Head Teacher’s Blog 26th November
I mentioned in an earlier blog the theme of this year’s Notre Dame Conference. The sisters reminded us that our motto “Ah, qu’ill est bon, le bon Dieu!” or “How good is the good God!” is a statement and not a question. It was a regular saying of St Julie and one that is so important to the whole ethos of the Notre Dame schools. It reminds us that God is good and that His goodness is evident throughout His creation.
It is also important that we remember that St Julie didn’t say this because she had a charmed life and never saw of faced any suffering or hardship. She suffered paralysis, she had to go into hiding when her life was threatened during the French Revolution and she was told that she could not carry on her work in her home diocese by the authorities in the Church. She saw great poverty and suffering around her at a time of great upheaval in France. Yet, she regularly stated with real joy, “How good is the good God”. She was tuned in to seeing the many examples of God’s goodness in the people around her and in creation. She could see too how people were able to get through times of challenge and suffering through their own gifts and the love of others and that those times of challenge and suffering often ended up bringing about real good. So she could see God even in the difficult times.
As we approach the season of Advent, one of the common themes is that of light in the darkness. It is very easy to feel surrounded by the dark at this time of year, but St Julie’s joyful faith in God’s goodness is an inspiration to remember to look for the light in the knowledge that it will be there because God is good.
With that in mind, I want to focus in this blog on just a few of the good things that our students and staff have been doing or will be doing in the coming weeks. While I have picked out a few examples, there are so many more ways, big and small, that students and staff are doing things to celebrate. I offer these examples as a celebration of all that goodness, whether mentioned here or not.
Advent fundraising and services
In the coming weeks, year groups will be working on fund raising for their Advent charities. Last year was a record breaking year for the level of participation and the funds raised by many of our year groups in school. I am certain that this Advent will be no different. I am always so proud of the way that students respond to the call to do what they can for those in need. I am thankful to you as parents who dig into your pockets to support their efforts.
At the end of the term, each year group will gather for a service which will take the theme of ‘Peace’ this year. My thanks to the group of students who are working with Suzanne to design and help deliver these services, to help make them a real community event.
While on the subject of Advent, I will plug our Advent Carol Service which will take place at St Vincent’s Church in Crookes on the evening of Tuesday 18th December. This is open to students and parents and is always a wonderful way to pause in the middle of the final build up to Christmas. It is always led beautifully by staff and students of Notre Dame and St Marie’s, who provide music and readings to help us reflect on the season of Advent.
1804 Society 6th form leadership team
Just before the half term break, we received applications and carried out interviews for our 1804 Society 6th form leadership team. The number and quality of applications was incredible and we heard so many different ways that our students are serving their communities in and out of school. Examples included supporting students in the school with reading or Maths, mentoring and buddying, leadership in sports teams and Church youth groups, volunteering with food banks, soup kitchens and charity shops and leading services and assemblies in and out of school. We appointed 12 students to join the team and I would like to publicly congratulate those Y12 students. I would also like to sincerely thank everyone who applied. Service on the 1804 group is just one way of making a difference in this school and beyond and I know that those inspiring young people, whether appointed or not, will continue to make a great difference to our communities and the others that they are part of.
Also, just before the half term break, some Y13 members of our 1804 leadership group led the annual ‘Pink Day’ where we raise awareness about Breast Cancer and raise funds for charity. As well as supporting causes, this day is a chance for students and staff to have some fun together, with activities designed, planned and run by the students. It is always great to see the leadership and service of our young people as they solve problems and overcome the hurdles needed to deliver a great day for their peers and great support for important issues.
Last weekend, on 24th November, a large number of our students were confirmed at Mother of God church. They have been part of a programme of preparation and it is wonderful to celebrate and encourage so many of our wonderful young people as they take this step on their journey of Faith. We pray as well for a number of our students who are members of St Vincent’s parish preparing for their confirmation this coming Sunday, 2nd December.
Success in sporting and academic competitions
I have shared many times before success for some of our cross country runners. Well, the team who won the National Cup Final when they were in Y7/8 have done it again, making it through to the National Cup Final as a Y9/10 team. The students involved are Polly, Katie, Annie, Isabel and Maggie. As Ms Kay says, “They could all knock out a sub 20min parkrun!!”
We have also seen success in Orienteering, where a growing number of our students are competing for the school thanks to the guidance and help of Mr Garnett, a parent of students at the school and one of our governors. We had a number of our students competing at the British Schools Orienteering Championships recently. We won the Y12 girls category and indeed one of our students, Isabelle Hodgson, has been selected to compete for England in the ISF World Schools Championships 2019 being held at Otepaa, Estonia next year. Congratulations to Isabelle and to all the other students who competed; Claudine, Alexandra, Olivia, Ailsa, Luke, Sam, William, Frederick and Carys.
In academic competition, we recently received the results for the senior UKMT Maths. The students listed below have received a Gold award and have qualified for future rounds with Victor sitting the British Mathematical Olympiad paper and the others will sit the Senior Kangaroo. Congratulations to Tyler, Victor, Minwook, Tobias and Joseph who received gold awards and to the other 15 students who received silver awards in this highly demanding national competition.
Following those results, our Senior Team competed in and won the regional UKMT Maths Team Challenge (held at the University of Sheffield) where they were up against 17 other schools from the region. They will now be off to the national competition in London in February. Congratulations and thanks to the team, Caitlyn, Samuel, Theo and Victor and to Miss Saxton for her work with them.
Other things to celebrate in and out of school
Just before the half term break we were blessed to welcome Professor Casey Strines in from Sheffield University. He came to teach the year 13 Philosophy, Ethics and Christianity classes about Migration in the Bible. I understand from Mrs Otieno that it was a great session and wonderful for students to be able to benefit from this link with the University.
Also before the half term break, we heard that we had achieved the Bronze Award in careers education. Mrs Alison, who leads on careers education in school has been working with the assessors to get their feedback on our practice. While we had only applied to be assessed for the Bronze Award, the assessors said that we would have a very strong case for the Gold Award, but recommended that we wait as we are having to make some changes to the way we do things in response to some new national guidance. I would like to congratulate and thank Mrs Alison for her leadership and also Mrs Paine and Mr Dransfield who are so personally committed to ensuring that students are given high quality guidance, advice and inspiration for their next steps beyond school, whether they leave Notre Dame at 16 or at 18.
At the time of writing, two of our Y13 students have already been offered interviews at Cambridge University. They are part of a record number of students who are applying from our school for places at Oxford, Cambridge or for highly competitive courses such as Medicine, Veterinary Science or Dentistry. We wish them all the very best of luck.
Just as our students are getting active in school to build community and raise money for their Advent charities, the same is true of many of our students outside of school. One example is the large number of our students who will be performing in the St Francis’ parish pantomime this coming Friday and Saturday, with all money raised going to support the work of CAFOD. It is one of the many examples of the way that our students are actively involved in their local communities and in supporting charity beyond what they do in school. If you would like to go along to watch the performance and help raise money, the panto is on at St Francis Parish Hall this Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm. Tickets can be reserved at www.stfrancispanto.weebly.com or bought on the door.
Meanwhile, back in school, the cast of this year’s school production “Hairspray” are well into the final stages of rehearsal. If you have ever been to one of the school productions, you know what an amazing job the students do under the guidance of our hard working and inspirational members of staff. The talent and commitment of the students is always evident in a fabulous show and I have no doubt that this year will maintain that standard. Tickets are available in school from members of the 6th form 1804 leadership group, who base themselves in the canteen at lunch time on Thursday and Friday this week. I look forward to seeing lots of you at the production.
Going back to the Notre Dame conference, I wanted to share with you a video that the sisters shared with us. It certainly helped me to put into practical terms St Julie’s challenge to be open always to seeing God’s goodness.
RE Blog 2018/19
In RE our Y7 students are currently exploring who Jesus was and what he taught. Whilst this may sound simple, it is anything but. We consider challenging questions such as how can Jesus be both human and God at the same time? We discuss the trinity and the try to get to grips with the fact that it is a mystery, so it cannot fully be understood and in the later part of the topic we will be exploring what Jesus really looked like and where there are so many different pictures of Jesus! Stay tuned for some interesting artwork!
In Y8 RE our classes are currently learning what the Kingdom of God is and how it can be built on Earth! They will be looking at some famous (and not so famous) examples of people who have built God’s kingdom.
And our Y9 students are engaging in fascinating debates about war, is it ever right? Should we use nuclear weapons? What rules should we follow when conducting war?
Our Y10 students are now looking at Catholic Social Teachings which are the teachings of the Catholic Church on issues of injustice such as poverty and environmental issues.
Our Y11 students are gearing up for their mock exam in December which will be on Life after Death and Crime and Punishment. They are practicing exam questions and revising the key content they will need for their exam.
KS5 – Core RE
In sixth form each of our students have 1 hour a week of Core RE where we discuss philosophical, religious and ethical issues. In these lessons the students are discussing the nature of Jesus, whether miracles happen and the problem of evil.
KS5 – PRE
Our A-Level students and exploring questions such as; are all of actions predetermined or do we have free will? If our actions are determined are we responsible for our actions? Should we refer to God as the Mother as well as Father? Has science proven that God to be irrelevant? Do all religions lead to Heaven?