Sydenham High School develops the high aspirations, intellectual capability and self-confidence that students need to meet 21st century demands. A broad academic education is combined with a range of experiences and opportunities enabling students to develop their talents and potential. Inclusiveness encourages a positive social environment; students are engaged and active in school life.
Sydenham High School GDST has a total of 616 pupils, with 64 pupils in the Sixth Form.
Sydenham High School GDST is spellbound by lawyer and women’s rights activist
As part of our Lecture Series, and to kick off Black History Month, Sydenham High was treated to an exhilarating afternoon with Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, lawyer and women’s rights activist.
As part of our Lecture Series, and to kick off Black History Month, Sydenham High was treated to an exhilarating afternoon with Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, lawyer and women’s rights activist, as she fired up staff and students to believe in themselves and to be themselves, to be excited about their ethnicity, culture, background, as there is nothing to be ashamed of. She began by talking about finding a cause to fight for and how important it is to be passionate about things – whatever they may be. She reminded us all that there is no one definition to you and others cannot define you. It is so important to open your mind and embrace the opportunities as there is no full stop after your name, only commas: lawyer, mother, activist.
Dr Shola had an insightful message about comparing yourself to others, as when you see a successful person you only see the end package and not the journey to that point – everyone has moments of self doubt but they pick themselves up and it’s the journey that makes you stronger. Being vocal doesn’t always mean being loud, but making a stand for what you believe in. She also touched on the women’s rights movement, noting that is not just about yesterday but today, to create the way for future generations and how important it is to be cheerleaders for your friends and colleagues.
She had the audience chanting back positive statements, such as “I am worth fighting for”, “I'm a girl with a dream! I'm fire!” and inspired the girls to think about the dream in them as the world is waiting for them as the next generation of agents for change. The atmosphere was electric and it was clear that the girls are ready to show the world who they are and initiate the change that they want to see. The session was expertly opened and closed by our Head Girls, Saffron and Sophika and were joined by a Sixth Form Panel in the second half of the session, who asked some excellent questions, submitted by pupils over the past week:
What made you become a women’s rights activist?
I experienced inequality and was angry, but in truth, I have always been an activist. When something needs to change you need to do something, not just complain but bring a solution. Not everything will get your blood boiling but once you realise what does, then get up and do something about it.
Should 16 year olds have the right to vote if there is a second referendum on Brexit?
The youth should have more input as they are the ones who will be affected. There is so much that 16 year olds are able to do so why not vote? You definitely should campaign to get your voices heard even if you can’t vote.
What are the qualities I need to be leader?
Be you. Be able to identify issues you care about and why. It is important as a leader to listen and get different perspectives so that you have a balanced view. You may still end up with the same opinion but other perspectives help shape your thinking. When you make a decision, actively participate and learn from any mistakes. Lead from heart and the head and as a woman, embrace the power your gender brings. Be proud of what you bring and don’t conform – sometimes what stands out about you is your strength. Finally – you are always growing and learning as a leader.
What has been your biggest challenge in the world of work?
You have to prepare yourself with the skill set required for your profession – it is hard work and it is competitive. Stepping into a space where statistics are seemingly limiting you can be daunting so attitude is important. Even if it doesn’t go your way at first, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Be vocal about what you’re worth, build resilience and decision making and be authentic. Take every opportunity to learn and grow and bring others with you. To overcome challenges, you must support the next person – male or female. Together we can bring about change.
What was the largest battle you faced when giving a public talk?
On the March for Women, whilst trying to rally people around global legislation for violence against women, the teleprompter stopped working! Luckily I had read brief so I reverted to just being myself, got them up and engaged and then told them how to sign up to the petition. I also experienced heckling at the anti-Brexit protest from some vocal Boris fans…
Do you feel women are still perceived as less than men?
Yes, sadly, in some circles, but women’s voices are now amplified through so many platforms that we are changing the narrative and the conversation. It’s all about positively disrupting the status quo and being change makers. We cannot allow the voices from the dark ages to drown out our voices – you are all going to be agents of, and for, change.
"Dr Shola spoke with real passion, authenticity and very much from the heart, connecting fully with her audience and inspiring us all. We were all very much spellbound by her presentation in the Longton Hall and I hope that her calls for the girls to believe in themselves and to be themselves will stick."
Top London prep school shortlisted for the Independent Schools of the Year 2019
A year after its rebrand from Junior to Prep, Sydenham High Prep School is shortlisted for top independent schools award.
Pupils and staff are celebrating after being praised by judges for the outstanding experience we provide to pupils from Reception through to year 6. A year after its rebrand from Junior to Prep, Sydenham High Prep School is one of a number to be shortlisted in the competition, which is run by Independent School Parent magazine and open to independent schools from across the country.
Ms Victoria Goodson, Head of the Prep at Sydenham High School GDST said:
“We are so proud of our school and the experience that we offer to our girls. It is wonderful to have been recognised for the preparation we provide for our pupils, academically, socially and emotionally. I would like to thank our staff for their genuine commitment, hard work and dedication as well as the children, whose enthusiasm and input into the curricular and co-curricular activities of the school makes our community so special."
The awards ask to see evidence of success stories that feature both individuals and innovative practice, for a judging panel that is made up of heads, governors, parents and representatives of membership associations from across the sector and chaired by Dr Helen Wright, former President of the Girls School Association and Vice-Chair of the Independent Schools Commission.
David Moncrieff is Chair of the Editorial Advisory Board at Independent School Parent magazine who run the awards. He said:
“Following the huge success of the inaugural competition last year, which saw more than 250 school nominations entered, we are thrilled to have surpassed that figure for Independent Schools of the Year 2019. The awards have again been designed with the student experience at their heart and to provide schools with a platform to showcase their stories of innovation and success. The judges now have a tough job on their hands picking the winners from the shortlisted entries that were of such a consistently high standard.”
Neil Kirby is Marketing Director of Bupa Global, Sponsor of Independent Schools of the Year 2019.
“We are delighted to be supporting the Independent Schools of the Year 2019 awards, and to see so many schools taking up the opportunity to showcase the exceptional experience they offer their pupils. The entries gave a powerful insight into the choice and flexibility being afforded to students in the independent sector, and we are pleased to be part of such a new and exciting celebration of the hard work and dedication of all those involved in private education in the UK.”
This year saw a record number of entries from a wide range of schools; from tiny rural pre-preps through to large urban secondaries in a broad range of geographical areas. There were twenty different categories, a reflection of the depth and breadth of the independent school experience.
All those who entered have been invited to gather at an awards evening in London on Monday 7th October where winners will be announced and celebrated at a glittering champagne reception sponsored by health insurers Bupa Global.
Finalists will be featured in a widely distributed special winner’s supplement magazine and will be given a rosette to display alongside their brand. In addition, winners will be presented with a trophy.
Another record breaker as Sydenham girls fly high with top GCSE results
Not to be outdone by their year 13 counterparts, Sydenham High's year 11 also achieved record breaking results this week including almost 3/4 A*/A (9-7) grades across their GCSE subjects.
On a gloriously sunny August morning we welcomed in our year 11s and parents to the Orangery to open their eagerly anticipated GCSE results. It was a delight to see so many happy faces as we saw another increase in results since last year, making this year our best set of results for year 11!
40.5% A* / 9-8 grades
70.2% A*-A / 9-7 grades
99.1% A*-C / 9-4 grades
We are proud of all our pupils and everything they have achieved despite the more rigorous GCSE assessments, and the co-curricular commitments of the year group which, though an excellent respite from revision, required the development of time management and focus. We hope that all our pupils now have the chance to relax fully before term begins again - we are looking forward to hearing all about Reading Festival and other experiences!
"This year we have withdrawn from league tables as we believe that the added pressure of this fuels a frenzy which is not conducive to the best outcomes for pupils. We are delighted that our pupils can combine a growing social consciousness alongside the academic rigour required to achieve top grades that reflect their potential. We look forward to seeing them develop into sixth formers and valued members of society beyond Sydenham High."
- Mrs Woodcock, Headmistress
We would also like to say a special best wishes to Frances who, as well as collecting her GCSE results today, is celebrating her 16th birthday AND becoming British Champion in 400m individual medley! Balancing swimming training and revision requires grit and determination - a true GDST girl. Watch from 1:42:21 to see her triumph, coming back from 5/6th position! http://bit.ly/30pu9wx
Smiles all round at Sydenham High for record breaking A Levels
Record breaking A Level results see Sydenham High students achieve 91% A* to B grades and head off to higher education to study a range of subjects from Medicine to Philosophy & Politics to Mechanical Engineering.
In the midst of building improvement works, and with the sun finally shining, our year 13 cohort returned to school on 15 August to celebrate their long awaited A Level results. They need not have worried as their hard work paid off and this year was a record breaker, with a quarter of the cohort receiving A* grades, and 91% A* to B grades! Bucking the national trend of a dip in the top grades to its lowest for ten years, our year 13 achieved 55% A* or A grades, compared with 25.5% nationally.
There are so many lovely stories from our newest alumnae but here are a few:
Molly and Emily achieved all A* grades and are setting off to read Sociology and Chemistry at York respectively.
Martha achieved 3 A* and an A and is heading off to Linguistics with Chinese at Lancaster.
Annabelle achieved 2 A* and 1 A grades and is starting an apprenticeship degree at Ernst & Young.
Khadijah is weighing up her university offers to study Mechanical Engineering so that she can continue her riding training following her victory at the Magnolia Cup two weeks ago.
Majura is using her A* and 2 A grades for Product Design Engineering at Loughborough.
Laura heads off to study Medicine at Southampton.
Phoebe is going to read Philosophy & Politics at Sheffield.
It was smiles all round as the students and their parents discussed the next steps of this wonderful cohort. Not only have they achieved amazing results but they have given so much to the Sydenham High community.
We also had some very happy teachers – especially those in the Chemistry, Geography, Government and Politics, Italian and Philosophy departments as their students achieved all A* or A grades.
"It is always a pleasure to celebrate with our students at this time of year. These record breaking results are testament to their hard work, and that of their teachers, as well as the support of their families. This year group gave so much to our school community: they are socially conscious, quirky and kind as well as determined and talented. We look forward to seeing them spread the Sydenham spirit as they move onto their next stage of life and will enjoy welcoming them back in the winter term to hear all about their adventures." – Mrs Woodcock, Headmistress
Sydenham High pupil wins Magnolia Cup at Goodwood Races after A Levels
Year 13, Khadijah has inspired not only our school community but the nation with her phenomenal journey to Magnolia Cup success. After four months of race horse training she beat 11 other riders in the female-only charity race.
We are always proud of how much Sydenham High pupils do inside and outside of school and this year we have been eagerly following the progress of a very special year 13 pupil who balanced riding training with her A Level examinations, ahead of her planned move to university this autumn to study mechanical engineering.
Khadijah tried her hand at several sports at Sydenham High, including cricket and rowing, and when these weren’t quite the right fit, she had developed the confidence and determination to look for other opportunities. Khadijah has been part of Ebony Horse Club in Brixton for several years, and was invited to 10 Downing Street last year by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport as a representative of the charity. However, she could not have imagined that this year she would be not only selected to ride in the Magnolia Cup, raising money for charity Wellbeing of Women (the UK’s leading women’s reproductive and gynaecological health charity dedicated to saving and changing lives through research), alongside 11 other riders including celebrities such as Olympian Victoria Pendleton and model Vogue Williams, but go on to win the race!
"It is just mind blowing to think that I was even in the same race as Victoria Pendleton, let alone to beat her and the rest of the women. Even in my wildest dreams I never imagined this could happen. I only sat on a racehorse a couple of months ago and I am just never going to forget this day. To be honest, I want to go back and do it all over again – what an incredible feeling!"
Khadijah has inspired not only our school community but the nation with her phenomenal journey to Magnolia Cup success. At school she was determined and focused, maintaining study alongside training, even after a broken leg from a fall in the spring. She personifies the Sydenham High ‘Fear Nothing’ motto and we have no doubt that she will have achieved her goal to inspire other young Muslim girls. Not only this but we know that she is a role model for people attempting things outside of their comfort zone and we couldn’t be prouder of her hard work and resilience.
"It’s crazy to think of my journey over the last couple of months but a big part of my life has been proving people wrong… There’s quite a stereotype around Muslim girls and them ‘not being able to follow their sporting passions and dreams’."
She has made the news in France, Turkey, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and South Africa among others. At the end of term we hosted a film crew documenting her journey from South East London to participating in one of the world’s most famous racecourses and we cannot wait to view Riding a Dream which will air in the autumn. Her friends and family, as well as teachers at school, are all delighted for her, and she has very much enjoyed proving people wrong!
"Khadijah’s just a legend. I’ve never known anyone with so much focus and determination. I’ll be honest, when she came to the yard probably six – eight weeks ago, I wasn’t sure that she would make it. Racehorses are such highly strung animals and they are completely different to the horses that she will have ridden at Ebony Horse Club. But with every setback she has just worked harder." – Charlie Fellowes, trainer of Khadijah’s racehorse, Haverland
On Thursday 15 August she will collect her A Level results and decide on her future path. Watch this space!
To prepare girls with skills for the future we launched Curioso, a fantastic off-timetable experience incorporating enrichment opportunities including engineering and political manifesto competitions, forensic science investigations and beat boxing!
This term launched Curioso, a bespoke programme for years 7 and 9, designed with four broad areas in mind:
Being an active citizen
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
Languages (Modern and Classical)
The Arts: Creative and Performing
The programme suspended the usual timetable from Wednesday to Friday to provide pupils with exciting learning opportunities and experiences, delivered as a series of enriching events. The idea behind Curioso is to engage pupils in a challenging and engaging way that extends and enthuses their curricular appreciation, to further develop pupil employability skills and competencies, to engage pupils in thinking about potential careers in the future and to give pupils experience of university style teaching and learning. Some job roles do not exist yet, so future generations need to be adaptable and have a skills and competencies ‘toolkit’ that they can access.
A range of employability skills and competencies were focused on, including problem solving, communication, creativity, numeracy, digital skills, risk taking and reflection.
Year 7: Model United Nations
The pupils were introduced to the history and remit of the United Nations and explained the concept of Model United Nations as a forum for young people to mimic the UN, representing countries as delegates and debating contentious issues whilst proposing policy changes. The day kicked off with a presentation from Claire Roberts Lamont, UNHCR, who spoke passionately about her work at the UN Refugee Agency, including a story about Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini who swam for three hours in the sea to push a sinking boat carrying 20 to safety and then became an Olympic swimmer in 2016.
The pupils were split into teams and allocated a country before researching their topic and creating proposed resolutions and a policy statement prior to their debates in the afternoon. There were four groups with different topics:
ECOSOC (Economic & Social Council)
– The question of the protection of endangered wildlife
– The question of intensive meat farming
SOCHUM (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural Committee)
– The question of human trafficking
– The question of mental health in conflict zones
Year 7 responded maturely and intelligently to these serious topics and were awarded prizes for their efforts.
Year 9: Smart Build – National Grid/Smallpeice Trust
Year 9 spent the day thinking about energy and clean water supplies as 21st century engineering challenges. Pupils worked in small teams of 6 to design and build a system to filter, collect, detect and pump collected rainwater as part of an integrated system on a new smart building. Each team then had to build a watertight water-collection unit, including a filtration system. They also had to assemble and solder an electronic water-detector and make a circuit for an electric pump in order to detect and then pump the water which has been collected. This water could be used to flush toilets and water plants in the smart building. The groups all worked very well together and created some intelligently thought out designs, carefully thinking about the cost options and analysing the efficiency of their designs along the way.
Congratulations to our winning team consisting of Charu Molyneux-Lyons, Elisa Morris, Ella Salau, Ella Weiss, Emilia Beveridge and Emily Glover.
"The students were a credit to not only themselves but also the school. I witnessed very bright students who were hungry to succeed, keen to “push back” where they felt it useful and appropriate. Their manners and excellent discipline was very evident as well as their enthusiasm."
— Phil, Lennard, Smallpeice Trust
Year 7: Forensics
Day 2 of Curioso saw year 7 exploring a crime scene and learning about forensic science. They discovered how you can use science to help solve crimes, including what you would do at a crime scene to avoid contamination and how to make discoveries from the environment the body is found in. Pupils studied evidence such as blood, soil and fingerprints and compared each to the 5 suspects they were provided with. The day culminated in a mock court trial where an expert witness from each group presented their findings and then the judge made her decision, assisted by a panel of jurors. In the end the suspect was found to be guilty and apologised for the kidnapping of Ms Sookdeo’s monkey and pupils learnt not to show prejudice because of someone’s past if they are truly remorseful!
Year 9: Active Citizen
Meanwhile, year 9 heard from MP Brenda Dacres who told them about her role and how proud she is to be a female MP covering transport and highways, traditionally male dominated areas. Though she is no stranger to this given her degree in Physical Sciences and Computing. She strongly advocated young women to stand up and go for things, even if you don’t feel 100% confident as we can do more than we think- something that was emphasised at the Jo Cox Women in Leadership course she attended. She also spoke about the importance of civic roles and how to get involved, reminding us all that there is no age limit for this and how everyone can speak up about things they feel passionate about and turn negatives into positives. The pupils then took on the idea of advocacy and changing the system from within by going on to workshops on ideologies and political issues before writing a manifesto on a topic of their choice, ready to present at assembly the following day.
Year 7: French film and production & Creative Arts Carousel
On Fearless Friday, Curioso’s final day began with year 7 watching Les Choristes and then trying out one of the songs in French, assisted by some willing year 10. This was followed by a beat boxing, thanks to Danny Ladwa from the School of Beatbox, and a soap sculpture workshop for each group.
Year 9: Cambridge University Ancient Worlds Competition
The Faculty of Classics at Cambridge is well known for putting the Ancient World on screen. With Mary Beard, Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, and others on the staff, Cambridge’s Classics academics are some of the most familiar faces on TV documentaries. Year 9 spent the day with the mission of communicating the Ancient World through film in order to enter a competition at Cambridge University. Find out more here. They even studied the television programme Love Island, to see how the it reflects the themes of ancient myths and legends of the emotions and passions we feel. They discussed the story of Circe being consumed with jealousy and desire when Glaucus falls in love with Scylla as well as other stories and then worked in groups to portray a classical story through their own chosen medium, ranging from dance to animation to sculpture.
The Laurie Magnus Poetry Prize 2019 was judged by an alumna of Sydenham High and year 8 Tiffany's winning entry was a gripping story about racism: roots, fear, slavery and lynchings, told in the voice of a gun.
The Laurie Magnus Poetry Prize was established in memory of Laurie Magnus by his widow. Laurie Magnus was a GDST Council member from 1907, and Chairman from 1929 until his death in 1933. He also wrote The Jubilee Book of the Girls’ Day School Trust (1923). We are delighted that, not only was it judged by an alumna of Sydenham High but, Tiffany, year 8, was selected as the winner for the Year 7, 8 & 9 category - earning a £100 Amazon voucher. Her fantastic poem can be read below.
All the categories of poems were judged by Sydenham High School alumna, Claudia Daventry. After Sydenham High School Claudia took a year to study French at the Sorbonne in Paris before starting her degree in Modern Languages at Oxford. Since Oxford, she’s lived in France, Spain and the Netherlands, has added Dutch to her languages. She has travelled extensively during her time working as an advertising copywriter, and since. After giving up professional writing to focus on her three daughters and her creative writing, she took up spoken word poetry. It was during her time on the Amsterdam spoken word circuit that her work won prizes in the Arvon and Bridport competitions, so she moved to St Andrews in Scotland, where she did an MLitt with poets Douglas Dunn and Don Paterson.
Since the MLitt, she has read in the UK, the Netherlands and Canada, her poetry and essays have been widely published in reviews, anthologies, poetry magazines and on the radio, and she has won several prestigious prizes, including a Philip Larkin prize, the inaugural Ruskin prize and first place in the Bridport Prize. She has collaborated with composer Rory Boyle on commissions for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and, last year, a series of English Folk Songs for the music festival JAM on the Marsh, performed by the BBC Singers and performed on Radio 3. Between her converted stables in Scotland, her three daughters and two dogs life’s busy but she has for now paused work on her PhD to keep working towards a full poetry collection: her solo chapbook The Oligarch Loses his Patience won a Templar prize and was published in 2016.
GDST Laurie Magnus Poetry Prize judge’s report:
It’s always difficult to judge poems against one another, because each one speaks to you for a different reason. I found myself wishing there were ten or twenty categories so that each could be a winner in its own class and age group – there was so much inventive, playful, musical work here, so much imagination, such a cultural richness, and each one was so different. It’s especially true of young peoples’ work you feel loath to encourage one more than another because you can see the seeds of so much promise in every poem.
In the end the judge has to take into account technical and stylistic elements like use of rhyme (or not), choice of form, rhythm, freshness of imagery – while also making a decision based on elements that appeal to her (or him) personally. I enjoyed all of these poems for different reasons, and it was difficult to come to a final decision.
Years 7, 8 and 9
Winner: Tiffany Igharoro Y8 Sydenham High School, ONE PUSH, ONE JOLT
Some adventurous poems here. with experimental forms. Tiffany’s poem is a tour de force: a gripping story about racism: roots, fear, slavery and lynchings, told in the voice of a gun. She sustains the tension using repetition and assonance: this is a poem for page and for performance.
100 years of powder and blood
100 years of being bound;
My trigger was curved, my barrel was thin.
One push, one jolt-
a tiny metal bullet shot out
like a lightning bolt.
He stood there shaking a shamble of fear;
He stood there shaking like a frightened deer.
You pressed me hard again and again
So I jammed and I locked
And you hit me
and you damned your own God
I resisted I pushed I wouldn’t let go
You- you were enraged
Threw me into a closed metal cage
Call it a gun box
I do not care
dark and cold
I felt a new hand pick me up
a black hand
I was saved by a slave
One push; One jolt
A tiny metal bullet shot out
Like a lightning bolt
2 years later we’re on the run
A fugitive and his gun.
Blistered thumb held out in darkness
An automobile slows to a stop
It’s the time! He’s the one
His pathway to freedom and liberation begun
One push; One jolt
A tiny metal bullet shot out
Like a lightning bolt.
In a tunnel underground salty tears clung to his eyes
sons clung to cages; they starved without food.
Some tried to smuggle it, but they were nude
Of human rights
Survival? a fight: Just skin and bones
Then the skin was gone
Just a mass of bones,
And of thousands of slaves kicked to the dirt.
His daughters were lynched, they’re necks deformed
Yet he was still here, as the one who’d performed.
Year 9 girls attend ‘Cyber Girls First’ to hear some inspirational talks from successful women in Technology from Downing Street, the Home Office, GCHQ, the Metropolitan Police On-line Crime Unit, JP Morgan, Oracle, Arsenal FC and Bletchley Park.
On Monday 10 June ten of our year 9 girls were fortunate to attend the annual ‘Cyber Girls First’ event held at European law firm FieldFisher, London. Our girls heard some inspirational talks from successful women in Technology from Downing Street, the Home Office, GCHQ, the Metropolitan Police On-line Crime Unit, JP Morgan, Oracle, Arsenal FC and Bletchley Park.
The girls learned about the ever increasing dangers of cyber threats to the UK government, our banks and to the public and it is clear that there remains a high demand for people with the requisite IT skills to fight against these threats and keep us safe. It was, in the words of our pupils themselves, an incredibly ‘empowering’ and inspiring’ day.
CYBER GIRLS FIRST is attempting to demystify the idea that only boys can succeed in IT, and to point out that Chief Executives of companies around the country are desperate to recruit women into their cyber departments. During WWII, more than 60% of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park were women, so why have the numbers decreased?
The organisation brings in girls aged 11-14 from local schools to give them a day of IT, coding and cyber security, with talks by women who have attained high levels in management in these fields int he hope that it might inspire more to take up computer science related GCSE and further education courses.
I found the talks to be really interesting and empowering to hear from so many successful women in the IT world.
I really enjoyed the trip because of the interaction. The speakers came round to our tables for ten minutes, asking us questions and being asked questions. Overall it was great and really interesting to learn about the future and the past combined.
I found the Computing trip very interesting because we got to talk to lots of inspirational women and it helped me realise how many options there are for a career in IT.
Forthcoming Open Days
Senior School Open Morning
Book a place online.
Prep School Open Morning
Book a place online.
Senior School Open Morning
Book a place online.
Senior School Year 7 Taster Sessions (for current year 5)
Choose from a morning or afternoon session. Book online.