Head Teacher’s Blog 18th November 2019
Last Monday we were fortunate that the Lord Lieutenant was able to join us in school as we marked Remembrance Day. This year, we were planting a tree grown from a horse chestnut found on our site. This tree is home grown and was planted in our 100th year on this site, alongside the tree which was grown from an acorn from one of the Battlefields that our students visit and which was planted last year to mark 100 years since the end of the 1st World War. The Lord Lieutenant explained to the students about his role as the Queen’s representative in this region. He was full of praise for our students and for the way in which they pause to remember all those who have died in conflict and also those close to our community who we have lost.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have had even more things than usual coming across my desk highlighting the talent and hard work of our students and staff and I thought it would be nice to share those with you.
We have recently heard that we have been awarded the Music Mark by the UK Music Association. In a lovely letter which accompanied the certificate, the Music Association cited “Commitment and passion to develop the subject against a very challenging backdrop” and highlighted our school as a “leading light in ensuring that children have access to a broad and balanced curriculum”. These words are a lovely reflection of the talent and dedication of our students and staff and I thank all who contribute to a rich musical life at Notre Dame.
Mr Whiteway also received a letter of thanks for the efforts of our students, supported by parents and staff, in support of Readathon. The charity ‘Read for Good’ established Readathon as a way to promote love of reading amongst young people, while raising funds to support libraries and storytellers in schools and hospitals round the UK. In their letter, they highlighted the generosity of students and parents this year and the long term commitment shown by the school, saying that “One in two schools has run our Readathon at some point since they began in 1984, but only a handful in the country have embraced it like Notre Dame High School. Your school’s Readathon in 2019 raised £1790, raising your total to £31,681 through a total of 24 Readathons since 1995.”
Then, last Thursday, a team of our students competed in and won their heat of the “Top of the Bench” Chemistry competition, breaking the previous record for the highest score. My thanks and congratulations to the students and staff for their efforts in representing the school. We are blessed to see such a range of social, academic, artistic and sporting engagement and achievement from our students, supported by staff and parents. It makes school such a vibrant place to be.
The St Wilfrid’s Centre contacted us last week, asking us to promote their ‘Reverse Advent Calendar’ initiative this Advent. All of our year groups have already been researching and chosing the charities that they will raise money for this year, but we have decided that this is something that we will support as a staff and I thought it might be something that some families may be interested in. The idea is that instead of receiving something each day of Advent, as we do when we open the doors of a normal Advent calendar, we could give something instead. The Centre have provided a list of items that would be gratefully received at this time of year, along with a suggestion of how the reverse calendar might work (please see the links below). If there are any families who want to do this during Advent, but would find it difficult to get their donations to the centre, we can receive them at school reception and bring them along with the donations from our staff.
Finally, I would like to make a request for help. We have arranged for some representatives to come into school to talk about ‘Arbour’ which is one of the Information Management Systems that schools use in the way that we use E-Portal. We are considering a move to this system and as part of the visit of the representatives, we would welcome the attendance of some parents who can listen to what they have to say and ask questions from a parental perspective. The visit will be on 9th January ad the session for parents will be at 2.30pm. If you could be available at this time and would be interested in offering your thoughts and questions, please could you email Mrs Parker Giblin email@example.com Any change would not be instant and so is most likely to affect parents of children in Y7 and Y8, though parents of children in other year groups would of course be welcome. Once we have had expressions of interest, we will email back directly to confirm the arrangements for this session.
Dates for your diary
- Y12 parents’ evening – 28th November 5-7pm
- GCSE Prize Night (for last year’s Y11 students) – Tue 3rd December at Notre Dame
- School production of Les Miserables – Wed 4th to Sat 7th Dec
- Y7 Parents’ Evening – 10th December 5-7pm
- Advent Carol Service – Monday 16th December 7pm at St Vincent’s Church (Please note this is a change of date from the original calendar)
- A Level Prize Night (for last year’s Y13 students) – Thursday 19th December at Notre Dame
- Last Day of Term – Friday 20th December
- First day of the new term – Monday 6th January
- Y13 Parents’ Evening – Tuesday 21st January
- Y8 Options Evening – Thursday 23rd January (This is an information presentation and is in addition to the normal parents evening for Y8 which will happen on 3rd March)
Other things happening in school over the coming weeks that your children may be involved with:
- Advent assemblies and advent fund raising begins 4th December
- Y11 Mock Exams – Thursday 12th to Thursday 19th December
- Epiphany Assemblies – Week beginning 6th January
- Enrichment Day 2 – Thursday 16th January
What a great start Y7 have made in biology at Notre Dame with the Cells and Reproduction module. Students have created some fantastic homework by making model cells including posters, photos of household objects made into cells and cakes! They are also getting to grips with using microscopes. In the reproduction topic they have enjoyed dissecting flowers.
Learning to use microscopes in Y7:
Model cells made by Y7 pupils:
Y8s have hit the ground running with a topic on staying alive, looking at the immune system and made agar plates of bacteria and worked on the variation topic looking into our characteristics and genetic engineering. A special thank you goes to all the Y8 pupils who helped us on the Y6 open evening, showing them how to use microscopes like real experts! Keep up the amazing enthusiasm for the rest of the year.
Our GCSE students are working hard - Y9 students have started their biology GCSE using microscopes to look at cells and carried out practical’s to find out how substances get in and out of cells. They are developing really good practical skills already.
Y10 students are currently looking at the nervous system and learning how to revise effectively for exams, as they will need to hold so much information! Y11 students are finishing the GCSE course studying variation and inheritance, including making some great models of fossils. Shortly, we will be focusing on revision lessons in the run up to their mocks. During these lessons we will be teaching different strategies, but we are glad to see many of our students are already getting their heads down and making great use of online resources, such as Seneca learning and BBC bitesize.
We enjoyed welcoming so many Y11 students from Notre Dame and other schools at the open morning on Saturday 16th November.
Making models of fossils in Y11:
Our Y12 students have settled in and started on their studies in A-level biology, showing real maturity and commitment to their learning. It is amazing to see the progress of those we have been teaching for many years, and the new additions are working very well too. They have been studying biological molecules and cells in Y12 – completing a required practical on mitosis (cell division), whilst Y13 students are currently studying the nervous system and how muscles work. The nervous system included a required practical on woodlouse behavior, using choice chambers.
A big thanks to all those Y12 and 13 students who helped us welcome the prospective Y12 pupils on November 16th you made a brilliant impression.
Woodlice making big decisions in our Y13’s choice chambers:
Our KS3 STEM club goes from strength to strength, running several biology themed sessions. The STEM club was set up to help pupils learn to enjoy science and improve their practical skills. Most recently, they were making models of DNA using sweets, which everyone enjoyed immensely. We also did an activity on biodegradable plastics, which sparked some great conversations about looking after the oceans and our environment.
In September, a group of our students and staff went to Devonshire Green for the climate strikes. Several of our pupils spoke very eloquently and were a real credit to us. We are planning on following this up with more related activities around the school over the following year.
Making models of DNA out of sweets in STEM club:
Several of our Biology teachers have been on a training course, looking at practicals involving plant science. We look forward to putting these great ideas into practice across the school. Watch this space!
Finally, a message from Mrs Wilkinson about our work as an Eco School:
Thank you to all the forms who have volunteered to help with recycling. Please have a look at the rota so you are aware which form is responsible for each area in school.
Here are just a few updates and reminders about our work as an Eco School.
1. Mrs Hazleton and one of our sixth form students have been working with the manager of our catering company to reduce waste from packaging. Plastic wrap has been removed from tray bake puddings. Where possible plastic packaging has been replaced with biodegradable alternatives. Please help to reduce single use plastic further by bringing a reusable water bottle, using metal cutlery instead of plastic and having meal on a plate where possible.
2. Mr Davies is currently investigating how to improve the current water fountains and is looking into suitable sites for new ones to be placed. Remember- Please bring a reusable bottle with you every day so you can refill it and avoid buying bottled water. This will save you money as well as reducing single use plastic.
3. We will soon have some new bins available around school for plastic recycling. Please continue to use the current blue bins for any plastic bottle. Remember to reuse where possible!
4. Look out for pen recycling coming soon to the library.
5. You can recycle batteries in the bins available inside the CLC.
6. Please make sure someone in your form regularly empties the paper recycling bin in your form room.
7. If you have any ‘Eco’ suggestions please put them in the student suggestions box to be debated at School Council.
8. The Youth For Climate Group meet on Thursdays at 12.40 in the Salle. Go along if you would like to find out more about the climate emergency and join a movement of people calling for action.