In my last blog, I spoke about plans for the way in which we planned to refresh our approach to Black History Month here at Notre Dame. I have just been to a very powerful assembly delivered by some of our students alongside Miss Kapur and Mr Harrison, where they introduced the theme and purpose of Black History Month while taking on some of the questions behind it.
The assembly was very powerful and one of the many things that it caused me to reflect on was the motto of St Julie, “Ah, Qu’il est bon le bon Dieu!”, “How good is the good God!”. This was an exclamation of her absolute belief in God’s goodness, present and visible all round us, in every person and in every part of God’s diverse creation. She was not blind to, nor did she ignore suffering and evil in the world, but she believed that the goodness of God is more powerful than that evil.
Miss Kapur, along with Mr Harrision and the students she has been working with have responded to that mission of the Notre Dame community, to celebrate the goodness reflected in the diversity of our own community and through learning together, to challenge ignorance which can give birth to and feed discrimination and injustice. They have led us in reflecting on how we can do that, individually and collectively. My thanks to Miss Kapur and all the students for the thought provoking resources they have produced. Thanks also to all the students and staff for the way in which they are engaging with those resources and the questions they raise. I will leave you with a summary of the message from that assembly that Miss Kapur kindly put together.
Black History Month: Do schools do enough? Do schools do it right? And what do you think of Black History Month anyway? Many see it as necessary and important, while others think it is tokenistic…
In the second week of term, 35 students met with me at lunchtime to discuss all matters to do with race, societal representations of race and Black History Month. The atmosphere was electric! It was honestly such a privilege to hear our students’ heartfelt, well-considered views.
Black History Month is important. However, it becomes problematic when it feels limited in its scope. We teach our students about Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, and of course this is necessary and important, but we cannot stop there. Did you know that a Black Roman Emperor once ruled over England? Do we feel as though we know more about the history of slavery in America than the history of slavery in Britain? If so, can we ask some critical questions here? We may know about the Civil Rights Movement in America, but what do we know about the achievements of, for example, Dr Harold Moody? What about Black People’s Day of Action? Do we know the names of some of the thousands of historical Black scientists, inventors and servicemen, whose achievements - at the time - were not credited to them, but to other people? Turning our attention to present day, what is meant by the term 'unconscious bias'? What could that look and feel like in practice? How is race is represented in TV and film? Do you know what happened when, in 2014, an email was leaked revealing that Idris Elba was being considered for the role of James Bond?
After lengthy, thoughtful discussion with our students, we have put together 12 high-interest, active Form Time sessions that aim to explore some of these issues during our Black History Month, which will run from 26th September until 7th November.
Dates for your diary:
• Y7&Y8 Disco; Wednesday 24th October 7-9pm
• Last day of half term; Friday 26th October
• Return to school; Monday 5th November
• Y7 Parents’ Evening; Tuesday 13th November
• Y12 Parents’ Evening; Thursday 22nd November
• GCSE Prize Night; Tuesday 4th December
• School production “Hairspray” Wednesday 5th to Saturday 8th December
• Evening Advent Service; Tuesday 18th December
• A Level Prize Night; Thursday 20th December
Some events happening with students during school time over the coming weeks:
• Assemblies and lessons for Black History Month 26th September to 7th November
• Y12 Community Mass Thursday 18th October
• Enrichment Day 1 Wednesday 24th October
• Marking Remembrance Day Monday 5th to Friday 9th November
A Message from the History Department
September has been a busy month for the History department!
It was fantastic to see so many of our Year 7s helping out at the Year 6 Open Evening on Tuesday 25th September. Our History room was full of people sharing why they loved History and asking questions about what they were going to study in Year 7 and 8. We had great fun looking at medieval weapons and seeing how accurate we could be when firing a model trebuchet. We also conducted our own mummification experiment! We studied hieroglyphics and pictures of Egyptian sarcophagus and designed our own before we added rice and salt to a piece of apple. After a week, I wonder what the apple will look like? We have included the instructions – just in case you want to have a go at home!
For the last thirty years the History Department has taken students on a Battlefields Trip to explore the experience of those affected by WW1 on the battlefields of France and Belgium. This year marks the centenary of the end of WW1 and it was a truly touching time to be able to take so many of our Year 11s to the Battlefields on this important anniversary. This year 80 students from Year 11 went over two weekends with Mr Davies and members of the History Department.
Students and staff visited a variety of memorials, cemeteries and preserved battlefield sites during their 3-day visit, including the memorial to the missing of the Somme at Thiepval, and Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest British cemetery on the Western Front, and the final resting place of thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers killed at the battle of Passchendaele. We were also very fortunate to visit the resting place of the Sheffield Pals and remember the people from our local area. Students on this year’s trip behaved with real maturity and sensitivity, and were complimented by a number of different staff from other schools for their behaviour.
One evening we attended the Service of Remembrance at the Menin Gate, a memorial to the missing British soldiers who fought and died in and around Ypres, which was particularly well attended by a range of schools, veterans and fire brigades from Britain and France. Two students took part in the wreath-laying ceremony as representatives of the wider Notre Dame community. There has been a remembrance service here every night since the end of WW1 only interrupted by the outbreak of WW2 when the service was moved to London, and as always it was a privilege to take part, especially in this centenary year.
As this year marks the centenary of the end of WW1 we are holding a Remembrance Month where all students will be able to access activities to help them to remember those who were a part of WW1. These activities will run during lunchtime in November and will be advertised to students shortly. Examples of the activities include:
• Postcards for Peace – design your own postcard and message to send to the Thiepval Monument on the Somme to commemorate those who fought in WW1. This is a very important monument to those who died on the Somme battlefields – there are the names of 72,000 men who were lost in battle but never found on the Thiepval Monument.
• Research your link to WW1 – every year on the Battlefields Trips we help students to find the graves of family members who fought in WW1. Do you have relatives who were involved? If you know their name we will help you to find out about them during a research session using specialist resources.
• What was life like during WW1? – find out about life in the trenches and in Britain during WW1 by exploring some artefacts from the time.