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End of Term Reflections….

11th July 2018

What a fortnight we have had at Wychwood. As the sun continues to stream in through the window and all around is peaceful and tranquil, it is hard to imagine what a hive of activity the school has been over the last two weeks.

The Study I girls were off timetable for a week for General Studies which included pre-universoty preparation such as a cookery day: not just any cookery day though but one at Daylesford Organic Farm where the girls picked their own food and then cooked lunch, as well as marvelling at the clothes prices. Survival skills were catered for with a day of outdoor adventure at Hill End. General Studies contains life skills like financial help to manage your own money independently. And there will be times when life goes wrong and people get damaged or hurt so General Studies has a first aid course which the girls all passed with flying colours. After Study I’s interviews with the Adviza service, General Studies followed up with a day of UCAS and apprenticeship preparation with Mrs Reece our independent UCAS advisor. The girls were introduced to to their UCAS forms, given advice on their personal statement (all to be brought in on the first day of term for re-drafting please) and what matters in that statement was gone through and explained.

Monday was in fact very quiet in school as the Remove, Inters and Lower Transits spent the day in Stratford learning about Shakespeare, taking part in a physical theatre workshop (falling in love with Romeo) and of course, eating ice cream. The RSC performance of Romeo and Juliet was the perfect way to end such a thrilling day.

Not to be outdone in the performing stakes, the Upper Transits GCSE drama performances were very positive and encouraging in nature despite being fairly dark in content – being 15 never was a pleasure! The acting was excellent and the sets and staging were, as always, food for thought and made us all in the audience think carefully.

At the end of that week the Remove and Inters spent a day at Oxford Castle and I think they were all let out of the prison at the end of the trip!

The Remove, Inters and Lower Transits then spent four days off timetable working on the cross curricular project Votes for Women. To commemorate the centenary of property-owning women over 30 being given the vote, girls investigated a variety of topics and women’s roles in them over the last 100 years. This included the suffragist movement, the end of World War I and the discovery of DNA.

The girls then wrote monologues that Mrs Constance used as the basis for a play, written over the weekend. With one and a half days to rehearse, the performance on Tuesday afternoon was moving, humorous and very Wychwood and I would like to pay tribute to the staff and girls, both on and off stage, and particularly Mrs Constance, for how they all approached the project.

In between, we celebrated the departing Study II at their Summer Ball. A lovely evening started on the lawn and ended on the dancefloor, with delicious food and great company in between.

We also paid tribute to the work undertaken in the Art Department across the year with the Private View. What a lovely evening it was as parents, girls, former students, governors and members of the Wychwood Association joined us to celebrate the work produced by all year groups. It was a fitting evening to mark the end of Ms Jones’ time at Wychwood over 35 years and I would like to thank the staff in the department for this excellent exhibition. We will so miss the live jazz element of this evening as Steve, Ms Jones’ husband, will depart with her – our heartfelt thanks go to him and his colleagues for years of wonderful music at the Private View.

We then looked ahead as girls from outside the school joined our current Upper Transits to experience a taste of life in Wychwood Sixth. Girls took part in lessons, enjoyed using the Study facilities and wearing their own clothes but perhaps the best part of the day was having the opportunity to nip to North P when not in a lesson – one of the many Study privileges they will enjoy. In the evening we welcomed a large number of parents to discuss the details of Wychwood Sixth and were delighted to hand out our new brochure. The feedback has been very positive on almost all fronts and we are looking forward to planning the girls’ futures with them as next year progresses.

The next day, girls joining Remove in September came in to meet each other, their form tutor, and their House mothers, whilst Ms Sherlock and I spoke to their parents. Judging by the chat and smiles on the lawn for tea, the afternoon was a success and we are very much looking forward to all new girls joining us in September.

On the penultimate day of term we headed off to Bowood House and Gardens for the whole school picnic. Each year the girls desperately try and work out where we are going but the shrieks of surprise on arrival showed they were unsuccessful yet again. It was a glorious day for a picnic in the most idyllic of settings. We are thankful to the staff at Bowood for making us so welcome and to Wendy and her team, Agnes, Jarek and Esmie for providing us with the most delicious of picnics. The girls were a credit to the school as they explored, played, and marvelled in the history and majesty of our location.

The last day of term is a day of celebration, a day of reflection and a day of excitement. This year it was also a day of sadness and remembrance as we bade farewell to staff and girls alike.

Ms Drama Jones is leaving us to travel and we wish her a wonderful year full of adventures and fun with her son, Ollie. We hope to have her back next year but of course no one can tell what the future holds. In the meantime we wish her a marvellous year.

Evie Davies – that smiling, self-effacing, slim and elegant (inside and outside) Gap Assistant we have been privileged to have at Wychwood for the last year moves on. Evie does not let little things like ending up in a completely new city surrounded by new people many of whom could be described as eclectic if not eccentric get her down. She observes intelligently and accurately, sorts them out and gets on with the job until she has everyone eating out of her hand and positively purring. She has a great sense of humour and she can manage anything we can throw at her now. Her musicality has been a great gift to us and many of the girls will be bereft without the A Cappella club. She has also stepped in and accompanied, she has sung and she has inspired all of us. She has been a stay and support to Mrs Walster that we have all really appreciated.

Beth Saward, Old Girl of Wychwood, is leaving as the DofE co-ordinator and I want to pay tribute to a young woman who really got DofE up and running over the last couple of years with much improved uptake and completion rates. This is not easy – the job is about nagging young people to get up and move on and finish up – they have done all the work but the job is not done in DofE until it has been logged and approved and that is the bit young people are terrible at doing. However, she reminds and reminds and then nags and then checks and then reminds and as a result the girls have become much better at it. It helps that she is currently doing her own Gold Award and is enjoying every minute so she can pass on that enthusiasm. She has accompanied expeditions, mopped brows, plastered blisters, lit trangias, re-pitched wonky tents, provided water and retrieved lost groups from miles away from where their maps and route planning expected them to be and we thank her for all that she has done.

Mrs Roitt arrived with us in 2014 after Libby Forrester. They were big boots to fill and Fiona has succeeded in a very effective manner. As a geographer, Fiona is completely passionate – that is an over-used word but if you need to know what a passion for a subject looks like then look no further. Fiona knows her subject but, more importantly, also knows that even she still has more to learn, and she does exactly that. She is forever reading new papers and books, finding new sources and developing her knowledge and understanding of her own subject – in doing so, she is an exceptional role model. However, it is in the field that Fiona really shines as a geographer, imparting knowledge and skills to the girls and staff who trail in her wake as she works her way through the Icelandic landscape or along the Dorset coast. Anyone who has ever joined her on one of her field trips has the time of their life in terms of learning, appreciation of geographical features, development of their understanding of the world and sheer pleasure in being outside.

She has been an essential and deeply caring member of the pastoral team during her time at Wychwood – the Inters belong to Mrs Roitt and they all know it. She knows her girls, she is observant, caring, she sets the highest of standards and will not let go of something that needs to be sorted. She can have fun with the girls but they all know when to stop.

Her whole-school contribution to Thought for the Week has been considered and founded on her faith. Fiona’s faith is so much part of who she is, being empathetically lived, and so is something that everyone, colleague and girl alike, appreciates in her and her example shines as an exemplification of modern outward-focused Christianity.

We also bid a very sad farewell to Mrs Amanda Bennet Jones after eleven years of service as a Mathematics teacher, and nine as the Key Stage 3 representative on the Senior Pastoral Team. Both roles necessitate much patience, encouragement and wisdom, and in Amanda we have all of these, and so much more. Capable and conscientious, Amanda is also a very self-effacing, modest and approachable member of staff, both among her colleagues and her pupils. Care and concern for others drives and motivates her and pupils have enjoyed great stability under her care both as their progress tutor and Maths teacher. She has taught Mathematics in every year group, supporting those who have struggled as well as those who have excelled, helping all to develop confidence and realistic ambition underpinned by self-belief.

Here at Wychwood Amanda has been responsible for the design and layout of The Elm, and she liaises with printers and edits and proof reads drafts to the final copy stage. As she is leaving we have decided to change the way in which The Elm is produced and I am delighted to tell you that Mrs Scott, mother of Evie and Izzy will be taking over the design features of The Elm and so we will be publishing at Celebration Day from now on. This also gives us the opportunity to cover the events of the end of the Trinity term fully as this has always been difficult.

Mrs Bennett Jones has been an indefatigable traveller while at Wychwood – accompanying many overseas trips, including the Boston Ski trip, unsurprising as she is a keen skier, two languages trips to Spain and two History of Art trips to Paris over the years. As she says the trips are hard work but great fun and the girls at Wychwood would not have been able to participate in so much without her. Her activities with the girls at weekends have often involved cookery or crafts, and the Christmas Advent Calendar was a particularly impressive artistic triumph. In Amanda, many staff will miss a colleague, yet also a warm and trusted friend. The girls will miss a balanced, wise and caring member of the pastoral team and an intelligent mathematician with a gift for communicating the difficulties of that subject to anyone and everyone. We wish her well, thank her for all that she has given to Wychwood and hope that we will not lose touch.

Much has been said about Lal Jones in the last weeks and the points I made to the girls at Certificate assembly serve well here:

Lal is a superb artist, technically and emotionally. She is a complex personality with many facets, and when they twinkle, she lights up a room. Lal has the rare ability to transmit her understanding of art and it nuances and techniques to young people and always sets time aside specifically for thinking about her own professional practice.

Lal has strong beliefs and complete integrity but she never dreams of imposing them on anyone else. She takes action upon what she has decided needs to be done. She does not continue in a course of action that she has realised is not working.

Lal analyses her own lessons to see what worked and what did not. She makes changes as necessary. When a lesson does not go well, which will happen to everyone, she learns from it and does not teach the lesson the same way again.

Lal sees the struggles that people are dealing with, she does not pander to weakness, but can deliver tough messages with grace and consideration. Lal recognises the inherent differences in her classes due to the different people sitting in front of her and does not treat all classes the same by teaching exactly the same lesson.

Lal knows both her strengths and her students’ strengths and works to maximize learning accordingly. She makes any space that she is in an open and welcoming space. She is open to constructive criticism and delivers the same with courtesy and care.

Lal understands that teaching and pastoral care are complex and it takes co-operation from many others to get it right. She can do nothing when that is the best thing to do and that is a rare quality. She shares her experience with the understanding that it can benefit others. Lal is endlessly interested both in people and in dogs and she has inspired countless pupils and colleagues.

We wish her every success in the future and know that she will not lose touch!

We also said goodbye to girls who move on to pastures new, be that university, college or another school, and to pastures not so new as short-stay, girls return home. These girls bring such a richness to Wychwood and we value the impact they have on our girls. Judging by the tears after assembly, the impact has been mutual.

As we say thank you and goodbye, we also look ahead; to the summer results and hopefully the recognition in grades that the girls work has deserved at both A Level and GCSE; to new beginnings as we welcome new girls and staff to the school in September; and to England winning the World Cup. It’s coming home (we all hope so, even those of us who have taken up crochet to get through the seemingly interminable first rounds!)

May I wish you all a restful and enjoyable summer and I look forward to seeing you all in September.

Andrea Johnson