’ project.
The Year 12 student-led Classics society continues to meet on a weekly basis. CiCi T runs a weekly quiz, and the students discuss articles and videos together. Particular highlights have been Mary Beard’s Gifford lectures and the short film ‘The Battle of the Tragedians’. Members also enjoyed a highly competitive Latin Scrabble tournament in the last meeting of term: Elena R has proven herself to be a formidable Latin-scrabbler!
The Classics department continue to run Sixth Form extension sessions too, and these are attended by a group of enthusiastic Classicists from the Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation A Level groups. So far this term they have debated their favourite 'classical thing', looked at the development of the Medusa myth in literature and art and tried their hands at some linguistic decipherment.
In addition, the Classics department has been promoting opportunities for participating in a range of university competitions sponsored by The Classical Association and colleges at the University of Cambridge and Oxford, plus opportunities to attend remote lectures at KCL, UAE and the University of Reading. On the lighter side, all students have been encouraged to participate in a classically themed meme challenge.
Many of our Senior and Sixth Form students have been working hard preparing to take LAMDA exams this February. Last summer the July season of LAMDA exams had to be cancelled due to lockdown - this was a huge disappointment for all of the students involved. We are therefore delighted that the exam board is offering the opportunity for the February season of exams to take place remotely. We would like to wish all of the participating LAMDA students the very best of luck in their remote exams!
We may be working remotely at present but rehearsals continue for a number of productions and performances. Our Year 12 students began creating a devised, multi-media performance piece back in September and, despite the current physical distance between them (some of them are international students who are working from far flung parts of the globe), they continue to develop and rehearse the script. Intriguingly titled ‘A Play About Many Things’, it is a piece about memories and how the teenage brain processes these. The final performance will include monologues, dialogue scenes and ensemble movement sequences as well as projections and animations. A team of backstage students are working behind the scenes to generate some of the digital material that will be included in the piece. The final performance will be filmed once we return to school - watch this space!
Sixth Form Historians have been invited to attend the Spring lectures of the Cambridge History Forum which is running its lectures, free of charge, via Zoom this year. We are also offering Sixth Form historians the opportunity to participate in essay competitions that various universities are running.
Sixth Form Global Politics and Politics students will also be attending virtual lectures to enhance the work they complete in class.
The department continues to offer exciting opportunities in both the Senior School and Sixth Form History Societies where discussions abound including ‘Why Trump is not a Fascist.’ Sixth Form History Society has been focusing on what it’s like to study History at university.
History support sessions in both the Sixth Form and Senior School continue to run, the current focus of which is to help the students with mock exam preparation.
Last term after qualifying from his score in the senior maths challenge, Haiyu L took part in the British Maths Olympiad 1. He put in another impressive performance scoring 26 out of 50, qualifying him for the British Maths Olympiad 2, which he sat on 28 January. We await the results! Well done Haiyu!
Last term Sixth Form maths students took part in the Ritangle Challenge - the certificate they received for completing it can be seen below. A highly impressive achievement!
Elena R and Nadia P, both in Year 12, took part in the first round of the UK Linguistics Olympiad on 4 February. To give you an idea of the languages, whose patterns and grammar they decoded - last year’s languages chosen were Cippus Abellanus, Mongolian, Gumatj, Ndebele and Braille. Clearly inspired by languages and their linguistic features, Elena also took part in the International Linguistics Olympiad the week before. We have our fingers crossed!
The music department remains musically active, even though the music rooms themselves are currently silent. The Year 12 Choir have been taking part in a series of Choral Scholarship preparation lessons; we were particularly pleased to welcome two guest speakers to these online sessions - Anna Lapwood, Director of Music at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and Rachel H, a former student who is a third-year Choral Scholar at The Queen’s College, Oxford.
Year 12 students have been formulating ideas for the Davidson Inventors Challenge, run by the Chemical Engineering department of Cambridge University. The theme is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals - one idea the students have come up with is using spiders’ silk to make biodegradable plastics!
Year 13 students have been working on some interesting Physics problems in Physics extension, for example: if you hold a tennis ball and a basketball with the bottom of the tennis ball touching the top of the basketball, then drop them, how much higher will the tennis ball bounce?
Using some of the material from a course from researchers at Yale University, Year 13 enrichment students have been considering what makes us happy and why some of the things we think would make us happy, don’t. Money? Jobs? Love? Grades? A perfect body?! No, according to research, gratitude, savouring moments, kindness, exercise, sleep and connection with others are actually the secrets to happiness and wellbeing. One session led to students writing letters of gratitude to someone significant in their lives and many students then went on to give these letters to those people. To quote one student who did so “ It’s so funny how a small thing like that can unleash years of pent up gratitude!”
Many thanks to the students who have so involved themselves in the discussions and activities of this enrichment - it's hopefully been a very helpful and even life changing course during such interesting times. Thank you also to Ms Daniels for making this all possible.
Life for the boarders at St Barnabas House continues as usual but with all lessons taking place online. A third of our current boarders are also having online music lessons each week including saxophone, violin, piano and singing lessons.
As well as enjoying some down time in the common room, our boarders are encouraged to take some daily exercise. They go for a walk or a run, do online fitness classes or play basketball and badminton at school. When they just need some down time, they can enjoy spending time in the common room and the Saturday night takeaway.
In addition to all of the above, our Sixth Form assembly programme included a thought-provoking presentation by Ms Kotowska to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and our MUN students, in liaison with Dr Walton-Jordan, shared their passion for all things global in the final assembly of the half term. Thank you to Anita M, Anna G, Megan G and Thomas C, and all of our MUN representatives.
We will mark the end of this half term with a virtual lunchtime quiz prepared by our Student President Team who:
(A) Do a fantastic job representing the student body
(B) Demonstrate great enthusiasm and imagination (we look forward to seeing their designs for the Year 13 leavers’ hoodies)
(C) Help raise awareness and promote the SPF community spirit
(D) All of the above!
I would like to wish all of you a safe and restful half-term break and look forward to welcoming our students back on site as soon as possible.
Head of Sixth Form