Last summer term, we planned a rather optimistically named Summer of Joy.
We had hopeful plans to host outdoor events again and invite parents back into school on a carefully managed basis… But the plan swiftly unravelled within the first three weeks as the Delta variant took off around the country, and rooftop socials, concerts and numerous other events were cancelled.
A year later, I have had one of the most enjoyable summer terms of my career. Before your eyes glaze over, as you fear that the ensuing paragraphs are the Pollyanna-like witterings of a Miss Jean Brodie figure, please read on, as I have included some interesting facts as well as some unavoidable gushing.
There are too many joyful moments to mention everything, as staff and students have done a staggering amount this term, but here are a few highlights:
- The first is a quiet highlight: it is the reports I have just finished reading for Years 8 and 9. Our pupils have worked very hard this year and their progress is commendable. Every tutor report references some involvement in school life, as well as the pleasure tutors take in their form group’s company. This was very much in evidence at our Valedictory Ceremony for Upper Sixth on Wednesday night where tutors read out lovingly prepared comments about each pupil.
- I have been on three memorable school trips: to Pembrokeshire, to the battlefields of Flanders and the Somme, and to the Peak District for the Silver Duke of Edinburgh expedition. One of our tour guides on the Battlefields Trip has been guiding for the school for 25 years and has known some of our History teachers for just as long. It moved me the way he could remember the names of so many South Hampstead colleagues from years gone by.
- Speaking of former colleagues, one of the loveliest events I hosted this term was our farewell party for the indefatigable modern linguist Madame Hugh, following 28 years of loyal service to South Hampstead (and longer still to education). Several former colleagues attended and there was a powerful sense of South Hampstead’s history on the seventh floor that afternoon. There are fathers in our community who were taught by her as boys at Haberdashers. Doris was one of the first people I met as a new Head and I was immediately charmed by her stories, her glamourous attire, and her sheer energy. Thank you, Doris. You can look back on your career with so much pride.
- The eloquence, humour and scholarship of our pupils never fails to inspire me. I arrived at the Year 7 Independent Learning Project in Activities Week and was delighted to be pounced on (metaphorically) by a pupil dressed as an alien eager to tell me about her group’s research project on Venus. The theme was ‘dry’ and pupils interpreted the theme with scientific precision on the one hand and literary flair on the other hand. We had projects ranging from how human skin functions to dry humour.
- Our English Department has hosted both a beautiful poetry evening, where pupils read their own verse and prose, as well as the annual Public Speaking competition. I made it to the Year 9 finals and what impressed me most about the event was not the eloquence of our pupils (impressive though it is) but the support their peers gave them as the audience – lots of questions, lots of cheers and applause.
- I have been treated, along with so many others, to amazing concerts and drama productions. The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe was a magical play and yesterday evening’s preview of our Edinburgh Fringe play showcased some stunning acting from four Sixth Form students. The Junior and Senior School music concerts this week have been similarly uplifting and impressive.
- Sports Day and last night’s Sports Awards celebrated the participation and success of our athletes. Did you know that 100% of pupils in Years 7 to 9 take part in a co-curricular sports club? Did you know that we are national champions in one sport (skiing), county champions in two others (netball and cricket) and GDST silver medallists in four sports (Cricket, Tennis, Dance and Athletics)?
- The Art & DT exhibition the other week was incredible. One addition we have made in recent years is to celebrate the work of artists and designers in Years 7 to 9 as well as our examination candidates. To see the skill and creative thinking of our artists was quite astonishing. South Hampstead has long had a proud history in the creative arts and in assembly on Monday we talked to pupils about our collection of modern art at the school. We are also thrilled that, for the second year running, a pupil has won the RSA Pupil Design Awards – well done to Leila in Year 10.
I would like to thank the whole South Hampstead community – pupils, colleagues and parents – for making this term a term to remember. Mehr Licht to you all!
Blog post by Vicky Bingham, Headmistress from 2017 to 2023.