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Happy half term everyone!

13th February 2020

In the term of parents’ meetings it has been such a pleasure to see so many of you attending them. Keeping in contact over your daughter’s education and happiness is one of the most important things we can do, so please do not feel that you are only welcome to discuss matters at parents’ meetings – we are very happy to talk at any time.

This is also the term of senior school and mock examinations. The Study are gearing up to test themselves in the week beginning 2nd March.  The university offers are coming in thick and fast and the majority of Study II have gained all of their offers and so now have to make the difficult decisions required to narrow them down to the two that will go forward on UCAS. My thanks go to Dr Donald and her team of UCAS advisers who have put in so many hours discussing options, making suggestions and giving the sage advice which has resulted in so many offers.

The Shell have been discussing the results of their mock examinations and now understand what needs to be achieved before May when the GCSE examinations begin. They have all had individual advice from subject staff and from me and we are all together in ensuring that this next critical period flows well. Consistent hard work and revision, coupled with a healthy work-life balance can add several grades to most GCSEs. The girls are welcome at the staff room door at any time to ask extra questions and the staff will be teaching examination technique, helping with past papers, reminding them of deadlines, the time line, and offering encouragement and constructive criticism throughout. After half term we will begin the discussions about Shell options for next year at A Level and we look forward to seeing what each girl is thinking. We have two confirmed entrants to Wychwood Sixth for next year already and that is more than we have ever had at this stage and there are a number of others taking entrance tests.

Study I will be taking school examinations in June only. With most subjects now linear, these examinations will offer the girls their first attempt at the level of questions required by the new specifications and give them a goal to aim for at the end of their A Level course. These examinations will be a vital measuring stick for the girls to test themselves against and we wish them every success in their preparation and would urge them to focus on the feedback afterwards. Finally on the subject of examinations the public examination season has formally begun, as the A Level creative arts girls have been given their examination question and are hard at work.

In the spirit of supporting the girls to manage their examinations in the best manner for them, Wychwood has used Elevate Education for some years in Key Stages 4 and 5. This year we have extended this down to Key Stage 3 and the Remove, Inters and Lower Transits each profited from a session of advice on how to manage their studies, their revision and their work-life balance. It is so important that girls find the revision and review methods that work for them as individuals and we very much value what Elevate has to offer: I would reiterate that this is simply what the girls get from their subject staff and their parents but, as we all know, teenagers really struggle with advice from anyone older than 25!

As we do every two years, we welcomed Childnet in to speak to all the girls about e-safety at an age-appropriate level. The feedback from the girls has been very positive and while we have the occasional online issue I think that in the main Wychwood girls are well-informed and savvy about what they should and should not do online. That gives me great comfort as I see the material available to teenagers at a very few clicks distance as one of the most invidious if not dangerous aspects of their lives. In a decade or two’s time we will look back at the lack of regulation of the internet for young people and shudder at what we put these children through at such an impressionable age.

The MFL department has presented to Onatti French and Spanish plays again, a highlight of their year and one which all the Remove to Shell enjoy as a cultural experience even if they may not understand every word. They are a masterpiece of communication and all the girls come out richer from having decoded the story in another language.

The whole school has come together demonstrating what we can achieve in two major areas so far this term: over Christmas can I offer a huge thank you to all of you who made eco-bricks on Mr Humphreys’ initiative? This led to some great radio Oxford coverage where the girls were impressive and we are donating our eco-bricks to the construction of a new internal structure within the animal enclosures to be found at Cutteslowe Horticultural Therapy Nurseries, in Cutteslowe Park. It is hoped that the girls will be involved in actually building the structure, in the Spring. The enthusiasm and dedication of the the girls has caught the imagination of schools and environmental groups from as far afield as California and Mumbai, where we have been asked for advice! In addition the Inters, moved by the plight of the animals affected by Australian bush fires, put together a charity day involving home clothes and a bake sale that raised almost £500 for Ark, a charity recommended by our Australian gap students.

Wychwood has supported the Rotary Club’s Youth Speaks’ competition through a significant change in direction – the competition no longer requires the famous 6 minute speeches but instead involves a 5 minute proposition speech, a 5 minute opposition speech and the chair is also allotted 5 minutes of analysis. This evens up the time for each competitor and allows more girls the opportunity to speak for longer than the previous format permitted. In the Junior section I really felt the Wychwood teams performed well and deserved congratulation and in the Senior section our A team won and will be going to the zone final this week. In the art department Miss Wardell is knee deep in Young Art Oxford entries and, having seen them, I can vouch for the fact that this year we have some stunning paintings to enter – thank you to all the girls who have made the effort. Over half term, please do encourage your daughters to enter the Charlotte Kell poetry competition which will close two weeks after half term. The PSHE forums have been happening with Resilience and Financial Management for the Upper Transits and Shell are doing their individual careers interviews. I had been invited to accompany the Young Voices trip this year which was fortuitous when Mrs Walster damaged her knee earlier this term and we had a marvelous day: it is very valuable for our girls to attend such a large-scale event, coming from such a small school. The music was excellent and I stand in awe of the conductor who managed over 6,300 children for so long and who coaxed such string performances from them. However, I do now remember vividly why I chose not to teach in the primary sector – most of the pupils there were Years 7 and below and the pitch of the squeals every time the lights went up and down was painful! The Study have been hard at work this term but they took some time to extend their horizons at Educating Rita at the play house and came back with another generation having thoroughly enjoyed this funny and inspiring play.

Weekends have been busy with girls going to the Natural History Museum, and of course the Golden Ticket night which seem to be fuller and fuller as time goes by:  my thank go to Miss Frame and the boarding team who open their doors to so many each Golden Ticket night.

We have a number of exciting events coming up – the Friends of Wychwood quiz and curry evening which was such fun last time will be on again on 21st March. Please do put together a team from your year-group parents, friends and families and come along to compete and be prepared for forfeits and games to raise money for the school. The staff team are going to practise over half term! The Wingfield Digby lecture will be on Thursday 17th March and is by the author and Wychwood Old Girl Iszi Lawrence in line with our theme for the Hilary lectures of Women inspiring Women. Iszi is a writer, comedian, podcaster and history presenter. She co-hosts BBC Radio 4’s flagship show, Making History with Tom Holland. Her piece on Jiu Jitsu suffragettes was made Pick Of The Week in 2018. She has performed bespoke History shows at events for The British Science Festival, Dulwich Picture Gallery, The British Museum, Royal Society, Ashmolean to name but a few. She has two popular History podcasts, The British Museum Membercast and The Z List Dead List. In addition, she runs workshops for academic institutions (UCL, the Wellcome Trust, St Mary’s University) and schools teaching people to be engaging public speakers. She was part of the Perrier Award Winning Best Newcomer show in 2004 and regularly performs stand-up comedy around Europe on the comedy circuit. This lecture comes alongside the launch of her new book for children The Unstoppable Letty Pegg which is just out (February 2020) with Bloomsbury.

The drama, PE and music departments are hard at work on preparing for Performing Arts evening on 9th March and parents, family and friends are always welcome to enjoy and applaud the girls’ achievements. Lastly but not at all least, the Citizens will be running Wychfactor on the evening of 12th March, and much organisation and auditioning has been going on already in preparation for that.

Finally, please may I remind you that all girls are expected to attend Open Mornings? Our next one is on Saturday 7th March and I hope the weather is kind as we currently have fairly ferocious wind. I do hope you all enjoy a lovely week with your daughters and please give some thought to those girls who cannot go home this half term due to the novel coronavirus threat. My sincere thanks go to everyone who has offered to host girls under these difficult circumstances – Wychwood spirit at its best.

Mrs Johnson