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Mrs Cook’s Blog

The three Rs …

Remembrance, respect and the lost art of letter ‘riting

I find that this time of year evokes (in me anyway) a real sense of reflection. As the nights draw in and the leaves fall, it seems a perfect time to think about the passing of another year – especially before we all get swept up in to the frenzy of the pre-Christmas preparations.

Annual events somehow reinforce that mood with Remembrance Day being the most poignant of these, of course.

We paid our own respects on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, with an impeccably observed two minutes silence following,  in the Senior school, a thought provoking assembly from our Head of History, Ms Fenwick. Her assembly focused on the diversity of those we particularly remember on this day; diverse in nationality, ethnicity and gender but also in the periods of history in which they made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’. Her words caused me to reflect upon the fact that, far from being a tradition rooted in the past which some young people may struggle to relate to, Remembrance Day is actually a time for us to honour all those who have died as a result of conflict, including through acts of terrorism committed much closer to home and closer to today. The example of the Manchester Arena bombing and the subsequent loss of lives, including those who were of a very similar age to our own pupils, reminded me that Remembrance Day remains an important and sadly still relevant opportunity to reflect again on the brutality and carnage of conflict.

As I looked around the Hall and noted the heads bowed in contemplation at 11am on Monday, I recognised how truly respectful our own diverse Croydon High community is. Whether this is something that (co-incidentally) is just instilled in us all, or if it is actually something in the ether here at Croydon High, it is certainly very apparent in the way staff and pupils interact with one another. The theme of remembrance was carried through in to the working week, with our academic House Challenge requiring senior pupils to pause and reflect again and then find or create an image that represents remembrance to them. In the Juniors too, form groups discussed the importance of the day, wrote Poppy Poems and even our youngest girls managed to observe the two minute silence with great respect. And two minutes is an awfully long time when you are only 4!

As with many of the character traits associated with Croydon High pupils, respect is particularly apparent amongst our sixth form students. It struck me especially this year, that those same girls who had been ‘strutting their stuff ‘ on the catwalk only last weekend at their annual Fashion Show (raising thousands of pounds for charity in the process), were now leading the whole school with dignity as we showed our collective respect on Remembrance Day. Our Sixth Form understand that respect is something to be earned and they give and receive it in equal measure through the way they conduct themselves during their final years at school. The Fashion Show is a wonderful example of how mutual respect enables powerful things to happen. This year’s extravaganza was exceptionally well organised and the sixth form showed great respect for their teachers and for each other (and most importantly for themselves) in the way they managed both the event and their own time, ensuring their studies weren’t compromised and stress levels remained low. They also managed to organise and motivate the Whitgift boys, seemingly with ease! The latest figure raised (with more still to come) is in excess of £5,000 – a remarkable amount which will be split between Dyscover and Eusabia Hope Foundation – two charities very close to sixth form hearts.

So, well done to Josie, Maddie, Victoria, Zaki and the entire Sixth Form – they all deserve our respect.

On Wednesday evening I was able, at last, to see the production of SHE…our much anticipated school viewing of the show that caused such a stir at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Wow. The show raises profound and at times very emotive questions about what it actually means to be female; the delivery of these ideas in dramatic form was simply exceptional. The Q&A hosted by the girls after the performance only reinforced how incredibly mature in attitude these young women are and also, how fundamental the idea of respect is in their approach to life. Josie (again), Sewa, Esha, Shermya and Analisa and of course, our very own superwoman, Mrs Webb – we couldn’t be more proud.

Another activity that has made me pause and reflect this week has been a new initiative instigated by our Alumnae Manager, Karen Roe. Mrs Roe does an amazing job building and interacting with our alumnae network, the Ivy Link, which we have been told is one of the most vibrant girls’ school associations in the country. Over the past few weeks, Mrs Roe, together with Mrs Webb, has put together the Ivy Letters project, whereby girls in Year 9 have written individual letters to members of the Ivy Link community, primarily ladies who left school during the 1940s, 50s and early 60s, many having lived through the war years. In the letters, the girls described their lives, their school days and what they are studying and asked questions about Croydon High in days gone by. Year 9 were the first to complete their letters and having crafted some beautiful correspondence are now receiving some really wonderful replies. As well as introducing the girls to the ‘lost art of letter writing,’ the project is also teaching them a lot about respect for the experiences of the older generation. As you can imagine, the letters were a lovely surprise for our alumnae to receive and it is equally lovely to see the girls’ faces light up when another Ivy Letter reply arrives. Year 9 are now passing on the benefit of their letter writing experiences to Year 5 and I am sure the recipients of these letters are in for a real treat.

So, my reflective mood this week has found so much that is uplifting in our school community and has only reinforced my belief that of all the many lessons learned here, understanding the importance of respect for ourselves and for each other is perhaps the most important one of all.

Mrs Fran Cook

Director of External Relations

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