Clearly, this has not been the start to the new year we were all hoping for or even expecting. The announcement that schools would be switching to remote learning was late in the day, and had the potential to be hugely disorienting and frustrating for all of us, students, staff and parents.
But I feel that all of our students, all of you as parents, and the staff have, on the whole, risen brilliantly to the challenges presented by returning to remote learning at short notice and everyone within our community has contributed positively to a real sense of the Stephen Perse community coming together even while we have been apart. Some highlights from the term are contained below, a round-up of all of the impressive things that have been going on in lessons and in activities beyond the virtual classroom.
My whole-school assembly to students earlier this term focused on the importance of both unity and friendship during times of test and challenge, invoking some of the messages in US President Joe Biden’s inauguration speech, as well as the verses of the famous Scottish folk song Auld Lang Syne. I urged students to keep in touch with their friends and to show solidarity with members of their family and with their teachers as we together face this significant further period of lockdown.
Purposeful two-way communication and dialogue is, of course, key to creating that sense of unity. That is why we were keen to offer a remote learning seminar to support parents of our younger students, as well as to deliver the Year 9 choices event, albeit remotely, earlier this term. It is why we have ensured pastoral provision and counselling has been high on the agenda and that communication between tutors and students has remained regular and live throughout this first half of term. And it is why, as we look ahead to an extension to the period of remote school next half term, we want to hear your feedback on the provision so far this time around, and what we might be able to do to improve it further when we resume after half term.
So, a plea to please complete the surveys we have circulated to students and parents if you can, this week or at the weekend. This will allow our staff team the half term period to reflect on your feedback and to prepare a response to it. Alternatively, please do feel able to get in touch with us more directly through your child’s tutor, or by contacting me or our senior deputy head, Mr Ward.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge and congratulate our Year 7s, who have been particularly marvellous at adapting to the third wave of lockdown - the second since they’ve joined us in the Senior School. We have been so proud of how they have very maturely gone about the task of online learning. There have been fun tutor sessions involving scavenger hunts around their houses, showing off each other’s pets and next half term they can look forward to a Guess the Tutor competition involving childhood photos of the Year 7 team. Pupils have been keen to tell their tutors all about the cooking they’ve been doing at home, runs with their parents and lovely new pets - including a bearded dragon called Charlie! No doubt the novelty of lockdown may be wearing off, inevitably, and they, like the rest of us, will be tired and looking forward to half term! I wish everyone a fantastic half term break.
Art & Design - New Curriculum Leader for the Visual Arts
Mrs Rachel Bloomfield-Proud joined us this term as our new Curriculum Leader for the Visual Arts, replacing Mr Ben Keeble. It has been an unusual time to take up a new role, but Mrs Bloomfield-Proud has been warmly welcomed and is very excited to be here and cannot wait to get back into our amazing creative hub (known as “the VAC”) and start teaching the practical skills that are so much harder to teach remotely. In the meantime, a Google classroom has been running for Art scholars and all those interested in furthering their experiences of Art using an array of resources. The area provides links to galleries, competition opportunities and an opportunity to add comments relating to Art. The class is called Art - Beyond the Classroom. If you wish to be part of this online community email firstname.lastname@example.org
Year 7 Art Club
This term Art Club students have been responding to the theme ‘Earth, Air, Fire, Water - The Elements’. They have created some great lockdown pieces of work so far. Here is a selection:
Design & Engineering
A team of Year 9 students have started this years’ EDT/Go4SET challenge attending the first online launch meeting with the regional coordinator Paul Sands and their mentor Gordon Lee from Amazon software development.
This will involve 11 weeks of virtual meetings where the team, with the help of their mentor, will try to solve a pressing technological problem and then produce a report and presentation of their findings in March to compete alongside other local schools. Their reward will be the prestigious Bronze Crest award issued by the British Science Association, as well as the Industrial Cadet Award and a step on the path to a career in engineering and technology.
One of the good things to come out of the lockdown is that students are finding the time to really hone their skills in using CAD/CAM. Year 7 have shone, creating their own OnShape user group setting weekly challenges and regularly collaborating with each other.
Many of our Senior students have been working hard preparing to take LAMDA exams this February. We are delighted that the exam board allowed the February season of exams to take place remotely between 8 and 10 February. Well done to all of our LAMDA students and good luck with the results!
Year 9 production - Dreams of Anne Frank
A dedicated cast of students have been researching material for a unique performance that will combine extracts from the play ‘Dreams of Anne Frank’ by Bernard Kops with other stories of isolation and hardship, expressed through a variety of different performance styles and mediums including film, verbatim, dance and live music.
*Postponed from March 2021 - new filmed performance dates to follow in the summer term - watch this space!*
On September 28 1942, Anne wrote "Not being able to go outside upsets me more than I can say”. This is a clip of Anne, sharing with ‘Kitty’ and then Miep Gies in a verbatim piece describing how she came to hide the Frank family.
Year 8 production - Beauty and the Beast
Last year’s Year 7 production very sadly had to be cancelled but we are determined to bring it to the stage, by hook or by crook! Rehearsals have just started up again (remotely, of course!). *Provisional filming dates for this performance are in April - watch this space!*
Year 7 engage with gusto in remote learning
Our Year 7 Drama classes were tasked with creating either a puppet sequence or a stop motion animation on a given theme using items they could find in their bedroom or around their home. The students approached this challenge with their usual resourcefulness and imagination, producing some highly entertaining results. Mrs Foote has edited some of the responses into these compilations:
Year 7 Drama Club have been exploring the very topical theme of isolation by creating their own desert island shelters. They imagined they were stranded on a desert island or similar, and built shelters to live in (life sized or miniature). The results were really creative and the participating students had enormous fun photographing and filming themselves in their unique spaces! Club members are now exploring the dramatic potential of further scenarios on the given theme, such as sending a message in a bottle and making friends on the island.
Year 8 tech club students have been continuing to learn about lighting and how this can be used to enhance performance. In particular, they have been considering what effects can be created when the angle and position of the light source is changed. Theatre technician Mrs Cooper asked students to create a basic model set, using Lego, boxes, or whatever other items they had to hand. The students then used torches to light their set from different angles so that they could review the different effects created.
The example here shows a reenactment from a very familiar film - the student has aimed to recreate similar lighting effects to those in the film using different colour filters and angles.
Following on from some great successes last year, sixteen Year 10 and Year 11 students were invited to the next level of CyberDiscovery, a national cybersecurity competition. Featuring a huge range of challenges, students have learnt about the industry and how to prevent hacking and other security breaches. Most have been invited to the final level, where they have gained exclusive access to a cyber security course aimed at honing their skills and giving them real industry experience.
Year 10 have also been working on game design in their club, using both Godot and Unity to make some really exciting games, like Festive Frog Frenzy, by Teddy, pictured below, while Sixth Form students are also engaging in some great game design in Python.
The KS3 Computing Club continues to work on many different projects, including working with the Internet of Things, starting with the Burping Jelly Baby (pictured below). Several students are also participating in the Alan Turing Cryptography Competition, while an exceptional number of Year 7, 8 and 9 students have qualified for the Oxford Computing Challenge in March.
A number of Year 9 and 10 students participated in Cambridgeshire’s Worldwise Quiz -all about Geography trivia. This culminated in an end of term quiz where they competed against other schools from around Cambridgeshire. With 100 questions in the quiz this was no easy task, but out of dozens of entries the three student groups came second, third and fifth, with the Year 9’s top of their year group. Congratulations to all of them!
The 2021 Castle Competition - the results are in! Dr Spencer, a medieval historian at Cambridge University has very kindly judged all entries and noted the imagination and effort (as well as how delicious the edible ones looked!) that went into the competition. Prizes will be awarded as soon as we're back in school. Congratulations to all those who entered and many thanks to Dr Spencer for his time. The winners are:
In 3rd place is 7KM AJH: the most historically accurate of the imaginative Minecraft entries with great attention to detail.
In 2nd place is 7BH DC: the use of more traditional materials must have involved significant effort to craft what is a very neat effort at accuracy.
The winner is AB 7AR: This shows great attention to detail and is the most historically accurate as well as the most intricate of all the entries. A truly impressive effort and a worthy winner.
The department continues to offer exciting opportunities in both the Senior School history societies where discussions abound including ‘Why Trump is not a Fascist.’ Senior School historians took a deep dive into Cambridge local history, found out some really interesting things, and thought about why local history was a valuable exercise, and counterfactual history: debating the event which would make the most monumental change to societies if ever so slightly changed.
We have been delighted with the attendance at our various Maths extra-curricular sessions over the past term - and especially pleased with the continued attendance during this period of remote learning. We are able to offer more than 24 different sessions across all years, from Year 7 to 13. These include:
Support opportunities in all years - a chance to drop in for extra practice or help.
Enrichment - Maths for its own enjoyment - do you like a puzzle?
Stretch and Challenge - in Year 9 or Additional Maths in Years 10 and 11.
Competitions practice in Year 12 and 13.
Support with University Entrance Tests in Year 12 and 13.
For details and times - see the Student Blog.
Chinese New Year Festivities
Chinese New Year is on 12 February - the last day of this half term! We will be celebrating the year of the OX ? with lots of fun activities, such as learning a New Year song, playing fun games and finding out more about Chinese Zodiac signs and how people celebrate this most important festival in China. Happy OX year! Xin Nian Kuai Le ????!
German Year 8 sandwiches
Year 8 have been replacing their screens with their kitchens. They’ve been learning about food and drink in German. It was time to take the vocabulary a step further and put it into action. As a result they’ve been creating their own favourite sandwiches and explaining them in German. Lecker!
We love languages!
Even if we can’t travel beyond our front door, students are able to travel online to all sorts of destinations. The modern languages department’s clubs and competitions have been offering our students a chance to expand their language skills and throw themselves into different cultures. In German Heritage Learners’ Club, students have been reading Cornelia Funke’s “Hände weg von Mississippi”.
Year 7 and Year 8 have a mini ciné-club programme. They are watching and discussing the French comedy classic films “Les Visiteurs” followed by “Astérix et Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre”.
Year 7, 8 and 9 students have been completing a number of challenges from the Language Immersion Challenge and they have particularly been focusing on ones that involve listening to a Spanish radio station. They have been having fun looking up other radio stations from this list.
Native and near native speakers have conversation classes about the past week and their plans for the coming weeks.
The idea of working on several projects: a culinary map, a project on movies and cinema and a newspaper really appealed to students! They were equally enthusiastic about doing creative writing and games with presentations and other applications.
Year 10 and 11 have been practising speaking for the IGCSEs, focusing on exam strategy and using newly acquired vocabulary.
The modern languages department has been advertising various language competitions, including the French Flash Writing competition organised by The University of Oxford and the French Institute’s annual French Pop Video competition - a chance for a mélange of French and music! A number of students from Year 7 to Year 10 have also been completing different “challenges” for the Routes into Languages “Language Challenge” such as setting their mobile phones in their foreign language of choice, following and documenting cooking recipes and singing songs focusing on pronunciation.
Our bilingual and multilingual students are also working on the “Mother Tongue” project led by Dr Schechter from The University of Cambridge, which requires them to critically reflect on a piece of literature or popular culture from their chosen home language. Finally, students who enjoy creative writing have been working on their own poems and short stories in both French and Spanish for the “Other Tongue” and Oxford’s “Flash Fiction” competitions. We are looking forward to receiving their brilliant entries!
The music department remains musically active, even though the music rooms themselves are currently silent! Instrumental and singing lessons have moved seamlessly online and our amazing team of teachers report some excellent individual progress: lockdown is actually quite beneficial for home music practice! Class music lessons continue to explore a wide range of topics at Key Stage 3, with both live instruments and GarageBand being used in a variety of creative tasks. Ensemble rehearsals and choirs mostly take the form of individual preparation with backing tracks and/or learning files, so that we are ready to hit the ground running when we are able to resume live rehearsals in school.
Some imaginative online collaborative projects have also arisen - for example a flute duo in Year 9 where both students have recorded their part and shared it with the other to use as a backing track.
Year 7 and Year 8 have been doing some impact testing in Physics Club, using masks to make parachutes.
Year 9 have continued to work on the Shell Bright ideas challenge, coming up with sustainable energy solutions for future cities. They’ve been using a Google Jamboard to brainstorm ideas. One idea they have come up with is a heat powered windmill!
Year 10 have been exploring the weird world of quantum physics, building on their work in class on black body radiation.
Staff and students have been keeping active with many sports specific fitness and HIIT sessions since the beginning of term and these have been interspersed with sporting challenges and yoga sessions. We all understand the need to be active in order to maintain a healthy body and mind and we have been super impressed with the students commitment to all of our online sessions.
Although it has not been possible to be involved in any netball this season, our U16 team have still managed to succeed in winning a trophy!! We are so proud to announce that our U16 netball team has been crowned Netball Team of the Year by the Cambridgeshire County Netball Association (CCNA). Competing against every other club and school netball team in Cambridgeshire, this award reflects the huge achievements by our U16 team: winning the County schools tournament, being runners up at Regionals and qualifying for the National netball finals when they were all U15. A true testament to their dedication and commitment. Congratulations to Captain Monika, Vice Captain Izzy, Jess, Asha, Rive, Annabel, Ciara, Zabeetah and Zoe.
Thank you CCNA for this lovely award. We are all thrilled.
RS and Philosophy
To mark World Philosophy Day, the RS and Philosophy department produced a video assembly on the ethics of Covid vaccinations. Tutors played the video to their tutees, after which form groups discussed one of the ethical questions, such as, ‘Who should receive the vaccine first?’ and ‘Should pharmaceutical companies make a profit selling the vaccine to low and middle income countries?’. Students recorded their views by voting on these issues and, this week, the results of this vote have been published in the Student Blog. Thanks go to Miss Beevor and the Year 10 and Year 11 students (Ryan, Arshiya, Danika, River and Sukie) who produced the assembly.
It's arrived!!! If you didn't hear, our U16 team won the prestigious Cambridgeshire County netball Team of the Year 2020. We can't wait to give the girls their medals when we return to school @SPFSchools@CambsCNAhttps://t.co/uh7d3qclL3