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Newsletter 2017-18

Committee Members President:

Mrs Katharine Woodcock, Headmistress

Vice Presidents:

Mrs Geraldine Baker Dr Denise Lodge Mrs Kathryn Pullen


Sarah Hopkins (King, 1977), Chairman Eleanor Brown (Orr, 1976), Membership Secretary Philippa Cooper (former staff representative) Cath Higgins (Spray, 1966), Treasurer Barbara Kern (1967), Committee Secretary

Vacancies currently exist for Committee Members. We would be delighted to hear from anyone who is interested in joining the committee. Committee membership involves attending one meeting per term and the AGM. Assistance with running events is also welcome. If you would be interested in serving on the Committee (term of office four years), please get in touch with Barbara Kern or email Newsletter Editor:

Ms Barbara Kern 22 Queensthorpe Road, Sydenham, London SE26 4PH Tel: 020 8778 2156

School Term Dates 2018 Spring Term 2018 Summer Term 2018 Autumn Term 2018

3 January – 28 March 16 April – 6 July 5 September - 20 December

School Address: Sydenham High School, 19 Westwood Hill, London SE26 6BL Tel: 020 8557 7000

Welcome to the 2017-18 Newsletter Latest news!

academic and pastoral experience.

New Headmistress starts

children and lives in London.

Mrs Katharine Woodcock started work as the Headmistress of Sydenham High School at the beginning of the summer term. She replaced Mrs Kathryn Pullen who retired in December 2016 after 26 years at the school, 14 of them as Headteacher.

Mrs Woodcock is married with two

Mrs Woodcock is firmly committed to the ethos of both the GDST and Sydenham High. Mrs Woodcock’s former colleagues describe her as having a natural affinity with her students and speak about her warmth, energy, intelligence, about her forward-

Mrs Woodcock was the Senior

thinking approach to her work and

Deputy Head of Queen’s College,

her genuine passion for doing the

an all-girls school based in central

best for the girls.

London, educating girls between the ages of 4-18. As Deputy Head, Mrs Woodcock was responsible for the day-to-day management of the whole school. She joined Queen’s College as Head of Sixth Form in 2005, having previously taught at Oakham School in Rutland, where she was also a Housemistress.

Mrs Woodcock said: “I’m firmly committed to girls-only education, and believe strongly that it’s my responsibility to provide the very best and bring out the very best in all the pupils in my care. My vision is to provide education centred around each individual girl, in a nurturing and inclusive

A graduate of Bristol University,

environment in which girls can be

Mrs Woodcock studied French and

happy, challenged yet fulfilled, and

Russian. She then completed her

free from the fear of failure.”

PGCE at St Mary’s College in Twickenham. During her career, she has taught both French and Russian, and has extensive

130th Birthday Lunch Over 150 Old Girls, former staff and staff celebrated the school’s 130th birthday on Saturday 25 February 2017, enjoying lunch in the Longton Hall after welcome drinks in the Dining Hall and new Orangery. Amongst those present were

‘I loved my art teacher Mrs Sage. She was very hard with me but her art room was my sanctuary and we had a strong bond. I am now an artist.’ ‘Lending money to friends for chocolate day and charging them interest! Ahh! those were the days!’


‘Strap purse inspections, indoor and outdoor shoes, and Miss Yardley’s insistence on ‘core curriculum’ for all, in which she was about 30 years ahead of her time.’

We had a cake to mark the

‘The “disgrace bench” where, when

birthday, which was cut by the

we were naughty, we were made

former headteachers.

to sit, as the school walked past

Kathryn Pullen, who retired in December, Denise Lodge, Headteacher from 1999 to 2002, and Karl Guest, the Acting

Old Girls were invited to record their school memories. Many of these appear below: ‘Coming back to school felt like my entrance exam, so nervous! My favourite memory was seeing Miss Hamilton and her corgis! And the Annexes we had as our first class rooms. I also remember my PE teacher cutting out my blonde streaks with a razor blade!’

and saw our shame… Free milk and sticky buns being distributed at morning break at the back of the school… The long queue (in silence) to the gym where we ate lunch and the inevitable misdemeanours leading to 40 minutes in the ‘silence room’ after school… A school which valued a breadth of education, way beyond National Curriculum core subjects – even in the 6th form when studying for A levels.

‘Boiler water let out by vandals so no heating, therefore fires lit in grates in all the rooms in the old house to keep us vaguely warm with woolly pullovers! Not sent home!’ ‘“Salad Days” – School production around 1989/90: There was a magic piano and a flying teacup. The staging was very simple with coloured lights which we had to remind the cast not to stand in so they didn’t look green. The main song was “We’re looking for a piano” “A piano” “Yes a piano. Not any old piano but the one that makes you dance!”’

‘I remember taking the lunch trays, in the snow, and sledging down the banks outside the lunch hall.’ ‘Mini-skirts were fashionable – incompatible with the uniform. So we rolled our skirt waists up on our way home. We were disproportionate in the middle, but showed the correct amount of leg! One day when we were about eleven, a girl brought her brother’s football to school. After lunch we

tried kicking it around, having loads of fun. But then Miss Hamilton appeared and confiscated it. She told us that this was not ladylike… Receiving the blue enamel badge for sitting up straight for three terms in a row in assembly, the excitement of receiving our first ink cartridge pens, doing homework by candle light during power cuts.’

‘Apart from the main worry of the day being who would eat school lunch for me, I remember in my very early years longing to play an angel in the Nativity. I was never selected because I had black hair and olive skin, which would NOT be allowed nowadays! I could probably go on…’ ‘I remember being put on ‘Disgrace Bench’ in the Junior School for putting my dinner cabbage on the floor because I didn’t want to eat it!’

‘Very happy days at Sydenham – was head of Grey House which helped my confidence no end. My Headmistress was Miss Yardley, who made the wise decision of making me repeat Ulll; I have kept

the friends I made in that year for 50 years and I flourished much more than I would have had I continued in the year I was in. Thank you, Miss Yardley! To quote – she told my parents that “She will never set the Thames on fire but she will be alright”! and I was.’ ‘I was always very happy to come to school. I started aged 4yrs and 11 months in the Junior School and left from Upper VI to study medicine. In the Junior School, I remember the unprotected pond

‘Largely very happy memories and building of friendships – some of which have continued over the years. I started in the Junior School and continued through to the end of A-levels. The standards I learnt at Sydenham and the approach to learning have stood me in very good stead throughout my life and professional career. I remember the quirky things – the classroom in the attics, approached by a stone spiral staircase! Health and Safety!!’

in the middle of the lawn and

From a former staff member: ‘

someone falling in, and have

I asked Miss Yardley if I would be

memories of catching stag beetles

allowed to wear a tracksuit when

in the garden and keeping them in

out of doors for a double period (in

matchboxes. We had to walk to

the cold weather). She agreed to

the Senior School in a crocodile for

‘see me in it’ and permitted me to

lunch. I sang in the choir in the

wear it but only for a double period

Senior School and I remember

and I mustn’t let the girls think

going to the Festival Hall to sing in

that they could have one! Also,

the Ernest Read Choir. I played

when writing school reports, the

“Ham” in the school production of

deputy head, used to put a large

Benjamin Britten’s “Noyes Fludde”.

bowl filled with Dolly-mixtures

Music was a great favourite and I

and Smarties in the centre of the

continued in choirs until a few

table in the staff room – to be dug

years ago. The diversity of

into, whilst writing, or deciding

education at the school has been a

what to write!’

life-long benefit.’

‘I was Head girl. It was the practice

then for the Senior Prefect in turn

to collect the huge Bible from Miss Yardley’s office, carry it down the to the school hall and open it at the correct place on the lectern and depart. Once all the pupils were in the hall, Miss Yardley came down the corridor and the same prefect opened the door for her to enter. I would be sitting at the back of the hall in the corner on a chair. One morning sitting there we all waited and waited - no prefect appeared with the Bible. I began to realise there was a problem (my job to organize the rotas). Just then Miss Yardley appeared struggling with the door and the heavy Bible and put it on the lectern with a struggle. Everyone turned to look at me… After assembly I had to walk on to the platform, pick up the Bible and walk with Miss Yardley back to her study. “What happened?” She asked in a stern voice. I was quite quaking and apologised. I still have dreams about it!’ ‘I was very impressed by Miss Morley’s (Mrs Donnelly soon-to-be, biology teacher) long fingernails in UIII. She was our form tutor and had considerable difficulty picking up stars from the bottom of her

desk which were a reward for good work! I remember being caught, one wet playtime, running across the desks, while I was in LlVT, by Miss Raine. I was Form Officer at the time and was threatened with demotion!! I also remember being ticked off by Miss Hamilton, who pulled up in her car at the 227 bus stop where I was waiting, for not wearing my hat!

‘Standing in the hall with a friend who was corrected by Miss Hadlow after she said “Can I” and Miss Hadlow said – hands on hips- “It’s not Can I, it’s May I”. Having to change into indoor shoes (sandals) in the cloakroom – no outdoor shoes allowed!! I wasn’t good enough to play in the hockey team – SHS always did well at hockey, but I was in the netball team where other local schools thrashed us!’ ‘I remember purse inspections at the end of assembly. And there were nail inspections too, or is my memory playing tricks on me? I’m sure nail varnish wasn’t allowed. I remember that we had history atlases which were rarely used, but every so often there would be a

check and most of the class were caught out. More than anything though, I remember being happy here and feeling safe, the staff were dedicated, and there was a great camaraderie amongst the pupils.’

‘I started in UIII in a pre-fab building. I sat next to the same person that I sat next to at the 130th Anniversary Celebration as on my first day. 23 of us from our year came back to the lunch. I loved my time at Sydenham, I made lifelong friends, had many laughs and hold life-long memories that I treasure. It was a family and we treasure the good times we had. We had drama lessons in a caravan and loved school lunches of jacket potato and salad. We had school trips to Bexhill-on-Sea, and ski trips to the Alps. It was emotional! I joined when Miss Hamilton gave English Grammar lessons and left with the fierce Mrs Baker giving out detentions for smoking down the side road whilst in 6th form! Mr Jope, Mrs Pakey, Mrs Andrews and Mme Medhurst all hold a place in moulding me into a successful Advertising Executive – work

hard, be confident and be happy. I was Deputy Head Girl and am proud to be an Old Girl!’ ‘I can remember investigating greenhouses and then tunnelling with a friend to find ourselves in the woods behind the playing fields. I ended up “on the bench”! I remember talks and presentations about “what to do” in the event of a nuclear bomb! Very worrying! And I remember when two more colours were introduced for the Summer Dresses and being allowed to make our own style and pattern in the 6th form.’

‘We were playing hockey when the heavens opened! We rushed for shelter under the cedar tree! Mrs Stevens decided we should run for the cover of the school doorway. As we ran we heard an enormous crack and the cedar fell in front of us. Two minutes before we were all under the tree!! I remember painting murals on the walls outside the art room (top corridor up the stairs from the entrance hall). Miss Walters – an inspiring art teacher encouraged this for part of our A level Art. Our topic was “Artisans” and I did a

blacksmith at work and my friend did fishermen. (Murals were all about 6 by 6ft). We had to attend Beckenham Art School one night a week for life drawing as our homework – so we had sandwiches in the special 6th form room in the tower – and crept out of school at 6pm in the darkened corridors! UIIIs had their own gardens (four to a garden) and we were supposed to look after these. In fact, these gardens were mainly used for leaping over! Another popular junior game was hopscotch. Where is the School Bench that stood in the entrance hall? I am sure all know that one was sent to sit on this bench if badly behaved. One prayed that Miss Yardley did not come out of her office to reprimand us. If lucky, we were allowed to go when the bell went and no one noticed us, but any passing member of staff would tell us off if they saw us there. In 1995 it was a great honour for me to be sent to examine A Level Art at Sydenham (they did very well!)’ ‘We are very upset that LOUISE House is no more. In our time at Sydenham it was a flourishing and

important part of my life. The House system was keenly supported. ‘Princess Louise’ was a benefactor. I am surprised that Sydenham, so proud of its traditions, has abandoned a House that meant so much to so many. Miss Marr, our House mistress, would have been horrified. Gurney, Stanley, Grey and LOUISE. Please re-instate!’

‘Our PE teacher saying “Get those legs moving girls”, winning the Duracell Competition for Innovation with Dr Williams - now Nail Bars are ‘de rigeur’!’ ‘I remember being called into Miss Yardley’s room and being asked as to why my younger sister had opened a letter that was being sent home to parents. I hadn’t the faintest idea, but as I was the elder I was to blame!’

‘Wonderful memories of friends and teachers. Miss Lucas (now Mrs Fish) who was such a support to all who were mad keen on games; Miss Vincent the kindest teacher ever (English) who once said to me ‘if ever you want to work with people I’ll give you a reference’;

Miss Burton (English) who once transformed the classroom into a country cottage where all the class took on different characters. Absolutely inspiring! Such happy memories of early morning and after school netball practices and of matches on Fridays and Saturdays and meeting other pupils from different schools. Memories of Miss Yardley, who although she terrified me (especially when I had to go and see her after sitting on the Disgrace Bench in the hall), gave me extra English Grammar tuition and came to support me when I obtained my Queen’s Guide Award. Wonderful experience painting a mural along the top corridor as part of the A level curriculum. Having fun in the prefects’ room up the narrow stairs. On a more salutary note – being stuck under the stage with the timpani when exploring the hall during a break (stayed all through the next lesson!). Having struggled academically throughout school, my English teachers would be astonished that I have just finished writing my own novel!’

‘Stuffing old newspapers down our hockey socks as it was so cold in the winter and to protect our shins – and getting told off for doing it! Wearing long navy blue knickers with lace on the bottom under our shorts to try and keep warm and again getting told off! The narrow winding staircase next to the Staff Room that only the prefects were allowed to use – and being able to make coffee/ tea in our break times. Buying the school uniform at DH Evans or Cobbs.’

‘Mrs Walker’s leather skirts – I remember how generous she was; Mr Jope’s English classes and his cartoon illustrations; Mr Davidson’s Greek lessons (Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey); Home Economic classes – making pizza and fish pie; piano lessons in the Music Room above the language rooms; Mrs Murray – she was my first form teacher; Mme Medhurst saying I smelt like vanilla, in one of my French classes.’ ‘I remember the bell tower which was out of bounds to us but we all were convinced it was haunted. We used to look up from outside and we were convinced we could

sometimes see a face. I also remember the incident on the corridor where we had French when the door handle came off inside and we thought this was the best thing ever as it meant we couldn’t get out to go to our lessons!’

‘I remember being terrified of Miss Raine. During my walk home I would frequently be set upon by girls from Sydenham Comprehensive School so, as a measure to protect myself, I would remove my school hat (they would grab it from my head and throw it into a tree). Inevitably a member of staff would spy me walking, and I’d be in trouble and sent to Miss Raine, the Deputy Head, next morning!’ ‘I remember the Christmas decorations in the Hall, coordinated by Miss Palmer and made from hundreds of silver paper chocolate wrappers. Art work largely done by Sandra (now Sandy) Powell, a three time Oscar winner for her costume designs in ‘Shakespeare in Love’, ‘Mrs Henderson’ and ‘Cinderella’.’

‘I remember being in trouble for putting golden syrup on the keys of the grand piano, thinking this was a good prank. What a horrid child! Better memories are of playing in the school orchestra after assembly on Wednesdays. I loved doing House plays – each had a junior, middle school and a senior play. Performance day was a highlight. The German exchange with Miss Salter – to Reutlingen near Stuttgart. A passer-by looked at Miss Salter trying to organise us and remarked loudly “Mutti hat viele, viele Kinder!”. French lessons with Miss Port were outstanding and without doubt led to my doing French at University and becoming a teacher of MFL myself.’ ‘First biology lesson with Miss Hadlow who ‘showed’/threatened us with her cane if there be any disobedience!’ Kathryn Pullen’s after-lunch talk: Kathryn Pullen started by saying what a pleasure it was to be with everyone to celebrate the school’s 130th birthday. She noted that Dr

Denise Lodge passed the baton of

and the Sydenham ethos, that

Headship to her in 2002, and in

people are at the heart of

December 2016 she handed it to

everything we do. At whatever

Karl Guest who would in turn hand

point you were a student, I’m sure

it on to Katharine Woodcock, the

there was a teacher here who

10 head, in April 2017.

really inspired you and set you on


Kathryn then went on to say: It is wonderful to welcome such a range of alumnae, from Miss Yardley’s students to very recent leavers, all here to celebrate our proud heritage and the spirit and the ethos of the school. This lunch is an occasion to meet people you don’t know, catch up with people you do, trade school stories, have a look around, see what’s changed and see what hasn’t, see who has changed and who hasn’t, check those old school photos, and take pride in being a Sydenham High girl. There is something very special about this school and the spirit of loyalty to the school and

a path that shaped your life. And there is something very special about Sydenham girls, from Reception through to the 6th form to university and beyond. Over the years they have taught me, inspired me, challenged and engaged me, and crucially, they have made me laugh. Our girls are young people to be proud of, and as adults are a force to be reckoned with. Our chrysanthemum “Sydenham Girl” bred especially for us at Wisley may not be the most glamorous of flowers but chrysanthemums last for a long time, just like the girls who wear them.

to each other. This lunch is an

I hope you find the school today in

opportunity to celebrate the people

some ways the ways the same and

who, as students and staff, have

in others enhanced.

contributed to making it the school what it is.

We remain proudly a girls’ school: we offer a first-class education to

Staff at Sydenham are exceptional:

girls. What is the difference? No

they live and breathe Trust values

boys in the classroom, but they are

not ignored as we have strong

themselves. I recently met up

links with Dulwich College for

with a Senior Zookeeper at London

debating, entrepreneurial

Zoo. She had read archaeology

activities, rowing and discos!

and gained an excellent degree,

In a girls’ school, everything is for the taking: there are no boys’/ girls’ subjects only subjects. But we are not a ‘girly’ school; we are excellent at netball but equally we excel at cross country, rugby and

but her heart wasn’t in the subsequent office job. What prompted the leap to zoo keeping? In her words, “You always told us to feel the passion and to go for it, so I did”.

football. We row from the Dulwich

At a girls’ school, everything is

College boathouse: we have our

possible: there are no

own teams, our own oars, and our

preconceptions. Girls’ schools are

own coach, and we are good! Art,

not about protecting girls from the

drama and music, for which

big bad world or wrapping them in

Sydenham High has always had

cotton wool. They are far more

an enviable reputation, continue to

liberating. Girls can come to us

flourish and girls perform in many

risk averse and compliant,

and varied prestigious venues. As

metaphorically holding the

part of the vibrant Girls’ Day

clipboard while the boys do the

School Trust, we enjoy numerous

experiments. At Sydenham High,

opportunities to engage with girls

we are about pushing personal

across the country in all these

boundaries, and delivering an

areas and more.

education focused on empowering

And this wide range of activity is reflected in our alumnae: scientists, writers, directors, actors, entrepreneurs, teachers, researchers, Civil Servants, forensic scientists, lawyers, musicians, linguists – a list as diverse as our students

successful, resilient young women. This starts with enabling every student to feel secure and confident. We teach exam skills, study skills, and life skills, because confident, independent learners need to know what they know and how to make that knowledge work for them. Our PSHEE programme

speakers and workshops offer the

and Fly programme in the Junior

chance to explore topics from

School. There are no problems,

body image to neuroscience, and

only solutions we haven’t found

from political awareness to

yet. This is not a philosophy that

internet safety. Sixth formers are

came naturally to me. When I left

trained as peer mentors and they

school, I had limited careers

offer an invaluable support to

advice. I was told science was out

young students. Vertical house

of the question, and was given the

tutor time enables girls to get to

choices of teaching training

know and work with students

college or university; I chose the

across each year group.

latter. I wanted to work on a

We send out students who are confident enough to take planned risks but who know a mistake is a step on the road to learning. We can’t predict the future but we can teach girls how to handle change in a fast-moving world and how to make their education work for them. They know it is a tough world out there and that the job market can be cut-throat. They know there are no ‘jobs for life’ and that they will have a challenge to navigate all that life throws up. They live out our motto, Nyle ye drede. I always told the girls that anything is possible, but you have to work for it. This is a philosophy which extends throughout the school, starting with the Flourish

magazine but ended up in social work where I learnt I knew nothing much at all. I worked with such seriously traumatised children I could only contain them, but then I met a teacher who seemed to have a key to dealing with the children. So I started teacher training. The classroom felt like coming home, but I never imagined that I would be so privileged as to head a school like ours. Headship of an independent school wasn’t what working class Welsh girls were encouraged to aspire to at the time. That is why, when I came to this school 26 years ago, I wanted students to be resilient, to like themselves for who they are, believe anything is possible, and realise that most

things are possible with a little

inhabit. We have virtual

help from your friends.

classrooms; homework is posted

Sydenham High girls have always been feisty. Take Emily Chadwick. Emily lived in Sydenham and couldn’t see why she shouldn’t enjoy an education as exciting and varied as her brother’s at Dulwich

and frequently submitted and marked on line. Your teacher can see exactly when you submitted it, so no more excuses about work being eaten by hamsters or the victim of printer problems.

College. A girl after my own heart,

What else is new? Over the years

she nagged her father until he

we have extended and developed

approached the newly established

our school facilities. We have a

GPDST, the brainchild of Lady

five acre sports fields in Lower

Stanley, Emily Shireff, her sister

Sydenham, and a theatre, recital

Maria Grey, and Mary Gurney. Mr

hall and a new Orangery on the

Chadwick was asked to identify

main site. School meals are now

likely premises and drum up some

compulsory, but there is a chef,

parental support. On 22 February

and you serve yourself, café- style.

1877, Miss Irene Thomas addressed the 17 pupils at the newly founded Sydenham High School. The school flourished, outgrew its premises and moved to the current site in 1934.

For a Sydenham High student, a suitcase is as crucial as a book bag. School trips range from studying geothermic energy in Iceland, American politics in Washington and classics in

Schools can’t stand still as the

Pompeii. We don’t just play

educational landscape changes

matches at JAGS, this year our

around us. The nature of exams

netball team toured Barbados.

changes, so the way we teach changes. Technology has a profound impact on how we teach. From Reception, girls are taught be to computer literate. For them it is a completely natural world to

Charity remains a central feature of life at Sydenham High. Moved by the plight of earthquake victims in Nepal, the school raised the £2,000 needed to build a school.

Sydenham High Nepal is now up

Public examination results are

and running; £6,000 was raised for

strong, and improving at GCSE and

Stand Up to Cancer in one day, and

A Level. We were delighted to

support for the Lewisham

come twelfth out of the 26 schools

Foodbank is an ongoing

that comprise the GDST for A

commitment. Students feel a

levels in 2016. At 130 years old, the

sense of responsibility and

school is thriving and confidently

involvement in their school, their

looking to its future!

community, and their planet.

News of Old Girls Peggy Winter (193?) We recently heard from Natasha, the granddaughter of Peggy Winter, who attended Sydenham High School in the 1920's and 1930's. Peggy died from cancer nearly 40 years ago, in 1978, before the birth of her granddaughter. Peggy married Sydney Walter Smith in 1940 and subsequently had four children with him before they divorced. According to Natasha’s father and two aunts (her uncle, the youngest of the four children, died in 1993), her grandmother had a very interesting history. It is said that she was the child of a famous Irish or American actress who had an affair with a well-known and

wealthy London financier, perhaps whilst she was working in Theatreland. At birth, Peggy was given to a professional nanny, someone known as Nanny Winter, who was paid by either the actress or the financier each year for Natasha’s grandmother's upkeep, including her Sydenham High School fees, until she was either 18 or 21 years old. Natasha’s eldest aunt wishes she had asked her mother more questions about her history. She says children were seen and not heard back then, hence why she does not know more about her mother's childhood. The family would love to know more about Peggy and her early life, and

Natasha is doing some family

grandmother, who was known to

research. She is especially

be living at 90 Dartmouth Road

intrigued about who her great-

('Schoolhouse') in Forest Hill in

grandparents were and who

1939. Research is underway.

Nanny Winter was. The name of ‘the actress’ has been the subject of much family speculation over the decades, but no one has provided evidence of who she was. Peggy was reputedly born on 8 July 1918 and that is the date on her marriage certificate but, given her sketchy past, it may not be accurate.

Helen Myers (1977) Congratulations to Helen on being awarded an MBE for services to education in The Queen’s Birthday Honours 2017. Helen was recognised for her work as Assistant Headteacher at The Ashcombe School in Dorking, and as the Chair of the London Branch

Natasha contacted Sydenham

of the Association for Language

High School to ask if the school


holds any information on her

Obituaries Sheila Davis (née McEwan) Sheila, who was the middle of three McEwan girls who all attended Sydenham High in the 1940s, died after a short illness in June 2016. Before marriage, she was a civil servant, working at one stage for a year in Washington DC. After marriage, she lived in Bromley, Kent, where she brought up her three sons. Once they began to grow up

she worked as school secretary at Ravenswood School and later Ravensbourne School; she also acted as the vicar’s secretary at her church in Bromley and was a meticulous treasurer to local organisations. She lived in the family home until days before her death, remaining active and engaged with her wide circle of friends to the end. She leaves two sons.

Penny Aird (née Stroud) 1964 Penny Aird grew up and spent her early years in Sydenham. She attended Sydenham High School, where – perhaps as a precursor of her later achievements – she became Head Girl. Her lifelong passion for education began with teacher training at Bishop Otter College, Chichester before pursuing a career as a primary

governor and was also deeply involved in local politics, first becoming a Liberal councillor, before being elected as Henley’s mayor in 1994. A friend and fellow councillor described how as mayor Penny took a ‘firm but fair hand’ with both sides at the council, and was highly respected by all councillors, despite their political differences.

teacher, later with a focus on

Penny worked hard as mayor,

special needs.

pushing for low cost housing for

It was in Sussex that she met her husband-to-be David Aird, and they were married in 1969. In 1976, David’s work as a farm manager took them from Sussex to Henleyon-Thames. Penny taught at local schools while raising two children, and became a deputy head. As her own children grew up and left home, Penny and David took up fostering, providing the security of a stable home for several young people from the local area, an important but often little-recognised endeavour. With a passionate belief in the value of community and public service, Penny became a school

local people and the creation of an adventure playground and sensory garden on the banks of the river. She was also ambitious for Henley’s arts and culture – reflecting her own lifelong interest in art and literature – pushing through a refurbishment of the Henley Exhibition Centre and convincing the council to invest in works by the painter John Piper, which today feature in the recently opened John Piper Gallery. Penny’s life also reflected her love of the outdoors and animals; a keen gardener but also a life-long dog owner, she was a familiar sight in the fields near to wherever

she lived, with a canine friend

of the Royal Brompton Hospital.

always at her side.

Nearly at death’s door in 1996 she

Penny and her husband moved to Axminster, Devon in 2002 where she continued to teach. Penny died of lung cancer on 29 December 2017 after a short

had a double lung transplant at Harefield Hospital and was able to live a full life, working as a carer support worker – knowing how vital this role was.

illness. Penny very much enjoyed

The last 10 years of her life she

coming to the 130 birthday lunch

and John lived their dream on

last February and appreciated the

Epiphany, a narrow boat that they

opportunity for a reunion with so

designed, cruising the canals. She

many friends.

wrote a blog, which over the years


Fiona Slee (nee Booth) 1972 Lois Booth (Fi’s sister, 1959) writes: Many of Fi’s contemporaries will not have realised that she suffered from cystic fibrosis and, when diagnosed, was given a prognosis of 12 years before death. Obviously, this did not happen! Fi married in her early 20s and spent much of her adult life in Cornwall. Her husband, John, became a Church of England vicar in the mid-1980s and they, with their son, lived in St Mawgan for 10 years

attracted over three million hits: ( During the last two years Fi’s health gradually deteriorated and her body began to shut down. She passed peacefully on 29 January 2017. John set up a tribute page with pictures, for those who wish to refresh their memory of her (

We heard from Jim Thurston of the deaths of his two sisters: Emma Thurston (1983)

followed by St Mawes and St Just

Emma Thurston (born 9 April 1965)

in Roseland for a further 10 years.

died in March 2016. She was 50

In common with those with cystic

years old. She had been diagnosed

fibrosis, she battled constantly with her condition, physiotherapy and drug treatment under the care

with a brain tumour in late 2012, and despite battling hard after surgery, radiotherapy and

chemotherapy, finally succumbed.

as a student/domestic help. After

She was married with three

studying, she started teaching in a

children and lived for over twenty

girl’s school in Cricklewood and

years in Gothenburg, Sweden,

went on to gain a first degree at

setting up a company which now

Birkbeck College in 1946. She

employs over 100 people.

taught in various schools.

Sophie Thurston (1988)

Sheila Marchant, a colleague in the

Sophie (born 4 July 1968) went to

Maths Department, writes: Hilda

Sydenham High School from

Wise joined Sydenham in 1973.

Kindergarten year, through infants

She had previously taught at a

and juniors, to what would now be

school in Richmond and came as

called year 9. She then moved to

Head of Mathematics. Those of us

Virgo Fidelis. She moved to the

in the Maths Department at the

north of Scotland (near Elgin) in

time remember her as a very kind

the late 1980s, and married in 1993.

and generous colleague. During

However, the following year she

her time the school expanded

was diagnosed with MS. She

from two to three form entry, and

suffered progressively worse

she dealt cheerfully with drastic

symptoms and died in February

changes to the curriculum as the

2003, aged 34.

traditional and modern Maths

Hilda Wise Miss Hilda Wise died in September 2017. She had celebrated her 95th birthday in May that year. Born in Vienna in 1922 to a Jewish family she came to England in 1938 after a difficult journey on the Kindertransport. She was given a place in a school in Cricklewood,

syllabuses were amalgamated. She was also House Mistress for Louise House and was energetic in organising house activities. She was a faithful supporter too of all the various school events and activities. She retired in 1982, and enjoyed many years of concert going and travelling, and further study via the Open University.

School News Branding refresh

STEM success in summer exams Sydenham High’s GCSE results in 2017 hit new heights with an increase in top grades for the second year running. An excellent performance in Biology, Chemistry and Physics has contributed to 34.9% of all grades being A* and 61% being A* or A. In total 94.7% of grades were

The school branding has had a refresh over the Summer and sports a fresh, dynamic new look across its website, signage and materials such as the Prospectus and advertising.

A*-C. Over 80% of all three science

The school’s motto – Nyle ye

and As across all subjects,

Drede – has taken renewed

meanwhile a further six students

prominence in the branding

achieved 10 or more A*s.

results were A* or A with a record 96% in Biology, 95% in Physics and 82% in Chemistry. 10 students opened their envelopes to find they had scored a full house of A*s

overhaul, as a message to sit alongside the school’s strap line of: “A first-class education for girls since 1887”. New striking photography appears on the website and in all materials too covering all aspects of school life from drama and music to rowing and dance.

Dozens of sixth formers also celebrated their A Level results and a raft of university places including Edinburgh, York, Manchester, King’s College and Queen Mary’s London for courses

from Mechanical Engineering and Biochemistry to English Literature and Classics. More than half of all

Sydenham High sixth formers take crown at leadership challenge event

grades (57.4%) were A*-B and 25% were A*/A. Again the best performing subjects included all three sciences, and a record number of six students secure coveted places on Art Foundation courses. Celebrating the most, however, was sixth former Ella Howard who thought she might never be able to take her A Levels as she suffers from a rare congenital bone condition. Ella successfully gained two A Levels and a university place.

Sixth form students from Sydenham High School GDST were crowned winners at the seventh annual Girls’ Day School Trust Young Leaders’ Conference after they were inspired and put through their paces by leaders from all walks of life at an 'Apprentice-style' charity challenge, designed to help this new generation of leaders prepare for their futures. The three-day event, from 29 September to 1 October 2017, aimed to give students experience of real-life situations and develop

Mrs Woodcock said: “Congratulations to all our pupils

crucial leadership skills, from negotiation to financial planning.

on their results. We are extremely

The 140 delegates, from across the

proud of the girls and their strong

GDST, were split into teams and

performance is testament to their

given less than 36 hours to create

hard work and that of their

a digital fundraising and

teachers. Well done to all.”

awareness campaign for one of

four charities: Hope and Homes

leadership role models, including

for Children; mothers2mothers;

Chartered Management Institute

Room to Read and Rwandan Youth

(CMI) CEO Ann Francke, Kate

Information Community

spoke with students and offered

Organisation (RYICO). In previous

her top tips on leading successful

years, ideas proposed by students


have inspired award-winning charity initiatives. The overall winning team, who

Oxford mathematical challenges for year 6

came up with a highly creative

Following a now established

and deliverable campaign for

tradition for the Autumn Term,

international literacy charity

representatives from year 6 at

Room to Read, included Sydenham

Junior School attended the third

High sixth former Amelia Bourne

GDST Junior Schools’ Maths

(pictured). Amelia is one of the

conference in the Andrew Wiles’

school’s two marketing prefects

Building Mathematical Institute at

and a Head of House. A second

Oxford University.

Sydenham High sixth former and

The day was a memorable

Head of House, Itoro Udoaka, was a member of the runner-up team, which created a campaign to promote a social enterprise programme run by Rwandan charity rYico supporting vulnerable and abused girls and women.

experience for the young mathematicians who were not only excited by being at Oxford University but were thrilled at immersing themselves in a full day of mathematical thought, collaborative work and fun problem solving activities. They

Prior to the challenge, Team GB

also heard inspiring talks on

Olympic hockey gold medal

the history of coding and how

winner and former team captain

codes help banks to maintain tight

Kate Richardson-Walsh was

security standards.

among those on hand to inspire

Part of the day was focussed on

students. Along with other

activities that required the girls to

Rowers pull together for charity transatlantic record bid Sydenham High School’s rowers pulled together for a very special charity world record attempt by rower and Cushing’s disease survivor Kiko Matthews. Kiko was raising money for the new critical care unit at King’s College Hospital by attempting to become work with their peers from other GDST schools, solving a variety of

the fastest female to cross the Atlantic solo and unsupported.

coding problems. They also took

The team from Sydenham High

part in a tour of the Institute and

raised over £1,000 for her cause by

learned how the environment and

rowing a total of 3,000 miles in

the interior design help the

training - the actual distance Kiko

mathematicians to work in

rowed in January (minus the

focused and harmonious manner.

Atlantic's 40ft waves!)

The highlight of the day was the inter-schools quiz, where the girls' competitive nature and their love of maths truly came to life. The questions were challenging but that didn’t stop them from having a go and doing their very best. They certainly did the school proud.

Since her 2009 diagnosis of a rare and life-threatening disease, Kiko’s life has been saved not once but twice by the doctors and nurses of King’s. To thank the hospital, and challenge herself, Kiko decided to use her love of

rowing to raise money for the new

are one of one hundred female

unit, which will help save many

supporters and groups recruited by

more lives in the future.

Kiko through her 100TogetHER

More than 25 rowers, including

fundraising campaign.

captain of boats Phoebe and year

Kiko took images of all her

12 rowing scholar Darcy, took to

100TogetHER supporters,

the school’s ergo machines, to add

including the Sydenham High

to their river training, to clock up

rowers, inside her tiny cabin to

the necessary miles and reach

inspire her to keep going. After 50

their sponsorship target.

days of rowing, Kiko arrived in

The Sydenham High team was inspired to support Kiko after she was the guest speaker at senior

Barbados and achieved her goal to be the fastest woman to row solo across Atlantic.

school prize giving in July. They Auschwitz image wins 'windows

windows as a means by which to

of the past' history photography

view other images of the past, in


locations from around the UK,

This year's History Photo Competition attracted a record 52

Europe and even as far afield as the Caribbean.

entries, all of which were on

This year's judge, professional

display at the annual evening

photographer, stylist and art

exhibition and reception in the

director Sarah Maingot, had a

school's orangery on Wednesday

difficult task in selecting three

18 October 2017. Students from

finalists and then the ultimate

year 7 to year 13 took part,

winner. Sarah has worked for

interpreting the theme of

clients including Biba, British

'windows of the past'.

Vogue, Homes and Gardens and

While some images featured windows in older buildings, others took the approach of using

the Sunday Times, creating powerful and emotional stories with her images.

The two runners up were Milly Crickmay (year 8), for a colourful view of the ceiling of Tewkesbury Abbey, and Ruby Gratrick (also year 8) for her photo of a window looking onto more windows at Kirkby Hall in Northamptonshire. The People’s Choice award, voted for by visitors to the exhibition, went to Katerina Kellaris (year 10) for her view of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

In the end the top award went to Tiger Forrester (year 10) for her poignant image of a dormitory in Auschwitz. Sarah said that she had chosen the image for its power and the fact that the difficult subject matter made you think - something that all good photography should do.

Digital leaders give Children's

maze, designed to show the

Commissioner tour of online

isolation and loneliness caused by

safety expo

cyberbullying, to a voice-

Six senior Sydenham High Digital Leaders had the privilege of showing the UK Children's

controlled room, which visually represented the impact of positive actions online.

Commissioner, Anne Longfield,

The Digital Leaders discussed

around a major new digital online

issues with students from other

safety showcase, and then drew

schools but the highlight of the

praise from Facebook

day was being given the honour of

representatives for their ideas and

showing the UK’s Children’s


Commissioner, Anne Longfield, around the expo. They also gave a very polished presentation on their idea for a new showcase experience to her and to representatives from Facebook, who gave them high praise for their insightfulness and ingenuity. The Qualified Digital Leaders will

They were invited to attend the ‘House of Us’, which marked a new

now help deliver PSHE sessions to their respective year-groups.

partnership between ChildNet, the Diana Award and Facebook to widen the availability of their online-safety programmes to on from the students becoming

To read the latest school news, please visit the website:

Qualified Digital Leaders through

schools. The invitation followed

the ChildNet online platform. The experiences during the day ranged from exploring a sensory

Or follow the school on Twitter: @SydenhamHigh @HeadSydHigh

Year 13 University destinations 2017

Sydenham High School OGA Newsletter 201718  
Sydenham High School OGA Newsletter 201718