Sydenham High is selective and diverse, welcoming girls with wide-ranging talents and backgrounds into a close community that is large enough to offer choice and flexibility but compact enough to ensure that no girl is overlooked. Our school motto, Nyle ye Drede, (‘Fear nothing’), lies at the heart of all we do. A Sydenham High education is centred upon the girl, where academic excellence and pastoral excellence go hand in hand. We want our pupils to have a ‘can do’ approach and inner strength so that they are enabled to thrive, succeed and be happy.
Through monsoon rain, Sydenham High pupils and staff ran over 1000k to fundraise for the local St Christopher's Hospice, raising over £3000 ending up in the top 5% of fundraisers on JustGiving.
1st July 2021 — Unlike the days and weeks leading up to it, Friday 18 June was not one where the warmth and sunshine was brightly felt and received in and around London. Some school’s may have even cancelled their events, but not Sydenham High! In the spirit of Fearless Fridays, even in torrential rain, the objective of running and raising 1000K in a day was still very much alive.
In support of the local St Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham, the school had already hit its monetary target of £1000 before the day even began, setting a new one of £2000 to challenge themselves to reach. From 7:30am staff and parents were up bright and early and managed to hit the first 100K before pupils had even stepped foot on the Astroturf. The incredible Head, Mrs Woodcock, led by example, as always, and contributed a whopping 10K towards the cause (getting soaked in the process) before starting her busy day.
The first part of the day saw the phenomenal Prep School set the pace as each year group from Reception all the way up to year 6 brought energy, positivity and good spirits to proceedings, helping the school to get past the 400K mark. This was followed by year 7 who brought some much-needed colour to the day in celebration of Pride month. A special shoutout has to go to Mr Matthews who ran 10K, as well as the PE Department who collectively ran 30K – with Ms Matthews and Ms Parnis coming out on multiple occasions throughout the day.
By lunchtime the intrepid runners had hit the 900K mark with year 12 being the last year group to come outside before the half-time interval. They weren’t alone though as Heads of Sixth Form, Mr Stevens and Ms Parrish, braved the wet weather along with some of our amazing support staff and parents. Soaking wet but with spirits high, after lunch was the turn of year 9 to take to the Astro with Madame Evans and Mr Wagg bringing fun and laughter to their pupils who seemed to quite enjoy it by the end.
Music was playing through a speaker throughout the day and every year group received stickers (and sweets for Prep) for their efforts. As year 10 became the last year group to add to the cause the school had already surpassed the 1000K mark, making it just a case of how much the final fundraising total would be. One last push saw year 10, staff and parents all running together and, despite the downpours, collectively as a school community they clocked up a remarkable 1505 kilometres while also raising over £3,000. The total saw the school recognised in the top 5% of fundraisers on JustGiving for the month.
Mrs Woodcock, Headmistress tweeted that it was “one of our best #FearlessFridays yet! So proud!” and following discussions with the Sydenham St Christopher’s Hospice the school has been able to fund new moving and handling equipment to move and reposition patients easily and safely with minimum disruption. The Hospice said "Moving and handling equipment isn’t an obvious choice for donations normally but it is vital for patient and staff safety. Thank you for your amazing efforts supporting the local community”.
Alumna returns to encourage pupils to use their past to create their future
Sydenham High School's Lecture Series continued with alumna Marianne Grant who captivated pupils with her love story – a love of life, people and adventure – some born out of adversity but also luck, grit, bravery and disappointment.
21st May 2021 — Sydenham High School's Lecture Series continued with alumna Marianne Grant who captivated pupils with the story of her life and career to date.
Marianne’s tale is a love story – a love of life, people and adventure – some born out of adversity but also luck, grit, bravery and disappointment. She emphasised that people and experience are the most important currencies that you can possess in life.
Marianne was the eldest of three children (her sister Alison also attended Sydenham High). Her mother, from Hungary, and her father, from Jamaica, met in London when her mother was working in a church. Her father was in the Army and served in Egypt during the Second World War. It was hard for them to find a house to live in, Marianne recalls, as in those days, mixed race or black people trying to buy a house was very difficult and her parents “learned quickly that they would have to depend on my Mum being the one who went to look at houses.” Eventually they bought a house in Brockley Rise. Music was key part of family life and Marianne started learning the piano when she was four, encouraged by her father’s whose theory was if you played music to children before they were born they would be able musicians – and indeed she and her siblings all are!
Marianne’s father believed strongly that it was important for children to have the best start in life and particularly because he knew through experience that his children were going to have difficulties growing up in the 1960/70s society. Her father was very impressed by Sydenham High School girls that he saw on the bus and so they approached the school and, even though the school year had started, Marianne was interviewed and accepted into the Junior School in 1960. Marianne believes herself to be the first non-white girl to go to Sydenham High.
Marianne was supposed to leave the Junior School to give her younger sister an opportunity to attend instead but the Headmistress of the time, Miss Yardley, intervened and said it was important that both sisters stay. Fortunately, Marianne passed the 11 plus and received a scholarship, thus ensuring her place at the Senior School. Marianne embraced Senior School life – enjoying music, especially choir and swimming at Crystal Palace Sports Centre. Her year group was pretty innovative – forming the only Bridge Club at a girls’ school in London and competing against the boys’ schools in the area.
They were wonderful experiences but adversity had dealt Marianne some difficult cards. On 26 November 1968 Marianne’s life changed forever. Her father had come home from work unwell and he died that night. Marianne was only twelve – it was a huge shock for the family, “I had to step up and be a real support to my mother who had to take care of us all” she says. Marianne suffered several serious health problems with her knees, preventing her from doing any sport at all from the age of twelve, and a very late diagnosis of endometriosis which took its toll physically and mentally, and meant she spent much of her school days “looking like I was ok when I really wasn’t ok”. Academically she had to also deal with the bitter blow of not achieving her dream of becoming a gynaecologist. In spite of this, and against 1960’s backdrop of what girls could do, she embarked on a diverse and fascinating career path which has taken her from newspapers to Government Affairs to trade associations, the automobile and the film industry, from the UK to South Africa and the States.
Marianne shared with us her key career takeaways which are that individual careers are the product of unique experiences gained and the data of those experiences used in future interactions. She asserted that 50% is good enough. People and research will help you fill the gaps and you should take every opportunity to learn from everyone you meet. Listen actively and use your experiences to inform your future. Marianne advocates being Meccano rather than Lego as it’s more structural and the framework is flexible – we all need to be able to adjust.
Marianne closed by advising everyone to start where you are now as you all have something to begin with.
"You all have this road ahead of you – I’m excited for you, even with the trials and tribulations of COVID and how its changed things – in lots of ways it’s going to change things in a way that is going to make your lives easier – as its more easier to communicate with people and learn different things. I’m really happy to answer questions in the future. I’m a proud Sydenham High girl and I’m happy to be able to give something back to Sydenham finally after all these years."
Maisie unites the school community with her fundraising
After losing her father, Maisie decided to set out to raise £1000 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society in his honour, by completing a half marathon and hosting an event at school, and ended up raising over £7000!
14th May 2021 — This term, Maisie decided to set out to raise £1000 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society in honour of her father. By Monday 3 May she had completed a half marathon with her mum and two friends, and raised over £7,000!
In 2000, her father, Craig, was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Multiple Sclerosis. MS has no cure and progresses over time. It affects the brain and spinal cord and causes a range of symptoms such as blurred vision and how people move, think and feel. Maisie remembered how positive he remained, despite missing out on doing things with her as she grew up, and she wanted to celebrate his life, which sadly ended in January this year.
Maisie chose to do a sponsored walk, as that becomes one of the simple things that MS sufferers are unable to do with ease as the diseases progresses. She aimed to raise £1000 to support those struggling with MS and was delighted to far surpass that target. At school, Maisie put forward a proposal to Mrs Woodcock for a ‘wear your walking shoes’ day on 30 April, which would have been her father’s birthday. Pupils and staff all donated £1 to the cause and raised £955 for her fantastic cause.
"I am overwhelmed by everyone who as made a donation and cannot believe we have raised this much! Let’s keep on raising money for this incredible cause!"
Maisie has embodied our “Fear Nothing” spirit and we are so pleased to see how successful her fundraising campaign has been.
"We are immensely proud of Maisie. Raising awareness and fundraising by sharing her personal story is testament to her fearless spirit and selfless nature. To channel such difficult emotions in such a positive, courageous and resilient way is truly remarkable. She is an inspiration to us all." - Mrs Woodcock, Headmistress
School pupil challenges the Prime Minister to fix the digital divide
After a challenging year where everything changed and young people were forced to adapt to an entirely new way of learning, whilst losing precious contact with family and friends, you’d forgive their focus turning inward. But not for Elliott, who, at nine years old, saw a BBC news report about six children in a family trying to complete home schooling on one phone shared between them and decided that something had to be done.
8th March 2021 — After a challenging year where everything changed and young people were forced to adapt to an entirely new way of learning, whilst losing precious contact with family and friends, you’d forgive their focus turning inward. But not for Elliott, who, at nine years old, saw a BBC news report about six children in a family trying to complete home schooling on one phone shared between them and decided that something had to be done.
“I realised there were loads of other people in the world in that situation and I wanted to do something about it in my area at least”, and, ever the embodiment of a Giraffe Girl*, she immediately masterminded a fundraising campaign involving the creation of an activity pack in return for donations towards the funding of laptops for a primary school in south east London.
Using information that she learnt in her downtime through the previous lockdowns plus a selection of topics she hoped that others would enjoy, Elliott set to work creating 40 pages of fun activities just before February half term, ready to fill the void created by lockdown, whilst helping others. In a most impressively professional manner, she set up a website, Instagram and JustGiving page, with the help of her family.
Her fundraising success was beyond anything she could have imagined. She anticipated raising £100 and then, within 3 days, she had raised over £10,000! After consulting a local primary school Head, it was decided that purchasing tablets would mean that Elliott could help more children and so the campaign turned from 24 laptops to 85 tablets. With her enviable charm and tenacity she even managed to get a discount from Lenovo to enable her to spread the donations further. The new target is 100 and we have no doubt she will reach, and surpass, that.
Throughout the interview Elliott exuded positivity and her activity book is no different - you can feel her warmth on every page, from positive quotes to listing your ‘Wow’ moments from each day. Though her own home learning has meant she hasn’t been able to read all the feedback about her activity pack, she knows it is going down well.
Elliott’s family, friends and teachers are incredibly proud, “it's a really great feeling” she beams. Personally, her proudest moment was seeing how happy the first school (Oliver Goldsmith Primary in Peckham) was to receive their 30 tablets: “How happy they sounded when they heard that someone had done something to give them 30 tablets for their school”.
Elliott is aware that not everyone has the time to start initiatives like this but advocates doing whatever you can to make a difference - be that donating to good causes or helping an old lady cross the street. It’s about acts of kindness: “you’ll feel good because you know you’ve helped someone.”
This is not the end for our valiant fundraiser - nor was it the start, as she explains about previous, smaller fundraisers, inspired by watching her mother running marathons for charity and seeing how happy it made people: "I realised I really love helping people."
Elliott has started school on site once more, but she is continuing to fundraise for more tablets as they will still benefit pupils as much infrastructure for learning has moved online over the past year and has another school lined up to receive the next batch.
The future contortionist shared her love of Sophie Dossi and the inspirational motto of marathon runner Dean Kanazes, “run with your heart when your legs get too tired” and mused that perhaps Boris Johnson could do some government fundraising to complement hers. If a nine year old, albeit a very proactive one, can raise over £10,000 surely he can do more to fix the digital divide!
We look forward to the next fundraiser and getting involved as a school, and perhaps the GDST as a whole. With Elliott leading the charge, it is sure to be a huge success.
*Sydenham High Prep School pupils are affectionately known as Giraffe Girls as they aim high, stick their necks out and try new things.
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.
4th October 2019 — 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.
"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." – Mrs Woodcock, Headmistress.
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.
2nd October 2019 — 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.
Details can be found on our website under the Admissions section.