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Welcome to the Sydenham School weekly e-newsletter: Edition 121
we have listened to what parents have said about what they want from the newsletter and made some changes….

Geek Girl  

Author of the popular series 'Geek Girl', Holly Smale, will be visiting Sydenham School on 26th February to talk to Y7 and Y8. All students will have the opportunity to buy a signed copy of her latest book (published on 26/02/15) for only £10 on the day.

Dance Showcase  

Hard-Hitting Dance Showcase Addresses Challenging Themes

Inspired by themes as diverse as the ocean, night terrors, friendship, 9/11 and Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel peace prize acceptance speech, Sydenham School dance students put on a sell-out showcase this week celebrating their own GCSE and A-Level choreography.

“It was a hard-hitting evening,” said Sydenham School dance subject leader Polly Barker.  “The pieces were highly creative and thought-provoking, demonstrating the power that contemporary dance has of addressing tough modern issues while also showing off the girls’ awareness of significant dance practitioners and choreographers.”

An audience of over 200 people saw the 25 separate dance ‘pieces’ in the show created by girls in Year 11 (aged 15-16) and Year 13 (aged 17-18).   Many explored contemporary ills such as divorce, murder and terrorism while others had their origins in works of art and literature such as The Secret Garden and the poetry of Sylvia Plath.  The evening was also an opportunity for the New Vision Dance Company formed of Year 9 girls and run by sixth-former Patricia Kamara to perform.  The troop opened the second half of the show with Patricia’s AS choreography based on a recording of Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel peace prize acceptance speech. 

“It demands a considerable range of the girls; asking them to convey wildly contrasting emotions and ideas,” says Patricia (17). “It begins with the girls covering and then uncovering their mouths.  What follows are a series of solos suggesting the dancers’ individuality and yearning for an education.”

One of the evening’s highlights was ‘Safe Haven’ performed by Year 9 pupils Georgia and Isabelle Benham – a compelling, athletic and suitably highly-synchronised dance based on their relationship as twins. Meanwhile, GCSE student Tabitha Gibbons (16) was prompted by the famous Henry Fuseli painting ‘The Nightmare’ to create a dance-essay on the theme of ‘night terrors’.  “I was inspired by fears experienced in childhood such as the monster under the bed,” she commented.  “It intrigued me how, to a child, these things can be very real once the light goes out. I then looked at night terrors, where the child sits up in bed, crying out and lashing around as if in distress but is still asleep. Children who suffer from these remember none of the experience the next morning.”

“While choreographing a dance piece is an important element of both the GCSE and A-Level courses, there is no obligation on students to actually perform their creations,” explains teacher Polly Barker.  “The fact that they do and do so with gusto and to such a high standard reflects the strong dance culture at the school and the many extra-curricular opportunities the girls can take advantage of such as becoming a member of the school’s Sydenham Dance Company which performs all over London or by attending workshops with professional practitioners at the Trinity Laban Centre.”

“It was great to be able to show our work to a proper audience rather than just to an examiner,” said sixth-former Kainan Hector (16) one of only a handful of male dancers in the show.   “I have been dancing all my life and my choreography is highly influenced by street dance styles.  This show was an opportunity to demonstrate what I can do.”

“Dancers try to get the audience to feel an emotion and realise and understand our feelings,” added Tabitha Gibbons.  “In life we communicate with movement all of the time, hand gestures, body language and facial expressions. Dance channels all of this into a style of communication. With the right combination of actions, dynamics and relationships between the dancers, I believe you could communicate any idea, emotion or experience to people of every culture and language.”

Learning Review Day – January 2015


Thank you to those parents who completed the evaluation form either on paper or online.

We wanted to share some of the feedback with you.

In addition to these graphs we have read all the comments and are aware of the need to further improve our communication about such events particularly for new parents.  We also understand that you would appreciate further explanation of the Gold Standard system and the Sydenham Rainbow.  Mr Guest and Ms O’Connor

I am all in all very happy and grateful for this early Review Day, as it gives the parents the possibility to FULLY understand where their child is regarding achievements and target and can then help to improve these and work on targets together. Thanks for organising this!  Year 7 parent


Gold Standard update

In January, we were delighted to welcome so many parents to our Sydenham Celebration Assemblies, where over 200 students received their Gold Standard certificates and Gold Star badges.

As the Gold Standard system is new this year, we have been reviewing feedback from students, parents and staff on how the system is working, and how it can be improved, and in response to this feedback we have made a number of changes to how it operates during the course of the year. If you would like to provide further feedback on the system and these changes, please do get in touch by emailing

The most recent changes are as follows:
- We have recognised that there are number of students in our community who have serious medical conditions that make achieving 100% attendance to school more difficult for them. In order to ensure these students have an equal chance of achieving the Gold Standard, we have decided that where we know this to be the case, a student will qualify for the Gold Standard providing they achieve Gold in all other areas.
- We have recognised that most of our students never receive a demerit, and that this only happens when a student's behaviour in lessons has been particularly poor. In order to further encourage excellent behaviour for learning, we have decided that for every demerit a student receives, they will be deducted 10 behaviour points, reflecting the relative seriousness of a demerit. We are also doing more to encourage teachers to ensure they are rewarding good behaviour with merits.
- We have recognised that our expectations for the "effort" standard have been too low. In Tracks 1 and 2, students were able to achieve Gold if they had an average effort grade of Good. We have now increased this, so that a student will need to achieve mostly "Excellent" effort grades, in order to achieve Gold.

We will continue to improve the system during the course of the year, and thank you for your patience and feedback in helping us ensure the system is fair and appropriate, and encourages all our students to aim high.

Future Learning Device Pilot

In late January, we formally launched our Future Learning Device Pilot with two groups of Year 7 students and their teachers. As part of this pilot, the students and staff involved received a tablet/mini-laptop device provided by one of our sponsors in this project (Lenovo, Dell and Cetrix) to use at home and in lessons during the pilot. We understand this to be the largest such pilot ever conducted in UK schools, and a fantastic opportunity for us to explore how devices can support learning as we prepare to move into our state-of-the-art new buildings.

The pilot has so far been running for 2 weeks, and we have already received lots of useful feedback from staff, students and parents about the scheme. We will be conducting a formal evaluation of the project in around a months time, but in the meantime, parents of those involved in the project are encouraged to send any feedback they have about the devices or the pilot itself to the school by emailing

Bring your own device (BYOD) scheme

We are currently seeking parent views on the idea of allowing all students to bring tablet or laptop devices to school with them through a “Bring your own Device” (or BYOD) scheme.

The practice is now widespread across the business world, and is increasing in popularity within schools and universities.

We invite all parents to respond with their views on this approach by completing the survey here:

Mr Mark Guest
Assistant Headteacher

Jimmy Mizen Foundation working with Sydenham Girls


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